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View Full Version : Whisper (Sheridan/Luis, Sam/Ivy/Grace, Theresa/Ethan/?, Charity/Miguel/Kay/?, more)



UAgirl
4.30.07, 12:11 AM
Prologue



Thunder rumbled in the distance, and Danielle wondered idly if her parents had thought to take an umbrella as she listened to the rat-a-tat-tat of the raindrops pelting the window pane.

"Your parents are fine," a warm voice said. Startling her until her eyes connected with her aunt Charity's cornflower blue eyes in the bathroom mirror. "Here. I thought you might need this."

Danielle took the pink toothbrush her aunt offered with a smile and picked up the tube of toothpaste beside the sink. "Thank you."

"You know.if you want, I can call them. Check on them for you. Just in case."

Danielle shook her head. Her dark hair spilling over her shoulders. Tonight was too important. Their anniversary. "That's okay," she smiled. "I believe you."

And she did. Her aunt Charity just knew certain things. Her mom called it a gift.

Her aunt brushed her hair back off her shoulders with cool hands and kissed the top of her head. "Then I'll go check on Tessa."

The lights overhead flickered. "Better hurry up, Dani," she said. Her speech garbled by the toothbrush in her mouth. "Or you'll be brushing you teeth in the dark."



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"Luis.do you think you should call and check on her?"

Luis reached across the table and took his wife's hand between both of his. Running his thumb over the smooth gold of her simple wedding band. He gave her hand a gentle squeeze before speaking. "Baby, Danielle's fine. Miguel and Charity are taking the best care of her."

She smiled at him then. But the smile never reached her beautiful blue eyes. A real smile was a rarity these days. How he wished he could bring the light, the joy, back to her sad eyes.

"If it will make you feel better," he said softly. Reaching into his pocket and withdrawing his cellphone.

"Thank you," she whispered. Kissing his lips gently. Lovingly. And for an instant he thought he saw signs of the old Sheridan.

"Miguel," he said into the mouthpiece of the phone. "Listen.is that gorgeous daughter of mine still awake? She is. Put her on the phone, will you. Sheridan wants to say goodnight." He smiled when he heard his daughter's sleepy voice in the background. "Hi, Sweetheart. Someone wants to talk to you. I love you, too. Goodnight."

And he handed the phone to Sheridan.



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He rubbed his eyes tiredly. A small smile on his face as he listened to his five year-old son's account of his day at the beach with his cousins. And all the fun they had had. Until the dark rainclouds started rolling in. Casting a gloomy shadow over all of Harmony.

Intermittent streaks of lightning lit up the sky. Bringing with them flashes, images, of his not-so-perfect life. His blue eyes perused the spanse of her naked back, and the guilt nearly suffocated him when he heard her worried voice.

"Ethan.where are you? Matthew was so disappointed when you missed dinner. I know things have been strained between us lately."

Bit of an understatement there, don't you think, Theresa, he thought bitterly. I just found out only months ago that you've been lying to me for years. Years, dammit. Forgive me if things seem a little strained.

".are you spending the night at the office again? Ethan.please come home," she cried brokenly. "I love you."

He pushed a button, and the distant sound of a dial tone rang in his ears.

That's why this hurts so damn much.



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She pushed a strand of wet auburn hair from her brow and shrugged the jacket that clung to her like a second skin from her shoulders. Letting it hang loosely from her arm as her eyes adjusted to the dimness of the small, smoky room.

Years ago-before the whole fiasco with Ethan-the people of Harmony would be shocked to see a rich socialite like her in such an establishment. But that was years ago. A lifetime ago she'd think, if only the pain wasn't still so ever-present in her heart.

Things were different now. Very different. She was one of Joe's regulars.

She threw her jacket carelessly across the back of one of the barstools and climbed into the seat next to it. "Give me a."

"I know. I know," Joe cut her off. "Here you go, Ms. Hotchkiss. Strong. Just like you like it."

She held her glass up and uttered the same words she'd uttered for the past ten years. "To my miserable life."

Her blood boiled, and her blue eyes turned to ice when she heard him say, "Look what the cat dragged in."

She slammed her glass against the counter and whirled around in her seat. "Go to hell."

If looks could kill.Hank Bennett would be a dead man.



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Ivy held her breath and counted to ten before saying anything. She would not take the bait this time.

Wouldn't let Kay goad her into another screaming match.

Jessica lay a calming hand on her sister's back. Ever the peace-maker.

"No! I will not keep my mouth shut about this, Dad!" Kay spat. Her voice rising in anger with each syllable. She shoved her chair back from the table. The flashes of lightning reflecting in her wild dark eyes. "You never loved Mom. Not really," she accused. Tears stinging and slipping unchecked down her cheeks.

"Stop it! Stop it right now!" Sam demanded. Grabbing his eldest daughter by the shoulders and shaking her roughly. "I did love your mother," he said emphatically. His blue eyes boring into her. So filled with guilt. With feeling. "I still love her," he admitted quietly.

Ivy's heart constricted at his words. She'd underestimated his feelings so long ago. The ghost of his dead wife haunted every facet of their life together.

"Then why are you with her?" Jessica asked pointedly.

And Ivy fled the living room in tears.



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"There you go. Your arm's as good as new," she said. Giving the young boy a friendly pat on the head and smiling reassuringly at the distraught mother. "Adam will be fine, Mrs. Walker. Just six weeks and that cast should come off."

The tiny brunette in front of her burst into a grateful smile and hugged her impulsively. "Thank you so much, Ms. Johnson."

She smiled back at the younger woman. "Eve," she corrected. "Call me Eve. You be careful on the drive home now, Mrs. Walker. That weather's pretty nasty." An enormous clap of thunder sounded then. As if to prove her point.

"Don't worry. We will. Thank you again, Ms. Joh.Eve," the woman stammered.

Eve waved at the mother and son as they walked out the clinic's doors. The tiny green umbrella useless in this torrential downpour. She waited until they were safely ensconced in the run-down Ford before turning around.

She gasped in surprise at the grizzled old seaman standing before her.

"Can you help her, M'am?"

Eve raised a shaky hand to her mouth. It couldn't be. Grace Bennett was dead.



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"Go on home, Noah," Beth suggested. Handing him a steaming cup of coffee. Black.

Noah quirked a golden brow at her. "To that hellhole? No thanks. My dad can put an engagement ring on his slut's finger, but that doesn't make her respectable. Ivy doesn't love my dad. She's obsessed with him."

"Maybe. I thought the same thing at first, Noah," Beth said. Taking the seat next to him. "But Noah," she said gently. "Now I think it's something more. She isn't your mom. But she does love your dad."

Noah leaned back in his chair. His arms crossed defensively. "I don't care. Mom wasn't gone three months before she moved in on Dad. Three months, Beth. She wasn't even cold in her grave," he said. His voice tight with emotion.

The bells at the front tinkled. Announcing a new arrival.

Kind brown eyes gazed at Noah from across the Book Café, and Beth smiled in relief when the young woman walked toward them slowly. Her long dark hair framing her face as tiny rivulets of water trickled down her chin. "Paloma.talk some sense into him."



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She twisted the newspaper in her hands fretfully. Dread in her bones as she turned the key in the ignition, and the car's windshield wipers ground to a halt. Rain pounded down steadily. She didn't know if it was the cause of the dull roar in her ears or her blood rushing through her veins at this latest news.

She uncurled the paper once more, and boldly splashed across the front page were the words "Julian Crane's Release Set for this Friday."

The paper went on to detail the events of years past leading up to his arrest and eventual conviction. Then there were pictures of both former Mrs. Cranes: Ivy AND Rebecca.

Pilar sighed heavily. Julian's release could only mean one thing for her family. Heartache. And evil.

There was only one effective way to fight evil, she realized. Pulling on the door handle.

She dashed up the steps of the church and stepped inside.

The only light came from the candles that gave the sanctuary an eerie glow.

"We must pray," Father Lonagin said.

And Pilar joined him on her knees. Hoping it would be enough.



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The wind howled. Rapping the branches of the old oak tree against Tessa's bedroom window.

Danielle groaned. Flipping over to her stomach and burying her head under her pillow.

Candlelight bathed the interior of Tessa's room, and objects that seemed harmless enough in the dawn now took on terrifying traits. Danielle's imagination was running rampant. Lightning only added to the sinister setting.

"Calm down," she whispered to herself. "You will not be a baby. You will not." What would Mom or Dad say if they saw you right now? You big sissie. Tessa's just seven. A whole two years younger than you. And she's not afraid. Is she? "Tessa?" she whispered timidly. "Tessa? Are you awake?"

Thunder boomed. Its power making the house's foundation shudder, and Danielle clamped her eyes shut. Trembling in fear when she heard the distinct sound of shattering glass.

"Tessa!" she screamed when she found the sheets next to her cool. "Tessa! Where are you?" she cried frantically. Scrambling out of bed to search for the little girl. The wind whipped her dark hair around her face, and the pouring rain stung at her skin.

"Tessa," she cried in relief when a flash of lightning illuminated the child's scant figure. Her yellow hair plastered to her skull. "Tessa!" she shouted over the roar of the storm. "Are you okay?" she asked in a frightened whisper. Gripping her young cousin by the shoulders with bloodless fingers. "You're scaring me. Please, Tessa. Please. Talk to me."

Tessa stretched a pale slender arm out before her. Pointing to the chaos outside. "Evil.evil.it's coming," she chanted with vacant blue eyes. And Danielle felt a chill run down her spine as lightning struck again and she saw the shadowy figure. Maniacal laughter filled the room, and she covered her ears and screamed in horror.

UAgirl
4.30.07, 8:05 PM
Chapter 1




The first thing she heard was the buzz of a power saw. "Luis?" Her blue eyes were wide with panic.

"Sheridan. Sheridan! Wait." He followed her through the open front door and sighed in relief.

"Mom. Mom," Danielle squeaked. "I can't breathe."

"What happened? Why didn't you call us?"

"Mommy," Danielle smiled. Cupping her mother's face lovingly between the palms of her small hands. "I'm fine. Don't worry so much."

"Hey," he said softly. "I was worried, too." Feathering his fingers through his daughter's silky dark hair.

"Dad."

"Seriously.what happened?" He could hardly hear the sound of his own voice over the pounding upstairs.

Charity's blue eyes were solemn as she handed Sheridan a glass of water. "The storm," she said simply.

"That's all. A tree crashed through Tessa's window."

Luis's brown eyes connected with his younger brother's at the foot of the stairs. "That's all?"

Her uncle Miguel was stone-faced as he said, "Yeah. No one was hurt. It wasn't a big deal."

Sheridan saw the confusion in her daughter's blue eyes. "Thank God. Where's Tessa? I hope she wasn't too frightened. There you are," Sheridan gasped when the little girl seemed to appear out of nowhere. The sunlight streaming through the windows glinted off Tessa's yellow hair. And Sheridan laughed nervously. Blinking. The child was glowing. "You scared me," she whispered. Scooping Tessa's limp little body up in her arms.

"Tessa wasn't scared, Mom." But I was.

"Wow! You're such a brave little girl." Sheridan shivered as she looked into the child's piercing blue eyes. They were almost.hypnotic.

"Mom? Mom.did you hear me?"

"What?" she answered sluggishly. "I'm sorry, Baby," she apologized. "What did you say?"

Tessa slid easily from her aunt's hip and scampered away.

"Somebody was outside Tessa's window last night."

Miguel's glass thudded against the surface of the coffee table, and the stairs creaked under his weight.

"Who?" Luis asked.

"No one," Charity said quickly. Averting her blue eyes from Luis's penetrating stare.

"But Tessa saw the person, too. I swear." Why were they pretending it didn't happen?




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Beth watched the old woman with suspicious brown eyes. For as long as she could remember Tabitha-and Timmy-had been a fixture around Harmony. A strange claim to fame if you will.

"Beth. Sorry. Did I catch you daydreaming about me again?"

Beth's lips twisted into a smile. "And why would I be wasting my precious fantasies on you, Hank? I'm thinking more along the lines of Antonio Sabato, Jr. Nope. I'm not into the scruffy look at all."

Hank staggered backwards. A hand over his heart. "You wound me."

Beth's eyes sparkled. "What can I get you this morning?"

"The tallest cup of stiff black coffee you can brew."

She set the foam container on the counter and doled out Hank's change. "Hank.let me ask you something."

"Okay. Shoot," Hank grinned affably.

"Do you.do you have a thing for."

"Do I have a thing for what, Beth?"

Not what, Hank. Who.

The phone rang insistently in the background.

"Better get that," he grinned.

"No. Hank.wait. Tell Gwen I said 'hello'," she muttered.




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Oh god. Her head. She felt like an entire marching band had trampled on it. Her whole body ached.

The phone started to ring, and she dove under the mound of pillows with a groan.

"There is a God," she breathed. Silence.

"I'm not home, dammit!" she screamed when the demonic device started to trill again. She ripped the cord out of the wall and raised the contraption over her head.

"You're up," Hank grinned obnoxiously. "I wouldn't do that if I were you," he said. Nodding his head at the phone AND answering machine in her hands.

She glared at him with icy blue eyes.

"Think of the crash it'll make. The sound of each tiny piece clattering to the floor. On second thought.go ahead. I never liked that particular phone anyway. You haven't gotten a new one in a long time. Maybe you should go with something more chic this time."

She moaned pitifully when he turned her bedside lamp on. "Do you enjoy torturing me?"

He jerked the comforter from her body. Hauling her kicking and screaming to the bathroom and twisting the shower tap. "You stink," he smirked as he shoved her under the icy spray and her shrieks resounded through the apartment.

"You're dead. I-I-I'm go-o-oing to k-k-k-ill you myself," she chattered.

"Is that right?"

She yanked the bottle of shampoo from his hands and instantly regretted the action. "You're so damn annoying, you know that," she grumbled. Holding her aching head. Almost falling out of the shower stall.

"Thank you. I think that's the nicest thing you've ever said to me."

"UGH! GET OUT! NOW!"

He laughed all the way to the door. "What the.nice. Real nice," he said. Tossing the pair of black panties over his shoulder.



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She raised her hand to knock on the door.

"Aunt Whitney!"

"Matthew! Don't! Oh, Whit. I'm so sorry. He just got all excited when he saw your car drive up. And he forgot. Didn't you, Matthew?"

Matthew's brown eyes welled up with tears as he held his sticky hands out to his mother. "I didn't mean to."

Whitney knelt down. Eye level with the little boy. Wiping away a smudge of cookie dough from his tanned cheek. "Chocolate chip? Matthew.how did you know these were my favorite?"

Theresa smiled at Whitney gratefully.

"Mommy told me," he said proudly.

"I can't wait to eat them. Matthew.have you been kissing Genie again?"

Matthew grinned at her bashfully. Hiding his face behind his hands. "No," he protested. Only he nodded his head 'yes'. Causing both women to burst into laughter. "What's so funny?" he asked with a befuddled expression.

"You, kiddo," Theresa smiled. Ruffling his brown hair affectionately. "I bet Nana's getting awfully lonely in the kitchen."

"I should go help her," he said thoughtfully. "Aunt Whitney? Can you stay for supper? Maybe my dad will come home," he said innocently.

And the hope shining in his dark eyes broke Whitney's heart.

"Do you think so, Mommy?"

Theresa hugged her son close and kissed the top of his head. "For you? Of course."



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"Ethan," she cried. Holding him at arm's length. "It's so good to see you."

Ethan smiled at her fondly. Inspecting the diamond on her finger. "So he finally did it. Asked you to marry him. How did my.they take the news?"

Ivy sighed. Her blue green eyes dulling with the painful memory. "They hate me. All three of them. Just like your sisters and brother."

"That's not true, Mother."

Ethan was amazed at the transformation.

"Lauren.is that you?"

Hazel eyes twinkled at her, and pink lips curled upward in a smile. "This is bad. Really bad. Are you telling me you don't recognize your own daughter?"

Ivy's cheeks flushed in embarrassment. "I'm sorry, Darling. I."

"Mother.I was teasing," Lauren laughed.

Ivy smiled back at her. Maybe things weren't so terrible after all.



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"Is Dr. Russell in?"

The nurse looked at him oddly. "No, Officer. I'm sorry. But a Dr. Russell doesn't work here. Is there arything else I can do for you?"

"Are you sure?" Sam asked. Running a hand through his hair in exasperation. This was a wild goose chase.

"I'm sure, Sir," the woman answered patiently.

"Dammit, Eve. What's going on here?" he muttered under his breath.

"Excuse me. But did you say 'Eve'? Eve Johnson works here."

"Thank you," Sam smiled. "Eve Johnson.I wasn't thinking. Could you tell me where she is?"

"She's with a patient right now, but I'm sure she wouldn't mind if you waited outside. Room 13."

Sam stalked down the dimly lit hall purposely. His footsteps echoing. Sounding too loud. He was sure a deaf man could hear the racket he was making. Room 13. Room 13. "Eve," he said. Startling her as she slipped the door shut behind her.

"Sam! Thank goodness you came."

"Why am I here, Eve?"

"Sam.I think you need to sit down. What I'm about to tell you."

Sam shrugged his shoulders indifferently. "I'm fine. What is it? Tell me."

Inside room 13, the woman's hand fell gently from her waist. Blue eyes opened, and a smile fleeted across her lips as she whispered one word. "Sam."

UAgirl
5.1.07, 10:55 PM
Chapter 2







"2666! Get up! You have a visitor!"

Prisoner 2666's mouth set into a grim line. Four more days. That was it. Four more days, he thought. A scowl on his lips as the guard shoved him forward. Father was going to pay for this. "Hello.Son," he spoke.

"Don't call me that. You have NO right."

"Whether you like it or not, Chad, I AM your father. You have Crane ice water in your veins. You and I."

"Shut up! Just shut up and listen to me. I'm putting you on notice, old man. I'm going to be watching your every move. And if you so much as."

"Save your threats," Julian spat. "I'm coming home in four days. I think a celebration is in order."

The scrape of metal on the tile floor was audible even through the thick glass barrier. And the phone dangled in the air.

"I love you, too, Son."



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"Luis.what's going on? Is it the station?"

Danielle stopped mid-motion. Juice from the red apple in her right hand trickling down her arm. "Dad," she whined. "You just got home."

Luis picked up the keys to his jeep from the counter and kissed his daughter's forehead. "It wasn't the station. It was Sam. He wants me to meet him at the clinic down by the waterfront. Sounds important." He hooked his fingers in the belt loops of Sheridan's jeans and tugged her forward.

"I wish you didn't have to leave."

"Me, too," he whispered. Tipping her chin up with his index finger and kissing her lips. "Will you be okay?"

She chewed on her bottom lip and nodded her head.

"I love you both," he waved.



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"Dr. Eve.what's going on? Why did our dad want us to meet him here?" Jessica asked in a concerned voice.

"Where's Noah?"

"He's with Paloma," Kay offered. Peering over Eve's shoulder at Room 13.

"I think you should wait until he gets here. Do this together. Are Miguel and Charity on their way?"

Kay's head snapped back. "Miguel and Charity? How does this concern them?" she asked suspiciously.

"We're here," Charity said breathlessly. Missing the look that passed between her cousin and her husband.

"Now tell us Eve."

"Tell us what?"

"Noah. Good. You're all here."

"Yes. We're all here," Kay huffed impatiently. "Can you tell us now?"

"Eve," Sam interrupted. "I think I should take it from here. Thank you."

"Daddy," Jessica said in a little girl voice.

Sam wrapped a comforting arm around her waist and took a deep breath. "I have some incredible news."



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"Tessa. Tessa," a voice beckoned. A whisper.

Miguel didn't notice the absence of her tiny fingers entwined with his own.

"Tessa."

"I don't understand, Daddy. What exactly are you saying?"

"Mom? Are you.are you talking about Mom?" Kay asked shakily.

Noah steadied her with a hand on her elbow.

"Tessa."

No one noticed the little girl push the door forward and step inside.

"Is this some cruel joke? I mean, you wouldn't do this to us. Right, Dad?" Noah choked. "Mom's dead."

"Your mom disappeared almost nine years ago, Noah."

"Tessa. Come closer, Tessa."

Tessa jumped when the woman's blue eyes opened suddenly.

"Aunt Grace is not dead," Charity uttered in disbelief. "She's alive."

The woman's eyes glittered in the pale glow of the overhead lamp.

Tessa stared back.

The silence heavy. Oppressive.

Until Jessica's keening cry shattered it. "Mom!"



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"Let me see if I get this straight. A man brings a Jane Doe to this clinic last night."

"Grace," Sam shook his head. "That woman in there is Grace, Luis. I don't know how to explain it. But I'm positive."

"You're telling me that Grace just suddenly reappeared after ten years. I know you were having your problems, Big Brother, but this.this just makes no sense. Grace wouldn't leave her children like that, Man. No matter what kind of hell you put her through with Ivy."

"What about Ivy?" Luis interjected.

"What about her?" Sam asked dully.

"Have you told your fiancee that your wife returned from the dead yet?" Hank posed.

Sam buried his face in his hands. No. He hadn't even had a conscious thought about her since this whole scenario began playing out. And that fact worried him.



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Is this seat taken?"

Simone studied her mother carefully. Noting the dark circles, the bags, under her eyes. She looked so tired. So defeated. And like she wanted to.needed to talk to someone. "No," she pursed her lips. "But I don't have much time. I have an appointment in a couple hours," she said quietly. Picking up the little straw beside her mug and stirring her coffee.

"A date?"

"Not really. Just meeting up with an old friend. Reminiscing about older, happier times."

"Oh. I won't pry. I just saw you sitting here.when were you going to tell me you were back in Harmony, Simone? You were going to tell me, weren't you?"

Simone's lips furled in disgust, and she set the lukewarm, murky liquid down. "Maybe. Maybe not," she shrugged. Standing up. "I'm home, Mom. For good. And so is Daddy. As if you care. How is that?"



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The plates clattered in the sink, and Theresa sighed heavily. "No. Leave them, Whit. I'll do them later."

Whitney dried her hands and put the dishtowel back in its place. Then followed Theresa out into the spacious living room. They watched Matthew chase Wolf in the back yard. "Does he still call that dog 'Woof'?" Whitney laughed. Trying to lighten the somber mood.

Theresa smiled. "Not as often. I still remember the day Ethan brought him home from the pound," she whispered. "Ethan wouldn't get a puppy. Everyone wants puppies. But what about the older dogs? The volunteers had already named him. Matthew was only two. Woof was easier to say, I guess."

Whitney smiled. She could remember Matthew as a baby. Not so long ago. And she felt even more terrible at the pain the little boy was going through. The pain her best friend was experiencing.

"Whitney.I'm losing Ethan," she sobbed. "And there's nothing I can do."

She couldn't swallow over the lump in her throat. Couldn't speak a word. All she had to offer was a shoulder to cry on.



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She sat alone. Her knees drawn to her chest. Her hands clasped. The cool sea breeze ruffled her sun-kissed hair, and she could feel the tickle of the ocean's mist against her cheeks. She closed her eyes with a sigh. She loved this house. Love at first sight.

"What are you thinking about?" her daughter asked curiously. Gazing at her thoughtfully with those

wondrously wise blue eyes.

"Things," she said nonchalantly. Making room for Danielle on the porch swing.

Wispy dark curls escaped the yellow ribbon in Danielle's dark hair. She mimicked her mother's actions, and Sheridan's blue eyes sparkled with amusement.

"I have an idea. What do you say me and you take a walk? See the sunset?"

Danielle uncurled her limbs and stood on bare feet. "You go ahead, Mom. I'll get my sandals and catch up," she called. Disappearing inside.

"Okay, Baby. Meet you there."

UAgirl
5.2.07, 10:36 PM
Chapter 3





"Bye, Whit!" Theresa waved. She shut the door behind her and leaned back against it. Eyes closed wearily.

"Theresita."

"Mama! You scared me."

Pilar smiled slightly. "Mija.Matthew has already had his bath. I told him you would tell him a bedtime story. I must be going."

"Stay," she pleaded. Her face falling when Pilar shook her head 'no.'

"I love you, Mija," she uttered softly. "But it's your place to work things out with Ethan. Not mine."

Theresa's dark hair hung loosely about her shoulders, and her chin quivered. "Fate's not going to help me out this time, is it Mama?"

Sympathy shone in Pilar's brown eyes as she kissed her daughter's temple. "I'm afraid not, Theresita."




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Simone scanned the confines of the Lobster Shack for him. With no luck. Did she have the time wrong?

"Simone? Simone Russell? Is that you?"

Her mouth hung open in shock, and she piddled with the strap of her purse self-consciously. "Oh my god! Reese?!?! That cannot be you."

His bright smile dimmed somwhat. Showing only a hint of perfect white teeth. "Things change."

Simone was fixated on the well-defined muscles clearly visible beneath his casual tee. "Tell me about it," she muttered under her breath. Gone were the glasses. The nerdy clothes. Had Reese been switched with an alien clone? Hey.it was Harmony. Stranger things had happened.

"I'm sorry," Reese smiled. Pulling out a chair for her. "Did you say something?"

"No! Um.yeah. I like what you've done with your hair."

"Thanks," he said. His cheeks pink.

And Simone realized.the more things change, the more they stay the same.




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Lauren wrinkled her nose. Tucking a flyaway strand of her ash-blond hair behind her ear as she sipped her lemonade. "Who is that?"

Ethan smiled. Tabitha. She had spotted Tabitha.

Ivy's laughter rang out. So loud several of the Book Café's patrons turned to stare. "THAT is Tabitha. Truly an original."

"You better believe it, Dearie," Tabitha said sarcastically. Groaning as she hefted Timmy onto her hip. "Up you go, Lad. I do believe my ears are burning," she said with a benevolent smile. "Did I hear my name mentioned?"

"Yes," Ivy replied. Quite flustered. "I was just telling my daughter all about you. She hasn't been in Harmony long."

Tabitha shifted Timmy to her other hip. "Good things, I hope."

"Good things," Ethan grinned.

"Oh. I'm so sorry," Ivy apologized. "So rude of me. Tabitha Lennox.my daughter Lauren. Lauren.Tabitha Lennox."

"Ahem."

"And her doll Timmy," Ivy rushed.

"Nice to meet you, Dear," Tabitha said. Staring at her strangely.

"Hubba, hubba."

Lauren's hazel eyes blinked twice, and she went slack-jawed. "E-E-x-cuse me," she stammered.

"Yes, Dear?"

"Nothing," Lauren said. Shaking her head to clear the cobwebs. "Jet lag. It's just jet lag. Please forgive me."

Tabitha patted Lauren's shoulder. "All is forgiven. I'm afraid I have to leave now. Nice meeting you."

Lauren watched the odd pair until they disappeared from sight. "Did.did you hear it, too?"

"What?" Ethan chuckled.

"The doll. It talked. It said.oh god. You're going to think I'm completely crazy."

Ivy struggled to keep a straight face. "No, I won't, Darling. Tell me. Tell me what Timmy said."

Lauren was afraid she'd die from embarrassment when she put it like that. Her mother and brother were howling with laughter. At her expense.

"The suspense is killing me," Ethan smirked. "Go ahead, Lauren. Tell us."

"Wild horses couldn't drag it out of me," she said stubbornly. Hubba, hubba? Lauren.get a grip, she told herself. Cracking a smile. "Never."




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"Can you believe it? Can you believe this is really happening? Mom is alive. She's alive, Kay," he repeated. Hugging her close.

His excitement was contagious. Kay gave in to the uncontrollable urge. And smiled. "We have her back," she whispered. Propping her chin on her brother's shoulder and staring out at the waterfront. A mother and young daughter walked by, and it hit her full force. "I have my mom back," she said to herself. Dark eyes shining with unshed tears.

Noah grabbed her hand and pulled her to her feet. "Let's go."

"Go where?" Kay giggled lightheartedly.

"Deliver the news to Dad's fiancee. Tell her she's yesterday's news."

"Ooo. Ooo. Count me in. I want to do the honors."




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"Yeah, Sam. I'll get to work on it. First thing tomorrow morning. Sheridan."

"Luis. You don't owe me any explanations. Tomorrow will be fine."

"Tell Sheridan and Danielle I said hello," Hank waved. "So."

"What happens now, Hank? I don't know. I truly don't know. But that woman in there.she needs me right now. Telling Ivy can wait a few more hours."

Hank looked skeptical. "Your decision, Bro. I'm here for you. Whatever you decide."

Sam grabbed his little brother in a fierce bear hug. "Thank you."

"Anytime. Say goodbye for me."

"Will do. Will do." The door clicked shut behind him, and he took in the starkness of the room.

"Dad," Jessica smiled. Laying her mother's hand down and rising form the mattress's edge. "She's asleep."

"Did she.?"

"No," Charity answered. "She can't give us any details. Either she doesn't remember."

"Or she doesn't want to tell us," Sam finished. "That's okay. What she needs now is rest," he said quietly. Brushing her auburn hair from her forehead tenderly. "Then.then we'll get our answers."

"Charity. I think it's time we went home. Tessa can hardly keep her eyes open," Miguel said. Lifting his daughter easily in his arms.

"Okay," Charity smiled. "Tell Aunt Grace I'll see her tomorrow."

Sam nodded his head and leaned back into Jessica's embrace.

Tessa's head rested on her father's shoulder. Her yellow hair loose and wild. Her blue eyes drooping with fatigue.

"Tessa. Goodbye, Tessa."

Sam didn't notice Grace smiling in her sleep.

But Tessa did. And it frightened her. She buried her face in the father's neck and clung to his shoulders with pale fingers. The smell of her fear permeated the small, sparse room.

And the motionless figure on the bed smiled wider.




@@@@@






Sheridan flung the whitewashed gate back. And stepped into paradise. Her paradise anyway.

A seagull cried, and a tiny crab scrambled for shelter. The waves lapped against the shore gently.

Their sound always brought her a feeling of peace. Well-being. Made her believe everything would be alright. Someday. But not today. For they couldn't disguise another sound. A sound that tore at her heart and left it in tatters.

A child was whimpering. It's pitiful cries making her heart fill with dread. Her palms sweaty.

"Who's there? Danielle? Is that you, Baby?"

The cries were soft. But they sounded magnified. Deafening to her ears. "Mama. Mama."

She scanned her surroundings frantically. Where? Where was the crying coming from? Her heart stuck in her throat when she saw it. Golden hair. And a tiny brown body. Cowering in the shadows along the craggy shore. "Don't cry," she pleaded. "Please don't cry."

The rocks were slippery, and she couldn't get a good foothold in her sandals. So she threw her shoes to the wet sand below.

"Mama. Mama," the little voice cried out in sorrow.

"Mom! Mom! What are you doing?"

A bothersome strand of blond hair fell over her forehead. In her eyes. And she blew at it impatiently.

Annoyed. "Danielle! Go get help!" She could hear the squishing noise of Danielle's sandals as she came closer. "Danielle," she cried. "I told you."

Danielle's blue eyes had tears in them. "Mommy.mommy, please. You're scaring me."

"Sweetie, don't be afraid. I just have to help him. Help the baby. He's frightened."

Her daughter's next words struck fear in her heart.

"What are you talking about?" she cried. "There is NO baby."

"There is." Her words died in her throat. Danielle was right. The realization made her dizzy, and she lay her head against the sun-warmed rock and cried. Gut wrenching sobs.

"Daddy! Help her. Please help her."

The concern and love in Luis's voice made her weak. The last thing she remembered was the comforting thud of his heartbeat and the warmth of his arms.

UAgirl
5.7.07, 9:30 PM
Chapter 4





"Hi Kay. No.Noah. Wow! Such a change. Tell me. What's got you in such a good mood?" Beth smiled. Tossing the checkered rag aside. Propping her chin on her clasped hands.

Noah grinned at her. "Wouldn't you like to know?"

Kay scanned the sea of faces in the Book Café. Searching for one in particular.

"Well.I know your beloved future stepmother didn't kick the bucket," Beth teased. "She's been here all afternoon."

"Ivy? Where?" Kay asked.

"In the back. Why? O-O-kay," she said to herself. "Really Noah.what's going on?"

"You'll know soon enough," he said distractedly. "Listen.Beth.I got to."

She waved him off. Looked like the Book Café was getting ready for Kay Bennett vs. Ivy Winthrop. Round 313. "Go ahead. Just don't let things get too out of hand. Okay? This is not WWF Smackdown."



@@@@@





"Well, well. If it isn't Poison Ivy."

Lauren's hazel eyes narrowed, and her napkin fell to her lap forgotten.

"Lauren.there's someone I'd like you to meet."

"Really, Ivy. There's no need for introductions. You're not now nor will you ever be family of mine."

"Kay," Ethan chastised.

"This is Kay?" Lauren asked quizzically. "I've heard so much about you," she said sarcastically.

Kay smirked in response. "Lauren, is it? Funny. I've heard NOTHING about you. Some mother you have. You know what? You can keep her. She'll never be my mother."

Ivy's blue green eyes connected with Noah's over Kay's shoulder. And she spoke. "No one's trying to replace your mother. Least of all me."

For an instant, Noah fell guilty about the bomb they were about to drop. But only an instant. They had their mother back. "Good. You're a poor substitution for the real thing."

Lauren's hazel eyes flashed angrily. How dare they talk to her mother in such a way? She jerked her arm away from Ethan's hold and stood up. "How dare you?" she spat.

Noah's blue eyes glittered. "How dare I?" he scoffed.

"Please!" Ivy yelled in exasperation. "You don't have to like me. That's fine. But the fact is.I am going to be your father's wife. Mrs. Sam Bennett. Things will be a much easier if you'd just accept it."

"I don't do easy," Kay barked. "And you'll never be Mrs. Sam Bennett."

"Kay.you're being unreasonable," Ivy sputtered. "Your father and I will be married. And there's nothing you can do to stop it. The only thing.the only person."

"Who, Ivy? My mother? Is that who you're talking about? Dad would drop you like that, wouldn't he?"

Ivy winced at the snap of Kay's fingers. "You're forgetting one thing, aren't you?"

"Your mother's dead," Lauren glared. "Let's go, Mother. You don't have to put up with anymore of this harassment. Ethan.are you coming?"

Ethan nodded his head and rose from his seat. Studying Kay and Noah suspiciously.

Kay watched them go.

"I thought you were going to deliver the fatal blow."

"No. Surprises are wonderful, don't you think? Ivy is in for the surprise of her life."



@@@@@





She clutched his pillow desperately. Breathing in his scent. She missed him. So much. She tried to read the clock on the bedside table. But her vision was obscured by tears. It was late. That much she could guess.

The curtains flapped in the breeze coming in from the open window. Wolf barked in the distance. Probably chasing some imaginary squirrel as he was prone to do.

Her ears perked at the sound of movement. She heard the rustle of keys, and the creak of the front door on its hinges. The light from the hallway made her blink. "Ethan? Is that you?"

"Go back to sleep," he ordered.

"Ethan." It was hard to speak over the lump in her throat. "Ethan.I'm so glad you came home."

He froze. Motionless. Unyielding. "Matthew. I'm doing this for him," he whispered.

Her dark hair spilled over her shoulders as she braced herself on her elbows and studied him.

"Matthew.of course. He'll be happy." She felt tears sting her eyes again as she watched him gather his things in his arms. And hold out his hand. "W-W- hat? Oh."

He took the pillow from her hands. It was damp with her tears. "I'm sleeping in the guest room tonight."

"Don't forget to give Matthew a kiss goodnight."

"I won't," he said softly. Before pulling the door shut behind him.

The cold space where he used to lie next to her brought on a fresh wave of tears.



@@@@@





"Tessa.Tessa."

Tessa shut her pale blue eyes against the sound.

"Tessa. I know you can hear me. Stop pretending."

She squeezed her eyes shut and tried to focus on her mother's even breathing beside her. Anything but that voice. That voice that left her cold.

Her fairy night light cast an eerie glow in the corner.

She took a deep breath and threw back the floral comforter. Her tiny feet padding on the hardwood floor.

"That's it, Tessa. Come to me. Come."

The television remote clattered to the floor. Startling her and sending her heart racing. Her father's face was lax in sleep. Peaceful. The images of Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd flitted across his face.

The doorknob felt cold to her touch. Clammy. And the salt from the sea made her nostrils flare. It was almost as if.the sea was here. Now. But that was impossible.

"Yes. That's it. Come, Tessa. Come."

A shadow fell over her.

And she screamed in recognition.

UAgirl
5.8.07, 10:38 PM
Chapter 5







"Really, Dear.I'm so sorry I frightened the little girl last night. Timmy and I were just enjoying a moonlit stroll."

Charity smiled sweetly at the old woman. "Tabitha.Tessa's fine. Aren't you?"

Tessa didn't answer.

Tabitha averted her eyes from her cool blue gaze. The child unnerved her. "I should be going on my way now."

"Don't leave. Stay for breakfast. We would love to have you."

Miguel set a glass of orange juice in front of Tessa. "Stay."

"Timmy's hungry."

"I don't care if you're hungry, Lad," Tabitha hissed.

Charity's blond head peeked around the refrigerator door. "I'm sorry. Did you say something, Tabitha?"

"That sounds lovely! I think I will," she beamed. Taking a seat in the chair Miguel offered.

"Mmm. Mmm. Timmy loves blueberry pancakes."

Miguel's brows shot upward, and his forehead crinkled as Tabitha stuffed a napkin in the collar of the doll's shirt.

Odd didn't even begin to describe the old woman.



@@@@@





She gripped the steering wheel tightly. Her fingers bloodless and white as she maneuvered the car up the winding coastal road. She didn't dare look down. She had a deep-seeded fear of heights.

An image of her own broken, battered body surging against the craggy shoreline with the breaking waves assailed her.

"Not now, Gwen. Don't do this now. You're almost there," she told herself. She took a shaky breath.

The arching wrought-iron gates loomed ahead.

"Good morning, Ms. Hotchkiss."

"Hi, David," she said pleasantly. Showing him her i.d.

The buzzer sounded, and the great gate heaved open. Slowly.

"Have a nice visit."

"Nice visit," Gwen muttered sarcastically as she slammed her car door shut. "A nice visit at this place. What a concept."

She wobbled on her expensive Italian heels. "Damn," she swore. Kicking the loose stone in irritation.

The sign on the front door read The Anderson Cooper Facility.

Her heels clicked against the tile floor as she followed the nurse.

Streaks of gray in her strawberry hair betrayed her age. Her blue eyes stared forward blankly.

Gwen's heart felt heavy.

"Hello, Mother."




@@@@@





Ivy pulled the jade satin sash tighter around her waist and crept down the stairs.

Silence. It was too quiet.

A note tacked on the refrigerator caught her eye. A tiny smile played at the corner of her lips as she read Sam's familiar scrawl. He wanted her to meet him at Lighthouse Park at noon.

She stood on tiptoe. Reaching into the cabinet. Manicured fingers searching.

Coffee dripped steadily in the pot.

"Finally," she breathed. Gripping the porcelain handle. "Sugar.sugar.where did Jessica move it this time?"

She straightened up when she heard someone rapping on the door.

Pilar's worried face in the window startled her. "You're early, Pilar."

"I can't stay, Ivy. Luis called. He wants me to keep an eye on Sheridan and Danielle today."

Ivy's blue green eyes softened. "Another episode? Poor Sheridan. I feel so badly for her."

Pilar wrung her hands unconsciously. "Things have been difficult for her. I only hope Julian's release."

"Julian wouldn't dare," Ivy said haughtily. "Anyway.we're all here for her. Hurry along, Pilar. Sheridan needs you more."

The door clicked shut.

Ivy ran a hand across its smooth surface.

Yes. Sheridan DID need Pilar more.

She gasped when she heard a crash in the kitchen.

The orange tabby's tail whisked back and forth, and green orbs watched her boredly.

"Ginger," Ivy scolded. Wincing as she cut her finger on one of the mug's jagged edges. "See what you made me do? Oh no. Ginger," she whispered as a realization left her paralyzed.

Her blood stained Grace's disjointed image.

The words "We love you, Mom" jumped out at her and made her cold. She sank to the floor beneath her.

Would it never cease?



@@@@@



He rested his chin on her bare shoulder. Holding her as close as humanly possible.

Sunlight streamed in through the curtains, and a bird chirped happily outside the window.

"Oh, Baby," he uttered. Tears in his golden brown eyes. "I wish I could make you happy-whole-again." He kissed the freckles on her tanned shoulder. Then her cheek. Only to find it wet with new tears.

He felt her small hands link with his own, and his throat grew tight. He could barely breathe. "Don't. Please don't. I can't bear it when you cry. Come on, Angel. Sheridan.tell me what I can do."

"Just hold me," she whispered. "Until the ache fades."

He buried his nose in her soft golden curls and closed his eyes. And held on tight.




@@@@@



"Good morning Harmony on this beautiful day! The temp is a pleasant 75. But look out folks! Today's going to be another scorcher with highs in the upper 80's. Get out! Have some fun! This is Chad Harris, and you're listening to Harmony's best music station."

Eve smiled. More like Harmony's ONLY music station. But Chad was good at his job. Excellent, in fact. Sheridan knew exactly what she was doing when she handed the reins over to him. She twisted the knob on the small radio. Lowering the volume.

"Dr. Johnson? Mr. Bennett would like to have a word with you."

"Thank you, Alice."

Sam met her outside Room 13. "Eve."

"Sorry to keep you waiting, Sam. How is she?" she asked. Peeking through the small window. Grace looked somewhat bewildered. But happy. Surrounded by her children.

Sam rubbed his palms against his denim pants. "Great. Perfect. Except for one thing. It's like she's never been gone these last nine years, Eve. She doesn't remember anything."

Eve frowned.

"What? Do you think it's permanent?"

"I don't know. She'll need more tests, of course. But Sam.the clinic's ill- equipped for those sorts of tests. Or Grace remaining here."

"What are you saying, Eve?"

"I'm saying you should take Grace home."


@@@@@





His head throbbed. And the day was only beginning. "Come in," he called. When he heard a gentle, hesitant tap on the door. "Whitney," he sighed. Pushing his chair back from his desk and standing up. "I wasn't expecting you."

Whitney cleared her throat nervously.

"What do you wish to see me about? The Masters' case? Is Bloodsworth harrassing you again?"

"No," she said quickly. "This is not about work."

He locked the door and turned around to face her once more. "Then what is it about?" he asked curiously. Dropping the case file in his hands on top of the mountain of paperwork and perching on the edge of his desk.

"I think you know," she whispered. Her head lowered. Her nails picked at imaginary lint on her conservative gray skirt. "Theresa. It's about Theresa. And your marriage to her."

UAgirl
5.9.07, 10:08 PM
Chapter 6









"What about my marriage to Theresa, Whitney? It's a lie. A damn lie," Ethan spat.

"Stop saying that, Ethan. Stop deluding yourself. It's not ALL a lie. The love between you two is not a lie. Matthew is not a lie." Her chest was hurting. There was a terrible pain in her heart as she delivered the words. "What we did was wrong, Ethan. For so many reasons. But the biggest one.the biggest reason.we both betrayed her. Theresa is my best friend, Ethan."

Ethan rubbed his hand over his eyes wearily. "I know," he whispered. "Don't you think I know? I didn't mean for this to happen. I swear, Whitney. I.I.wanted to.I wanted to hurt her the way she hurt me," he stammered.

A single tear seeped from beneath her lashes. And she clutched the arms of the chair desperately. She felt like she was falling. "Hurt her?" she squeaked. "Leaving her hurt her. This.this will kill her. I have to go," she cried. Fleeing his office. Drawing the stares of curious colleagues.

He swept his hand across his desk in a blind fury.

The picture of his family shattered on the ground. A thousand tiny pieces that used to be his life.



@@@@@





Auburn wisps escaped the elegant French twist. Black sunglasses hid her blue eyes. Gwen Hotchkiss was a broken woman.

"Hi," Hank said softly.

She didn't look up. Only studied her feet. Counted the cracks in the aging sidewalk.

Hank tipped her chin up with gentle fingers. His heart clenched in his chest when he saw the tear tracks on her cheeks. Rebecca Hotchkiss didn't deserve this. But you couldn't help who your parents were. Or your feelings for them.

"Go away," she spat half-heartedly. Jerking her chin from his grasp.

He sat down beside her on the park bench with a sigh. "Still no change, huh?"

Her jaw was set in determination. "Don't you see? There'll NEVER be a change. Never," she whispered defeatedly. Crumpling before him.

Years, he thought. Years without a word. Everything the Cranes touched turned to poison.

She didn't resist him when he pulled her into his embrace.

The clock chimed the noon hour.

Cheerful children skated by.

And Gwen's walls finally tumbled to the ground.




@@@@@





"Grandma," Danielle asked thoughtfully. "Will Mom ever be the same?"

Pilar put the glass back in the cupboard and turned to face her granddaughter. "I don't know," she said honestly. "But she won't always be this sad, Mija. I promise," she whispered. Cupping Danielle's silky cheek in the palm of her hand.

Danielle closed her eyes. When she opened them, they were shimmering with unshed tears. "It's all my fault," she said brokenly. "All my fault, Grandma. If I hadn't.she wouldn't."

"Mija! Don't you ever say that again," Pilar said more harshly than she intended. Grabbing Danielle by the shoulders. Hard. Her voice softened. "It's not your fault. It's God's will."

Anger flashed across Danielle's blue eyes.

From the time she was a tiny baby Pilar could always read Danielle with one look in her expressive blue eyes. Eyes so like her mother's.

"Why would God let this happen? Why would he make my mommy so sad?"

Her own throat was tight with tears when she gave the only answer she could. "I don't know, Mija. I don't know.

UAgirl
5.11.07, 5:35 PM
Chapter 7










"Sam!"

Sam closed his eyes at the sound of her voice.

Ivy slipped her arms around his waist from behind. Propping her chin on his shoulder and whispering in his ear. "Remember when we were young, Sam?"

Sam untangled her arms from his waist and turned around. His hands holding hers gently. "I remember," he said softly.

"I missed you last night, Sam. Where were you?" she queried.

This is it. You have to tell her. There's no way around it. He squeezed her hands. "Ivy.I think.let's sit down."

"O-o-kay," she said slowly. Complying with his request. The uneasy feeling returned to the pit of her stomach. The image of Grace's smiling face flashed through her mind.

Sam shifted restlessly on the park bench. How did he say this? How did he tell her?

"Sam," Ivy said worriedly. A hand on his arm. "Is something wrong?"

No. Yes. No. Damn. He was happy to have his wife back. But she'd been gone for nine years. Nine years. He'd moved on. His whole life was one complicated mess after another. "You could say that," he muttered.

"Sam.talk to me."

He couldn't do it. He couldn't force the words out when she looked at him like that. Worry and concern in her blue green eyes. For him. When she was going to be the one hurt the most.

"Sam.please."

"Ivy, I don't know how to tell you this. I guess the best way.what is my brother doing with Gwen Hotchkiss? Hold on just a minute, Ivy. I'll be right back."

Ivy watched Sam stalk over to where Hank and Gwen sat. He was stalling. She was sure. This.whatever he wanted to tell her.it must be big. Momentous.

A ball rolled to a stop at her feet, and she reached down to grab it.

"Hey lady! Can I have my ball back?"

She smiled at the youngster in his baseball uniform. Something about him reminded her of Ethan. "Certainly."

The sandy-haired boy grinned in thanks and resumed his game of catch with a similarly attired child.

She looked back to the park bench. Only to turn away when she realized she was spying. Her jaw dropped open in shock when smiling blue eyes stared through her.

"Hello, Ivy."






@@@@@







"How did I know you would be here?"

Danielle twisted a strand of her long dark hair around her index finger. Making no move to acknowledge her presence.

"Sweetie? Are you upset about yesterday? You don't have to be, you know. I'm alright now. Good as new."

She could barely talk over the lump in her throat at her mother's words. Her sad smile. The dullness of her blue eyes. She was lying. But Danielle didn't even think her mother knew that. Yet. "You scared me, Mommy," she whispered. "You scared me."

Sheridan sifted her fingers through her daughter's hair. Cradling her beautiful face in the palms of her hands. "I'm so sorry, Baby. Forgive me?"

Tears spilled down Danielle's cheeks as she nodded her head. "There's nothing to forgive. I love you, Mommy."

Sheridan kissed her tears away gently. "I love you, too. More than anything else in this world." She twined her fingers with Danielle's and gave her hand a tug. "Grandma made something special for you. You want to go in?"

Danielle slid from her perch on the porch railing and looped her arm around her mother's small waist. "Yeah," she smiled. "I'd like that."

Sheridan kissed the crown of her daughter's head with a sigh. "Well.let's go."

Danielle said a silent prayer to God. That He would help them. Help them through this. There was too much to lose if they didn't.







@@@@@







"Mr. Alcott.let me see if I get this straight. You had just returned from a long afternoon enjoying the sun and the water with your grandkids."

Joseph Alcott nodded his head vigorously and spoke with great pride. "That's right, Detective. My daughter.her name's May.May brought the children to see me. Joey-that's my namesake-loves sailing. Alyssa.she's more like her father's side of the family. Had her nose buried in a book the whole day. Missed everything."

Luis listened impatiently. They had been at this for over an hour already. At this rate."Mr. Alcott.you said you docked your boat."

"The Maid Marian. Named her that to aggravate my wife," he grinned. His disheveled hair falling forward into his eyes.

"You docked The Maid Marian, said goodbye to your family, and decided to walk down to Joe's for a little refreshment."

Joseph's blue eyes twinkled at Luis. "Beer, boy. I walked down to Joe's to get me a beer."

"A beer," Luis conceded. "And you happened upon Mrs. Bennett."

"Well.what do you mean 'happened'? The lady just appeared out of nowhere. I had to rub my eyes real hard. Didn't rightly believe she was there. She looked awfully pale. And her hands.Detective.her hands were like ice. The poor thing collapsed at my feet without a word. I had to help her. That's why I carried her down to the clinic. Since Dr. Johnson took over.people say she works miracles."

Luis scribbled a few final notes in his pad. "Mr. Alcott.you will be around if the Harmony Police Department should need to get in touch?"

"Detective Lopez-Fitz.Fitz."

"Detective is fine."

"You can count on me, Detective. I'll help in any way I can."




@@@@@








The phone rang insistently.

He gritted his teeth in anger and punched the button forcefully.

"The girl was here to see her mother again, Sir."

He leaned back in the supple high-backed leather chair. "And."

"Sir.she's asking questions again. About her mother's condition."

His evil laughter echoed in the small, enclosed room. "What condition?"

The man's nervous gulp was audible over the phone line. "I told her.I told her that her mother would never speak again. Would never recover."

He picked up the file in front of him and studied Rebecca's picture. "Good. That's what I pay you for."

"But, Sir. You don't understand," the man stammered. His voice thick with fear. "The medication.Mrs. Crane is showing signs of returning to her normal self. She spat at Nurse Lilly the other day, Sir."

He slammed his fist down on the cherry desk's surface. He took great pleasure in watching the skittish doctor wince on the monitors. "Damn. Double the dosage."

"We already did, Sir. I can't explain it. But it doesn't seem to be working."

"Well then triple the dosage, you imbecile!" he raged. "Get off this phone right now and personally see to it that Mrs. Crane is back out of commission."

The phone line went dead.

He folded his hands together. "Rebecca can never tell the world what she knows

UAgirl
5.13.07, 6:22 PM
Chapter 8









"Aunt Paloma? Can I.may I watch cartoons?"

Paloma ruffled Matthew's dark hair affectionately. "Yes. You may," she smiled. "But don't forget.dinner's soon."

Matthew grinned back at her.

Theresa was right. He did have his father's smile.

The little boy scrambled down from his barstool and disappeared into the living room. "Thank you!"

"You're welcome," she responded. She tapped her fingers against the kitchen counter. Dinner. That' right, Paloma. Healthy dinner. Matthew's a growing boy. She opened the fridge and peered inside. It was Whitney's turn to pick up the groceries. Speaking of Whitney.Paloma winced at the sound of the front door slamming.

Whitney's keys clattered to the bar. "Paloma.will you hand me an aspirin?"

Paloma retrieved the small bottle and handed it to her roommate. "Bad day?"

The redness of Whitney's eyes, the lines around them said it all. Whitney's life was in a state of crisis. But she refused to talk to anyone about it. Not even Theresa. Especially not Theresa.

The sounds of Simba and Pumba and Timon filtered through the small apartment.

"Cartoons? Who's.Matthew."

Paloma held out a chilled bottle of water. "Theresa needed someone to watch him while she was at work. Mama's at Sheridan and Luis's."

Whitney took a gulp of the icy liquid and swallowed the two aspirin in her palm.

"I can.we can go somewhere else if you want. Give you some quiet time. You look like you need it."

Whitney's lips twisted into a sardonic smile. "Is that a polite way of saying I look like hell?"

Paloma's brown eyes sparkled. "You said it. Not me," she said. Hugging Whitney's shoulders as she passed. "Rest. Take care of yourself."

Whitney felt tears stinging at the corners of her eyes when she heard Matthew's excited little voice. "Aunt Whitney's here? I want to go say hi."

Paloma's melodic voice was muffled as she answered him.

But Whitney had an idea of the direction the conversation was going without hearing it.

"Bye, Aunt Whitney! Hope you feel better."

And the knife in her heart twisted a little harder.





@@@@@






"Mr. Winthrop," Amy knocked politely. "Mr. Winthrop.I know you said no calls. But it's your wife, Sir. She says it's very important. She insists she talks to you."

Ethan buried his head in his hands with a groan. How did he keep the guilt out of his voice?

The button on the phone flashed red.

"Mr. Winthrop."

"Thank you, Amy," he said impatiently. "I'll take the phone call." He punched the button and spoke into the receiver. "Theresa.is there something wrong with Matthew?"

There was a moment's silence on the line before her voice filled his senses.

"Ethan.Ethan.I want you to meet me tonight. At the Seascape, The Lobster Shack, you name it. We need to talk. Ethan, I don't want to let our marriage die without a fight."

"Theresa.I can't."

"If our marriage is important to you, if our son is important to you, you will do this for me."

He closed his eyes and imagined the determined look on her lovely face. In those eyes he had fallen in love with long ago. And sighed. It was no use. He had to face his problems some time. "The Seascape. I'll have Amy make the reservations and call you."

"Thank you."

He could hear the smile in her voice as she said it. He hated to think that after tonight that smile.it would be gone.

"I love you."

The line went dead, and he hesitated before putting it back on the hook. "Me, too."





@@@@@






Adam Crane stared out the floor-length windows of his office. Down at the little ants milling about. Ah. Harmony. Home, sweet home.

"Mr. Crane," Blair said disinterestedly. "When can we get together again?"

Adam's brown eyes swept her figure admiringly. Beautiful. With brains. Too much brains, in fact. And a conscience. He wasn't about morals here. His grandfather had taught him well.

Blair gasped when he pulled her down on his lap with a growl and teasingly ran his hands up her thigh.

"What about now?" he suggested. Whispering in her ear. Toying with the pearls at her neck. He loosened the pins from her honey hair, and it fell to her shoulders once more.

"Mr. Crane," Blair protested. Pushing ineffectively against his chest. "Mr. Crane.I have a meeting."

"You work for me," he said dully.

She whimpered when he crushed his lips to hers.

"The meeting can wait."

"No, it can't."

Adam snarled in disgust as he shoved her from his hold. "Amanda.didn't Father ever teach you how to knock?"

"Here. You might need this," Amanda said icily. Tossing her caramel silk blouse at her.

Adam waited until the door shut behind her before addressing his sister. "What is so important it couldn't wait until I had a little fun?"

"Not what. Who. Father. He's coming home in two days. We have to be prepared."

"Prepared," Adam scoffed. Straightening his tie. "Prepared for what?"

Amanda didn't answer. "Family meeting. Tonight at the Mansion. I've already told Lauren. It's your job to call Aunt Sheridan. I have to go now. Convince Chad to come."

Adam rolled his eyes as soon as her back was turned. Chad? And Aunt Sheridan? And Lauren, even. Grandfather wouldn't be pleased. But he couldn't go against Amanda's request without looking suspicious. He punched in a few hastily looked up numbers and spoke in his best loving nephew voice.

"Aunt Sheridan.this is Adam."






@@@@@






"Mija.who was that on the phone?"

Danielle's feet dangled from the stool she was perched on. "Yeah, Mom. Who was it?"

Sheridan twisted the gold band on her finger. "Your cousin Adam. There's a family meeting at the Mansion tonight. He wants me to come."

Pilar's brow knit in consternation. Adam.Adam was the son of Alistair's heart.

"Can I come, Mom?" Danielle asked quizzically.

"Mija.maybe I should come, too," Pilar offered.

Sheridan smiled at her two worried loved ones. "I'm a big girl, you know."

"We'll all go."

"Dad! You're home early!"

Luis lifted Danielle off her feet easily and twirled her around and around until she giggled helplessly.

Sheridan pursed her lips and shook her head.

"Mijo.any clues yet?"

Luis set Danielle down. Smirking when she stumbled on her feet. "It's still all a mystery, Mama. But I'm working on it."

"Working on what, Dad?" Danielle asked curiously.

Sheridan made a zipping motion across her lips. "Top secret police business," she teased.

"Yeah," he laughed. Leaning down to bestow a sweet kiss on his wife's lips. "What's this about a meeting?"

Sheridan bowed her blond head.

"Adam wants the whole family to meet at the Mansion, Mijo," Pilar answered.

"It's about Julian's release in a couple days," Sheridan admitted quietly.

"Uncle Julian's coming home?" Danielle's blue eyes darted around the room. To each adult.

Luis sighed and slipped his arm around Sheridan's waist. "It's true."

Danielle watched her abuela make the sign of the cross. What would this mean?

Luis kissed the crown of Sheridan's head. "We should get going."

The screen door banged against its frame. And the house by the sea stood empty after Luis's jeep sped down the worn pathway.

A child's cries filled the air.

UAgirl
5.24.07, 7:30 PM
Chapter 9







"I want you to get her settled in while I talk to Ivy. Do you think you can handle that, Jess?" Sam asked.

"Oh, I'm sure we'll do just fine," Jessica smiled. Glancing over at her mother.

Kay stood a short distance from her father and sister. Her arms crossed around her chest. Smirking triumphantly at Ivy.

Ivy took a shaky breath and turned away. There was so much.hatred.in those dark eyes. She stuffed her soiled lace handkerchief into her purse and zipped it slowly. This was not happening. Grace Bennett was not smiling in the company of her son and brother-in-law. Grace Bennett was dead.

"Ivy? Are you okay?"

Ivy met Gwen's blue eyes. Smiling slightly at the concern she saw in them. "I'll be.no. No, I'm not okay. My fiance's 'dead' wife reappeared in Harmony more than a day ago, and I'm just now finding out," she said shortly.

"I'm sure Sam was going to tell you," Gwen placated.

"Gwen's right," Sam interrupted.

Ivy's blue green eyes searched out Grace's slight figure. Watching it as it got smaller and smaller. "Really, Sam?"

Sam looked at Gwen out of the corner of his eye.

"I.I have to go now. If you need anything, Ivy.just call."

"Thank you," she cried. "Sam," she said icily. "Were you ever really going to tell me? Or were you secretly hoping someone else could do it? Take the pressure off of you?"

"Ivy," Sam said in an exasperated voice. "It wasn't like that. Not at all. True.I didn't know HOW to tell you. But I never wanted you to find out this way."

"I can't deal with this right now."

"Ivy! Wait! Where are you going?" Sam asked. Grabbing her by the arm.

Ivy yanked her arm from Sam's grasp. Honestly.she didn't know yet. "Anywhere but here," she growled.

Sam clenched his fists and swore under his breath as he watched her hurry away blindly. Was she so desperate to get away from him? What now?

"Dad.Dad everything's going to be fine now."

He pulled his eldest daughter close and clung to her for strength. Somehow he didn't quite think so.






@@@@@








"Aunt Paloma? Is Aunt Whitney sick?"

Paloma glanced at her little nephew through the rear-view mirror. "She just had a bad day," she said softly.

Matthew pondered her words. His tiny finger posed on his chin thoughtfully. "Those are the worst," he finally said. "Aunt Paloma? Where are we going?"

Paloma bit her lip to keep from laughing. "To Uncle Miguel's house."

"Uncle Miguel!" Matthew said excitedly. "Yay!"

This time Paloma did giggle. Miguel and Matthew.well, they shared a special bond it seemed. "Yes," she smiled. "Aunt Charity invited us over for dinner."

"Aunt Paloma?"

"Yes," Paloma answered. Turning on her left blinker and making the turn at the road that would lead them to Miguel and Charity's house.

"Is Tessa going to be there?"

"Of course, silly. Why?" she asked with a laugh. "Don't you like your cousin? You do like Tessa, don't you? Matthew?"

Matthew bowed his dark head and twiddled with his teddy bear's button eyes nervously. "I guess. But Aunt Paloma.Tessa.she's weird, Aunt Paloma."

Paloma choked on her own tongue. "Matthew.that isn't very nice," she chided. She waved distractedly at her brother as the car rolled to a stop. She released her seat belt and turned around in her seat to look at her nephew. "Matthew.you don't mean that."

"I'm sorry, Aunt Paloma," he apologized without meeting her eyes.

"It's okay, kiddo," she smiled. "What are you waiting for? We're here." She opened her door and climbed out of the car.

Matthew uncrossed his fingers and whispered to his teddy bear. "I didn't really lie, Teddy. Honest." He unbuckled himself and slid out the open door.






@@@@@








"Wow! Sugar Bear! You look.amazing! When did you go and grow up on me, Sweetheart?"

Simone smiled at her father in the mirror's reflection as she fastened the gold hoops in her ears.

"Daddy.you have to say that."

T.C. grinned. "It's a totally unbiased opinion. I swear. So.where are you off to tonight?"

Simone slipped her purse on her arm and adjusted the skirt of her boldly colored dress. "Hmm. Nosy, aren't we?"

T.C.'s eyebrows shot up, and he laughed. "Busted. Really. Hold that thought. Someone's at the door."

The door swung open slowly to reveal a rather nice-looking young gentleman that looked oddly familiar.

"You don't recognize me, do you Coach Russell?"

T.C. rubbed his chin. It was right there. On the tip of his tongue. Why couldn't he.

"It's me, Coach Russell. Reese. Reese Durkee."

Simone burst into laughter at the look of complete disbelief on her father's face. "I can't believe you, Daddy. You don't see it?"

T.C. chuckled in embarrassment. Now that he thought about it."Reese. Come in. It's time for the mandatory talk about the rules."

"Daddy," Simone rolled her eyes. "Daddy, I'm not a teenager anymore. I'm in my twenties." How embarrassing is this? She could die from the mortification right here and now.

"It's okay, Simone. Coach Russell, I promise I will take the utmost care of your daughter and treat her like the lady she is."

Someone wipe that idiotic grin off my dad's face, Simone thought to herself. She pretended to look at the time. "Oh my goodness! Reese! We're going to be late. Bye, Daddy," she said. Kissing his cheek in her haste.

"Bye, Coach Russell."

T.C. laughed to himself when the door shut behind the pair. Late? "Sugar Bear.you weren't even wearing a watch."

UAgirl
5.28.07, 8:50 PM
Chapter 10









"I know you want no part of…I know you don't feel comfortable around any of us but Aunt Sheridan. But Chad...you ARE a member of the family. You're MY brother. My father's son. You need to be there."


Chad laid his headphones down and tapped on the window to get Mitch's attention. "Could you get someone to cover for me, Mitch?" He smiled when Mitch gave him a thumbs up sign. Then turned back to Amanda.


"Me? I may be a member of the family. But I have no part in it. And frankly.I don't want a part. Family don't treat their own the way that bastard did."


Amanda's jaw clenched. "You can't blame ALL of us for Grandfather's sins forever. We didn't take you away from your mother. We didn't keep your true identity from you all those years."


"Yeah," Chad sighed. "I know.but.he cost me so much. Do you have any idea how many lives he screwed up? I grew up not knowing who my parents were. Not knowing I had a brother. Sisters. Can you imagine not knowing who you are?"


Amanda's clear blue eyes clouded with sympathy, and she wanted so much to reach out. But she didn't.


Chad's eyes caught the motion. And he sighed. "You can't do it, can you? Your words say one thing, but your actions.I guess the saying is true. They speak louder than words." He watched her regal form as she walked to the door slowly.


She paused with her hand on the doorknob.


Chad waited.


"You can't get those years back, Chad. You can't undo the damage. But the future.it's yours for the taking. Just remember that."


Chad groaned when she disappeared from sight. She was right. Dammit.she was right. He scribbled a hasty note to Mitch. And took off after her.



@@@@@



She studied her reflection in the mirror.


The diamond studs sparkled in her ears.


The pale peachy tones of her dress shimmered under the lights.


Her olive complexion was flawless.


Perfect. She had to look perfect. She WAS going to win her husband's heart back tonight. And they'd make a fresh start. One without lies.


She slipped her lipstick back in her handbag and snapped it shut.


Wolf nuzzled her hand with his cold, wet nose.


Her laughter was lighthearted as she locked the door behind her. Things would work out. The way they were supposed to be. Fate or not.



@@@@@



"Danielle.sweetie. Are you cold?" Sheridan asked. Coming up behind her daughter and rubbing her arms briskly with her own.


Danielle tipped her dark head back and smiled at her mother. "Just a little."


"This house always was cold," Pilar said softly.


In more ways than one, Luis thought as he fell into step behind the maid.


Danielle felt her mother stiffen as they passed the library. That was his place.


"They're outside, Mrs. Lopez-Fitzgerald. The gazebo."


"Thank you," Sheridan said sincerely.


Danielle closed her eyes when she felt the warmth of the dying sun on her face.


Luis tried to ignore his misgivings when Adam Crane spoke.


"Aunt Sheridan.so happy you could make it."


The man was a fake if he ever saw one.


"And this must be Danielle. My dear.you're every bit as beautiful as your own mother."


Danielle smiled uneasily at the compliment. Why did she get the feeling her cousin Adam meant not a word he said?


"No, she isn't."


Danielle studied the young blond curiously.


Lauren's hazel eyes twinkled, and she winked at Sheridan. "She's even more beautiful."


"Lauren! You're home!"


Lauren squeezed her aunt tightly.


"Just in time it seems," she said soberly. "Hey you!" she smiled at Danielle. "I wasn't kidding. You're gorgeous, Kid. Think you can give me a few pointers?"


Danielle giggled and took her cousin's outreached arm. "It's all in the genes."


"Mijo," Pilar uttered softly. A gentle hand on her son's arm. "Watch over her. And protect her. I.don't trust him blindly," she said. Glancing at Adam. Luis smiled reassuringly at his mother before she tried to catch up to her former charge and her granddaughter.


Sheridan felt a chill go up her spine when her nephew smiled at her.


Luis hugged her closer, and she was grateful for the contact.


Adam stood up. To attention.


That could only mean one of two things. And Sheridan hoped beyond hope her father was far, far away from Harmony.


Amanda looked tired. Worried as she spoke.


But the weariness fell away. Forgotten as Chad took his place by her side.


The meeting was in session.

UAgirl
5.28.07, 8:53 PM
Chapter 11







"How come you're not at the meeting?"


Lauren quirked her brows at her cousin. "I'm the baby of the family. They never listen to what I have to say."


"Mom would listen. Wouldn't she, Grandma?"


Pilar smiled at the adoration for Sheridan shining clearly in her granddaughter's crystal blue eyes. "Yes. She most certainly would."


"Where are you taking us?"


"My goodness! You do ask a lot of questions, don't you?" Lauren teased. "I bet you get that from your father."


Danielle grinned. "How did you know?"


"Just a hunch," Lauren shrugged.


The smile on Danielle's face grew even wider as she recognized the sound of crashing waves.


Lauren's pace slowed. And she covered Danielle's eyes with her hands. "No peeking," she warned.


Pilar's hair whipped in the air around her wildly. "Miss Lauren.not so close to the."


"Pilar! Don't you trust me?" Lauren laughed lightly. "Okay.on the count of three.open your eyes."


Danielle opened her blue eyes to one of the most spectacular sights she had ever seen. "Wow! I didn't know."


"It's beautiful, isn't it?" Lauren sighed. Stepping closer to the edge.


Pilar panicked at the sound of loose rocks falling. "Mija! Not so close to the edge."


"Grandma," Danielle chided. "Don't worry so much. Lauren won't let anything happen to me. Will you?"


"Sure won't. But she's right. You have to be careful out here. It's an awful long way down. I wouldn't want to make the mistake of getting too close. Maybe we should go back now."


"Aww," Danielle whined. "Do we have to?"


"We have to," Lauren said with a frown. "Come on," she said. Tugging on Danielle's hand.


"Wait," Danielle said. Stopping in her tracks a few minutes later. "My bracelet's gone. I have to go back to get it. Please."


Lauren looked to Pilar. And relented when she nodded her head in approval. "Hurry back."


"I will," Danielle called.


"Did anybody ever tell you that your face would stick that way if you didn't smile once in a while?" Lauren teased. "Pilar? What's wrong? Pilar?"


Pilar clutched the necklace at her neck. "I don't know. I can't shake this feeling. Something terrible is going to happen. Dios Mio! Danielle! We have to stop her!"


Lauren didn't ask any questions.


The rocks crunched under their feet as they ran.


The sound of Danielle's screams made them both sick with fear.




@@@@@



Sheridan's glass crashed to the ground.


Adam winced as it shattered. The stupid woman.


"Sheridan? What is it? Are you alright?" Luis questioned.


Chad knelt and began picking up the slivers with his hands.


"No. No, I'm not alright. Luis.I feel so cold. So cold. Why? What's happening?"


"NNNNNNOOOOOOO!!!!"


"That sounds like."


"Danielle! Luis! It's our daughter."


Amanda looked stricken at the words. No. Not again. "Adam.call 9-1-1."


Tears escaped Sheridan's pretty blue eyes as her heart filled with fear.


Luis couldn't let his own fright show. He held her hand tightly. Everything had to be alright.



@@@@@





Matthew bounced the ball off the tree again and again. Boredly. He wanted to go home.


Tessa knelt in the grass. Staining her pristine white dress. And stared ahead.


She doesn't scare me. She doesn't scare me, Matthew repeated. Brown eyes screwed shut. She doesn't scare me. "Ow!" he cried when the ball bounced back. Hard. And thudded against his skull. Tears welled up in his eyes, but he wiped them away. He couldn't let Uncle Miguel think he was a baby.


Tessa stood up slowly. And held her head in her hands. A look of pain on her face.


"Tessa? Tessa? Are you okay?"


Images of blood and surf assaulted Tessa's senses. And a golden chain glinted in the sunshine.


"Tessa! Aunt Paloma! Uncle Miguel! Help! Something's wrong with Tessa!"


"NO! NO! DON'T!"


"Tessa! Oh my god! Tessa! Talk to me."


Charity cried helplessly as Miguel shook their daughter by the shoulders. Trying to get her to come out of the trance she was in.


Matthew whimpered. Burying his face in his aunt Paloma's neck. His hot tears soaking through her shirt.


"NO!"


Tessa fell limp in her father's arms.

UAgirl
6.30.07, 9:50 PM
Chapter 12






"Anything else, Mrs. Winthrop?"

Theresa clasped her hands in her lap and sighed. "No thank you." Where was he?

"Sorry to keep you waiting."

Theresa's lips curved upward. "I knew you'd come."

Ethan fussed with his napkin, and his blue eyes searched for the waiter. "Have you ordered yet?"

"I waited for you," Theresa said softly. "Ethan.I'm so happy you came."

"Well.I keep my promises." Most of them anyway, he thought to himself.

"I know," Theresa murmured.

"Good evening, Mr. Winthrop. May I take your order?"

Theresa studied her husband's profile as he ordered for them both. He was still as handsome as the day she married him. There were more lines around his eyes, of course. And if she looked closely, she could see just a hint of gray. She fought the insane urge to giggle. She thought it made him look very distinguished.

"What?" Ethan asked.

Theresa's laughter spilled forth. "Nothing," she said. Sobering immediately when she realized Ethan didn't think anything was funny at all. Things were not getting off on the right track here. "Ethan.we need to."

"Talk," he finished for her. Setting his glass of wine down carefully.

The band starting playing. And she recognized the words. The voice. It was their song. All at once she felt terrible. Hopeless. She had lied for so long. So many times she could have told him the truth. But she hadn't. "Ethan," she choked. "I'm so sorry. I know this is all my fault. I don't blame you. Trust is everything in a marriage, and I've broken yours by lying to you since the day I met you. I'm not the person you thought I was."

Ethan reached across the table to grasp her hand. Maybe she wasn't the person he thought she was. But he loved her anyway. "Theresa.Theresa, look at me."

Brown eyes filled with tears could barely meet his gaze.

He brushed the tears that spilled down her silky cheeks away with the pads of his thumbs. "Shh," he soothed. "I'm not saying everything is okay. It isn't. But I believe.I believe that we love each other enough to work through anything. Don't you?"

Hope filled her heart, and she smiled at him. "Yes. Yes, I do. Our love can survive anything," she said confidently.

Can it survive this, Ethan thought as he took a breath. Would she still look at him the same? Still love him? "I hope so," he whispered.

"Ethan? Ethan.you can tell me anything. We can tell each other anything. From now on we'll be nothing but honest with each other. I know it won't be easy. But I'm willing if you are."

His blue eyes lingered on the small golden band she wore, and he took a deep breath. "Theresa.this isn't easy. I guess the best thing is just to say it. Theresa.I broke our marriage vows."



@@@@@






He could hear the soft sounds of a woman weeping.

Why? Why now? When I finally have all my dreams within my reach? This can't be happening to me.

"This isn't happening." She gasped at his touch. "Father Lonagin! You frightened me."

"I apologize for the intrusion. I couldn't help but overhear."

"How much did you hear?" Ivy asked with downcast eyes. She raised her gaze. What a foolish thing to do? The man cannot see you.

"Only enough to know you are in pain. Ivy? Is it? Tell me.what is it that."

Ivy clutched her purse in her hand and prepared to leave.

"He listens to all things. All people. Maybe you should try talking to Him sometime," Father Lonagin said solemnly.

Ivy's mouth hung open. She couldn't think of a suitable response. She couldn't exactly tell the old priest what was running through her mind at this moment. God didn't listen to her. Her prayers often went unanswered. "I'm sorry, Father Lonagin. I must be leaving now."

Father Lonagin smiled sadly after her and raised his eyes to the heavens. Unanswered prayers or not.He listened.




@@@@@






"And this is your room," Jessica smiled.

Grace ran a gentle hand over the comforting quilt thrown over the bed. Studied the pictures that adorned the walls. Smiling, happy faces. Faces of her family. "It's beautiful," she whispered.

Kay's smile lit up the room. Yes.it was. All traces of Ivy wiped clean. Wouldn't she be surprised by the bags waiting for her at the front door when she deigned to return? It was like Mom never left.

Grace eased herself down onto the mattress with a sigh. "Home. I'm home."

Jessica picked up the quilt from the foot of the bed and tucked it around her mother's shoulders lovingly. "You should rest now."

Grace stopped her with a hand on hers. "Thank you. For everything."

Kay laughed softly. "What are good daughters for?"

"You ARE good daughters. Both of you."

Jessica kissed her mother's cool cheek and moved to the door. Reluctantly. "If you need anything."

"I know who to ask," Grace smiled.

"Come on, Jess," Kay said. Taking her sister's arm. Her hand on the light switch. "We'll be downstairs if you need us."

The door latched shut. The glow from the hallway seeping under and painting the floor with a strange yellow glow.

Her blue eyes scanned the room. Landing on the jade satin robe forgotten in their haste. Home, she thought with a laugh. She was home at last.



@@@@@






Her mind was a whirl of questions as she paid Beth for her purchase at the Book Café. How was Grace? First and foremost. What happened now with Sam and Ivy? Would Ivy back down gracefully? Or would it start all over again?

"Hey! Watch where you're going!"

"I'm.I'm sorry. I just have a lot.T.C.!"

T.C.'s dark eyes narrowed imperceptably.

Eve felt herself growing smaller and smaller. "You're back."

"Yeah," he said. "Great to see you."

The nervous smile on Eve's face faltered as she realized he was just being polite. And why should he be anything else? The last time he laid eyes on her...finding your wife in the arms of your worst enemy would make ANY man lose it. "I saw Simone. Our little girl's so beautiful."

"Like she always was," he said gruffly. "Look.I don't mean to run out on you. But I really have to be going. I have a meeting with the big guns at Harmony High."

"A meeting? Are you moving back permanently?" she asked hopefully.

He looked at her strangely. All pretenses were gone. "For Simone. For Whitney. For our daughters, Eve. I do it all for them."

The bells chimed his departure. And she felt like the tiniest being on the planet.



@@@@@





"Oh, Man. Did you see that?" Noah whistled under his breath. "Russell was colder than cold."

Beth put the money in her hand in the register. "Well," she muttered. "I think he had a right. I mean.finding out your wife had a child with the man you hate most in the world. And that that child is involved with your daughter. Talk about screwed up. Whitney has been a mess ever since."

"The good doctor didn't help herself any by admitting she loved the creep. I'm telling you, Beth. Those Cranes.they've really done a number on this town and all its people. Harmony'd be much better off without them. Blood or no."

Beth perched herself on the stool beside him and swatted him with the rag in her hands. "Come on, Noah. Don't you think you're being a little harsh? Sheridan's a Crane by blood. I didn't like her much in the beginning, but I was bitten by the green-eyed monster," she laughed in embarrassment.

"Sheridan's okay," Noah admitted grudgingly. "A little unstable. But okay, I guess. I wouldn't have a problem, though, if the rest of her family disappeared off the face of the earth." One spitfire in particular, he thought to himself.

"Yeah," Beth smirked. "I bet you wouldn't miss any of them. Not even the little blond that's got you smiling to yourself right now. You are so transparent, Noah. Don't even try to deny it," she laughed.

Noah's jaw clenched, and his coffee mug clattered against the bar. "Like hell," he spat. What was Beth smoking?



@@@@@





"Mija!" Pilar cried. Clutching Danielle to her bosom desperately.

"I thought I warned you not to get too close," Lauren gasped. Stroking Danielle's dark hair back from her forehead. "What happened?"

"Danielle! Oh my god! Are you alright?"

Danielle swallowed the lump of fear in her throat and blinked back her own tears. "I'm okay, Mommy. I promise."

Pilar leaned back on her heels and released her granddaughter.

Luis pulled Danielle and Sheridan close to his heart. "What were you thinking? You scared us all to death."

Danielle's blue eyes softened when she saw the frantic look on her cousins' faces.

"Yeah, Kid," Chad laughed nervously. Veering away from the cliff's edge.

Amanda pulled her cell phone from her pocket and dialed a number. Her voice much calmer than her shaking hands. "Adam.everything's fine. They're here. Tell them she's fine and apologize. No.I'm not sorry I told you to call 9-1- 1. What if something had happened?" she snapped.

Danielle's eyes widened. "9-1-1?"

"You're hurt," Sheridan whispered. Touching the angry gashes on her daughter's forehead gingerly.

"Stings a little. That's all. Won't the 9-1-1 people be disappointed?" she joked half-heartedly. She hated seeing her mom so worried.

Luis grasped her shoulders firmly. "What happened? Why weren't you more careful?"

"I'm sorry, Dad," she said guiltily. "I lost my bracelet, and when I came back to get it.I tripped and fell. But I'm okay. Really. See?"

"A few nasty scrapes you got there," Chad whistled. "Where's the bracelet?"

Danielle's forehead wrinkled in thought, and she winced in pain. "I thought I saw it near the edge. But it's not there now."

"Is this it?" Lauren queried. Holding the tiny gold charm bracelet out to her cousin.

"Yes! Thank you so much!" Danielle smiled. "I couldn't lose my bracelet."

The sun's rays bounced off the jewelry.

Amanda's throat grew tight at the sight of one of the charms. She recognized it. She was there when she got it for her birthday.

"Women and their jewelry," Chad kidded. Holding out a hand to help Sheridan to her feet.

Danielle giggled and buried her face in her mother's warmth. "Stop teasing."

Luis slipped an arm around his mother's waist and led the way. "I think it's time we left this place. Just a little too much excitement for one day."



@@@@@






"Charity? Will she be okay?" Paloma asked worriedly.

Charity took the cool cloth from her sister-in-law's outstretched hand and dabbed Tessa's sweaty brow without an answer.

"Does she do this often?"

Matthew held his uncle Miguel's hand tightly. And stared at a picture on the wall. Of him, his mommy, daddy, all his aunts and uncles. Their happy smiles made him feel better.

Tessa moaned and thrashed around on the sofa. Her yellow hair damp. Flattened to her skull. "No! No! Don't!"

Charity tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. "She'll be okay," she finally answered. "She won't remember anything after it's over. And I don't want you to say anything to her either."

Paloma bit her lip and nodded her head. No problem, she thought.

Tessa's blue eyes shot open.

Everything in the cozy living room jumped in surprise.

Charity grew cold as she held her daughter's hand, and a tear fell from her cornflower blue eyes.

The golden chain glittered against the weathered rocks, and the waves pounded furiously.

They had to strain their ears to hear Tessa's pained whisper.

”Martin.”

UAgirl
8.10.07, 11:53 PM
Chapter 13



"Time for your medication, Mrs. Crane."

Rebecca clenched her jaw. At midnight?

"Alright. If you must," Nurse Lilly sighed. Producing a syringe.

Rebecca's blue eyes widened in horror. "No," she shook her head. "No."

Nurse Lilly's blue eyes were cold as ice. Years of working for Mr. Crane had hardened her heart. It didn't pay to feel things. To have a heart. Not here. "Really," she chided. "You should know better by now," she smiled as she plunged the needle in the first vein she could find.

Rebecca's jaw relaxed, and her shoulders slumped within seconds.

Nurse Lilly kept a close eye on her until her eyelids drooped sleepily. "Just what do you know?"

The door creaked on its hinges as it swung shut behind her.

"Everything," Rebecca mumbled.


@@@@@






"Do you ever take a hint?" Gwen huffed in irritation.

"Hint? You've been giving me hints?" Hank smirked.

"Ugh! You're impossible!"

Hank grinned. She was so easy to rile up. "Thanks."

Gwen groaned in frustration. None of the damn keys fit.

"Let me," Hank insisted. Taking the keys from her hand and choosing the correct one immediately. "There you go."

She snatched the key from him and inserted it in the lock.

"Hey! I thought you were going to invite me in!" Hank yelled. "Be Mr. Nice Guy to her, and how does she repay me? Slams the door in my face. That's a definite hint, Buddy," he muttered to himself as he walked down the hall to the elevator.

The elderly woman from Apartment 221 smiled at him benignly. "Don't worry about it, Dearie. Me and my husband had more than our share of lovers' spats when we were young. Flowers are the perfect way to say you're sorry. Charlie always gave me the most beautiful roses. Only the best."

Hank bit back the retort on his lips. "Thanks for the advice, Mrs. Rosenberg." Maybe he should just take the stairs.


@@@@@





"Theresa? Theresa? Are you here?" Paloma called.

The house was eerily silent. And the darkness made her reach for Matthew's little hand.

"Aunt Paloma.where's my mommy?" Matthew's bottom lip quivered, and tears threatened at the corners of his big brown eyes.

Paloma lifted him into her arms and hugged him tightly. "I don't know. But we'll find her." She jumped at the feeling of Wolf's cold, wet nose nudging her hand. "Wolf! You scared me."

Wolf whimpered and trotted down the hall. He was halfway to Theresa and Ethan's bedroom when he turned around. As if waiting for them.

Paloma crept carefully down the carpeted hall. Straining her ears for any unusual noises.

"Somebody's crying," Matthew whispered.

"Theresa? Theresa, is that you?"

"Mommy? Mommy, are you okay?"

The sobbing grew quieter, and Paloma heard the soft thud of footsteps. She grabbed her chest in fright when Theresa's bedroom door opened suddenly.

"Matthew!" Theresa said brightly. Holding her arms open to her son.

Matthew wrapped his little arms around her neck and kissed her soundly on the cheek. "No tears, Mommy," he whispered. Tracing the tear tracks down her cheeks.

"No tears," she smiled. "No more tears."

Paloma followed them both to Matthew's room. Brow knit with worry. Something had happened. Something bad.

"Paloma? Will you get Matthew's blue pj's out of his dresser for me?"

Matthew raised his arms for her to take his shirt off, and she slipped the soft cotton pj's over his head with a kiss to his forehead. "Mommy," he mumbled. "Stay with me. Please."

"Okay," she said into his dark hair. Pulling the covers up over them both and snuggling closer to him.

She curled up in the armchair by the window. The stars' light painting her face. And drifted to sleep to the sound of her sister's melodic voice. Her mind churning with unanswered questions. Would she ever get all the answers?



@@@@@






Luis rubbed the sleep from his eyes as he padded into the kitchen. Too much had happened today. He just could not sleep.

"Mijo."

His mother's whispered word of endearment startled him. And he almost dropped the pitcher of milk in his hands. "Mama.I didn't know you were awake." He could see the smile on his mother's face even in the darkness.

"I'm sorry," she apologized. "I didn't mean to frighten you."

Luis chuckled. "Frightened, Mama? You didn't frighten me. Well.maybe just a little. Nothing is as scary as the thought of losing a child. Especially your child," he said quietly.

Pilar lowered her head into her hands with a sigh. "Sheridan, Mijo? How is she? Does she sleep?"

Luis ran a tired hand through his thick black hair. "She won't let Danielle out of her sight. That bed is not made for three."

Her brown eyes shone in the darkness. "Three is better than seven," she smiled.

Luis laughed aloud at the memory. "Me and Antonio were making sure you and Papa weren't scared. Paloma begged me to stay."

"Is that right, Mijo?" she laughed softly. "I think you have your stories mixed up."

"Mama? Are you calling me a liar?" Luis ribbed.



@@@@@






She watched the gentle rise and fall of Danielle's chest. And stroked her dark hair back from her forehead. Her fingers lingering on the bandages there. So close. Today was too close. "Thank you," she whispered. "Thank you for keeping her safe for me."

"Mmm. What did you say, Mommy?" Danielle mumbled in her sleep.

"Nothing. Go back to sleep."

Danielle smiled in her sleep and murmured, "I love you, Mommy."

"I love you, too."

The curtains ruffled in the breeze, and she sighed as she felt its coolness on her face. She picked up the clock on the night stand beside her. It was after midnight. Where was Luis?

Danielle clutched her mother's pillow. Breathing in the comforting scent of her perfume as she eased herself from her hold.

She smiled tenderly at her daughter and slipped her arms into the pale pink satin robe resting at the foot of the bed.

Pilar's and Luis's muffled voices floated upstairs from the kitchen.

She trailed her fingertips along the smooth banister. She froze mid-step at what she heard next.

"Hush little baby. Don't say a word."

The sound of a child's giggle. Light and joyous. It made her heart hammer in her chest.

"Mama's going to buy you a mocking bird."

She closed her blue eyes tight. Held her hands over her ears.

"A mocking bird? What's a mocking bird?"

Tears streamed down her face unchecked.

"A mocking bird's a bird, silly."

"Oh. More."

"And if that."

"No! Over! Over!"

"Over?"

More giggles.

She shivered. And raised a hand to her cheek. The whisper of a kiss making it tingle.

"Hush little baby. Don't say a word. Hush little baby. Don't say a word. Hush little baby. Don't say a word."

"NO! NO! STOP IT! PLEASE STOP IT!" she screamed. Falling to her knees.

UAgirl
8.19.07, 10:06 PM
Chapter 14






Matthew slurped his cereal happily. His brown eyes darted to the kitchen door. Good. No one was there. "Woof," he whispered in a childish voice.

Wolf took the piece of bacon between his teeth gingerly and plopped down on his belly contentedly.

Matthew's laughter made Theresa smile. But it was a sad smile.

Paloma poured herself a tall glass of orange juice and slumped in the seat beside her nephew.

"Aunt Paloma," he grinned. "Your hair looks funny."

"Oh you," she grumbled. Ruffling his hair affectionately. "And what about yours, Mr. Matthew? Looks like Mickey Mouse slept in it."

"Mickey Mouse!"

The doorbell chimed, and three sets of brown eyes looked at each other.

Matthew scooted out of his seat. "I'll get it!"

"Are you going to tell me what happened last night? Or am I going to have to drag it out of you?"

"Paloma.don't."

"Don't what? Don't worry about you? Well.I can't help it. You're my sister. And you cried yourself to sleep last night. Don't even try to deny it. I want to know why. Tell me, Theresa."

"Tell her what, Theresa?"

Theresa's lips stretched into a tight smile. "Good morning, Ivy."

"You didn't answer my question. Where's Ethan?"

No one could miss Matthew's crestfallen expression. "Daddy didn't come home last night."

"He didn't? Theresa.I thought.things.he was here," Ivy stumbled. Choosing her words very carefully.

"He isn't," Theresa ground out.

Matthew tugged on his grandmother's shirttails. "Daddy works ALL the time. At The Office."

"Paloma.will you?" Theresa nodded her head at her son.

Ivy smiled fondly at Matthew as Paloma led him out of the kitchen to his room to get dressed for the day. "Are you going to answer my questions now?"

Theresa combed her fingers through her wild dark hair roughly. "I wouldn't know. Ethan doesn't exactly tell me everything."

Ivy's blue-green eyes flashed at her. "And? The whole reason for the problems in your marriage.you know what? Forget it. If you hear from him, tell him I dropped by."

She grabbed Paloma's forgotten glass of juice off the kitchen table and raised it above her head.

"THERESA! What are you doing?"

The concern in her sister's eyes was her undoing.

Paloma watched. Horrified. As Theresa crumpled before her.

"He betrayed me, Paloma. Ethan slept with another woman."



@@@@@






Tessa hummed quietly to herself in the corner. Her tiny fingers wrapped around the cross at her neck.

Her family milled about the small kitchen. Today was her aunt Grace's first day home. And everyone was determined to make sure it went off without a hitch.

Kay's hips moved to the upbeat sounds of Harmony's ONLY music station.

Jessica giggled when her father grabbed her from behind. "How's my two beautiful girls this morning?"

"Hey!"

Sam laughed outright at Noah's attempt to look hurt. "And my handsome son," he added.

Noah batted his eyelashes.

Miguel rolled his eyes.

"Where is Aunt Grace anyway?" Charity inquired.

"She said she'd be right down," Jessica answered. Glancing at her watch. "That was.that was over ten minutes ago. Maybe I should go check on her."

"Jess," Kay chided. "You're smothering her."

"Am not," Jessica retorted.

"Yes. You are," Noah smirked. "Why don't you wait on me hand and foot like that?"

"Aww. I didn't know you felt so left out," Jessica teased. Kissing her brother's cheek. "May I get you anything? Prince Noah?"

"Prince Noah? What the hell did I miss?"

"Uncle Hank!"

Hank wiped the pancake batter from his face. "Kay! You're cooking?"

"Oh! Shut up!"

"Tessa? Tessa.will you go upstairs and tell Aunt Grace breakfast is almost ready?"

Tessa's blue eyes turned dark with fear.

"It's okay, Tessa. I'll go do it," Jessica offered.

"No, Jess," Kay whined. "I need you here. Help me. Please!"

"Admit it," Hank grinned. Squeezing his niece's shoulders.

"Okay," Kay grumbled. "I can't cook to save my life. Jess.will you help me?"

Sam's blue eyes twinkled. Kay and Jessica had never gotten along better.

"Tessa." Charity pleaded.

Tessa slid from the tall stool.

Her new tiny white sandals squeaked as she ascended the stairs.

She could hear the shower running as she neared the bedroom.

Steam fogged up the room.

Tessa's yellow hair curled in tendrils around her face.

The sound ceased.

Something thudded against the tile floor. The soap probably. But Tessa couldn't stop herself.

She raised a hand to the doorknob and twisted it slowly. Silently. She could barely make out the lithe figure in the murky bathroom.

A hand wiped the mirror over the sink clear.

Tessa froze in place. Her feet unable to move.

The most hideous visage imaginable reflected in the mirror. Scarred, reddened flesh. Cold blue eyes.

Grace turned at Tessa's gasp.

And it WAS Grace. It really was. It HAD to be.

Tessa shook her head. Blinked her eyes.

The monster in the mirror was gone.


@@@@@






Eve sighed heavily as she climbed to her feet.

"Eve? Eve? How is she?" Luis asked. His brown eyes riddled with worry.

"I'm not going to lie to you, Luis. She isn't good. I had thought.the episodes would decrease.as time passed. But it seems they're getting worse. I don't know what else to do for her, Luis. Maybe you should take her to see someone better equipped to handle these types of cases."

Luis laughed mirthlessly. "Better equipped to handle these cases? It'd kill her to hear you say that, Eve. She doesn't need a shrink. Just support. Family. Friends. You're one of her friends, Eve. We'll help her through this."

"Luis? Do you hear yourself? It's been almost three years. Three years since.She needs professional help, Luis. I've done all I can do."

"Don't say that. Don't say that," Luis ground out. "I'm not losing her. I can't lose her, too. I need her too much. Danielle needs her too much."

Eve leaned her chin on Luis's strong shoulder. "You won't lose her. She loves you two entirely too much. She's a fighter, Luis. One day.you'll have your Sheridan back. I'm sure of it," she finished. Meeting Pilar at the door.

"Do you really believe that?" Pilar asked gently. Her eyes misting over as she watched her son cradle his sleeping wife in his arms.

"Pilar," Eve scolded. A slight smile on her lips. "This is Sheridan and Luis we're talking about here. Where's your faith?"

My faith is still intact, Pilar thought silently.

Sheridan wasn't so lucky.

UAgirl
8.19.07, 10:11 PM
Chapter 15






"You know what to do?"

He looked down his nose at the man in the standard FBI suit in annoyance. "Of course I know what to do," he blustered.

"Listen, Crane," Hal grit out. "You agreed to this deal. An early release. All you have to do is give us the goods."

Suddenly this didn't seem like such a good idea. "I told you I'd do it," he snapped.

Hal studied the man before him. Fear was evident in his eyes. But the need for revenge far outweighed any misgivings he might have. "Good. And stay away from your sister. You hear me? People are outraged enough already. Any man who tries to murder his own sister surely does not deserve an early release. Good behavior or not."

Wave after wave of guilt made Julian weak. If he'd been stronger.not so spineless. Still.he could say."I'm not the monster my father is, Agent Freeman. Know that."

His offering was met with silence.

The prison guard handed him a plastic bag. Inside were all his worldly possessions. Damn Father!

"This is it, Crane. He has to believe you. Believe you enough to welcome you back in the fold."

"I think I can manage that," Julian answered. Blinking against the sudden brightness of the sun.

A man wearing dark shades stepped out of a black car. And held the back door open for him.

Julian took one last look behind him. Father was going to pay. Dearly.



@@@@@







Tabitha raised her binoculars to her faded blue eyes.

"Tabby! Timmy's ashamed of you."

"Hush up, Lad. I'm telling you. Something strange is going on over at the Bennett house. Mark my words."

"AH!" Timmy jumped at Grace's sudden appearance.

"Tabitha," Grace laughed nervously. "Did I frighten you?"

"No, no, dear," Tabitha said with false cheer. "How are you doing, Dear? I trust everything is going well."

The smile on Grace's lips turned into a frown at Tabitha's touch.

Tabitha's eyes narrowed in suspicion.

"Uh oh," Timmy muttered to himself.

"Oh dear.you're so cold."

Grace hugged her arms around her waist and smiled. "Cold by nature, I'm afraid."

"Hmm."

"Well.I thought I'd drop by and say hello before we head out. Sam's taking me and the children out to lunch."

"Goodbye, Dearie!"

"Timmy's afraid of her."

Tabitha shuddered. "Me too, Lad. Me too."



@@@@@





Danielle cast sad blue eyes out to the sea. Drawing her knees up under her chin. And trailing a hand down the cool pane of glass that separated her from the outside world.

The sea was so calm today.

So different from everything inside this house.

Fine lines were etched around her daddy's face from the constant worry.

Was her mommy going crazy?

Was it because of her?

Or.

"Mija! I have to run to the market. Will you be alright?"

What she really meant was 'can you take care of your mother?'

"I'll be okay, Grandma," she called.

"Okay. I won't be long."

Danielle watched her grandmother's old car crawl down the worn road.

The sky was so blue. So cheerful.

She padded down the hallway to check on her mother. Finding her fast asleep. No dreams that could turn into nightmares. Her beautiful face unlined and peaceful. "Rest, Mommy. And when you wake up.everything will be better. I promise."

The pictures on the yellow walls called to her.

She raised a hand and traced her finger over her parents' smiling faces. They looked so young. So in love.

A little girl.no more than six years old.ice cream dribbling down her chin. Her brown face stretched wide with a toothless grin.

She remembered that day. Like it was yesterday.

A flash of red caught her attention.

And her eyes traveled to the corner of the picture. An image almost hidden in the shadows. A blur of brown and gold.

Tears blurred her vision as she turned her gaze back to her mother's still form. "I'm so sorry, Mommy. It's all my fault."

UAgirl
9.3.07, 12:25 AM
Chapter 16






"Reese? Would you mind?"

Reese's blue eyes softened, and he shook his head.

People milled around her as she walked slowly toward the small table. Away from all the others. What was her sister doing with Ethan Cr.Winthrop? "Whitney? Whitney, is that you?"

Whitney's hand shook as she set the styrofoam cup down and turned to her with a tight smile.

Ethan averted his eyes.

What was going on here? Why did she feel she was interrupting something?

"Simone! Honey! I'm so happy to see you! How long have you been in?"

Simone accepted her sister's hug. The past was the past. Whitney had been just as devastated as she to learn Chad-the boy they were both in love with at the time-was their half-brother. "Good to see you, too," she breathed. "Hi Ethan."

"Hello, Simone," Ethan greeted. "Listen.Whitney.we'll talk about this later. Okay?"

Whitney nodded her head.

Something about the way they looked at each other.it made Simone uneasy.

"So.how long have you been in?" Whitney asked. Taking a seat.

Her sister was so prim. So proper. "Just a few days." She waved at Reese.

Whitney's dark eyes grew round. "Is that.?"

Simone laughed. "Reese.come on over."

Reese's cheeks were stained pink. "Nice to see you again, Whitney."

Whitney bit the inside of her cheek in amusement. "You, too."

"I'll.I'll leave you two to catch up," Reese said graciously.

Simone giggled when he made a beeline for the nearest electronics store. Reese and his gadgets.

"Is something going on between you two?" Whitney smiled.

Simone's smile turned into a full-fledged grin. "Ask me again some other time. What's up with you? And Theresa's husband?"

Whitney paled at the mention of Ethan.

Simone perched on the end of the chair next to her and laid a gentle hand on her arm. "Problems at work? I still have a hard time believing it. My sister.working at one of Harmony's best law firms."

Whitney took a trembling breath. "Problems," she whispered. "You could say that."

Simone smiled warmly. "Lay it on me. I'm all ears."

Whitney cupped her little sister's hand around her cheek. "I've missed you so much."




@@@@@






"I can't believe that jerk! Where is he? I'm going to kick his ass!"

Theresa grabbed Paloma's arm. The hint of a smile on her lips. Her sister's loyalty warmed her heart. "Paloma."

Paloma lowered her voice and waved at Matthew.

Matthew was so embroiled in the adventures of Tarzan he could care less.

"I mean it, Theresa. I'll."

"I know you do," Theresa soothed.

"Sit down," Paloma ordered. "Before you wear a hole in your carpet. Do you know her?"

"W-W-What?" Theresa stammered. The possibility was too much to consider. Ethan had cheated on her with another woman. Devastating news in and of itself. But had he slept with someone she knew? Maybe someone from work? He'd been spending so much time there lately.

"I don't know. He.I wouldn't let him tell me anymore. I ran as fast as I could."

Paloma's brown eyes were pools of sympathy. "I'm so sorry."

Theresa clasped her hands and inspected her wedding ring. A symbol of their love. Their marriage vows. Broken. "Don't be," she said. Twisting the ring down the length of her slim finger. "Don't be."

The ring clattered against the coffee table's surface.

And the family in the silver picture frame suddenly didn't look so happy anymore.

"Damn him," Paloma muttered.


@@@@@





He felt like a child. Coming home after a long summer away.

Harmony had changed a lot these past several years.

He recognized the towering Crane Industries building. That office.that one on the very top.his son enjoyed that view.

Adam was as ruthless as they came. The child Father had always sought. The one with NO conscience.

The Book Café was bustling with activity this fine morning.

Why the feeling of dread? He was gong home. If you could call it a home. To his own bed. No more lights out. No more community showers. No more.

His eyes lit upon the Youth Center. Who ran it now?

The school. Empty. Lonely. But for a couple of kids shooting some hoops.

Harmony Hospital.

Where was Eve now?

His eyes met the driver's in the rear-view mirror as they neared the church. "Stop here," he ordered.

Saints and angels oversaw his journey.

He knelt in the soft ground before her headstone. "Mother," he whispered. His hand lingered on the cool marble as he raised his eyes to the heavens. "Forgive me."

Tiny white roses lay across the small mound beside her stone.

Nimble fingers placed one tiny bud in his pocket before he turned to leave.

"Andrew.Beloved Son and Brother.May Angels Watch Over You."

UAgirl
9.3.07, 12:30 AM
Chapter 17






Kay slipped her hand in her mother's.

Grace glanced around at her surroundings. "The Lobster Shack?"

"Mom," Jessica smiled. "Don't you remember?"

"Give her time," Sam said softly. Leading the way to a quiet table at the back.

Grace smiled at him when he pulled a chair out for her. "Thank you."

Times past, Noah would have rolled his eyes at the gesture. His parents had always been way too publicly demonstrative for his taste. But now.they were his parents. And it looked like things were back on the right track. "Ding, dong. The witch is dead," he whispered.

"Think again," Kay hissed. Her dark eyes glittering in the dim light. "Who does she think she is?"

Ivy's diamond engagement ring sparkled on her finger.

"Dad."

"Yes, Jessica?"

"Hello, Sam. Grace," Ivy said brightly.

Kay glared at her.

A lesser woman would have wilted under her icy look, but Ivy grinned that infuriating Cheshire grin of hers.

Noah lifted his ice tea to his lips.

"Ivy," Sam blustered. "I.."

"I know," Ivy cut him off.

"What are YOU doing here?" Kay spat.

"I invited her."

All eyes were glued on Grace as the words left her lips.

Jessica's fork fell from her numb fingers and bounced on the floor.

"She what?" Kay muttered in disbelief.

What the hell is going on here, Noah wondered as Ivy settled in the seat next to him.

Sam cleared his throat. "Well.is everyone ready to order?"

Ivy's blue green eyes locked with Grace's across the table. Golden brow arched as Grace smiled at her.

Sam's heart jumped when he felt Grace's fingers traveling up his neck, and he closed his eyes when she whispered in his ear. "You're never going to be hers. Never."

Kay shivered. Something wasn't right here. She could feel it.

Ivy's gaze faltered when Grace pinned her with her blue eyes again. Why did she have the distinct feeling she was staring EVIL in the face?



@@@@@






"Yes, Grandfather. No, Grandfather. I don't think she's left her room in days. She's really went off the deep end this time. It's worse than it was after.No. We hadn't planned a party. Why should we? He's getting paroled for Christ's sake. Hardly reason for celebration. Think of the scandal. I see. I'll call Amanda right away. She's better at planning these sorts of things."

Adam punched the button on the phone forcefully. Always.always at his grandfather's beck and call.

"Blair! Blair, will you come here one moment?"

Blair's honey blond head peeked around the corner of the door.

"Stop fidgeting," Adam demanded.

Blair's hands immediately stilled. But the look of dread was still on her face.

Adam's blood boiled. Not the reaction he craved from one of his many paramours. "Call Amanda at the Mansion. And give her these instructions," he said. Rising from the plush leather seat and crossing the room to stand in front of her.

Blair took the yellow note with trembling hands. "Yes, Mr. Crane. Anything else?"

Adam licked his lips. Then shook his head. "No. That'll be all."

Blair drew in a shaky, relieved breath.

"Blair?"

"Yes?"

"Cancel all my appointments for this afternoon. I have something very important to attend to."

The door clicked shut behind her, and Adam fell back in his chair with a sigh. "Very important."



@@@@@






Luis rifled through the drawers of his desk impatiently. Where was that report? He could have sworn he put it in here somewhere before he left for lunch.

Sheridan's neat handwriting on the back of a picture caught his eye.

"Danielle-6 years old."

He flipped the picture over. And his face blossomed into a smile.

Danielle's gap-toothed face grinned up at him. Ice cream dribbling down her chin.

One of his favorite pictures. Sheridan's, too.

An identical copy hung in their bedroom.

Marty nodded his head at him across the station house. "Go on home, Luis. I'll cover for you."

Luis grabbed his keys from his desk. "Thanks, Marty."

"No problem. Tell that wife of yours she's in everybody's prayers."

Luis hurried out the door. Anxious to hold her in his arms.



@@@@@





Dust flew up from the picture album's covers as Danielle set it down on her lap.

The first picture. Her mom and dad. Their wedding day. The only one they celebrated. She smiled as she ecognized the faint bump on her mommy's belly. That was her.

She'd seen pictures of her aunt Theresa and her mommy at Aunt Theresa's wedding. It was supposed to be her mommy's wedding day, too.

But it just wasn't to be.

Mom made her dad put away all the pictures from that day.

Dad said it was a painful reminder.

Of what Uncle Julian did?

She didn't know.

Uncle Julian was discussed with tears and whispers.

She flipped the page over. Her first picture. She closed her blue eyes. She could almost imagine the warmth and love she felt being cradled in her mother's arms. Just like she did now.

Her mommy was so beautiful when she smiled.

Another page turned. Her dad used to give her piggy back rides all the time.

She recognized that picture. Her first day of kindergarten.

There were tears in her mom's eyes when she left her in Miss Noble's excellent care.

A day at the beach. And the tiny swell was back.

Danielle's heartbeat thudded against her ribs, and she glanced over her shoulder to make sure she was alone.

Tears seeped from her lashes. Wetting the pages before her. She missed him so much, she realized. Wiping the tears with the back of her hand.

"Shhh. No cry. No cry."

Danielle's dark head whipped around at the sound. She could still hear him. See him sometimes.

Her fingers traced the charm on her bracelet. "#1 Sister."

The album slipped from her lap.

"Okay.it okay."

She curled up on the couch. And allowed herself to be comforted. By ghosts of the past.

UAgirl
9.3.07, 12:33 AM
Chapter 18



Images flitted over the monitors. Pictures of Harmony Life. Harmony Misery.

He laughed evilly. There was just something about playing God with so many peoples' lives.

Rebecca's blank visage brought a smile to his lips.

Proof that no one messed with Alistair Crane and "lived" to tell about it. He wondered sometimes why he didn't just end it all.

The power. The power of one spoken word.

Nurse Lilly shined a light in Rebecca's eyes.

No response.

But when she turned her back.

"Rebecca.tsk, tsk. You're only making it worse for yourself."

Nurse Lilly swiped the handkerchief over her stern brow.

This time Rebecca didn't fight as the needle plunged into her arm.

He sighed. And his cold blue eyes turned to another monitor.

Didn't they know? They couldn't escape. No matter how hard they run.

His dear, sweet, pathetic daughter was in the throes of another nightmare.



@@@@@






"Andrew.Andrew."

The tiny child with the golden hair sprinted down the hall. All mischievous giggles.

She laughed. "Andrew! Come back!"

Andrew disappeared around the corner.

"Andrew.Sweetie.where are you?" she called.

Her voice echoed in the long, dark passageway.

"Mama," he whimpered. "Mama."

"I'm coming, Baby. Mama's coming."

The knob twisted easily, and the door gave way.

Starlight illuminated the room. She picked up his teddy bear and hugged it to her. "Andrew," she cried softly. "Where are you, Baby?"

The teddy bear turned to dust in her hands.

"NO! NO!"

She was in the church.

Her baby's eyes were closed.

The warmth of Luis's hand offered no comfort.

Danielle's sobs ripped her heart out.

Father Lonagin murmured prayers for Andrew's soul.

"Wait!" she cried desperately. "He can't sleep without his bear."

Luis took a ragged breath behind her. And fell apart.

Dead blue eyes watched as her husband clutched his mother desperately.

Arms that wanted to hold him didn't. A voice that wanted to soothe didn't.

It was all her fault. What comfort could she give?

Cold little hands tugged at her arm.

Danielle's blue eyes were perhaps the saddest of all.

A child shouldn't bear such sorrow.

"Mommy," she whispered. "Mommy, it's raining. He'll be cold."

Her knees hit the floor.

And the tears began all over again.

UAgirl
9.7.07, 10:38 PM
Chapter 19



"Ms. Russell? Are you okay?"

Whitney's brown eyes met Amy's in the reflection of the mirror. She dabbed her clammy brow with a paper towel before answering her. "I'm fine, Amy. Just not my day."

Amy opened the bathroom stall and went in.

Thank you, Whitney thought silently. Amy was the ringleader of office gossip. And she was always looking to pick up some new, juicy tidbit.

"I know exactly how you feel," Amy chattered.

Whitney rolled her eyes when the door banged against the wall. On second thought.

"It's just not been my week. Billie's babysitter has been MIA all week. My mother had to keep her. And you know how me and my mother get along," Amy said sarcastically.

Whitney sighed. "Yes. You've told me. Many times," she muttered under her breath.

"And the ex.Curt swears up and down the child support check got lost in the mail. From Castleton! I told him I'd come get it.kids are expensive, you know.and he got all suspicious-like. Offered to go find it himself. I ain't no dummy. The jerk never sent it in the first place."

"That's too bad," Whitney said boredly. Really.she didn't mean to be rude. But she had more important, personal matters to worry about. Like whether her best friend would EVER forgive her once she learned the truth.

"Yeah.Curt's another deadbeat. Like the world needs another one of them," Amy rolled her eyes.

Water rushed from the tap.

The soap swirling down the drain reminded Whitney of her own life. How pathetic.

"Then my mom calls me. Tells me my little sister.Melissa.has done gone and got herself pregnant. Blames it all on me. Can you believe that? Says I'm a bad influence. I have news for her. I waited and got pregnant AFTER high school. And Curt and me were engaged. Lot different if you ask me," Amy babbled.

"Everyone's situation is different," Whitney said softly. Slipping her purse on her shoulder.

Amy pulled her wand of mascara out and put another coat on. "I love this stuff!" she gushed. "You know.Ms. Russell.you're so pretty. But you'd be gorgeous if you jazzed yourself up a little bit. Here. Try some of my lipstick. It'll definitely grab a man's attention," she bubbled.

Whitney quietly eased the door open and stepped out without a word. That's something she definitely didn't want. Besides.trouble had a way of sneaking up on her by itself.

"Well.it hasn't caught Mr. Right's attention yet. But who knows? My Mr. Wrong may be just what you're looking for. Ms. Russell? Ms. Russell. That's odd. Where DID she go?"


@@@@@



"I can't do it," Matthew whined.

Theresa patiently loosened the knots in Matthew's shoelaces. "Yes, you can. I know it's frustrating now. But you'll get the hang of it. I promise," she smiled. Ruffling Matthew's dark hair affectionately.

"Uncle Luis taught us how to tie our shoelaces," Paloma said wistfully.

"Why didn't Grandma? Or your papa?"

"Papa.Papa wasn't around, Matthew. Grandma had to work a lot so she could take care of us kids."

"Not around like my daddy?" Matthew whispered. Staring at his feet.

"Matthew. Look at me," Theresa requested.

Matthew sniffled. And swiped at a tear that clung to his lashes.

Paloma's brown eyes shot daggers at Ethan's smiling face tacked on the refrigerator.

"No, Matthew. Not like your daddy. Your daddy's just real busy right now. He won't ever leave you. You know that. He loves you too much."

"I know," Matthew cried. "Do you still love Daddy, Mommy?"

Theresa closed her eyes and took her son in her arms. "Yes. I still love your daddy."

"I'm happy to hear that. Because I still love you too."



@@@@@



"Don't you have something better to do with your time besides bug me?" Gwen huffed.

Hank grinned. "Nope," he answered. Stuffing his hands in his pockets.

Icy blue eyes glared back at him.

"I thought we'd grab lunch together. Raincheck. Remember? You slammed the door in my face. Ringing any bells? This is the perfect way to make it up to me."

"And who says I want to make it up to you?" Gwen snarled.

"Aww. Look at me," Hank teased. Giving her his best impression of a whipped puppy.

Despite herself, Gwen felt the corners of her lips turning up. She turned her nose up in the air. "Shoo! Go away."

Hank chuckled. And followed after her.

The water lapped at the pier.

"Watch out!"

Gwen gasped when he pulled her out of the way.

"What do you think you're doing? Get your hands off me."

"Okay," Hank conceded. "Next time you're about to get flattened by a runaway roller blader.don't ask me for help."

Gwen's mouth hung open as she watched him stroll ahead of her.

"Mmm. Mmm. Good. Doesn't that smell great? Today's the perfect day to take in lunch at the Lobster Shack," he sighed. "Too bad you won't be joining me." He started counting silently.1.2.3!

"Will you leave me alone?'

His brown eyes twinkled as he turned to face her. "Sure thing. And besides.a guy has to eat. Company's good. Eating alone is a drag."

"You promise?"

Hank crossed his fingers in his pockets. "I promise. Come on," he urged. "What are you waiting for?"

Why did she feel like she would live to regret this? Oh.that's right. Because this was Hank. That's why. With him.nothing was ever simple. Promised, her ass.



@@@@@



"Oh Ivy! That's a magnificent ring! Who's the lucky guy?"

Kay's fork paused mid-air.

Jessica glanced at Sam nervously.

Ivy winced when Noah kicked her shin underneath the table.

Sam shifted uncomfortably in his seat.

Grace smiled. And brushed her hand against his thigh.

"You wouldn't know him, Grace," Ivy finally answered. Her hurt blue-green eyes locked with Sam's.

"Try me. I know a lot of people. The Bed and Breakfast and the store."

"Trust me. You wouldn't know this man. Not at all."

Kay set her fork back down beside her plate. Ha! What a whopper! "I always knew she had what it takes to be a pathological liar," she hissed to Noah.

"Tell me about it."

Grace's hand crept higher.

Sam jumped up abruptly when he knocked his glass of wine over.

"Dad," Jessica teased. "What happened? I didn't know you were such a klutz."

"Yeah. Well.I'm not the man I used to be."

What's that supposed to mean, Kay wondered. Anger simmering. What she wouldn't give to wipe that smug smile off Poison Ivy's face.

"Aww. But you're still MY Sam."

Take that, Kay smirked.

Grace took the napkin from Sam's hands and wrapped her hands around his neck. "All mine," she repeated.

"Gr."

She cut him off with her rough kiss.

"Grace," he gasped. "What the hell's got into you?"

"But Sam.I."

"Whoa! Would you look at that? I've never seen anyone move so fast."

"Do you think she got the message?" Noah grinned.

The waiter's tray flew out of his hands as Ivy shoved by.

"Loud and clear," Kay answered. "Loud and clear."

"Dad? Where are you going?"

Grace held a hand to her bruised lips and smiled. "Don't worry, Jessica. He'll be back. Your father'll be back."

Kay's dark eyes narrowed at her mother's laugh.

"Kay? Kay? What is it?"

Kay shook her head. "Nothing. It's nothing."

Lies. But how could she tell the truth when she didn't know it?

That steely blue gaze was NOT her mother's.

Cold was the only way to describe it.


@@@@@



The car door slammed shut.

Jerking Danielle from her restless slumber.

"Danielle? Sheridan?"

"Daddy! You're home!"

Luis grinned at her. Sweeping her off her feet into his arms. "When did you get so big?" he grunted.

Danielle's blue eyes sparkled.

Her giggle was music to Luis's ears. "Grandma says blink an eye, and you'll miss it."

"Grandma's very wise," Luis agreed. Setting his daughter back on her feet. "Where's your mom?"

"Sleeping."

"And Grandma?"

"Home," Pilar answered. Her arms laden with bags of groceries.

Luis relieved her of burden with a smile and a kiss to the cheek. "Staying for dinner again? Not that I'm not happy to see so much of my wonderful mother.but Mama.you don't have to do all this. We're fine. We'll be fine."

"I know I don't have to do this, Mijo," Pilar smiled tenderly. "But I want to do this. I want to take care of you and Danielle and Sheridan. You're my family."

"Thank you, Mama," Luis whispered.

"Now take those groceries in the kitchen-both of you. I'll be right back."

Danielle's giggles as Luis chased her into the kitchen echoed in the hushed house by the sea.

The door to Sheridan's bedroom creaked as she slipped inside.

Sunlight splayed across Sheridan's peaceful face.

Pilar could tell it was the calm AFTER the storm. "Oh, Mija," she sighed. Tracing the tear tracks down her cheeks with sorrowful eyes. "I wish that I could take away your pain."

So much pain in such a short life.

The breeze from the ocean made Pilar shiver, and she pulled the crisp, white sheets over Sheridan's shoulders before she turned to leave.

"Yay!"

Pilar closed her eyes and leaned her head against cool wood. Her hand poised at the knob.

Water splashed onto the tile floor.

Andrew's childish laughter beckoned her.

"Nana! Nana! Miss you," he cried.

She could feel the moisture from his soapy little body seep into her clothes. Onto her skin.

The yellow rubber duck squeaked under her feet, and her eyes shot open.

The bathroom was empty.

But.

"No.no."

Her heartbeat accelerated as she followed the sound.

"Dios mio."

Tiny wet footprints led to Sheridan's room.

"Mama! Nana get me!"

Brown eyes sparkled mischievously. Brushing just a hint of tiny kisses along Sheridan's jaw. "Wake up, Mama. Mama." he giggled.

"Mmm. Andrew? What is it, Baby?" Sheridan murmured.

"Mama? Is everything okay?"

Luis's concerned brown eyes stared back at her.

Danielle clung to her father's hand. "Andrew," she whispered.

"You.you see him, too?"

Danielle's chin quivered as she nodded her head.

"Andrew? Mama.Danielle.what are you talking about? You don't see him. You can't. Andrew's dead, Danielle. He's dead. He's never coming back," Luis said gently. Grasping Danielle's shoulders and making her look at him. "Never," he choked. "You can't see him because he isn't here."

"But Daddy," Danielle cried. "He IS here. He is."

"Mama.stop this nonsense. Tell her. Tell her it isn't true."

"Daddy!"

Pilar squeezed her eyes shut. "I can't. I can't, Mijo."

Luis let go of Danielle and stalked down the hall. Flinging the one closest open. "See? His room. Empty."

Danielle sobbed as she took it all in.

His toys were just as he'd left them. Untouched since that awful day. It was like a shrine.

"Do you see him now?"

"Luis! Mijo! Stop it. Just stop it. I see him too."

"Don't you hear yourself, Mama? My wife is losing her mind because.because of this belief. She sees him, too. Only he isn't there."

"Andrew? Andrew? What is it, Baby? Don't cry. Mama's here."

"Hear that? Look at her," Luis cried desperately.

Sheridan's arms were empty.

Andrew was gone.

Pilar wondered.

"But he was, Daddy," Danielle asserted. "He WAS."

Sheridan welcomed her daughter into her arms.

"Don't cry, Mommy. Please don't be so sad."

Luis couldn't bear the sadness in those blue eyes.

"Why don't you see him, Luis? Why don't you see him?"

"I don't know," he answered.

He didn't know anything anymore.

UAgirl
9.7.07, 11:18 PM
Chapter 20



"Daddy!"

Matthew's entire face lit up.

Ethan's blue eyes shone with love for their son. Love that was pure. Without complications.

But when he looked at her.There was a wariness in his eyes.

He was the one that had broken their marriage vows.

Why then did she feel the weight of some of the blame on her shoulders?

"Theresa," Paloma said in a low voice. "Do you."

She lay a calming hand on her sister's shoulder.

"But Theresa."

"Go. Just go, Paloma. Ethan and I need to talk."

"What about Matthew?" Paloma asked. Arms crossed about her middle. Dark eyes boring into Ethan.

She felt a small thrill of pleasure when Ethan looked away from her sister's unwavering stare. "Matthew

needs to see his father."

"Daddy! I'm so glad you're home," Matthew cried. Giving his father an exuberant hug.

Paloma stalked past her brother-in-law.

"She knows."

"Of course, she knows. Ethan.she's my sister. I had.I had to tell somebody."

"I'm not.that's okay. I understand," he assured her.

"Matthew's missed you," she said softly.

"I've missed him," Ethan smiled.

Matthew's tiny fingers twined with her own. And with his father's.

Tears welled up in her eyes when he whispered. "You and Mommy love each other. Right, Daddy?"

Ethan pulled her into his arms. "Right."

"It won't ever happen again?"

"Never," he breathed. "On my life.I promise."

She closed her eyes.

Weak.

Ethan was her weakness.

But not this time.

"Matthew.do Mommy a favor."

"Okay," Matthew smiled.

"Go outside and pick a pretty bouquet for Aunt Sheridan. Do you think you can do that?"

Matthew's brown head bobbed up and down.

Ethan cupped her face in the palms of his hands. "Thank you."

"For what, Ethan?" she said tonelessly.

Ethan's brow furrowed in confusion. "For forgiving me."

"Ethan.I may forgive you. But I'll never forget. You hurt me, Ethan. But as much as I would like to.I'm doing this for Matthew, Ethan. Our son doesn't deserve the hurt it would cause if I didn't give you one more chance."

"O-Okay."

"It's good we understand each other."

Ethan waved at his son as Theresa's car pulled out of the driveway.

How was he ever going to make this up to her?


@@@@@






Ahem.

"Is Dr. Johnson in?"

Alice peered at the man over the rim of her eyeglasses. "She's seeing a patient at this moment. Is this an emergency?"

Julian tugged at the sleeves of his ill-fitting suit self-consciously. Glancing around at his surroundings. A far cry from Harmony Hospital. "No. Not an emergency," he finally answered.

He was halfway down the hall when he heard her voice.

"Julian! What are you doing here? I thought."

He drank in the sight of her with a sardonic smile on his lips. "Good behavior."

"Really?" she asked suspiciously. "I find that hard to believe."

"My beautiful Eve."

"I'm not 'your' Eve," she interrupted.

"Eve.you forget so easily. Us Cranes have connections. Far-reaching connections."

She frowned at him. What would this do to Sheridan? She was already in a bad state."You stay away from her. She's suffered too much already."

He dropped his hand to his side. "Your worry is for nothing. I won't hurt her anymore than I already have."

"Good." She turned to leave.

"How is he? Our son?"

"Chad?"

"He visited me a few times. The inside of a prison is not exactly a good place to strike up some sort of relationship with your long-lost son."

There were so many things she could have said. But.she sensed genuine regret in his voice. His manner. She held up a hand.

And he watched as she whispered something to the nurse at the front desk.

She slipped the purse on her shoulder and walked ahead of him.

"Eve?"

"Are you coming or not?"

He nodded his head and hurried to hold the door open for her. "Lead the way."



@@@@@





"Amanda! Amanda! Have you seen."

Amanda stared at the picture in her hands. Her blue eyes sad.

Lauren smiled at the image of her aunt Sheridan. Just a baby on her brother's knee.

"How could he? How could he? To his own sister?"

"I don't know," Lauren murmured. Slipping an arm around her older sister's shoulders. "But I think he

DOES love her. See? It's there in his eyes. Somewhere along the way.he just took the wrong road. That's all."

Amanda tucked a strand of her sister's ash-blond hair behind her ear with a smile. "You always see the good in things. People. Don't you?"

Lauren shrugged her shoulders. "Who wants to be depressed all the time?"

"Certainly not me," Amanda agreed. "Although.Grandfather's idea of a welcome home party for Father is rather upsetting. I'm sure Father wouldn't want a celebration. But Grandfather's adamant. He's even insisting Aunt Sheridan and her family come."

"No!" Lauren gasped. "That's.that's too."

"Cruel?"

Lauren lowered her head in her hands. "Yeah. That's the word I was looking for."

"I don't think we'll have to worry, Sweetie," Amanda patted her sister's back. "Luis will probably kick Adam out of the house as soon as he opens his mouth," she laughed.

Lauren smiled slightly. "I'm glad she has him."

"Me, too," Amanda smiled back. "Our dear brother's due for a good..."

"Amanda! He IS our brother."

"Dear, sweet Lauren...in blood only. Remember that. Blood is the only tie that binds us. Adam has an agenda. I'm just not sure what it is yet," she said worriedly.

"You don't think he..."

"I don't know. I don't know with him anymore."

UAgirl
9.10.07, 8:33 PM
Chapter 21







"Ivy! Ivy! Wait!"

Ivy ignored him.

Sam ran past countless nameless faces. Desperate to catch up with her. Apologize. "Ivy! Please!"

The diamond engagement ring glinted on her finger as she rested her hand atop the pier's handrail.

"Ivy," Sam said breathlessly. "It's not.I had NO idea she was going to do that."

"Kiss you? Sam," Ivy laughed bitterly. "She's your wife. She has NO memory of the last several years. All this time away.it means nothing to her. Of course she would want to pick up where you left off. Don't tell me you."

Sam grasped Ivy's arm. "I didn't," he insisted. "Believe me."

Ivy's eyes searched his.

And found nothing but truth.

"I believe you," she whispered.

Sam crushed her in his arms. So relieved. "Thank you."

Ivy closed her eyes and breathed in. Filling her lungs with his scent. "I love you, Sam."

"I love you, too," he smiled. Cupping her face in the palms of his hands. "Ivy.look at me. What's wrong?"

The expression on her face.

Stupid question, Sam.

"Everything's wrong, Sam. Can't you see? Grace is ALIVE. Alive, Sam. That means."

"You can't marry me," Sam sighed in resignation.

"I can't marry you," Ivy repeated.

She could feel the cracks in her heart splitting wide.

"Ivy.don't," Sam shook his head. His blue eyes troubled as she pulled at the ring on her finger.

"It's.it's stuck," Ivy faltered. Tears pooling in her eyes. "It won't come off."

Maybe it's a sign, Sam couldn't help thinking. "No, Ivy. Don't. It's yours. I gave it to you. I don't want it back."

Ivy stood on tiptoe to kiss his cheek and smiled at him sadly. "Grace wears your ring, Sam. Not me. Never me."

Sam's fingers closed around the cool metal.

Her warmth already gone.

"Ivy."

Ivy raised a hand in goodbye.

She was leaving him all over again.



@@@@@






"Bennett! I'm going to get you for this," Gwen hissed.

Hank winced when she kicked his shin under the table.

"Uncle Hank.are you okay?" Jessica asked in a concerned voice.

Noah snickered. Uncle Hank sure knew how to pick them.

Gwen speared a piece of lettuce with her fork. Intent on enjoying her meal if it was the last thing she did.

"Gwen.how is Ethan these days?"

Hank's mouth fell open. What the hell? "Grace."

"Mom," Jessica said gently. "Gwen and Ethan aren't together anymore. Remember?"

The pain in Gwen's blue eyes shone brightly.

"Oh! Gwen.please forgive me. So careless of me," Grace apologized.

ay's dark eyes studied her mother's face. Her eyes.

Something.something .was different.

"It's okay. Really.it's been years. Ethan's just a distant memory."

Jessica kept a watchful eye on the Lobster Shack's front entrance for her father.

Noah smirked and crossed his arms. Now who's lying?

"Interesting," Grace said. Sipping from her glass of water. The ice clinking against the sides as she set it back down. "I don't believe you."

"Mom!" Jessica said in disbelief.

Gwen's chair scraped against the floor.

Hank glared at Grace and threw his napkin down.

Noah shifted uncomfortably in his chair. "Um.I need to make a phone call."

"That's okay, Noah," Jessica smiled tightly. "Mom.I think it's time we went home. Kay?" Jessica questioned as she stood.

"I'll be right there," Kay answered.

"Mom?"

Grace hugged Jessica tight. "Me, too. I'm going to go apologize."

Her sister disappeared from sight, and Kay fixed her level gaze on the woman in front of her. With the frightening smile on her lips. "Who are you?"

Grace's laughter sent a chill up her spine.



@@@@@








The old swingset creaked on its hinges.

The ocean breeze was cool.refreshing.against his skin. A reminder of life. All that lay ahead. Though it seemed very far away now.

Her golden hair fluttered underneath his chin.

The sound of her soft breathing lulled him into a false sense of comfort.

Danielle's melancholy blue eyes watched them both.

He sighed heavily. He didn't know when or how things were going to get better. If ever.

"Mijo.isn't that your sister's car?"

"Matthew," Danielle whispered. Just the hint of a smile tugging at the corners of her lips.

The car door slammed.

He was achingly aware of every move she made. Every breath she took. "Sheridan?"

"Matthew! Wait!" Theresa cried. Chasing her son up the steps.

"Aunt Sheridan," Matthew smiled in that toothless smile of his. "These are for you," he said proudly. Presenting a colorful, fragrant bouquet of wild flowers.

"Thank you," Sheridan breathed. "These are the most beautiful flowers I've ever seen."

Matthew grinned from ear to ear. "Told you, Mommy."

Theresa's brown eyes sparkled as she settled her hands on her son's shoulders.

For an instant.Sheridan had a flash of what might have been. Andrew would be almost 6 now. She liked to think he and Matthew would have been best friends.

"What a lovely family moment. Am I interrupting?"

Danielle's dark head whipped around at the sound of her cousin's voice.

Luis's brown eyes grew even darker. Glittering with something Danielle couldn't name.

Or maybe she just didn't want to name it.

"Adam," Sheridan straightened up. "What brings you by?"

Adam could feel their eyes on him. Watching him with suspicion. Perhaps Pilar most of all. Grandfather had warned him about her.

Matthew gazed up at him with wide, innocent brown eyes.

"What brings you by, Crane?" Luis repeated. Raising himself to his full height.

Adam admired Theresa's slim figure with a touch of regret.

His brother's wife.

He blinked. And suddenly.They stood before him. A united front.

Danielle hugged her mother's waist, and Sheridan took strength from her love. Luis's love.

Surely she would need it.

Maybe Grandfather was mistaken, Adam thought for a fleeting instant. Aunt Sheridan was not the weakling he believed her to be. "Good. You're all here," he smiled.

"Crane," Luis ground out.

"Adam."

"I'm here to invite you all to a party."

"A party?" Matthew piped up with interest. "Mommy.can we go? Please? Me, you, and Daddy?"

Theresa clamped a hand over her son's mouth.

"A party? To celebrate what?" Sheridan asked in dread. Her face ashen.

"Mr. Adam.no," Pilar shook her head.

"Yes, Pilar. A party. To celebrate Father's homecoming, of course," Adam said coolly. "Aunt Sheridan? Will you come?"

"How's this for an answer?"

Adam didn't have time think before Luis's fist connected soundly with his jaw.

Blood oozed from his lip, and he rubbed his stiff jaw. "I'll take that as a definite 'no'. I'm really sorry you can't make it, Aunt Sheridan. Father and Grandfather will be so disappointed. Sorry, Chap. Maybe some other time," he said. Ruffling Matthew's dark hair. "Tell your dad I said 'hi'."

"Mommy? Who was that?" Matthew whispered.

"A bad man," Danielle answered him. Taking his smaller hand in hers and leading him inside. "A very bad man."




@@@@@





Even in her dreams the images haunted her, Charity realized. Cradling Tessa's feverish little body close.

Miguel paced helplessly in the corner.

"What is it, Charity? What does she see? Visions?"

Charity shook her head. "I'm not sure."

"But she sees something. You can't deny that. Why did she say Papa's name the other day? She doesn't even know him. What he looks like. Charity? What is going on here? What's wrong with our daughter?"

Charity's cornflower blue eyes looked so much like Tessa's.

"No! Don't hurt him! Don't!" Tessa cried.

Her eyes moved rapidly behind her closed eyelids.

But Miguel knew.this was more than a nightmare.

This was frighteningly real.

To Tessa.

She was falling. Faster and faster.

The waves crashed against the rocks.

The gold chain sparkled against their surface before disappearing into the vast sea.

Tessa's torment was too much.

Charity brushed Tessa's damp hair from her forehead as she stared after him.

The roar of Miguel's motorcycle died down as the minutes passed.

"What are you trying to tell us?"

Faded blue eyes stared back into her very soul.

"The truth."

UAgirl
9.10.07, 8:39 PM
Chapter 22






"Why did you come?"

Julian pulled at the tie around his neck and set his mug of coffee down on the plain oak table. "Home?"

Eve shook her head. "To the clinic? Julian.whatever we had between us.we were over so long ago. That night.when T.C. found us.it never should have happened."

Julian leaned back in his chair and studied her. "I'm sorry," he said finally.

She laughed bitterly. "For what? Getting me pregnant and abandoning me? Tearing my marriage apart? Nevermind.I can't place ALL the blame on you, can I?"

Julian stared at her in silence.

"I could have walked away," she sighed. Pushing her chair back from the table. And walking over to the sink to empty her coffee cup. "At any moment.I could have walked away."

"Do you really believe that?"

She had her back turned to him. She gave him no answer.

A picture tacked on the refridgerator door caught his eye, and he rose to his feet to get a closer look. "Handsome boy," he said. Not without a bit of pride. "Do you.are you.how are things between you?" he said awkwardly.

Her eyes were bright as she spoke. "My relationships with ALL my children are practically non-existent. Awkward. We don't know each other. The past.it's always there. Standing in our way. But he tries. He really tries. It's hard."

"At least you get a chance," Julian said miserably. Running a weary hand over his face.

She surprised herself by reaching out to him.

The phone rang in the living room.

"You should get that."

She hesitated for just a second before she removed her hand from his arm.

The sound of her voice was muffled in the other room.

The door clicked shut behind him.

"Julian.Julian.you're not here," she whispered to herself.

Why did he come?



@@@@@






"Looks like somebody's had an even worse day than I have," Noah grinned when Paloma flung open the door.

"Noah," Paloma grumbled. "I'm warning you right now.I don't even know if I can stand to look at you."

Noah blinked twice and held up his hands defensively. "Okay! Okay! Guess I'll go unload all my troubles on Beth again. She.unlike somebody I know." he raised a brow, "is a good listener."

Paloma rolled her brown eyes and grabbed him by the arm. "Get in here. You need to leave Beth alone. You bug her too much already," she added. Padding past him on bare feet to the sofa and plopping down.

"Graceful," Noah laughed.

"Don't even."

"Geez! What's got into you?" he questioned. Making sure he was out of striking distance as he sat down on the other end of the sofa.

Paloma plunged the silver spoon in her hand into the cartoon of ice cream. "Your brother."

"My brother? What's he done to you?" Noah asked interestedly. Careful to hide his smile when Paloma shoved a gigantic spoonful of Rocky Road into her mouth.

"To my sister! Theresa! You know what? I'm beginning to think the Bennett men aren't too smart," Paloma muttered under her breath.

"I take offense to that," Noah bristled. "On behalf of myself and Uncle Hank.not all Bennett men are dumbasses."

That earned a smile.

"Well.maybe not all Bennett men," Paloma conceded.

"Thank you," Noah smiled. "Now.what did Ethan do to Theresa?"

Paloma shook her head. "It's not my place to tell."

"Come on," he pushed. "He's my brother, you know. And I've known Theresa my whole life. What did he do? I might not like him, and I might not put a lot of faith in his intellectual abilities," Noah smirked. "But I can tell he loves her."

"Oh yeah?" Paloma shot back.

Noah nodded his head.

"If he loved her so much."

"I really believe he does," Noah stated.

"Then tell me this."

"Okay," Noah agreed.

"Why did he sleep with another woman?"

Noah's jaw fell open.

"What did you say?"

"Ethan slept with another woman," Paloma told Whitney.

All the color drained out of Whitney's face.

"And when I find out who she is."

"You'll what?" Noah asked.

"I don't know," Paloma admitted miserably. Tucking her dark hair behind her ears. "How could she? How could she do something so low? Tear a family apart like this? Theresa's devastated. And Matthew. Poor baby. He doesn't understand. Ethan's a bastard. But this woman.words can't even describe."

"Um.Noah? Would you like something to drink? Water? A soda?" Whitney interrupted.

"Soda?" Noah shrugged. Throwing an arm around Paloma's shoulders and pulling her back against him.

"Paloma? You want anything?"

"No," Paloma said tearfully. "I can't believe it, Noah. I can't."

Whitney reached a shaky hand up to open the cabinet. And pulled out two glasses.

"I hate her. I hate her. The worst thing.what if she's someone Theresa knows?"

The glass slipped from Whitney's numb fingers.

And shattered into a million jagged pieces.


@@@@@





Hank cursed under his breath as he bounded up the stairs. Two at a time. What the hell had gotten into Grace?

Gwen's figure disappeared around the corner. Her auburn hair flying behind her.

"Gwen! Gwen! Slow down!" He pushed the heavy door open just in time to see her shut her apartment door.

"Go away, Bennett!" she cried as his fists pounded on the door. "Just go away!"

Hank sighed and leaned his head against the door's frame. "You might as well let me in, Gwen, because you're not going to get rid of me. Please open the door."

The door creaked open slowly.

And he saw her tear-stained face.

"What are you looking at?" Gwen spat.

He stepped closer, and she took a step back. "Gwen? You're upset. I only want to help."

She scoffed at him. "Help? Nobody wants to help me. Nobody cares about me. Nobody cares that he ruined my life. That he threw me away like yesterday's trash. That he treated me like dirt."

"I care," he said softly. Reaching out to her.

"I don't want to feel this way. After all these years.I want so much to move on. But I can't. I can't," she sobbed.

He reached a tentative hand to her face.

"I'm afraid. I don't know if I can." she whispered.

"What?" he asked gently. Cupping her face in the palms of his hands and brushing her tears away with the pads of his thumbs. "What are you afraid of, Gwen?"

She searched his brown eyes. One of her hands came up to cover his.

"What are you afraid of?" he asked again. His gaze shifting to her lips. One of his hands slid to the nape of her neck. Tangling in her hair. And he leaned his forehead against hers.

She closed her eyes. "To love again."

He pulled her into his arms and let her cry.


@@@@@





Theresa and Matthew were long gone. With Mama.

Danielle was upstairs. Playing with her new computer game.

Sheridan was wrapped safely in his arms.

"Are you still awake?"

"Yes," she laughed softly. "Luis.it's not even late."

"You were so quiet I."

She lay a finger against his lips. Hushing him. "I was listening to your heart beat."

"Uh huh?" he chuckled.

"And thinking."

"Sheridan."

"I want to go, Luis. I need to go."

He sighed and released him arms from around her. "Sheridan, we talked about this. He tried to kill you. You don't owe him anything."

"Luis," she said softly. Twisting the rings on her fingers. "I can't explain it. I.I just need to do this. Say you'll go with me. You don't have to be okay with this. But I need you there."

He grabbed her hand in his and squeezed. "Okay," he relented. "I'll go. But if he so much as looks at you wrong.And I can't make any promises that I won't deck your nephew again."

She smiled slightly. "Thank you," she breathed. Pecking him on the lips. "I'll call Charity and ask her if Danielle can stay over."

Luis watched her climb the stairs. Every instinct he had was telling him this wasn't a good idea. But he couldn't deny her this.


@@@@@





"Who are you?"

That question echoed in her brain.

She still didn't know the answer. She was beginning to think she didn't want to.

"Who am I?" she laughed.

It was an ugly, hollow sound that sent chills up her spine.

"Kay.don't be silly. I'm your mother."

Her touch was so cold.

The Amazing Grace rocked underneath her.

"So many questions."

More than she could count.

"You shouldn't ask so many questions, Kay."

The sun was fading.

She needed to get home.

The boat shifted under her feet.

Groaning.

"The answers might be more than you can handle."

Eerie laughter rang in her ears, and she whipped her head around searching the wharf for anyone.

Anything.

"Too many questions."

She stumbled over the coiled anchor rope as the boat rocked harder.

An uneasy feeling in the pit of her stomach.

"DON'T QUESTION ME!"

The boat rocked violently.

Pitching her forward.

She screamed as the anchor pulled taut around her ankle and dragged her into the black waters.

Stealing all her breath.

UAgirl
9.20.07, 9:56 PM
Chapter 23






Terror.

That's what she felt as the darkness swallowed her up.

She clawed at the rope around her ankle futilely. Desperate to stop her descent.

Help me, her mind screamed. Someone help me.

The anchor was heavy.

Her chest hurt.

She couldn't hold her breath much longer.

Her dark hair swirled around her like a halo.

This is it, she thought.

I'm going to die down here.

How pathetic.

Her life.it didn't amount to much.

Too many years wasted on a man that didn't love her.

God help me, she prayed.

I'm drowning, she realized.

If it weren't so damn sad, she'd laugh at the tiny little bubbles escaping her nose.

Tiny little bubbles turned into bigger bubbles as her lungs gave out, and she took gulping breaths.

Sea water never tasted too hot.

She smiled as she watched her lifeless body float toward the light.

Heaven.

Funny, she always knew she was going to Hell...

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~

"Come on, Kay. Breathe. Breathe," a voice urged.

His lips covered hers, and her chest rose with his gentle breaths into her lungs.

"Breathe," he demanded. Sweeping her wet black hair from her pale face.

What's happening to me?

Salt water burned her throat, and she started choking.

There was a smile in his voice. "That's it," he said. Turning her over on her side. "That's more like it."

She gasped for air. "Chad? What happened?"

Chad's chocolate eyes looked puzzled. "Hell if I know. I turned the corner just in time to see you take a nose dive off the side of the boat. Are you okay, Kay?"

"What kind of question is that?" she snapped. "Of course, I'm not okay.

How did you get me out?" she asked. For the first time she realized he was

dripping wet.

His pocket knife gleamed when he held it up. "Never knew that thing would come in so handy."

She pushed him away. Struggling to sit up on her own. "My head's killing me," she moaned.

"I imagine it would," he smirked. Fitting his hands beneath her arms and hauling her to her feet.

She wobbled unsteadily for a few seconds. All sense of equilibrium lost. "Thank you, Chad. You can go now. I'm fi.I'm fin."

"That's what I thought," Chad said as he caught her in his arms. "Fine. Yeah, you're fine alright," he groaned as he hefted her up against him. "Can't even stand on your own two feet. You ain't going nowhere on those," he muttered as he stepped off the deck of the Amazing Grace.




@@@@@







"Whitney! Are you okay?" Paloma asked in a concerned voice.

Noah searched for a broom to sweep up the mess.

Whitney's hands shook as Paloma stared into her eyes. "I.I'm fine, Paloma. I don't know what came over me," she laughed nervously.

Paloma squeezed Whitney's hands reassuringly. "It's just not your week," Paloma smiled gently. "We all have bad days sometimes. It seems like it's been a bad WEEK for everybody."

"Really?" Whitney asked. Looking down at their joined hands.

"I already told you about Theresa's troubles. But Luis and Sheridan are having a tough time of it, too."

Whitney smiled sadly. "I feel so bad for them. Especially Sheridan. Losing a baby like that."

Paloma's brown eyes teared up again. "Losing a child is one thing. But the way Andrew died.it devastated them. They've never really been the same."

She knew what that felt like. Never really being the same. "I'll replace the glass," Whitney offered.

Paloma's laughter tinkled from her lips. "Don't worry about. I'm just glad you're okay."

"You ARE okay, Whitney?" Noah asked.

The look in his blue eyes unnerved her.

"I'm okay," she laughed it off. "Paloma," she changed the subject. "That movie you wanted to see is at the Multiplex. Why don't you and Noah go?"

"Sounds like a good idea to me," Noah grinned affably. "Come on, Loma. Maybe we can salvage this rotten day yet."

Paloma's brown eyes sparkled. "I don't know, Noah. What if."

"Take my cell," Whitney handed the phone over to her.

"See? No excuses," Noah said.

"Okay," Paloma smiled. "But I have to get ready."

"What are you waiting for?" Noah shooed her away. "I don't have all night."

"Yeah," Paloma said. "All those hot dates you got lined up."

"Would you just go?" Noah rolled his eyes.

"Thanks Whitney!"

"Yeah, thanks," Noah smiled at her.

"You're welcome," she whispered.

It was the least she could do.




@@@@@






"You're a good friend," she whispered.

Her auburn hair tickled his nose. "Gwen."

"No, Hank. I mean it. You're a good friend. Anybody else would have been long gone by now. Everyone else is. Except you. And Sheridan." But Sheridan has her own problems now.

What she said was true. "Thank you," he murmured against her hair.

"This feels.strange," she laughed softly.

"What?" he grinned into her amused blue eyes. "Us? Being civil to each other? Or me holding you? I can stop if you want me to," he said. Relaxing his hold on her.

"No!" Her cheeks burned with embarrassment. "I mean.don't. It feels nice. Strange, yes. But nice," she smiled shyly.

Gwen shy? He chuckled. "Thanks. I think."

"You're welcome," she laughed.

"You should do that more often. Laugh, I mean."

She quirked her brows at him. "Why?"

"You have a nice laugh, that's all," he admitted. "Geez. Does there have to be a reason for everything?"

"No. I guess not," she conceded. Staring into his brown eyes.

"What?" he tipped her chin up with his index finger. "Do I have something in my teeth?"

She smirked and rolled her eyes. Growing serious when tucked her hair behind her ear. "Hank? What are you doing?" she asked in a hushed voice.

Do something! Stop me, please. Forget what's going on with Grace. What was going on with him? "I'm not sure," he said. Threading his fingers through her hair and pulling her closer.

Gwen's hands slid up his chest to his shoulders. "Hank, I."

"Shh," he whispered.

And she met his lips with a sigh. Her hands clutched at his shirt as his mouth moved against hers in a sweet kiss.

"Gwen.I'm so."

Her mouth sought his again. Silencing him. Momentarily at least.

"Gwen," he panted. Resting his forehead against hers. "We need to stop. Right now. This isn't us."

Her blue eyes darkened. And her hands fell from his shoulders as she climbed off of him. "You're right," she said softly. Turning her back to him. "This isn't us. You can't stand me. I can't stand you. Right?"

"Gwen," he grabbed her hand. Pulling her back down on the sofa beside him. "Listen to me. That's not what I meant. You know it."

She removed her hand from his and rose once more. Standing tall. "I think you should leave, Hank."

"No," he shook his head. Trying.wanting her to understand. "Not like this."

Her blue eyes brimmed with angry tears. "Just leave Bennett!" she demanded. "I can't."

"Okay," he relented. "I'll go now. But this conversation is not over."

"That's what you think," Gwen whispered to herself after the door shut behind him.

It wasn't going to happen again.




@@@@@





"Lauren, dear," Ivy smiled. "You didn't have to."

"Mother," Lauren squeezed Ivy's hand. "Grandfather and Adam are the only ones that feel like celebrating. Adam said Aunt Sheridan's not coming. I'd rather be with you," she said. Handing Ivy a tub of popcorn.

"What's this movie about anyway?" Ivy asked curiously. Popping a kernel of popcorn into her mouth.

"I'm not sure," Lauren admitted. "But it's gotten rave reviews. And it has cute guys," she laughed.

Ivy's blue green eyes sparkled at her, and she arched a golden brow. "How cute?"

"Too die for sexy," Lauren squealed. Tugging on her hand. "We're going to miss it if we don't hurry."

"Lauren," Ivy protested as her daughter pulled her through the throng of theater-goers. "They're only previews."

Lauren rolled her eyes. "Sometimes they're better than the movie. Seriously, Mother. We won't get a good seat. Come on."

Ivy laughed. "Okay. What have you gotten me into?"



@@@@@





"Amanda? Has Aunt Sheridan arrived yet?" Adam asked. Lifting the brandy decanter and pouring himself a glass. "For that matter.has Father arrived yet?"

Amanda's blue eyes narrowed. "Luis hit you. What makes you think they're coming? No one else has."

That's okay, Adam thought. Grandfather wanted it to be a PRIVATE party. "She'll come. She won't be able to stop herself. Look what the cat dragged in," he muttered under his breath. "Dear Lord. Would you look at that cheap suit? Luis! So happy to see you," he greeted.

Luis glared at him and slipped a protective arm around Sheridan's waist.

"Aunt Sheridan.you didn't have to come," Amanda sighed.

"I know," Sheridan answered. Her blue eyes watching Adam cautiously. "I needed to."

Amanda turned to her brother. "Adam.what the hell are you and Grandfather up to? I'm warning you," she hissed. "If you try something."

"Where are all the guests?" Luis asked suspiciously.

"They couldn't come," Adam sighed. "I'm afraid it's just going to be us. Family."

"Sheridan," Luis held her hands in his. "I don't like this. We still have time to leave before."

"No, we don't," Sheridan said in a tremulous voice. "He's here, Luis."

"Father!" Adam exclaimed with false joy. "Welcome home!"

"I second that emotion," a voice filled the room.

A collective gasp went around the room as Alistair Crane emerged from the shadows.

"Now the 'party' begins," Adam whispered in his sister's ear.

And Amanda felt dread wash over her in waves.

Something was going to happen.

She just didn't know what.

UAgirl
9.20.07, 10:09 PM
Chapter 24



"But Mommy." Matthew whined. "I want to go to the party."

"Matthew.I already told you. We can't go," Theresa explained patiently. Tugging his shirt over his dark head.

"But why?" Matthew crossed his arms and glared at her.

"Matthew!" Theresa said in exasperation. "We just can't go. Okay?" she softened her tone.

"Why can't I stay with you and Daddy? I don't want to go with Nana. I want to stay here," Matthew grumbled as he watched his mother zip up his duffel bag.

Theresa knelt in front of him with a smile and reached out to cup his cheek. "Your Daddy and I.we need time alone. Grown-up time."

"I hate grown-up time," Matthew muttered under his breath. A look of total dejection adorning his little brown face.

"You'll have a fantastic time with Nana, Matthew. I know you will," Theresa told him. Climbing to her feet and adjusting the strap of the duffel on her shoulder.

"Mijo," Pilar smiled warmly. Ruffling his dark hair. "Are you ready?"

Theresa nudged her reluctant son out the front door and down the steps to her mother's old car. "I'm sorry, Mama," she apologized. "Sometimes he just gets like this, and nothing I do helps."

Pilar laughed softly. "I know that feeling well, Theresita. Matthew," she said. Opening the back door for her little charge. "Spending the night with me isn't THAT bad. Is it?" she asked.

The frown left Matthew's face. He didn't want to disappoint his abuela. "No," he said softly. "It's not THAT bad."

Theresa giggled at the exaggerated expression on her son's face. "Okay, you. I'll see you tomorrow. Promise to be good?"

Matthew's big brown eyes stared back at her solemnly. "Promise," he vowed.

Theresa kissed his forehead with a sigh. And rose to her feet to embrace her mother. "Thank you, Mama," she whispered.

Pilar cupped her daughter's cheek in her palm. "Things will work out, Theresita. They will. Just have faith in your and Ethan's love."

"Nana," Matthew called from the back seat. "I can't.I can't get this." He threw the safety belt buckle down in frustration.

"Bye, Mija," Pilar told her. Helping Matthew with his seatbelt before climbing in the front seat and starting up the car.

"Bye, Mama," Theresa waved. Long after the little car had disappeared from sight.

Wolf whimpered at her side.

The lights in the living room shone brightly. Illuminating the dog's face in the darkness.

She could see Ethan. Pacing back and forth. Looking haggard and worried.

She gave Wolf a quick scratch between the ears and straightened up.

Ready or not.It was time to face her problems. Every last one of them. She needed to know the whole truth before she and Ethan could have any kind of future.

"Please don't let it be more than I can handle," she prayed.


@@@@@





Lauren slumped further down in her seat. Chancing another glance at her mother beside her.

Tears slipped down Ivy's ivory cheeks.

The lovers on-screen were in the midst of a heartrending goodbye.

Maybe this wasn't such a good idea after all, she thought. "Mom?" she hissed in the darkness. "Mom? Are you okay?"

Ivy smiled through her tears. "Lauren.Darling. I'm fine."

"Are you sure?" Lauren questioned. "We can leave at any time." Great move, Lauren. Bring your mother to a truly depressing film to chase her own worries away.

"Lauren."

"Sorry," Lauren apologized.

"Could you keep it down back there," a voice in front of her said harshly.

Lauren's cheeks blazed with fire. Something about that voice."I'm going to get some more candy. Want anything?"

Ivy shook her head.

Lauren held the tub of popcorn over her head as she stood up. "Are you sure?"

"Keep it down. Or I'm going to tell the manager."

It would be SO easy to dump this tub of popcorn over Mr. SmartAss's head and claim it was an accident, Lauren thought silently. She instantly felt horrible for thinking such mean thoughts. "Sorry," she mumbled. Stepping over the purse in the floor in front of her.

The owner of the purse made NO effort to move it.

Lauren sighed and shot a disgusted look her way. "A little courtesy would be nice."

"Yeah.it would."

SmartAss again.

"Noah."

Lauren's blond head jerked around. Noah? As in Noah Bennett?

"Lauren.watch."

Uh oh, she thought as the strap of the purse tangled around one of her high heels, and she pitched forward.

Popcorn AND soda flying everywhere.

"Out," Ivy cringed as the tub of popcorn emptied onto some poor unsuspecting victim's head in front of them, and the soda dripped from the ends of his hair. "Lauren.are you alright?" she asked.

"I think so," Lauren smiled self-consciously. Scrambling out of the gentleman down the aisle's lap. "I am so sorry, Sir."

"It's not him you should be worried about," Ivy hissed.

"YOU! I should have known."

Lauren's hazel eyes blinked at the anger so clearly visible in the blue eyes of none other than.Noah Bennett. "What is THAT supposed to mean?"


@@@@@




"Dad? Are you sure you don't want me to stay?" Jessica asked. Staring up at her father with concerned blue eyes.

Sam smiled down at her. And at Simone and Reese in the doorway. "I'm sure, Jess."

"But Mom."

"Mom is fine," he assured her. "I won't let anything happen to her. I promise."

"Don't worry about us, Jessica. I'm sure your father and I can think of something to occupy our time," Grace said slyly.

Reese blushed in embarrassment.

Simone stared at a family portrait on the wall in front of her with wide eyes.

"If you hear from Kay, give her Simone's cell number," Jessica told Sam as she slid her purse on her shoulder.

Grace smiled oddly. Her blue eyes taking on a frightening intensity. "We will," she promised. Snaking her arms around Sam's waist.

"Bye, Mom. Dad."

The door slammed behind the trio, and Reese's car cranked up seconds later.

Grace turned around in Sam's arms with a wicked smile. "I thought they'd never leave. We're finally alone."

Sam closed his eyes with a groan as her hands slid underneath the cotton of his tee-shirt and massaged the skin there.

"Open your eyes, Sam," Grace ordered as she yanked the shirt over his head.

And a scream of horror froze in his throat.



@@@@@



She moaned softly. Blinking at the harshness of the light.

"Kay.Kay.it's Eve. Can you hear me?"

"Dr. Russell?" Kay asked out of habit. Confused. "What are you doing here? Where am I?" she asked. Panic rising within her as she realized she was in a strange place. A foreign bed. Wearing next to nothing.

"You passed out on me back at the wharf," a voice answered.

"Chad," she whispered. Her breath growing short as the memories came rushing back.

The blackness of the water. The horrific knowledge she was drowning. The evil voice that made her heart cold in her chest.

"You're in Chad's apartment," Eve told her gently as she checked her pulse. "From what Chad told me.you're lucky to be alive. What happened Kay?"

Kay raked her fingers through her black hair and looked up at her with haunted dark eyes. "It was her."

"Who Kay?" Chad asked curiously. "Some woman? What did she do?"

"Kay. Calm down," Eve instructed. "Your heart is racing."

"Not some woman, Chad. Her. My mother."

Eve glanced at Chad. Pity in her gaze.

"I'm not crazy. You have to believe me, Dr. Russell," Kay pleaded. "It was her."

"Kay.you're not making any sense here," Chad sighed.

"She did it. She made me fall. She tried to drown me," Kay insisted.

"Kay," Eve said sadly. "Why? Why would you mother want to hurt you? She loves you."

Kay shook her head. Black hair spilling over her shoulders. "Because she's not my mother. Something's wrong with her, Dr. Russell. She's.she's evil."

Eve nodded at Chad.

Chad moved to the edge of the bed. Gripping Kay by the shoulders.

"Have you been taking your medication, Kay?"

Kay's dark eyes grew wild. "My med.Dr. Russell! I swear. I'm not crazy!" she cried as Eve withdrew a syringe from her black bag. "Chad! You believe me, don't you?"

Chad's dark eyes couldn't meet hers.

Kay felt the sharp prick of the needle as it plunged into her vein.

Eve swept her hair from her forehead tenderly.

Chad lowered her back against the pillows.

Her eyes felt heavy. Her limbs leaden. Her vision swam.

"You did the right thing, Chad."

Eve's words sounded far away.

I'm not sick anymore, she wanted to shout. Wanted to scream at the top of her lungs. That was a long time ago. I'm better now. I'm not crazy. "Please," she begged. "Believe me."

"Shh, Kay. Close your eyes," Eve urged.

Chad watched her eyes flutter shut. And he couldn't help but wonder.could she be telling the truth?


@@@@@





Sheridan's hand trembled as she took the flute of champagne from her father's hand and set it down on the table beside her.

Luis's eyes watched his every move with suspicion.

Alistair appraised them both with cold blue eyes.

Julian struggled to keep his feelings masked.

"To Father's release," Adam toasted.

Amanda's blue eyes flashed, and she slowly tipped her glass over. Watching in fascination as it dripped to the marble floor.

"You bi."

Alistair's lay a calming hand on his grandson's arm. "Adam.your sister's reservations are perfectly understandable."

Amanda stared deep into her father's eyes. "Why did you do it, Father? Why?" She wanted to believe.that he wasn't a monster after all.

Julian ducked his head in shame. "I can offer you NO excuses."

Sheridan's blue eyes glittered with angry tears at his answer.

Alistair and Adam exchanged a secret smile of satisfaction.

"Let's not dwell on the past," Adam said diplomatically. "It's time to move into the future. As a family. Luis.Aunt Sheridan.Amanda.Father.let us go into the Solarium. I'm sure you'll find the atmosphere.less formal."

Sheridan took comfort in the warmth of Luis's hand on the small of her back, and Amanda's gentle smile.

"Sheridan.we don't have to do this. We can leave right now. I won't think any less of you. You're already the bravest person I know," Luis said softly. His dark eyes searching hers.

"I know, Luis," she answered. Surveying Julian's blank expression a few feet away. "But this is something I have to do," she smiled shakily.

Adam opened the doors to the Solarium with a flourish.

Alistair watched Sheridan's reaction expectantly.

Amanda's face paled.

"Oh my god," Sheridan whispered shakily as her eyes traveled the length of the room.

And Luis felt his heart lodge in his throat.

Pictures. Dozens and dozens of pictures.

Andrew.at play. Chocolate covered cheeks and lips.

Andrew.curled up asleep. His tiny brown thumb in his mouth. A fistful of sun-kissed hair clutched in his free hand. His beloved teddy bear on the pillow beside him.

Andrew.smiling his sunny smile up at his sister. Danielle's blue eyes shining with so much joy.

Andrew.building a castle in the sand. Luis helping him every step of the way.

Andrew.in the bathtub. Amidst a sea of bubbles. His brown eyes alight with mischief. Just before he died.

Sheridan ran blindly. In escape.

Luis and Amanda close behind her.

Adam's brown eyes showed no remorse. "Do you think Aunt Sheridan liked her present, Grandfather?"

Alistair's laughter sent shivers down Julian's spine.

Sick bastards. The both of them. And they were both going down. He'd make sure of it.



@@@@@





"Tessa! Tessa, are you almost finished in there?" Danielle asked.

The door creaked as she pushed it open.

Tessa's long yellow hair hung loosely down her back.

"Tessa," Danielle smiled sweetly. "Do you want me to help you with your hair?" she asked. Picking up the pink cup at her side.

Tessa looked at her with pale blue eyes.

"Close your eyes," Danielle instructed. Turning on the tap and filling the cup with warm water.

Tessa's slender body jerked as the water dripped down her face. Plastering her yellow hair to her skull.

"Andrew..."

Childish laughter echoed in her ears.

"Andrew.Mama doesn't want bubbles in her hair."

"You have such pretty hair, Tessa. So soft. And silky," Danielle sighed as she gently emptied more water from the cup and reached to pick up the bottle of shampoo.

The bubbles tickled his nose, and he giggled. He loved bubbles. Almost as much as his toys. The yellow rubber duck squeaked as it made its way through the bubbles.

Water dripped into his brown eyes, and he whimpered. "Oh Baby.Mama's sorry," she said. Kissing his forehead.

He smiled. Mama's kisses made everything all better.

"It reminds me of Mom's hair," Danielle babbled. "But hers is shorter. Curlier. Yours is so straight. Like mine," she said. Twirling a strand of her own dark hair around her index finger.

"Mama.play."

She smiled at him. Unable to resist him anything. "Just a little longer," she laughed. Giving him Eskimo kisses.

"Mommy! Mommy!"

"Danielle! What's wrong, Sweetie?"

"My baby brother had hair like Mom's. Yours," Danielle sighed. Lathering the sweet, strawberry-scented shampoo in Tessa's pale locks. Her hands stilled as she remembered.

"Mommy! Mommy!" she sobbed.

"Danielle!" she cried. "Andrew.Baby. Stay right here. Okay? Mama'll be right back," she promised. Placing the rubber duck in his brown hands. "She promises. Danielle! Mommy's coming!"

Her footsteps clattered down the stairs.

Blood gushed from Danielle's mouth. "Mommy.Mommy," she screamed as she picked her up in her arms.

"I fell down the stairs once," she whispered. Raising a hand to her chin. "I didn't have any front teeth until I was in the second grade."

Tessa's blue eyes stared straight ahead.

"Danielle.what happened, Sweetie?"

"I.F-F-F-ell," Danielle sobbed. Great, hitching sobs.

She screamed in pain when her mother touched a gentle hand to her lip.

"Oh Baby," she sighed. Carrying her over to the kitchen counter and picking up the phone. "Mommy's going to call Dr. Eve."

A busy signal beeped in her ears, and she lay the phone down.

A throbbing pain in Tessa's head made her cry out.

The rubber duck rolled to a stop on the floor.

A thud from upstairs made her heart hammer in her chest.

"Oh my god! Andrew! Andrew!"

"Mommy?"

The stairs seemed endless.

The silence oppressive as she raced down the hall to the open bathroom.

"Tessa. Tessa. You're scaring me. You're scaring me," Danielle shook her younger cousin by the shoulders. "Aunt Charity! Aunt Charity!"

"Mommy?" Danielle's frightened little voice called as she crept up behind her mommy. "Mommy?"

"Get out Danielle! Get out of here!" her mommy screamed.

Danielle looked past her mommy.

The bubbles in the tub were pink.

"Danielle! Please get out!" she screamed. A sound that wasn't human.

"Tessa! Tessa!" Charity grabbed her daughter up in the pink towel Danielle held out.

Tears seeped from Tessa's sightless blue eyes.

"Mommy?" Danielle whispered.

Her baby brother's lips were blue.

Her mommy's hands were covered in blood. Hers? Andrew's? She couldn't tell.

She watched the gentle rise and fall of Andrew's chest as her mommy blew into his mouth. "Mommy? What's wrong with Andrew? Mommy?" she screamed frantically. "Mommy, what's wrong?"

"Danielle," her mommy sobbed. "Call Daddy. Call Daddy."

"Danielle," Charity cried. "Call 9-1-1. Something's wrong. Something's wrong with Tessa."

UAgirl
8.16.10, 5:05 PM
Chapter 25












"And just what do you mean by that? What have I ever personally done to you? You know what? I'm not going to give you the time of day," Lauren fumed. Smoothing her hair into place with a glare. "Mother.if you don't mind, I."

"I think that would be best," Ivy anticipated her request.

Lauren blushed when the man down the aisle winked at her.

"Where do you think you're going?"

"Noah," she heard a feminine voice sigh. "Why couldn't you just let her go?"

Lauren ignored him. Squaring her shoulders and walking toward the nearest exit.

"What's the matter? Can't take the heat? Afraid you can't handle the truth?"

Lauren whipped around. Hazel eyes flashing with red-hot anger. "What truth is that? Come on. Tell me. I'm dying to find out," she rolled her eyes, "what truth you know about me when you don't even know me. Was that too much of a tongue-twister for you? You know. You really should wipe that moronic expression off your face. It's so unbecoming," she said snidely.

"Oh god," Ivy groaned. Burying her face in her hands.

"Could you please move this 'discussion' someplace less.crowded," Paloma hissed. Brown eyes darting around the full theater.

"Who are you?" Lauren crossed her arms around her chest.

"Never mind who I am," Paloma shook her head. "Take this outside before we get kicked out."

"Oh my god! YOU," Lauren stared at Noah incredulously, "have a girlfriend?"

Noah looked dumbfounded for a second. "NO! I mean.Paloma's not my girlfriend. What's it to you anyway?" he demanded. Following Lauren and Ivy through the exit to the lobby outside.

Paloma tapped her foot impatiently.

"Oh puh-leaze! As if I care. I just felt sorry for her. That's all. She's obviously not too bright. Look at the company she's keeping," Lauren snarled.

"Lauren."

"Not now, Mother," Lauren waved Ivy off.

Paloma's brown eyes sparkled. With equal parts indignation and amusement.

"No offense," Lauren apologized, "but this guy's one of the biggest jerks I've ever met. How'd you get mixed up with him?"

"Paloma.you don't have to answer her. Don't give her the time of day," Noah bit out.

"Actually." Paloma smiled. Tucking her dark hair behind her ear. "He pushed my sister down in the sandbox, and I beat him up for it. We've been stuck together ever since."

Ivy hid her grin.

Lauren snickered and moved closer to Noah. "You let a little girl beat you up? How pathetic!"

"Yeah.go ahead and poke fun. Once a gentleman, always a gentleman. I'm a firm believer against hitting women."

"You wish," Lauren rolled her eyes. "Like pushing them down isn't just as bad. A gentleman?" she smirked. "If it strokes the good ole ego."

"You know what? I've had enough of this. Paloma.I'll make it up to you someday."

"What's the matter? Can't take the heat? You can't handle the truth!" Lauren yelled to his retreating form.

Ivy caught the sparkle in her daughter's hazel eyes as she regarded his retreating 'form' and smiled wickedly.

"Nice meeting you," Paloma waved goodbye with a smile. Scrambling to catch up with her ride.

"Ugh!" Lauren stomped her foot. "He just.he just."

"I know," Ivy laughed. Linking arms with her daughter. "Believe me, I know."



@@@



"Mama? Are you home?"

"Miguel!" Pilar exclaimed in surprise. Hugging her son's neck.

"Uncle Miguel!" Matthew shouted gleefully. "I'm so glad you're here. Nana showed me some pictures from when you and Mama were little. Uncle Luis looked so funny in kindergarten," he giggled.

"Mama," Miguel smiled. "You promised."

Pilar's dark eyes shone with humor.

"It's not Nana's fault," Matthew piped up. "They fell on my head."

"What's that?" Miguel chuckled. Unable to stop the grin that took over his features.

"Well." Matthew explained. "I was playing in Uncle Luis's old room."

"Wait.I don't think I need to hear anymore," Miguel ruffled Matthew's dark hair affectionately. "I can imagine."

"Want to look at them with me?" Matthew asked with an engaging smile. "Please," he added.

"Okay," Miguel smiled.

"Alright," Matthew exclaimed. Jumping up and down in excitement. "They're in here," he called over his shoulder as he disappeared into the living room.

"Mijo," Pilar sighed in concern at the tired look in her son's brown eyes. "It'll do you good to remember old times."

"Uncle Miguel," Matthew asked curiously from his perch on the love seat. "How come Aunt Charity's not in any of these pictures? Who's the girl in all the pictures with you?"

Miguel took the first picture from Matthew's little hand and smiled at what he saw. Him and Kay. Dressed in identical baseball uniforms.

"A girl played on your baseball team?" Matthew crinkled his nose. "Who is she?"

Pilar took the picture from Miguel's hands and traced the image with a smile. "You know this girl, Matthew," she laughed. "She's Aunt Charity's cousin. Kay. She and Miguel were best friends when they were little. Inseparable."

"Best friends?"

"Best friends," Miguel told him. "We did everything together." Until Charity came, he thought to himself. A sudden wave of guilt washing over him. And then.it was like his friendship with Kay was forgotten.

"Why didn't you marry her?"



@@@



Ethan paced back and forth. Silent. Glancing from time to time at his watch. Out the window.

"Ethan," Theresa said in exasperation. "Why won't you tell me anything? I thought you wanted to start over. Rebuild our marriage with honesty."

Ethan sighed and shoved his hands through his dark blond hair. "I do, Theresa. It's just.I don't know how to do this."

"Just do it," Theresa told him. "You're just delaying the inevitable. Talk to me."

Ethan stopped pacing and eased himself down in the armchair opposite her uncertainly. "Okay. What do you want to know?" he asked. His blue eyes staring at his feet.

"Why?" she blurted.

"That's a good question," Ethan sighed. "I still haven't figured that one out for myself. This is going to sound childish and selfish, and I don't want to hurt you anymore than I already have."

"Just spit it out, Ethan," she snapped impatiently. "Look. I'm sorry. I just.I never thought this would happen to us. I never believed you'd break our marriage vows."

"I never believed I would either," he said softly. But why was that, he wondered. It wasn't like he'd never had feelings for another woman when he was involved in a committed relationship before. Theresa was that OTHER woman. Why had she been so sure, so confident in the sanctity of their marriage? But this time.this time was supposed to be different. Forever. But hurt and distrust.the bottom line was he'd made a mistake. A colossal mistake all because he'd wanted to get back at her. For all the lies. For entering into this lifelong partnership blind. "I wanted to hurt you," he admitted shamefully. "I wanted to strike out at you in some way.a way that would make you as doubtful of your identity as I was mine."

"Ethan," Theresa wiped at the tears that fell freely from her brown eyes. "I don't understand. I."

"Lies, Theresa. Little lies. White lies. The big ones. They underminded who I am. You took away the only thing I've ever been sure of. My faith in you."

"I'm sorry," she cried. "I was young. Naïve. I told myself it was for your own good. Lies are easier than the truth. Especially a truth that you're afraid will tear your life apart. But Ethan.I don't want there to be anymore lies between us. I need."

A gentle rapping on the front door interrupted her words. Her thoughts.

She blinked away the tears as she saw her best friend appear in front of her. "Whitney? What are you doing here?"

Whitney clutched the purse at her side, and looked up at Ethan. "I'm sorry," she apologized. "I'm too.I'll just go and come back."

Ethan's blue eyes were full of sadness as he grasped her arm. "No, Whitney. Don't go."

"Ethan?" Theresa pleaded. "Whitney? What's going on here? Will somebody please tell me something?!"



@@@



Scarred, reddened flesh assaulted his eyes, and the heavy stench of.

Cold blue eyes laughed at his astonishment.

"What's the matter, Sam?"

He shook his head in disbelief. Closed his eyes. Desperate to rid himself of the horrifying image.

"Sam? Are you okay?"

When he opened his eyes again.it was gone. "What? What did you say?"

Grace traced the lines of his palm. Blue eyes full of concern. "Are you okay?" she asked. Cupping his cheek with her free hand.

Sam shuddered at the coolness of her touch. "Grace.you're so cold. I should be the one asking YOU that question."

"I'm fine," she smiled. Standing on tiptoe to kiss his lips.

Sam's blue eyes shot open in surprise when she tangled her hands in his hair and deepened the kiss.

"Just relax, Sam," she whispered into his ear. "We're married," she laughed. "Don't be so shy around me."

His muscles tensed as ran her nails across his bare back. Down the dip of his spine.

Something wasn't right here. Something was definitely.different.

"Say you love me, Sam."

"Grace, I."

"Say you love me, dammit," she demanded with more urgency.

He grabbed her hands in his own and pushed them away. Pushed her away. "Grace.we're moving too fast here. We're." He sighed in relief and sent a thousand thank you's to God up above when the awkward moment was shattered by the shrill ringing of the telephone.

Her nails dug deep into her palms. Drawing blood.

"Eve.she what?! I'll be right there," he told her. Hanging up the phone abruptly. He bent down to grab his keys off the coffee table. "That was Eve. Kay was in some kind of an accident tonight. Chad took her to his apartment. I have to."

"Go, Sam," she said. "I'll wait here. So Jessica won't worry."

Sam shoved his wallet in his back pocket and stopped in front of her.

"Just go, Sam," she repeated softly.

The door clicked shut behind him, and seconds later the car roared to life.

And all gentleness disappeared from her demeanor.

"Damn that brat," she swore. Glaring at Kay's somber likeness before her in the picture frame on the wall. "What am I going to do about you?"



@@@


"Come in, Julian," Alistair smiled evilly. Puffing on his cigar.

Adam perched on the edge of his grandfather's desk. His ankles crossed. "You were right, Grandfather. Aunt Sheridan is a weakling. She doesn't deserve the privilege of bearing the family name," he said smugly.

Julian stood stiffly in the background. His lips furling in disgust at the images in front of him.

"Turn up the volume, Boy," Alistair ordered.

Adam obliged with a devious smile on his lips. "That fool follows her everywhere. Aunt Sheridan cries, he's there to wipe her tears. He's forever saving her. And why?"

"He loves her," Julian muttered under his breath.

"Sheridan! Sheridan! Wait!" Luis cried desperately.

Amanda struggled to keep pace with him.

They rounded the corner of the Mansion together, and in the distance Luis saw her.

Alistair tapped his fingers boredly as he watched his daughter fall to her knees on the floor of the gazebo. Her body racked with sobs.

Sheridan's keening cry of "Andrew" brought tears to Julian's eyes, and he quickly looked away when he met Adam's hard brown gaze.

"Sheridan," Luis dropped to his knees beside her.

Amanda hung quietly in the background. Concern etched plainly on her face.

"Sheridan," Luis cried. Pulling her into his arms. "I'm so sorry. We never should have come. I never should have let you come," he whispered raggedly against her brow.

"It's all my fault," she sobbed. Clutching the material of his shirt in desperate handfuls. "It's all my fault. I left him there to die. I never should have left him, Luis. I never should have left him. I killed Andrew. I killed our son."

"That's right, dear Sheridan. You killed your own son," he laughed.

"Who leaves a three-year old child alone in a bathtub?" Adam rolled his eyes. "That's right, Aunt Sheridan. It's all your fault. Isn't it, Father? Father?" Adam looked around in confusion.

Alistair's icy blue eyes narrowed as he stared at the spot his son had stood in mere seconds earlier. Something was different about Julian. And he didn't like it one bit.

@@@



"Mommy! Mommy!"

She shouldn't have done it. Shouldn't have screamed. That's why her mommy left him. That's why he died. Because of her.

Danielle closed her blue eyes against the flashing red lights of the ambulance. She couldn't bear this. It was too close. Too close to what had happened when.

"Daddy! Daddy!" she sobbed uncontrollably into the mouthpiece of the phone. "Daddy!"

"Danielle. Danielle, calm down for Daddy. Okay? Take a deep breath and tell Daddy what's wrong."

She wiped at her tears with shaky hands. Sniffling as she listened to his soothing voice.

The blood ran in little rivers down her hands.

She cried harder.

"Danielle.is it Mommy? Is Mommy hurt?"

She shook her head 'no.' But somewhere in the back of her mind, she realized her daddy couldn't see her. "N-N-N-o," she stammered.

Her daddy took a shaky breath on the other end of the line. "Is it Andrew, Baby? Is Andrew hurt?"

She closed her eyes against the images.

Her baby brother's lips were blue.

The bubbles in the tub were pink.

And her mommy's hands were covered in blood.

"Mommy was giving him a bath," she cried. "And I fell down the stairs."

"Danielle," Luis interrupted gently. "Where's Mommy now?"

"The bathroom," she sobbed.

"Where's Andrew?"

She could hear her mommy crying upstairs.

She felt a terrible pain in her chest. Dull and sharp at the same time.

"The bubbles were pink."

"Oh.oh my god," her daddy gasped. "Danielle.stay on the phone, Baby. Stay on the phone. Daddy's going to get some help. I'm going to give the phone to Sam. You remember Sam, don't you?"

Danielle nodded her head 'yes.' "Yeah."

"Talk to Sam, Baby. Daddy's on his way."

"Danielle. Danielle."

She'd seen the look in Aunt Charity's blue eyes before.

"Danielle.they're taking Tessa to the hospital. There's not enough room in the.do you think you'll be okay with Mrs. Reynolds until your parents get here?"

She nodded her head silently. "Aunt Charity? Is Tessa going to be okay?"

Charity's cornflower blue eyes teared up. "I don't know, Sweetie. I hope so," she cried. Kissing Danielle's temple. "Are you sure you'll be okay?"

Danielle looked up into Mrs. Reynolds's sympathetic green eyes. "Yeah," she said shakily.

The EMT's wheeled Tessa past. Her slender body looked so tiny. So frail.

Mommy screamed as they wheeled Andrew's stretcher out the front door.

The oxygen mask looked too big.

She'd never seen her daddy cry.

Until that day.

When they closed the ambulance's door behind them and sped away.

"Danielle?" Mrs. Reynolds's held out her arms as the ambulance raced Tessa to the hospital.

And she took comfort in the arms of a stranger.
















Because Lynne reminded of this fic, and I realized I'd never finished putting up the rest of the chapters that are already written.

I want so badly to finish this one. The question is...who else wants me to (besides Lynne, of course, and divinelyfine, if I remember correctly)?

:D

UAgirl
8.31.10, 1:11 PM
Chapter 26



It was all a dream. A horrible dream. A nightmare. This wasn't happening. None of it.

Ethan had slept with another woman.

Not just ANY other woman.

No.

As horrible as that thought had originally been, she realized.

Nothing was as horrible as this.

"Theresa," he pleaded. With sorrowful blue eyes. "Theresa.say something."

Tears poured freely down her cheeks. Somewhere in the back of her mind, it all added up.

Whitney held a shaky hand to her mouth to hold the sobs in.

"Theresa.please." Ethan lay a gentle hand on her arm.

"Get your hands off of me," she shrieked. Stunning him with the violence of her words. Her actions as she jerked her arm from his touch.

"Oh god," Whitney cried. Beyond the point of hysteria. "I'm so sorry. Theresa.please believe me."

She wrapped her arms about her middle. Willing the shaking, the trembling, the shock, and the rage to stop. And raised tormented brown eyes to her.

Whitney wasn't her best friend. Not now. Maybe she'd never been.

Best friends didn't screw each other's husbands and then pretend to be guilt-stricken.

"Theresa.Honey," Whitney cried desperately. Her knees buckling.

She felt the smallest twinge of compassion for her.near collapse.until Ethan came to the rescue.

The door slammed behind her. Tiny shock waves traveling through the room, and a vase fell from the mantle over the fireplace. Only to shatter on the floor.

"Oh god," Ethan raked his hands through his dark blond hair. "Whitney.what have we done?"

Whitney sobbed.

Words couldn't describe.




@@@



"Why didn't you marry her?"

An innocent question really.

A question he didn't have the answer to.

The moon reflected on the water as it lapped against the pilings of the pier.

There was a time.a time when that question would have made him laugh outright.

Kay was his best buddy.

Wasn't she?

He couldn't love his best friend.

Could he?

There was a time he thought he might.a time he'd pushed from his mind. A time he'd tried so hard to forget.

He didn't know what happened that night. What made it so different from all the others.

She wasn't his best friend that night.

She was more.

She was.

Beautiful.

Soft.

Vulnerable.

Alive.

And for that night.

Charity didn't exist.

But morning came. And with it.a clearer head.

He couldn't possibly love his best friend.

Charity was the girl he loved. Charity was the girl he was to marry that summer. Charity was the girl he was going to spend the rest of his life with.

Kay.she didn't fit into his plans anymore.

And he'd hurt her beyond measure.

The guilt gnawed at him. To this day.

He'd hurt her.

And lost his best friend.

Forever.



@@@




"You didn't have to call them you know."

Chad turned at the sound of her voice.

Her black hair tangled about her face, and her dark eyes were wild. The silk pajama shirt hung just above her knees. Her skin starkly pale against its rich tones.

"Your pops deserved to know. You almost died tonight, Kay. He deserved to know. Alright?"

She lowered herself into the leather sofa across from him. Bringing her knees to her chest. "Then why am I still here?"

He didn't answer for a moment. But.she deserved to know the truth. Just like anyone else. "Your moms called. They had to rush Charity's little girl to the hospital."

"Oh my god!" Kay gasped. "Miguel," she cried. "He must be so worried."

"Yeah.well. They can't find him. They tried his cell, but he must have it turned off."

Kay ran her fingers through her hair. Chewing on her bottom lip in intense concentration. "I know where he is," she suddenly announced. Jumping to her feet.

Unfortunately for her.the events of the night had taken their toll.

Chad slipped a steadying arm around her waist as she wobbled on unsteady feet. And found himself staring into her eyes.old eyes. Eyes that hinted nothing.

"Thanks," she mumbled. Disentangling his arms and stepping away. "Thanks for everything," she called out. Disappearing into his bedroom.

"Kay," he yelled. Trying the knob on his bedroom door. Surprised when it gave way easily. Shocked at what he saw.

She didn't even flinch when she felt his eyes on her naked back.

"You're not going to stop me."

"I know," he admitted with a sigh. "But Kay.the sedative."

"Obviously, it's worn off," she shrugged her slim shoulders. "I'm fine. Not that I wasn't before. But I'm fine, Chad. And no one.least of all you.is going to stop me from doing a damn thing. What are you doing?"

"I'm driving. Okay? No arguments," he warned. Jingling the keys in front of her face.

She rolled her eyes. "Like hell you are," she scoffed. Stalking past him out the open door.

"Kay."

"Shut up, Chad. You're not driving. No arguments," she smirked. "Get rid of the keys," she ordered.

He narrowed his eyes at her. "You really are crazy if you think I'm taking orders from you."

"Fine. Be that way.



















Feedback is loved!!!

UAgirl
9.1.10, 8:20 PM
Chapter 27



He twisted the golden band around his finger absently as his brown eyes looked past the boats to the water that spanned the horizon.

The distant echo of footsteps registered vaguely in his brain.

But the memories wouldn't release him.

He remembered meeting her here.

"Why Kay? I thought we agreed. That night didn't happen," he said in a low voice. Devoid of feeling.

She hugged her arms about her middle protectively. "I know," she whispered.

"What's this then?" he asked. Gesturing to their surroundings. "We agreed to forget. We agreed to never mention it again. We agreed not to see each other. To stay away from each other."

She turned away from him.

He studied her profile as she gazed out at the sea.

A tear slowly made its way down her pale cheek, and she shuddered as a gust of wind.unseasonably cold.whistled around them.

"Aren't you going to say anything? Aren't you going to give me an explanation?" he pushed. Grasping her shoulders firmly and turning her around to face him. Just the hint of feeling creeping into his voice. The hint of concern.

Kay's dark eyes filled with tears as she looked at him. "I didn't mean for this to happen, Miguel. I'm so sorry," she cried.

"Dammit, Kay!" he exclaimed. "Would you stop being so cryptic? You're not the ONLY one to blame here. Much as I hate to admit it," he sighed heavily.

"Don't be so hard on yourself," she said softly. "I needed comfort. And you gave it to me."

He laughed harshly. "Comfort. I think I took comfort a little too far, don't you? You were upset about your mother's disappearance. And I complicated both our lives the second I kissed you."

"Complicated," she murmured. "If you only knew," she muttered under her breath.

He looked at her oddly. Suspicion coiling in his belly as his eyes perused her figure. "Kay?" he asked with growing trepidation. "No," he said in denial. "This can't be happening. Kay.tell me you're not.oh my god," he cried. Clutching the railing of the pier. "My wedding to Charity.it's in less than a month. We're supposed to become husband and wife, Kay. A family. Say it isn't true," he begged.

"Is that all you care about?" Kay spat with sudden anger. "Your precious Charity? What about me, Miguel? You used to care about me, too. You used to be my friend. My best friend. What about the mess I'm in now? I can't exactly tell everyone the truth now, can I? Wouldn't want to ruin your chance at happiness with Charity?"

"Kay.I didn't mean."

"You didn't mean? Don't bother, Miguel!" she shrugged his hands from her shoulders and turned back to the sea.

"So you're going to.are you going to keep it?" he asked uncertainly. The words flowing forth before he could censor himself.

"It'd make you so happy if I said 'no', wouldn't it?" she asked in choked voice. "One less obstacle in the way of your and Charity's eternal happiness?"

He didn't say anything. Things WOULD be so much easier, he thought selfishly. If only.

"I thought so," she said sadly. "Yes, Miguel. I'm keeping our baby."

OUR baby.

"I'm so sorry, Kay," he said. Voice full of regret. "Things could have been so different." He held his head in his hands. If only. "What have I done?" he said miserably.

The fall of footsteps grew louder.

Slowly, he lifted his head, his eyes to a figure emerging from the cloud of fog. "Kay? Kay, is that you?"

"Miguel," she said gravely as he raised a hand to her cheek.

"So sorry," he whispered. Stroking the silk of her skin.

Chad watched the scene in fascination from the shadows.

Kay's eyes filled with the pain of the memories as he cupped her cheek in the palm of his hand. "Miguel," she repeated somberly. "Miguel," she said. Removing his hand from her cheek. "It's Tessa."

Miguel's heart clenched in fear.

"They don't know what's wrong with her."

Chad hurried after them as they left the pier. A sense of urgency in their steps.



@@@





Matthew rubbed his brown eyes tiredly. Squinting at the bright lights that illuminated the small waiting room.

Where it seemed the entire Bennett and Lopez-Fitzgerald families were gathered.

The clock's hands moved agonizingly slow. The hours before dawn crawling by.

Pilar clutched her rosary. Her lips moving, but no sound escaping. Murmuring silent prayers for her granddaughter.

Charity hunched over in the chair beside her. Wringing her hands. Her pale yellow hair pulled back at the nape of her neck. Her blue eyes closed. As if warding off the reality of the situation.

Jessica played cards with Danielle. Trying the best way she knew how to offer the little girl a moment's distraction. Far too cognizant of the alarming similarities.

In the far corner, Luis stroked Sheridan's golden hair softly as she slept. Her head in his lap. A fitful, restless sleep.

"Mrs. Lopez-Fitzgerald? Mrs. Lopez-Fitzgerald?"

She jerked awake when she felt a hand on her shoulder.

"Mrs. Lopez-Fitzgerald," the doctor repeated. A somber expression on his face.

"Where is he? Where's my husband?" she asked. Growing more frantic with each second that passed that Luis wasn't by her side.

"Right here," a voice said.

And she sank back into his embrace. But strangely, she didn't feel the calm she usually felt. Somehow she knew.

"Dr. Chase?" Luis asked with growing dread. "How is he? How's Andrew?"

Dr. Chase ran a fatigued hand through his silver hair. Blue eyes sad as he uttered two words. "Not good."

She grabbed fistfuls of his shirt. Sobbing into his shoulder. Her tears soaking through to his skin.

"No.no. It's a lie. You're lying."

Charity started to sob.

Danielle couldn't swallow over the lump in her throat when her mommy's anguished cry reached her ears.

"Danielle?" Jessica asked gently. Laying her cards down between them and reaching out a hand to brush her dark hair from her forehead. "Are you okay, Sweetie?"

Pilar rose from her seat and knelt in front of her. "Mija," she whispered softly.

"Andrew," her mommy whimpered in her daddy's arms.

Matthew scurried to his nana's side. Slipping his little arm around her shoulders and burying his face in her curve of her neck. "Nana," he mumbled. "What's wrong with Aunt Sheridan?"

Danielle's chin quivered as her grandmother answered him. "She's sad, Mijo. Aunt Sheridan's heart hurts very much. Oh, Mija," she sighed. Opening her arms to Danielle, too.

Danielle shut her blue eyes to the sight of her daddy wiping her mommy's tears away. Made her ears deaf to her cries of "Andrew."

"Sheridan," Luis shook her awake gently. "Wake up. Please wake up, Angel. It's just a dream."

Her blue eyes fluttered open, and he inhaled sharply at the sheer pain in them. "No," she told him despondently. Removing herself from his arms and sitting up stiffly in the ugly plastic chair beside him. "It's not. It's real."

A nightmare, Luis thought silently as she shrank away from his touch. A never-ending nightmare, he realized with a sinking heart as she stood up and stalked down the hall. How he wished they could wake up from it.



@@@




Pale yellow hair fanned out over the pillows. Framing her delicate features.

Tape secured the tube in her mouth.

Precious oxygen pumped through it. The hiss of the machine echoing in the quietness of the room.

Another machine beeped rhythmically. Recording each beat of her heart.

Her eyes moved rapidly behind her lids.

And the sounds in the room changed. Grew louder. As she was transported to another place. Another time.

Her blue eyes were wide as she studied him. All the tubes, all the machines.she could barely recognize her little brother.

Except for his teddy bear lying on the pillow beside him.

Just like always.

Her daddy lifted her to his knee.

"Daddy?" she asked. Her question the only noise but for the whistles and beeps of the machines.

"Yeah, Sweetheart?" he said softly. Stroking her long dark hair lovingly.

"Is Andrew sleeping?"

Her daddy's eyes shone bright. "Yeah," he finally answered. "Andrew's sleeping."

Her mommy held a hand to her mouth. Her shoulders shaking as she turned away from them.

"But Danielle," he whispered. Reaching out a hand to trace Andrew's golden brow. "Andrew.Andrew," he closed his eyes. Unable to go on.

Danielle watched Andrew's tiny chest rise and fall as the machine pumped air into his body. And somehow.she just knew. "He isn't going to wake up, is he, Daddy?" she said somberly.

Her daddy kissed her temple. Wrapping his arms around her tight. "No. No, Danielle. He's not," he told her. "God wants to take him home. With the angels up in Heaven."

"But Daddy," she said sadly. "I want him here. I don't want him to go to Heaven. I don't want him to go," she cried. Struggling in his arms and finally breaking free.

Sheridan sobbed as her daughter snuggled close to her baby brother.

"Danielle," Luis cried. Tears streaming down his cheeks. "Baby.Andrew isn't here. The Andrew we love is already up in Heaven with Nana Katherine and Papa Martin. And he's happy. He's waiting for us. We have to tell him goodbye," he whispered. "Don't you want to tell him bye?" he asked. Cupping her silky cheek and wiping her tears away with the pad of his thumb. "We have to let him go," he said. Glancing at Sheridan with sorrowful eyes.

Danielle nodded her dark head. Tears clinging to her lashes as she closed her eyes. And leaned forward to kiss her baby brother. One last time. "I love you."

Luis smiled through his tears as he gathered her back in his arms and placed a final kiss on Andrew's brow. Saying a silent 'I love you.'

His son.he would never grow old.

Danielle clung to his shoulders as he walked out of the room. Her heart broken and aching as they moved farther and farther away.leaving her mommy and Andrew alone.

The nurses wore grim expressions as they removed all the wires and tubes from Andrew's little body.

The room was silent.

She crawled into bed beside him. Cradling him as she had the day he was born. Clasping his tiny brown hand to her cheek and kissing his palm tenderly, she rocked him gently as she sang him a lullaby.

"Hush little baby."

She closed her eyes and lay her cheek against his forehead. Tears seeping from her golden lashes.

"Don't say a word."

Each tiny breath came slower. And slower.

"Mama's going to buy you a mockingbird."

Until.they stopped. Just like that.

And she clutched him to her breast. Unwilling to let his spirit go.

"Mama's sorry," she sobbed as she held his limp little body in her arms. "Oh god," she cried. "Andrew," she brushed her lips against his temple. "Mama's so sorry."

Dr. Nelson sighed. Dropping Tessa's wrist, and turning to face the nurse at his side. "I don't understand. There's no medical explanation for what's happening to her."








Feedback is love!

UAgirl
9.10.10, 2:05 PM
Chapter 28






She sighed. Stroking the black curls from her daughter's worried face. She was denied peace. Even in sleep.

"Mom?" Whitney mumbled. "Mom? Is that you?"

"It's me, Baby," Eve whispered softly. Kneeling down in front of the sofa. An expression of concern plain on her features. "I didn't mean to wake you," she apologized as Whitney pushed herself up on her elbows and blinked sleepily at her.

"I wasn't getting any 'real' sleep anyway," Whitney murmured. Sitting up completely and tucking her knees beneath her chin. "Every time I close my eyes, I see her face."

Eve sank into the cushions with a sigh. "Theresa's?"

"It's over. Our friendship is over, Mom. Theresa hates me," she cried. Burying her face in her hands. "With more than good reason."

Eve reached a tentative hand out. Stroking Whitney's hair. "You know.you can talk to me about anything. People make mistakes. God knows I know that," she laughed bitterly. "I'm the last person in the world that would judge you, Honey."

Whitney raised tearful eyes to her mother's face. "I broke her heart, Mom. With Ethan's help."

Eve's brow knit in confusion. "I'm not sure I understand. What's Ethan got to do with this?"

Whitney couldn't look her mother in the eye. The shame was too great. "Ethan has everything to do with this, Mom. He and I.We."

A knock of the door startled them both.

And Eve groaned inwardly as she saw all avenues of communication with her distraught daughter quickly shutting down.

Whitney wiped her tears with the sleeve of her shirt carelessly. "I'll be in the bathroom," she explained before disappearing down the narrow hall of the apartment.

She raised on tiptoe to peer out the peephole. Groaning aloud this time when she saw who it was.

Julian.

She and Whitney were on shaky ground as it were.

Certainly, Julian's appearance could very well turn that shaky ground into quicksand.

Her mind told her one thing.

Don't let him in. Don't jeopardize this chance you've been given.

Her heart said another.

Something was wrong. So wrong.

He'd come to her.

She glanced behind herself once more. Satisfied, for the moment, to be alone.

And against her mind's protest.

She opened the door.



@@@






Kay stared through the window. Watching as Miguel held Charity in his arms. Offering her what little help he could.

Still Tessa slept. Looking so tiny and helpless among the tubes and machines.

Her heart twisted in sorrow.

No child deserved pain. Of any kind.

Chad's dark eyes narrowed suspiciously as she rubbed her stomach lightly. Self-consciously.

Something didn't add up here.

"How did you know where to find him?" he asked. Shattering the silence that hung heavily around them.

"I just knew," she murmured. Raising a shaky hand to the glass barrier that separated her from Miguel.

He sighed in resignation. Knowing that was all the explanation forthcoming from her lips. "Look.you've had a really long night. I think you should go home. Get some rest."

Her hand dropped to her side, and she turned to him with a thankful smile. "I think I'll do just that. He's where he belongs."

He didn't try to decipher the meaning of what she said. Just took her words at face value as he grasped her elbow firmly. Leading her away.



@@@






"I still can't believe this is happening," Jessica said. Taking a sip of coffee from her mug and setting it down on the counter.

Sam raked a rough hand through his spiky hair. "I just hope the doctors can figure out what happened so they can help her."

Grace stared out the kitchen window. Her back to them. A chilling smile on her lips as her cold blue eyes regarded the figures 'hidden' in the bushes.

Tabitha.

And her little doll.

She laughed silently as Tabitha's body convulsed with shudders, and she scampered out of sight.

"Grace?"

Sam's voice directly behind her startled her. "Sam," she laughed in embarrassment. Raising a hand to her chest in alarm. "I'm sorry. What were you saying? I was a bit distracted. Thinking about Tessa," she said quickly.

Sam's seeds of suspicion dissipated. And he pulled her into his arms. Resting his chin atop her auburn head. "We all are. We all are, Grace. Jessica and I were going to go back to the hospital this afternoon. Would you like to join us?"

She made sure the smile was perfectly in place before she raised her eyes to his and answered. "I think that's a wonderful idea."



@@@



Matthew snored softly. His fist clutching the blankets at his waist.

A tender smile graced her lips as she brushed his dark hair from his forehead.

Movement behind him caught her eye, and she looked up into the tearful blue eyes of her granddaughter.

"Mija. What are you doing up?"

Danielle's chin quivered as she stared at the floor at her feet. "I'm so worried, Nana."

Pilar ushered her out of Luis's old bedroom. The door closing with a tiny click. Into the living room. Where she took a seat. Pulling Danielle into her arms. And running her hands over her dark hair lovingly. "What if Tessa dies? Just like."

Andrew.

"Shh, Mija. You mustn't think such thoughts. Tessa is going to be fine. There, there. Don't cry," she soothed.

Danielle's shaky gulps of air gradually slowed. "But what about me?" she whispered. Tangling the rosary at Pilar's neck around her fingers. "What about Dad?" she sniffled. "What about Mommy?" she sighed. Her fingers stilling. Her breath evening out.

"You ask hard questions, Mija. Questions I can't answer," Pilar murmured against her granddaughter's soft, dark hair.




@@@



A sliver of sunlight peeked through the slants in the blinds.

He followed the streaks. Stepping in and out of the shadows as he crossed the room to the tiny twin bed.

She lay there. Clutching the ragged teddy bear in her arms. Her shoulders shaking with sobs.

"Sheridan," he spoke softly. A hand on her shoulder.

The sobs ceased. But not the quaking.

"Sheridan.you have to let go. Andrew's gone. He isn't coming back. Ever," he drove his point home.

Blue eyes full of anger.pain.hurt.disgust.maybe even hatred turned on him. Unblinking.

He traced the tear tracks with his index finger. A frown marring his handsome face.

"Don't you think I know that, Luis?" she finally answered. "Don't you think I realize that that day.I killed my baby, Luis. I killed your son," she spat bitterly.

"It was an accident."

"Was it? Was it really? Or was it some sort of sick punishment for all the sins of the past? God knows I'm NO saint. Yeah.God knows. That's why he decided to rip my baby from my arms. That's why he."

"Sheridan," he ground out. Grabbing her forearms forcefully and hauling her upper body up against his. "Stop this!"

"Why?" she hissed. "Am I making you feel too much, Luis? Big, strong Luis. Too tough to grieve over his own son."

His jaw dropped open in shock. Each word jabbing angrily at his fragile heart. "Is that what you think? That I didn't grieve? I grieved, dammit!" he roared. Shoving her from his arms.

The wild look in her blue eyes inflamed him.

"Every day I grieve. Every day I mourn him."

"Really?" the question escaping her throat before she could halt it. "Do you really, Luis?"

"How can you ask such a question?"

The jagged edge of pain in his voice pierced her soul. But she persisted. The pain felt good. She welcomed it. It had been so long since she'd FELT anything. "You're the one that's always pushing me to move on. Forget Andrew ever existed."

"That's not what I'm doing, and you know it," he snapped.

"Whatever you say, Luis," she shrugged her shoulders. Uncurling her limbs and rising from the bed. Sweeping past him in dismissal.

"We don't have to forget him, Sheridan. We just have to let go. I've let go. Why."

"Why can't I? Why can't I let go of our son? Is that your question, Luis? I don't know. Maybe I'm afraid it IS going to be like he never existed. Maybe the guilt won't let me. I don't know, dammit."

"You have NOTHING to feel guilty about," he cried. Grabbing her arm with his hand.

She yanked at her arm. But he refused to let go. "Luis," she warned. "you let go of my arm, or."

Still he refused her.

"I hate you," she screamed suddenly. Her face red and angry. Tears coursing down her cheeks.

"Now, we're getting somewhere," he told her. His brown eyes bright as he pulled her closer. Wrapping his arms securely around her waist and refusing to let go.

"I hate you," she cried. Pounding on his chest.

"Why do you hate me, Angel? Why?" he said calmly. "Tell me," he urged as she struggled against him.

"I hate you because you weren't there. I hate you because you're stronger than me. I hate you because.I hate you because." her voice faltered. And the pounding stopped.

"Don't stop now. We're finally getting somewhere. Let it all out, Baby. Let it all out," he encouraged. Wiping her tears away with the pads of his thumbs.

"I hate you because I love you so much. So much it hurts sometimes."

He smiled slightly at the veracity of her declaration. Sometimes.the feelings were just too intense.

She tucked her blond head beneath his chin wearily. Clutching fistfuls of his shirt desperately. "I hate you because you were able to let him go. And I can't," she sobbed. Holding on to him for dear life. "I don't want to let him go, Luis. I don't want to let him go. I don't want to. Help me let him go, Luis. Please help me," she pleaded. "I don't know how."

He closed his eyes against her pain and kissed her temple. "I'll help you. I'll do whatever I can," he vowed.

He just hoped it was enough.

UAgirl
9.14.10, 1:57 PM
Chapter 29




She couldn't do it.

Go in.

Mother wouldn't berate her. Make her feel even more foolish than she already did.

She laughed bitterly.

Mother would just sit there and stare blankly ahead as she had for years now. Years of her pouring her sorrows out to her.

A captivated audience? Or captive audience?

Seagulls squawked overhead.

She stepped closer to the edge. Fingers gripping the railing in an iron grip.

The shrill of the gulls receded to the background, and the waves crashing against the craggy rocks became a roar in her ears.

The world was turning upside down. Topsy-turvy.

She was so dizzy.

"Don't you think it's a little strange for an Insane Asylum to be at the top of a monstrous seashore cliff such as this one?"

She whirled around at the sound of his voice. Clutching the railing behind her with bloodless fingers as another wave of vertigo hit her.

"Easy there," he said calmly. An easy smile on his lips as he crept closer. "Don't want you to fall."

She studied him openly. Only to find smiling amber eyes laughing at her as her gaze traveled to his face. "I haven't seen you around here before, have I?" she mused.

"No," he answered simply.

"Do you have a family member here?"

"Do you?"

"You're so easy to talk to," she muttered sarcastically. Her blue eyes flashing with annoyance. "That's a bad habit, you know. Answering questions with questions," she elaborated when he raised a dark brow in question.

He joined her at the railing.

A loose stone hung in the air before plummeting to the surging waves below.

He watched her intently.

The sea breeze played with the auburn strands of her hair as she stared straight ahead. Seeing nothing. "Stop that," she finally said in exasperation.

And he smirked when she glared at him with icy blue eyes. "What?"

"What?" she said incredulously. "That! That right there," she grumbled as he continued to gaze at her. "Are you always so rude?"

"Since when is admiring a beautiful woman considered rude?"

"Typical," she rolled her eyes. "Charming, you're NOT," she huffed. Turning on her heel and stalking away.

"Is that it? No goodbye?" he teased. "You didn't even tell me your name," he called after her as she walked up the stony path leading to the facility's back entrance. "Pleasure to make your acquaintance, Ms. Hotchkiss," he murmured appreciatively as she disappeared inside. He pulled a cigarette from the inside pocket of his jacket. Cupping his hands around the tiny flickering flame. "Tell your mother I'll be seeing her shortly."



@@@




"You look like hell," Noah whistled.

"Thanks," Theresa said sarcastically. Cupping her hands around the warmth of her coffee mug.

"You always did appreciate my honesty," Noah chuckled. Taking the seat opposite her. "One of us had to tell the truth. You, my dear, dear Scarlett, were a very talented twister of the truth."

Theresa winced at his timely reminder.

"What? Was it something I said?" Noah asked. Then groaned. "Leave it to me. No wonder guys have such a reputation for being insensitive," he shook his head. Paloma had shared enough of the situation for him to words hit very close to home. "Look. I'm sorry, okay? Think you can find it in your heart to forgive me?" he asked. Giving her his best puppy dog face.

Theresa smiled slightly. "I know my world's coming to an end when you start being so sweet," she laughed through tears.

"Thanks. I think," Noah grinned. Reaching across the table and giving her hand a friendly squeeze. "This is all my dumbass brother's fault," he muttered.

Theresa was silent opposite him.

"Really?" a voice spoke up behind her, and Noah rolled his blue eyes at her in irritation.

"You again. What the hell do you know?"

"Not much, actually," Lauren said. Crossing her arms around her chest. "But I know enough to realize OUR brother is not the only one at fault here. You really don't know your 'friend' as well as you think you do. What happened to family loyalty?"

Noah dropped Theresa's hand and pushed his seat back. "Would you just shut your damn mouth? I don't think anything anybody could do could possibly compete with adultery. Do you?"

Lauren's jaw hardened, and her blue eyes glittered angrily. "He's the scum of the scum. But don't ignore HER part in this whole mess either. Forgive me when I say this, dear sister-in-law," Lauren said. Looking down at Theresa's bowed head. "But what goes around comes around."

Noah started to go after her as she walked toward the exit.

But Theresa stopped him. "No, Noah. Let her go. Just let her go. She's right. I should have realized."




@@@





Chad watched her as she slept.

Tossing and turning. The dreams of the past too much for her.

"No."

"Kay," he reached out a hand. Brushing her dark hair from her face. "Wake up, Kay. It's just a dream."

"No. It's not true. She's not."

"Kay," he shook her gently.

A steady pounding at the front door jarred her from her dream, and she bolted upright. "Chad! Chad! What's wrong? Why are you looking at me like that?"

He couldn't find the words.

The pounding continued.

"Aren't you going to get that?"

"Chad! Chad, are you in there? It's me. It's Ethan. I need to talk."

"You better get that," Kay told him. "Sounds important."

"Are you sure you'll be okay?"

Kay rolled her dark eyes at him. "Why wouldn't I be? My brother, on the other hand."

He glanced at her once more before pulling the door shut behind him.

And she closed her eyes. The memory still fresh in her mind.

"I'm sorry, Kay. So sorry. I did all I could."

She sobbed into the pillow as Eve's words echoed in her ears.

"Your baby's dead. Dead. She's dead. Dead. Your baby's dead."






















































Sorry guys. It looks like the disc this story was saved on might have been corrupted somehow (?), and I'm having to pull these chapters from another source, one where you might find even more typos, so I apologize for that. :(

Hope it doesn't completely keep you from enjoying the story.

All that said, feedback is loved!

LOL!

UAgirl
9.14.10, 2:08 PM
Chapter 30




Tessa's tiny chest rose and fell rhythmically. Her pale hair glowed like a halo.

Grace smirked as she watched the rapid movement of her eyes behind closed lids.

Always seeing. Always.

A curse, really.

Miguel held his daughter's lifeless hand between both of his own. His eyes closed to a sight he didn't want to see. A sight he refused to accept.

Charity's shoulders hunched forward as she clasped her hands together in prayer.

That's right. Pray. See what good it will do you, she thought. Raising a hand to the glass barrier that separated her from them. Laughing inwardly.

Charity jerked upright as a chill swept down her spine.
The sound of maniacal laughter echoed in her ears.
When she raised her pale blue eyes to her aunt Grace, she had the strangest feeling.

"Charity," Jessica's voice seeped through to her consciousness. " don't you and Miguel take a break? Dad and I will stay with Tessa. Just a few minutes. That's all."

"A few minutes," she nodded her head. Holding a hand out for her husband.

Miguel walked through the door ahead of her. Head down.

And her gaze drifted to her aunt again.

Grace smiled.

But it didn't reach her eyes, Charity realized. Her eyes told a different story. The words were there. She just couldn't translate them. Yet.

"Charity," Miguel spoke quietly. "You coming? I'm going to go get a cup of coffee."

Her gaze stay locked with Grace's a few seconds more. "Yes, Miguel. I'm coming. Aunt Grace? Would you like anything?"

"Nothing for me. Thanks," Grace murmured. Turning her back in dismissal.

Charity fell into step beside Miguel, and as they rounded the corner, they came face to face.
With Ivy. Arms laden with flowers. For Tessa.

And her body shuddered at the sudden, blinding pain she felt. The screams echoing in her ears.

It was starting again.

Only this time.

She didn't know how to stop it.


@@@



Whitney sat on the edge of her mother's bed.
Mouth open in disbelief.

What she had just heard...what Julian had said to her mother. It was too awful to contemplate. Too awful to imagine.

Something she shouldn't know. Something she wished she didn't know.

But if it were it were true, there was more evil in this evil in she ever could have fathomed.

"Whitney?"

Her mother looked pale. Worried.

"Whitney. You mustn't."

"Is he gone, Mom? He's not here?"

"He's gone," she nodded her head slowly. "How much did you hear?" she asked.

Whitney closed her eyes at the memory of just a few short minutes ago. "Too much."

Eve slipped an arm around her daughter's shoulders in a miserable effort to offer comfort. Reassurance. "You can't tell anyone what you heard. You could put a lot of people in danger. They could be hurt."

"Mr. Crane?"

Her mother's arm fell from her shoulders, and she wrung her hands self- consciously in her lap.

"You care about him, don't you? You really care about him. You're afraid FOR him."

"Whitney," Eve said steadily. "I'm afraid for them all. Alistair Crane is EVIL. I'm afraid for them all."

And Whitney was, too.




@@@



He watched her sleep. His weight resting on his elbow as he gazed down at her.

Her hand was splayed, palm up, across her pillow.
"Luis," she sighed. Shifting against the white sheets. Reaching for him.

"I'm here, Angel," he murmured. His fingers brushing her blond hair back from her forehead lightly.

"Thank you," she mumbled. Still half-asleep.

He threaded his fingers through hers and held their joined hands to his lips. "You're welcome," he smiled as her blue eyes blinked open. "Anything for you," he promised. Remembering the salty ocean mist on their faces as the waves swallowed up the ragged teddy bear, and the tiny flame of the candle flickered. Then extinguished altogether.

She sighed and tucked her rumpled golden head beneath his chin. Arms wrapped tightly around him. Tears of gratitude slipping down her cheeks and soaking the bronzed skin of his chest.

"Hey," he whispered. Lifting her chin with his index finger and staring into her tear-filled blue eyes. "I thought we said no more tears for Andrew. He's safe. Protected. He knows how much we love him. And he knows we have to move on. Life has to move on. So don't cry. He always hated to see you cry. Almost as much as me."

"I love you so much," she smiled shakily. Meeting his lips in a gentle kiss.

Luis's hand slipped to the back of her head. Holding her to him as he kissed her more thoroughly. Pulling her even closer.

"Make love to me, Luis," she sighed as she melted into him. And the sheets fell away.

"I love you," he whispered. Laughing awkwardly as nervous hands fumbled with the tiny buttons down the front of her simple cotton nightgown.

She smiled at him. One of those glorious smiles from long ago as her hands traveled to the hem of the gown. Sweeping it up and over her head and tossing it across the room.

His hands rested at her waist, and he breathed in sharply.

She'd lost weight after Andrew's death. Grief and depression kept her slender even now.

He never realized.

Curves became sharp planes.

Tears stung his amber eyes as he slid gentle hands up her ribcage to cup the fullness of her breast in the palm of one hand.

Her blue eyes glittered as he swept the pad of his thumb across her full bottom lip before he sought her mouth with his own.

He lay his hand over her heart. Sure he could feel its power as it thrummed. He could almost see its broken pieces melding back together.

The yellow room was dappled with sunshine as they loved each other.

And their hearts were filled with hope.

iLoveET
2.26.12, 11:06 PM
Found another fave again! Can't wait for more E/T - this is getting really good!

UAgirl
3.4.12, 11:42 AM
Oh my...

Lynne!

I'd given you up for gone, lady.

;)

Responsibilities of RL and all that. I know it happens sometimes; it's happened to me more than once. It's why I don't get to update near as much as I want to (well, that, and the ever-shrinking audience for these fics of mine...sigh).

Anyway, it's so good to see you around these parts again.

I know I've said this before, and I'll keep saying it (because I believe it, even if no one else does, lol): I haven't given up on this fic. That said, PoMH is demanding most of my attention right now, so much so that I haven't been able to put together much of an update for AB or any of my other stories lately. But the story, as it is, is actually finished. We're just dealing with bonus material right now because I'm having a hard time letting Sher, Luis, and Emma go, lol.

I know. Pathetic much?

:D

The floppy I had this story saved on somehow became corrupted, and the version posted elsewhere is missing vital words, phrases, etc. due to multiple upgrades over the years. Seeing as I began this story years and years ago, it's a wee bit difficult to remember the exact words that are missing, and I've asked for anyone who might have chapters saved somewhere (if such a person exists, lol) to come forward, but I fear I'll never recover an original copy. And with all the other stories running through my crowded brain, I just haven't sit down to do a rewrite. I apologize.

But that said, I *do* plan to give you guys some resolution if not a proper ending to this fic (that is, if enough people are still around to care at such a time). Someday.

So keep checking this thread.

You never know when I might surprise you.

:D

Shae