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Thread: Diamonds (Sheridan and Luis)

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Oct 2000
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    Post Diamonds (Sheridan and Luis)

    Thought I'd post this here so that I was continually reminded that I needed to finish it.

    LOL!

    Hope you enjoy young Shuis with a dash of young Gwen and Ethan.

    It's sappy and cheesy and a little embarrassing; I keep meaning to clean it up--start new paragraphs when speakers change for one, lol--but that would take precious time I just don't have right now. I did enjoy writing it back in the day though and hope you enjoy rereading it, terrible formatting and all.

    Forgive me. Itwas one of my first stories!












































    Prologue



    The stars shone in the midnight sky like brilliant diamonds. And she wondered.if she closed her eyes tightly and made a wish.would it come true? She clasped her hands around her knees. Indulging herself. She had nothing to lose. Everything to gain. With odds like that, what would it hurt?

    So she did it. Made a wish upon a star. Father would be in a rage if he were witness to such childish behavior, she thought. A smile playing upon her lips. But she didn't care. Was it really such a crime? She was 17 years old. Nearly 18. And she longed to know love. BE loved.

    The death of her mother was like a physical ache that never left her. She could barely remember her face. What she looked like. But she remembered the warmth she felt around her. The feeling of comfort that came with being held in her arms. A feeling of comfort she hadn't had since, she thought with a sigh. Kicking the sand at her feet and tossing a seashell out to sea.

    She didn't know why Father had sent for her anyway. It wasn't like he REALLY wanted her home. Boarding school almost sounded like an escape. Almost. But there wasn't the ocean. The feeling of freedom just within her grasp. The possibility of more.

    The waves lulled her into a calm. The warm summer breeze ruffled her short blond curls against her face. She closed her eyes and breathed in the salty air. Smiling as an idea came to her. Why not, she thought. Opening her blue eyes and looking around the beach. Finding it deserted. At least to her untrained eye.

    Her thin cotton sundress fell to the sand below, and her tan skin gleamed in the starlight as she ran out into the waves. Her silvery laughter floated in the night air. As she splashed in the ocean's spray with a child- like abandon. And he was captivated. Mesmerized. By her spirit. It's beauty more rare than diamonds.











    Chapter 1





    She pushed her Eggs Benedict back and forth on her plate boredly. Her first breakfast with the "family." And no one had dared to speak a word. She sighed. Shifting in her high-backed seat. Praying this torture would be ended soon.

    "Would you like some more juice, Miss Sheridan?" A thankful smile blossomed on her lips. Finally. An end to the dreadful, oppressive silence. "No thank you, Pilar. How's your family?" she asked curiously. Genuinely interested.

    "Sheridan," her father said tersely. A warning look in his cool blue eyes. She knew that look. It translated into "We Cranes don't waste our time with the help, the locals, the." She was so tired of it all. She just wanted to be normal.

    "Sheridan," her sister-in-law asked. "Would you like to go riding this afternoon?" Her fork clattered against the fine china. "I'd love to go riding with you," she smiled. "Oh. Of course I can't go with you," the older woman apologized. "But Ethan would love to. Wouldn't you Ethan?" she prodded.

    "But Mother." her nephew whined. Sheridan bit her lip to keep from bursting into a fit of very unlady-like-but very Sheridan-like-laughter when Ethan yelped in pain. And very quickly changed his mind. "I'd love to go riding with you, Aunt Sheridan." Nothing like a good old-fashioned kick to the shin to make you see the light of day.

    "Thank you, Ethan," she smiled. "But you don't have to go if you don't want to. I'll be perfectly fine all by myself. In fact," she said. Clasping her hands together. "I'd actually prefer to be alone if you don't mind. Go exploring."

    "Exploring," her brother scoffed snobbishly. "Sister dear. So juvenile." But you forget, dear Brother, she thought to herself. I know NOTHING of my own home. If I can even call it that. I hardly even know my family. "Yes, Julian. Exploring. Do you have a problem with that?"

    She smirked when her brother choked on his own tongue. "Father? Are you going to let her talk to me like that?" She swallowed nervously. Anxious to hear his reaction. Bracing herself for the worst. Nothing she'd ever done had been pleasing to Father. Why should this be any different? "Julian," her father laughed mirthlessly. "*I'm* not letting her do a thing. You are."

    Julian glared at her. What a baby, she thought. Taking one last sip of her orange juice. "Father.may I be excused?" His blue eyes appraised her for several seconds before he deigned to give her the answer she sought. "You may. And Sheridan," he called. His authoritative voice echoing in the dining room. "Don't do anything to malign our good name."

    She stood stock still for a moment. What did he mean by that? Did he really have so little faith in her? She tucked an errant strand of her blond hair behind an ear and answered in a calm voice. "Yes, Father." She held her breath until the dining room door closed behind her then released it in a whoosh. "Thank goodness that's over. How am I ever going to survive this every day? It's too much," she sighed. Trailing her hand across the smooth wood of the banister as she ascended the stairs to her room.

    A gentle knock just minutes later startled her. "Oh. Pilar," she breathed. "You scared me. I thought you were Father. Telling me he had changed his mind and keeping me locked up in this stuffy old place forever. It's just not home, Pilar. It has no character. I guess I don't have a home really. Just four impersonal walls."

    "Miss Sheridan," Pilar chided. Sitting down beside her on the pale lilac comforter. "Don't speak like that. You've only been home two days. Give it time." "Time," Sheridan repeated. Rolling the word around on her tongue. "I can do that," she said slowly. Her blue eyes sparkling when Pilar reached up a motherly hand and smoothed her blond hair back from her face.

    "I brought your riding habit," she said. Smiling at her. "Ugh!" Sheridan groaned. Throwing herself back against the bed's downy softness. "I hate those things with a passion. What purpose do they serve? Except make a person look stuck-up and stupid? I want to be comfortable. Have fun. Is that too much to ask?"

    "I don't think so," Pilar admitted quietly. "That's why I brought you these," she said. Producing a faded pair of cutoffs. And her favorite turquoise tank top. "Thank you, Pilar! I just knew Father had burned these," she said. Hugging her neck in excitement and grabbing the clothes from her hands. Stripping on the spot.

    Pilar laughed softly. Turning around to give her some privacy. "He tried." "But you rescued them," Sheridan grinned. Appearing before her in an instant. Radiating with happiness and beauty. "Have fun, Mija," she said. Stroking her cheek affectionately. Smiling after her with love as she bounded out the door.

    She traced a finger down the cool window pane. As she watched her race away on horseback moments later "Don't let them ever taint you," she whispered. She had more goodness in a tiny corner of her heart than Alistair and Julian put together.



    Chapter 2

    "Juliet, you're such a good girl," Sheridan sighed happily. Patting the chesnut mare's neck. The horse neighed in response. And Sheridan laughed softly. "Well I like you, too," she grinned. Sitting tall in the saddle and admiring the beauty around her. "It's so peaceful out here. You know what, Juliet? I think this will be my new secret place. A place to escape to." I have a feeling I'm going to need it, she thought as she leaned down to hug the mare's neck.

    "Do you always talk to animals like that?" Sheridan's blond head jerked in the direction the voice had come from, and she felt the strangest sensation when she found herself looking into a pair of the most gorgeous brown eyes she had ever seen. "Wow," she breathed. Barely a whisper. She raised a hand to her flaming cheeks when the owner of the amazing eyes grinned even wider at her. "Who are you?" she blurted. Her blue eyes darting around for someplace, anyplace to hide. She was making an absolute fool of herself.

    "My name's Luis," the Adonis answered. That was HER name for him. The Adonis. "And you didn't answer my question," he laughed. "What ques.oh! Yes," she admitted sheepishly. Her blue eyes sparkling alluringly. Her lips twisted into a smile, and he felt himself being drawn closer and closer. There was something about her. Something familiar. "Animals always listen when you pour your sorrows out to them."

    Her words were delivered with a smile. But he felt his heart clench at the sadness, the wistfulness in her tone. He reached into his pocket then. Holding his palm out. And talking in a low voice when Juliet nuzzled his hand. "That's a good girl, Juliet." "How did you know her name?" Sheridan asked in surprise. He thought about lying. Teasing her. Telling her SHE had told him the horse's name. But then she would know how long he had been watching her. Staring at her was more like it.

    "Me and Juliet are old friends, aren't we girl?" He laughed at the puzzled expression on her youthful face. "I work at the Crane stables. Help my family out with the bills." "Oh," she said quietly. Was that disappointment he heard in her voice? Her smile was a little less bright. The look in her eyes unreadable. He wondered what she was thinking.

    Father, she thought. What would he think? He'd probably forbid it. Forbid her from talking to a member of the staff. "Hey," Luis asked softly. Giving one of her tanned legs a tug to get her attention again. "Why the face? Was it something I said?" His eyes were drawn to her mouth as she chewed on her bottom lip thoughtfully. "No," she finally uttered. And he felt a rush of relief. That's weird, Luis. Why are you even feeling anything at all? You only met the girl minutes ago.

    "You never did tell me your name," he said. Taking Juliet's bridle in his strong grasp and leading the mare forward. Where are you taking me, Sheridan wondered. But she said nothing. "My name's Sheridan," she said. Sucking in a deep breath at the sight before her. "Oh, it's so beautiful," she whispered in awe. The water rippled in the sunlight. The sound soothing and pleasant to her ears. Juliet lowered her neck and drank from the cool stream. And Sheridan took that opportunity to slide from her mount.

    Luis watched HER. The feeling of familiarity growing with each passing second. When she dipped a slender hand down in the shimmering water and giggled at Juliet's soft nicker, he was hit with the realization that this girl standing at his side.this girl was the same girl from the night before. The same girl who chased the waves into the wee hours of the morning. His heart pounded in his chest and his blood rushed through his veins as he remembered the figure she made in the starlight.

    "You're staring," she teased. Giving him a glowing smile. Slipping her shoes from her feet and wading out into the stream. He shook his head. What was it with this girl and water? "Come on," she called. "It feels wonderful. So crisp and cool," she said. Arching a golden brow at him in challenge. Luis Lopez-Fitzgerald wasn't one to back down from a dare. And it was awfully warm, he rationalized as he felt sweat trickle down his back.

    What the hell, he thought. Pulling his shirt over his head and toeing off his shoes. "Didn't expect me to take you up on your offer, did you?" he smirked at the look of astonishment written across her pretty features. Her blue eyes flashed fire. "Just remember.you asked for it," she said with an impish grin. Asked for what, he wondered. He found out a split-second later. As she thoroughly drenched him and took off running as fast as her legs would take her. And what did he do? The only thing he could do. He chased after her, of course



    Chapter 3



    "Where is that foolish daughter of mine?" Alistair boomed. Bringing his fist crashing down on his antique desk. The glass of brandy shattering on the floor. "Pilar! Get in here and clean this mess now." "Yes, Mr. Crane," Pilar said nervously. Kneeling to the floor and carefully picking up the slivers of broken glass. "Have someone else do that for you," he ordered, "and find my daughter." "Yes, Mr. Crane," Pilar said demurely. Rushing out of the library. And slipping the door shut behind her with a heavy sigh. "Miss Sheridan," she muttered under her breath. "You are in so much trouble."

    "Oh dear," Ivy said sympathetically. "I'm afraid Sheridan's stay here will be filled with incidents such as these. She doesn't belong in this house, Pilar. Surely you must recognize that." Pilar nodded her head slowly. "Damn that miserable father of hers. She'll be devastated when she finds out his plans. That he had an ulterior motive for bringing her home." "What are you talking about, Mrs. Crane?" Pilar questioned. A horrible feeling of dread washing through her. "Mrs. Crane? Who is this Colin person?" Ivy smiled sadly. "They're doing it again, Pilar. They're doing it again," she whispered. Twirling the delicate chain around her neck between her fingers. "You better hurry, Pilar. He's mad enough already."

    No, she thought. He couldn't be that cruel. That heartless. She's only seventeen. Too young to serve out a life sentence like the one he has planned. "Miss Sheridan," she called. "Miss Sheridan," she yelled once more. Squinting against the sun's rays as she walked the short distance to the stables. Following the sound of laughter. "You asked for it," she heard Sheridan say between giggles. What was she talking about, she wondered. Peering around the corner. Her brown eyes widening when she saw Sheridan was soaked to the skin. Her short blond hair matted to her head. "Didn't he, Juliet?" The horse nickered softly in response. He?

    "And I suppose I asked for you to attack me back there, too. Huh? Are you always so full of surprises?" Dios mio! She recognized that voice, she realized. Taking an unsteady step forward and revealing herself. "Pilar," Sheridan said in surprise. Her lips twisted into a smile. "I didn't hear you." She didn't want to do what she was about to. But she had to put a stop to this now. Whatever it was. "I suppose not, Miss Crane." Sheridan's blue eyes looked at her curiously. Unable to understand the coolness of her tone. The formality. Luis's dark eyes hardened. The humor and light disappearing. "Miss Crane?" he said in disbelief. "Yes, silly," Sheridan said in a teasing voice. "Sheridan Crane. Luis? What's wrong? Was it something I said?"

    Luis remained quiet. Motionless. Pilar felt guilt gnaw at her as she saw the hurt creep into Sheridan's blue eyes. Mixing with the confusion there. "Miss Sheridan," she said in a softer voice. "Your father is looking for you. It's very important. He's.he's very disappointed that you missed lunch. He had someone he wanted you to meet." "Oh," Sheridan said. Casting her gaze to the ground. She could tell Pilar was downplaying things a bit. Most likely her father was furious. "I should go then. Bye, Luis," she waved. "See you again sometime?" she said hopefully. Pilar wasn't so sure.

    "A Crane. A damn Crane," Luis ground out after Sheridan disappeared into the grand Mansion. Brushing Juliet down roughly. "Luis.Mijo. It isn't her fault. Don't hold it against her. Sheridan doesn't have a malicious bone in her body." "Why the apology, Mama?" Luis asked tersely. "When it's so obvious. You knew what my reaction would be to hearing her name. And that's exactly why you did it. Don't deny it," he said. His brown eyes glittering with anger. "Mijo.it's better." "Yeah," he interrupted. "It is better. Now I know to keep my distance. Alistair Crane sure as hell doesn't want his princess fooling around with the stable boy. Martin Fitzgerald's son. Not after what he did."

    "Mijo," Pilar said harshly. "You have no proof. No proof that Mr. Crane had anything to do with your father's disappearance. So please.drop it. For my sake. For your brothers' and sisters' sakes." The hard line of Luis's jaw relaxed somewhat. And the tone of his voice softened as he wrapped his strong arms around her. "I'm sorry, Mama. I am. It's just." "I know, Mijo," Pilar said. A finger to his lips. "Get to work," she ordered. "Mr. Crane.Mr. Crane is not in a very forgiving mood today," she sighed. Cupping his cheek tenderly and kissing him goodbye.

    "Bye, Mama," Luis muttered. "When is he ever in a forgiving mood?" he wondered. Stroking Juliet between the ears. He almost felt sorry for Sheridan. Old Man Crane was not going to be happy when he saw her. He couldn't help the smile that tugged at the corners of his lips as he remembered just how she arrived at her present appearance. She sure didn't seem like a Crane. But then.Cranes were good at hiding their true identity. Their true feelings.

    Pilar wiped the perspiration from her brow when she stepped back into the coolness of the mansion. Her heart twisting when she heard the voices down the hall. Of Sheridan. Her father. And this fellow.Colin. With the piercing gray eyes. "You aren't paid to eavesdrop, Pilar," Julian hissed as he passed by. "Go.dust something," he said. His voice dripping with disdain. She ascended the stairs wearily. She would never understand the Crane ways. Never.

    When she returned to the library some minutes, hours later.Sheridan remained. In the darkness. Helpless tears coursing down her pale, smooth cheeks. Staring forward listlessly. "Did you hear, Pilar?" she said tonelessly. Startling her. It was so quiet. An awful stillness but for the sound of Sheridan's gentle sobs. "Hear what, Miss Sheridan?" she asked. Stroking Sheridan's damp blond locks back from her face tenderly.

    Sheridan twisted the ring on her finger nervously. "I'm to be married by the end of the summer," she said brokenly. Focusing her blue gaze on her for the first time. The sheer pain in her eyes ripping Pilar's heart to shreds. Pilar brushed Sheridan's tears away with the pads of her thumb. "Oh, Pilar," Sheridan cried. Crumpling in her arms. "I don't even know him. How could Father do such a thing? Why does he hate me so much?"



    Chapter 4





    "Stop fidgeting," Julian hissed in passing. Raising the glass of brandy to lips and savoring the last drop. "Hi. My name is Julian. And I'm an alcoholic," she muttered under her breath. Shooting a withering glare his way. Why not fidget, she wondered. When she felt like this whole party tonight was really an auction, and she was going to be sold to the highest bidder. Father'd do it, too. Colin Lindsay wasn't the wealthiest heir in Maine. Much less in the country. Father was nothing if not ambitious. She shivered as she saw the man in question walking toward her with forceful steps-Colin at his side. Rubbing her bare arms roughly. the heat outside was sweltering. Why then did she feel like the temperature had just plummeted?

    "Ms. Crane.what a pleasure to see you again," he said. Bringing her hand to his lips. "This," he said. Roving her figure with his icy gray eyes, "is a much better look for you." "Thank you," she whispered. Praying for an escape. She had nothing in common with this.this man. He was fifteen years her senior. Whatever would they talk about? "You do look lovely tonight," her father said. Appearing every bit the doting father. She knew it was all an act. Of course, he thought that. This was the only dress that met his approval. She felt.naked.

    The neckline plunged entirely too low for her tastes. She was afraid the thin spaghetti straps would somehow falter, and she'd flash everyone. It'd taken Pilar a good ten minutes to pick her jaw up from the floor. Her lips twisted into a sardonic smile as she remembered Pilar's softly uttered words of surprise. "Dios mio! Miss Sheridan! You look 25, 26 years old." Father's intention she was sure. If she didn't look seventeen, the press wouldn't have such a fuss. Would they? The ONLY saving grace of the dress was its shocking red color.

    Flashbulbs of what seemed millions of cameras blinded her as picture after picture was taken of the 'happy' couple. Colin's arm around her waist felt foreign. Wrong. Her cheeks hurt from the effort it took to smile. Play the part. Her skin crawled where his thumb stroked the small of her back, and she felt the overwhelming need to cry. She didn't know she had any tears left. Be brave, Sheridan. You can do this. You can. Only a few more pictures. Then you can get out of here. You can leave this nightmare behind. If only for tonight.

    Her sister-in-law smiled at her sympathetically over the top of her flute of champagne. Ethan's blue eyes stared boredly off into space as he posed with his intended. He and Gwen had perfected their smiles for the outside world. They liked each other well enough, Sheridan guessed. At least THEY had that. She had NO such hope, she realized as Colin pulled her into his wooden embrace and led her in an uninspired waltz for the cameras. Her father watched with a pleased smile on his lips. Couldn't he see she was unhappy? Did he even care? The music stopped, and she sighed in relief. Holding an unsteady hand to her brow. "Colin.I feel a little dizzy. With all the dancing and the champagne." "Here.let me help you," he offered. "I can take you to your room." "No. No," she said in a panicked voice. "My dear sister-in-law can help me. Won't you, Ivy?" "Of course, Darling," Ivy smiled. Slipping an arm about her waist and leading her away from all the madness.

    She blinked against the brightness as her room was flooded with light upstairs with one touch of a switch. "You're not really dizzy, are you?" Ivy said knowingly. "No," she whispered. Drawing the curtains back and gazing out the window at the festivities below. Ivy laid a gentle hand on her shoulder. "If you ever need anyone to talk to, Sheridan.I'm here," she said. Giving her a reassuring squeeze. "Thank you," Sheridan replied in a choked voice. Throwing her arms around Ivy's neck. It felt good to know she had SOMEONE on her side. Ivy brushed her tears away from her cheeks and kissed her forehead. "I have to go. You know how your brother gets at these sorts of things. Alistair will kill him and me if I don't keep him under control," she said with a slight smile. "Good night, Sheridan," she called. Shutting the door behind her.

    She hugged her knees close to her chest as she stared out at the starlight. Aching with loneliness. She wished with her whole heart that Mother was here. Alive. She would never let Father do this to her. NEVER. She felt so helpless. So alone. She needed to go someplace. Get out of here. To clear her head. Strengthen her heart for what lay ahead. And maybe find a way out, she thought. Padding over to her bedroom door and chancing a glance outside. She knew the perfect place, she realized as she stole down the hallway and out the servant's entrance into the night air. The perfect place.










    Chapter 5





    "Juliet.you're the only one I can talk to," she sighed. Laying her golden head against the mare's warm neck. Juliet neighed in response, and Sheridan laughed softly at the notion the horse was agreeing with her. She scratched between the horse's ears. "You are," she repeated. Juliet nuzzled her palm. "I love you, too," Sheridan smiled. "Talking to your four-legged friend again?" The smile on Sheridan's face faltered as she remembered Luis's behavior toward her since the revelation she was indeed Alistair Crane's daughter.

    "So what if I am?" she replied coolly. The smirk on Luis's handsome face disappeared. His feelings of distrust and hatred for all things Crane started a slow simmer beneath the surface. He shucked the tuxedo jacket off his shoulders and jerked at the tie around his neck impatiently. "What's wrong? Trouble in paradise?" She looked at him strangely. Confused. Whatever was he talking about?

    "I..I..trouble in paradise? What kind of question is that?" Paradise? By no means. Paradise would be freedom. Paradise would be honesty. Paradise would be knowing someone in this big world loved her. Warts and all. "I bet ole man Crane wouldn't take too kindly to finding out his daughter feigned illness to escape to the stables to continue an ongoing affair with one tall, leggy.HORSE," he sneered. "What would the fiance think?" "He's not my keeper," she blurted angrily. Stepping from the shadows. And Luis lost all train of thought at that moment. He couldn't formulate a single thought besides.the girl didn't know how beautiful she was in the soft glow of the lantern.

    "What? Cat got your tongue, Luis?" she asked. Her tone was teasing. But the look in her eyes. There was so much hurt there. A deep sadness. Something she hid masterfully from the rest of the world. "He's not my keeper," she asserted. Grabbing a curry brush and stroking Juliet's coat gently. He fought the urge to reach out to her when he saw her chin quiver. Her motions slow. "He's not. He's not.Luis.," she said in a whisper. "I don't love him. And does my father care?" Her blue eyes were shimmering with tears. "No," she answered herself. "Father doesn't CARE about me. This engagement.this marriage.is just another way to expand his millions. His power. But you already know that already, don't you?"

    He took the brush from her grasp, and she watched its descent into the hay below. "You hate him. You hate ALL Cranes," she said quietly. And she shivered as he fingered the thin spaghetti straps of her dress. She looked at him. Through him. Waiting expectantly for his answer. "Nevermind," she cried. "Your silence says enough. Leave, Luis. I won't tell Father you skipped out early on your job. Have to save my hide, after all." She swept past him. Rubbing her arms roughly. She couldn't get rid of the coldness.

    "No," he said. Grabbing his tuxedo jacket from its resting place across the top of Juliet's stall. "I don't hate ALL Cranes," he said sincerely. Wrapping the midnight jacket around her shoulders carefully. "I don't hate you," he whispered. Brushing a gentle hand through her hair. Sheridan held her breath. "Hay," he smiled. "You had it in your hair." "Oh," she said in slight disappointment. "Thanks.thank you. You don't.you don't hate me?" she asked in a little girl voice. He pulled her to him without thinking. "I don't hate you," he repeated once more. She clutched his shirt desperately, and seconds later he felt the warmth of her tears seeping through.

    "Enough tears, okay?" he smiled. Wiping her tears away with his thumbs. Sheridan nodded and slipped from his embrace. "Hey.where are you going? I didn't say you could leave." A smile shone through when she realized he was teasing. "Going to hold me prisoner?" "Something like that," he laughed. Cocking his head to the side. "Hear that? The party's still going. The music's still playing. I couldn't help but notice Colin is rather.untalented.when it comes to.hell. The man can't dance."

    Sheridan burst into helpless laughter. "You're being too hard on him. He only broke two of my toes." "Two too many," Luis jested. "So." "So what?" she whispered. Feigning ignorance to his intentions. "Luis!" she squealed when Luis grabbed her hand and brought her close. "Alright," she giggled. "I would love to dance." Luis grinned. Mission accomplished. "I promise I won't break anymore of your lovely toes." And Sheridan laughed and laughed as he twirled her into the night.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2000
    Posts
    489

    Re: Diamonds (Sheridan and Luis)

    Sorry again for the hideous formatting, lack of new paragraphs with new speakers; it's one of the reasons I've not been able to get back into this fic--it hurts MY eyes (lol).

    Hope you enjoy the reread though.

    Any future updates will be much easier on the eyes and done the way they're supposed to be done.










    Chapter 6




    She pulled the blue tank over her head, and snapped the silver bracelet around her wrist. The clock on her nightstand read 11:30. Her ears strained to hear any tell-tale sign. She didn't want to wake anyone. Least of all Father. A giggle escaped her lips as her blue eyes scanned her room. A pillow mound lay where she should be. She crossed her fingers and hoped that would be enough to convince Father she was sound asleep. But then...she didn't have much to worry about. Father never checked on her. The man simply did not care.


    The door creaked a little too loudly. And she was sure her footsteps boomed in the old carpeted hall. She didn't dare breathe. Certain EVERYONE could hear. Finally her hand was on the doorknob, and she sighed in relief. Home free. Just a few more steps. A few more steps to the stables and Juliet. "Sheridan! Whatever are you doing?" She turned around slowly. "Ivy. I...I...I couldn't sleep. And I thought I might take a walk. Clear my head."


    A not altogether false statement, Ivy realized. But she wasn't fooled. She raised a hand to cup Sheridan's cheek. "Sheridan...don't worry. Your secret is safe with me." Sheridan's blue eyes melted. Ivy smiled at her sister-in-law's impromptu hug. "Thank you," Sheridan breathed. "You're the only one that understands." "Run along now," Ivy advised. "I'll make sure no one sees you." She watched Sheridan's slim figure disappear in the darkness. "I do understand, Sheridan. You have no idea how much."


    "Hi Juliet," Sheridan greeted with a smile. "Are you ready girl? Time to go see Luis. Remember him?" "Of course she remembers me. I'm not the kind of guy you forget." "Luis! Don't do that again! You scared me. For a second I thought you were Father," she trembled. "He'd send me away. Lock me up until my wedding day. Don't think he wouldn't." "I wouldn't put anything past the bastard. Look...Sheridan. I'm sorry," he whispered. "I won't do it again. I promise," he said seriously. Bringing her hand up to his lips.


    Sheridan's blue eyes fluttered closed. And a glorious smile lit up her pretty features. Her hand tingled where Luis's lips had touched it. "I believe you," she whispered. Luis grinned at her. "Good. I mean it." Luis's hand brushed against hers when he ran it down Juliet's saddle and cinched it. She smiled when he let fingers linger against hers. Then jerked them away. He felt it too. Luis put one foot in the stir-up and was soon astride Juliet. "Ready?" he smiled. Offering his hand. Her blue eyes shone as she took it trustingly. And snuggled against his warmth. Resting her chin on his shoulder as he navigated Juliet out of the stable.


    The stars were their guiding light. Sheridan wondered if she had seen such a beautiful night in her lifetime and decided no. She hadn't. "You aren't falling asleep on me?" Luis teased. "We're almost there." Sheridan slipped her arms around his waist. "No," she murmured. "I was just thinking...the stars are so beautiful, Luis. The sounds...they comfort me." She could see the smile stretching across Luis's lips. "Lo-Fitz! Are you laughing at me?" Luis winced when she pinched his arm. "Serves you right," she giggled.


    Juliet neighed, and Luis could hear water rippling up ahead. He dismounted and held his arms out for Sheridan. Groaning as her lithe body came into contact with his. She was so soft. "Luis," she laughed nervously. No man had ever looked at her the way Luis was looking at her now. What was that emotion in his beautiful amber eyes? "You can let me go now," she whispered. Still...she was disappointed when his hands fell from her waist.


    "Luis. Aren't you coming in?" she asked as she stripped her tank from her body. Luis chuckled at her muffled words. "LUIS!" she shrieked when he grabbed her up in his arms and plunged into the water. "Just for that..." Luis gasped for air when he resurfaced. The little minx dunked him. "Sheridan," he teased as he waded out to her. "You can run but you can't hide," he warned. A dangerous gleam in his dark eyes.


    She giggled helplessly as slapped her hands in the water. Trying to deter him. Of course it didn't work. And who said she wanted it to. "I got you!" Luis cried triumphantly. "You got me," she repeated. Staring up at him with those hypnotic blue eyes. "I do, don't I?" he laughed. Brushing her wet golden curls from her face. Sheridan sighed and leaned into his touch. Luis breathed in sharply at her closeness. What was happening to him? Why did he want to hold her like this forever? Her pouty pink lips were just begging to be kissed. And he knew she would let him.


    "Luis," she whispered as his lips inched closer to hers. "Shh," he hushed. Sliding his fingers to the nape of her neck and pulling her closer still. "Luis," she sighed as his lips brushed feather-light kisses on her cheeks. Down her jaw. "Don't talk," he smiled. Quieting her with a finger on her lips. "I'm going to kiss you now, Sheridan. May I kiss you?" Her blue eyes were luminous in the starlight, and a droplet of water clung to her upper lip. Her lips parted, and she closed her eyes. She WANTED him to kiss her. More than anything else in the world. "Yes," she uttered. Luis framed her face with his big hands and nuzzled her nose with his own. "I've never been kissed before, Luis. I won't let Colin kiss me."


    Her words were like cold harsh reality slapping him in the face. "Colin." Sheridan raised a hand to her lips. "I don't want him to kiss me. I don't want anybody but y..." "Sheridan. Get out of the water," he said tonelessly. "Get your things. I'm taking you home." "But Luis..." she choked. "I thought...are you angry with me?" "No. I'm not angry with you, Sheridan. Leave it alone. Okay?" Tears shimmered in her eyes, and he felt like the biggest jerk alive. But he couldn't. Couldn't kiss her. Not when she belonged to another man. "Okay," she whispered. Wading past him. "Sheridan," he grabbed her arm. "I didn't mean to hurt you. It's just..." She gently removed his hand from her arm. "I know, Luis. Forget about it. I'll be okay. If you don't mind...I'd rather walk home." "But Sheridan..." "Luis..." "Okay." Why did he feel like he was letting his world walk away?









    Chapter 7



    Luis wiped the sweat from his brow with a groan. It was so damn hot. The hottest summer Harmony had ever experienced. The sun beat down relentlessly. Making the unpleasant aroma that lingered in the stables even more...disgusting. He laid the pitchfork against the stall's wooden wall. Juliet shook her head at him. Her wise brown eyes staring at him. "You know...," Luis said. Looking each direction to make sure no one heard him. "I wouldn't be doing this if I didn't like you. Just a little bit. You stink," he sighed. Scratching the mare between the ears affectionately. "What would SHE think?" Juliet whinnied. "I know. I miss her, too," Luis frowned. Since that night...and their almost kiss...he hadn't seen hide nor hair of Sheridan for almost 2 weeks. And he couldn't help but worry about her. "I never meant to hurt her," he told the horse with a pat to the neck. "But maybe things are better this way. She's engaged to someone else. It wouldn't be right."



    "What wouldn't be right?" Luis's brown eyes met the blue green eyes of the Lady of the House. Ivy Crane. "Mrs. Crane...what can I do for you?" Somehow...despite the unbearable heat...the woman managed to look cool. And that only served to strengthen Luis's conviction. The woman truly was an Ice Queen. "Answer my question, Luis. What wouldn't be right?" Luis scoffed at her. "Forgive me for saying this, Mrs. Crane. But that is none of your damn business." Ivy stepped closer, and Luis thought he saw a crack in her façade "You're wrong, Luis. Sheridan is my business. This has to do with her, doesn't it? Something happened between you two. I've wondered why she stopped visiting you." "Visiting me..." "Luis," Ivy rolled her eyes. "Sheridan loves Juliet. But I hardly think she'd slip out in the middle of night to come see her. No. It's you. You're the one. What happened? She won't open up to me." Luis ignored her. Picking up the pitchfork once more. "Time is running out, Luis. The
    wedding is only 6 weeks away," she shot back over her shoulder. "Just remember...she needs you. And it's not wrong."



    Luis kicked at the hay at his feet in irritation. As if he didn't feel bad enough. His feelings a jumbled mess. Mama. Mama could help, he thought. Leaving the stables with purposeful steps. Voices reached him as he neared the big house. And as he rounded the corner, he came face to face with the owner of one voice in particular that made his heart jump. "Hi, Luis," Sheridan whispered. Casting her blue eyes downward. "Sheridan..." "Excuse me," a snide voice interrupted. "I don't think we've met. Colin Lindsay. And you are?" "Luis Lopez-Fitzgerald," Luis answered. Wiping his hand off on the leg of his jeans and offering his hand. Colin looked at it with disdain, and Luis's hand fell back to his side. "Luis works in the stables," Sheridan said quietly. "He's Pilar's son." "Pilar? I can't seem to place her," Colin said boredly. "Aha! The head housekeeper! The one you're so fond of. Luis...how do you think your mother would like coming to work for us. After the wedding, of course." Luis's jaw clenched. Sheridan bowed her head in shame. "Colin! There you are," Julian called. "Would you care to share a brandy?" Colin kissed Sheridan dryly on the cheek. "Darling...aren't you coming?" "I'll be right there," Sheridan replied weakly.



    Luis grabbed Sheridan's elbow and steered her to a more secluded section of the gardens. "Where's the Sheridan I know? Are you just going to give up without a fight?" Sheridan raised tearful blue eyes to him. "A fight for what, Luis? I have nothing. Nothing to fight for. Do I?" she choked. "Father's right. Colin will take care of me. I'll give him a couple heirs. Then I'll have my freedom. And someone to love me." "Sheridan," Luis spat in anger. Shaking her roughly by the shoulders. "Do you hear yourself? My god! What has he done to you?" "Nothing, Luis. Nothing at all," she snapped. Jerking from his hold. "I just finally realized...this is my life. The life I was born to. I can't walk away from it. No matter..." "No matter what, Sheridan? Tell me you don't want this. Tell me the girl I know...the girl I...that girl is still in there. Please," he pleaded. Pulling her into the shadows with him. "Tell me..." he whispered. Delving his hands into her short blond curls and searching her blue eyes. She trembled under his gentle touch. Clung to him for support as his lips inched closer to hers. "No!" she cried. Shoving him away. "No. It's too late, Luis. There's nothing you can do," she cried. Turning to go. Escape. "You're wrong, Sheridan. It's not too late. If you can bring yourself to believe that...I'll be waiting. You know where to find me." "Goodbye, Luis."






    Chapter 8







    Somehow…during the interminable bus ride she had fallen asleep, he realized with a smile. Nameless cities whirred past. Their lights low. The whole world was sleeping. But for him. His mind was too busy. What had he done? What had they done? He couldn’t close his eyes. Then reality would set in. For the first time in his life, he jumped without looking. What did the future hold? Would they ever be able to outrun their past? Was it possible?



    “Luis?” Her blue eyes were puffy from sleep. Her blond curls tousled. He raised a hand and brushed his knuckles across her cheek. “You have a red spot. Right there,” he teased. “From where you were leaning against the window.” “And my neck hurts, too,” she pouted. “Where are we?” she asked softly. Trailing a hand down the window. “What time is it?” He laughed, and she looked at him curiously. “So many questions. I’m not sure where we are,” he answered. “But we’re going south. We’re hours away from them, Princess. What?” Luis asked curiously at the look on her face. “Nothing,” she murmured with a coy smile. Princess.



    “Luis…you never answered my other question,” she yawned. “It’s early,” he smirked. “Too early. Go back to sleep, Sheridan.” She shifted around in the seat for several minutes. “Luis…I can’t get comfortable. Can I…” He held his arms open, and she snuggled close. Her head resting above his heart. “Thank you, Luis.” The steady beat of his heart lulled her back to sleep. Luis buried his nose in her soft hair and breathed in deeply. “Holding you feels too good.”



    The bus lurched to a stop. Wheels screeching. “Wake up, Sleepyhead,” he teased. “Luis,” Sheridan whined as he slid an arm around her waist and tugged her up. She leaned against him heavily. “We’re here.” “Where’s here?” she grumbled. Rubbing the sleep from her eyes. “Let’s go find out,” he grabbed her hand. She threw her backpack over her shoulder and followed.



    “Luis! The sun’s coming up!” she said excitedly. Dropping her backpack to the ground beside her. “Sher…Wait!” He grasped the key that dangled from the manager’s pinkie and shoved it into his pocket. His feet sank deep into the sand as he trudged forward. His dark eyes searching. And finding her. Frolicking in the waves. “It’s so beautiful,” she whispered in awe. Dropping down beside him. Sea water dripping and trickling down her arms. Her blue eyes shining. “Sunset or sunrise?” “You first,” he grinned. “Sunrise. The beginning of a new day,” she explained. “But I love the sunset, too. Especially over the ocean. It’s amazing. All the colors stretching for forever. What about you, Luis?” “Sunrise,” he said. Staring into her eyes. Especially the glow it gave HER.



    “Thank you, Luis,” she whispered. “Thank you for…” “Thank me for what? You made the decision. It was all you.” “Well…thank you anyway,” she laughed. Swiping at the bothersome tears that escaped despite her best effort. “And it wasn’t all me,” she refuted stubbornly. Brown eyes stared into blue, and Luis felt something pulling him closer. Inch by inch. His eyes shifted to her lips, and his hand rose of its own volition to cup her jaw. He could almost taste her on his lips when…Sheridan’s stomach growled. And she doubled over in a fit of laughter. “I’m hungry, Luis.” He pulled her to her feet. “Come on.”



    “Forgetting something, Princess?” “What?” Sheridan shrugged her shoulders. “We can’t go in anywhere looking like this,” he said. Pointing at her with a smile. “Hey! You don’t look so good yourself, Lo-Fitz!” she shot back. “I’m not dripping wet and covered with sand either,” he retorted. “No sand, huh? How’d you manage that little magic trick, Luis? Sounds impossible to me.” “Okay, Smartypants. So I do have a little sand on me, but you…you look like $#!^,” he smirked. “UH! Take it back! Right now,” she demanded. Advancing on him. “Okay…you look…I can’t take it back,” he grinned. “I’d be lying.” “Luis,” Sheridan’s blue eyes flashed angrily. But Luis wasn’t fooled. She wanted so hard to laugh.



    “Fine. I look…awful,” she conceded. “Just give me my room key so I can go get cleaned up. Please,” she pleaded. Luis dangled the single key in front of her nose. “Where’s mine?” she asked puzzledly. “We’re not…Luis! Where will you sleep?” “If you think I’m giving up the bed for you…” “Well you’re not sleeping WITH me,” she grumbled. No, Luis thought. Definitely not that. Maybe he SHOULD get another room. This might prove to be a problem. He couldn’t think straight when she was too close. Like she was right now. “No,” he rolled his eyes. “Listen…we’ll work this out later. I thought you said you were hungry.” “I am,” Sheridan whined. When he snatched the key back out of her reach. “Luis! Give me the key!”



    “No way. You’re not going in the room like THAT.” “Ugh!” Sheridan groaned. Doing her best impersonation of a spoiled brat. Apparently hours and hours on a Greyhound bus didn’t agree with her. “And how am I going to fix that?” she snapped. Luis picked up the hose at his feet. “Luis…Luis…NO!” she shrieked as he twisted the nozzle and icy water jetted out. Drenching her. “I am so going to get you for that,” she chattered. Wrestling him for the hose. Luis trapped her between his arms and pushed her up against the wall. Directing the spray at her with an evil grin. “What’s the matter, Princess?” he teased. As she tried desperately to escape. Her soft body wiggling against him. “Luis,” she begged. “Please…please stop,” she shivered. He turned the nozzle off and let it drop to the ground. That damn pull again. He was beginning to think it was useless to fight it. His hands framed her face. His lips barely grazed hers…”Get a room!” a grizzled faced old man barked. “We already…damn,” he swore under his breath when he realized what she had done. “Little minx. Sheridan!” he yelled. Jogging to catch up with her. “Great,” he muttered to himself. Girls always used up all the hot water. Didn’t matter, though. A cold shower seemed more in order anyway.


    The hours until nightfall passed so slowly...Luis was certain it was an eternity. What the hell was he thinking? Running away with the Crane Princess? "Well, Luis...looks like you don't have to worry about that. She's not coming." The water rippled in front of him. Silver in the twilight. "It was a stupid idea anyway. What can you give her? Nothing. Ten more minutes, Luis. Give her ten more minutes. Maybe she got held up." Ten more minutes crawled by. The hands on his watch ticked by at an excruciating pace. "Forget it. She's not coming," he sighed. His shoulders drooping with disappointment. He picked up a smooth stone and watched as it skipped across the brook. And raised his eyes to the heavens. He'd already passed his chance up..."Luis! Luis! Wait! Please don't go!" Her small hand fit perfectly in his, and she gave him a nervous smile. "I knew she was still in there," he teased as he brushed her hair from her brow and placed a tender, lingering kiss there. "Hurry. We don't have much time." And so began Sheridan's second chance. His second chance. Their second chance.






    Chapter 9





    “Did you enjoy your cold shower, Luis?” Sheridan smirked at him across the booth. Luis rolled his eyes at her and buried his nose in the menu. After several minutes…he threw it down on the counter. “Bit of a staring problem you have there, Miss.” Sheridan laughed. Picking up the ketchup bottle beside her and aiming it at Luis. “I don’t think you want to mess with me, Mister,” she arched a golden brow. Luis couldn’t help the wide smile that dominated his face. “Put that down.” “No,” Sheridan refused. Holding the ketchup bottle way in the air. Over her head. “Make me,” she challenged. Luis’s hands reached out. Grabbing at nothing but air. “Ahem.”



    Sheridan straightened up and set the ketchup bottle down at the waitress’s icy glare. “Hi,” she said in a monotone voice. “My name is Susan, and I’m your waitress for this morning. What can I get you?” Sheridan raised a hand to her mouth and turned her head away. She didn’t mean to laugh. Really, she didn’t. “Ha, ha,” Susan rolled her eyes. “Your order?” Luis shot a warning look Sheridan’s way. “Good morning, Susan,” he said diplomatically. She stared back at him without expression. “Uh…I’d like…let’s see,” he said. Studying the menu. “I’d like #3. What about you, Sh…Sherry?” The look on Sheridan’s face was priceless. Her blue eyes sparkled mischievously as she grinned back at him after a moment. “Hmm…no eggs and bacon for me this morning, Luigi.” Luis choked on his coffee. “I’ll have the French toast,” she smiled up at Susan. “Will that be all?” “Yes,” Sheridan said brightly.



    “Someone woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning,” she said in a low voice. “Luigi? What the hell kind of name is that? Come on,” Luis grimaced. “Surely, you can do better than that. And what’s wrong with Sherry anyway? It’s cute.” “Cute? Cute, Luis?” Sheridan threw up her hands. “Gee. You don’t know me that well, huh? I HATE cute.” “Oh really?” Luis teased. Leaning in closer to her. “Well, you look pretty CUTE when you’re mad.” Sheridan crossed her arms around her chest and glared at him. Who wanted to look cute anyway? That just proved it. Luis thought she was a kid. She’d rather look sexy. “Uh oh,” she grumbled. “Here comes Eeyore again.” Luis barely contained his laughter as he took his plate from Susan’s hands.



    “Okay! That’s it! I’m through with this damn place! I quit!” she yelled. Yanking her apron over her head and tossing it over her shoulder. Sheridan’s blue eyes were wide. “I never meant for THAT to happen.” A pudgy little man with the longest mustache Sheridan had ever seen waddled over and started arguing heatedly with Susan. Luis ducked his head and nibbled on a piece of bacon. Sheridan cowered in the corner of the booth when she heard her name mentioned. Finally Susan stomped out, and the diner door bounced back open she slammed it so hard. “What am I going to do?” the little man worried as he trudged back into the kitchen.



    “Luis,” Sheridan hissed. “I feel so bad.” Luis slid a hand across the table and squeezed hers. “Don’t worry about it. At least she wasn’t fired.” “But…” “It wasn’t your fault. She obviously wasn’t happy here.” Sheridan stabbed at her syrup-drenched French toast distractedly. “If you’re not going to eat that I will,” Luis declared. Pulling her plate away from her playfully. “Luis,” she cried. Blue eyes sparkling. “I said I was hungry. I’ll eat it,” she laughed. “Give it back.” Luis picked up a dripping piece and closed his lips around the fork. “Mmm. Mmm. Good,” he moaned. For her benefit, of course. Before he could blink an eye, Sheridan was crammed into the tiny seat beside him. Fighting him for the fork. “Luis,” she pouted. He picked up the fork again and brought it to her lips. “Luis,” Sheridan giggled. “I can feed myself.” She laughed helplessly as he slipped the fork past her lips. “Good?” he smiled at her. Taking his napkin and wiping the sticky syrup from the corner of her mouth. “Very good,” she whispered.



    He pushed her plate back over to her, and they finished their breakfast in comfortable silence. Well…Luis was sure it was comfortable for her. He was having a dandy time keeping his hands to himself. “Luis,” Sheridan mumbled around a mouthful of food. “I thought they taught you better manners at boarding school,” he teased. Sheridan rolled her eyes at him. This was getting to be a common occurrence between them, he realized with a grin. “Seriously, Luis. What do we do now? You know…money. A place to stay.” “I talked to the manager about doing some odd jobs for him while you were in the shower. That’ll help a little. And he said we could rent out the room.” Sheridan sighed. At least it was clean. But it was SO different from what she was used to. “What about me? What’ll I do?”



    Luis shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t know yet. I can take care of you.” “Lo-Fitz! I’m not this child you have to pamper.” “Who said anything about pampering?” Luis grinned. Like a true smartass, Sheridan thought. Huffing in pure irritation. “I mean it, Luis,” she growled. “I can’t just sit around doing NOTHING all day.” Isn’t that what you did at the Crane Mansion back in Harmony, Luis thought. But didn’t dare say. It’d be off with his head then. “Don’t worry,” he told her. “We’ll find you a job. Although…what exactly you’re qualified for…I don’t know,” he said slyly. “Ouch!” he yelped when she socked him in the shoulder. “If you’ll excuse me,” she announced. “I have to use the ladies’ room.” Luis slid out behind her. “I’ll wait for you outside.”



    He waited. And waited. And waited. Finally, when he was on the brink of giving up and going back inside, she burst through the diner’s door. “Luis!” she exclaimed. “Guess what?” To borrow a phrase from his mother…Dios Mio! This couldn’t be good. “What, Princess?” Her blue eyes twinkled at him. “I got a job! I got a job!” she said excitedly. Luis blinked twice. Three times. “They…he…hired YOU,” he stammered. Sheridan tilted her head to the side and studied him. “So? Are you saying I can’t do it?” He burst into laughter. “You? The Crane Princess? A waitress?” Sheridan’s eyes flashed at him. Angrily. “What’s so unbelievable about that?” He just shook his head. “A lot of things,” he muttered under his breath. “I’ll prove you wrong, Luis. Just wait and see,” she shot over her shoulder as she left him in the dust. Crossing the street to their hotel. “Stubborn,” he shook his head with a smile. Mama always told him he was stubborn. It looked like he had finally met his match. He jogged across the street after her. Might as well enjoy their last day of freedom. Their brand-new life officially started tomorrow.




    Chapter 10







    “Sheridan…Sheridan…” Luis nudged her shoulder gently. “Sheridan…what time did you say you had to be at the diner?” “Luis,” Sheridan moaned. Burying her rumpled blond head beneath the flat hotel pillow. “Leave me alone.” He grinned and continued nudging her. “Luis,” she grumbled. Peering out from under the pillow. Murder in her sleepy blue eyes. “Stop doing THAT! Do you have any idea what time it is? It’s still dark outside!” “Exactly,” Luis answered. “And if memory serves me correctly…you’re expected at ‘work’ bright and early.” Sheridan flopped over onto her side and stared at him. “Really,” she said sarcastically. “Well…it’s not bright,” she remarked. Yanking the covers back over her head. “I knew you couldn’t do it,” Luis shook his head. “I had you pegged all wrong. You’re just another rich girl who’s afraid to get her hands dirty.”



    “Take it back,” came her muffled voice. “And if I don’t?” he challenged. “You’ll be sorry,” she threatened. “Oh…I’m so scared,” he taunted. “If you’re so tough, come out of hiding and make good on your threats. Didn’t think so,” he said. Rising from the lumpy mattress and walking towards the bathroom. “I said take it back!” Sheridan cried. And Luis yelped in surprise to find a very angry blond attached to his back. Long tanned legs wrapped around his waist. “Sherry,” he teased. “I thought rich girls had better breeding,” he egged her on. Running his hands down her calves to the soles of her feet. “Are you ticklish, Sherry?” “Luis,” she growled. “I’m warning you…” “You were saying?” he grinned when she shrieked with helpless laughter and squirmed to get away.



    “Ugh! You’re so…so…you make me so mad,” she glared at him. Picking up her forgotten pillow and bringing it down forcefully over his head. He grabbed at her, and she squealed and darted across the room. “Luis! Quit torturing me!” she laughed from the other side of the room. “Why? It’s fun,” he grinned. “Luis…I have to take a shower. I’m going to be late. I don’t want to get fired my first day.” “Now you’re worried about work. What’s the matter, Princess? Scared?” She straightened up and put on a brave face. “Me?” she scoffed. “Scared?” she threw the pillow down and walked around the bed. Coming to a stop just inches from him. "Do I look scared to you, Luis?” she smirked.



    He looked her up and down and swallowed hard. No. She didn’t look scared. HE was the one suddenly scared as hell, he realized as his brown eyes traveled up the length of her long legs. “You’re wearing my shirt,” he said. “So,” she smiled. “I forgot my pjs. Big deal,” she rolled her blue eyes at him. His shirt was all she was wearing it seemed…oh god, he gulped. Turning away. She’s a kid, Luis. Let it go. “Luis?” she questioned. “Is something wrong? Look. If it’s that big of a deal, you can have your shirt back. Here. I’ll give it to you now if you want,” she told him “Just…uh…don’t turn around until I get something on.” Damn. His imagination was getting the better of him, he thought. Groaning inwardly.



    He heard the bathroom door click shut. Then her voice. “Luigi,” she teased. “You can turn around now.” The shower started running, and he looked around the cramped space they shared. This was NOT going to work. He had to find some way to keep himself busy. So busy he wouldn’t be able to even think about giving in to temptation. He glanced at the watch on his wrist. Still early yet. A few extra minutes wouldn’t kill him, he thought as he scribbled a note on a piece of paper and rested it against the lamp on the night stand.



    Sheridan came out of the bathroom refreshed and ready to begin her new job. Well…as ready as she’d ever be. She sighed in disappointment when she read Luis’s note and realized he’d already left. “I wanted to ask you if this looked alright for a waitress,” she murmured. Appraising her appearance once more in the mirror in front of her. “Hmm,” she muttered. Smoothing down her short black skirt. “Maybe this skirt IS a little short. But it’s the closest thing to ‘appropriate’ I have.” She buttoned the last button on her white blouse and clasped the earrings in her ears. “How hard can it be?” she told her reflection. Pushing down the butterflies that fluttered in her stomach. “Just smile, Sheri…Sherry. And take their order. It’s not like you’re going to have to actually cook the food yourself. Isn’t that a relief?” It’d be awful to burn the diner down her first day on the job, she thought with a smile as she slipped out the front door. Terrible. But she was going to have better luck than that. And Luis would have to eat his words.



    Better luck! How wrong could she have been? It seemed her first day was one of the busiest days the tiny diner had seen in weeks. And she and Alison (much nicer than Susan to her relief) were the only two people working! What was it with waitresses quitting this job? Oh yeah…she got it, she thought as she leaned over the counter to scrub the remainders of her last customers’ meals off the table. The people were downright rude. Little kids never liked to actually eat their food with forks or spoons or in their plates for that matter. And disgusting losers making passes at them all day. Well…that was just in HER limited experience. Add that to 5 broken plates, a whole tray of drinks dumped in this really nice guy’s lap (he could have KILLED her…but he didn’t), and oh yeah…nearly burning the kitchen down when Mr. Izzaria took five (more like ten) to smoke.



    “Hey kid,” Alison called from the front. “Someone’s here for ya. Wowza,” she whistled under his breath. “That Luigi?” she smacked on her gum. Twirling a strand of her auburn hair around a pink nail. Sheridan wiped her brow with the back of her hand and trudged over to stand beside her. “That’s him,” she answered with a wide smile. Luis was going to kill her for saying his name was Luigi. But not even that fact could sober her. Just hearing that name threatened to crack her up. Alison licked her lips as Luis walked towards them. “Sherry,” he said. Grinning at her messy appearance. Blond hair curling wildly about her face. Her white blouse stained a rainbow of colors. “Looks like you had a good first day,” he laughed. Alison giggled and fawned over Luis. She sounded like a hyena, Sheridan thought with a frown. “Kids just love to throw stuff, you know?” Luis’s brown eyes twinkled as he looked into hers. “I haven’t had the pleasure…,” he said. Taking Alison’s hand and bringing it to his lips. Sheridan bristled at his actions. Sure, Luis. Pour on the charm, she thought with a frown. “The pleasure’s all mine,” she purred.



    “So…are you ready?” he asked. Stuffing his hands in the pockets of his jeans. “Give me just a few more minutes,” she sighed. “I still have a couple tables in back,” she nodded her head. “That’s okay,” Luis shrugged his shoulders. “Hey Luigi,” Alison batted her lashes. “You look like a hungry guy. Can I get you anything?” Sheridan narrowed her blue eyes at her. Okay…maybe Alison wasn’t so nice after all. She was falling all over Luis. And for all she knew, Luis was her boyfriend. Taken. So what was with the obvious flirting? She was so busy staring at the pair the sound of another plate shattering on the floor almost gave her a heart attack. “Great! Just great!” Mr. Izzaria yelled. “Kid…you’re not going to have any money left in your paycheck by the time you’re finished paying for all the damages.” “I’m sorry, Mr. Izzaria. I wasn’t…” The corners of Mr. Izzaria’s mouth turned down humorlessly as he caught her glance at Luis. And her eyes fill with tears. “Just don’t let it happen again,” he advised. Waddling towards the kitchen. “And Kid?” Sheridan blinked back the tears. “Yes, Mr. Izzaria?” “You got a lot of growing up to do if you’re going to catch up to that one.” Sheridan wiped at her tears with the corner of her apron. Who said she wanted to? She set the rest of the dishes on the counter and approached Luis. “I’m finished.” Luis held up a hand to her. “I’ll see you later,” he said absently. “Alison offered to show me around town.” She pushed past him out the door. “You can come with us…if you want,” Alison called as an afterthought. But Sheridan was already gone.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2000
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    489

    Re: Diamonds (Sheridan and Luis)

    Chapter 11








    It was after midnight…way past midnight…when Luis slipped inside their hotel room. Smelling like smoke and cheap perfume. “Sheridan…are you still awake?” he hissed in the darkness. She shut her eyes tight and forced herself to breathe evenly. “Guess not,” he mumbled. Stripping his shirt over his head. He groaned when he spotted Alison’s fuschia lipstick on his collar. How was he going to get THAT out without Sheridan seeing it and getting the wrong idea? He’d never been…MAULED…like that before. Alison had practically attacked him. He couldn’t deny he deserved part of the blame. He wasn’t exactly unwilling. But the weirdest thing…when he kissed her back…it was Sheridan’s lips beneath his. Her blue eyes he stared into. “Dammit, Luis. You have to stop that.”




    Stop what, Sheridan wondered as she listened to him move around the room. Her heart thumped against her ribcage when she caught a glimpse of his naked back as he walked past her into the bathroom. The door clicked shut, and she released a sigh of relief when she heard the shower running. She stared up at the ceiling. Noting absently the cracks there. Why did she have to feel this way? Why was she so…jealous? She hated being jealous. Luis wasn’t even hers. But you ran away with him, Sheridan, her brain supplied. He’s got to be something to you. You dropped everything and followed him down here. Maybe not the ends of the earth. But she knew all it’d take was one word. Just one word, and she’d follow him anywhere. Why was that?




    The water in the bathroom ceased running, and she buried her face in her pillow once more. She wanted so badly to cry. She could scarcely breathe around the lump in her throat. Why did she feel this terrible ache? Hot tears slid down her cheeks as she felt the mattress shift beneath his weight. “Sheridan?” Luis whispered once more in the darkness. And her shoulders quaked at the concern in his voice. She was so confused. Jealous. And maybe…maybe even a little bit homesick. Though she didn’t know why. “Sheridan,” Luis sighed. Combing his fingers through her hair. “Are you crying, Princess?” She came undone. Sobbing openly as he slid his arms around her waist from behind and rested his chin on her bare shoulder. “Don’t. I can’t stand to see you cry.”




    Luis sighed and kissed her damp cheeks. “Shh. Don’t cry. Everything’s going to work out. You’ll see.” Sheridan turned around in his arms and gazed up at him with big, tear-filled blue eyes. “Sheridan,” he whispered. Brushing her tears away gently with the pads of his thumbs. “Talk to me,” he pleaded softly. Threading his fingers through hers and bringing their joined hands to his lips. She shook her head and tried to avoid his searching brown eyes. “No, you don’t,” he said. Grasping her chin and forcing her to look at him. “Tell me what’s wrong.” She looked at him with glittering, sad blue eyes. “Luis…I don’t…”




    “Spit it out,” he told her. “I can’t,” Sheridan muttered under her breath. Growing angrier by the minute. It was too embarrassing. Mortifying, actually. “Luis…leave me alone. It’s not like you care anyway. If you cared, you wouldn’t have been out with Alison all night.” Luis grabbed her hand and held it down with his own beside her blond head on the pillow. Grinning at her broadly. She was jealous! “Aww…the little girl is jealous,” he teased. Sheridan’s jaw set stubbornly, and she struggled against him. “I’m not a little girl,” she protested heatedly. “Luis! Leave me alone,” she demanded when he grabbed her other wrist and held it above her head. His deep brown eyes shining with mischief.




    “What’s the matter?” he taunted. “Ugh! Luis…if you don’t let go right now,” she ground out between clenched teeth, “I swear you’ll live to regret it.” Luis smiled wider and leaned in closer. Unbearably closer. Sheridan held her breath as his mouth hovered over hers. “Luis, please,” she cried. Fresh tears stinging the corners of her eyes. “Don’t…” “Don’t what?” he breathed. Staring at her full pink lips.




    “Don’t play games with me.” He sighed guiltily and leaned his forehead against hers. Releasing her wrists and running his hands down her arms. Then trailing his knuckles across her cheeks. “I’m sorry,” he apologized. Kissing her forehead and turning over to lie on his back.




    “Come here,” he whispered. Pulling her into his arms. “Shh, Sheridan,” he soothed. “Go to sleep. Close those pretty blue eyes and relax. Forget all about today. All of it.” No more Alison, he thought silently. “Forget everything bad, and just concentrate on the good. You doing that?” he asked. Tipping her chin up with the tips of his fingers. “Yes,” she said with just the hint of a smile. “What are you thinking about?” he ventured curiously. “No. Wait,” he laughed. “Water and Juliet.” Sheridan shook her head with a smile. Her laughter music to Luis’s ears. “That’s not all,” she admitted. Tucking her head back under his chin. Yawning. And listening to his heart thud inside his chest. “But I’m not going to tell you,” she said in a teasing voice. Not going to tell him HE was her good thought. “Fine. Be that way,” Luis grumbled good-naturedly. “Go to sleep, Luis,” Sheridan whispered. And he did. A matching smile on his face.









    Chapter 12






    Sheridan finished counting her day’s tips with a sigh. Not bad. Not bad at all. Especially considering she’d only been on the job a mere 3 weeks. Alison’s blue eyes narrowed as Sheridan stuck the wad of cash in the front of her apron. She’d liked the kid well enough the first few days, but when it became clear she was stealing what was supposed to be HER limelight, the green-eyed monster had attacked with a vengeance. It was Sherry this, Sherry that. And frankly she was sick of it. She’d campaigned behind the little bitch’s back to get her fired. With good reason in her opinion. Just how many plates had she broken in 3 weeks? A Guinness record, for sure. But Mr. Izzaria wouldn’t hear of it. He claimed what Sherry lacked in skill she made up for it in charm in spades, and she was a customer favorite. Charm, she thought. Inspecting her pink nails boredly and smacking on the wad of bubblegum in her mouth. SHE had charm that put dear Sherry to shame!




    The bells at the front chimed, and she turned her attention to the number one reason she wanted Sherry out of the picture. The sinfully handsome guy currently smiling at the girl like she was all that mattered in this world. “Hey Luigi,” she waved. She crossed her arms across her chest angrily when he waved back distractedly and returned to the brat. Mr. Izzaria shook his head. The girl beside him was trouble with a capital T. Too bad he couldn’t afford to let her go. “Mr. Izzaria,” Sherry crossed the small distance to stand in front of them, “is it alright if I cut out early? There’s a carnival tonight, and…” “Sherry, Sherry,” he interrupted her breathless plea. “Go. Alison will finish up here. Won’t you?” he asked. Shooting her a look that warned…NO ARGUMENTS. “Yeah…I’ll finish up here. Go have fun, Sherry,” she said sweetly. Plastering her best fake smile on her lips.




    Luis waited outside their room while she changed clothes. Listening to the waves surging against the shore. Breathing deeply of the salty air. It reminded him of home. Harmony. And for an instant, he was hit with a terrible feeling of homesickness. The guilt racked through him as he thought of his mama back home. His candle probably joined Papa’s and Antonio’s candles. “Luis? Luis? Is something wrong?” Sheridan’s voice broke through the fog. He looked down at her small hand on his arm. Light on dark. It was strangely mesmerizing. “Luis? We don’t have to go to this carnival…” “Sheridan,” he shook his head. “We’re going, and that’s it. I think we’ve earned a little fun. Don’t you?” Her blue eyes sparkled alluringly in the fading light, and when she spoke it was with the excitement of a child. “I’ve never been to a carnival before, Luis.” “Never?” he asked in shock. His brown eyes alight with amusement at the expression of pure anticipation on her face. “Never,” she said softly. “Well,” he grinned. Offering her his hand. “What do you say? I think it’s time we get this show on the road.” She tangled her fingers with his—her silvery laughter making his smile grow even wider, and they were off.




    They walked nearly a mile before the bright lights came into sight. The line was much longer than he expected, and the wait was a good fifteen to twenty minutes. Fifteen to twenty minutes of misery, he thought as every man within sight ogled Sheridan in her beloved faded jean cutoffs and torquoise tank. The spaghetti straps kept slipping, and Luis wanted to wrap his hands around the punk behind them with the beady brown eyes and greasy yellow hair that just couldn’t look away. Sheridan giggled at the menacing glare Luis sent the guy’s way. A surprised smile on her lips when he snaked his arm about her middle and pulled her closer. Could Luis be…was he…jealous? “Luis? What are you doing?” she asked curiously. “I have to protect you, Princess,” he whispered. In complete seriousness. And she cracked up. “When are you going to realize I’m not a kid? I can take care of myself,” she told him. But she made NO move to remove his arm from her waist. In fact…she rather liked it. Alison watched them from a distance. Her blue eyes burning a hole into Sheridan as the line shifted forward, and Luis dug in his jean pockets for their fare.




    “What do you want to do first?” Luis asked. “Sheridan? Sheridan?” he laughed. Waving a hand in front of her face. “Sher…” he grinned. “I…Luis…I don’t know,” she finally whispered. “Come on,” he shook his head in amusement. Ambling up to the nearest booth. “Ever played basketball?” he asked her after handing over a couple dollars to the guy at the counter. “No,” she shook her blond head. Biting her lip. “You do it, Luis. I’ll watch.” He wanted to roll his eyes at her. But she was too damn cute when she was nervous. He stepped behind the line etched across the ground and raised his arms to shoot. Each basket went in, and Sheridan was clapping wildly by the time he was finished. The old guy behind the counter smiled at him. “Your choice, Son. Pick something for your girl.” “She’s not…you’ve got the wrong idea,” Luis whispered in embarrassment. Glad Sheridan couldn’t hear him over the loud, happy music and people milling about. “I don’t think so,” the man shook his head. “Looks like your girl to me.” Luis opened his mouth to protest, but the man cut him off. “That teddy bear at the top. She’s been eyeing it the whole time,” he whispered with a friendly smile. “I’ll take it,” Luis answered. Watching the smile on Sheridan’s face grow when she saw the man pull the teddy bear down. “For you,” Luis grinned. Presenting the bear proudly. Sheridan’s blue eyes twinkled up at him as she stood on tiptoe to kiss his cheek. “Thank you,” she smiled. All he was capable of was an answering smile as he lifted a hand to his cheek where it still tingled from the fleeting touch of soft lips. Alison stepped from the shadows. An ugly frown marring her features.




    They played every game. Rode every ride imaginable. Except for one. The Ferris Wheel. “Sheridan…” Luis tugged on her arm gently. But still she would not budge. “Luis, no.” “I don’t get it,” he said. Trying not to laugh at the look of utter horror written plainly across her face. “No,” she whispered harshly. Her blue eyes staring at the ground. Refusing to meet his. His brown eyes glanced skyward, and suddenly he realized…she was afraid of heights! “Sheridan,” he said quietly. Tipping her chin up with his index finger. “You trust me, don’t you?” She nodded her head immediately. Without a second thought. “Then believe me,” he pleaded with earnest brown eyes. “I won’t let anything happen to you. I’ll keep you safe. It’s a promise.” “Luis, I don’t know. It’s so high. I’m afraid I’ll…” “Sheridan,” he said pointedly. “Promise you’ll catch me if I fall?” she asked timidly. And if her fear weren’t so real, so tangible, he would have laughed outright. But he didn’t. “Promise,” he vowed. Gripping her hand tightly in his own as they were ushered forward, and the attendant secured them in the bucket. “Luis,” Sheridan panicked as the big wheel churned, and they started climbing. Climbing slowly to the top. “Shh,” he soothed. “They’re just loading everybody in. And then the ride will start. Sheridan,” he laughed as she squeezed her blue eyes shut.




    “You’re cutting off my circulation, Princess,” he teased as they lurched into motion. “Sheridan…open your eyes. You’re missing a helluva view.” She felt the gentle breeze on her cheeks. Heard the tinkling music in her ears. “Please,” Luis begged. And she smiled as she imagined the Puppy Dog face he was surely giving her. “Don’t let go,” she made him promise once more. “I won’t,” he promised. “Now open those eyes,” he ordered. Grinning as they slowly fluttered open. At her gasp of awe as she saw what he saw. "Luis…it’s SO beautiful. You can see the ocean all the way from here. And the stars! They’re so bright,” she said in childlike wonder. The Ferris Wheel groaned to a halt, and the fear was back in an instant. “Luis! What’s going on? Oh no! Are we stuck up here?” “Calm down, Blondie,” the Punk from earlier shrieked. Rocking his bucket back and forth violently. “Figures,” Luis muttered under his breath. “He’s alone. Loser. Sheridan…hey,” he whispered. Raising a hand to her cheek when he saw the sheen of tears visible in her blue eyes. “Aww…don’t cry. This happens all the time. Nobody ever gets stuck up at the top for an eternity,” he tried to joke. Failing miserably. “Not funny, Luis,” Sheridan pouted. “Don’t,” he pleaded as one fat tear spilled over onto her silky cheek. “Sher…” “I can’t help it,” she sniffled. “Luis!” she cried. Her voice rising a few octaves as panic washed over her in waves with the gentle sway of the bucket. “We’re going to die! We’re going to die!” she screamed frantically. While the Punk howled hysterically. “Sheridan!” he yelled. Cupping her face in the palms of his hands and forcing her to look into his eyes. “Calm down. We are NOT going to die.” “But Luis…how can…”




    She couldn’t think. She couldn’t breathe as his lips brushed against hers gently. Her blood rushed in her ears, and she was sure her heart would pound right out of her chest. Forget falling to her death. She was going to die from heart failure. And all it took was the gentlest pressure of his lips against her own. “Luis,” she murmured against his lips. Her pale lashes fluttering against his skin. “Shh,” Luis quieted her. “Don’t…don’t say anything. Okay?” She nodded her head slowly. She trembled as he captured her lips again. Drawing her bottom lip between both of his in the sweetest kiss…She slid her hands up his chest to clutch his shoulders. She wanted to be closer to him. She needed to be closer. He combed his fingers through the curls at the nape of her neck as he pulled back and gazed into her amazing blue eyes. Bluer than the ocean. Corny, maybe. But it was true. She edged closer shyly. Still gripping his strong shoulders. And kissed him lightly on the lips. Once. Twice. And then again. But this time he kept her close as he angled his mouth over hers. Tracing her lips with his tongue. Groaning when she parted her lips and let him kiss her more deeply as she clung to him. “That’s it, Kids,” a loud, obnoxious voice jerked them back to reality. “Ride’s over.” Sheridan held a hand to her mouth. Cheeks flaming red with embarrassment as she ducked her head and reached blindly for his hand. And he felt a jolt of electricity right down to his toes as he grasped it firmly and pulled her to her feet. He promised her he’d catch her if she fell…who was going to catch him? What the hell was he going to do now, he wondered as they pushed through the crowd that was slowly disippating. He was so preoccupied he didn’t even notice her as they made their way to the exit. Alison’s blue eyes glittered with jealous rage. As she crumpled up the newspaper she’d been holding up in front of her face as she followed them and threw it to the ground. A little boy passing by tripped. Staining its white pages brown with soda, and his green eyes grew wide as he recognized the pictures on the front page. The pretty girl from the Ferris Wheel! And the guy! “Trevor! Trevor! Quit dawdling. Hurry up!” Trevor scurried after his mother and the rest of his family. “Hey, Mike,” he tugged on his big brother’s pants leg. “What does ‘kidnapped’ mean?”




    Chapter 13






    The sand shifted under their bare feet as they trudged back to the hotel. Silence except the crashing waves along the private beach. She glanced up at him nervously. What was he thinking? He hadn't said a thing since their kiss on the Ferris Wheel. Their kiss! Her cheeks burned hot just thinking about it. It was amazing. Indescribably amazing. She smiled slightly. It was.right. Her first kiss, and it was from Luis. Luis caught her smile out of the corner of his brown eyes. "What are you smiling about?" he asked. Brown eyes twinkling in the starlight. She blushed furiously under his attention, and he grinned at her. "Sherry," he teased. Taking the sandals from her hands and dropping them to the sand below by his own shoes. "Tell me," he said. Grabbing her other hand and threading his fingers through hers. "Look at me, Sheridan," he told her. And Sheridan raised shining blue eyes to his face. "Our.Luis." "Yes?" he prodded gently. "You kissed me," she whispered in wonder. "I did," he smiled back at her. Running the back of his knuckles across her cheek gently. "Luis." she sighed. Leaning into his touch. "Luis? Where are you?" she cried. Feeling bereft when she realized.he wasn't there. "Out here," he called. Her eyes searched. Finding him. Knee-deep in the waves. "What are you waiting for? The water feels great."




    The water lapped at her ankles, and her laughter made him smile. "I can't, Luis. I don't have my suit on." "So," he shrugged his shoulders. Wading toward her. "Luis.Luis.don't!" she shrieked as he grabbed her up and hoisted her over his shoulder. When the water was waist-deep, he finally let her down. "Luis!" she pushed at his chest. "Now what am I going to do? I'm soaking wet." "Swim," Luis waggled his eyebrows at her. "Ugh!" she groaned. Slapping the water beside her, and drenching him. "You'll pay for that," Luis promised. Blinking his eyes against the stinging salt water. And Sheridan's blue eyes grew wide as he gave chase. Catching her and dunking her underneath the gently breaking waves. "That was SO mean, Luigi," she sputtered. Pretending to pout. "Alright, Sherry," he teased. "Seriously.you know I hate that name. Of all the fake names you could have come up with.why that one?" "I don't know," Sheridan said slyly. "Maybe it's because." "Because what?" he questioned. Brushing her wet blond locks from her eyes. Sheridan sucked in a deep breath. "Because," she said. A mischievous smile playing on her pink lips as she backed up. Slowly putting distance between her and Luis. "Because you look like one of the Super Mario Brothers," she giggled. Then turned and ran. Luis grabbed his chest in mock hurt. "You slay me."




    Luis dropped to the sand beside her and wiped his face with the tee-shirt he'd abandoned earlier. Sheridan bit her lip as the droplets of water gleamed on his bronzed skin, and she crossed her arms across her chest self- consciously. Shivering at the breeze blowing off the ocean. "Cold?" Luis asked. Pulling her into his arms and rubbing her arms briskly with his warm hands. Sheridan closed her eyes and leaned back against him. "Luis?" "Yeah," he said quietly. "Do you miss it?" He rested his chin on her shoulder with a sigh. "Do you miss Harmony? Your family?" Luis slid his arms around her waist and hugged her close. "Do you?" he evaded her question. "I miss Juliet," she tried to smile. Luis chuckled. "And Ethan. And Ivy. And your mother," she finished in a choked voice. "Me too," Luis admitted. Sheridan shifted in his arms to face him. "It's my fault. I took you away from her. And your brother and sisters. Luis.you should just forget about me and go home," she cried. Chin quivering. "Pilar must miss you so. You have people who love you and are concerned." He brushed her tears away with a gentle hand. "You have people that care about you, too," he whispered. But love, she wondered. Sure, Ivy and Ethan CARED about her. Pilar CARED about her. But did ANYONE.least of all her father.LOVE her? "It's not the same," she said in a tremulous voice. "I made my choice," he said. Staring deeply into her blue eyes. "And I don't regret it. Not for a second."




    "Thank you," she whispered. Twining her arms tightly about his neck. Luis hands rubbed her back in soothing circles. "Shh," he murmured into her ear. "You're going to be okay. You have me. We have each other," he whispered. Pulling back to kiss her forehead. He traced her lips with the pads of his thumbs. "I won't let anything bad happen to you. I promise," he vowed. Leaning close to brush his lips across her brow. Her damp cheeks. And the tears fell faster. "Shh. Don't cry," he pleaded. Sheridan looked at him with sad blue eyes. "Kiss me again, Luis. Please," she said. Her hands rested on his shoulders, and her eyes darted back and forth from his eyes to his mouth. He groaned when she shifted in his lap and crushed her to him before granting her request. His lips lingering sweetly on hers. Sheridan stared back at him with hooded blue eyes. Heart pounding furiously in her chest as she ran her hands up and down his muscled chest. Luis slid his hand around the back of her neck and kissed her again. A slow, deep, drugging kiss that had her mind whirling. She pulled back in surprise when she realized they were falling. To the sand beneath them.




    Luis stared up at her with eyes dark. Dark with desire, she realized with just a twinge of anxiety. Things were moving a little too fast. At a breakneck speed. But she was powerless to resist when he reached for her. He slipped his tongue past her parted lips and started the furious rush of feelings within her again. His hands were everywhere. Caressing her bare thighs. Just above her knee. Slipping beneath the hem of her tank. Burning the skin of her back with its heat. She felt.happy. Alive. In a dream-like state. Her body ached for his touch. But her heart, her mind."Luis." His hand slid around and cupped her rib cage, and her breath stopped in her throat. Her eyes fluttered closed once more when he touched her, and she felt her body respond. It was all too much. She was scared. Frightened beyond belief. "Luis.stop," she cried weakly as he kissed her neck. His hot breath on her skin making her shiver. "Luis," she pushed against his chest. Hot tears of humiliation springing to her blue eyes. "I said STOP!" she yelled. Pushing him away more violently and scrambling away. Watching the reassuring surge of the waves as she propped her chin on her raised knee.




    Luis pulled his tee-shirt back over his head. And just watched her in silence for a few moments. "I'm sorry," she finally whispered. Turning her teary gaze upon him. "There's something wrong with me, isn't there? I don't know what I want, Luis. I asked you to kiss me. I wanted you to. But then.I don't know what happened." "It's not your fault," he told her. Running a gentle hand through her soft damp curls and placing a tender kiss on her forehead. "It's mine. I knew.I know you've never.I should have stopped. I shouldn't have.it was too much too soon," he said softly. Wiping her tears from her cheeks carefully. "I'm just not.ready for all that," she admitted with extreme embarrassment. Ducking her head. "Hey," he said. Making her look at him. "I understand. And I promise.from now on.we take things more slowly." "You really understand? You're not just saying that to make me feel better? You're not disappointed?" she asked in a breathless rush. Blue eyes bright with hope. He understood! "Yes. No. And yes and no," he grinned. "But only a tiny bit disappointed," he said quickly when her beautiful face fell. "I'll wait for you, Princess. When you're ready." He laughed as she threw her arms around his neck joyfully. "Thank you, Luis! You're amazing!" No, he thought as he held her in his arms. YOU'RE the amazing one. "Come on," he nodded his head in the direction of their hotel. "I think it's time we went back. Don't you?" She took his hand with a smile. And they disappeared down the sandy beach. Together.







    Chapter 14






    Keeping his promise was sheer torture. As if just looking at her beautiful face wasn't enough to make him want to kiss her senseless, sleeping in the same BED with her every night-hell, sleeping in the same ROOM with her every night-and trying to keep his hands to himself was the hardest thing he had ever done. She'd laughed the first time he'd stacked every object imaginable in the middle of the bed. Trying to create a division between them. But then the amusement wore off, and those blue eyes that he couldn't resist had welled up with tears. When she asked him why he didn't want to be close to her, he'd swept the pillows and clothes away and kissed each tear away. Until they were both breathless. The 'division' didn't even last three days. And each night was harder than the one before it. It was two weeks of pure hell. Two weeks he NEVER wanted to forget because it was a time of discovery. For them both. He whistled a happy tune under his breath as he pushed the diner door open. Jingling the set of keys in his pocket. He had a surprise for her. A surprise he was sure she'd love.




    Alison snarled at the blissful smile on Luigi's face when he first caught sight of Sherry. The only thing worse was the look on HER face. The girl was.to put it quite simply.IN LOVE. Head over heels, deeply, madly, passionately, knots in the stomach IN LOVE. She studied Luigi out of the corner of her eye while she filled her arms with dirty plates and cups and forks and spoons. He was in love with her, too, she realized with a pang. The funny thing was.she didn't think either realized it. Either that or they were too busy lying to themselves. She'd be happy for them. IF she weren't so damn mad. He wasn't supposed to love the little bitch. EVERYONE loved her. He was supposed to love HER. Alison. It wasn't fair, she thought. Slamming the plates down on the counter so hard Mr. Izzaria glared at her. She ignored him. Stalking off toward the bathroom in the back. Mr. Izzaria turned his eyes back on the young couple in front of him. He smiled and patted Sherry's face fondly. "Get out of here, Kid. You have the whole weekend off. You deserve it." Sheridan was so overcome she threw her arms around the little old man's neck and kissed his cheek. Luis laughed the whole way out the door at the image of Mr. Izzaria's blazing red cheeks.




    "Luis," Sheridan pleaded. Looking up at him with dancing blue eyes as they walked along the beach later. To a secret destination. "Tell me where we're going. Please. I can't stand the suspense." Luis shook his head with a grin. Pulling the sheet of paper out of the pocket of his shorts and reading it quickly. Sheridan tried to swipe the paper from his hands. Pouting when he yanked it just out of reach. "I see patience isn't your strong suit," he teased. "Luis," she whined. "Where are we going? I want to know," she said. Slipping her arms around his waist and staring up at him with wide, innocent blue eyes. He leaned down to kiss the tip of her nose lightly and pulled back. Brown eyes twinkling. "I'm not telling." Sheridan dropped her arms from his waist. "Fine. Be that way," she grumbled. Trudging ahead of him. He struggled to keep a straight face every time she sneaked a glance back. With that ridiculous but oh-so adorable pout on her lips. A full-fledged grin spread over his lips when she turned around just in time to exclaim in awe. "Oh my.Luis," she breathed. "It's so beautiful. There's no one here," she said incredulously. "If I lived here.Luis, I'd NEVER leave." His eyes roamed the exterior of the old but majestic beachhouse. The paint was chipped. The small yard beyond the sand overgrown. Wild roses twined around the porch rails. Wild roses. Odd. "Joe was right. It DOES need a lot of work." "LUIS!" Sheridan bounced on her heels excitedly. "This is the place? Oh!" she threw her arms around his neck. "Sheridan," he laughed as she bounded up the creaky weather-beaten steps, and the front door banged against the wall behind her.




    He followed her. Walking through the spacious, open living room. Ceiling fans whirred above him, and he looked up just in time to see her disappear upstairs. "Sheridan," he laughed. "I'm exploring," she shot back. Poking her golden head back around the corner of the wall. "Luis.this place is amazing." "Amazing, huh?" he shook his head. Wiping the thick layer of dust off the coffee table resting before an extremely oversized sofa. His dark eyes were drawn to the large bay windows and the view outside. The waves capping and breaking as they surged toward the shore. It had its own charm. He wandered around. Doing his own exploration. Pleased when he found the kitchen. Another large, airy room that was surprisingly modern. A magnet held a note in place on the refrigerator door, and he plucked it down. Scanning Joe's familiar scrawl. He grinned to himself as he read the instructions laid out for him. A little painting. He could handle that. Replace the broken steps on the porch. Basically just a little spit and polish. Nothing he hadn't done before. And the best part.he and Sheridan were free to use anything in the house they needed. Plus, the kitchen was fully stocked with food. Food! He remembered then.he'd missed lunch when Joe took him aside to describe the job he'd had in mind. "Luis," Sheridan's voice startled him. "Is there anything in there?" she asked. Peering around him at the refrigerator. "I'm starving!" He laughed out loud when her stomach chose that precise moment to growl very, very loudly. "I told you," she laughed with him. Hopping on the counter and letting her now bare feet dangle in the air. All of five minutes, and she had already ditched the shoes. She shrieked with laughter when he tickled the soles of her feet. Finally shoving him away. "Stop it," she said. Frowning. "I mean it, Luis. I'm SO hungry. It isn't even funny."




    "Uh huh," he teased. "You don't help, you don't eat." "Luis!" she gasped. "I don't know how to cook," she grumbled. Crossing her arms around her chest. "You know that." "Well, Princess," he gave her foot a tug. "I think it's time you learned. What are you waiting for?" He snapped his fingers for effect. "Move it. Move it." "UGH!" she groaned. Slipping from the counter and yanking the freezer open. Plates clattered and cabinets banged open and shut as he searched for the appropriate cookware. Sheridan surveyed the freezer's contents with wide blue eyes. How was she supposed to know what all this stuff was? "Why don't you check the bottom first?" Luis suggested. Sheridan did as he instructed, and he grinned. Reaching past her to withdraw the steaks. Breathing in the pleasant aroma and making a mental note to himself to kiss the ground Joe walked on when he saw him again. The guy was just TOO generous. He'd even marinated them. "Just what I'm in the mood for. A big, juicy steak." Sheridan narrowed her blue eyes at him. "You better not just throw it on for all of two seconds. I prefer my food dead, thank you very much. Not dripping and bloody." "But Sherry," he teased. "That's the best way to eat it." She shuddered involuntarily. "Luis," she gagged. "I'm always afraid I'm going to stick my fork in it, and it's going to MOO back at me." Luis howled with laughter. "You are just too much."




    Cooking with Sheridan.it was quite an experience. One he wouldn't forget. His Princess was NO Martha Stewart. Hell.she wasn't even close to Betty Crocker. They ate their dinner in the kitchen with lots of good-natured teasing and everyday conversation. Then they retired to the swing on the front porch. Cuddling close. Her head tucked beneath his chin as the sea breeze blew gently. Ruffling her blond curls and tickling his nose. The sun set over the horizon. Its purples and pinks and oranges a brilliant display of beauty. He ran his hands up and down her arms. Listening to the gentle sound of her relaxed breathing. He realized with a smile that she was asleep. Dead to the world as he scooped her up in his arms and carried her inside. Up the stairs and into the first room he came to. A room painted a most tranquil color of blue. He pulled back the blankets and lay her down. A peaceful smile on her lips as he kissed her brow. He pulled his tee-shirt over his head and crawled into bed beside her. Drawing her into his arms with a contented sigh and closing his eyes in slumber. They had a busy day ahead of them tomorrow.









    Chapter 15







    She woke up to the unwelcome sound of a hammer pounding outside. "Luis," she moaned. "And on my day off," she huffed. Burying her blond head underneath the down pillow. The hammering stopped, but she kept the pillow over her head. Sure the hammering'd be replaced with some other dreadfully loud noise. "What do you think you're doing?" a muffled voice asked. Yanking the pillow away. "Trying to SLEEP," she scowled at him. "Go away and be quiet," she ordered. Grabbing the pillow back from him and diving under it. A few minutes passed and nothing happened. She couldn't help being a bit disappointed. "Luis," she said. "Luis?" she repeated. "Where'd you go? Luis," she pouted. "I didn't really mean it," she grumbled to herself. "Good!" Luis exclaimed. Almost frightening her to death when he grabbed her from behind and starting tickling her relentlessly. "Luis!" she shrieked. Trying desperately to escape. "I'm sorry. Stop! Stop! Uncle," she giggled breathlessly. Chest heaving as he pinned her wrists above her head. "Uncle," he teased. Brown eyes sparkling at her. "I think not." Sheridan held her breath as his face loomed nearer.




    "Luis?" Luis held her wrists in one hand. Caressing her cheek with the other before placing a sweet kiss on one corner of her mouth. Then the other. "Luis," she sighed. Eyes fluttering shut. He brushed his lips along her jawline to her neck. His hand left her wrists as he slid it down the length of her arm and down her rib cage to her waist. Making her gasp when he brushed the side of her breast. "Luis," she pleaded with glittering blue eyes. And he captured her lips with his. Kissing her with agonizing slowness. Deliberately teasing her-and himself. Her hands tangled in his black hair. Holding him to her. When he pulled away, she felt like crying. Why? "Luis," she said shakily. "Why did you stop?" He cupped her jaw in his palm. Rubbing his thumb over swollen lips. "Because we have work to do," he told her. Just before climbing off the bed and walking to the door. "We?" she asked in confusion. "Yes, we. Time to rise and shine, Princess. This isn't a free ride. You have to earn your keep." He wasn't kidding. He meant business! She groaned. Sailing the pillow through the air after his retreating form.




    When she joined him on the porch dressed in a pair of cutoff denim shorts and baby blue bikini top, he tossed a pair of dirty-looking old gloves at her. "Luis," she rolled her eyes. "What are these for?" He shook his head with a grin. "See those rose bushes?" She nodded her head slowly. "You're going to prune them back before they take over the entire house. "Luis!" "Problem, Sherry?" he arched a dark brow at her. She huffed in annoyance. He knew damn well she had NO idea what to do. But she wasn't going to give him the satisfaction of admitting it. She pulled the gloves on and set to work. Luis smiled at her dogged determination. Almost an hour elapsed. No words passed between them. He lay the hammer down on the newly repaired steps and wiped the sweat from his brow with his arm. Standing back to watch her in action. He had to bite the inside of his cheek to keep from laughing aloud. She'd made virtually NO progress, and if ever a person looked like a fish out of water.that was Sheridan. "What?" she groaned when she felt his eyes boring into her from behind. "Luigi," she growled. Using the hated nickname. "Don't you dare say anything," she warned. "I'm doing the best I can." "Give me those," he said. "With pleasure," she beamed. Tugging the gloves off and dropping them in his upturned hands. "Here's your garden thingy, too." Luis chuckled under his breath. Watching the gentle sway of her hips appreciatively as she climbed up the steps to the front door. "Great," he teased. "Do a good job on that housework for Joe, okay?" "UUUUUGGGGGHHHHH!!!" The door banged shut behind her.




    As afternoon approached, the sun's rays beat down more forcefully. The heat broken only by the salty sea breeze. He stripped his shirt from his upper body and tied it around his waist. Leaning his forehead against the arm he had braced against the white column of the porch. "Luis," he heard her call. And the door opening softly. Then silence. He raised his head to find her staring at him. Slack-jawed. Biting her lip nervously. And holding a glass of the most deliciously cool-looking water he'd ever seen. He smirked at her expression and slowly straightened up. "Take a picture, Princess. It'll last longer," he teased. Highly amused when she blushed ten different shades of red. "Are you going to bring me that glass of water or am I going to have to wrestle you for it?" Sheridan's jaw worked. Trying to formulate more than an incoherent jumble of words. Oh god, she thought. Breath stopping in her throat. She'd never found sweaty men irresistible or even attractive before. But then again.she hadn't known Luis. She hadn't known a lot of things. "Here," she said faintly. Holding the glass out to him. Luis gave her one of his knee-knocking grins as he took the glass from her hand carefully. His fingers brushing against hers and sending shockwaves through her entire body. She pulled her hand away awkwardly and stared at the ground. "I'm going for a swim. Do you want to come?" she asked. Looking up at him with hopeful blue eyes. "I don't know," he said hesitantly. "There's still a lot of work to be done." He cursed inwardly at the look of total disappointment that painted her features before she turned and walked away.




    The water swirled around her ankles, and the sand sank beneath her feet as she stood at the beach's edge. A hand to her brow. Shielding her eyes from the brightness of the sun as she scanned the horizon. A slight smile on her lips as she recognized a tiny dot in the distance. A boat. Sea gulls squawked overhead. And she closed her eyes. Taking a deep, cleansing breath. The water was cold as she waded out. Refreshing and invigorating though it made her shiver. Her eyes were drawn to the ocean's floor. Watching as the surge of the waves tossed seashells forward. Only to drag them back with a magnetic pull. A tiny fish darted past, and she felt foolish for the tiny thrill of fright that filled her momentarily. She squinted against the sun's glare as her eyes searched the beach. Hoping to see him. Hoping Luis had changed his mind. Sighing when all she saw was the purple splash of color that was her beach towel against the pale, gleaming sand. Her arms cut through the waves skillfully as they took her farther and farther from shore. And she lost all sense of time. Luis's dark eyes searched and found her bobbing among the waves. The momentary panic he'd felt at not being able to locate her after a rather lengthy absence replaced with relief as he waded deeper into the water. Intent on reaching her side. Work could wait. He needed a break anyway, he reasoned. And he never liked to think he was the reason that beautiful smile was gone.




    A brilliant smile lit up her face when she felt his arms snake around her waist from behind. "Oh, you're so hard at work right now, Luigi," she teased breathlessly as his lips lingered on the curve of her neck and his arms tightened around her. Molding her body to his. Her head fell back against his shoulder, and Luis hooked her arm around his neck. She hummed with pleasure as his fingers splayed across her stomach. Caressing her skin absently. Delicious tingles coursed through her, and she turned in his arms to look at him. Blue eyes dark and her voice husky as she said his name. Slipping her arms around his neck. One of Luis's hands went to the small of her back, and he pressed her close. Staring down into her eyes. They were oblivious to their surroundings. And Sheridan was sure she'd died and gone to Heaven when his mouth covered hers. Their kisses growing in intensity and hunger with each second that passed. "Sheridan," Luis pulled away. Panting for much-needed oxygen. His forehead resting against hers. "If you want me to stop, tell me now." She felt a nervous flutter in her stomach, but then he smiled reassuringly at her. Linking their hands together. "No," she murmured softly. "Don't stop," she told him. Kissing him with surprising boldness and wrapping her legs around his waist. "Don't ever stop."

  4. #4
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    Oct 2000
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    Post Re: Diamonds (Sheridan and Luis)

    Chapter 16






    Was it possible to FEEL this much, Sheridan wondered as she melted into Luis. Her legs tightened around his waist as she opened her mouth over his. Moaning as the kiss reached a fever-pitch intensity. Her blood rushed in her ears. Her heart beat furiously against her rib cage. Her insides turning into molten heat. So hot she had the insane notion she was burning alive. From the inside out as his tongue stroked deftly against hers. One of Luis's hands splayed at dip of her waist. And the nimble fingers of his other hand played with the tiny baby blue string at her back. She sucked in unsteady breaths when he finally released her lips. Her chest heaving. The need for air overwhelming. She clutched at his shoulders. Leaning her forehead against his for several seconds. Until the need to feel his lips on hers again proved too much. She wanted to cry at the sweetness of his kiss as he drew her bottom lip between both of his soft, warm lips.




    Her fingers combed the damp black hair at the base of his neck lightly just before she wrapped her arms more tightly about his neck. Loving the heady feeling of being so close to him. Not even a breath's distance between their bodies. Luis groaned at the sensation the contact of her lithe body with his produced. The feeling of her soft skin, chilled by the ocean's waters, beneath his fingertips. Silky skin that quickly warmed under his ministrations. His fingers toyed with the tie at her back. Just the slightest pull, and it began to give way. Ever so slowly. And, in an instant, the eyes tinted purple with desire and want and the tiniest measure of reservation opened. Dazzling him. Making him weak. Powerless to resist her. Any longer.




    His steps were slow but deliberate as he carried her back to the shore. And Sheridan whimpered at the loss of contact when he lowered her down to the plush towel below. Luis's brown eyes glittered, almost black, at her as he braced himself on his elbows. Reaching a hand out to sweep her golden hair from her brow and placing a feather-light kiss there. "Luis," she breathed. Holding out her arms and welcoming the solid warmth of him again. She ran her hands up and down his arms. Amazed at the sheer strength brimming just beneath the surface as his muscles rippled with each movement. Luis's lips trailed down the line of her jaw. The hiss of his breath against the curve of her neck making her shiver. The feel of his hands. His touch intoxicating as his hands lingered at her waist. His thumbs caressing her sides absently. She sighed against his lips as he rolled them over. And they were face to face. Nose to nose. Mouth to mouth. Giving and taking pleasure from each other. His hands swept the length of her back. Tracing the ridges of her spine. And her heart lodged somewhere in her throat as fingers undid the final strings at her neck. "Luis," her voice came out in a whisper. An unsure whisper. Her breath stopping as he pulled her to him. "Shh," he soothed. Kissing her temple and rubbing her back comfortingly. "You need me to slow down.I'll slow down," he murmured raggedly against her brow. "Whatever you want, Princess. Whatever you want."




    She felt tears prick at the corners of her eyes. Amazed at the caring in his voice. The understanding. And she felt totally inadequate at that moment. Woefully inexperienced. Wasn't it she who'd moments-or maybe it was hours ago, she couldn't tell anymore-just told him not to ever stop? She listened to the pounding of his heart as it gradually slowed to a steadier, calmer beat. Wishing for all the world that she could throw all her fears away, and just let him.But she couldn't. Not right here, in this moment, anyway. And that realization had her crying hot, bitter tears. Tears that spilled onto his skin and made his heart ache for her. Ache to kiss them away. "I'm so sorry," she cried in shame. "I did it again. I'm so stupid, Luis. I don't know what's wrong with me. I want you to.I want to.I want to be with you, Luis. So much it hurts," she whispered. Lifting her head to look at him. For the first time. "There's NOTHING wrong with you, Princess. It's a natural reaction. A lot has happened the last several weeks, and it's okay to be scared. Is that all, though? Are you just scared to go further? Or is it something else?" he implored her. "Something else?" she asked in confusion. "Luis.what do you mean?"




    Luis sat up. Bringing her with him. She fumbled with the ties at her back for a moment. Then dropped her hands to her lap. Clasping them together nervously. Digging her toes into the sand at her feet and studying the ring on her finger. The cross ring she never took off. "I don't know," he finally said. Shifting uncomfortably beside her as their shoulders brushed. The electric shocks coursing through his veins. "I don't know," he repeated. "Maybe you're afraid what'll happen afterward." "Luis," she said softly. Twisting the ring on her finger self-consciously. "I don't follow." "The future," he supplied. "It's not always a definite thing. Maybe that scares you more than.forget it. I obviously have NO clue what I'm saying here. Forget I even said a word." "No," she sighed. A gentle hand on his arm. "I think you do. And you're right. What happens, Luis, if my father finds us? What happens then? Will we just go our separate ways? My father's a very powerful man," she ducked her head. "He's used to getting what he wants, and in this case, he wants me MARRIED. And not to you," she said quietly.




    "Not to me," he muttered under his breath. Surprised at how much that thought bothered him. And the depth of his feelings surprised him. He'd told himself before that he was just helping her out. A friend. An innocent among evil. That he cared about. Very much. But enough that the thought of her married to another man revolted him? Did funny things to his heart? Suddenly, he wasn't sure of anything anymore. Least of all his feelings for the beautiful, vibrant girl beside him. "Would you." "Would I what?" he asked. Resisting the urge to look away from her intense blue gaze. "Nothing," she mumbled. Tucking her knees beneath her chin and looking out at the waves in front of her. Would you fight to be with me, she wondered silently. "Hey," he said softly. Against her ear as he wrapped his arms around her from behind. "Get rid of the down face, okay. 'Cause we don't have to worry about your father. Or anyone else from Harmony. We're safe. And we have all the time in the world to figure this out for ourselves. Someday you'll be ready," he said with another kiss to her temple. She smiled slightly at the sweet kiss he bestowed on her cheek. His faith in her. "Are you coming?" he asked. Hand outstretched. "We still have a helluva lot of work left to do, Princess. Not to mention.what's for dinner?" he teased. Jerking his hand away with an amused chuckle as she swatted at it in irritation. That amused chuckle turning to outright laughter as she jumped him from behind and rode his back all the way to the beach house steps. "No dinner for you, young lady," he groaned as he climbed the steps with heavy feet. "Ouch! I'm sorry," he grumbled good- naturedly as he nudged the front door open with his shoulder. "Getting a little feisty, aren't we?" "Luigi," she warned. "SHUT UP!"






    Chapter 17





    Sheridan shielded her eyes from the sun as she gazed up at Luis's handiwork. And, er.some of his other fine attributes. "Enjoying the view?" Luis smirked. Well.she couldn't actually see him smirking. But she could IMAGINE it. "Yes," she said with much enthusiasm. Barely keeping a straight face. "You are just so talented, Luigi. The next Michelangelo." Luis turned to her with a grin. "Yeah.those blue eyes of yours have been admiring my paint job for the last hour." She rolled her eyes at him and crossed her arms around her waist. "If you want to see me naked, Sherry," he teased as he descended the ladder. "All you have to do is just ask," he said in a low voice. Invading her personal space and making her hold her breath as he grazed her cheek with the back of his knuckles. "Really?" she said in a voice more breathy than she would have liked. "Just ask nicely," he told her. Hooking his arms around her waist and drawing her against him. Sheridan's eyes fluttered closed as all her nerve endings came alive at the full-body contact. When Luis kissed her, she didn't THINK. She just FELT. Luis would have kissed her into oblivion gladly had they not been rudely interrupted. He didn't bother to disguise the groan of extreme disappointment that left his lips at the sound of a throat being cleared. Followed by a high-pitched giggle. "Who are you?" he asked. His dark eyes landing on.a midget!



    "My name's Kailey Ann," the midget giggled. Luis laughed under his breath when he realized his earlier assessment was wrong. So she wasn't a midget. She was a little kid no more than 8, 9 years old. Same difference if you asked him. He had the strangest feeling of familiarity strike him as knelt down eye level with her and stared into her twinkling brown eyes. The dazed, confused look finally left Sheridan's blue eyes soon after he yanked her down beside him, and it dawned on him slowly as he listened to Kailey Ann's excited chatter.the reason she seemed so familiar was the fact that she reminded him of his kid sister back home. "Hi, Kailey Ann," Sheridan greeted sweetly. "What brings you by?" Kailey Ann shoved a piece of blue and white stationary at her. "Mama said to give this to you. You're invited to a party at our house. It's down that way," the midget-as Luis couldn't help but think of her-pointed. "I'm so-" he started to decline her offer. He didn't want to go to a party with lots of other people their last evening at the beachhouse. He wanted Sheridan all to himself. But he just couldn't stick to his rather selfish guns when he saw the sparkle in her blue eyes. "We'd love to come," she gushed. "Do we need to bring anything?" Luis asked. There was no way around it now. She had her heart set on it. "Nope," Kailey Ann said. Bouncing on the balls of her feet. "See you tonight," she waved as she jogged down the beachside. "A party. Luis.I can't wait," Sheridan smiled up at him. "Oh no! What will I wear?" Luis rolled his eyes as she bounded up the steps and inside the house.




    The hours before the party were spent finishing up the last of the chores on Joe's list. Luis was pleasantly surprised to find it was hardly difficult. He actually had time to spare. And it took him all of 5 minutes to get dressed. Sheridan, on the other hand. "Sherry," he groaned. Knocking on the bedroom door. "If you don't hurry, we're going to be late." "Just a minute." "Just a minute, my ass," Luis muttered under his breath. Coming from the lips of a female.he'd believe it when he saw it. "Wait for me downstairs, Luis," she called. Why the hell did she sound nervous, he wondered. But he shrugged it off as he went downstairs. Why the hell didn't she sound MORE nervous, he wondered in astonishment as his eyes traveled up a pair of long, tanned legs. Past the fitted skirt of a dress reminiscent of the one she'd worn a lifetime ago. The night he first realized she wasn't so bad, after all. Damn if she didn't OWN the color red. "Luis?" she asked with just a twinge of anxiety evident in her voice. "Aren't you going to say anything?" He gulped. TOO MUCH skin! He wasn't letting her outside showing so much skin. "Earth to Luis," she waved a hand in front of his face. "Where'd you find.THAT?" "THAT? Luis.you don't like it?" she asked. Her face falling. "Like it! Like it? Of course, I like it. You look.AMAZING," he breathed. And incredibly sexy, he thought silently. "Thank you," she murmured. Blue eyes sparkling alluringly at him. "Looks like Joe has a girlfriend," she giggled. Pecking him on the lips sweetly. "Come on, Luis. We're going be late." "And whose fault is that?" he grumbled good-naturedly as she pulled him out the front door.




    Kailey Ann greeted them at the front door, and Sheridan was SO RELIEVED to see a familiar face. Even if she'd only seen it for the first time that afternoon. "MAMA! THEY'RE HERE!" she yelled at the top of her lungs. Sheridan winced. Yeah, Luis thought to himself. That clinches it. Kailey Ann was Theresa's twin. Now he really believed everyone had a double out there. An older, much more annoying version of Kailey Ann appeared before them quite suddenly. Hanging all over him instantly and virtually ignoring Sheridan. "You better watch out," Kailey Ann told Sheridan with a roll of her dark eyes. "The divorce papers came yesterday, and she's on the prowl again." Sheridan's brows shot up. But her blue eyes narrowed as Catwoman pulled Luis out onto the makeshift dance floor. Proceeding to engage him in an absolutely obscene dance that had jealousy flaring within her, and fire blazing in her blue eyes. "Don't get so fired up about it," Kailey Ann advised her. "It's so obvious he'd rather be dancing with you. Leelee's wasted." "Leelee?" Sheridan asked in confusion. "My mom," Kailey Ann said matter-of-factly. "She's been drinking all day. She never waits for the party," she heaved a long-suffering sigh. "Cut in," she said after a few more minutes of watching Leelee TRY to dance. "What?" Sheridan asked distractedly. "I said cut in. Or else she's fixin' to plant a big one on him. You better hurry," Kailey Ann warned. Laughing gleefully as Sheridan stalked across the patio. Steam practically pouring from her ears. Leelee didn't stand a chance. She grinned at her mother when sulked to her side. "Kailey Ann," she drawled. "Get me another." "I know, I know," she groaned. She wanted to watch the sparks fly! No fair!




    As if she didn't feel majorly out of league before, Sheridan almost DIED when the first dramatic strains of tango music reached her ears. "Where do you think you're going?" Luis smirked. Tightening his hold on her. "Luis," Sheridan whined. "I." "Don't even try to tell me you don't know how. You forget. Mama knows you VERY well," he grinned. Threading his fingers through hers. "But Luis." "No buts," he told her. Raising a finger to her protesting lips. "Dance with me, Sheridan," he said softly. Just the hint of a plea in his voice. She groaned. "When you ask so sweetly." She smiled at him. And he knew he had her. "Let's give them something to talk about," he teased. Making her laugh wildly as he dipped her unexpectedly. But the laughter died in her throat as they moved together. Before she knew it, the dance was over. Everyone around them was cheering them on, and the look in Luis's dark eyes made her shiver from head to toe. "Sherry," he leaned forward to whisper in her ear. "Are you ready to go?" She nodded her head. "Bye, Kailey Ann," she barely managed to say before Luis tugged her down the patio stairs and onto the beach below.




    They didn't say anything during the walk back to the beach house, and when Luis's hand sought out hers, Sheridan almost jumped out of her skin. She wondered if he could feel how badly her palms were sweating. How hard her heart was pounding. The beach house was totally dark save the moonlight that danced here and there. Luis turned the key in the lock and pushed the door open. He didn't bother to turn on any lights. Just reclaimed her hand and led her up the stairs. Her heels clicked against the wood loudly, and she laughed nervously. Luis's teeth gleamed white in the shadows as he smiled at her. The bedroom door creaked open slowly. A sliver of silver light illuminated the room, and she trembled as he reached for her. "C'mere, Princess." His big hands framed her face as he brushed feather- light kisses against her lips. So sweet and gentle she wanted to cry. She finally knew. "I'm sorry," he breathed. "I didn't mean to make you cry. Really good for the ole ego," he tried to joke. "I'm moving too fast again, aren't I?" he asked worriedly. She smiled tearfully at him. Slipping her arms around his neck. "No," she murmured. Just before she kissed him. "You really mean it?" he asked. Hope in his brown eyes. "Shut up and kiss me, Luigi," she teased. And he had no choice but to grant her request.




    The breeze ruffled the lace curtains. Made goosebumps pebble her skin. Though she wasn't sure if it was the cool ocean air or the way Luis looked at her, touched her, whispered in her ear. Luis's fingers played with the thin spaghetti straps at her shoulders as his lips traveled down her jaw line. To her mouth once more, and she melted into him. The straps fell from her shoulders, and she sighed as his mouth lingered along her collarbone. The red dress was falling. She was falling. Fast. And Luis lay her back against the pillows. Covering her body with his. His shirt, his slacks gone. Her hands buried in his black hair as he kissed the hollow of her throat. Slid a hand up her ribcage to cup the fullness of her breast. He worshipped her. Making her whimper for release. Gasp for breath. Writhe beneath him restlessly. "Luis," she pleaded. He captured her hands in his. Losing himself in her depthless blue eyes. "Sheridan," he whispered. Nuzzling her nose and kissing each corner of her pouting mouth. "Are you sure? Are you certain this is what you want, Princess?" He groaned as he felt her long legs wrap around his waist. "100%," she smiled brilliantly at him. "Love me, Luis," she whispered. Arching into him. Love, he wondered as he pushed into her with aching slowness. Was it love that made his heart clench at the tiny gasp of pain that escaped her lips? Was it love that he felt as he gently kissed her tears away? Murmuring apologies against her lips, her brow, her temple as he moved within her. Was it love he felt as she cried his name softly? Was it love that made his heart swell as she snuggled peacefully in his arms as the moon painted the room in shades of silver and midnight shadows? Was it love, he wondered as he closed his eyes with a sigh. Fatigue finally overtaking him. Was it love?





    Chapter 18




    He smiled against the silk of her skin. His fingertips following his lips. Sweeping over the ridges of her spine. "Luis," he heard her mumble into her pillow. "Luis," she groaned. "I'm sleepy." He ignored her. Slipping an arm around her waist and pulling her back against him. Kissing her shoulder lightly before moving to her neck. "Do you really want me to stop, Sherry?" he whispered into her ear. Brushing his lips across her cheek fleetingly. "You're a bully, Luigi," she pouted. Twisting around in his arms and staring at him with drowsy blue eyes.




    Luis pretended to be hurt. Turning his back to her. The pout on Sheridan's face turned to a frown, and she wrapped her arms around him from behind. Propping her chin on his shoulder. "I'm sorry," she apologized. "You're NOT a bully." Luis's smile stretched from ear to ear. "You're an ANNOYING BULLY," she whispered in his ear. Shrieking with laughter when he flipped over suddenly. Grabbing her by the wrist and holding her captive. "Luis," she laughed. Blue eyes sparkling.




    "Still think I'm an annoying bully?" he asked. Threading his fingers through the hand he held and pressing it into the pillow beside her head. "Yes," she whispered as his breath caressed her face. "Smart girl," he teased as he kissed her fluttering eyelids. "Really smart girl," he smiled. Kissing the bridge of her nose. "Luis.I have to be at work in less than two hours," Sheridan murmured as he nuzzled her cheek. "So?" he said. Before pecking her lips lightly. "He gave me the whole weekend off. I can't be late," she sighed as he loosened his fingers from her hand. Sliding it down the length of her arm and covering her breast. "Promise I won't be late?" she asked breathily. "Promise," he vowed. Kissing her full on the lips.




    He kept his promise. Just barely. Delivering her safe and sound to the doorsteps of the diner just seconds before her shift started. Alison scowled through the window as she watched the pair kiss goodbye. "Young love," Mr. Izzaria sighed. Then banged on the window to get their attention. "Sherry!" Luigi's brown eyes never left Sherry's face, Alison thought with disgust. They shared another sickeningly sweet kiss before parting company. And Sherry practically floated inside. Ridiculously happy.




    "Good morning, Alison," Sheridan smiled. "Good morning, Mr. Izzaria. Have I told you how much I love you lately?" she asked. Taking Mr. Izzaria by surprise and squeezing his neck tight. The old man patted her cheek fondly. Then responded in a gruff voice. "Yeah, yeah. Get to work. We'll have our first customers soon." Jealously flared in Alison's belly as the old man watched Sherry leave with a smile on his face. "Mr. Izzaria, I." "No, you don't," he interrupted her. "But that's okay. There's nothing that says we have to like everyone we meet," he told her. "Ugh!" she stomped her foot after she was sure he was out of sight.




    The bells at the front chimed, and she groaned when Mr. Izzaria yelled, "Your customer, Alison!" "My customer," she grumbled. "My customer. Why my customer?" She smacked furiously on the wad of chewing gum in her mouth. "Hi, I'm Alison. Your waitress. What can I get for you?" she said. Mentally checking each item off the list. Her pencil poised to scribble the gentleman's order. A real gentleman, she realized. Blue eyes widening at the expensive Italian loafers on his feet. "Sir?" she asked. Impatience creeping into her voice as he remained silent. "Who's that singing?" he asked curiously. The look in his blue eyes unnerving her.




    "Her? That's Sherry. Listen, Sir. Do you want something to eat or not? I don't have all day here," she huffed. Her hand perched on her hip. The man pursed his lips. "Coffee will do. But first.I'd like to ask you a few questions." "Questions 'bout what?" she asked. "Are you the F.B.I? 'Cause I can't just yak the day away, you know? The boss'd fire me." "I'm not the F.B.I.," the man laughed. A hollow sound. "But you're somebody important, aren't you?" When he didn't say anything, she turned to leave. Her blue eyes flashing when he grasped her wrist roughly. "I'll make it worth your while," he said in a low voice. Sliding a $100 dollar bill her way. Alison's eyes darted to the counter where Mr. Izzaria watched them suspiciously. "Uncle Bobby," she smiled. All sweetness and light. "Do you mind?" she waved to Mr. Izzaria. Slipping into the booth opposite the man with the cold blue eyes when he nodded his head in assent.




    Sheridan's ears perked up. She didn't know Alison had an uncle. "Sherry," Mr. Izzaria chided. "If you catch the kitchen on fire while you're daydreaming, you'll have to pay for the damages this time. I'm only generous the first time." "Sorry," she apologized. "It's just." "I know," Mr. Izzaria smiled knowingly. "I've been in love before. But keep your head out of the clouds here, Kid. I'm serious about the damages." "In love," Sheridan whispered to herself with a smile. A smile that stretched from one side of her face to the other. Brilliant and radiant. "In love," she repeated with a sigh. She LOVED Luis!




    Alison's blue eyes narrowed with suspicion as the man before her grilled her about Sherry. And Luigi. Something deep inside of her told her she shouldn't trust him. But maybe.maybe he could help her get Sherry out of the picture. Then she could have Luigi all to herself! "Yeah.they stay at the motel across the street." The man's jaw set in a hard line. "In the same room." Alison rolled her eyes at him. "What do you think?" "Are they.involved?" "If having your tongue buried down someone's throat in a disgusting display of lust," she spat, knowing full well it was much more than that, "means they're involved, then yeah. Of course, they're involved. What's it matter to you? Careful. If you squeeze that coffee mug any harder it's going to shatter into a million tiny pieces."




    He reached inside his suit jacket. Withdrawing a wallet-sized photograph and pushing it across the table to her. "Recognize this girl?" Alison's jaw dropped open in astonishment. "That's.that's.that's Sherry," she stammered. "Where did you get this?" "Not Sherry," he told her. "The girl in that picture.the girl you know as Sherry.is my daughter. Sheridan Crane." "Crane?" Alison gasped in recognition. "As in THE CRANES? One of the richest families in America?" "THE richest family," he corrected her. "The little bitch is your daughter. Well, well. That's why he's with her. For the money." Yeah, Alison. And if you believe that. "Luis." "Huh?" she asked dumbly. Her blue eyes still glued on the photo. "Luis Lopez-Fitzgerald. My daughter's kidnapper."




    "Wait a minute," she protested. "As I'm sure you've realized already, no love is lost between your daughter and me. But Luigi.Luis a kidnapper? No way. I don't buy it. She doesn't look like she's been held against her will to me. In fact, she looks like she's loving his company. A little bit too much if you know what I mean." NOT a good idea to get the richest, most powerful man in the United States pissed at you, Alison. "He IS a kidnapper. And I intend to have him prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law." At her stricken expression, he said, "Unless." "Unless what?" she asked. Crossing her arms and studying him. The expensive suit. The boring tie. The cold, icy blue eyes. "What would you say if I told you I could make sure he was yours? All yours." Her heart soared and plummeted within seconds. "It ain't going to happen. I know you don't want to believe this, but.he loves her. She loves him. I'm positive. He's no more a kidnapper than I'm Queen Elizabeth." "Him for her," he repeated. "I know you'll make the right choice."




    Sheridan sighed dreamily as Alison walked into the small kitchen area. Not noticing the disturbed expression on Alison's face. "Alison?" "Yeah," Alison said. Trying to keep the guilt from her voice. Suddenly she didn't hate Sherry so much. She felt.sorry for her. "How do you know?" "Know what?" "When you're in love? Because I think I am," she said shyly. Blue eyes sparkling with more happiness than Alison could bear. Knowing they'd be dulled with sadness at her betrayal. Sheridan didn't wait for her to answer her. "He's kind. Gentle. Generous. Sexy," she blushed. "He takes care of me. He makes me smile when I'm sad. He listens. He's my best friend. I love him, Alison. Oh. I'm sorry. You don't want to hear all this. What did you want?" "Not me," Alison cleared her throat. Looking away when Sheridan smiled at her. "I'm.I'm not feeling too well. Do you think you can take Table 4 his order?" "Sure," Sheridan smiled. "Go take care of yourself," she told her. Picking up the plate with Eggs Benedict. "That's odd. That's.nevermind," she muttered to herself. You're crazy, Sheridan. It can't be. "Sorry, Sheridan," Alison murmured as she watched her leave. Closing her eyes at the crash that sounded a moment later and single word infused with so many emotions. Not one of them good that she could decipher.



    "Father."





    Chapter 19






    "Father.what.what are you doing here?" Sheridan finally managed to squeak. Alistair slid out of the booth and stood tall over her. Staring down at her with cold blue eyes. "I've come to retrieve what's mine. I've come to take you home," he said. In a voice that brooked no arguments. "No," Sheridan protested. Kneeling to pick up the jagged slivers of the broken plate. Tears stinging her blue eyes. "Kid," Mr. Izzaria called from behind the counter. Concern in his voice. "Is everything okay?" Alistair gripped her upper arm roughly. Hauling her to her feet. "Tell him, Sheridan." "Everything's fine, Mr. Izzaria," she said in a wobbly voice. Mr. Izzaria looked skeptical but returned to his work. Glancing at them from time to time. "Good girl," Alistair praised. But it wasn't real praise at all, Sheridan realized. He was just glad she wasn't making a scene. "Sit," he ordered. "But the plate.the mess. I have to clean it up." "I said sit," he said. Pushing her into the booth.




    "You did a very bad thing, Sheridan. Disobeying me," he said in a low voice. "Colin's been beside himself." "I bet," Sheridan muttered. Blue eyes glittering with disdain. "I bet his heart is broken. He doesn't love me, Father. No more than you love me." Alistair's lips stretched into a tight line. "You're wrong. What father doesn't love his daughter?" Mine, Sheridan thought silently. "It's because I love you that I'm giving you this chance." Sheridan crossed her arms around her chest. Chin jutting out defiantly. "A chance to undo the damage you did by running off with that." "His name is Luis, Father." "You weren't yourself," Alistair spoke. Spinning a tale to present to the press already. Knowing his willful daughter might be too much too 'handle' this time. "Running away with Luis was the best thing I've ever done," Sheridan said adamantly. "Colin WILL be your husband, Sheridan. In just a few short days, as a matter of fact. You can count on it. This marriage is crucial to the future of the Crane empire."




    "I won't marry him. You can't make me," she spat. "Oh, but you WILL," he spoke with a triumphant smile. "If you care anything about this Luis.you WILL," he told her. Withdrawing a cigar from his suit pocket and lighting it. The scent sickened her, and the room around her started to spin with her father's next words. "Or I'll ruin him." "You wouldn't," she shook her head. His image blurry behind the haze of tears. "I would. Tell me. Do you love him? Have you let him touch you? Tell you lies to get you into his bed? Men like Luis Lopez-Fitzgerald want one thing. And one thing only." "Stop it. It wasn't like that. HE's not like that, Father. He." "He what? Loves you? Has he told you that he loves you, Sheridan? Has he said the words?" Crystal tears spilled freely from her blue eyes as she shook her head reluctantly. "Do you think he'd still find you worth the trouble when faced with prison? You're NOT worth the trouble, Sheridan." "Luis hasn't done anything wrong," she said weakly. Her heart splitting wide open as she realized her long-held fears were true. Her father cared NOTHING about her. Nothing at all.




    "Kidnapping, I believe, should earn him a lengthy stay behind steel bars." "But he didn't kidnap me. It was my decision. You already knew." He ignored her. Tapping his cigar against the ashtray on the table. Sheridan's blue eyes shifted to the window. Searching for one person. One person who could make things alright again. Where was he? "Do you really think a judge will believe the word of a child? That's what you are, Dear. Still a child. Seventeen. Statutory rape charges." "Fath." "The best lawyers, judges.it shouldn't be too hard to make those charges stick, Sheridan. And there's nothing you can do about it. Nothing that would stop me. That lowlife did, in fact, ruin you. Used you. I promised Colin a virgin. Not a slut who gives herself to trash like Lopez-Fitzgerald. Stop crying, Sheridan. You're making a scene. And you know how angry I get when you make a scene. I might just change my mind altogether about giving you a chance to right your wrongs."




    Sheridan wiped at her tears carelessly. Ducking her head from prying eyes. "How?" she whispered in a broken voice. "How do I right my 'wrongs'?" she asked bitterly. "I knew you'd see things my way," Alistair smiled evilly. Taking another puff on his cigar. "You have to promise you won't do anything to Luis," Sheridan said. "Promise, Father. Or I walk out of here right now." "It's really very simple, Sheridan. All you have to do is never see him again. Come back to Harmony. Marry Colin as planned. And forget this dreadful mistake ever happened." Never see Luis again, Sheridan thought. The very idea making her heart break even more. Alistair regarded his daughter's tears unfeelingly. "Luis will live a long and happy life. Outside of a prison cell. With his family. He'll forget all about you with time, and it'll be like this summer never happened. But for your wedding to Colin, of course. Make the right choice, Sheridan. You do want to see Luis happy, don't you?" "More than anything," Sheridan answered immediately. With such love in her voice, Alistair was sure he'd be sick. "Okay. I'll do it. I'll go back to Harmony with you, Father. I'll marry Colin."




    The limo door slammed shut, and Sheridan raised a hand to the window. "Goodbye, Luis," she whispered softly. She didn't even get to say goodbye. The leather seat shifted under her father's weight, but she didn't turn to look at him. She couldn't bear to look at him. The miles raced by. Her memories of her time spent with Luis a blur as they sped down the highway. The limo eating up the miles to the airport. Alistair scowled at the teddy bear in her lap. He'd have to get rid of it. Or maybe not. Maybe he should let her keep it as a keepsake. No. He'd have it burned. Along with all her clothes Charles had retrieved from the dingy hotel room by the sea. The limo slowed to a stop, and Charles appeared once more. To open their doors for them. Sheridan jerked away at her father's touch on the small of her back. Guiding her toward the private jet. The cool air inside the jet making her shiver and wrap her arms tightly around her waist. But it wasn't the cool air that made the hair on the back of her neck stand up. Or the reflexive shudder. It was the sound of his voice, and the discomfort the feeling of his lips on her skin caused within her.



    "Colin."




    Chapter 20






    Luis wore a smile on his lips as he jogged across the blacktop. To the diner. The day had been hot as hell and full of hard work, but it was finally coming to a close. And he was going to see Sheridan's sweet smile again. He never had a clue.an idea he would miss her this much. Being apart for just one day. She had him under her spell, alright. He couldn't wait to see her. Touch her. Hold her in his arms again.




    The frown on Alison's lips dominated her entire face. The guilt.it was eating her up inside. She hadn't been Sheridan's biggest fan. But the realization of her part in tearing apart her and Luis wouldn't let her rest. The image of Sheridan's tear-streaked face.her shoulders slumped in defeat.her father's cold treatment. She felt horrible. And she only felt worse when she came face to face with Luis.




    "Alison," Luis said in greeting. "Hi, Lui.Luigi," she waved. Busying herself clearing the table in front of her off. "Where's Sherry? Getting another lecture from Mr. Izzaria? Did she almost burn the kitchen down again?" he smirked. His brown eyes twinkling as he took a stool at the front counter and picked up a discarded menu. Scanning it absently. "No. Lu.she didn't," she smiled shakily. "She's not with Mr. Izzaria. She's not here, Luis," she said softly.




    Luis jerked his head around. "What did you say? Did you.Where's Sheridan?" he asked. Panic creeping into his voice. "Where is she? If you know, Alison.tell me. I need to know." Mr. Izzaria rounded the corner with a somber expression on his face. "She's gone." "Gone? Where? Where is she?" he demanded. Gripping Alison's shoulders hard. Alison started to cry. "Alison.please tell me where she is. It's very important to me. She's very important to me. I have to know." "With her father. He took her home."




    Luis dropped his hands from Alison's shoulders in shock. "Alistair? No. This can't be happening. It can't. I'm going to walk into our hotel room, and she's going to be there. This is a cruel joke, right?" Mr. Izzaria looked on with sympathetic eyes. "It's not a joke," Alison whispered. "He came in here and started asking all these questions. About you and Sherry.Sheridan." "And you answered them? Even though you didn't know him from Adam? Alistair Crane is the devil, Alison. He tried to force Sheridan into marrying a man she didn't love. He doesn't give a damn about her, and she's his own daughter. I have to go. I have to get to her. How long has it been since they left?" he asked frantically. Brown eyes filled with worry. "Hours," Alison replied softly. "She's been gone hours, Luis." Luis's shoulders slumped.




    Mr. Izzaria gripped Luis's shoulder reassuringly. "Don't give up hope, Son." "Go after her, Luis," Alison urged. "Here," she said. Digging through her pockets and emptying all her day's tips plus her wallet out on the counter before him. "Alison." he protested. "Don't," she shushed him. "This is all my fault. If I hadn't ratted her out." Mr. Izzaria slapped a wad of cash down on the counter, too. "This Alistair Crane.I don't like the looks of him. Or the way he treated the Kid. Anybody that treats their own like that.use this money to get a plane ticket to Harmony." "But I can't pay you back." "Don't worry about it," Mr. Izzaria shook his head. "Get our Sherry away from that bastard." Luis grasped the old man's hand firmly in a handshake. And glanced one last time into Alison's blue eyes. "Thank you. Thank you for everything," he called as he raced out the front door. "I'm coming, Princess."

  5. #5
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    Oct 2000
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    Post Re: Diamonds (Sheridan and Luis)

    Chapter 21





    Sheridan clasped her hands around her knees. Leaning against the pillows and squeezing her eyes shut tight. Wishing with all her might this was a dream. A horrible nightmare. And she was back in Luis's arms again. Her blue eyes opened to stare out the window once more, and a single tear slipped down her cheek. Why did the stars shine so bright? Even though her heart was breaking?


    A gentle knock sounded at the door, and a second later, she heard it creak as it opened. "Sheridan," Gwen ventured softly. "Sheridan.are you okay?" "I'll never be okay again," Sheridan said morosely. Gwen bit her lip nervously. "I'm sorry. That was a stupid question. I'll.I'll just go," she said. Hand on the door. "Gwen," Sheridan called. "No. Wait. Please stay."


    Gwen smiled slightly and crossed the room to her. Sitting across from her. Brown eyes filled with sympathy. And curiosity. "Do you love him, Sheridan?" The tears blurred her vision as she smiled and took Gwen's hands into her own. Squeezing them. "I do," she nodded her head. "I love him, Gwen. I love him so much it hurts."


    Gwen sighed. And tucked a strand of her shoulder-length blond hair behind her ear. "I don't love Ethan so much it hurts. Is that bad? Because I don't think so. Why would you want to love someone so much it causes you pain? It doesn't make sense." Sheridan chewed on her lip thoughtfully.


    "Anyway," Gwen continued. "They're all down there fighting right now. Ivy's giving Mr. Crane hell," Gwen grinned. Her brown eyes sparkling with amusement. "And your brother," she shuddered. "He's hitting on anything in a skirt and drowning himself in brandy." "Sounds like Julian," Sheridan murmured.


    "Ivy's really giving it to Father?" "Is she ever," Gwen laughed. "And you should have heard some of the things she said to Master Colin," Gwen rolled her eyes as the name escaped her lips. "I'm sorry," she apologized as Sheridan paled. "Creep," she muttered under her breath.


    Sheridan's sad gaze wandered to the wedding gown in the corner of the room. "At least your dress is pretty," Gwen offered. "You're going to look like a Princess tomorrow, Sheridan." Princess, Sheridan thought. Remembering the last time Luis had said it. As he made love to her this morning.


    Gwen's face froze in an expression of horror as Sheridan burst into tears again. "Me and my big mouth. Ugh!" she groaned. Throwing her arms up in the air. Then scooting closer to look into Sheridan's blue eyes. "I'm sorry. I'm going to leave you alone now, before I chew off my own foot. Mother'd have a fit if I got a scratch on these shoes," she grumbled. Rising to her feet. "Goodnight," she whispered. Pulling Sheridan's bedroom door closed.


    Sheridan buried her face in her hands. Sobbing. She was back at square one. Alone and lonely. Wishing for the comfort of her mother's arms. Wishing she were there to hold her close and tell her everything was going to be okay. She'd smooth back her hair and brush kisses along her brow. Whispering sweet words of comfort. She wished with all her heart her mother's arms were wrapped around her. She wished.


    "Shh," she felt two arms wrap around her from behind, and the scent of Ivy's perfume filled her senses. "Everything's going to be okay. I'm here. I'll think of something. I promise, Darling," Ivy vowed. Resting her chin atop Sheridan's golden head. "You're not going to marry that man tomorrow. Not if I have anything to say about it." Sheridan hugged Ivy's arms around her tighter. And cried some more. If only it weren't already too late.





    Chapter 22



    The Crane Mansion was a hotbed of activity the next morning. Caterers bustled about. Silver trays of hor d'oevres in their gloved hands. Photographers snapped pictures of all the guests arriving in their stately cars. The women wearing their fancy gowns and sophisticated hats to protect their delicate milky skin from the sun's bright rays. Roses of every color imaginable were everywhere. She'd think it beautiful. If she weren't marrying Colin. If she were marrying Luis, she realized with a sigh. Dropping the lace curtain back into place and whirling around on her heels.


    The silk gown's skirts rustled softly as she walked slowly across the room. To stand in front of the floor-length mirror. Pilar's brown eyes shone with unshed tears as she clasped the diamond necklace around her neck. And Sheridan felt the weight of it nestle against the hollow of her throat. Ivy's blue green gaze was proud. Yet sad. As hard as she had tried, it still looked like this wedding was going to go off without a hitch. Gwen sashayed over to Sheridan in her pale pink gown. "He'll come," she whispered in Sheridan's ear. "I know he'll come."


    Sheridan fitted the matching diamond earrings in her lobes and studied her reflection. Her dour expression. Her dull blue eyes. A girl's wedding day was supposed to be one of the happiest days of her life. Why did she feel as if she were attending her own funeral? Two dark-haired little girls watched her every movement shyly. Pilar's daughters. Luis's sisters. Paloma and Theresa. The smaller of the two wore a dreamy smile on her pretty face. Twirling a long dark strand of her hair around her index finger. She looked up to the older girl with luminous chocolate eyes. "Isn't she pretty, Loma? I'm going to be even more beautiful when I marry Ethan," Sheridan thought she heard her whisper and forgot all her sadness momentarily. An airy laugh escaping her pink lips.


    Pilar's brown eyes narrowed as she noticed the two children, and she hurried over to them. Ushering them out of the room. The older girl tugged mightily on the other one's hand before she finally succeeded in pulling her outside. "But Mama," they could hear her protests echo down the hall. "I want to watch. Why can't I watch? Mama." "No, Theresita. You will go back down to the kitchen with Paloma. Do as I say," Pilar's voice warned sternly. And a moment later, she slipped back inside the bedroom. "They didn't have to leave," Sheridan spoke in a soft whisper.


    The old Grandfather clock in the hallway chimed the hour, and the smile on Sheridan's face faltered with the realization the minutes were ticking by. "Oh," Gwen chewed on her lip nervously. "We have to hurry. It's almost time. And we haven't even done the whole something borrowed, something new bit." Sheridan pulled up the skirts of her dress. To reveal a blue garter. "Something old," Ivy murmured. Fingering the diamonds at Sheridan's throat. "This necklace was your mother's, Sheridan. She'd be so proud if she could see you." Sheridan's blue eyes filled with tears. "Damn," Ivy swore. "But she wouldn't stand for this. She should be marrying your son, Pilar. Not that prick downstairs." "Mrs. Crane," Pilar shook her head. Her brown eyes fixed on Sheridan. Obviously very much in distress.


    "Mija," Pilar smiled gently at Sheridan. Cupping her silky cheek in her palm before removing her hand to take the cross necklace she wore from her neck. "Wear this." she said tearfully. Pinning the tiny cross under the dress's neckline. ".and remember, God is watching out for you. I love you, Mija," she said. Pressing her lips against Sheridan's forehead tenderly. "What about something new?" Gwen panicked at Ethan's knock and mumbled reminder at the door. Sheridan raised a hand to her ears. "A gift from Father," she choked. Suddenly running to the window. Her blue eyes scanning the horizon for his figure. Where was he? Wasn't he going to come? The strains of music played by the orchestra floated in the air. And the guests waited expectantly.


    "Sheridan," Ivy caught her hand as she walked toward the door after Gwen and Pilar. "I'm so sorry, Darling. I tried finding Luis. But he's nowhere to be found. I thought for sure." "It's okay," Sheridan tried to smile. "You did the best you could." Ivy hugged her quickly. Ran a motherly hand over her golden curls. Making sure none were out of place. Then disappeared out the bedroom door. Just like Gwen and Pilar before her. Her father appeared before her. Appraising her with cool blue eyes. He held out his arm to her. Her blue eyes searched his face, his eyes for any sign of humanity, and she took his arm with a sigh. Not a word passed forth from her lips.


    "Smile for the cameras," he ordered as they approached the length of the carpeted aisle. "They're all watching you. Us, Sheridan. You cannot jeopardize our family's fortune or future for something as silly as love. Money. That's all that's worth anything. They love us for our money." She blinked back the tears stinging the corners of her eyes as the opening notes of "The Wedding March" began to play. Somehow, someway she managed to put one foot in front of the other. And then she was standing by his side. And the priest was reading from his Bible. His words sounded so far away. His face blurred through her tears. Her throat closed up on her, and she couldn't breathe.


    Alistair nodded his head at the attendant standing just out of sight. A malevolent smile playing on his lips. Any minute now.any minute now his daughter would break her promise to him. Only she didn't know it yet. His jaw set in a hard line as he watched her visibly cringe at Colin's touch. Trembling. In disgust? In fear? Hopefully, the guests would think it butterflies. Nerves. One look at his indignant daughter-in-law, and he knew she held no such delusions. He watched his grandson Ethan's young betrothed. Clasping and unclasping her bouquet of flowers nervously.


    "She is lovely, isn't she, Father?" Julian said in a fit of conscience. One of his rare moments of lucidity. "Mother would hate this. She's too young," Julian sighed miserably. "Am I supposed to believe you actually care about your sister, Julian?" Alistair hissed through clenched teeth. Fake smile intact. Julian tugged at the tie at his neck. "She's my sister, Father. Of course, I care. What kind of a human being would I be if I didn't?" "Me," Alistair said simply. And Julian looked at him in disbelief. "Pay attention, Son. The fireworks are about to begin," he smiled evilly.


    ".can show just cause, speak now. Or forever hold your peace," the priest barely finished uttering before a voice spoke loud and clear from the back. And heads turned. Gasps of surprise tearing from their lips. Ivy's face broke out into a full-fledged smile when she lay eyes on Luis. Gwen couldn't hide her joy for Sheridan. "I told you so," she whispered. "Sheridan.turn around. He's here. He came to rescue you from the creep." Colin scowled at the young girl but looked unperturbed at Luis's appearance. In fact, he wore a rather odd smile, Ivy thought. Watching him with a growing feeling of worry as Luis raced up the aisle. Grabbing Sheridan by the hand.


    All ears hung on his every word as he framed her face with his big, dark hands and looked deep into her shimmering blue eyes. "I'm sorry it took me so long to get to you," he apologized. And Sheridan's chin quivered at the sweetness of his words. The soulful look in his brown eyes. "You can't marry him, Princess." Sheridan gripped his forearms. Tilting her golden head to the side. Rubbing her damp cheek against his palm. "You can't marry him because **I** love you, Princess. I love YOU, Sheridan Crane." "You love me?" Sheridan cried. "I love you," Luis smiled. Filled with happiness. "Sorry it took almost losing you to make me realize it. Don't marry him. Marry me," he said in a hopeful voice. Tears streamed down Sheridan's cheeks as she stared into Luis's brown eyes. Until Colin's hateful voice jarred them both back to reality. "I'm afraid that's impossible, Lopez-Fitzgerald," he announced with a smug smile. His gray eyes searching out Alistair's formidable figure in the audience. Luis pulled Sheridan close. A protective arm around her waist as her father delivered words that nearly brought him to his knees.


    "You're too late, Luis. My daughter's already married."








    Chapter 23




    Luis's arm lingered around Sheridan's waist as he turned to her with a wry smile on his lips. "He's lying, right? He's just saying that to keep me away from you. You can't be married to him. I stopped the wedding." Endless tears coursed down Sheridan's cheeks. Her mouth worked but the words wouldn't come out. "Tell him, Darling," Colin urged. "It was beautiful, wasn't it? A wedding in the clouds." Luis's brown eyes glittered with growing dread. The look on Sheridan's face. "Sherry," he whispered. Brushing her tears away with the pads of his thumbs. "Tell me it isn't true. Please." he pleaded. Cupping her face in both his hands and pulling her close. Staring deep in her azure eyes. "Tell me," he whispered. Kissing her gently. Feeling her tremble at his touch. "Luis," she cried. Clinging to his shoulders. "Don't. Please don't. You have to stop," she said brokenly. Removing his hands from her face. "You have to." "No," Luis said forcefully. "You're not married to him. You can't be." "But she is," Colin smirked. Grabbing her by the wrist and putting even more distance between her and Luis. "We felt bad we cheated all our friends and family out of the ceremony. This is all just for show, Lopez- Fitzgerald," Colin said. Gesturing to the hundreds of guests. Riveted to their seats.


    Ivy turned in her seat to glare at her father-in-law. "You evil bastard," she hissed. "How could you? How could you force her into marrying a man twice her age? A man just as dirty as you?" Alistair didn't even blink at her accusations. "My daughter, as I'm sure you know, has this unerring loyalty to those she loves. This need to protect them. I simply gave her a choice. Her life or the man she loves." Ivy held a shaky hand to her mouth. "You threatened him. Oh my god!" she exclaimed. "With what, Alistair? What has he done wrong beside care for her?" His cold blue eyes glittered angrily. "I forgot. You don't NEED a reason to do the devil's work. I hope you rot in Hell with him," she cursed. Rising from her seat and stalking over to Sheridan. Wrapping a consoling arm around her shoulders and daring Colin to say a word as she commanded, "Not out here. Can't you see what you're doing to her?" She squeezed Sheridan's shoulders gently and led her down the aisle. Luis and Colin hot on their heels. Alistair started to follow, but Julian held a restraining hand to his arm. Voice dripping with distaste as he said, "What's done is done, Father. You got your wish. You married her off to that.she can never be with Pilar's son again. Besides," he sighed. "It's not like you're not going to be able to see everything in technicolor later." Alistair smiled. Pleased at his son's reminder. "What are you sitting here for, Julian?" he growled a second later. "Do something with the guests. Move them to the pavilion. Eat. Drink. Be merry," he ordered. Watching his son tread wearily to stand beside the bewildered priest and clear his throat. "Ladies and gentlemen."


    Gwen threw her bouquet of roses to the ground. Trampling them in disgust. "This isn't how it was supposed to happen! Ugh!" Ethan's blue eyes darted around in embarrassment. "I think they're already dead, Gwen," he cringed as she ground the petals into fine pieces under the heel of her shoe. "Gwen!" he grasped her shoulder. "That's NOT going to help my aunt Sheridan." "I know that," Gwen rolled her brown eyes. "But it's helping me. I hate your grandfather, Ethan. I hate him. In fact, I hate all the men in your whole damn family. Except for you," she quickly amended. "They're all heartless pigs. Promise me something, Ethan," she said seriously. "Don't let him ruin you, too. You're still pretty okay," she mumbled. Crossing her arms over her chest awkwardly. Ethan's face broke out into a silly grin, and he puffed his puny adolescent chest out in a ridiculous display of bravado. "Thanks, Gwen." Gwen looked at him like he was a monster with three heads. "Get over yourself, Ethan Crane. I didn't say you were God's gift to women. I said you were okay. As in not bad. But not perfect, either. Forget the macho act. It doesn't suit you. You just look stupid," she shook her head. Effectively taking a pin to his inflated ego.


    "Sheridan," Ivy said softly. "Here. Drink this, Darling," she suggested in a soothing whisper. Rubbing Sheridan's back comfortingly as she sipped the cool water. Her blue-green eyes looked over Sheridan's shoulder to meet Luis's concerned brown eyes. And the bored, disinterested gray eyes of the man who was now her husband. Oh god, she thought. Her heart aching for the two young people beside her. HOW were they going to get through this? "Sheridan," she said gently. Taking the glass from her hands and setting it down on the table beside them. "I'm going to leave you two here to talk. Do you think you'll be okay?" Sheridan blinked back the tears and nodded her head slowly. Not daring to look up from the ground until Colin's half-hearted protests and Ivy's raised voice faded in the distance.


    "Princess," Luis murmured. When they were finally, really and truly, alone. "Look at me, Sheridan," he insisted. Taking her chin in his hands and making her look him in the eyes. "You don't have to stay married to him. I know your father forced you into doing it. I know you don't love him. Because." "Because what Luis? Say it," she whispered. "Because you love me just as much as I love you," he whispered. Tears springing to his brown eyes for the first time as he lay her hand over his chest. Over his heart. "I can see it in your eyes, Princess. It's been there from the very beginning. It just took me a long time to recognize it for what it is. And then realize I felt the exact same way. I'm sorry the first time I told you I loved you had to be like that," he apologized. Threading his fingers through her golden curls. "I should have told you.I knew I loved you the first moment I lay eyes on you." Her blue eyes glistened. Confusion evident. "I knew I loved you then. Before I met you." "I.I don't understand," she shook her head.


    He smiled at her. "Do you remember your first night back in Harmony?" "Yes," she said. Still bewildered about the direction the conversation was going in. "I saw you," he said simply. "I saw you on the beach that night," he continued. "And you captivated me, Princess. You were so beautiful." he trailed off. "You ARE beautiful," he sighed. "And even though I didn't realize it until now, that was the moment I fell in love with you. I'll love you forever," he vowed. "Forever." Sheridan's hands rested on his chest as his lips met hers in tender kiss, and the feelings were overwhelming. Her fists clenched the thin material of his shirt as his hands framed her face, and he took her breath away. Kissing her deeper. More passionately. Desperately in his efforts to have her even closer. "Run away with me again, Princess," he pleaded raggedly. His lips brushing across the line of her cheekbone. Her temple. "We'll leave all this behind.we'll be together."


    "No," she cried. Pushing him away weakly. Father'd ruin you, she thought. "We can't. What about your family, Luis? What about them? Your little sisters and your brother? They need their big brother. Pilar needs you." "They'll understand," Luis answered. "And one day.one day we'll come back home to them." "Listen to yourself, Luis. You love your family. You can't leave them.," she shook her head. "And you haven't even thought about the fact that I'm married, have you?" she said shakily. The words sounding wrong on her tongue. Her husband should love her. She should love him with her whole heart and being. Not fear him like she did Colin. "Stop saying that," Luis insisted. "It's not.your father forced you to marry him. You don't love him. I know you don't." She was silent. "Sheridan.you don't care for Colin. Do you?" he asked with growing uncertainty. The realization she'd yet to say the words back to him. She'd yet to tell him she loved him. Just as much as he loved her. Was that love shining in her beautiful blue eyes? Or just wishful thinking on his part? He didn't know anything anymore. He thought she was stronger. That no matter what, she'd be able to resist her father. And NOT wed herself to.


    "That's the man," a gloating voice announced. "I want you to arrest him and get him off this property." Sheridan whirled around to meet Colin's cold eyes. And the even colder eyes of her father. "Chief Bennett," Alistair spoke. "I also want to press charges against the man." No, she screamed silently. No! Father, you promised! We had a deal. No, no, no, no! This isn't happening! "Charges of what?" Luis demanded to know. Chief Bennett sighed and directed his officers forward. "Luis Lopez- Fitzgerald, you are under arrest." The voices of the young officers as they read him his rights faded into the background as Luis surged forward. Enraged. But Sheridan stepped in. "Luis! No!" she cried. "Please," she pleaded. "They're not worth it," she told him. Leaning her forehead against his. "They're not worth it," she cried. He wanted to rip both monsters limb from limb for the pain they were causing her at this moment. "I'll figure something out, Luis. I promise," she vowed as she kissed him one last time. The salt of her tears lingering on his lips. "I promise," she called after him as the officers pulled him from her. And out the door. "Sheridan!" Luis yelled. His cries of "Sheridan" echoed in her ears as she turned glittering blue eyes on her father. "I hate you!" she raged. "We had a deal. You promised." Alistair shook his head at her in disgust. "You should know better, Sheridan, than to trust my word. She's all yours now, Colin. Do with her as you wish," he laughed cruelly as the door slammed behind him. Ivy's heart broke as Sheridan's screams reverberated through the halls of the grand Crane Mansion. And the music outside reached a crescendo.











    Chapter 24




    "Let go of me," Sheridan screamed as Colin grabbed her wrists roughly and slammed her up against the wall. "I'm afraid I can't do that, Princess," he hissed. Throwing Luis's name for her back in her face. "How dare you. How dare you." Quietly controlled rage in his voice. His icy gray eyes were wild as he yanked her across the room. To the window and forced her to look outside. "You humiliated me in front of our guests, Dear," he spat venomously. Sheridan's blue eyes glittered with anger. "I didn't have to humiliate you," she said in a steely voice. "I think it's humiliating enough that you had to BUY me. Let.go.of.my.arm," she said in a carefully measured voice. "LET GO OF ME!!!" she screamed at the top of her lungs a second later. Struggling against him. Biting the hand that attempted to cover her mouth.


    "You little bitch!" he swore. Wincing in pain and holding his hand close to his chest. Sheridan backed up. Hitting the wall again as he advanced on her. She cried out when she felt the sting of his slap across her cheek. "Somebody needs to teach you a lesson," he growled. Twisting her arm until she paled from the pain. He shoved her backward. Causing her head to hit the wall so hard her teeth rattled. "But it'll have to wait until later. Your father and I have some very important papers to draw up," he said. Sheridan waited for the sound of the slamming door before she allowed herself to cry.


    Ivy burst through the door seconds later. Her blue green eyes flashing first with anger, then filling with sympathy as she crouched in front of her. "Come on, Darling," she whispered softly. Holding out her hand. "We're going to get you out of here. Away from these madmen." Sheridan's chin quivered as she took Ivy's hand and pulled herself to her feet. Ivy slipped a supporting arm around Sheridan's waist as she pushed the door open again and led her to the staircase. "Now, I'm going to take you up to my room. Pilar's waiting for you. She'll take care of you while I make the arrangements. Tell me, Sheridan," Ivy attempted to smile. "Is there any place you've got in mind? Any place in particular you'd like to see?" she asked as they carefully ascended the steps and made their way to Ivy's bedroom. "You don't have to do all this, Ivy. Father will." Ivy waved her off. "I don't care about Alistair. I care about you," she said. Patting Sheridan's cheek affectionately. Sheridan hugged Ivy in gratitude. "I love you, Ivy." "I love you, too," Ivy responded sincerely. "Now.go inside."


    Alistair grinned in satisfaction once Colin scrawled his signature on the dotted line. The fool. He didn't realize it yet, but he'd just handed over his entire paltry fortune. Oh, it was a considerable amount. But hardly the size of the Crane holdings. His blue eyes narrowed when he caught a glimpse of Ivy snagging Julian by the arm outside the library's slightly open door. ".Alistair," Colin repeated. Alistair jerked his head back. Fighting back the scowl that threatened to take over. This.peon. Daring to call him by his given name. Had he no respect? "Would you care for a drink?" he offered out of false politeness. Irritated when the man actually took him up on his offer. He poured the brandy into the heavy glass carefully and handed it to his new son-in-law. "You didn't answer my question," Colin said after seating himself on the leather sofa. "Exactly what do you have in mind for Lopez-Fitzgerald?" The corner of Alistair's lips curled up in a sinister smile. "All in good time," he answered. Gulping down the last of the brandy in his glass and looking past Colin. To Ivy and Julian.


    "Julian!" Ivy hissed. "She's your sister! For once in your miserable life, do something worthwhile. Help me. Help me help her." Julian still looked uncertain. "You know his reputation. Don't tell me you aren't just a tiny bit concerned." Julian swallowed uncomfortably. There was the matter of. He shook his head. But the charges were dropped. The woman wasn't exactly a paragon of virtue. Who was he to trust gossip? But still. "Sheridan is young. With this wonderful, giving heart. He'll ruin that. He'll ruin HER. Forget it. It's useless. I used to think you had a heart somewhere in there," she said bitterly. Jabbing him in the chest with her manicured fingers. "I guess I was wrong. Your mother would be so ashamed of you. Katherine would." "Okay," he stopped her with a hand on her arm. Remembering his mother's weakly whispered words of so long ago. His promise. "I'll do what I can. What are just standing there for? You're wasting valuable time, Ivy. If Father catches wind of this." Ivy finally picked her jaw up off the floor. "Maybe there's hope for you after all," she murmured. Before turning on her heel and scurrying up the winding staircase.


    "Hurry, Darling," Ivy told Sheridan as she kept watch outside the bedroom door. Sheridan stuffed clothes in her duffel bag hastily. Not caring if she wrinkled them or not. That was the last of her worries. "I can't find it. I can't find it," she panicked. Tearing through her closet. "He burned it. I knew he would. He throws away everything I love," she said tearfully. "I can't leave, Ivy. I can't leave Harmony and Luis behind. Father will.I have to stay and help him somehow. Protect him." "Mija," Pilar lay a calming hand on her arm. "Mija.look at me," she urged. "Look at me," she insisted. Cupping Sheridan's face in the palms of her work- hewn hands. "It's for the best." Sheridan shook her head 'no.' Tears spilling from her pained blue eyes. Wetting Pilar's fingertips. "No. No. I can't leave. I promised."


    "Luis will understand," Ivy told her. Taking her hand in both of hers and squeezing it reassuringly. "Your safety is most important to him, and he'll feel better knowing you're as far away as possible from this place." AND your father and Colin, she thought silently. "But I don't want to leave him," she cried. "I never told him.what if I never see him again?" "Mija," Pilar scolded. "You mustn't think that way." "Pilar's right, Sheridan," Ivy murmured. "You WILL see Luis again. Maybe not tomorrow or the next day.but you WILL." A terse knock at the door startled them all. "Time is running out," Julian hissed. "No," Sheridan protested as Ivy and Pilar steered her out into the hall and down the servants' stairs. "I don't want to leave you," she cried as Julian pulled her out into the cloak of darkness. The sounds of 'celebration' dwindling in the far corner of the gardens. "No." Pilar and Ivy held each other as they watched the two figures fade and gradually disappear.


    Julian glanced at her out of the corner of his eye as they sped along the Coast Road. Further and further from the Mansion. Further and further from Father. Colin. Further and further from Luis. Her slim shoulders shook, and tears coursed down her cheeks unheeded. He felt terrible denying her the chance to say goodbye, but he knew time was of the essence. And if this had a snowball's chance in hell of working, they couldn't afford to take chances. He was doing it for her own good. Despite the fact that it did NOTHING to win points in his favor. She'd begged. Pleaded. And he was dismayed to discover his rusty heart was apparently in perfect working order. He'd almost caved. But then all.this.would be for naught, and Father would have won again. He couldn't let that happen.


    The breeze ruffled her blond hair as he stood before her awkwardly. Not knowing what to say. Not sure if he could find the words. "Why are you doing this, Julian?" she finally asked. Suspicion evident in her voice. "Why now, Julian? What makes now so different?" He placed a guiding hand on the small of her back and steered her toward the private jet. "I thought you were a firm believer in second chances, Dear Sister. Well.this just happens to be my LAST chance. The LAST chance to keep a promise I made an eternity ago. You're my sister," he said. His quiet words drawing her full attention. "And it's high time I started treating you as such. I just hope I'm not too late." Sheridan gazed up at him with shimmering blue eyes. "Perfect timing, Julian," she muttered. "You're NOT too late," she assured him when he refused to meet her eyes. "You're just in time. I love you," she whispered into his ear as she hugged him goodbye. "Thank you." He shrugged her gratitude off. The words stuck in his throat as he watched her climb the steps and disappear. He got into his car and turned the ignition. Leaving without a glance behind. And she was but a tiny figure in a tiny window. Hugging the teddy bear close with a sad smile on her face.






    Chapter 25




    "I'll figure something out, Luis. I promise."


    He stuffed his hands in his pockets with a heavy sigh. Was this it? Being apart? A brisk breeze made him shiver. He ran his hand up and down the weather-hewn bark of the ancient tree. A slight smile tugging at the corners of his mouth as he remembered.he was standing here. The second time he saw her. The first time he came to know her. His brown eyes lifted skyward, and his heart clenched. Each day the tree's branches grew more bare. Leaves of gold, orange, brown fluttered downward. Carpeting the grassy banks.


    A gentle rustling noise behind him had him turning, and he half-expected to see her before him. Astride Juliet. What was that she said? He closed his eyes as he heard her voice. Plain as day. "Animals always listen when you pour your sorrows out to them." "Dammit!" he swore. Leaning his head back against the tree. "Where are you?"


    Surprise didn't even begin to describe the feelings rushing through him when Sam released him from his jail cell the next morning. Informing him all charges were dropped. He'd ignored the older man's advice and headed straight for the Mansion. To her. But she wasn't there. She was gone. Vanished in the night, Mama told him. Not meeting his eyes. Willing him not to question. But that's what you do when you love somebody. Right?


    Confronting old man Crane himself yielded NO answers. And he got the distinct impression.the man simply did NOT care. He got what he wanted. Rid of his daughter. And his greedy hands on Colin Lindsay's fortune. Colin Lindsay. Damn scum. For weeks he had searched for her. His pride hurt more than anything. Until he grew bored with pretending to be the concerned husband and took a mistress


    The only person beside Mama who seemed to truly understand his pain was Ivy Crane. She knew more than she would reveal. He was certain. He could see it every time he looked into her blue-green eyes. "I'm sorry, Luis. But I can't. Not yet. Not now. I promise.someday." So many promises. He didn't believe one.


    The water rippled and rushed along the rocks. Sparkling in the autumn sunlight. He plunged his hand in the cold stream. Dividing the current and watching the water swirl around his fingertips. Her voice rang in his ears once more. "Oh, it's so beautiful." He loved seeing things through her eyes.


    Whenever the ache got too strong, he came here. Hoping with all his heart. To see her. Again. His heart lodged in is throat as he heard a familiar neigh and felt a presence nearby. "Sherry? Princess? Is that you?" he whirled around.


    He blinked against the sun's bright rays. Holding a hand to his brow. She was surrounded by a golden glow. And Juliet pawed at the ground. Tossing her head impatiently. "Sheridan.you came back to me." Then she stepped beneath the tree's canopy. Into the shadows. His heart sank. "Oh. Gwen. It's."


    Gwen's brown eyes filled with sympathy. "I'm sorry. I never thought." Luis turned from her to gaze at the stream again. "It's not your fault," he laughed without feeling. "It was the hair," he told her. Gwen lifted a self-conscious hand to her shoulder-length golden locks. "And Juliet." Gwen broke the lingering silence a few minutes later. "You really miss her, don't you?"


    "Always. I never thought." ".you'd love her?" Gwen asked with a smile. Luis's brown eyes sparkled at her. "You'd be a fool not to," she laughed. "Despite what Sheridan thinks and feels.I mean you can't help it. She's.she just has this light about her. Would you listen to me? I'm sorry, Luis. You're probably thinking 'I wish this stupid deb would just shut her trap'." "No," he smiled.


    They lost track of time as they talked. Sharing stories of her as the evening drew close, and the shadows shifted. And Luis discovered it helped. Finally, when the pink and purple and orange of the fading sun splashed across the horizon, Gwen glanced at the watch on her wrist. Slowly rising to her feet.


    "Mother's probably already suffered a coronary," she rolled her eyes. Causing him to laugh. He helped her mount Juliet, and his heart hammered in his chest as she slipped a plain white envelope into his hand. "Don't ever give up," she said. Before digging her heels in Juliet's sides. One simple word was scrawled across it.


    "Luigi."


    His joyful laughter shattered the peaceful stillness around him.











  6. #6
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    Jun 2004
    Location
    Dubuque, IA
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    Re: Diamonds (Sheridan and Luis)

    Is this finished Shae? Or is there more to come? This is very good too!!!

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