I've been slowly working on this. I'll be working on chapter nine tonight. I hope I'll have it out a lot sooner than this one came out! Thanks for reading.

Sheridan was used to riding in the back of a limousine. Every great once in a while—mostly in order to be alone with her thoughts—she would rent or borrow a car. But being a passenger in the slick black 2007 Chevy Silverado that Luis owned was a very different experience. First of all, she was forced to stare at his perfect profile the entire time they sped (literally) out of Harmony; second, she was all-too-aware of his utter masculinity riding passenger in this car that so closely fit his personality.
These thoughts were not quite at the surface, but they lurked under the more demanding issues that were at war in her mind. She found herself twisting in her seat to keep glancing back at Harmony as the speedometer read 60…65…70...75.
“Luis,” she finally said sharply, catching his attention briefly.
“What?” he asked, his jaw ticking. He was irritated; that much was obvious. Why, Sheridan didn’t know; nor did she know how he knew she was in that mental hospital, or why he’d come to her rescue in the first place.
“Mind telling me what the hell is going on here?”
He paused for a minute, letting up on the gas a bit. They were definitely being followed, but whoever was following them was quite far behind by now. He released a long sigh before answering, “I really don’t know too much. I got back to the police station the day before yesterday, after that whole Book Café debacle, and I left you that message.” He glanced at her cursorily and then turned his attention back to the road, very intent. “It wasn’t an hour that went by before the chief was in my office, asking me to pack up my more important stuff and turn in my badge.”
Sheridan’s mouth fell open in horror. “No,” she breathed.
A wry smile lifted Luis’s mouth. “Yep,” he replied with a sour chuckle.
“They fired you?” Sheridan asked, bewildered. “But why?”
Luis shook his head, swallowing hard. “No, they didn’t fire me. They put me on paid suspension.” He sighed again, running his free hand through his hair. “Apparently, according to Chief Bennett, I shouldn’t have gotten so involved in the whole Ella thing. That information was confidential, he says.” Luis glanced at her again, his mouth forming a tight, grim line.
“Oh my God,” Sheridan whispered. “I am so sorry.”
He shrugged. “It’s not your fault. I should have known better, actually. So I pack up my stuff and Chief Bennett says to me, ‘We’re really sorry about this, Luis. But you really need to stay away from Sheridan from now on.’ And that got me thinking, because usually Chief Bennett is more lenient than this…about issues that are a lot worse. So I asked him why he was so insistent on this.”
Realization dawned on Sheridan’s features. “My father,” she said quietly.
“You got it, babe. Your father, Alistair Crane, pressured my chief into putting me on paid suspension. Apparently he didn’t want me finding anything else out. Or at least he didn’t want me telling you about it. His excuse was that you were too far gone in this. That much was clear in yesterday morning’s paper.”
“Oh no,” Sheridan groaned. She dropped her head into her hands and mumbled, “What did it say?”
“There were some pretty damning shots of some white-coats dragging you away in the middle of the night. I had to do a little digging. Took me all day and night after that, but I found you.” He smiled at her, but it didn’t quite reach his eyes.
“Why?” she asked simply, looking up at him.
“Why what?”
“Why did you come after me?” She studied his face as it went through a series of expressions: thoughtfulness, pity, and finally, determination.
“Nobody tells me what not to do,” he finally answered. Sheridan’s heart did a funny sinking thing, but she ignored it. Luis went on matter-of-fact: “Ever since you came into town, it’s like Harmony went through a tornado. At first I wanted you to leave,” he admitted with a sheepish look. “But now I realize that that’s not it at all. Alistair owns everything. Everything is all out of balance. I won’t do that anymore. I won’t let the Cranes control me or the people I care about.”
Sheridan leaned back in her seat, feeling embarrassed and upset. “Well, I’m sorry about everything the Cranes have put you through,” she said tightly. “I’m sure we’ll be out of your life soon enough.”
“Sheridan, that’s not what I—“
“It’s all right,” she interrupted curtly. “Just get me out of here so we can figure this out, and I’ll be out of your hair as soon as I can.”
Luis sighed and threw her as long a look as he could spare, but remained quiet.


They drove for seven hours from Harmony, Maine to New Haven, Connecticut and were actually lucky enough to find a vacancy in one of the more popular Victorian inns. The plan was to simply drive far enough away that they wouldn’t have to worry about being kidnapped in their sleep and dragged back to the mental hospital. New Haven was a busy city (as busy a city in New England would allow) because of the all the Yale students and hopefuls, so they were more likely to get lost in the hustle and bustle. They had no overnight gear, no real plan, and they were both starving by the time they got there. It was 3:30 in the afternoon, and Sheridan was ready to pass out for the night.
Once they had gotten up to their room (twin beds) and settled in as best they could, Sheridan turned to face Luis. “You can stay here if you want, but I really need to go pick up some stuff.”
“Stuff?” he replied. He pretended to be examining the room, but it was painfully obvious how uncomfortable he was. Conversation hadn’t been easy since he had revealed how irritated he was by the Cranes’ very existence.
“Yeah. You know. Pajamas, a toothbrush, shampoo and conditioner. Food,” she grumbled the last part, since she had been hinting at it for virtually the entire car ride.
“Yeah. Yeah, sorry. Um.” He shifted his weight and started towards the door, moving past her quickly. “I think I’ll go with you, if you don’t mind. I need to grab some stuff, too. And it’s really best if we stay together.”
Sheridan nodded at that, but didn’t answer him as they started back outdoors. The innkeeper gave her a polite smile, which she returned. This only perplexed her, as she caught herself once again being friendly to a complete stranger. Luis didn’t miss the interaction either, but he didn’t comment.
New Haven practically reeked of the type of high class family Sheridan came from. It was old money, snobbery, and the comforts of New England all rolled up into one. Luis very obviously felt out of his element. He grumbled through all of the stores and was in an incredibly foul mood when they finally got back to the hotel with an armful of bags. Sheridan held two steaming cups of coffee and some take-out, and she only laughed at him.
“And you say I have no manners,” she teased him, letting out a relieved “ahhh” as she sipped at her coffee. But they both blushed at the mention of that particular night. Luis cleared his throat and propped open his steak dinner, taking the bed nearest the door.
“I just don’t see the need, when these people have no manners toward me,” he reasoned grumpily.
“Oh Luis, you didn’t even give them a chance.” She rolled her eyes and opened her own steak dinner.
“True enough. But they’re all the same, really.” He shrugged and looked at her.
Sheridan toyed with a bite of steak, not answering for a moment. Finally she said quietly, “I suppose,” and then bit into her steak without looking at him.
They were quiet for a long time, each enjoying their dinners. Luis finished up first, tossing his nearly empty container into the trash and leaning against the headboard of the bed. He sipped his coffee thoughtfully.
“You never told me how you really ended up in a mental hospital,” he said to her.
Sheridan put down the bite of steak she had almost taken. Deciding she was finished at this, she tossed her container into the trash on top of Luis’s and took an almost identical position in her own bed. She sipped apprehensively at her own coffee, trying to decide what she should tell Luis.
“I have the tabloid version,” he continued, staring at the wall in front of him rather than at her. “‘Drugs, scandal, alienation from the family.’ You know the drill. But you never actually told me what happened.”
Taking in a deep breath and letting it out slowly, she decided on the truth. “Hank came to my house at two in the morning. He invited himself in and the two white-coats with him. He said that he was worried about me, that I was getting too wrapped up in this whole Ella thing.” She paused for a moment, remembering that night with a combination of bitterness and anger. “He had a note signed by a psychiatrist, stating that he thought it was best if I entered a mental hospital. It all seemed pretty legit…except that I haven’t seen a psychiatrist since I was probably fourteen.” She smiled wearily at Luis. “As you can probably imagine, I was pretty surprised by the whole thing.”
Luis nodded thoughtfully. “Well, Sheridan, any smart person can put two-and-two together here and come up with this conclusion: Your father and Hank are probably in on this together.” He didn’t seem to like the idea of Hank Bennett being in cahoots with Alistair Crane. Especially since it was the chief’s brother they were talking about here.
Sheridan sighed and looked down at her coffee. “Yeah,” was all she could seem to say.
“I’m guessing they have something pretty big to hide,” he went on, tapping against the Styrofoam cup he sipped occasionally out of.
“Mmhmm,” Sheridan murmured.
“I don’t think Ella was pushed out of that window,” he finally said.
Sheridan looked up at him immediately. “What?”
“Think about it,” he said, straightening up now, determined to tell his theory. “You mentioned that night—“ he paused at that “—you mentioned being sent away. You didn’t elaborate, I know, but I’m not stupid, Sheridan. I’m guessing they sent you away after Ella died.”
Sheridan had an almost panicked look on her face as she nodded at him, trying to absorb everything. “Yeah. My father—he sent me away. I was having nightmares about Ella. He sent me to Paris, saying the change of scenery might help.”
“So Ella dies and your father sends you away, and finally the nightmares stop—but you never came back. Then the nightmares start again. You come back to Harmony, and who should you meet but Hank?” Luis seemed almost excited about his sudden revelation. He went on in a rush. “He gains your trust somehow, but all of these scandalous stories from the press start running. How do they know where you are? I know you’re not calling the paparazzi. All of this is meant to run you out of town. Your father’s trying to convince you to leave; the press keeps running horrible stories about you. Finally Hank shows up with an order to put you away. The paparazzi inexplicably know when to show up that night, too. What does that tell you, Sheridan?”
Sheridan shook her spinning head and fell back heavily against the headboard. “Oh my God,” she whispered. “I’m so stupid.” She turned tear-filled eyes on Luis and continued, “But Luis, maybe he was right. Maybe I should be put away.”
Luis set down his coffee immediately and went to sit next to her. “I don’t think so, Sheridan. I think you’re trying to repress memories, and they’re coming back to you. I think you might’ve seen something that day.”
“I saw her.” She said it so quietly, she thought he might not have heard her; but he pulled away and looked at her in confusion.
“What do you mean?”
“Ella. I saw her. I saw her the night that Hank came to the house. The night they took me to the mental hospital.” She swallowed hard, almost having trouble breathing. “She was on the staircase,” she went on in a shaky voice. “I-I wasn’t sure at first. She didn’t say anything, but she led me to the attic, just like in my dream. I saw her, and the window—the window exploded. And then she wasn’t there anymore.” Tears were coming down her cheeks now, for no good reason she could think of—other than that she was completely terrified of the confession she’d just made. It sounded so ridiculous coming out of her mouth, so unreal.
“The window exploded? The window is broken?” Luis seemed to be trying to process what she was telling him; trying to make sense of it all.
“No. No, the window’s not broken… But I saw it explode, Luis. You have to believe me.” She swiped angrily at the tears on her cheeks and jumped out of the bed. “Dammit, I know how stupid this sounds, but I saw it with my own two eyes, Luis. I saw Ella. I saw the window explode.” She was pacing now, her heart pounding in her effort to block out just how crazy she sounded. Luis stood and grabbed her by the shoulders, spinning her to face him.
“Sheridan,” he said calmly, “stop.” She did, but her breathing was fast and shallow. “I believe you,” he finally said, staring into her eyes for the full effect.
Her face crumpled in response, tears coming faster now. “You do?”
“Yes,” he whispered, still staring into her eyes. She couldn’t seem to look at him. He tipped her chin up with his index finger and said again, “Yes, I believe you. We’ll go back to Harmony as soon as we possibly can. We’ll rent a car, and we’ll go as far as we possibly can without looking suspicious. We’ll walk the rest of the way. We need to get back into that mansion, Sheridan. That’s the only way we can possibly know what’s really going on.”
Sheridan sniffled and wiped at her tears again, but didn’t move away. She finally looked him in the eye. “Thank you,” she said softly.
His eyes were so gold, so compassionate at that moment. So like the color of the brandy he’d drank the night they kissed. She forgot all about being irritated at him earlier. She forgot about how much he hated the Cranes. She forgot about how they got off on the wrong foot; about all the reasons she very nearly hated him the entire time she’d been back in Harmony.
Instead, what seemed to come to the forefront was that his irritating her almost always had to do with the fact that she’d been rude and he’d been trying to put her in her place. She thought about how much he’d taught her in that short period of time; how he always seemed to come to her aid when she’d truly needed help: when she’d given up the desperate search for information on Ella; when she’d ended up in a mental hospital; when she needed coffee, goddammit.
She smiled at that last thought, and he smiled back at her. It was such a tender, quiet moment between them, heightened only more by the fact that he actually believed her. She wasn’t even sure she’d believe her if she were him. The seconds ticked by like minutes; the minutes like hours. Sheridan wasn’t sure exactly what made her do it. They weren’t drunk this time. There would be no excuse the following morning. They might actually have to discuss this one. But regardless, she closed the short distance between them and pressed her warm, moist lips to his.
She didn’t expect the very breath to be sucked from her or the heat to pool low in her belly. A part of her had almost expected the sloppy, drunk kiss from before; but that may have been what made her curious in the first place. How would it have felt to kiss this handsome hero—completely sober? She sucked in a breath and pulled away quickly, looking up into his eyes, her cheeks burning. It had been so intense that she was actually shaking now.
Luis looked surprised, but his eyes had almost grown a shade darker with some sort of emotion that Sheridan couldn’t quite decipher. A second later his hands were at the small of her back, pressing her body into his; and his mouth was on hers once again. She found herself at a loss for breath once again and nearly moaned when their lips parted simultaneously. She curled her hands up into his hair, trying to get as close as humanly possible to Luis. His kiss made her so crazy that she felt like there was no possible way that she could get enough of him.
They parted, gasping, staring at each other in complete shock. It was a minute before either of them could speak.
“Um,” Luis said, turning away from her. “We should—we should get some rest. We have a busy couple of days ahead of us.”
Sheridan stared at his back, confused and hurt. “Yeah,” she said quietly. “Yeah, okay.”
“I’m going to take a shower.” He nearly bit that last part out, digging through the shopping bags near the door and retrieving the pajama bottoms he’d purchased earlier before hurrying into the bathroom. She watched the door close behind him and glanced at the clock.
It was only 7:09.
She wondered what she could possibly have done to make him leave like that. Besides the obvious; and she grew bitter at the thought.
She was a Crane.
Her heart was still pounding as she slid into the bed and turned on the television. She fell asleep to some show that she never actually paid attention to, never noticing as Luis peeked into the bedroom and padded softly over to his own bed, his gaze lingering on her for quite a long time.