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Thread: Unforgettable (Sheridan/Luis, Gwen/Hank)

  1. #9
    Join Date
    Oct 2000

    Post Re: Unforgettable (Sheridan/Luis, Gwen/Hank)

    Chapter Forty-One:

    "Papa? Papa, is that really you?" Luis asked. Slowly. His words tinged with shock as he moved closer and closer to the man he hadn't seen in years. Many years. Too many years. Sheridan felt tears come to her eyes as she saw the tears in her husband's brown eyes. Tears in Martin's eyes. The man who had protected her. Saved her. Brought her back to her family.

    Martin's voice shook with emotion as he answered his son. "Yes. Yes, Son, it's me." "Oh my god," Luis whispered as he looked at his father. Realized it wasn't all a dream. "You're really here. I'm not just imagining this," he said as he hugged his father. Hard. Closing his eyes and remembering the last time they had hugged this way. He was just a boy. Mama was so young. "Mama," Luis gasped. His dark brown eyes going wide. Pulling away to meet his father's eyes.

    "Yes, Luis. I talked with your mother," Martin said with a grin. Twinkling eyes. "She was, she was surprised." "She was sobbing," Luis corrected. Backing away. Slight anger making his voice rise. "She's never given up hope," he said. Dark eyes glittering as he bore into his father. Trying to see into his soul. Get answers to all the questions. Find out why. "She lit a candle for you all these years. Convinced you were still alive. Her faith unshakeable. Why Papa? And where have you been all these years?"

    Martin's eyes shifted to her. As if asking permission. She felt her throat tighten with tears as she answered for him. "My father, Luis. It was my father's doing," she said in a trembling voice. Pain ripping through her heart as she realized anew just how much hurt, how much pain her father had caused during his lifetime. She squeezed the hand Martin offered. Leaned into Ali's sweet embrace. Luis was silent. Unwilling to upset her any further.

    "Later, Luis," Martin said. Promise in his voice. "I'll fill you--and your mother when she gets here, in on all the details later." "Mama's coming?" Luis asked. In disbelief. "Uncle Miguel's bringing her, Daddy. They're bringing the b..." Sheridan stopped her with a hand over her mouth. A grin stole over Luis's face. No doubt picturing the look on his mother's face when she came face to face with his father once again. And the look on his father's face when he met his grandson. His namesake. M.J. Sheridan's blue eyes sparkled with love and happiness at the joy written on Luis's face.

    She was still smiling when she found herself alone with her husband minutes later. Ali and Martin getting reacquainted. As granddaughter and grandfather. "Sheridan," Luis breathed pulling her body close. "I have my Papa back. He saved you. Twice," he said. Releasing her. Barely catching the brief flash of discomfort, pain, that shone in her beautiful eyes. "Did I hurt you? I did, didn't I?" he asked. Concern in his dark eyes as he looked at her. Really looked at her for the first time since entering the hospital room. "I nearly lost you. Again," he choked. Fingering the bandage on her forehead.

    She reached up and covered his hand with her own as it cradled her cheek. Leaned into his touch. "I'm still here, Luis. I'm never leaving you. Never again. My heart will always be with you," she whispered. Laughing lightly as he wiped the tears that escaped from her blue eyes away. "I love you," she said. Smiling brilliantly at him. At the tender smile that lit his own face. "I loved you then. I love you now. And I will always love you. No matter what. You're not going to get rid of me that easy, Buster. When I promised myself to you with our wedding vows, I meant forever."

    "," he began. Understanding dawning on his beloved features. "Oh Sheridan," he said. Cupping her face in his hands. "Welcome back. I've been waiting so long. Here I was, on the way to the hospital, cursing this day. Hating myself for letting you and Ali out of my sight. For even a minute. So scared I had lost you both. Forever this time. But I didn't lose you. Either of you. You're both okay," he said. Searching her eyes for verification. "Just a mild concussion and a few fractured ribs," she qualified. "Ouch," he said. Tracing her features with the tips of his fingers. Delighting in her soft sighs.

    "You're both okay. Thanks to my father. My papa. Sheridan, Papa's back," he said in excitement. "Yes, he is," she said. Laughing softly. "This is the happiest day of my life," he said. Bringing his lips to hers. Kissing her tenderly. Sweetly. "Mine, too," she whispered. Leaning her forehead against his. Holding him close. Kissing him again, and snuggling close as he pulled her into his arms and lay back against the pillows. Wrapping his arms securely around her. Smiling into her shoulder when they heard a wonderful sound just moments later. A smile that was there to stay as they listened. As husband and wife reunited.

    Chapter Forty-Two:

    Just like that his life changed. In an instant. That day three years ago started like any other day. He woke. Alone. Went about his routine. As he always did. But something was different about that day. He could tell. His life would be forever changed. Again.

    How could one person change a life so much? He didn't have the answers. Didn't pretend to understand it. Sheridan Crane had changed his life when she was only a child. And she changed it again just three years ago quite unexpectedly. This time she brought his family back to him. They were forever connected.

    It all happened so fast. Like a whirlwind. He had his family back. And Pilar was in his arms. Laughing and crying. Clinging to him. Almost afraid to let go. His heart was full at that moment. Overflowing as he pulled back to look into her eyes. Words failed him as he wiped her tears away. So he did the only thing he could. Pulled her close again. And held on.

    "Oh Martin," she said. Over and over again. Running her hands over his face. Touching him. Making sure he was real. He smiled at her. And her tears started all over again. She buried her face into his chest and sobbed. Until a tiny voice made her smile again.

    "Nana, don't cry," Ali whispered. Taking her grandmother by the hand. Petting her. "Mija," Pilar answered. Sweeping Ali up into her arms. "These are happy tears. I'm just so happy to have your grandfather back. He's been gone so long," she said. Searching his eyes for clues. Clues to why.

    "Too long," a strong voice answered. Startling him. Startling them all. Martin looked past Pilar--past Ali--and his eyes landed on a young man. "Miguel?" he whispered. Walking closer. Not believing his eyes. His youngest son was no longer the baby he had left behind. He was a man.

    "Papa?" he said. Quietly. Uncertain. "You've grown into a fine young man, Son," he said proudly. "A fine young man." And he crumpled. As reality sank in. Martin hugged his youngest son tightly. Emotion getting the better of him. Both of them. They cried together. Unashamed.

    "There's someone I want you to meet, Papa," he said. Stepping back. Putting his arm around a pretty dark-haired young woman. A small child nestled in her arms. "Papa, this is Kay. My wife." He brought her hand to his lips with a smile. Delighting in her soft laughter. "And this," Miguel said, taking the small bundle from her, "is my son. MJ. He's named after you."

    He looked to Miguel in surprise. Then back to the tiny infant. Arms waving back and forth. Curious dark eyes studying him intently. An impossibly huge smile tugging at the corners of his mouth once again. "Can I?" he asked. Holding his arms out. Miguel handed the child over to him. Running an affectionate hand over the baby's downy dark head before stepping back. Allowing grandfather and grandson to get acquainted.

    "Hello there, wee one. I'm your grandpa. The old man you're named after," he said in jest. Earning a smile from MJ. Then laughter. "He thinks you're funny, Grandpa Martin," Ali giggled. He looked at her in surprise. Getting used to being called Grandpa was something he was looking forward to. Very much. He just smiled at her before gazing into his wife's dark eyes. He had so much to look forward to. There were still many questions to be asked, and so many answers. But those would wait. Right now, he wanted to enjoy this moment. To the fullest.

    Chapter Forty-Three

    "So much has happened this week. The accident. Martin's return. The revelation he's Pilar's Martin. Regaining my memory. All good, and yet, my life this week has been touched by sadness as well. The same night of the accident--the night Luis got his father back--Josh passed. Nick didn't tell me until much later."

    "I could tell he was upset that morning the moment I looked into his gray eyes. They were red and puffy, and he looked so tired. So sad as he asked Luis for a moment alone with me. I knew in my heart what was coming. I think I knew it the night it happened. Even in all my happiness I felt this emptiness. This emptiness that told me Josh was gone."

    "I missed the memorial service. Didn't get to tell Christine how sorry I was. That was the day Martin revealed all to us. His family. Told us of my father's part in the whole tragedy. That's what it is and was. A tragedy. I'm so ashamed. Despite Martin's freeing words, shame filled me at the knowledge that my father was a murderer. I felt worse knowing he threatened Martin than I did knowing he used me as a scapegoat. Convinced me I was a killer. Me. Just a little girl. Guilty of murder."

    "I worry what he will do now that Martin has broken his silence. He's done no wrong. But my father can make it seem differently. My father is a powerful man. Even from a hospital bed, Alistair Crane is a powerful man. He refuses to own up to the truth even though he is a shadow of the man he was, the stroke making him weak. And though I believe Martin wholeheartedly, there is no proof. No proof of a body. No proof of foul play. The murder of a man who got too close to the Crane secrets. The murder of a man too honest to keep them under wraps. A man who despite his fear, tried to come clean. An honorable act that caused his death."

    "My father is guilty of so many things. But, as silly as it might seem, the thing I hold most against him is the fact that he withheld his love from me. Withheld the love of a father from a daughter. Cared so little for me that he was willing to sacrifice me to protect himself. Without another thought. Cared so little he let my husband think I was dead for three long years. My daughter grow three years without knowing me."

    "But all that doesn't matter now. I have all the love I need. From Luis. And Ali. Pilar and Martin. Our friends. People I call my family. They are more my family than Alistair Crane ever was. And ever will be. He's dead to me. As sure as if we had lain him to rest. Luis wants payback. For all the unnecessary pain. But it is enough for me to know we have what my father will never have. Love. Security. Happiness. And Luis seems content enough with those things. He won't stop hoping for answers. He won't spend the rest of his life searching for proof either."

    "Only one thing keeps me from the peace I want so badly. The way things ended with my brother. Julian and I came to an understanding in the weeks before the accident that took his life. And, in his own way, I know he loved me. He died trying to absolve me of my guilt. To take me to the truth. To Martin. And he did. Just not the way he'd planned."

    "I remembered where I hid the key. The key to the rest of his secrets. And what I read shocked me. I went to Eve that same day. Yesterday. And learned the truth. Straight from her lips. And gave her an even more devastating truth. Her baby's death was a lie. Julian's son's death was one of the biggest lies of all. Orchestrated by none other than my father. Finding my nephew, trying the best way I know how to atone for the sins of my father, is something that won't let me go. Something I must do. For Julian. And I will, with Luis by my side."

    She closed the book with a sigh. And looked to the man lying beside her. Sleeping peacefully. Unaware of her wakefulness. A smile on his face as he dreamed. His golden wedding band gleamed in the dim light. And a smile came over her lips as she looked down at its twin. Remembering his sweet words, the love in his voice, his eyes, his actions as he'd slipped the ring back on her finger earlier tonight. Back where it belonged. It was like getting married all over again as he vowed to always be there. Always with her. She tucked the journal under her pillow and turned off the lamp's light. Snuggling close. In his arms. Where her heart was.

    Chapter Forty-Four

    "Sheridan, it's so good to have you back to your old self," Ivy said. Hugging her. Sheridan smiled brightly at her. "It's good to be back. You don't know how good," she said. Hugging Ethan as well. They laughed when Ali made her presence known. "Mommy! Aunt Ivy! Look!" In her arms she held an adorable, tiny kitten.

    "Ali," Sheridan laughed. "Honey, where did you get this little sweetheart?" she said. Taking the kitten from Ali's arms and cuddling it close. The kitten mewled softly at her. Causing Ali to giggle. "She likes you, Mommy." "You didn't answer my question, Baby. Where'd you get the kitten?"

    "Well," she began. A huge grin lighting up her face. Blue eyes twinkling. Another giggle escaping when she looked at Ethan's face. Saw the finger he had raised to his lips. "I can't tell. It's a secret." "A secret, huh?" Ivy laughed. Catching the conspiratorial looks passed between Ethan and Ali. "I bet it's a secret."

    "Oh, but it is, Aunt Ivy. I can't tell a soul. I promised," Ali said seriously. One look at Ethan's face, and Sheridan laughed out loud. "You are so busted. You're a terrible liar. Your face is an open book. Not setting a good example for my daughter, either, Ethan. What am I going to do with you two?"

    Ethan swept Ali up into his arms and said, "I don't know. What do you think, Ali?" Ali looped her arms around Ethan's neck and said, "We're not in trouble, are we Mommy?" Pouting at her. Ethan wore an identical expression on his face. "Aww. Sheridan. How can you refuse those faces?" Ivy said with a smile.

    "I can't," she muttered. Heaving an exaggerated sigh. "Oh, Mommy!" Ali squealed. "Does this mean we can keep her? Please say yes. Please." Sheridan looked at the tiny purring bundle of white fur in her hands to her daughter's hopeful blue eyes. And back at the white bundle. And her heart melted. "Yes. We can keep her."

    Ethan set Ali down on her feet. Smiling as she reigned kisses on Sheridan's face and hugged her tightly about the neck. "Thank you, Mommy. Thank you. I can't wait to take her home. What are we going to name her? Where is she going to sleep? Can she sleep in my bed with me? Oh, I can't wait to show her to Jake. He'll be so jealous."

    "Ali," she laughed. "Baby, that's not very nice." "Well, he not very nice to me, either. He's been bragging about the fish his dad bought him. But I think a kitten's much better. Isn't it, Aunt Ivy?" Ivy smiled in amusement before answering her. "Much better, Darling. Now, why don't you take your new friend outside and..." That was all she got out before she sneezed. "Play," she squeaked. Before sneezing again.

    "Don't go far, sweetie. We're leaving soon," she waved as Ali disappeared. Out back toward the gardens with one of the housekeepers. "Ethan!" she said. Smacking him in mock anger. "What have you gotten me into? A kitten? You and Ali planned this, didn't you? That kitten looks strangely familiar. In fact, I think I remember seeing the same kitten last week. When you had lunch with me and Ali at the mall."

    "If it's Luis you're worried about, don't bother. Pilar already ran the idea by him. Well...sort of. Okay. Not really. She asked him if he'd like to have a pet." "He meant a dog, you moron. What am I going to do? This morning it was just us three. Now I'm going home. With a kitten." "Relax. It's just a tiny, harmless kitten. It's not like it can do much." "Famous last words, Ethan. Famous last words," she called out behind her as she walked out the door. Leaving Ethan and Ivy behind. Having way too much fun at her expense.

    Chapter Forty-Five

    “Goodnight Daddy," Ali yawned. Nestled in her mother's arms. Stroking the kitten snuggled against her chest contentedly. "Night, AliCat," he whispered. With a kiss to her forehead. Ruffling her long blond hair and ignoring the purring white bundle she held close like a treasure.

    Until Ali said, "Kiss the kitty goodnight, too, Daddy." Luis's mouth hung open at her request. His brown eyes traveled from Ali and the kitten to his wife's blue eyes. Shining with amusement in the dimly lit room. Her eyes were twinkling. Laughing. But she kept a straight face when she said, "Go ahead, Luis. She's part of the family now." She was good, he thought with an inward groan. Too good. He would have already cracked.

    "How 'bout I just pet her instead?" "Nope," Ali said in all seriousness with a shake of her head. "She wants a kiss." He looked to Sheridan for help. Any escape. But he found none. She was having difficulty smothering her laughter. Ali's blue eyes watched him expectantly. Waiting. He didn't stand a chance. Ali giggled in satisfaction when he granted her request, and Sheridan's laughter rang out behind her as she carried Ali to her bedroom to tuck her in.

    He was waiting for her when she returned. Several minutes later. Catching her by surprise when he grabbed her. Tumbling onto the bed and tickling her. Mercilessly. "Luis," she gasped between giggles. Giggles eerily like Ali's. "Luis. Stop. Please," she pleaded.

    He ignored her. Instead pinning her arms above her head easily with one large brown hand and attacking her sides and stomach with the other. "No," he laughed as she squirmed beneath his hold. "It's your punishment. For bringing that...that cat home with you." "I knew it! The truth's revealed. Why didn't you just say so?"

    He looked at her like she was crazy. Causing her to laugh even harder. "What? And break Ali's heart?" "Luis," she said with a smile. "Admit it. You're putty in Ali's hands." He grinned at her. Loosening his grip on her hands unconsciously. "Yeah, well. It's the eyes that get me. Those blue eyes do me in every time," he said. Gazing into hers.

    "Thanks for the inside info," she said. From her new vantage point astride him. He laughed at her. Embarrassed to be had. "You tricked me." "Yeah. And it was so easy," she smirked. He ran his hands up and down her legs smiling wider when she shut her eyes. Completely forgetting what she was about to say. “Tell me something,” he said.

    "Hmm?" she sighed. Enjoying the feeling of his hands on her. Cloudy blue eyes opening and staring at him when his movements stilled. "What?" He flashed a bright grin her way. Then he said, "What are you doing stealing Ali's pjs again?" "Argh! Luis!" she huffed. "These are mine. Thank you very much." Playfully smacking him before he captured her hand in his. Turned it over. And placed kisses on her wrist and palm.

    He tugged at her arm. Pulling her closer. So close he could feel her soft breath on his face. "Did I say I didn't like them?" Slipping his hand underneath the back of the tank she wore. Leaning in to kiss her softly. "In fact," he whispered, punctuating each word with a kiss, "I love them." "Oh god," she moaned when he moved his hand up her rib cage to cup her breast.

    "You're driving me crazy." "Good. Nice to see I haven't lost my touch." Kissing her again. Deeply. Loving the feel of her against him after so long. They broke apart. Breathless. She looked at him with hooded eyes as her hands went to the bottom of the tank she wore. Just about to pull it over her head when a voice stilled her movements.

    "Mommy!" He groaned in frustration when he heard her next words. "The kitty had an accident." Sheridan laughed and moved off of him. "I'm coming, Baby." He grabbed her hand and pulled her back for another kiss. Grumbling as they parted. "Damn cat." She just laughed at him as she opened the door. And left. He sank back against the pillows and sighed. He knew he didn't like cats for a reason.

    "Oh no. What are you doing with that thing in here?" he said when she came back in a few minutes. The tiny animal in her arms. "I'm putting her in our bathroom. With her litter box. That way Ali won't be able to sneak her back into bed with her." He laughed as he said, "She would, wouldn't she? Okay. Just don't leave the door open. I don't want to wake up with that ball of fur in bed with us." "Luis. It's just a kitten. A harmless kitten."

    "Just a kitten," he muttered later. As it meowed. Continuously from behind the bathroom door. Sheridan laughed against his lips. "I'm sorry. I can't. You know. With the..." She fell against his chest. Helpless to stop her laughter. Shaking against him when she heard their daughter's voice at the door.

    "Mommy? Daddy? Can I sleep with you?" What the hell, he thought. "Come on in, AliCat. What?" he asked when she paused in the doorway. A funny look on her face. She looked to Sheridan. Sheridan turned her blue gaze on him. "Okay. Go get her." "Thank you, Daddy!" Ali said excitedly before running to the bathroom and freeing the kitten from its prison. She scrambled into bed between them. The kitten purring in pleasure as it lay against her chest.

    Ali and her brand-new partner in crime were fast asleep within minutes. He lay on his side. Watching his wife watch their daughter sleep. She kissed Ali's forehead sweetly and brushed her hair back off her face before meeting his eyes. He reached out and linked his fingers with hers. Giving her hand a squeeze. Before letting go. Closing his eyes. And drifting off.

  2. #10
    Join Date
    Oct 2000

    Post Re: Unforgettable (Sheridan/Luis, Gwen/Hank)

    Chapter Forty-Six

    "Are you sure you don't mind watching him, Grace? He can be quite a handful at times," Gwen said. Searching the other woman's kind blue eyes for any sign--any tiny sign of doubt on her part. Surely she knew by now how Jake was. She loved her son, but even she had to admit Jake was exhausting.

    "Will you excuse us for a moment, Grace?" Hank stepped in. Taking Gwen by the elbow and leading her to a quiet corner of the living room. "Are you trying to talk her out of watching Jake?" he laughed. "Cause she's starting to crack a little Babe, and I thought you were looking forward to tonight."

    His brown eyes were dancing with amusement, and she couldn't help but smile back at him before she answered. "Hank, Jake runs wild on a normal day. But he's been out at the park with you, Luis, and Ali all day. And that's not always a good thing. Sugar is practically oozing out of his pores."

    He ran his hand over his face. Realizing she was right. Then he looked up at her with a smirk on his face. "All the more reason we should cut out of here soon. This may be the last time Grace ever volunteers to watch our son. Man, she does not know what she's agreed to. Come on, let's get out of here while the gettin's good."

    Her mouth hung open in shock. For at least a minute before she wiped the astonishment off her face and plastered a sweet smile on it instead. And walked over to Grace. Who stood with her hands on Jake's small shoulders. Hank kneeled to Jake's level and whispered something in his ear. Something that caused a wide grin to take over his face.

    Hank's small yelp of pain went unnoticed by Grace when she pinched him in annoyance. Most likely he was planting ideas in Jake's head. She looked into Jake's mischief-filled brown eyes and shook her head. Poor Grace, she thought to herself. She could hardly look her in the eye after hugging Jake goodbye and making him promise to be good. For all the good it would do.

    "Don't you even feel the least bit guilty?" she asked as they drove away. To their destination. He just laughed and took her hand. "It'll be alright. It isn't like he's going to set the house on fire. How much trouble can he get himself into in the next few hours?" He glanced over at her. Saw the incredulous look on her face. "On second thought, don't answer that."

    She laughed softly. And noticed with surprise that the car had stopped. At the Seascape. "Hank? What are we doing here? You can't afford this." "I told you tonight was a special occasion. That means it calls for a special place. Only the best for what I have planned." "Oh, Hank," she said. Tears welling up in her eyes. "You didn't have to do this. Go through so much trouble."

    He wiped her tears away as he gazed into her eyes. "I know I didn't have to. But I wanted to. For you." His lips met hers in a gentle kiss. They pulled away startled when someone knocked on the window. "Excuse me, Sir. Ma'am. Sorry to interrupt." She hid her smile as Hank talked with the valet.

    She took the arm he offered. And they walked inside. She laughed inwardly as he mocked the stuffy, uppercrust host at the front under his breath. "Hank," she whispered as they followed the man to their table. "Stop it." Her pleas only made it worse. She laughed aloud. Causing the man to turn around and look at her oddly. "Is something wrong, Ms.?" She swallowed. Hard. "No. Nothing's wrong. Everything's perfect. Thank you for asking."

    He seemed pleased with her answer and left them after showing them to their table. "Ouch!" Hank exclaimed a little loudly as she kicked him underneath the table. "What was that for?" "You know what that was for. You know, I wasn't sure before, but now I'm convinced. You ARE a little kid in a man's body." "And that's bad how?" She had to bite the inside of her cheek to keep from bursting into laughter at him. He never stopped.

    They enjoyed their meal. Talked. About anything. And everything. But mostly they talked about Jake. Hank reached across the table and took her hand in his. "You know I love you both, don't you? I'm not just saying that, either. That's why I planned tonight. I want," he said as he got up from his chair and came around to kneel in front of her, "to spend the rest of my life with you two. I don't want to ever be apart from you again. What do you say, Gwen? Will you marry me?" She wiped carelessly at the tears streaming down her face. Opened her mouth to answer. When she heard a familiar sound.

    "Oh my god! Gwen Hotchkiss! Don't you even think about it!"

    Chapter Forty-Seven

    Anger filled her and without thinking, she jumped to her feet and glared at the woman in front of her. "Mother! How dare you say such a thing! This is none of your business. What I decide is my business so shut up." Rebecca Hotchkiss closed her gaping mouth in shock and raised a hand to her chest.

    "I can't believe you're speaking to me that way. Your own mother." "Well, believe it, Mother. Get over yourself. I'm my own person. I make my own decisions. And," she said taking Hank by the hand and pulling him to his feet, "I choose Hank. Hank," she said. Turning her full attention on the man by her side. "I love you. Yes, I'll marry you."

    "My life is over," Rebecca shrieked. Loud enough for everyone who wasn't listening before to hear her. "Jonathan, take me home this instant. I can't take anymore of this public humiliation." Jonathan Hotchkiss looked at his wife and with a smile said, "Take yourself home. You're perfectly capable of doing it yourself. I want to stay and celebrate my daughter's engagement. Welcome to the family, Hank."

    Rebecca's eyes rolled back in her head, and she promptly passed out. Hank's mouth hung open in shock, but Jonathan just acted like nothing happened and said, "Some other time. You two kids get out of here. Go somewhere special and celebrate. I'll take care of your mother, Gwen. She'll be alright," he said. Nodding his head at the young man kneeling at Rebecca's side. Fanning her in an effort to wake her.

    Gwen kissed her father's cheek in goodbye. "Are you sure?" "Yes, I'm sure." They all turned at the distinct sound of someone moaning. Rebecca. "See. She's already coming to. You better get out of here before she wakes up." "I love you, Daddy." "I love you, too. Bring that grandson of mine to see me. Soon. Bye, sweetheart. Bye, Hank. You take care of my little girl."

    For the first time since the whole scene began, Hank found his voice. "I will, Mr. Hotchkiss. I'll take the best care of her." "Alright now. Enough with you two. Hurry and get out of here while you still can." The grin on Hank's face grew impossibly wide at Jonathan's words, and once he and Gwen were safely in the car, he turned to her and asked, "Did I ever tell you how cool your Dad was?"

    She just laughed. "He is pretty cool, isn't he? At least one of Jake's grandparents is not a total fruitcake. I don't know why it took me so long to realize how crazy my mother was. And it's all because of you." He smiled at her. Then started the car. They rode in silence. Until he brought the car to a stop. At the beach.

    She took his hand and followed him to the shore's edge. The light wind whipped her hair around her face, and she laughed after many failed attempts to get it under control. Finally just letting it go. They stood there. Holding on to each other. Not saying a word. "Did you mean it?" he asked in a quiet voice beside her. "Or was it just for your mother's benefit?"

    "Hank Bennett! How could you think such a thing? Of course, I meant it. Every word. I love you, and I would love to be your wife. Giving my mother a heart attack was just an added bonus." By this time, she knew he was certain of her sincerity. He wore the brightest smile on his face. A smile that matched hers as he slipped the ring on her finger. "And I can't wait to be your husband. Even if Rebecca will be the mother-in-law from Hell," he said with a shudder before leaning in and kissing her. "I can't wait, either," she whispered as she kissed him back. And it was true. She was more ready than she had ever been in her life. Marriage to Hank would be anything but boring.

    Chapter Forty-Eight

    "Oh, Gwen," Sheridan gushed as she hugged her friend in congratulations. "I'm so happy for you. You too, Hank," she said. Hugging him as well. "Yeah," he joked. "It only took two tries and almost six years for her to realize she couldn't live without me. Piece of cake," he laughed. "Besides. Somebody has to torture good ole Becs."

    "Hank!" Sheridan gasped in surprise. Choking on her own laughter. "Okay, Buddy. What have you done now?" Luis asked. Looping his arms around Sheridan's waist and pulling her back against him. Playfully kissing her neck. Causing her to laugh more.

    "Nothing," Hank said with a grin. "The only thing I did was ask her daughter to marry me. How was I supposed to know she was standing behind me?" "She wasn't!" Gwen laughed at Sheridan's open-mouthed expression. "Oh, but she was. The look on her face when I said 'yes' was priceless. Of course, that was before she fainted."

    Sheridan burst into uncontrollable laughter at the image of Rebecca Hotchkiss passed out cold on the floor at the Seascape. "I'm sorry, Gwen. It's just..." "Too funny," Hank supplied. "It was quite...hilarious," Gwen said. Smirking. "Well," Luis asked, "what did she say when she woke up?"

    "That's a complete mystery. We left," Hank said. "You just left her there?" Luis asked in disbelief. A smile tugging at the corners of his mouth. He chuckled when Gwen and Hank looked at each other. Smiled. And said, "We left her there." "Hey, Uncle Luis," Jake said. Startling them all. They didn't realize he was standing there. "Want to see me do my impression of Grandma?"

    "Luis. Buddy. You have to see this. The kid's good. Real good," Hank said. Proudly. Luis looked to Gwen. She just smiled back at him. "Okay, Jake. Give it your best shot." Jake's brown eyes twinkled with mischief as he raised a hand to his chest dramatically. Shrieked in a high pitched voice "Oh my god!" And fell in a heap to the soft grass below. Eyes rolling back in his head.

    All four of them burst into fresh laughter. Jake scrambled to his feet and took a bow. Hank gave him a high five before he left to rejoin Ali across the yard. He turned back around. "Chip off the old block. Oh man. There's Grace," he groaned. Sheridan and Luis waved at her. Gwen looked down at her feet in embarrassment. Hank looked over at Jake. Just in time to see the stricken look on his face. "What?" Sheridan innocently asked.

    "Let's just say after the great babysitting adventure, it's hard to look my sister-in-law in the eye," Hank said sheepishly. "You think that's some sort of punishment," he said. Nodding his head at the cake in her hands. Luis's face blanched when he recognized the offending item. "Isn't that..." "What, Luis? What are you talking about?" Sheridan asked in confusion. "Tomato soup cake!" he and Hank said simultaneously. Noses wrinkled in disgust.

    Gwen covered her eyes. Horrified. "Tomato soup cake?" Sheridan said. Incredulously. "God bless those poor children," she whispered. Looking at Kay and Jessica who followed their mother just a few short steps behind with their families. "Dad!" Jake yelled. Running up to them. With Ali by his side. "Do I have to eat anymore of that stuff?" Ali's big blue eyes were even wider than usual. "It sounds so gross," she said with a shudder.

    "Not if I can help it. Come here. I got a proposition for you two," he said. Kneeling down so that he was eye level with them both. "What's a prop..prop..." Ali asked. Stumbling over the big word. "I want you guys to do something for me." Jake held out his hand. "Oh god," Gwen groaned. "Hank, you are such a bad influence." He laughed as he pulled two fives out of his wallet and handed Jake--and Ali--one. "I know. But you love me anyway."

    He leaned over and whispered something first in Jake's ear. Then Ali's. "You guys think you can handle that? Good," he said. When Jake shook his unruly mop of brown hair in agreement. Ali was a little more hesitant. Twirling a strand of her long blond hair nervously. Big blue eyes looking up to her parents. Waiting for their approval. "Mama'd kill me if she knew I was doing this," Luis mumbled.

    "It's okay, AliCat. Isn't it, Mommy?" he said. Casting a pointed look at Sheridan. Sheridan glanced once more at the cake that now sat on the picnic table. Gulped. Then nodded her head at her daughter. "Hank?" she asked. "What have you put them up to?" as they watched their children walk away. "You don't want to know, Sheridan. You don't want to know," he said with a laugh.

    Chapter Forty-Nine

    "Aunt Kay!" Ali exclaimed. "Have you seen my new kitty?" Kay handed MJ to Miguel and kneeled down to Ali's level. "No, Miss Ali, I haven't. She's a real beauty," Kay said. Stroking the kitten's soft white fur. "Aww. What a sweet little kitty cat," Jessica gushed. "Look at the pretty white kitty, Faith," she told the toddler in her arms. "Isn't she pretty?" "Pretty," Faith cooed. Giving the kitten a wet smack.

    Jake crept along the side of the picnic table. It was Ali's job to distract everyone else while he swiped the cake. Closer and closer he came. He stretched his little hands out to the cake. But before he could lay a finger on it, he heard a cheery voice. "Not right now, Jake. I know tomato soup cake's your favorite, but you'll just have to wait." Oh no! he thought to himself. Not again. He held his breath until his aunt Grace was out of sight. Close call.

    "Hi, Ali," Simone smiled. Joining them. Eve scanned the yard for Sheridan. They had some really important business to discuss. She waved at Ali as she passed. Barely catching Kay's question to the little girl. "What's her name?" "Well," Ali began. Tossing her long blond hair back off her shoulders in annoyance. "Mommy calls her Miss Priss, but I want to name her Princess." "Those are cute," everyone agreed.

    "Wonder what Luis calls it," Sam joked in a low voice to Martin. "Oh, I can tell you that," Ali solemnly said. "Okay. Miss Ali. Go right ahead," Sam said with a grin. "This ought to be good," he whispered to the man beside him. They all waited expectantly for Ali's answer. "Daddy calls her a pain in the ass."

    Kay spit the diet Coke she was drinking all over Reese. "," she gasped. Dying laughing. "I am so sorry," she said. Watching as her brother-in-law wiped the soft drink from his glasses. "Mija!" Pilar scolded in shock. Sam shook with laughter. Unable to contain it. Martin had to hide his smile from his wife.

    "But Nana! That's what Daddy calls her. A pain in the..." Pilar stopped her with a hand over her mouth. Hauling her up in her arms and stalking off with her. Faith, who loved to mimic people, began chanting Ali's earlier words. To Jessica's horror. And everyone else's great amusement. Jake giggled as he crawled from his hiding place under the table. Boy was Ali in trouble. And now his little cousin wouldn't stop saying it either.

    This time no one was watching the cake. His mission was successful. Carefully, he tiptoed away from the table. The cake perched precariously in his arms. He was almost home free when a voice startled him. "Jake Bennett! What do you think you're doing?" Uh oh! He'd been caught. "," he said. Without turning around. "Nothing at all, Coach Russell."

    "Uh huh. Then let me see your hands. Turn around," T.C ordered. Oh man, Jake thought. Now Dad's not going to be happy. Taking a deep breath, Jake slowly began to turn around. The cake still in his hands. But God and Father Lonagin must have looking out for him. Because he tripped. Mid-turn. And landed flat on his face. On the offensive cake, of course.

    "Yuck!" he said. Wiping as much of it off his face as he could. "Oh man," T.C. chuckled. "Little buddy, I think that's punishment enough," he said. Pulling Jake to his feet. "I hate this stuff!" he gagged while T.C. rumbled with laughter. The kid was hardly recognizable under all that goop. "Come on," T.C. Taking him by the hand. "Time to get you cleaned up. I hope your dad paid you well." "Not enough," Jake mumbled. "Not enough."

    Chapter Fifty

    "Mommy," Ali pouted. Indignant tears pooling in her big blue eyes. "Nana says she's going to wash my mouth out with soap. I don't want her to do it, Mommy. Make her wash Daddy's mouth out, too," she said in a tiny, trembling voice. One fat tear spilling over and trailing down her cheek.

    "Oh, sweetie," Sheridan soothed. Taking her upset daughter in her arms and rubbing her back in comforting circles as Ali wrapped herself around her. "Nana just doesn't want you saying ugly words," she said. Wiping Ali's tears away from her silky cheeks.

    "She did the same thing to me when I was little like you." "She did?" Ali sniffled. Looking back and forth from her mother to her grandmother. "Yeah, she did," Sheridan said. A slight smile on her face.

    "But Nana's a big softie. She just said that to scare me," she whispered in Ali's ear. "I bet if you gave her a big kiss and a hug and promised never to say it again, she'd forget all about it."

    "Really?" Ali whispered. Hope shining in her eyes. "Really," Sheridan said. Tapping Ali's cute little nose with her finger. "Why don't you try it," she said. Setting Ali on her feet. Smiling as she watched Pilar lift Ali up in her arms and hug her close.

    "She's adorable, Sheridan," Eve said beside her. "You're a wonderful mother." Tears sprang to Sheridan's own eyes then. And she turned toward the older woman. Pinning her with her blue gaze. "Do you mean that? You really think I'm a good mother?"

    Eve smiled at her brightly. "Yes, I mean it." "Thank you," Sheridan said. Catching Eve off-guard by throwing her arms around her neck. "I love her so much, and I want to be the best mother I can for her. Especially considering I disappeared from her life for three years."

    "You're here for her now. That's what counts," Eve said. Pulling back and offering Sheridan another smile. Sheridan smiled back at her through her tears. "I'm so sorry. I know you wanted to talk to me. But not about this. Let's go someplace more private."

    They left Ali and Pilar in the kitchen. But they were hardly missed with the arrival of Jake. Face covered in tomato soup cake. Sheridan turned the knob to Ali's room. Laughing. Sobering when she saw the look on Eve's face the moment the door shut behind them.

    She grabbed one of Ali's stuffed animals off her bed and hugged it close. Taking a deep breath. "It's one dead end after another, Eve. Alistair Crane covers his tracks well. If Julian hadn't found out your son didn't die in the hospital that day, none of us probably would have ever found out the truth."

    "But," she continued. Noticing the crestfallen look on Eve's face. "That doesn't mean I'm giving up. Your son is out there somewhere, Eve. My nephew. I'll find out the truth if I have to strangle it out of Father."

    "He won't tell, Sheridan. He'll never admit it. The secret will die with him," she said. Wringing her hands nervously. "We won't let it," Sheridan said. Stilling her hands with one of her own. "Eve," she said gently. "Have you thought about telling T.C. and the girls? They need to know. Be prepared. You do want to forge a relationship with your son if we find him, don't you?"

    "I...I...yes, I do," she said in a strangled voice. "If he's willing. But I've kept his existence a secret for so many years. So many long years. How do I tell them something so life-altering? I don't know if they'll be able to forgive me. I don't know how to do it, Sheridan."

    "There's no easy way to do it.'s something you have to do. They love you. Your family adores you. They'll be hurt, and it might take a while, but I believe in my heart they'll forgive you. Move on. And they need to know before he shows up in Harmony on your doorstep. Because I mean it. I'm not giving up. In fact, I think it's about time I paid Father a little visit," she said. Squeezing Eve's hand and walking to the door and opening it.

    "We'll get to the bottom of this. I plan on visiting Father very soon." She turned around. And ran right into Luis's solid form. His eyes were dark and unreadable. A few feet behind him stood Nick Taylor.

  3. #11
    Join Date
    Oct 2000

    Post Re: Unforgettable (Sheridan/Luis, Gwen/Hank)

    Chapter 51

    He watched her blue eyes fill with confusion. She opened her mouth to say something but shut it just as quickly. The words wouldn't come. He knew how she felt. Because at that moment, words couldn't describe the feelings rushing through him. And he knew she could tell something was bothering him. He clenched his jaw when she shifted her gaze from him to the man behind him. Nick Taylor.

    She cast one more questioning look his way before she walked past him. To greet their guest. "Nick! It's great to see you. I thought you said you couldn't come," she said. Leaning up on tiptoe to kiss his cheek. He looked away. Locking eyes with Eve. "Nick?" she said. Extending her hand in greeting. "I'm Eve Russell. A friend of Sheridan and Luis. Nice to meet you."

    Nick took her hand. Shook it politely. "Nick Taylor. Nice to meet you as well." "So," Eve began. Hoping to dispel some of the tension. "What field are you in? Sheridan told me you were a doctor," she asked. Walking down the hall. Toward the kitchen. Leaving Sheridan and Luis in their wake. Luis started to follow them. But Sheridan stopped him with a hand on his arm.

    "Luis? What's got in to you? You're upset. I can tell." "What gives you that idea?" he asked. Staring into her eyes. She really didn't get it. He'd thought they'd seen the last of Dr. Taylor. He would be forever indebted to him for saving her life. But a blind man could see the man was in love with her. Why couldn't she? "Luis, answer me. You were fine earlier. What happened?"

    "You really can't see it, can you?" he asked incredulously. "Forget I asked, Mr. Jekyll and Hyde," she said in a hurt voice. "By the way," she threw back over her shoulder as she walked away, her arms folded protectively over her chest. "You really need to watch what you say in front of our daughter from now on. She may be too little to understand the words, but that doesn't mean she won't repeat them."

    He watched her later. With Ali. And Nick. They were so easy around each other. Comfortable. Laughing and having a good time with all the other guests. Nick was a hit. Theresa got along with him so well, he thought Ethan was going to turn green. No one could tell him any different after that little display. Ethan still felt something for his sister. His feelings were just as plain as the ones that shone in Nick's gray eyes.

    "Hey, Buddy," Hank said. Giving him a brotherly slap on the back. "How you doing?" He turned to Hank silently. And just stared into his friend's eyes. "Ouch, Man. That bad? Listen. You have nothing to worry about. So the good doctor has feelings for your wife." "Feelings Hank? He's in love with her. And she's completely blind to the fact. Look at him. It's obvious. Everyone here can tell. Even Eve knew."

    "So what," Hank said. "It doesn't matter. Because if there's one thing I know, Luis, it's that Sheridan loves you. No one else. The reason she's so blind to his feelings is because she doesn't think about him that way. You're the only man for her, Buddy. Stop worrying." What Hank said made sense. But he couldn't squash down the uneasiness he felt.

    "Hey, Luis," Gwen said in passing. "Hank," she said. With a pointed glare. "You take this one." Dragging Jake by the hand. "Jake, what did you do this time?" Hank said. Jake looked down at the ground. Shuffling his feet. "Well...Dad, it's kind of a long story." "I got all the time in the world, Jake. Spit it out." A genuine chuckle escaped Luis's lips as he watched his friend interact with his son. God must have a really good sense of humor, he thought. Hank was dealing with his five-year-old self.

    He wandered across the yard. Coming to a stop just feet away from his family. His eyes connecting with Sheridan's. As she held MJ in her arms. All his anger, all his jealously faded to the back of his mind as he watched her with his nephew. She looked at him. And he could tell what she was thinking. Remembering Ali at that age. There was such longing in her blue eyes. Such love. But then her face changed. He couldn't help the small smile that came over his lips. She was trying so hard to stay mad at him.

    It was a fight she continued to fight the remainder of the day. She just wouldn't let him in. There were a few times she nearly cracked, but she managed to keep her guard up. It was going to be a long night, he thought as he watched her say goodbye to Nick. With a hug. He felt a hand on his shoulder and turned to meet the eyes of his father. "She owes him her life, Luis. She can't just forget that."

    He digested what his father said before speaking. "Thanks Papa," he said. As he hugged his father in parting. "I think I needed to hear that. Especially from someone like you." "Mijo," his mother spoke up. "We're going to take Ali home with us. You and Sheridan have a lot to talk about. A lot to sort out." "Thanks," he said as he kissed her cheek. Tenderly brushed the hair back from his sleeping daughter's forehead and kissed her, too. "I know you'll take good care of our AliCat. See you in the morning," he waved.

    Chapter 52

    “You can’t ignore me the whole night,” he said. As she brushed past him. Her mouth set in a grim line. “Try me,” she muttered under her breath. Slamming the door in his face. He groaned and leaned his weight against it. Hitting his head against it in frustration. Before turning the knob and walking in. “Sheridan! Sheridan, I’m sorry.”

    “Too little too late, Luis,” she said. “You acted like a complete jerk tonight. And,” she said. Throwing the pillow in her hands at him. Taking great satisfaction in the fact that it landed square in his face. “You’re sleeping on the couch.” “Sheridan! Sheridan, listen to me. I said I’m sorry. What more do you want?”

    “For you to really mean it, Luis. Your behavior was uncalled for. Nick is my friend. I invited him. You could at least be nice to the man. He saved my life. He’s…” “He’s in love with you!” he yelled. She didn’t have an answer to that. And it dawned on him that maybe she wasn’t as blind as he first thought. Maybe she already knew.

    “But I’m in love with you. Luis. Don’t you see that’s all that matters? Don’t you have faith in me? In my love? Enough faith that you wouldn’t feel threatened by Nick? I love you. I never looked twice at him,” she said. In a shaky voice. There were tears in her eyes. And he felt like the world’s biggest heel.

    He moved forward. To touch her. But she stopped him by holding her hands up in front of her. “No, Luis. Stop right there. You’re not going to get off that easy. You were jealous of a man that is nothing more than my friend. A man who came to say goodbye. Forever. He’s leaving Luis. Moving. He hasn’t decided yet. But there’s nothing tying him down anymore. His flight leaves in the morning.”

    “I’m sorry,” he whispered. Aching to take her into his arms and kiss away the tears that coursed down her cheeks. “I overreacted. I was the world’s biggest jerk. Please say you forgive me,” he said. Moving closer. Ever closer. “I love you. So much. And just the thought of losing you again…just the thought of losing you whether it be to another man or some other force I can’t fight, it scares me. More than you can ever know.”

    “But I do know, Luis. I’m scared, too. Scared that this is all a dream. Too good to be true. And I’m going to wake up in that hospital bed again and have no memory of you and Ali. That I’ll wake up and never remember you. I love you both,” she sobbed. Resisting his comfort for only a moment before giving in and crumpling in his arms.

    He held her as she cried. Gutwrenching sobs he realized had been a long time coming. She’d been through so much. They’d been through so much. But they’d ignored the feelings of sadness because of the overwhelming happiness of being back where they belonged. Together. “Shh,” he soothed. “It’s okay. I’m right here. You’re not going to wake up and find out this is all a dream. I promise.” “I believe you,” she whispered. Leaning her forehead against his and closing her eyes. They stayed that way for several minutes before she asked a simple question. “You really were jealous?”

    He nodded his head. Too embarrassed to admit it aloud. “Luis, you have nothing to be jealous about. Even when I couldn’t remember you, I knew my heart belonged to you. Does that make sense?” she asked. Taking his hand in hers. “You were always in here,” she said. Placing his hand over her heart. “Always,” she breathed. Kissing him softly. Threading her fingers through his. And tugging him behind her as she led him down the hall. To their bedroom.

    Chapter 53

    She reached to turn the bedside lamp on. But he stopped her with his hand on hers. "Don't," he whispered. Taking her hand in his and bringing it to his lips. "All we need is the moonlight," he said. Tracing her lips with his finger. Leaning in. Capturing her lips with his.

    His hands tangled in her hair. Pulling her closer. And closer to him. She sighed softly against his lips, and he took that opportunity to deepen his kiss. One hand slipping down to the small of her back. Then under the shirt she wore. Meeting her silky skin. Blazing fire in its wake.

    "Luis," she gasped. Breaking away. Blue eyes smoldering with desire. Matching his dark ones. The look in his dark eyes made her pulse quicken. Her hands went to the bottom of her shirt. Helping him take it off of her. Then he crushed her to him again. Kissing her wildly. Passionately. Finally gentling his kiss when the need for air became overwhelming.

    He linked his hands with hers. Squeezing them tightly before letting them go. His hand easing up her arm in a touch so light she almost didn't know it was there. But it made her dizzy all the same. "You're beautiful," he whispered. Smiling at the slight blush he knew was creeping into her cheeks. Even in the moonlight.

    "I've missed you. So much," she whispered. Leaning into his touch. The hand that cupped her cheek. "Kiss me, Luis," she breathed. She didn't have to ask twice. Lips met lips. And hands were everywhere at once. His shirt fell to the floor beside her own. Their jeans soon adding to the pile.

    He breathed in sharply at her touch. The tickle of her nails on his back. Her blue eyes sparkled. Glittered in the soft light that bathed them. He stared into them as he lowered them both on the bed. Covering her body with his just a moment later. In her eyes he saw his past. And his future.

    “Do you have any idea how much I love you? Any idea?” he asked her. His dark eyes searching her blue ones. “If it’s half as much as I love you, then yeah, I do,” she whispered. Tears welling in her eyes. Making his heart ache. Swell with love for her at the same time. “Show me, Luis. Make love to me.”

    And he did. Kissing her tears away. Shedding the last barriers between them and making her his all over again. No words were spoken. Because they weren’t needed. . Every look, every touch, every kiss spoke of their love for one another.

    They lay together later. Limbs entwined. The sound of his heart beating a comfort to her. Proof that what they just shared was real. Not a dream. A smile played at her lips. It was better than any dream had a right to be. And she told him so. Earning one of those breathtaking smiles of his that made her knees go weak.

    He kissed her until she was breathless. Again. "Really?" he asked. Amusement evident in his voice. Amusement mixed with a little bit of pride. She laughed softly. As he flipped them over. Kissing down her neck. His hands trailing down her body. Making her come alive again. "Really," she gasped. His touch searing her. The last word uttered before he claimed her lips again. And the fire consumed them.

    Chapter 54

    "Grandpa Martin? Are my mommy and daddy mad at me?" Ali asked in a tiny voice. "Ali," he said in surprise. The food in front of him momentarily forgotten. "Come here," he said. Patting his knee. Pulling her little body onto his lap and giving her a squeeze before speaking again. "Of course not. How could they ever be mad at you, Princess?"

    "I just thought they were mad at me," she sniffled. "Sweetie, your mommy and daddy love you," Theresa said. Kneeling down in front of her father and niece. "They're not mad at you. I promise. Oh, Ali. Don't cry," Theresa said. "What do you say we go call your mommy and daddy right now, and I prove to you they're not mad at you? Good idea?"

    Ali nodded her blond head yes. Taking Theresa's hand and walking out of the kitchen. Martin breathed a sigh of relief and looked across the table at his wife. "Poor thing. Do you think Luis worked things out with Sheridan?" "He loves her too much not to, Martin. He almost lost his mind when he thought she was dead. A little bout with jealousy pales in comparison."

    "Yes," he said. Rising from his chair and coming to a stop in front of her. Offering her his hand. Smiling when she took it and pulling her in close for a hug. "It does. He loves her. Almost as much as I love you," he said. Looking into her dark, shining eyes. Kissing her sweetly on the cheek and twirling her in his arms to music only they could hear. Stopping when they realized they had an audience.

    "Don't stop on our account, Papa. MJ here thinks you're quite the dancer," Miguel said with a smile. MJ laughed then. As if to show his appreciation. Martin grinned and took his grandson from his son's arms. Saying good morning. "Where's Kay, Mijo?" "At the airport seeing Reese, Jess, and Faith off. But she promised to swing by later, Mama."

    "MJ!" Ali squealed at the sight of her cousin. Her face lit up like it was Christmas morning. Pilar laughed softly at the change in her. Relieved. "See. What did I tell you?" Martin grinned. Sitting down so Ali could see MJ better. "They weren't mad at you, were they?"

    "Nope," Ali smiled. Giggling as MJ grabbed her pinkie. Not letting go. "Mommy was mad at Daddy. Not me." "Really?" Miguel asked in confusion. Confused she wasn't more upset. "Uh huh. But she's not mad anymore. She said Daddy made it up to her." Pilar shot Theresa a dirty look when she giggled and said, "I bet. I'm sure Sheridan made him pay."

    Ali continued playing with her cousin. Completely oblivious to all the talk around her. "Uncle Miguel?" she asked. "Can I take MJ home with me?" "Why's that?" Miguel asked. Tickling her sides and making her giggle. "Dunno. I just like him." " know, he isn't always so happy. He cries sometimes, too."

    "Please, Uncle Miguel. Pretty, pretty please." "You mean you still want him. Even though he cries?" "Uh huh," she giggled. "What about the smelly diapers?" "Mommy can change them. I'm too little." He laughed. Remembering Luis rib Sheridan about not having any idea how to change a diaper all those years ago. "She needs the practice anyway."

    "Why do you say that, Ali?" Theresa asked. Voice filled with amusement. Where did Ali come up with this stuff? "Cause that's what I want for Christmas, silly. A baby brother." Pilar choked on the orange juice she was sipping. "Mija! It's a little more complicated than that. And besides. Christmas is a long way off."

    "Jake says she can have a baby by Christmas. He says it takes nine months, and Mommy has plenty of time. He said she's probably already going to have a baby. Cause she and Daddy kiss so much." Theresa burst into helpless laughter. It was too much. Martin chuckled to himself. He seemed to remember Hank saying something along the same lines so long ago. Afraid of her answer but not able to stop herself, Pilar took a deep breath and posed another question. "What else does Jake say?" And Ali's answers kept them entertained for much of the day.

    Chapter 55

    Luis sighed heavily. Drumming his fingers on the steering wheel. They were on their way to see Sheridan’s father. Alistair Crane. He glanced at Sheridan out of the corner of his eye and noticed her staring out the window.

    “Hey,” he said softly. Taking her hand in his. “You know we don’t have to do this. Right?” He held his breath. Waiting for her answer. Praying she’d tell him to turn the car back around and head for home. And Ali.

    “Luis,” she said. “I’ll be honest. This is the last thing I want to do. But it’s what I have to do. Father’s the only one, Luis. The only one who knows what happened to Julian’s son. I have to know. Eve has to know.”

    “I still can’t believe Eve Russell and your brother were lovers. And that they share a child together.” She nodded her head. “I know. It is hard to believe. But I think Julian really did love her. He just didn’t have the courage to stand up to Father.”

    “Like you did,” he said with a smile. Her only response was a kiss to his cheek. “Have I told you lately how much I love you, Luis?” “Hmm. Let’s see. I don’t think so. You were kind of busy this morning,” he grinned.

    “Oh, you,” she blushed. Hitting him playfully on the arm. “What was that for?” he asked. Knowing full well what it was for. Note to self, he thought. Buy some new locks. Ali was two seconds away from catching them in the shower together this morning.

    He laughed. Remembering what Mama had told him about Jake and Ali. He needed to have a talk with Hank. Where else was Jake getting this stuff? His buddy had quite a kid. Jake was something else alright.

    "What's so funny?" "I was just thinking about what Mama told us the other day. About Jake. And Ali's Christmas wish." She joined him in laughter. "Goodness knows what else that kid has told her, Luis. I love him to death. But I kind of sympathize with Hank and Gwen. Can you imagine him all grown up?"

    "Just like Hank!" they said in unison. Laughing again. Things quieted down again. It was a comfortable silence. "Luis," she said. So softly he almost didn't hear her. "Yeah," he said. Cutting the car's engine and turning to face her.

    "About Ali's Christmas wish..." she paused. Studying her nails. Refusing to meet his gaze. "Sheridan," he said. Raising her chin with a finger. "Look at me. What about Ali's Christmas wish?"

    "Well...I don't know how you feel about it. But when Pilar told us what she said, all I could think was 'that's something I want too'. I want to have another baby, Luis. Your baby. Our baby. I missed so much with Ali," she said. Blue eyes staring into his dark ones.

    "But you're making up for it now," he said. Wiping her tears away with his thumb. She smiled at him. Then took a shaky breath and continued. "That doesn't change the fact that I missed so many of her firsts. I wanted to be there for all them, Luis." "Shh," he whispered. Pulling her into his arms. Comforting her.

    "I know it's not the same. I'm not trying to make it that way. But I want a second chance. I want to make Ali's wish come true. Because it's my wish, too. Luis. Luis? You're not saying anything," she said. Pulling back and staring into his eyes again. "Luis, tell me what you're thinking. Please."

    He looked at her. His heart filled with more love than he thought possible at that moment for her. He kissed her then. Softly. Tenderly. His lips lingering on hers. "I can't wait to make your wishes come true. Each and every one of them," he said. Earning a brilliant smile from her. And a hug.

    "Thank you, Luis. I love you so much." "If I knew I'd get this kind of reaction, I would have done this a long time ago," he joked. Brushing her hair away from her forehead. "Another baby," he said with a smile. "I can't wait to get started," he said with a wiggle of his eyebrows. "Shut up, Luis," she laughed. Getting out of the car. Walking away. The smile on his face just wouldn't go away. Not even thoughts of Alistair Crane could ruin his mood. He'd be there with her. Every step of the way. The old monster wasn't going to hurt her. Ever again.

  4. #12
    Join Date
    Oct 2000

    Post Re: Unforgettable (Sheridan/Luis, Gwen/Hank)

    Chapter 56

    "You're an embarrassment, Sheridan. An embarrassment to the Crane name. The only thing I regret is not killing Martin in the first place," he said. So much cruelty in his voice. His eyes. "That way you would have drowned in the accident. And I would finally be rid of you."

    She'd never imagined one person could be so hateful. So heartless. She should have been used to it. Immune. Hardened her heart. But she couldn't. God help me, she thought as she stared out the window at the landscape passing by. Remembering his stinging words earlier.

    He was her father. And as hard as she tried, she had not been able to abandon her hope that somehow, in some small way, he cared for her. Even just a little bit. Until today. When he'd told her she was better off dead. To her face. She felt her throat tighten with tears again, and she blindly reached out for Luis's hand.

    Luis squeezed her hand in his. Cursing her father under his breath. A repeat of what he'd said earlier. She'd had to hold him back herself. Keep him from attacking Alistair as he cackled evilly from his hospital bed. Boasting that the secrets would die with him. The secrets surrounding Julian's son. Finally admitting he cared nothing for her. Knowing how much it'd wound her.

    "Neither you nor Julian were ever worth a damn," she kept hearing him say. Taunting her. A sob escaped her throat then. And Luis pulled her to his side. His jaw set in a firm line. "If he wasn't already on his death bed, I'd kill the bastard," he ground out. Kissing her fevered forehead as he steered the car into his parents' drive.

    "Sheridan. Baby. I'll be right back. I'm going to go inside and get Ali, okay?" She nodded her head and slipped from his arms. Desperately trying to wipe the evidence of her tears away before her daughter saw her. The car door opened a few minutes later, and she heard Luis talking to Ali quietly. Buckling her in.

    Luis started the car, and they drove in silence. Clutching one another's hand like a lifeline. Ali said not a word from the backseat. She met her blue eyes once in the rear view mirror and saw fear and confusion in them. Fear and confusion and concern. "Luis?" she asked. As they passed the exit that would lead them home. "Luis? Where are we going?"

    He said nothing. Only brought her hand up to his lips and kissed it. She looked to him in surprise when they finally reached their destination. He got out of the car and hurried over to her side. Taking her hand and helping her out of the car. Then lifting Ali up into his arms. They were at the beach. And the sun was slowly fading in the distance.

    Ali's somber mood from moments before vanished as she took in their surroundings. She loved the ocean. Just as her parents did. For the first time since they'd left her father's hospital room, Sheridan smiled. She loved the man beside her so much. And their beautiful little daughter. "Daddy, it's so pretty," Ali said in awe. Pointing at the horizon. At the sunset. "Not as pretty as my two girls," he said. Pulling her more firmly against him. Looking at them both with such adoration it warmed Sheridan's heart.

    Luis set Ali on her feet. And she ran to the waves. Joyfully running back and forth along the shoreline. Squealing as they surged toward her. Spraying her with their mist. "Ali! Be careful, sweetie," she called. Sinking back into his arms. He wrapped his arms around her from behind as they watched their daughter play.

    She leaned even further back into his embrace and sighed in contentment when he placed a gentle kiss on her neck. Whispered "I love you" in her ear. She looped her arm back behind her. Caressing his face. "I love you, too," she breathed. "Thank you for bringing me here. With Ali. How did you know exactly what I needed?"

    "I know you. You're worth a million of your father, Sheridan. Don't ever forget that. A lot of people love you. Our friends. Our family. Me. And Ali," he said. Laughing as the tiny person whose name just escaped his lips came running towards them. Her long blond hair damp. Tangled from the wind.

    "Mommy! Daddy! Look what I found," she said excitedly. Proudly showing off the shells in her little hand. Her blue eyes sparkled and her hair shone like gold in the waning sun. "Looks like you found treasure, AliCat," he said. Grinning at her enthusiasm. She grinned at him in return. Her smile impossibly big. And infectious. She laid the shells down, and crawled into her mother's arms. Snuggling close to her. Close to her warmth. He wrapped his arms about both of them. Watching until the sun was no more.

    Chapter 57

    "I don't know why I bother with her, Hank. It's useless. She's never going to change her mind about you. My mother's a stuck-up snob." Hank nodded his head in agreement unconsciously. Then realized what he was doing.

    He looked at Jake out of the corner of his eye. Cracking a smile when he realized his son was imitating his every move. Pilar and Luis had convinced him he had to be more careful around his son. He couldn't have Jake telling Bec he thought she was a snob. Never mind that Gwen said it first. He'd never hear the end of it. He had nightmares about her shrieking voice.

    "Truth is, Gwen," he said. Already abandoning his good intentions. "I don't care what your mother thinks. About me. Or us getting married." I must be doing something right, he thought as she grinned at him. Then hugged him before getting in the car.

    They were halfway home when she said something that totally shocked him. "Hank, let's get married." He grinned at her and said, "Babe, I already proposed. What more do you want?" Jake listened avidly from the back seat. Brown eyes watching everything with keen interest.

    "No, Hank. You don't understand. Let's get married. Today." His mouth hung open as what she was saying really sunk in. "T-t-today," he stuttered. "You want to get married today?" he asked. Looking at her beside him in the passenger seat. "What about your family? I know your mother's a pain, uh your mother's not the easiest person to get along with. But you still love her. I know you do."

    "Hank," she said. "I can't take Mother's theatrics." He chuckled. She had a point. "What about Jonathan?" "Actually," she began. The smile on her face getting bigger. "It was his idea." "It was?" She nodded her head yes. "Just do it, Dad," Jake yelled from the backseat. Making them both laugh nervously. "So...what do you say, Hank? Will you marry me?"

    "What are we waiting for?" he said. After making her sweat, of course. He leaned over and stole a kiss. Jerking apart only at the blaring horn of the car behind them. Hank was too happy to care and grinned like an idiot and waved at the enraged man as he mouthed insults at them. Gwen’s cheeks burned as she shrank down in her seat.

    “Wait a minute! You are we going to get to marry us on such short notice? And what about your dress? Don’t you want a traditional wedding? The whole works?” “Hank, all those things don’t matter. Well…we do need someone to perform the ceremony. But I don’t need or want ‘the whole works’. All I really need is you and Jake there. You two are all that matters.. Now…get on that phone of yours and call Luis. You know you want to,” she said with a smile.

    Hank punched the familiar number. Grinning when he heard a familiar voice come on the line. “Hey, Luis. Buddy. What do you say about being my best man?”

    Chapter 58

    “Hank. Calm down, Buddy. This is not the Spanish Inquisition here. It’s your wedding. Do you hear me?” Luis asked with a grin. “Your wedding,” he said. Placing his hands on his friend’s shoulders and staring into his brown eyes. “But Luis. Man. I know Gwen said she didn’t want the whole shebang. That she just wanted it to be us. But what if she regrets it later? What if she wishes her family was here? At least her father?”

    “I am here, Son,” Jonathan Hotchkiss boomed. Smiling at his future son-in- law’s stunned expression and open mouth. “But how…how did you do it? Where’s Becs? Um, I mean Mrs. Hotchkiss?” Jonathan chuckled. “Becs, huh? Kind of fits. She’s at home. I gave her free rein over the house. She’s been dying to redecorate.” Luis and Hank looked to each other and grimaced. “I know,” Jonathan laughed. “But it’s for a good cause. I have to give my baby girl away.”

    “You’re not disappointed? Gwen deserves so much more, Mr. Hotchkiss.” “Hank, my boy,” Jonathan said. Straightening Hank’s tie. “You are one of the best. She loves you. You love her—and that grandson of mine to distraction. That’s good enough for her. So it’s good enough for me.” Hank was so touched he hugged the man.

    The two men jerked apart at the sound of someone clearing their throat. “Sorry to interrupt your male bonding session,” Sheridan teased. “But Father Lonagin’s ready to start. He has another ceremony to perform in about an hour and a half. The guests are going to be arriving soon. So…are you ready, Hank? Because there’s a certain special someone who can’t wait to become your wife.” Hank looked into Jonathan’s kindly eyes, into those of his childhood buddy, then into Sheridan’s sparkling blue eyes, and took a deep breath. “Yeah. Yeah, I’m ready. Tell Gwen I can’t wait to see her walking down that aisle.”

    Sheridan beamed at the trio and blew her own husband a kiss goodbye. She walked outside to the room where Gwen waited. Studying her reflection nervously in the mirror. “It’s not your typical wedding gown, but it’s beautiful, Sheridan. Thank you for lending it to me.” “You’re welcome,” Sheridan whispered. Tears in her eyes. Seeing Gwen in the gown she purchased in Spain on her and Luis’s honeymoon brought back memories of her own.

    “You look so pretty,” Ali said with a smile. “Why thank you, Miss Ali. You look quite stunning yourself,” she said. Tucking a loose curl behind the little girl’s ear. “Sheridan, I think I have the most beautiful little flower girl in the entire universe. What do you think, Jake?” Jake looked down at his feet. Embarrassed. Still annoyed at having to wear his Sunday clothes. “Yeah,” he grudgingly muttered. “She looks pretty.” Sheridan and Gwen giggled when Ali mortified Jake by kissing him on the cheek. “Yuck!” he exclaimed. Wiping his cheek roughly. Face flaming.

    They heard the soft strains of music begin, and Sheridan hugged her friend once more. "You're going to do fine," she said in a reassuring voice. "Come on, Ali. Jake. Time for the show to begin. You know what to do, don't you?" Ali nodded her head yes. Jake said, "Sure. I've seen it on movies a lot of times. I just don't want to trip, though, and lose the rings. Don't babies usually do this? I'm not a baby," he said. Screwing his face up in disgust.

    Sheridan laughed. He was such an adorable little rascal. "Not always," she smiled. "Besides. Your mom wants you in her wedding. Don't you want to make her happy? You have a really important job." Jake grinned at the mention of importance and stood tall. Little shoulders squared. "I'm ready," he said in a proud voice. Walking away from Sheridan. Toward the sound of the music. Then turning back abruptly and asking in a loud whisper, "Which way do I go?" She laughed again and hurried over to his side. Holding Ali's hand in hers. Directing them on where to walk. Then she kissed Jake on the cheek. This time Jake didn't wipe it off. He practically beamed as he walked down the aisle to his father and Uncle Luis. Causing them to chuckle to themselves.

    Ali strolled behind him happily. Tossing rose petals out of her basket. Sometimes watching as they fluttered to the ground. Sheridan came up behind her daughter and gave her a gentle push forward. "Ali, sweetie. We don't have all day." Ali's pace quickened, and soon she was standing beside Jake. Sheridan came to stand on the other side of Luis and Hank. And Luis lost himself in her eyes. "Hey, Buddy," Hank kidded. "It's my wedding. I can't have you guys upstaging me. Knock it off." Sheridan blushed and hid her smile when Luis ignored Hank's words. Staring at her more intently than before.

    "This is it, Hank," she heard her husband whisper. And all eyes turned to the back of the church where Gwen stood. On the arm of her father. Jonathan Hotchkiss's proud smile grew with every step he took. And by the time they reached the altar, he was sure he would burst with pride. Tears gleamed in his eyes as he kissed his daughter's cheek. Then turned to Hank and said to Gwen, "Your in good hands now." The first of many tears slipped down Gwen's cheek as she whispered, "Thank you, Daddy." Then she took Hank's hand. And they both smiled as Father Lonagin spoke for the first time.

    "We are gathered here today..."

    Chapter 59

    “My wife is cheating on me with another man,” Luis joked as Sheridan walked through their bedroom door. Sheridan just smirked at him. Climbing into bed beside him and cuddling up next to his warm body. “Jealous of a five-year- old, Luis? You need to work on those issues you have,” she laughed.

    Luis kissed the top of her head in response. “So…did they finally fall asleep?” “Finally,” she sighed. “Gwen wasn’t exaggerating. It is hard to get Jake to sleep. I don’t know how he does it. Constantly going. You can just see the wheels turning in that brown head of his.”

    “What about Ali?” he asked. Rubbing his hand up and down her arm. Pulling her closer into him. “She didn’t even make it through the first book. She was worn out. She’s going to be so mad at me in the morning. She didn’t want Jake to think she was a baby. Falling asleep so soon. I didn’t have the heart to wake her, though. She looked so sweet lying there with Miss Priss curled up next to her."

    “You left the cat in there? Not a good idea.” “Are you saying you don’t trust Jake alone with the family pet, Luis?” “You said it. Not me,” he said with a smile. “On second thought, maybe it is a good idea.” “Luis!” she laughed. Smacking him on the chest. “Now I’m worried.” “Don’t be,” he grinned. “He’s just like Hank. Mischievous, sure. But there’s not a mean bone in his body. He won’t hurt the cat.”

    “You’re sure?” she asked. “Quit worrying about that obnoxious bundle of white fur,” he growled. Rolling over so that his body covered hers. “When you could keep yourself occupied with much better things.” “Luis. The kids are just down the hall,” she said breathlessly as she felt one of his hands slip up under the tank she wore.

    “So,” he said. His hand finding her. His touch making her feel like she was drugged. “We’ll just be quiet. You’re wearing my favorite pjs,” he smiled. Leaning down and kissing her lips slowly. "But.." "No buts. You locked the door, didn't you?" he asked. Kissing her again after she nodded in response.

    She closed her eyes at the feel of his lips on her neck. Giving herself over to the feeling. Soon, her tank was history. And Luis's lips replaced his hands. She ran her fingers through his dark hair. Holding him to her. "Luis, we shouldn't be doing this," she protested. Weakly. She shivered when she felt his breath on her stomach.

    "Do you really want me to stop, Baby?" he asked. Placing a kiss on her stomach. Just above the waistband of her shorts. Her eyes flew open, and he found himself staring into their passion-filled blue depths. She bit her bottom lip and shook her head no. Raising her hips to help him with the rest of her clothing.

    He shed his own clothing. Sitting up and pulling her into his lap. Wrapping one arm around her. Running the other hand through her hair. To the back of her neck. Meeting her lips with his again. Only this time more passionately. "Luis," she gasped. "What are you trying to do to me? Kill me?" "At least you'd die with a smile on your face," he grinned. "Argh! Shut up, Mr. Wise Guy. Hank's rubbing off on you, isn't he?"

    "It's not a good idea to talk about another man when your husband's making love to you, darling," he whispered in her ear. Causing her to laugh softly. "Making love to your wife with two very observent and inquisitive children just down the hall isn't such a good idea either, Buster," she teased affectionately. He smiled tenderly at her before brushing his lips gently against hers again.

    He groaned against her lips when they heard a crash. Followed by a horrific meow. Coming from Ali's room. She leaned against his chest. Shaking with laughter. "Deja vu," she whispered. Disengaging herself from his arms and slipping her pjs and robe back on. She walked out the door, and Luis pounded his pillow in frustration before getting up himself and putting some clothes on. Ready to investigate. Kids and that damn cat were going to be the death of him.

    Chapter 60

    She loved the sound of his heart beating. It was so steady and strong. Comforting. She sighed. She'd never been so happy. So content. "Hank," she said softly. Lifting her head from his chest and looking into his brown eyes. "What, Babe?" he asked with a lazy grin. Trailing his fingers down her bare back.

    "I'm happy," she whispered. Tears blurring her vision. "Hey," he said. Sitting up and bringing her into his arms. "I thought the usual sign of happiness was a smile. Not tears," he said. Brushing her hair back from her face. "I can't help it," she sniffled. "I've never been this happy before. I thought I was with...before. But being here with you, being your wife," she paused. Studying the golden band on her finger. "I can't even describe it."

    "Man, I always knew I was good," he joked. "But not this good." She laughed. Wiping the remainder of her tears away. And smiled at him. "Now...that's more like it," he teased. Tipping her chin up with his fingertips and leaning in for a kiss. Easing her back down on the bed. Letting the covers slip away. "Again?" she teased back. Brow raised but eyes sparkling with happiness. "Just making up for lost time," he smiled. Pulling the sheets up over their heads and making good on his word.

    The car lurched forward, and she woke. Eyes blinking against the sun. "Some dream you must have had," she heard him say. And the events of the last week rushed back to her. They'd gotten married. Almost a week ago. She smiled and turned to face him. "It was," she said softly. Linking her fingers with his and squeezing them gently.

    "We're almost home," she said. No reason in particular. But she knew things would be different now. Her mother was bound to have learned their secret by now. Her father was one of the most wonderful men in the world. But he couldn't keep good news to himself. He found it impossible to do so. "Yeah," he said. "As nice as our honeymoon was, I can't wait to get home. See Jake."

    "Me, either," she agreed. Laughing as she remembered talking with Sheridan on the phone the night before. "Poor Sheridan. She didn't say it. She didn't have to. Jake and Ali are a combination a little too potent to take twenty-four hours a day," she said with a smile. Hank chuckled to himself. Luis had been much more forthcoming in his phone call the previous night. Openly admitting Jake was pure and utter chaos. He grinned as he remembered his friend's words. "Sheridan's worried we're going to have to take that damn cat to a shrink. Can you believe it, Hank? Who chooses that as their profession? Maybe they'll want to commit the little pest," he'd said in a hopeful voice.

    "What are you laughing about, Hank?" she asked curiously. "Nothing," he smiled. "Just something Luis said. He hates that cat, you know. Always plotting ways to get rid of it." "Sheridan told me the feeling was mutual," she laughed. "I don't see why he gets so bothered by it. It's just a harmless kitten. Kittens aren't annoying. They're cute. Now dogs. Dogs are another story. Slobbering all over you whenever you let them get near you."

    "I knew it," he said. In a serious voice. "The honeymoon's over. We're headed straight to divorce court." And her heart stopped beating in her chest altogether. Until he said, "Becs...she's the mother-in-law from hell, but I can handle her. My wife not being able to cook...anything's better than Grace's cooking. But hating dogs...nope. I can't live with someone who has such hostile feelings toward man's best friend. Besides Luis, the best friend I ever had was a dog. I'll have the papers drawn up and sent to you, Babe. This is where I draw the line," he said. Finally cracking a grin when he saw her shaking with laughter.

    She still wore a smile when they rang Sheridan and Luis's doorbell. He smirked at her. It sounded like a war party inside there. He rapped on the door. But still no one answered. So he turned the knob slowly in his hand. And the sight before them sent them into fresh hysterics. Jake and Ali wore paper Indian headdresses. And tied to a makeshift stake was the poor cat. Luis was nowhere in sight. Sheridan was in a heap on the couch. Looking incredibly exhausted. With a fussy MJ in her arms. "Help," she called out weakly from the sofa. Ah, the joys of home, he thought as his son ran to his outstretched arms. Sure it was chaotic. But he wouldn't have it any other way.

  5. #13
    Join Date
    Oct 2000

    Post Re: Unforgettable (Sheridan/Luis, Gwen/Hank)

    Chapter 61

    “I can’t wait to see the look on her face,” Hank laughed. “When she realizes we’re married, or…” She left the question hanging in the air. Hank glanced at the rearview mirror. At Jake and Ali in the backseat. Separated by MJ’s carseat. “Well, I was talking about the moment she spies your ring, Babe. But you know what? She’s going to have a conniption when she sees the rugrats. You know what’d make it even better?”

    “Oh,” she groaned. Head in hands. “What are you planning now? Wait. I don’t want to know.” “What? You don’t want to mess with Mommy Dearest’s head a little? Really, Babe. Live a little. It’ll be fun. She’ll be so panicked, she won’t say two words about us being married. And just think…I can almost guarantee we won’t be getting any invitations to family dinners. At least not for a while. So…what do you say? Are you game?” he asked with a grin.

    She couldn’t deny it sounded appealing. So against her better judgment, she said, “Okay. BUT…if she attempts to murder you, I’m letting her do it,” she teased. “What’s this plan of yours?” He just smiled at her. “Jake. Ali. I need your help. Are you up for…” Gwen could only laugh helplessly. Mother was going to flip.

    Hank’s brown eyes twinkled as he removed MJ from his carseat and handed him to Gwen. She rubbed the baby’s downy head and kissed his silky cheek. Smiling at her husband. She had to give him credit. Mother wasn’t going to speak to them for days. Weeks, maybe. Possibly even months.

    Ali took Hank's hand, and Jake grinned up at his father when he said, “You guys know the drill. You do a good job, and I’ll take you all out for ice cream later. Deal?” “Deal!” Jake said. Giving him a high five. “Uncle Hank,” Ali pouted. Tugging at his hand. “I’m scared.” “Oh, Miss Ali,” he said. Lifting her up into his arms. “I promise I won’t let anything happen to you. If mean, old, evil Becs tries to hurt you, sweetheart, I’ll…I’ll bite her. Like this,” he said. Pretending to gnaw on Ali’s neck. Causing her to giggle uncontrollably.

    Gwen rolled her eyes and rang the doorbell. The smile on her face full- blown when her father answered it. "Oh, if it isn't my little girl," he said. Opening his arms to her. A curious look coming over his face when he spotted MJ. And Ali. "I send you off on your honeymoon. And you come back with not one, but three kids. What's going on here?" he asked. Rubbing a hand over MJ's head and smiling at Ali in Hank's arms.

    "Babysitting," Gwen laughed. "It was the least we could do after leaving poor Sheridan with Jake all week. She's probably lapsed into a coma by now." "Sheridan Crane? I don't know why I didn't see it sooner. You," he said. Waving his finger in front of Ali, "you're just as pretty as your mother." Ali beamed at him. And buried her face in Hank's neck shyly. "Who's this little fella here?" he asked. Nodding at MJ in Gwen's arms. "This is my nephew," Hank smiled proudly. "MJ's my cousin," Ali said quietly.

    Jonathan saw them in and led them to the living room where he sat on the sofa and listened attentively to his grandson. Detailing what he thought of as "Jake's Grand Adventures." He chuckled to himself. Jake had a way of embellishing things and making them larger than life. He hid his smile when Ali spoke up. "Jake's been so mean to my kitty, Mr. Hotchkiss. He threw her off the top of my dresser," she tattled. Blue eyes wide. Serious as can be.

    "Jake, my boy. I'm disappointed in you," he scolded. "But Grandpa," Jake shot back. "I just wanted to see if she'd land on her feet. I wasn't trying to hurt her dumb cat. Honest," he said. Sticking his tongue out at Ali. "Jake," he said sternly. Wanting so badly to laugh.

    MJ fussed from Gwen's lap, and Jonathan's attention was diverted from his young grandson and Ali. He smiled in amusement as he watched Gwen and Hank work together to try to calm the baby down. But nothing would work. And soon MJ was screaming at the top of his lungs. And they all turned when they heard a voice say, "What on earth is going on here?"

    Hank grinned. Getting up frm the sofa and walking over to his mother-in- law. Gwen coming to stand beside him. The bawling child in her arms. Rebecca's eyes were drawn to the gold band on her finger, and they grew wide as saucers. "Is that what I think it is?" she choked out.

    Hank slid his arm around Gwen's waist and said, "Yeah. We're sorry you couldn't come to the wedding. It was kind of a spur of the moment deal," he grinned. "You should have seen our Gwen, Mom. Pretty as a picture," he bragged. Watching as all color drained out of Rebecca's face. She held a hand to her chest. Cringing as MJ screamed in her face. "Whose children are these?" she asked. Noticing Ali in Jonathan's lap. Not able to ignore MJ.

    "Jake," Hank said. "Help me do the honors, Son." Jake got up from the sofa, took Ali by the hand, and walked over to where his parents and grandmother stood. "Grandma, this is my new sister. Ali." Ali walked up to Rebecca and wrapped her arms around her legs. Squeezing her eyes shut tight. Hank didn't know what was funnier. Ali's fright. Or the look on Bec's face when he took MJ out of Gwen's arms and handed him to her. "And this is our new son. MJ," he said. Smiling broadly.

    The look of pure horror on Rebecca's face was priceless. "You can't be serious," she said in a tiny voice. Holding MJ at arms' length. And shaking her leg in an attempt to dislodge Ali. "But Mother," Gwen said. "We are. The adoption papers just went through yesterday. Jake has a new brother and sister. Aren't you happy for us?" Rebecca looked like she was going to be ill. She thrust MJ into Hank's arms and pried Ali's little arms from around her legs. "," she said through clenched teeth. Finally freeing herself. "If you'll excuse me," she said. Smoothing her skirt. "I think I'll go jump off a rocky cliff now." And she turned on her heels. Leaving them all. They could only laugh as they watched her ascend the stairs muttering obscenities under her breath.

    "I don't think your grandma's going to be wanting to visit us anytime soon, kids," Hank joked.

    Chapter 62

    He slipped his key in the lock and turned the knob. Stepping inside with a weary sigh. “Sheridan? Ali? Jake?” he called. But he was met with…quietness. Silence. Panic rose in his chest for a brief moment. Luis, he chided himself. You have your family back. Nothing’s going to take them away from you. Quit worrying at the drop of a hat. Yet his fears did not go away until he saw her. Curled up on the sofa. Fast asleep. A tender smile came over his face as he crossed the room and knelt on the floor. By her side. And ran his fingers through her golden hair.

    She sighed softly in her sleep and shifted. Leaning into his touch. A smile on her own face. “Mmm. Luis. Is that you?” she mumbled sleepily. Eyes still closed. He laughed. She’d kill him if he ever admitted it, but he thought she was so cute in her half-asleep state. She hated to be called that. He traced her features with his fingertips. Outlining her brows, her eyelids, cheeks, nose. Coming to a rest on her lips. He let his fingers trail across her chin. Then he leaned in and kissed her lips softly.

    When he pulled away, he found himself staring into her brilliant blue eyes. She rubbed her finger over his bottom lip. And leaned in for another kiss. Sweet. Chaste. He rested his forehead against hers. “Where are the kids?” “Gwen and Hank took them,” she said with a smile. “Not a moment too soon.” He laughed softly. Giving her another quick peck on the lips. “Come on,” he said. Standing up and pulling her to her feet. “I know just what we need.” She looked at him curiously. Then trustingly slid her hand in his.

    He led her into their bathroom. Letting go of her hand momentarily to turn the water on. He adjusted the temperature and added some bubble bath as the tub began to fill. His mind drifting back to a time when he did the same for Ali. Before…before they found each other again. He didn’t know what he’d do if he ever lost her again. He didn’t know if he’d have the strength to go on. He turned to her. Tears shining in his dark eyes. And she took him in her arms. Held on.

    “I’m sorry,” he said. Pulling away and looking into her eyes again. “Shh,” she said with a finger to his lips. “Don’t be.” She ran her hands down his chest. Coming to a rest at his waist. Before she tugged his shirt loose from his pants. Slowly, she unbuttoned each button. Biting her lip in concentration. When she was done, she moved to slide the shirt from his shoulders, but he stopped her. With his hands on her own. The look in his eyes making her weak-kneed.

    He held his hand up motioning for her to stay and reached over to turn the water off. Then he pulled her to him once more. Backing up and sitting down on the toilet seat. He opened his legs, and she stepped closer. Not breaking the gaze they shared as she rid herself of her own shirt. She held on to his shoulders as he popped the button on her jeans and slid them down her hips. She stepped out of them and reached out her hand. And she smiled at him. Her heart still slammed against her chest every time they touched.

    "Oh, Luis. This feels heavenly," she sighed as she immersed herself in the bubbles and leaned back against his chest. "That feels even better," she said blissfully as he kissed her neck. Massaging her shoulders. "How does this feel?" he whispered in her ear. "Oh god," she answered breathlessly. "Luis, you better stop now before..." "Before what?" he teased. Kissing along her jaw. Her eyes fluttered shut as she savored the feeling.

    "What? Why are you stopping?" she asked. Turning around to face him. "You told me to," he laughed. Tucking a strand of her hair behind her ear. "Luis, you don't seriously believe I meant that, do you?" she asked. Slipping her arms around his neck and placing tiny kisses on his lips. She giggled against his lips when he pulled her more firmly against him and groaned. "We're never going to get clean this way," he said. Evading her kisses and reaching for the cup she used to rinse Ali's hair and her shampoo. She closed her eyes as he washed and rinsed her hair. Then she returned the favor.

    She admired his long, lean body as he rose from the tub and stepped out. Holding out a hand for her. He grinned at her, and she felt her cheeks burn. "Like what you see, Mrs. Lopez-Fitzgerald?" "Definitely," she said. Flashing him a dazzling smile and stepping into his arms. She breathed in sharply when he ran his hands down her back. Then lifted her in his arms. She wrapped herself around him completely. Head to toe. And gave him a heart-stopping kiss. "Whoa," he said. Out of breath. “Keep that up, and I won’t be responsible for my actions.”

    “I kind of like the sound of that,” she teased. Running her hands through his hair and opening her mouth over his. Luis blindly carried her to their bedroom, and her eyes opened when he laid her down on their bed. “Luis,” she whispered. Her arms open to him. He didn’t need to be told twice as he covered her body with his own. He jumped at the feel of her hands on him. Every nerve ending in his body alive. "I love you," he said seriously. Watching as a million emotions flashed through her beautiful blue eyes. She didn't say a word. But by the end of the night, Luis knew without a doubt she felt the same. And he wondered...was it possible to be so happy? Because right then, in that moment, everything was perfect. The way it was meant to be.

    Chapter 63

    Sheridan paused at the window. Watching Ali and Jake in action in the back yard. Jake was torturing the poor cat once again. For all the irritation Miss Priss caused Luis, Jake paid her back in spades. She laughed as she witnessed the cat seize its first chance of freedom and bound away from her tormentor. Her daughter and Jake were quite a pair, she mused. She wondered what kind of relationship they might have twenty years down the road. Gwen’s voice startled her from her reverie.

    “Are you sure Luis and Jake didn’t sign a contract on that poor cat’s head?” she laughed. Handing Sheridan a tall glass of iced tea and joining her at the window. “It's possible,” she said. Smiling at her friend. Then turning back to watching the children. “I can’t wait to be Ali’s mother-in- law,” Gwen said. Laughing at the incredulous expression on Sheridan’s face. “What? You can’t tell me you don’t wonder about it sometimes, too,” she smiled. “He might tease her and what-not, but Ali is Jake’s best friend."

    Sheridan opened her mouth to say something, then closed it when she realized Gwen was right. Laughing helplessly as Gwen smiled at her and said, "You're getting the raw end of the deal, though. Another Hank. Can you imagine what Jake and Ali's kids will be like?" "Whoa! Gwen!" she exclaimed. Holding her hands up in front of her. "Don't you think you're getting way ahead of yourself?" she laughed. "Just trying to prepare you, that's all," she teased as Sheridan settled down beside her on the sofa.

    "So..." Sheridan said. Taking a sip of iced tea. "How are things? With you and Hank?" Smiling to herself at the radiant smile on Gwen's face at the mention of Hank's name. "Great. Wonderful. Never better. Though I am tired of living at the Bed and Breakfast. We're still looking for the perfect place. Someplace kind of like...kind of like yours," she sighed. "Really?" Sheridan asked curiously. It would be quite an adjustment from living at the huge Hotchkiss estate. "Yes, really," Gwen smirked. "You've proven to me that money isn't everything. It doesn't bring you happiness. I like your place. It's a home," she said. Looking around at all the little touches that said a family lived there.

    "It is home," Sheridan sighed blissfully. "But it's awfully small," she said. Rubbing her stomach unconsciously. A gesture that didn't go unnoticed by Gwen. "Oh my god!" she exclaimed. "You aren' are...Sheridan, are you pregnant?" she squealed. Taking Sheridan's hands in her own. Practically buzzing with excitement. Her question struck Sheridan dumb. But only for a moment before the wheels started to turn in her mind. Was it possible? She hadn't been feeling well as of late. For a few weeks now. And she'd missed...She covered her mouth with her hand as it dawned on her Gwen could be right. She might be pregnant.

    "Sheridan, honey. Don't tell me you didn't suspect before now. I mean, you had to have deep down. You and Luis have been trying, right?" she asked. A knowing smile coming to her lips as Sheridan nodded her head. "But Gwen...we've only...just for a short time. It isn't exactly easy to do such a thing with Ali around," she admitted. Cheeks burning red with embarrassment. Gwen laughed and said, "You're telling me. Hank wants to buy Jake a cowbell to wear around his neck." Sheridan burst into laughter at the mental image.

    "You know what?" Gwen said. Rising to her feet. "You'll drive yourself crazy wondering if you don't do something about it. Come on, Sheridan." "What? Where are we going?" she asked in confusion. "The drug store to get you one of those pregnancy tests. Don't look so nervous. Luis is going to be thrilled," she said. Tugging Sheridan's hand and pulling her toward the front door. "You wait in the car. I'm going to run tell Hank where we're going." "Gwen! No!" Sheridan said in panic. Grabbing her arm. "I don't want Luis to be disappointed," she explained. "Relax. Hank's not going to squeal. He's pretty good at keeping things to himself," she revealed. Somehow, Sheridan felt this time would be different.

    Chapter 64

    Calm down, Sheridan, she told herself. You’ve done this before. It’s no big deal. Just follow the instructions and wait so many minutes. Piece of cake, she told her reflection in the mirror. But what if you’re not pregnant? What then? What are you going to tell Luis? He’ll be so disappointed.

    Well, if Hank hadn’t proven Gwen wrong, you wouldn’t have to worry about that little problem. Luis wouldn’t be waiting on pins and needles outside with your friends and the children at this moment. Ready to call the entire family with the good news. As nervous as she was, she had to smile at that thought. Luis was already about to burst, and they didn’t even know if she was pregnant.

    She shut the bathroom door behind her. And ran right into Luis. “Luis!” she exclaimed in surprise. “I thought you were outside with Gwen and Hank and the kids. What are you doing in here?” He grabbed her gently by the upper arms and stared into her eyes. His own dark eyes shining with anticipation. “I couldn’t wait. Do you know yet? Are we going to have another baby?”

    She smiled at his enthusiasm and raised her hand up to cup his cheek. “Not yet,” she answered softly. “Luis. I don’t want you to be disappointed if I’m not pregnant. We can keep trying.” He laughed and kissed her palm. Leaning down to give her lips the same treatment. “I certainly have no problem with THAT. Baby or no baby,” he grinned.

    She swatted him him affectionately on the rear as she passed. “Hey, where do you think you’re going? Aren’t you going to…” “Luis,” she shot back over her shoulder. “It’s not like it’s going to get up and walk away,” she teased. “Come on. Standing there staring at it is not going to make the time pass more quickly. We have guests outside. We shouldn’t totally ignore them. I’ll check back later.” “But Sheridan…” he whined.

    "No buts," she said firmly. "Besides...I just heard the doorbell. Why don't you go see who it is while I go check on everyone outside?" she asked. Smiling back at him. Blue eyes twinkling. She laughed. Hearing him mutter under his breath. 'Damn. Those eyes again.' "You are too good for your own good, you know that Mrs. Lopez-Fitzgerald?" he said as he caught up with her and gave her a sound kiss on the lips before going to answer the door. "Too good," he laughed.

    "Why thank you," she called out. Before going outside. She had to laugh at the looks on Gwen's and Hank's faces. "Not yet," she smiled. "And you," she said. Pointing at Hank. "I should be thinking up appropriate punishments for you, you traitor." Hank just grinned at her and threw up his hands. "I'm sorry. I just couldn't keep it to myself. And such good news. You and Luis deserve it," he said. Hugging her. "Luis. Buddy. What's the matter? You look like you've seen a ghost," he called. Releasing her and studying his friend.

    Luis ignored him. Walking up to Sheridan and taking her by the hand. Leading her back inside. "Luis? Luis, what's wrong?" she asked. Voice rising with worry. "Is it your mother? Martin? Oh my god, it's Theresa. Or the baby. Is everything okay with MJ? Luis? Luis, please answer me," she pleaded. Growing frantic. "Shh," he said. Pulling her into his arms and squeezing her tight. "It's not them. They're all okay."

    "But who is it?" she asked. Blue eyes searching his for answers. "Sheridan," he said. Taking a deep, steadying breath. "It's your father, Baby," he said. Running his fingers through her hair. "He's dead." He watched her concerned as her face lost all color, and she swayed on her feet. He caught her before she fell and eased her down onto the sofa. "It okay," he soothed. Running a calming hand up and down her back. "Cry if you need to. If you want to. He was your father. It's only natural to be upset."

    She turned stricken blue eyes on him. And in a trembling voice said, "I'm numb, Luis. After all that he has done to me in my life, I have no tears. No more tears for him. Only tears of relief. Does that make me an awful person?" she asked. Tears shimmering in her eyes. Waiting to spill over. "No," he rushed to assure her. "You're a beautiful person, Sheridan. Inside and out. Don't cry because you feel guilty at not being able to cry over the loss of your father. Alistair Crane does not deserve your tears. He doesn't deserve anyone's tears."

    "Sheridan? Luis? Is everything okay?" Gwen called. Walking into the living room. "I'm so sorry," she apologized. "I didn't mean to intrude. It's just Ali's getting a little worried out there, and Hank's tried everything he can think of to calm her." "Damn," Luis swore. Running a hand over his face. Ali was too sensitive and observant for her own good. Always picking up on her parents' feelings and moods. "Gwen. You stay here with Sheridan. I'll go outside and take Ali off of Hank's hands. Are you going to be okay?" he asked. Wiping the tears from Sheridan's cheek with the pad of his thumb. He kissed her forehead when she nodded 'yes'. And thanked Gwen on his way out.

    Gwen sat down beside Sheridan. Placing a hand over Sheridan's own. Stilling her movements. "He's dead, Gwen. My father's dead. Can you believe it? I feel so terrible for feeling this way, but the only thing I can think is 'I'm finally free'. He can't interfere in my life anymore. He can't get to Ali. Or anyone I love ever again," she said. Squeezing Gwen's hand and rising to her feet. Going to look outside once more. At her family. The only close family she had left. "He ruined so many lives. And Julian's son will never be found. Ever," she added softly. Spinning around at the sound of Gwen's voice.

    "I don't know about that," she said in a shocked voice. Getting up and crossing the room to where Sheridan stood. "Sheridan," she began. Holding out some papers. Some important-looking documents she'd ignored earlier. Documents Luis had left for her. From her father's personal secretary. "I think you may have found what you've been looking for, after all," she said. Handing the papers over to her. Studying her face for a reaction as she read the name scrawled at the bottom. The name of Julian and Eve's son. She gasped in surprise, and the papers fluttered to the ground. Written boldly across the page was a name she recognized easily. A name she was familiar with: Chad Harris.

    Chapter 65

    She laid her pen down and clutched the book to her chest. This was goodbye. The last day they would walk through this house’s doors and call it home. It was a big change. But one she welcomed. “Sheridan!” she heard Luis yell. “It’s time to go.” She took one last look around. Closing her eyes and remembering all that had happened within these walls. She could still hear Ali’s sweet voice. Her excitement as she tugged her to her room. Her first night back. And Luis. Standing outside this door. Giving her a kiss to remember. To replace all her misplaced memories. Misplaced. Not lost. Because her life with Ali and Luis…it was unforgettable.

    Luis’s brown eyes lit up when he saw her. He slipped an arm around her back. Pulling her close, and kissing the top of her golden head. “It’s not goodbye forever,” he whispered. “We’ll make brand-new memories in the new house. You’ll see. And if you ever miss this old place,” he joked, “you can always come and visit Gwen and Hank.” She laughed against his chest. Smiling at him with sparkling blue eyes. “Shh,” Luis said. Putting a finger to her lips. “Listen. I think I hear…yeah, I did. She’s groaning. Begging us to stay. Baby…our house is afraid of the Bennett boys.”

    She shoved him playfully. Leaving him there and walking to there car where Ali waited. Singing sweetly to herself while she stroked Miss Priss’s soft white fur. “Are you ready, sweetie? Sure you got everything?” “Yes, Mommy,” she said solemnly. Looking one last time at the house she’d spent her whole life in before Luis started the car, and they drove away. To their future.

    Sheridan sighed and leaned back in her seat. She opened her eyes again when she felt Luis thread his fingers through her own. “Are you feeling okay?” he asked. She raised their hands to her lips and placed a gentle kiss to his. “I’m fine,” she said. Smiling at him reassuringly. “Just thinking,” she said softly. “About Chad?” he said. Squeezing her hand tightly. And returning his eyes to the road. “He took the news pretty hard, Luis.”

    Luis glanced back at her. Hoping the love shining in his eyes softened the blow of his next words somewhat. “Can you blame him? Your father—and your brother, to a lesser extent—were despicable men. He’s just being a little cautious. That’s all. He’ll come around,” he said. “You have to remember he’s had a lot to deal with in the past few months. Give him some time. Chad’s a good guy. He recognizes you’re not like the rest of your family.”

    From the back seat, they heard Ali squeal excitedly, “Mommy! Daddy! We’re here!” Luis grinned at her enthusiasm. Proud of her for keeping their little secret. Sheridan really had no clue what waited for her beyond the doors of their new home. “Ali! Ali! Slow down, sweetie!” Sheridan called as their daughter took off running. Disappearing through the front door. “Oh, Miss Priss,” Sheridan sighed. Picking the purring bundle up in her arms. “She left you behind like an old shoe.” “Sheridan,” Luis said. “Don’t worry about the cat,” he laughed. Taking her by the arm and leading her up the walkway. “Well, somebody has to,” she pouted. Looking just like her daughter. “We’re both neglected in all this excitement.”

    “Neglected? Neglected?” he scoffed. Pulling her firmly against him. Snaking his arms around her waist. “I’ll show you neglected,” he whispered. Lowering his mouth to hers. And kissing her ‘til she was afraid she had no more air left in her lungs. They broke apart. Laughing at Miss Priss’s protesting meow. She rubbed his lips with her thumb to remove the traces of her lipstick. Then placed the cat on her feet, and opened the door. Tears coming to her eyes at the sight before her.

    Her mouth hung open in surprise as she took in the decorations. The family. The friends all gathered in the room. Smiles on their faces at her emotional reaction. Ali’s adorable grin the most noticeable of all. “You little sneak,” she scolded affectionately. Kneeling in front of her and tickling her sides. Making her giggle helplessly. “You and Daddy,” she said. Casting a loving glance Luis’s way,” knew all along.”

    "You don't know how hard it was, Mommy," Ali giggled. "I wanted to tell you, but Daddy wouldn't let me." "You should be proud of her, Mija," Pilar said with a smile as she Sheridan rose to her feet and hugged her. "She's known for a whole week and didn't tell," Martin laughed. Ruffling Ali's long blond hair affectionately. Then lifting her up into his arms. "And you," she said. Looking at Hank and Jake wearing identical mischievous grins. "How did you two ever keep this quiet?" "Easy," Jake said. "Mom threatened Dad if either of us squealed." "Oh, she did, did she?" Sheridan said in amusement. "Uh huh," Jake nodded. "She told Dad no..." Kay laughed hysterically as Gwen clamped her hand over her cousin's mouth. She'd already heard it all. And Jake delighted in telling the story.

    Luis watched his wife with MJ, and he couldn't help his excitement. Just a few more months. They had a lot to look forward to, and he couldn't wait. Miguel came up beside him. Grinning at the look on his brother's face. " you guys know yet? Boy or girl?" "Sheridan's making me wait, Bro. She wants it to be a surprise." "What happened? I thought she wanted to know just as much as you." "She did," Luis laughed. "But you see...we have a little bet going on..." Miguel slapped his brother on the back. Dying laughing at the predicament he had gotten himself into. "You are so whipped, Luis. Don't even try to deny it. And you know what the funniest thing is? I don't think you mind. Not at all."

    Luis's eyes connected with Sheridan's across the room at that moment. And he saw the happiness in them. Happiness he'd do anything to keep there. Happiness that grew tenfold with the new arrival. He watched aunt and nephew embrace, and he knew it was all falling into place. "You know what, Bro?" he said. Arm around Miguel's broad shoulders. "Maybe I am. Being whipped isn't such a bad thing. You should know. Kay's got you wrapped around her little finger. And don't you even try to deny it. You know it's true," he called back over his shoulder as he crossed the room. Meeting his wife halfway. He wouldn't change a thing.

    The End (not really ).

    Check out the sequel: Always.


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