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Thread: It Happened One Night (Theresa/Ethan, Chad/Whitney, Sheridan/Luis, Gwen/??, Hank/??)

  1. #9
    Join Date
    Oct 2000
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    Post Re: It Happened One Night (Theresa/Ethan, Chad/Whitney, Sheridan/Luis, Gwen/??, Hank/

    Chapter 8~~~Something To Talk About




    “Crane!”

    Ethan’s smile froze then melted in apology when the commanding voice and the man it belonged to encroached upon the quiet little corner he, his aunt Sheridan, and Gwen had carved out for themselves in the starkly furnished penthouse suite that bore a disconcerting resemblance to a museum instead of a place of residence.

    Grabbing one of Sheridan’s slim hands in his beefy clasp, the man bent to press a noisy kiss against her smooth skin before she could protest, and his small blue eyes roved over her figure approvingly. “I don’t think I’ve had the pleasure.” The corners of his mouth curled up beneath the shadow of his dark mustache, and he barely gave Ethan a second glance when he stumbled over the introductions. “This lovely creature is your aunt?” Noting the seeming absence of an engagement ring or a wedding band on Sheridan’s finger, he positively leered in satisfaction while Sheridan suppressed a tiny shudder.

    Watching Ethan open and close his mouth like a water-starved fish, Gwen rolled her eyes, snatching two sparkling glasses of wine from the tray of a passing caterer and pushing one into Sheridan’s hands. Raising a brow in challenge at Ethan as she took a fortifying sip from her own drink, she snaked a possessive arm around Sheridan’s waist and watched their friend’s beady blue eyes narrow at the action. With toothy grin in place, she staked her false claim. “Allow me to make the introductions,” Gwen insisted, barely noticing, out of the corner of her eyes, Sheridan lift her own flute to her lips and take a generous, nervous swallow. “This is Sheridan. My significant other.”

    Sheridan choked violently, white wine spraying unexpectedly from her mouth and hitting her would-be suitor square in the face while Ethan, an unfortunate bystander, wasn’t completely unscathed. Nostrils burning and eyes stinging, Sheridan could only cough hoarsely as Ethan, cheeks and ears flaming scarlet, pursued the man in apology. Holding a hand to her throat, she turned on Gwen with wide, incredulous blue eyes and croaked, “Gwen!”

    Smirking, Gwen offered the closest thing she was willing to give as an apology. “We really do need a code word.”

    Trying to glare at her and failing, Sheridan gave up, gulping down the remainder of her wine before smiling helplessly at her longtime friend. “A little warning would have been nice,” she agreed, letting first one undignified giggle escape then another. Calming slightly, she frowned as she reminded Gwen of one little side effect of her gallant rescue, “He’s going to be insufferable on the ride home.”

    “I’ll make it up to him,” Gwen vowed. “Besides,” she said, brown eyes alight, “you’re the one stuck with him. I’m taking a separate taxi. Remember?”

    “Don’t remind me,” Sheridan groaned. “You mean you’d abandon me, one of your oldest and best friends?” Answering herself, she warned Gwen, “Don’t answer that. Of course, you’d abandon me. I’d abandon me for glorious sex.” Sighing wistfully, she barely managed not to cringe as they watched the peeved quality of Ethan’s approach, “Does this Tony have a brother?”

    “As a matter of fact…”




    ~^~^~^~^~^~^~^~^~^~




    Antonio was long gone, and Daniela was in the bathroom brushing her teeth. That left Hank and Beth alone in the kitchen, straightening up after dinner and fumbling to re-establish communication.

    Studying Beth’s profile as he watched her scrape the remainder of the ravioli from a pan into the garbage disposal, Hank wondered at the barely discernable tired lines around her eyes and the drawn set of her mouth. Luis, it seemed, hadn’t been the only one suffering. The separation clearly hadn’t been the easiest of situations for Beth either. Still, that knowledge failed to explain a certain someone, the so-called elephant in the room, and Hank was never one to stay quiet long. In the end, he blurted the question, his curiosity getting the better of him. “Does this Diego know that you’re still married?”

    Beth took a second to glower at him, before reminding him, none too gently, “I signed the divorce papers, Hank.”

    Hank winced when she yanked the door to the dishwasher open and jerked the tray out, plopping the pan in place with more force than necessary, making the glasses, dishes, and silverware already loaded rattle and clatter discordantly. He knew his reply was completely unwarranted—she, better than anyone, already knew—but he answered anyway. “He won’t sign the papers.”

    The rumble of the ancient machine as it sputtered to life wasn’t enough to disguise the fatigue in Beth’s tone. “I’m not trying to take her away from him. I’m not,” she insisted when he looked dubious.

    “Really?” Raking a hand carelessly through his dark hair, Hank considered his next words and decided there was no way around the issue when she’d done exactly that. “You packed his kid up and everything you owned in that beat-up old car of yours and drug her here, Beth, to New York, far away from everything and everyone she knows.”

    “Not everyone,” Beth muttered, refusing to meet his eyes as she studied her own hands, fingers pushing at and worrying a cuticle. “Theresa’s here.”

    “And the position you put Theresa in,” Hank shook his head, remembering his buddy’s reaction to finding out where Beth and Daniela had spent their first weeks in New York and the subsequent rift that had developed between brother and sister, one that still hadn’t completely healed.

    “She’s his favorite,” Beth whispered guiltily. “He won’t stay mad at her forever.” Pushing away from the counter she had been resting against, she paced to the other side of the small room in an attempt to avoid his disappointed stare. “At me, maybe. But not at her.”

    Sighing, Hank let the expression on his face soften, and told her, with all sincerity, “Luis is not angry.” When Beth frowned at him disbelievingly, he corrected himself, “Not anymore.” Approaching her cautiously, he quietly said, “He’s hurt, Beth, and trying to understand where it all went wrong, where he went wrong.”

    Beth blinked back the sting of tears at the thought; whatever else Luis was to her, he was a good man, and she hated to think her leaving had hurt him so much. Still, she knew her explanations to be inadequate and not for Hank’s ears, though she felt she could make one small admission. “It wasn’t all him, Hank,” she said, helpless to stop her eyes from filling as she let Hank fold her into a brotherly hug. “It was me, too.” The painful words were muffled by Hank’s shoulder. “I didn’t want to hurt him.”

    “I know,” Hank whispered his answer against her forehead. He pressed a quick kiss to her hair and pulled back when they heard the soft pitter patter of little feet and Daniela boisterously announced her arrival. “Wiggles,” Hank admonished with a grin, stooping down to eye level with the little girl, “I thought I told you…super secret agents like us have to be sneaky so no one knows we’re even there.”

    Daniela’s eyes were round and dark and serious and she raised a finger to her lips as she nodded in acknowledgment, going so far as to shush her own mother when Beth attempted to speak.

    “Excellent job, Agent,” Hank praised. Scooping her into his arms with a small grunt of exertion, he pandered to the amused smile that twitched at the corners of Beth’s mouth, winking and speaking to Daniela in muted whispers.

    “Lights out in five minutes,” Beth reminded as the pair swept past her, Daniela flapping her small hand in goodnight.

    “Fifteen,” Hank bargained, the sound of his voice and Daniela’s giggles slightly garbled behind the walls that separated them.

    Turning the dishwasher on, Beth made a final concession with a fond roll of her eyes at her friend’s familiar antics. “Ten, and that’s my final offer. Take it or leave it.”

    “Take it!”



    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~



    Whitney’s solemn, sympathetic face watched her in the reflection of the bathroom mirror as she arranged her long dark hair into a neat ponytail. “You could just call in. Tell Nate you’ve got that flu that’s going around.”

    Theresa mulled her suggestion over for about a second before she shook her head, making her ponytail swing back and forth. “I can’t do it, Whit. We both know Nate’s just doing me a favor letting me work at the restaurant a couple nights a week. You have your lessons. This is my way of pulling my weight around here.”

    Celeste’s more animated face joined Whitney’s in the reflection of the mirror, and she lifted a hand to wave off Theresa’s worries. “Listen to Ms. Thang. I already told you I got it covered.”

    Theresa turned around to face her two friends with a heavy sigh. “We’re staying here practically rent-free as it is, Celeste.”

    “So?” Celeste interjected with a shrug of her shoulders. “Think of it as doing Daddy and me a favor. He doesn’t give himself a massive heart attack worrying about his little girl living all alone and I don’t kill myself out of sheer boredom. It’s a win-win situation.” When Theresa still looked skeptical, she added, as further proof, green eyes sparkling teasingly, “And the fact that I’m practically living with two nuns just sweetens the deal.” Whitney’s lips thinned into a tight, straight line at the comment, and Theresa’s lips trembled slightly, neither reaction the one she was seeking. Floundering for more comforting words, she finally gave up, grabbing both girls by the hands and forming a semi-circle in the small bathroom. “You know I love you, right? Even if I don’t always say the right things.”

    “We know,” Theresa answered for the both of them, brown eyes bright and brimming with affection.

    Whitney answered with a tiny squeeze of her fingers in Celeste’s hand.

    Voice wavering slightly, Theresa fiddled self-consciously with the buttons lining her shirt, avoiding each of the other girls’ eyes. “Being a nun would be less complicated.”

    “Too bad Mother Teresa was already taken, huh?” Celeste smirked, swatting at Theresa’s hand. “Stop that! You look fine.”

    “Nate will understand,” Whitney tried again.

    “Yeah,” Celeste encouraged, grin re-emerging. “I bet he knows all about problems with men.”

    “Celeste,” Theresa chided with a reluctant smile. “Nate has an ex-wife and daughter.”

    “What?” Celeste feigned innocence. “I’m just sayin’.”

    “I’ll call him for you if you want,” Whitney offered.

    “Now that is true love,” Celeste told Theresa, throwing an approving arm over Whitney’s slim shoulders. “Ms. Thang willingly practicing the good ole art of deception.” Rocking back on her heels, she made an offer of her own. “I do a real convincing gagging sound.” When Theresa’s resistance to the idea seemed to waver just slightly, she went in for the kill. “We can turn it to Soapnet and mock 90210 and Days of Our Lives.”

    Whitney was the one to give the last gentle push. “There’s some of your favorite ice cream in the freezer.”

    Finally relenting, Theresa let Celeste lead her into the living room while Whitney left in search of the cordless phone and lamented on their newest inadvertent discovery. “How was I supposed to know he had a kid?”



    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~




    John the Doorman saw lots of things; the people of New York had always given him plentiful fodder for conversation.

    Take Mrs. Yearwood from the third floor, for example. Every morning around 9 a.m. she took her beloved poodle Bitsy out for a walk. She had friends over from her Yoga class every other Tuesday. And each Thursday afternoon, she had a standing appointment for a relaxing massage from Henri, a well-built young man at least twenty years her junior with a hideously fake French accent.

    Now John wouldn’t call himself cultured or well-versed in the ways of the rich, but he’d learned a few things on the job and he had a pretty good understanding of human nature. Suffice it to say, only Mrs. Yearwood’s unsuspecting husband remained ignorant to Henri’s real relationship to his wife.

    Mrs. Yearwood wasn’t the only tenant that had captured John’s attention or fancy. There was the eccentric, reclusive author that holed himself up in his fifth floor apartment for months on end. The flighty up-and-coming actress who’d just scored her first major movie role. The tiny business mogul twins that John wanted to take under his wing and offer a good, fattening meal. And finally, young Mr. Crane and his delightfully friendly, equally young, aunt.

    Mr. Crane was a lawyer, one of the newest young bucks at his big firm.

    John knew this to be true for a variety of reasons, two of them being Mr. Crane’s tender age and his unmistakable sense of idealism. Idealism tended to fade and disappear altogether in John’s city, but Mr. Crane’s hadn’t yet. Thus, Mr. Crane was obviously one of the new kids on the block.

    Most tenants of John’s building—as the Doorman for the last twenty years, John felt it wasn’t impertinent of him to claim a little bit of ownership—greeted him with a polite nod or small wave. Some ignored him altogether. But Mr. Crane and his aunt? Always had a kind word, always addressed him by name and looked him in the eyes. As such, John couldn’t find fault with harboring a particular fondness for the pair, and his blue eyes were especially watchful where they were concerned.

    It’s how he first noticed the young lass that had had Mr. Crane walking around in a fog for days on end.

    It was how, though he wouldn’t realize it until much later, John was the first to lay eyes upon the young man who would return the favor for the lovely Ms. Crane.

    And he did so by quite literally crashing into her.




























































    Misunderstandings abound!

    LOL!

    I promise, we're getting there. I mean, hey, I *did* finally introduce a certain special someone into Sheridan's life (although she might not actually realize it yet).

    Don't worry. There'll be more collisions later.

    Thanks, as always, for reading!!!

  2. #10

    Re: It Happened One Night (Theresa/Ethan, Chad/Whitney, Sheridan/Luis, Gwen/??, Hank/

    waiting for moreeeeeeeeeeeeee just read it at the old board. lol
    SHUIS and ET 4EVER

  3. #11
    Join Date
    Oct 2000
    Posts
    489

    Post Re: It Happened One Night (Theresa/Ethan, Chad/Whitney, Sheridan/Luis, Gwen/??, Hank/

    Ahem.


    *clears throat*


    Is anybody still reading this? Anybody? Bueller? Anybody?


    LOL!


    If so, I come bearing gifts.


    A new chapter!


    I know, tis a shock. As much to me as any of you guys.


    But it *is* a new chapter, and it's fairly long. Both good things, no?


    Hope you enjoy.



    Title: It's My Party (And I'll Cry If I Want To)
    Rating: PG
    Warnings: nekkidness (it's pretty tame), some language, violence against clowns (lol, you'll see)
    Characters/Pairings: Gwen/Antonio, Theresa/Whitney, Luis and a quirky blonde, Celeste/Hank, the Lopez-Fitzgerald brood, Gwen/Sheridan, Hank/Beth, Sheridan/Luis, more
    Word Count: 7430
    Summary (for chapter): Rubbing at her eyes with her fists, Daniela pouted, “I want my daddy. He promised he’d come.”







    Chapter 9~~~It’s My Party (And I’ll Cry If I Want To)




    “Mmm,” Gwen sighed dreamily at the talented lips giving special treatment to her neck and the hands artfully stroking her down from her post-lovemaking high. “What a way to start the morning.” She tunneled her fingers through her lover’s dark hair, smiling saucily at him when he lifted his head to grin up at her with self-satisfaction.

    Antonio returned the favor, combing his fingers through her messy blonde hair. “You’ve got bed-head,” he teased, dropping a nipping kiss to the swell of her exposed breast.

    “I don’t care,” Gwen told him, and it was true. If he kept doing what he was doing, she didn’t care if she looked like that cartoon she’d seen once, the one with the beehive; she felt damn fabulous. “What time’s it?” she asked on a half-moan, his mouth up to no good (who was she kidding?) again. “I was supposed to get a wake-up call.”

    “You did,” Antonio murmured against her mouth.

    “Antonio.” Gwen tried to muster up disapproval and disappointment, but it was a fruitless gesture because she certainly wasn’t fooling anybody, least of all herself.

    “After last night,” Antonio smirked, “I thought you needed the rest.”

    “That’s what we were doing?” Gwen’s brown eyes danced with humor at him as he settled more fully atop her. “Resting?” An undignified shriek of laughter erupted from her lips when he chose to reward her sarcasm with a well-placed touch. She was unnaturally ticklish, a fact the man currently sharing her bed had delighted in ever since he’d discovered it. Ethan, thankfully, had never used her little weakness against her like Antonio did on a regular basis; whether it was gentlemanly restraint or ignorance of the fact, Gwen didn’t know. “Stop, stop,” she pleaded breathlessly, squirming beneath the heavy body blanketing hers. “We have a party to go to. Remember?” Her reminder did the trick, and she propped herself up on her elbow, admiring Antonio’s unabashed confidence as he stood nude before her, searching for his discarded clothing from the night before. She bit her lip when he gave up looking for his boxers and pulled on his jeans.

    Her reaction made Antonio’s grin return. “What?”

    “Why don’t you take a shower here?” Gwen questioned, sitting up in the bed, the sheet pooling at her waist.

    “We’d never make it out of this room,” Antonio told her, his lustful dark eyes drinking her in. “Besides,” he explained, smiling at the slight blush that painted her pale skin pink, “I don’t have any clothes. I never expected to spend the night.”

    His answer had an unexpected effect on Gwen; ignoring the funny twist she felt in her stomach, she found herself nodding along with him and trying to smile. The smile came much easier when she remembered the gift she and Sheridan had finally found in the last toy store they’d gone to the day before. Pulling the sheet up and bunching it up under her arms, she left the bed, crossing the room and coming back to stand in front of Antonio with a bag in her hands. “Wait until you see what I got your niece. The manager of the toy store said it was one of their most popular items. Sheridan and I got the last one,” she told him proudly, presenting the bag for his inspection.

    Antonio looked skeptically at the fuschia ribbons and the tissue paper erupting from the bag in a rainbow of color before delving inside, and he couldn’t help grinning when he got a good look at the box in his hands. “Dora?”

    “Not only does she sing,” Gwen smiled back at him, “she dances too.” Something in his expression gave her pause, and her smile started to fall. “Well,” she started to ramble nervously, “She doesn’t really dance. It’s more like scooting than anything.” Worrying her bottom lip between her teeth when he remained close-lipped, she ventured in a deflated voice, “You don’t think she’ll like it.”

    Seeing her so disappointed, Antonio finally uttered a few words of reassurance. “Daniela loves Dora. It isn’t that.”

    Gwen frowned as she watched him scratch at his head; it was obvious he wanted to say something. “Well, then,” she prodded, feeling her stomach start to coil in knots at his unreadable expression, “what is it?” Antonio still did not answer her, and she felt a growing sense of horror as another possibility occurred to her. “You never actually asked me to go to the party. That’s it, isn’t it? I’m not invited. You don’t want me to go. I just assumed. Oh God. Why didn’t you say something before? I spent all day looking for the perfect gift. I can’t believe I was so stupid…”

    Antonio finally cut off her panicked rambling with a kiss, a kiss that effectively left Gwen dumbstruck for several long seconds, which was more than okay with him, because it gave him the chance to blurt out an explanation. “We got the same gift!”

    “Are you kidding me?” Gwen was aghast once she had regained the capability of independent thought and, subsequently, speech. Touching a hand to her tingling lips, she started to shake her head, and then, without warning, she punched Antonio in the shoulder, with just enough oomph to make him groan.

    “What was that for?” Antonio held up a deflecting hand.

    “We got the same gift,” Gwen shot back. “You made me think I was some crazy rich ditz you were just using for sex.”

    With as serious an expression as he could muster, Antonio told her, “You are not a ditz.”

    “Gee, thanks,” Gwen rolled her brown eyes at him, stomping across the room and nearly tripping over the trailing sheet wrapped two-fold around her. Spying his missing boxers hanging from the knob of the bathroom door, she snatched them up and threw them at him, sling-shot style. “See yourself out.”

    Brown eyes dancing at her as he removed his boxers from his face, Antonio reminded her, “I need my shirt.” He slapped a frustrated hand against the bathroom door when she slammed it in his face and quickly locked it, his shirt inside. Seconds later, he heard the shower come on, and he knew he wasn’t going to outlast her (the lady loved her showers long and leisurely), not if he was going to make it to the party on time—after taking care of the list of errands Beth had pushed him out the door with the evening before. “Fine,” he muttered under his breath, “Keep it.” Louder, he told her, “The party’s at noon, in the park. Just look for the pink and purple balloons.”

    Inside the bathroom, Gwen gave no indication she had heard him.

    “I don’t invite just anybody to my niece’s birthday parties,” Antonio said. “I just thought you should know that.”

    ~*~


    “You’re looking better this morning.”

    Theresa returned Whitney’s encouraging smile with a small frown. “That bad, huh?”

    “That bad,” Whitney confirmed, wrapping her arms around Theresa’s shoulders and giving her a consoling hug. “He’s not worth it, Honey. Try to remember that.”

    “Oh Whit,” Theresa sighed, lifting a hand up to squeeze one of her best friend’s arms gratefully. “Promise you won’t ever let me do something so stupid again.”

    Whitney gave Theresa’s shoulders an answering squeeze before letting her go and painted a hopeful smile on her lips. “Theresa, you’re a force of nature. I can only do my best.”

    "That’s all I can ask for,” Theresa replied. Casting a glance around the tidy living room, she focused on Whitney again. “Whitney,” she gently scolded, “I told you I’d clean up the mess.”

    “It wasn’t me,” Whitney told her, wandering into the kitchen to fix herself a glass of orange juice. “It was Celeste.” The bubbly blonde had burned off an enormous amount of nervous energy by cleaning every nook, cranny, and inanimate surface in the small apartment this morning. With her pink sundress, pearls, and perky ponytail, she’d blown past Whitney like a virtual Energizer Bunny with nary a word, except for two very important ones, hissed as the door was closing behind her.

    “Where is Celeste?” Theresa wondered aloud, signing her name to Daniela’s birthday card with a flourish and offering it Whitney, who had already returned to her side.

    Whitney neatly printed her name below Theresa’s own and handed the card back to her. She took a sip of her orange juice before answering. “Monthly meeting with the Captain.”

    Theresa winced.

    “How do you think he’ll take the news?”

    “That’s she changing her major? Again?” Whitney nodded, and Theresa bit her lip with worry. “Maybe one of us should have gone with her.” Snagging her purse from the coffee table and fishing inside for her cell phone, she withdrew it and flipped it open, checking her messages. “What’s our code?”

    “Funky Chicken,” Whitney revealed, feeling ridiculous for even uttering the words. She swore their off-the-wall friend did it on purpose. Last month the code had been “Foxy-Ass Mulder.” She’d never live down the humiliation she still felt at bursting into the restaurant and blurting out those words in front of the early dinner crowd , a crowd which just so happened to include Nate’s bitchy ex-wife and his twelve-year-old daughter Chesley. Nate, privy to Celeste’s rocky relationship with her father and her near-constant need to be rescued (Celeste called Theresa a real snake-charmer where her father was concerned), had barely batted an eyelash, shooing Theresa and Whitney out the door with one hand and taking his ex-wife aside to issue an explanation. Last month, Celeste had worn a short pink wig and fishnet stockings to an afternoon opera performance; this month Whitney wagered the Captain might actually give Celeste his phone so that she could call or text them.

    Theresa released a relieved sigh when she found no messages, voice or text, from Celeste. There were, however, several from assorted members of her family, immediate and otherwise. Scrolling past messages from Miguel and Paloma, even one from Noah (that she immediately deleted without reading) she saw a voicemail from her mother. Listening to it, her dark eyes grew round and her head whipped around to face Whitney mere seconds later. “Whitney!” she exclaimed in a near panic, “What time is it?” Without waiting for Whitney to answer, she jumped up from the sofa, tugged her purse over her shoulder, and headed for the door.

    “Theresa, it’s barely after ten,” Whitney frowned, nevertheless following in Theresa’s wake. “The party’s not until noon.” Pausing to snag her own purse from the kitchen bar, she made the hasty decision to scoop up the assortment of brightly wrapped presents stacked in one of the bar stools and snatched her own set of keys off their ring when it looked like Theresa hadn’t heard her, dashing from the apartment in a blind hurry. “Theresa, Honey, wait!” Whitney called after her, slamming the door shut behind her. She barely made it inside the elevator before Theresa was jabbing frantically at the buttons.

    “We’re late. Mama and Papa were on the 9 o’clock bus.”

    Whitney quickly fell into their established pattern, calming Theresa as the elevator doors shut. “It’s okay. I’m sure we’ll make it. You know how those buses are. They’re always late. I’m sure your parents haven’t been waiting very long.”

    Inside the empty apartment, the phone rang.

    And rang.

    And rang.

    ~*~


    “Excuse me, Sir,” John’s normally kind blue eyes narrowed in suspicion at the man that had literally been pacing back and forth in front of the building for the last fifteen minutes. “May I help you with something?” he asked, raising his voice to capture the man’s attention. When the man turned around, sliding a cell phone into his jeans pocket with a disappointed sigh, John’s brows knit together in consideration. Something about the man was familiar, and it only took a few seconds of him sorting through his mental file of faces to make the connection. “You’re the lad from yesterday—the one who applied for the job in security.”

    The man offered John his hand, shaking it firmly if not a little distractedly. “Luis Lopez-Fitzgerald,” he introduced himself.

    Chuckling, John told him, “That name’s a right mouthful, Lad.” Sobering slightly, he gave his own name, and a little helpful advice. “I hate to disappoint you, but your application probably hasn’t made it to the Boss-Man’s desk yet.”

    Nodding his head in understanding, Luis sheepishly admitted, “I know. That’s not why I’m here. I’m actually new to town, and this place is one of the only places I know besides my sister’s apartment and the place I stayed in last night. My daughter’s having her birthday party at the park today, and New York’s a big place.”

    “With a lot of parks,” John interjected with twinkling blue eyes.

    “With a lot of parks,” Luis agreed, delving in his jeans pocket and pulling out a crumpled sheet of paper. Scribbled on it was an address.

    John patted the inside of his jacket looking for his glasses. Withdrawing them, he placed them on the end of his nose and held out a hand for the piece of paper. “May I?”

    Luis readily gave it to him and waited (im)patiently for him to give him some direction.

    After a few seconds, John whistled beneath his breath and pronounced, “This park is clear across town. What time is the party?”

    “Noon,” Luis blew out, fishing for his phone again. He opened it, finding no response from Theresa, and shut it again in frustration. He couldn’t say he was surprised; communication between him and Theresa had been sparse and strained with tension since he’d discovered she’d harbored Beth and Daniela their first few weeks in this vast city without giving him so much as a hint of their whereabouts. “I’m not going to make it, am I?”

    “Not without a little bit of help,” John answered honestly. “Stay right here, Lad. I may know somebody willing to offer you assistance.”

    Luis did as he asked, but not without renewing his pacing. Intermittently, he’d pull out his phone and try Theresa again. A couple of times he even tried Beth, but her phone had been going straight to voicemail all morning. Luis tried to reason with himself that she was probably busy, taking care of some last minute preparations for their daughter’s party, but his frustration was starting to build into anger when John returned with a tall, thin, waif of a girl.

    “Mr. Lopez-Fitzgerald, Ms. Standish,” John stepped back to present the girl to Luis. “Ms. Standish, Mr. Lopez-Fitzgerald.”

    The girl smiled sweetly at him and offered him a pale, slender hand. “Call me Charity.”

    Luis took her hand, shaking it, then offered her the much-handled piece of paper, smudged around the edges and almost unreadable. He recited the address by memory when she struggled to make it out. A little more harshly than intended, he cut off her attempts at making small talk (he caught snippets…something about acting, a movie maybe), “I don’t mean to be rude, but are you sure you can help me? I really don’t want to be late.”

    The smile on her face barely wavered. “Of course. My driver can take us.”

    “You have a driver?” Luis looked at the girl with new eyes; she hardly seemed the celebrity type. Then again, she possessed a certain eccentric quality.

    “I know, right?” Charity regarded him with an odd tilt of her head and a smile that bordered on saccharine. “I still haven’t gotten used to that. I guess the producers want to make sure I make it to the set in one piece,” she told him as they made their way toward a black SUV with tinted windows, conspicuous in its very attempt not to be. “How old is your little girl?”

    Luis opened his mouth to answer her, but she didn’t give him the chance, and so he slid into the back seat of the SUV beside her, listening to her ramble on about her movie.

    “Maybe she’d want to visit the set? On second thought, that might not be such a good idea. Did I tell you my movie has zombies in it?”

    ~*~


    “Come on, Captain,” Celeste muttered under her breath as she waited in the lobby of one of her father’s many hotels for him to reappear (he had important business to attend to, like always), “I’m gonna be late. As always.” She fiddled nervously with the strand of pearls around her neck, her fingers itching to release the ridiculous ponytail that sat high upon her head, and started counting to one hundred under her breath, determined to keep her cool. She still had big news to tell her father, after all, even if she had chickened out during their brunch. When she got to fifty, she paused to ask, “Daddy, where are you?” She whirled around on her heels when she heard a strangely familiar voice close to her ear and glared down into a pair of mischievously twinkling brown eyes. “Frodo,” she addressed Hank with trumped-up disgust.

    Hank’s grin grew as his eyes roved over her ensemble. “Are they having Grease auditions again?” Making a show of looking past her shoulder, he asked, “Where’s Tarzan?”

    Celeste rolled her eyes and started to walk away from him, only to have him follow her, “Not that it’s any of your business, but Taran and I decided it was best if we go our separate ways.”

    “I think you made the right decision,” Hank told her. “Anybody with a heart wouldn’t try to come between the man and his true love.” After a beat, he added, “His own reflection.”

    “See that guy over there,” Celeste snarled, haughtily tossing her head toward a beefy man lurking around the bank of elevators. “His name is James. One word from me, and he’ll be tossing you out on your midget ass.”

    “Hobbit,” Hank helpfully corrected her, teeth gleaming white at her.

    “Midget. Hobbit,” Celeste rounded on him. “Whatever. Scram,” she hissed, her green eyes searching out her still absent father.

    “Aww. And you asked so nicely too. There’s just one little problem. I’d love to oblige you, but I’m meeting somebody, in about…” he glanced at the watch on his wrist then to the elevator that had just opened, with a gaggle of twittering women spilling out all agog over something, or rather, someone, “2.5 seconds.” When the waters had parted, so to speak, and Antonio stepped out, bare-chested and red-faced, Hank couldn’t help the smirk that curled his lips. “In fact, there he is now. It’s been a pleasure, as always.”

    Celeste’s jaw dropped open as she watched Hank and the half-naked man meet halfway, and her green eyes were still round with shock when her father’s commanding voice boomed in her ear.

    “I’m sorry, Kitten,” the Captain apologized. “We’re going to have to have that little talk you wanted sometime else. There’s been a crisis at one of our West Coast properties.”

    "But Daddy.” Turning her back on the strange little scene still unfolding, she weakly protested.

    “I’m real proud of you, Celeste,” the Captain’s green eyes glowed with genuine pride as he pulled her close for a parting hug. “I wasn’t too keen on this fashion business nonsense at first, but you’ve stuck with it longer than anything else to date. Maybe your mother and I will actually get to attend a graduation ceremony before we have one foot in grave, after all.” Cupping her cheek briefly with his palm, he let his hand drop back down to his side and stooped to pick his briefcase back up. “Check in on your mother while I’m gone, will you?”

    Celeste nodded mutely, her fingers gravitating back to her necklace as she watched him depart. She barely noticed when Hank walked past her, the half-naked man with him now sporting a tight white tee-shirt.

    “Why the sad face, Sandy?” Hank teased. “You’ll see me at the party.”

    Celeste opened her mouth to deliver a blistering retort, but, out of the corner of her eyes, she caught the time and changed her mind. With little more than an hour to go until the party, she hurried out the door and hailed the first taxi she saw.

    ~*~


    Coming to a breathless stop, Theresa turned her head back and forth, dark curls spilling over her shoulders as her eyes darted from row to row of chairs, searching for her mama and her papa. Behind her, Whitney barely managed to juggle Daniela’s gifts in her arms, a little breathless herself after literally chasing her friend for the better part of the last half hour. “I don’t see them,” Theresa finally spoke. “Where could they be?”

    “Por favor, Theresa,” a weary voice gave her the answer she sought. “Next time will you check your messages?”

    Theresa smiled apologetically into her little sister’s wise brown eyes and pulled her into a hug. “Paloma, I am so sorry.”

    “You should be,” Paloma regarded her seriously. “The whole time I had to watch those two make moon eyes at each other when they thought the other one wasn’t looking.” She nodded her head at two figures seated close together a few feet behind her. “It’s mucho disgusting.”

    “Still in denial, huh?” Theresa commiserated with her over Miguel’s and Kay’s apparent blindness when it came to recognizing their feelings for each other. To be fair, Miguel had only just begun seeing his good friend in a different light in the past year while Kay had had a year’s head start on him. She could attest to the fact that her brother’s learning curve was sometimes painful to watch. Glancing around, she couldn’t help noticing her parents’ glaring absence. “Where are Mama and Papa?”

    “They took a cab,” Paloma revealed.

    Stunned into speaking, Whitney couldn’t help but repeat Paloma’s statement incredulously. “They took a cab?!”

    Nodding, Paloma repeated herself. “They took a cab.” Turning around to gesture at Miguel and Kay, she explained the circumstances behind her parents’ uncharacteristic decision. “But only after convincing that police officer over there not to let us out of her sight.”

    Whitney’s and Theresa’s eyes were drawn to a uniformed woman that all but blended into the background of the milling bus terminal. She wore her dark hair in a heavy braid down her back, and her fierce expression didn’t waver as she nodded at Paloma and Paloma nodded back.

    “Apparently, Tina knows Chief Bennett.” Paloma frowned slightly in confusion, retaining only a vague grasp of the details. “Anyway,” she continued, “Mama and Papa didn’t want to be late, and somebody had to wait here for you, when you finally decided to check your messages.”

    Theresa could only smile apologetically at the pointed look Paloma gave her. “I came as soon as I got Mama’s message.”

    “No, you came as soon as you checked Mama’s message,” Paloma smirked slightly.

    “At least she came,” Miguel joined them, giving Theresa a warm, welcoming hug.

    Kay, meanwhile, hung back a little, until Whitney started to lose her grip on the packages in her hands again. “Here,” she offered. “Let me take some of those.”

    Whitney shot her a grateful smile and obliged.

    “Paloma,” Theresa tucked a heavy strand of hair behind her ear. “I really am sorry.”

    Paloma softened and took her sister by the hand. “I know.”

    “Guys,” Miguel interrupted the moment to remind them, “don’t we have a party to get to?”

    ~*~


    With barely ten minutes to spare until noon, Gwen finally caught sight of Sheridan coming around the corner, a purple gift bag swinging in her hand and glittering in the brilliant sunshine. “Thank God,” Gwen greeted her, expelling a sigh of relief. “You made it.”

    Sheridan handed the bag over to Gwen with a teasing smile. “It wasn’t easy, I tell you. You owe me big time.”

    Peeking in the bag, Gwen dazzled Sheridan with a smile of her own. “Whatever you want, Sher. It’s yours.”

    "Whatever I want,” Sheridan pretended to mull it over. “I’ll keep that in mind.”

    “Within reason,” Gwen felt the need to add.

    “But of course,” Sheridan responded with a laugh.

    “Do I look okay?” Gwen blurted out, waving her free hand about slightly to indicate her appearance. “I’m not too dressy for a little kid’s party, am I? I thought I should wear something casual but nice. This is the most casual thing I own.”

    Sheridan took in the black pencil skirt and the simple silk shell neatly tucked in and accentuating Gwen’s narrow waist and decided another day of shopping was in order. Smiling, the only piece of criticism she offered related to the killer pumps adorning her friend’s feet, “I think those are the kind of shoes that result in kids, not the kind you wear to a preschooler’s party.”

    Gwen’s brown eyes widened comically. “What will his mother think?”

    “She’ll be jealous?” Sheridan shrugged, blue eyes twinkling at her. Sensing her comment had done little to ease Gwen’s anxiety, she took a step closer and seized her by the arms. “Forget about her for a minute. What will this Tony of yours think?”

    Blushing slightly, Gwen admitted, “They’re his favorite.”

    Sliding her hands down Gwen’s arms to give her hands a reassuring squeeze, Sheridan said, “There you go. Problem solved.”

    “But Sheridan…”

    “No but Sheridan’s,” Sheridan tsked gently, amazed at how important making a good impression on Tony’s family was to Gwen. This was so much more than heady sexual attraction; she knew it and Gwen knew it, and she could see that that little piece of knowledge was all but terrifying to Gwen. “You’ll be a hit. How can you not be? You come bearing gifts,” she teased.

    "I can’t thank you enough,” Gwen professed. “You’re a lifesaver.” She didn’t mention how detrimental it was to Sheridan’s well-being, buying clothes for a child that hadn’t been much more than an unrealized dream gone in the blink of an eye; that was more Ethan’s style, bumbling but well-meaning.

    Sheridan read more into the words left unsaid by Gwen, and she bit her lip, her blue eyes growing a little misty. “My therapist begs to differ.”

    “Well, you know what I think about your therapist,” Gwen responded.

    “Some of the things he says make sense,” Sheridan put up a token defense, squeezing Gwen’s hands back gratefully when they refused to let go of her own. “I do have to let go. I’m just not ready yet.”

    “Let go on your own terms, Sher. No one else’s,” Gwen advised her, leaning forward to kiss each of her cheeks. “Are you going to be okay?”

    Nodding, Sheridan accepted Gwen’s hug, swiping discreetly at the few tears that had escaped unbidden. “I’ll be fine. Go. You don’t want to be late.” When Gwen hesitated to leave her side, Sheridan reassured her, “Ethan won’t be long. He had a few things to take care of.”

    “Are you sure?”

    “Gwen,” Sheridan grew somewhat exasperated. “I’m sure.”

    “Okay,” Gwen smiled back at her. “Wish me luck.”

    “You don’t need it,” Sheridan answered. “They’re going to love you.”


    ~*~



    “Well, if it isn’t my favorite four-year-old!” Hank announced, swooping in and claiming Daniela for himself, from her grandmother’s arms.

    Pilar smiled at them indulgently before giving Hank a significant look and moving on to help Beth and a couple of the other children’s parents with the rest of the decorations.

    “You’re looking mighty pretty today,” Hank complimented the little girl, who beamed proudly.

    “She dressed herself,” Beth, placing paper Dora plates and plastic forks and spoons along the picnic bench behind them, teasingly divulged.

    “It’s my birfday,” Daniela huffed in explanation, slightly disgruntled at her mother’s laughing tone. “Mommy,” she frowned, tugging at the fluffy white skirt of her dress. Pink cowgirl boots peeked out beneath. Sticking one skinny little brown leg out, she showed them off. “Look at what Diego got me, Uncle Hank.”

    "Nice,” Hank caught Beth’s eyes then smiled. “I need me a pair of those.”

    “Uncle Hank,” Daniela giggled. “You’re so silly,” she proclaimed, squirming to get down. “Mommy,” she pointed out a little boy in a yellow Spongebob tee-shirt and shorts, just arriving with what appeared his mother, carrying a tiny tot with an abundance of strawberry curls. “Will and Emma!”

    “What’s Spongebob got that I don’t?” Hank cried, watching the pair meet each other halfway and promptly scamper off to join the growing circle of kids clustering around a strange-looking pseudo-clown making balloon figures. Hank slowly turned around, lifting a brow in question at Beth. “Who sprung for Pennywise over there?”

    Beth barely spared Hank a roll of her eyes. “Diego wanted to do something nice for the kids. Clowns are expensive.”

    Hank’s eyes widened. “You’re not saying…no. That’s not him, is it?” His lips quirked with the makings of a grin.

    “Hank, don’t even,” Beth warned.

    “I’m just saying,” Hank couldn’t help himself. “He should look into getting a refund from the Clown College.”

    "Leave her alone, Hank,” Antonio stepped in, a giant cluster of pink and purple balloons in his grasp. “Where do you want these?” he asked Beth.

    Beth looked a little frazzled as she answered him, raking her fingers through her hair. “Anywhere. Everywhere.”

    “I’ll take care of the balloons,” Martin announced, taking the balloons from Antonio’s hands. “There’s someone here to see you,” he told his son.

    Antonio followed his father’s line of sight, and a slow grin stole over his face when he spied Gwen standing a few feet away, hesitant to join what was rapidly becoming a three-ring circus. “Thanks, Papa,” he touched his father’s shoulder with his hand, trotting across the short distance that separated him from the nervous blond.

    “Poor thing looks like she’s never been to a kid’s birthday party in her life,” Martin remarked.

    “Not even her own,” Hank muttered in agreement, watching the pair with avid interest. To no one in particular, he commented, “Why didn’t someone tell me we could bring a date?”


    ~*~


    “Whoa, Baby! Tell me you’re finally legal,” a familiar feminine voice catcalled as they were rushing down the sidewalk, making Miguel flush ten different shades of red and Kay narrow her eyes in jealousy.

    “Miguel, Kay…you remember Celeste,” Theresa made the (re)introductions.

    “Thank God you’re late too, Ms. T.” Celeste proclaimed, slightly out of breath from power walking the last couple of blocks to the park (she’d actually run out of cab-fare before then…there was a lot to be said about the power of flirting). Sliding her green eyes back over Miguel’s boyishly handsome face, she lamented, “Too bad I pride myself on not being a cradle-robber, Migs. Too bad.”

    Miguel (and Kay) seemed to release a relieved sigh, and Theresa had to hide a smile at them both. She turned her attention back to Celeste when she realized the lovable motor-mouth hadn’t actually stopped talking.

    “I chickened out, Ms. T. I didn’t have the guts.”

    “Celeste,” Theresa lightly chastised, waving Whitney and Paloma ahead of them when it looked like they were waiting for the rest of them to catch up.

    “I know, I know,” Celeste took her admonishment on the chin. “I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t disappoint him that way. And then he got an important business call. And Frodo showed up and met this random half-nekkid guy…it was too much. My brain couldn’t handle it all.”

    Theresa shook her head, knowing Celeste never gave herself as much credit as she deserved. She was much more than the persona she let the rest of the world see. “You can’t hide the truth forever.”

    “I don’t know, Ms. T. Money talks. There are a lot of flunkies out there who will do anything for a buck. We can always stage a graduation,” she said.

    “How much are you paying?” Kay piped up, earning a disapproving look from Theresa. “My dad’s the Police Chief back in Harmony,” she shrugged. “He’s not exactly rolling in the dough. Besides, how hard can it be?”

    Celeste grinned, her blond ponytail bobbing in her enthusiasm. “I’m sure we can negotiate an acceptable amount.”

    “The truth will come out,” Theresa had a little wisdom of her own to impart. “It always does.”

    “Maybe,” Celeste considered her words. Then she brightened, “I’m a much more adept liar than you are.”

    “Dios mio,” Theresa muttered underneath her breath, making Miguel and Kay snicker. Acting? Maybe not so much. But Celeste could spin some wild tall tales. With the right help. “That’s not exactly a good thing, Celeste.”

    “Depends on who you’re asking,” Celeste wouldn’t be perturbed. “I happen to think it’s an excellent trait for an actress to have. That’s all acting is. Lying about who you are.” Suddenly changing the subject, she started extolling the praises of random half-nekkid guy. “Frodo said he’d be at the party. Do you think he brought his friend?”

    “Maybe,” Theresa distractedly answered, squinting into the bright sunshine and trying to make out the figure sitting forlornly on a bench at the far edges of the park. The only thing she could clearly distinguish was a swath of ocean blue and blond hair. It almost looked like…no. Telling herself there were millions of blonds, bottle and otherwise, in New York, she refocused her attention on where she was going, a beaming smile lighting up her face when she spotted her little niece break away from a swarm of boisterous children, racing headlong to meet her, arms outstretched wide.

    “Auntie Resa! You came!”


    ~*~


    Knuckling a few tears away, Sheridan retrieved her purse from the bench and withdrew her compact, hoping to repair the damage. Frowning in dismay at her appearance, she delved her hand back inside her purse, searching for a tissue, a handkerchief—something to take care of the mascara smudged around her reddened eyes. Finding none, she sighed and leaned her head back, closing her eyes. If Ethan found her like this…she tried to push the thought from her head, tried to push all thoughts from her head really, but it didn’t work.

    The music of children’s laughter echoed through the park, and a gentle breeze blew, stirring the leaves of the tree that cast a shadow over the bench.

    When the shadow grew longer and hurried footfall reached her ears, Sheridan straightened on the bench, her blue eyes snapping open. “Ethan, I…” her excuses died on her lips when she discovered not Ethan, but a man familiar to her in the vaguest of senses. “I’m sorry,” she softly murmured. “I thought you were someone else.” Her apology seeming to fall on deaf ears, she regarded the tight set of the generous mouth, the deep brown eyes that had only briefly landed on her face, and the nervous twitch of feet. Standing up slowly, she extended a hesitant hand. “Can I help you?” she asked, lightly touching his arm. She stepped back slightly, startled at the intensity of his gaze (and his touch), and softly said, “You look lost.”

    "I am,” came the simple answer.

    “Are you looking for a certain person, a particular address?” Sheridan fished for information. For the first time, she noticed the small wrapped package clutched in his hands, and understanding lit her face. “A birthday party, perhaps?” Briefly glancing at the package, he looked back to her, and Sheridan felt almost lightheaded (ridiculous, right?), being the object under such incredible focus. Finally, he spoke, on a frustrated sigh.

    “It’s my daughter’s party.” If he noticed the surprised arch of Sheridan’s brow, he didn’t remark on it. “I’m late, and I promised her I would come.” Overcome with a moment of self-doubt, he shook his head, and Sheridan got the distinct feeling he was talking about more than just a birthday party when he continued, “Maybe I shouldn’t have come.”

    “I’m not so sure your daughter would agree with you,” Sheridan blurted out, biting her lip at her own forwardness at his disbelieving reaction. “If she loves you half as much as it seems you love her, she’ll be happy to see you. She won’t remember that you were late to her party; all she’ll remember is that you were there.” She felt herself blushing when he seemed to look at her with new eyes.

    "I didn’t catch your name.”

    “Sheridan,” she replied. “Yours?”

    “Luis,” he answered. Gratefully, he said, “Thank you.”

    “You’re welcome, Luis,” Sheridan tried his name on for size, softly smiling at him. She felt the tiniest flutter beneath her ribcage when he gave her a small smile back. Her blue eyes briefly traced the path Gwen had taken earlier, and she looked back to him. Out of the corner of her eyes, she noticed Ethan’s approach. “There’s a party just around the corner. I’m not sure if it’s your daughter’s, but…”

    Luis was already on his way, breaking into a jog.

    “Good luck, Luis,” Sheridan whispered to herself as Ethan came to stand by her side.

    “I didn’t mean to be gone so long,” Ethan apologized with a concerned frown when he got a good look at her face. “Who was that? Was he bothering you?”

    Sheridan ignored his questions and took his arm, snagging her purse from the park bench as she steered him in the direction he had come from. “I’m hungry, Ethan,” she told him. Catching a glimpse of him rolling his eyes, she pretended to be offended. “Hey! I saw that.”

    “You’re always hungry, Aunt Sheridan,” Ethan teased, blue eyes merry but just the slightest bit confused. He wisely chose not to comment on her appearance (he’d call Gwen, find out what had upset her later), and said, “I think there’s supposed to be a good Indian restaurant around here somewhere.”

    “What are you waiting for?” Sheridan playfully tugged him along. “I am your guest, after all, Ethan. Feed me.”

    Ethan mock-groaned, “It’ll be my treat.”



    ~*~


    Hank grabbed a handful of chips from one of the bowls lined up on the picnic table and shoved them in his mouth, oblivious to Beth’s disapproving glare. Nodding at Antonio and the uptight blond he’d introduced simply as Gwen a few feet away, he mumbled around a mouthful, “High society, huh?”

    Beth slapped his hand away when it shot out to snatch some more chips. “Stop it! Those are for the party.” She followed his gaze and watched Gwen’s nervous attempts to entertain the children that had virtually mobbed her since her arrival, ever curious about the unknown. Antonio stood close by, ready to make his rescue should it be needed, and observed the whole scene with an amused smile. He looked and acted happy around Gwen, Beth decided. His previous words to the contrary, she had an inkling this relationship was more than just the casual coupling he’d admitted to her that first night when they’d stayed up late and caught up with each other’s lives. “She seems nice,” she finally allowed.

    “She’s nice all right,” Hank smirked, recalling the state he’d found Antonio in earlier that morning. “Which is more than I can say for Sandy here,” he remarked, unable to resist comment when Celeste walked by, ushering a freckle-faced little girl back to join the rest of the kids.

    “Cover your ears, Meggie,” Celeste instructed, holding her hands over the disobedient little redhead’s ears herself. To Hank, she snarled, “Piss off, Frodo.”

    “Frodo?” Beth covered her laugh from the confused little girl with a choking cough. Waving Meggie and Celeste along, she shook her head at Hank. “She’s a little young even for you, Hank.” When he started humming Send in the Clowns under his breath, she socked him in the stomach, wiping the grin off of his face.

    “I bet his mom still has his high school diploma hanging up on the living room wall,” he said of Diego. “Right beside the one from the Clown College.”

    “You’re not exactly scoring yourself any points, Uncle Hank,” Kay came up beside him, sneakily procuring a chip for herself. When Beth glanced back over at the pair, Kay wore an innocent smile. “With either of your best friends,” she said pointedly, slipping away just as quietly as she’d arrived.

    Hank closed his mouth long enough to point an accusing finger at Kay when Theresa and Paloma swept by to join Beth, carefully arranging plates and colorful place-cards on the table. “Did you see that?” Getting no sympathy from either of the girls, he tried his luck on the stoic-faced Pilar. “You’re looking lovely as ever.” All he got for his trouble was a long-suffering sigh and an affectionate pat of his hand. “Wiggles?” he tried gamely when Daniela scampered by with a bunch of her little groupies. When he went unnoticed, he lamented, “What’s a guy gotta do to get a little love around here?”

    Will reappeared and tugged on Hank’s pants leg.

    “Got any words of wisdom for me, Spongebob?” Hank’s brown eyes twinkled down at the kid. “What’s your secret to success?”

    “Stop pulling their pigtails, Mister,” Will told him matter-of-factly. “They don’t like it.”

    “Thanks,” Hank replied dryly. “I’ll keep that in mind.”

    ~*~


    The rest of the restless children were anxiously gathering around the cake, four candles proudly lit and flickering in the breeze, but Daniela refused to take her position as the guest of honor, skulking away by herself and stubbornly refusing to acknowledge her mother’s pleas for her to come back. Ducking behind the nearest tree, she hid—until her grandmother discovered her.

    “Mi hija,” Pilar crouched down in front of her tiny granddaughter, her little face screwed up and looking on the verge of tears. “Why the sad face?”

    Rubbing at her eyes with her fists, Daniela pouted, “I want my daddy. He promised he’d come.”

    “Oh Daniela,” Pilar sighed, folding one of the tiny hands in her own and tugging the little girl into a hug when one tear fell, quickly followed by another. She struggled to find the words to comfort the little girl, and found herself saying, “I’m sure your daddy wanted to be here.” Sensing they weren’t alone, she cast a glance over her shoulder to find Diego’s sympathetic smile partially hidden behind the enormous prosthetic nose he wore.

    “Is she okay?” he asked Pilar, not waiting for her answer to crouch down beside them. “Maybe your daddy’s mean boss wouldn’t let him off of work, and he’s just running late. That could be it.”

    Daniela frowned. “Uncle Sam’s not mean.” She didn’t dispute the fact that her father’s job kept him busy though; she knew, even at her tender age, his job as a police officer kept him very busy.

    Wearing the appropriate expression of contrition, Diego hastily took back the words but still reassured her, “I’m sure he’s on his way, Short Stuff. He wouldn’t miss your birthday.” At this, he looked to Pilar for reassurance.

    "Not if he could help it, mi hija,” Pilar squeezed Daniela for emphasis. Somewhat reluctantly, she gave Diego a grateful smile and accepted the hand he offered her, letting him pull her (and Daniela) to her feet. “Come. We’ll save your daddy a piece of your cake.”

    “But…” Daniela started to protest.

    “You don’t want the Candle Bandit to strike again, do you?” Diego posed with a crooked grin, earning a definitive shake of the head from the little girl and handily distracting her.

    “Who is this Candle Bandit?” Pilar demanded to know, sliding a glance over to the man matching their every step in red shoes even larger than his bulbous red nose.

    “Will,” Daniela giggled, reaching out her hands for Diego and holding on tight when Pilar relinquished her. “Tell her, Diego.”

    They made quite a pair, he in his full clown garb, she in her pink cowgirl boots and fluffy white dress. Finding nothing but kindness in the man’s eyes as he looked upon her granddaughter, Pilar could only smile.

    “Will likes to blow out everyone else’s candles,” Diego informed Pilar. “Earned himself a black eye at Meggie’s party.”

    Pilar’s mouth opened wide in dismay. “Who...”

    “That Meggie’s one tough cookie. Right, Short Stuff?” Diego chuckled, placing Daniela on her own two feet when the rest of their party came into view. The smile on his face faltered when he saw Beth’s expression, and he barely had time to react before a tall, angry looking man with Daniela’s eyes sucker punched him.

    “Keep your hands off my daughter!”







































    Feedback would be oh so lovely. Especially considering it's been two-plus years since I've dusted this fic off and posted something.

    Let me know if you're still interested in it or if it's a lost cause.

    Thanks so much for reading!!!

  4. #12

    Re: It Happened One Night (Theresa/Ethan, Chad/Whitney, Sheridan/Luis, Gwen/??, Hank/

    still reading this..pls update soon. x
    SHUIS and ET 4EVER

  5. #13
    Join Date
    Oct 2000
    Posts
    489

    Post Re: It Happened One Night (Theresa/Ethan, Chad/Whitney, Sheridan/Luis, Gwen/??, Hank/

    Thanks Bree!

    Still writing, just more slowly.

    LOL!

    Keep checking. Maybe I'll surprise you.



    Shae

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