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

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  1. #1
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    Oct 2000
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    Post Whisper (Sheridan/Luis, Sam/Ivy/Grace, Theresa/Ethan/?, Charity/Miguel/Kay/?, more)

    Prologue



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



    @@@@@



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

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

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

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

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

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

    And he handed the phone to Sheridan.



    @@@@@



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

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

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

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

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

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

    That's why this hurts so damn much.



    @@@@@



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



    @@@@@



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    And Ivy fled the living room in tears.



    @@@@@



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

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

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

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

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

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

    "Can you help her, M'am?"

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



    @@@@@



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

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

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

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

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

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



    @@@@@


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    "We must pray," Father Lonagin said.

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



    @@@@@



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  2. #2
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    Oct 2000
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    Re: Whisper (Sheridan/Luis, Sam/Ivy/Grace, Theresa/Ethan/?, Charity/Miguel/Kay/?, mor

    Chapter 1




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

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

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

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

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

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

    "Dad."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    "Mom? Mom.did you hear me?"

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

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

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

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

    "Who?" Luis asked.

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

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




    @@@@@



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    "Okay. Shoot," Hank grinned affably.

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

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

    Not what, Hank. Who.

    The phone rang insistently in the background.

    "Better get that," he grinned.

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




    @@@@@



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

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

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

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

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

    She glared at him with icy blue eyes.

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

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

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

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

    "Is that right?"

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

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

    "UGH! GET OUT! NOW!"

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



    @@@@@



    She raised her hand to knock on the door.

    "Aunt Whitney!"

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

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

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

    Theresa smiled at Whitney gratefully.

    "Mommy told me," he said proudly.

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

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

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

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

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

    "Do you think so, Mommy?"

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



    @@@@@



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

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

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

    "That's not true, Mother."

    Ethan was amazed at the transformation.

    "Lauren.is that you?"

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

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

    "Mother.I was teasing," Lauren laughed.

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



    @@@@@



    "Is Dr. Russell in?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    "Sam! Thank goodness you came."

    "Why am I here, Eve?"

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

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

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

  3. #3
    Join Date
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    Re: Whisper (Sheridan/Luis, Sam/Ivy/Grace, Theresa/Ethan/?, Charity/Miguel/Kay/?, mor

    Chapter 2







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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    "I love you, too, Son."



    @@@@@



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

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

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

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

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

    She chewed on her bottom lip and nodded her head.

    "I love you both," he waved.



    @@@@@




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

    "Where's Noah?"

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

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

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

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

    "Now tell us Eve."

    "Tell us what?"

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

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

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

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

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



    @@@@@



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

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

    "Tessa."

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

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

    Noah steadied her with a hand on her elbow.

    "Tessa."

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

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

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

    "Tessa. Come closer, Tessa."

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

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

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

    Tessa stared back.

    The silence heavy. Oppressive.

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



    @@@@@



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

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

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

    "What about Ivy?" Luis interjected.

    "What about her?" Sam asked dully.

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

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



    @@@@@




    Is this seat taken?"

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

    "A date?"

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

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

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



    @@@@@



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

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

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

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

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

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



    @@@@@



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

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

    wondrously wise blue eyes.

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

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

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

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

    "Okay, Baby. Meet you there."

  4. #4
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    Oct 2000
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    Re: Whisper (Sheridan/Luis, Sam/Ivy/Grace, Theresa/Ethan/?, Charity/Miguel/Kay/?, mor

    Chapter 3





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

    "Theresita."

    "Mama! You scared me."

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

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

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

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

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




    @@@@@




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

    "Simone? Simone Russell? Is that you?"

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

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

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

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

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

    "Thanks," he said. His cheeks pink.

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




    @@@@@




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

    Ethan smiled. Tabitha. She had spotted Tabitha.

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

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

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

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

    "Good things," Ethan grinned.

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

    "Ahem."

    "And her doll Timmy," Ivy rushed.

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

    "Hubba, hubba."

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

    "Yes, Dear?"

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

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

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

    "What?" Ethan chuckled.

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

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

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

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

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




    @@@@@





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

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

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

    "Go where?" Kay giggled lightheartedly.

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

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




    @@@@@





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

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

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

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

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

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

    "Anytime. Say goodbye for me."

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

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

    "Did she.?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

    "Tessa. Goodbye, Tessa."

    Sam didn't notice Grace smiling in her sleep.

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

    And the motionless figure on the bed smiled wider.




    @@@@@






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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    "Mom! Mom! What are you doing?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    "Daddy! Help her. Please help her."

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

  5. #5
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    Re: Whisper (Sheridan/Luis, Sam/Ivy/Grace, Theresa/Ethan/?, Charity/Miguel/Kay/?, mor

    Chapter 4





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

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

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

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

    "Ivy? Where?" Kay asked.

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

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

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



    @@@@@





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

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

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

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

    "Kay," Ethan chastised.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Kay watched them go.

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

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



    @@@@@





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

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

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

    "Go back to sleep," he ordered.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



    @@@@@





    "Tessa.Tessa."

    Tessa shut her pale blue eyes against the sound.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    A shadow fell over her.

    And she screamed in recognition.

  6. #6
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    Re: Whisper (Sheridan/Luis, Sam/Ivy/Grace, Theresa/Ethan/?, Charity/Miguel/Kay/?, mor

    Chapter 5







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

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

    Tessa didn't answer.

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

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

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

    "Timmy's hungry."

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

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

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

    "Mmm. Mmm. Timmy loves blueberry pancakes."

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

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



    @@@@@





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

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

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

    The arching wrought-iron gates loomed ahead.

    "Good morning, Ms. Hotchkiss."

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

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

    "Have a nice visit."

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

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

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

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

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

    Gwen's heart felt heavy.

    "Hello, Mother."




    @@@@@





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

    Silence. It was too quiet.

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

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

    Coffee dripped steadily in the pot.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    The door clicked shut.

    Ivy ran a hand across its smooth surface.

    Yes. Sheridan DID need Pilar more.

    She gasped when she heard a crash in the kitchen.

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

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

    Her blood stained Grace's disjointed image.

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

    Would it never cease?



    @@@@@



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

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

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

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

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

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




    @@@@@



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

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

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

    "Thank you, Alice."

    Sam met her outside Room 13. "Eve."

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

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

    Eve frowned.

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

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

    "What are you saying, Eve?"

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


    @@@@@





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

    Whitney cleared her throat nervously.

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

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

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

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

  7. #7
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    Re: Whisper (Sheridan/Luis, Sam/Ivy/Grace, Theresa/Ethan/?, Charity/Miguel/Kay/?, mor

    Chapter 6









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

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

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

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

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

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



    @@@@@





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

    "Hi," Hank said softly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    The clock chimed the noon hour.

    Cheerful children skated by.

    And Gwen's walls finally tumbled to the ground.




    @@@@@





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

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

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

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

    Anger flashed across Danielle's blue eyes.

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

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

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

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Oct 2000
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    Re: Whisper (Sheridan/Luis, Sam/Ivy/Grace, Theresa/Ethan/?, Charity/Miguel/Kay/?, mor

    Chapter 7










    "Sam!"

    Sam closed his eyes at the sound of her voice.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    "Sam.talk to me."

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

    "Sam.please."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    "Hello, Ivy."






    @@@@@







    "How did I know you would be here?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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







    @@@@@







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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    "Detective Lopez-Fitz.Fitz."

    "Detective is fine."

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




    @@@@@








    The phone rang insistently.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    The phone line went dead.

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

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