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

  1. #17
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    Post Re: Whisper (Sheridan/Luis, Sam/Ivy/Grace, Theresa/Ethan/?, Charity/Miguel/Kay/?, mor

    Chapter 16






    "Reese? Would you mind?"

    Reese's blue eyes softened, and he shook his head.

    People milled around her as she walked slowly toward the small table. Away from all the others. What was her sister doing with Ethan Cr.Winthrop? "Whitney? Whitney, is that you?"

    Whitney's hand shook as she set the styrofoam cup down and turned to her with a tight smile.

    Ethan averted his eyes.

    What was going on here? Why did she feel she was interrupting something?

    "Simone! Honey! I'm so happy to see you! How long have you been in?"

    Simone accepted her sister's hug. The past was the past. Whitney had been just as devastated as she to learn Chad-the boy they were both in love with at the time-was their half-brother. "Good to see you, too," she breathed. "Hi Ethan."

    "Hello, Simone," Ethan greeted. "Listen.Whitney.we'll talk about this later. Okay?"

    Whitney nodded her head.

    Something about the way they looked at each other.it made Simone uneasy.

    "So.how long have you been in?" Whitney asked. Taking a seat.

    Her sister was so prim. So proper. "Just a few days." She waved at Reese.

    Whitney's dark eyes grew round. "Is that.?"

    Simone laughed. "Reese.come on over."

    Reese's cheeks were stained pink. "Nice to see you again, Whitney."

    Whitney bit the inside of her cheek in amusement. "You, too."

    "I'll.I'll leave you two to catch up," Reese said graciously.

    Simone giggled when he made a beeline for the nearest electronics store. Reese and his gadgets.

    "Is something going on between you two?" Whitney smiled.

    Simone's smile turned into a full-fledged grin. "Ask me again some other time. What's up with you? And Theresa's husband?"

    Whitney paled at the mention of Ethan.

    Simone perched on the end of the chair next to her and laid a gentle hand on her arm. "Problems at work? I still have a hard time believing it. My sister.working at one of Harmony's best law firms."

    Whitney took a trembling breath. "Problems," she whispered. "You could say that."

    Simone smiled warmly. "Lay it on me. I'm all ears."

    Whitney cupped her little sister's hand around her cheek. "I've missed you so much."




    @@@@@






    "I can't believe that jerk! Where is he? I'm going to kick his ass!"

    Theresa grabbed Paloma's arm. The hint of a smile on her lips. Her sister's loyalty warmed her heart. "Paloma."

    Paloma lowered her voice and waved at Matthew.

    Matthew was so embroiled in the adventures of Tarzan he could care less.

    "I mean it, Theresa. I'll."

    "I know you do," Theresa soothed.

    "Sit down," Paloma ordered. "Before you wear a hole in your carpet. Do you know her?"

    "W-W-What?" Theresa stammered. The possibility was too much to consider. Ethan had cheated on her with another woman. Devastating news in and of itself. But had he slept with someone she knew? Maybe someone from work? He'd been spending so much time there lately.

    "I don't know. He.I wouldn't let him tell me anymore. I ran as fast as I could."

    Paloma's brown eyes were pools of sympathy. "I'm so sorry."

    Theresa clasped her hands and inspected her wedding ring. A symbol of their love. Their marriage vows. Broken. "Don't be," she said. Twisting the ring down the length of her slim finger. "Don't be."

    The ring clattered against the coffee table's surface.

    And the family in the silver picture frame suddenly didn't look so happy anymore.

    "Damn him," Paloma muttered.


    @@@@@





    He felt like a child. Coming home after a long summer away.

    Harmony had changed a lot these past several years.

    He recognized the towering Crane Industries building. That office.that one on the very top.his son enjoyed that view.

    Adam was as ruthless as they came. The child Father had always sought. The one with NO conscience.

    The Book Café was bustling with activity this fine morning.

    Why the feeling of dread? He was gong home. If you could call it a home. To his own bed. No more lights out. No more community showers. No more.

    His eyes lit upon the Youth Center. Who ran it now?

    The school. Empty. Lonely. But for a couple of kids shooting some hoops.

    Harmony Hospital.

    Where was Eve now?

    His eyes met the driver's in the rear-view mirror as they neared the church. "Stop here," he ordered.

    Saints and angels oversaw his journey.

    He knelt in the soft ground before her headstone. "Mother," he whispered. His hand lingered on the cool marble as he raised his eyes to the heavens. "Forgive me."

    Tiny white roses lay across the small mound beside her stone.

    Nimble fingers placed one tiny bud in his pocket before he turned to leave.

    "Andrew.Beloved Son and Brother.May Angels Watch Over You."

  2. #18
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    Post Re: Whisper (Sheridan/Luis, Sam/Ivy/Grace, Theresa/Ethan/?, Charity/Miguel/Kay/?, mor

    Chapter 17






    Kay slipped her hand in her mother's.

    Grace glanced around at her surroundings. "The Lobster Shack?"

    "Mom," Jessica smiled. "Don't you remember?"

    "Give her time," Sam said softly. Leading the way to a quiet table at the back.

    Grace smiled at him when he pulled a chair out for her. "Thank you."

    Times past, Noah would have rolled his eyes at the gesture. His parents had always been way too publicly demonstrative for his taste. But now.they were his parents. And it looked like things were back on the right track. "Ding, dong. The witch is dead," he whispered.

    "Think again," Kay hissed. Her dark eyes glittering in the dim light. "Who does she think she is?"

    Ivy's diamond engagement ring sparkled on her finger.

    "Dad."

    "Yes, Jessica?"

    "Hello, Sam. Grace," Ivy said brightly.

    Kay glared at her.

    A lesser woman would have wilted under her icy look, but Ivy grinned that infuriating Cheshire grin of hers.

    Noah lifted his ice tea to his lips.

    "Ivy," Sam blustered. "I.."

    "I know," Ivy cut him off.

    "What are YOU doing here?" Kay spat.

    "I invited her."

    All eyes were glued on Grace as the words left her lips.

    Jessica's fork fell from her numb fingers and bounced on the floor.

    "She what?" Kay muttered in disbelief.

    What the hell is going on here, Noah wondered as Ivy settled in the seat next to him.

    Sam cleared his throat. "Well.is everyone ready to order?"

    Ivy's blue green eyes locked with Grace's across the table. Golden brow arched as Grace smiled at her.

    Sam's heart jumped when he felt Grace's fingers traveling up his neck, and he closed his eyes when she whispered in his ear. "You're never going to be hers. Never."

    Kay shivered. Something wasn't right here. She could feel it.

    Ivy's gaze faltered when Grace pinned her with her blue eyes again. Why did she have the distinct feeling she was staring EVIL in the face?



    @@@@@






    "Yes, Grandfather. No, Grandfather. I don't think she's left her room in days. She's really went off the deep end this time. It's worse than it was after.No. We hadn't planned a party. Why should we? He's getting paroled for Christ's sake. Hardly reason for celebration. Think of the scandal. I see. I'll call Amanda right away. She's better at planning these sorts of things."

    Adam punched the button on the phone forcefully. Always.always at his grandfather's beck and call.

    "Blair! Blair, will you come here one moment?"

    Blair's honey blond head peeked around the corner of the door.

    "Stop fidgeting," Adam demanded.

    Blair's hands immediately stilled. But the look of dread was still on her face.

    Adam's blood boiled. Not the reaction he craved from one of his many paramours. "Call Amanda at the Mansion. And give her these instructions," he said. Rising from the plush leather seat and crossing the room to stand in front of her.

    Blair took the yellow note with trembling hands. "Yes, Mr. Crane. Anything else?"

    Adam licked his lips. Then shook his head. "No. That'll be all."

    Blair drew in a shaky, relieved breath.

    "Blair?"

    "Yes?"

    "Cancel all my appointments for this afternoon. I have something very important to attend to."

    The door clicked shut behind her, and Adam fell back in his chair with a sigh. "Very important."



    @@@@@






    Luis rifled through the drawers of his desk impatiently. Where was that report? He could have sworn he put it in here somewhere before he left for lunch.

    Sheridan's neat handwriting on the back of a picture caught his eye.

    "Danielle-6 years old."

    He flipped the picture over. And his face blossomed into a smile.

    Danielle's gap-toothed face grinned up at him. Ice cream dribbling down her chin.

    One of his favorite pictures. Sheridan's, too.

    An identical copy hung in their bedroom.

    Marty nodded his head at him across the station house. "Go on home, Luis. I'll cover for you."

    Luis grabbed his keys from his desk. "Thanks, Marty."

    "No problem. Tell that wife of yours she's in everybody's prayers."

    Luis hurried out the door. Anxious to hold her in his arms.



    @@@@@





    Dust flew up from the picture album's covers as Danielle set it down on her lap.

    The first picture. Her mom and dad. Their wedding day. The only one they celebrated. She smiled as she ecognized the faint bump on her mommy's belly. That was her.

    She'd seen pictures of her aunt Theresa and her mommy at Aunt Theresa's wedding. It was supposed to be her mommy's wedding day, too.

    But it just wasn't to be.

    Mom made her dad put away all the pictures from that day.

    Dad said it was a painful reminder.

    Of what Uncle Julian did?

    She didn't know.

    Uncle Julian was discussed with tears and whispers.

    She flipped the page over. Her first picture. She closed her blue eyes. She could almost imagine the warmth and love she felt being cradled in her mother's arms. Just like she did now.

    Her mommy was so beautiful when she smiled.

    Another page turned. Her dad used to give her piggy back rides all the time.

    She recognized that picture. Her first day of kindergarten.

    There were tears in her mom's eyes when she left her in Miss Noble's excellent care.

    A day at the beach. And the tiny swell was back.

    Danielle's heartbeat thudded against her ribs, and she glanced over her shoulder to make sure she was alone.

    Tears seeped from her lashes. Wetting the pages before her. She missed him so much, she realized. Wiping the tears with the back of her hand.

    "Shhh. No cry. No cry."

    Danielle's dark head whipped around at the sound. She could still hear him. See him sometimes.

    Her fingers traced the charm on her bracelet. "#1 Sister."

    The album slipped from her lap.

    "Okay.it okay."

    She curled up on the couch. And allowed herself to be comforted. By ghosts of the past.

  3. #19
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    Post Re: Whisper (Sheridan/Luis, Sam/Ivy/Grace, Theresa/Ethan/?, Charity/Miguel/Kay/?, mor

    Chapter 18



    Images flitted over the monitors. Pictures of Harmony Life. Harmony Misery.

    He laughed evilly. There was just something about playing God with so many peoples' lives.

    Rebecca's blank visage brought a smile to his lips.

    Proof that no one messed with Alistair Crane and "lived" to tell about it. He wondered sometimes why he didn't just end it all.

    The power. The power of one spoken word.

    Nurse Lilly shined a light in Rebecca's eyes.

    No response.

    But when she turned her back.

    "Rebecca.tsk, tsk. You're only making it worse for yourself."

    Nurse Lilly swiped the handkerchief over her stern brow.

    This time Rebecca didn't fight as the needle plunged into her arm.

    He sighed. And his cold blue eyes turned to another monitor.

    Didn't they know? They couldn't escape. No matter how hard they run.

    His dear, sweet, pathetic daughter was in the throes of another nightmare.



    @@@@@






    "Andrew.Andrew."

    The tiny child with the golden hair sprinted down the hall. All mischievous giggles.

    She laughed. "Andrew! Come back!"

    Andrew disappeared around the corner.

    "Andrew.Sweetie.where are you?" she called.

    Her voice echoed in the long, dark passageway.

    "Mama," he whimpered. "Mama."

    "I'm coming, Baby. Mama's coming."

    The knob twisted easily, and the door gave way.

    Starlight illuminated the room. She picked up his teddy bear and hugged it to her. "Andrew," she cried softly. "Where are you, Baby?"

    The teddy bear turned to dust in her hands.

    "NO! NO!"

    She was in the church.

    Her baby's eyes were closed.

    The warmth of Luis's hand offered no comfort.

    Danielle's sobs ripped her heart out.

    Father Lonagin murmured prayers for Andrew's soul.

    "Wait!" she cried desperately. "He can't sleep without his bear."

    Luis took a ragged breath behind her. And fell apart.

    Dead blue eyes watched as her husband clutched his mother desperately.

    Arms that wanted to hold him didn't. A voice that wanted to soothe didn't.

    It was all her fault. What comfort could she give?

    Cold little hands tugged at her arm.

    Danielle's blue eyes were perhaps the saddest of all.

    A child shouldn't bear such sorrow.

    "Mommy," she whispered. "Mommy, it's raining. He'll be cold."

    Her knees hit the floor.

    And the tears began all over again.

  4. #20
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    Post Re: Whisper (Sheridan/Luis, Sam/Ivy/Grace, Theresa/Ethan/?, Charity/Miguel/Kay/?, mor

    Chapter 19



    "Ms. Russell? Are you okay?"

    Whitney's brown eyes met Amy's in the reflection of the mirror. She dabbed her clammy brow with a paper towel before answering her. "I'm fine, Amy. Just not my day."

    Amy opened the bathroom stall and went in.

    Thank you, Whitney thought silently. Amy was the ringleader of office gossip. And she was always looking to pick up some new, juicy tidbit.

    "I know exactly how you feel," Amy chattered.

    Whitney rolled her eyes when the door banged against the wall. On second thought.

    "It's just not been my week. Billie's babysitter has been MIA all week. My mother had to keep her. And you know how me and my mother get along," Amy said sarcastically.

    Whitney sighed. "Yes. You've told me. Many times," she muttered under her breath.

    "And the ex.Curt swears up and down the child support check got lost in the mail. From Castleton! I told him I'd come get it.kids are expensive, you know.and he got all suspicious-like. Offered to go find it himself. I ain't no dummy. The jerk never sent it in the first place."

    "That's too bad," Whitney said boredly. Really.she didn't mean to be rude. But she had more important, personal matters to worry about. Like whether her best friend would EVER forgive her once she learned the truth.

    "Yeah.Curt's another deadbeat. Like the world needs another one of them," Amy rolled her eyes.

    Water rushed from the tap.

    The soap swirling down the drain reminded Whitney of her own life. How pathetic.

    "Then my mom calls me. Tells me my little sister.Melissa.has done gone and got herself pregnant. Blames it all on me. Can you believe that? Says I'm a bad influence. I have news for her. I waited and got pregnant AFTER high school. And Curt and me were engaged. Lot different if you ask me," Amy babbled.

    "Everyone's situation is different," Whitney said softly. Slipping her purse on her shoulder.

    Amy pulled her wand of mascara out and put another coat on. "I love this stuff!" she gushed. "You know.Ms. Russell.you're so pretty. But you'd be gorgeous if you jazzed yourself up a little bit. Here. Try some of my lipstick. It'll definitely grab a man's attention," she bubbled.

    Whitney quietly eased the door open and stepped out without a word. That's something she definitely didn't want. Besides.trouble had a way of sneaking up on her by itself.

    "Well.it hasn't caught Mr. Right's attention yet. But who knows? My Mr. Wrong may be just what you're looking for. Ms. Russell? Ms. Russell. That's odd. Where DID she go?"


    @@@@@



    "I can't do it," Matthew whined.

    Theresa patiently loosened the knots in Matthew's shoelaces. "Yes, you can. I know it's frustrating now. But you'll get the hang of it. I promise," she smiled. Ruffling Matthew's dark hair affectionately.

    "Uncle Luis taught us how to tie our shoelaces," Paloma said wistfully.

    "Why didn't Grandma? Or your papa?"

    "Papa.Papa wasn't around, Matthew. Grandma had to work a lot so she could take care of us kids."

    "Not around like my daddy?" Matthew whispered. Staring at his feet.

    "Matthew. Look at me," Theresa requested.

    Matthew sniffled. And swiped at a tear that clung to his lashes.

    Paloma's brown eyes shot daggers at Ethan's smiling face tacked on the refrigerator.

    "No, Matthew. Not like your daddy. Your daddy's just real busy right now. He won't ever leave you. You know that. He loves you too much."

    "I know," Matthew cried. "Do you still love Daddy, Mommy?"

    Theresa closed her eyes and took her son in her arms. "Yes. I still love your daddy."

    "I'm happy to hear that. Because I still love you too."



    @@@@@



    "Don't you have something better to do with your time besides bug me?" Gwen huffed.

    Hank grinned. "Nope," he answered. Stuffing his hands in his pockets.

    Icy blue eyes glared back at him.

    "I thought we'd grab lunch together. Raincheck. Remember? You slammed the door in my face. Ringing any bells? This is the perfect way to make it up to me."

    "And who says I want to make it up to you?" Gwen snarled.

    "Aww. Look at me," Hank teased. Giving her his best impression of a whipped puppy.

    Despite herself, Gwen felt the corners of her lips turning up. She turned her nose up in the air. "Shoo! Go away."

    Hank chuckled. And followed after her.

    The water lapped at the pier.

    "Watch out!"

    Gwen gasped when he pulled her out of the way.

    "What do you think you're doing? Get your hands off me."

    "Okay," Hank conceded. "Next time you're about to get flattened by a runaway roller blader.don't ask me for help."

    Gwen's mouth hung open as she watched him stroll ahead of her.

    "Mmm. Mmm. Good. Doesn't that smell great? Today's the perfect day to take in lunch at the Lobster Shack," he sighed. "Too bad you won't be joining me." He started counting silently.1.2.3!

    "Will you leave me alone?'

    His brown eyes twinkled as he turned to face her. "Sure thing. And besides.a guy has to eat. Company's good. Eating alone is a drag."

    "You promise?"

    Hank crossed his fingers in his pockets. "I promise. Come on," he urged. "What are you waiting for?"

    Why did she feel like she would live to regret this? Oh.that's right. Because this was Hank. That's why. With him.nothing was ever simple. Promised, her ass.



    @@@@@



    "Oh Ivy! That's a magnificent ring! Who's the lucky guy?"

    Kay's fork paused mid-air.

    Jessica glanced at Sam nervously.

    Ivy winced when Noah kicked her shin underneath the table.

    Sam shifted uncomfortably in his seat.

    Grace smiled. And brushed her hand against his thigh.

    "You wouldn't know him, Grace," Ivy finally answered. Her hurt blue-green eyes locked with Sam's.

    "Try me. I know a lot of people. The Bed and Breakfast and the store."

    "Trust me. You wouldn't know this man. Not at all."

    Kay set her fork back down beside her plate. Ha! What a whopper! "I always knew she had what it takes to be a pathological liar," she hissed to Noah.

    "Tell me about it."

    Grace's hand crept higher.

    Sam jumped up abruptly when he knocked his glass of wine over.

    "Dad," Jessica teased. "What happened? I didn't know you were such a klutz."

    "Yeah. Well.I'm not the man I used to be."

    What's that supposed to mean, Kay wondered. Anger simmering. What she wouldn't give to wipe that smug smile off Poison Ivy's face.

    "Aww. But you're still MY Sam."

    Take that, Kay smirked.

    Grace took the napkin from Sam's hands and wrapped her hands around his neck. "All mine," she repeated.

    "Gr."

    She cut him off with her rough kiss.

    "Grace," he gasped. "What the hell's got into you?"

    "But Sam.I."

    "Whoa! Would you look at that? I've never seen anyone move so fast."

    "Do you think she got the message?" Noah grinned.

    The waiter's tray flew out of his hands as Ivy shoved by.

    "Loud and clear," Kay answered. "Loud and clear."

    "Dad? Where are you going?"

    Grace held a hand to her bruised lips and smiled. "Don't worry, Jessica. He'll be back. Your father'll be back."

    Kay's dark eyes narrowed at her mother's laugh.

    "Kay? Kay? What is it?"

    Kay shook her head. "Nothing. It's nothing."

    Lies. But how could she tell the truth when she didn't know it?

    That steely blue gaze was NOT her mother's.

    Cold was the only way to describe it.


    @@@@@



    The car door slammed shut.

    Jerking Danielle from her restless slumber.

    "Danielle? Sheridan?"

    "Daddy! You're home!"

    Luis grinned at her. Sweeping her off her feet into his arms. "When did you get so big?" he grunted.

    Danielle's blue eyes sparkled.

    Her giggle was music to Luis's ears. "Grandma says blink an eye, and you'll miss it."

    "Grandma's very wise," Luis agreed. Setting his daughter back on her feet. "Where's your mom?"

    "Sleeping."

    "And Grandma?"

    "Home," Pilar answered. Her arms laden with bags of groceries.

    Luis relieved her of burden with a smile and a kiss to the cheek. "Staying for dinner again? Not that I'm not happy to see so much of my wonderful mother.but Mama.you don't have to do all this. We're fine. We'll be fine."

    "I know I don't have to do this, Mijo," Pilar smiled tenderly. "But I want to do this. I want to take care of you and Danielle and Sheridan. You're my family."

    "Thank you, Mama," Luis whispered.

    "Now take those groceries in the kitchen-both of you. I'll be right back."

    Danielle's giggles as Luis chased her into the kitchen echoed in the hushed house by the sea.

    The door to Sheridan's bedroom creaked as she slipped inside.

    Sunlight splayed across Sheridan's peaceful face.

    Pilar could tell it was the calm AFTER the storm. "Oh, Mija," she sighed. Tracing the tear tracks down her cheeks with sorrowful eyes. "I wish that I could take away your pain."

    So much pain in such a short life.

    The breeze from the ocean made Pilar shiver, and she pulled the crisp, white sheets over Sheridan's shoulders before she turned to leave.

    "Yay!"

    Pilar closed her eyes and leaned her head against cool wood. Her hand poised at the knob.

    Water splashed onto the tile floor.

    Andrew's childish laughter beckoned her.

    "Nana! Nana! Miss you," he cried.

    She could feel the moisture from his soapy little body seep into her clothes. Onto her skin.

    The yellow rubber duck squeaked under her feet, and her eyes shot open.

    The bathroom was empty.

    But.

    "No.no."

    Her heartbeat accelerated as she followed the sound.

    "Dios mio."

    Tiny wet footprints led to Sheridan's room.

    "Mama! Nana get me!"

    Brown eyes sparkled mischievously. Brushing just a hint of tiny kisses along Sheridan's jaw. "Wake up, Mama. Mama." he giggled.

    "Mmm. Andrew? What is it, Baby?" Sheridan murmured.

    "Mama? Is everything okay?"

    Luis's concerned brown eyes stared back at her.

    Danielle clung to her father's hand. "Andrew," she whispered.

    "You.you see him, too?"

    Danielle's chin quivered as she nodded her head.

    "Andrew? Mama.Danielle.what are you talking about? You don't see him. You can't. Andrew's dead, Danielle. He's dead. He's never coming back," Luis said gently. Grasping Danielle's shoulders and making her look at him. "Never," he choked. "You can't see him because he isn't here."

    "But Daddy," Danielle cried. "He IS here. He is."

    "Mama.stop this nonsense. Tell her. Tell her it isn't true."

    "Daddy!"

    Pilar squeezed her eyes shut. "I can't. I can't, Mijo."

    Luis let go of Danielle and stalked down the hall. Flinging the one closest open. "See? His room. Empty."

    Danielle sobbed as she took it all in.

    His toys were just as he'd left them. Untouched since that awful day. It was like a shrine.

    "Do you see him now?"

    "Luis! Mijo! Stop it. Just stop it. I see him too."

    "Don't you hear yourself, Mama? My wife is losing her mind because.because of this belief. She sees him, too. Only he isn't there."

    "Andrew? Andrew? What is it, Baby? Don't cry. Mama's here."

    "Hear that? Look at her," Luis cried desperately.

    Sheridan's arms were empty.

    Andrew was gone.

    Pilar wondered.

    "But he was, Daddy," Danielle asserted. "He WAS."

    Sheridan welcomed her daughter into her arms.

    "Don't cry, Mommy. Please don't be so sad."

    Luis couldn't bear the sadness in those blue eyes.

    "Why don't you see him, Luis? Why don't you see him?"

    "I don't know," he answered.

    He didn't know anything anymore.

  5. #21
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    Post Re: Whisper (Sheridan/Luis, Sam/Ivy/Grace, Theresa/Ethan/?, Charity/Miguel/Kay/?, mor

    Chapter 20



    "Daddy!"

    Matthew's entire face lit up.

    Ethan's blue eyes shone with love for their son. Love that was pure. Without complications.

    But when he looked at her.There was a wariness in his eyes.

    He was the one that had broken their marriage vows.

    Why then did she feel the weight of some of the blame on her shoulders?

    "Theresa," Paloma said in a low voice. "Do you."

    She lay a calming hand on her sister's shoulder.

    "But Theresa."

    "Go. Just go, Paloma. Ethan and I need to talk."

    "What about Matthew?" Paloma asked. Arms crossed about her middle. Dark eyes boring into Ethan.

    She felt a small thrill of pleasure when Ethan looked away from her sister's unwavering stare. "Matthew

    needs to see his father."

    "Daddy! I'm so glad you're home," Matthew cried. Giving his father an exuberant hug.

    Paloma stalked past her brother-in-law.

    "She knows."

    "Of course, she knows. Ethan.she's my sister. I had.I had to tell somebody."

    "I'm not.that's okay. I understand," he assured her.

    "Matthew's missed you," she said softly.

    "I've missed him," Ethan smiled.

    Matthew's tiny fingers twined with her own. And with his father's.

    Tears welled up in her eyes when he whispered. "You and Mommy love each other. Right, Daddy?"

    Ethan pulled her into his arms. "Right."

    "It won't ever happen again?"

    "Never," he breathed. "On my life.I promise."

    She closed her eyes.

    Weak.

    Ethan was her weakness.

    But not this time.

    "Matthew.do Mommy a favor."

    "Okay," Matthew smiled.

    "Go outside and pick a pretty bouquet for Aunt Sheridan. Do you think you can do that?"

    Matthew's brown head bobbed up and down.

    Ethan cupped her face in the palms of his hands. "Thank you."

    "For what, Ethan?" she said tonelessly.

    Ethan's brow furrowed in confusion. "For forgiving me."

    "Ethan.I may forgive you. But I'll never forget. You hurt me, Ethan. But as much as I would like to.I'm doing this for Matthew, Ethan. Our son doesn't deserve the hurt it would cause if I didn't give you one more chance."

    "O-Okay."

    "It's good we understand each other."

    Ethan waved at his son as Theresa's car pulled out of the driveway.

    How was he ever going to make this up to her?


    @@@@@






    Ahem.

    "Is Dr. Johnson in?"

    Alice peered at the man over the rim of her eyeglasses. "She's seeing a patient at this moment. Is this an emergency?"

    Julian tugged at the sleeves of his ill-fitting suit self-consciously. Glancing around at his surroundings. A far cry from Harmony Hospital. "No. Not an emergency," he finally answered.

    He was halfway down the hall when he heard her voice.

    "Julian! What are you doing here? I thought."

    He drank in the sight of her with a sardonic smile on his lips. "Good behavior."

    "Really?" she asked suspiciously. "I find that hard to believe."

    "My beautiful Eve."

    "I'm not 'your' Eve," she interrupted.

    "Eve.you forget so easily. Us Cranes have connections. Far-reaching connections."

    She frowned at him. What would this do to Sheridan? She was already in a bad state."You stay away from her. She's suffered too much already."

    He dropped his hand to his side. "Your worry is for nothing. I won't hurt her anymore than I already have."

    "Good." She turned to leave.

    "How is he? Our son?"

    "Chad?"

    "He visited me a few times. The inside of a prison is not exactly a good place to strike up some sort of relationship with your long-lost son."

    There were so many things she could have said. But.she sensed genuine regret in his voice. His manner. She held up a hand.

    And he watched as she whispered something to the nurse at the front desk.

    She slipped the purse on her shoulder and walked ahead of him.

    "Eve?"

    "Are you coming or not?"

    He nodded his head and hurried to hold the door open for her. "Lead the way."



    @@@@@





    "Amanda! Amanda! Have you seen."

    Amanda stared at the picture in her hands. Her blue eyes sad.

    Lauren smiled at the image of her aunt Sheridan. Just a baby on her brother's knee.

    "How could he? How could he? To his own sister?"

    "I don't know," Lauren murmured. Slipping an arm around her older sister's shoulders. "But I think he

    DOES love her. See? It's there in his eyes. Somewhere along the way.he just took the wrong road. That's all."

    Amanda tucked a strand of her sister's ash-blond hair behind her ear with a smile. "You always see the good in things. People. Don't you?"

    Lauren shrugged her shoulders. "Who wants to be depressed all the time?"

    "Certainly not me," Amanda agreed. "Although.Grandfather's idea of a welcome home party for Father is rather upsetting. I'm sure Father wouldn't want a celebration. But Grandfather's adamant. He's even insisting Aunt Sheridan and her family come."

    "No!" Lauren gasped. "That's.that's too."

    "Cruel?"

    Lauren lowered her head in her hands. "Yeah. That's the word I was looking for."

    "I don't think we'll have to worry, Sweetie," Amanda patted her sister's back. "Luis will probably kick Adam out of the house as soon as he opens his mouth," she laughed.

    Lauren smiled slightly. "I'm glad she has him."

    "Me, too," Amanda smiled back. "Our dear brother's due for a good..."

    "Amanda! He IS our brother."

    "Dear, sweet Lauren...in blood only. Remember that. Blood is the only tie that binds us. Adam has an agenda. I'm just not sure what it is yet," she said worriedly.

    "You don't think he..."

    "I don't know. I don't know with him anymore."

  6. #22
    Join Date
    Oct 2000
    Posts
    489

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

    Chapter 21







    "Ivy! Ivy! Wait!"

    Ivy ignored him.

    Sam ran past countless nameless faces. Desperate to catch up with her. Apologize. "Ivy! Please!"

    The diamond engagement ring glinted on her finger as she rested her hand atop the pier's handrail.

    "Ivy," Sam said breathlessly. "It's not.I had NO idea she was going to do that."

    "Kiss you? Sam," Ivy laughed bitterly. "She's your wife. She has NO memory of the last several years. All this time away.it means nothing to her. Of course she would want to pick up where you left off. Don't tell me you."

    Sam grasped Ivy's arm. "I didn't," he insisted. "Believe me."

    Ivy's eyes searched his.

    And found nothing but truth.

    "I believe you," she whispered.

    Sam crushed her in his arms. So relieved. "Thank you."

    Ivy closed her eyes and breathed in. Filling her lungs with his scent. "I love you, Sam."

    "I love you, too," he smiled. Cupping her face in the palms of his hands. "Ivy.look at me. What's wrong?"

    The expression on her face.

    Stupid question, Sam.

    "Everything's wrong, Sam. Can't you see? Grace is ALIVE. Alive, Sam. That means."

    "You can't marry me," Sam sighed in resignation.

    "I can't marry you," Ivy repeated.

    She could feel the cracks in her heart splitting wide.

    "Ivy.don't," Sam shook his head. His blue eyes troubled as she pulled at the ring on her finger.

    "It's.it's stuck," Ivy faltered. Tears pooling in her eyes. "It won't come off."

    Maybe it's a sign, Sam couldn't help thinking. "No, Ivy. Don't. It's yours. I gave it to you. I don't want it back."

    Ivy stood on tiptoe to kiss his cheek and smiled at him sadly. "Grace wears your ring, Sam. Not me. Never me."

    Sam's fingers closed around the cool metal.

    Her warmth already gone.

    "Ivy."

    Ivy raised a hand in goodbye.

    She was leaving him all over again.



    @@@@@






    "Bennett! I'm going to get you for this," Gwen hissed.

    Hank winced when she kicked his shin under the table.

    "Uncle Hank.are you okay?" Jessica asked in a concerned voice.

    Noah snickered. Uncle Hank sure knew how to pick them.

    Gwen speared a piece of lettuce with her fork. Intent on enjoying her meal if it was the last thing she did.

    "Gwen.how is Ethan these days?"

    Hank's mouth fell open. What the hell? "Grace."

    "Mom," Jessica said gently. "Gwen and Ethan aren't together anymore. Remember?"

    The pain in Gwen's blue eyes shone brightly.

    "Oh! Gwen.please forgive me. So careless of me," Grace apologized.

    ay's dark eyes studied her mother's face. Her eyes.

    Something.something .was different.

    "It's okay. Really.it's been years. Ethan's just a distant memory."

    Jessica kept a watchful eye on the Lobster Shack's front entrance for her father.

    Noah smirked and crossed his arms. Now who's lying?

    "Interesting," Grace said. Sipping from her glass of water. The ice clinking against the sides as she set it back down. "I don't believe you."

    "Mom!" Jessica said in disbelief.

    Gwen's chair scraped against the floor.

    Hank glared at Grace and threw his napkin down.

    Noah shifted uncomfortably in his chair. "Um.I need to make a phone call."

    "That's okay, Noah," Jessica smiled tightly. "Mom.I think it's time we went home. Kay?" Jessica questioned as she stood.

    "I'll be right there," Kay answered.

    "Mom?"

    Grace hugged Jessica tight. "Me, too. I'm going to go apologize."

    Her sister disappeared from sight, and Kay fixed her level gaze on the woman in front of her. With the frightening smile on her lips. "Who are you?"

    Grace's laughter sent a chill up her spine.



    @@@@@








    The old swingset creaked on its hinges.

    The ocean breeze was cool.refreshing.against his skin. A reminder of life. All that lay ahead. Though it seemed very far away now.

    Her golden hair fluttered underneath his chin.

    The sound of her soft breathing lulled him into a false sense of comfort.

    Danielle's melancholy blue eyes watched them both.

    He sighed heavily. He didn't know when or how things were going to get better. If ever.

    "Mijo.isn't that your sister's car?"

    "Matthew," Danielle whispered. Just the hint of a smile tugging at the corners of her lips.

    The car door slammed.

    He was achingly aware of every move she made. Every breath she took. "Sheridan?"

    "Matthew! Wait!" Theresa cried. Chasing her son up the steps.

    "Aunt Sheridan," Matthew smiled in that toothless smile of his. "These are for you," he said proudly. Presenting a colorful, fragrant bouquet of wild flowers.

    "Thank you," Sheridan breathed. "These are the most beautiful flowers I've ever seen."

    Matthew grinned from ear to ear. "Told you, Mommy."

    Theresa's brown eyes sparkled as she settled her hands on her son's shoulders.

    For an instant.Sheridan had a flash of what might have been. Andrew would be almost 6 now. She liked to think he and Matthew would have been best friends.

    "What a lovely family moment. Am I interrupting?"

    Danielle's dark head whipped around at the sound of her cousin's voice.

    Luis's brown eyes grew even darker. Glittering with something Danielle couldn't name.

    Or maybe she just didn't want to name it.

    "Adam," Sheridan straightened up. "What brings you by?"

    Adam could feel their eyes on him. Watching him with suspicion. Perhaps Pilar most of all. Grandfather had warned him about her.

    Matthew gazed up at him with wide, innocent brown eyes.

    "What brings you by, Crane?" Luis repeated. Raising himself to his full height.

    Adam admired Theresa's slim figure with a touch of regret.

    His brother's wife.

    He blinked. And suddenly.They stood before him. A united front.

    Danielle hugged her mother's waist, and Sheridan took strength from her love. Luis's love.

    Surely she would need it.

    Maybe Grandfather was mistaken, Adam thought for a fleeting instant. Aunt Sheridan was not the weakling he believed her to be. "Good. You're all here," he smiled.

    "Crane," Luis ground out.

    "Adam."

    "I'm here to invite you all to a party."

    "A party?" Matthew piped up with interest. "Mommy.can we go? Please? Me, you, and Daddy?"

    Theresa clamped a hand over her son's mouth.

    "A party? To celebrate what?" Sheridan asked in dread. Her face ashen.

    "Mr. Adam.no," Pilar shook her head.

    "Yes, Pilar. A party. To celebrate Father's homecoming, of course," Adam said coolly. "Aunt Sheridan? Will you come?"

    "How's this for an answer?"

    Adam didn't have time think before Luis's fist connected soundly with his jaw.

    Blood oozed from his lip, and he rubbed his stiff jaw. "I'll take that as a definite 'no'. I'm really sorry you can't make it, Aunt Sheridan. Father and Grandfather will be so disappointed. Sorry, Chap. Maybe some other time," he said. Ruffling Matthew's dark hair. "Tell your dad I said 'hi'."

    "Mommy? Who was that?" Matthew whispered.

    "A bad man," Danielle answered him. Taking his smaller hand in hers and leading him inside. "A very bad man."




    @@@@@





    Even in her dreams the images haunted her, Charity realized. Cradling Tessa's feverish little body close.

    Miguel paced helplessly in the corner.

    "What is it, Charity? What does she see? Visions?"

    Charity shook her head. "I'm not sure."

    "But she sees something. You can't deny that. Why did she say Papa's name the other day? She doesn't even know him. What he looks like. Charity? What is going on here? What's wrong with our daughter?"

    Charity's cornflower blue eyes looked so much like Tessa's.

    "No! Don't hurt him! Don't!" Tessa cried.

    Her eyes moved rapidly behind her closed eyelids.

    But Miguel knew.this was more than a nightmare.

    This was frighteningly real.

    To Tessa.

    She was falling. Faster and faster.

    The waves crashed against the rocks.

    The gold chain sparkled against their surface before disappearing into the vast sea.

    Tessa's torment was too much.

    Charity brushed Tessa's damp hair from her forehead as she stared after him.

    The roar of Miguel's motorcycle died down as the minutes passed.

    "What are you trying to tell us?"

    Faded blue eyes stared back into her very soul.

    "The truth."

  7. #23
    Join Date
    Oct 2000
    Posts
    489

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

    Chapter 22






    "Why did you come?"

    Julian pulled at the tie around his neck and set his mug of coffee down on the plain oak table. "Home?"

    Eve shook her head. "To the clinic? Julian.whatever we had between us.we were over so long ago. That night.when T.C. found us.it never should have happened."

    Julian leaned back in his chair and studied her. "I'm sorry," he said finally.

    She laughed bitterly. "For what? Getting me pregnant and abandoning me? Tearing my marriage apart? Nevermind.I can't place ALL the blame on you, can I?"

    Julian stared at her in silence.

    "I could have walked away," she sighed. Pushing her chair back from the table. And walking over to the sink to empty her coffee cup. "At any moment.I could have walked away."

    "Do you really believe that?"

    She had her back turned to him. She gave him no answer.

    A picture tacked on the refridgerator door caught his eye, and he rose to his feet to get a closer look. "Handsome boy," he said. Not without a bit of pride. "Do you.are you.how are things between you?" he said awkwardly.

    Her eyes were bright as she spoke. "My relationships with ALL my children are practically non-existent. Awkward. We don't know each other. The past.it's always there. Standing in our way. But he tries. He really tries. It's hard."

    "At least you get a chance," Julian said miserably. Running a weary hand over his face.

    She surprised herself by reaching out to him.

    The phone rang in the living room.

    "You should get that."

    She hesitated for just a second before she removed her hand from his arm.

    The sound of her voice was muffled in the other room.

    The door clicked shut behind him.

    "Julian.Julian.you're not here," she whispered to herself.

    Why did he come?



    @@@@@






    "Looks like somebody's had an even worse day than I have," Noah grinned when Paloma flung open the door.

    "Noah," Paloma grumbled. "I'm warning you right now.I don't even know if I can stand to look at you."

    Noah blinked twice and held up his hands defensively. "Okay! Okay! Guess I'll go unload all my troubles on Beth again. She.unlike somebody I know." he raised a brow, "is a good listener."

    Paloma rolled her brown eyes and grabbed him by the arm. "Get in here. You need to leave Beth alone. You bug her too much already," she added. Padding past him on bare feet to the sofa and plopping down.

    "Graceful," Noah laughed.

    "Don't even."

    "Geez! What's got into you?" he questioned. Making sure he was out of striking distance as he sat down on the other end of the sofa.

    Paloma plunged the silver spoon in her hand into the cartoon of ice cream. "Your brother."

    "My brother? What's he done to you?" Noah asked interestedly. Careful to hide his smile when Paloma shoved a gigantic spoonful of Rocky Road into her mouth.

    "To my sister! Theresa! You know what? I'm beginning to think the Bennett men aren't too smart," Paloma muttered under her breath.

    "I take offense to that," Noah bristled. "On behalf of myself and Uncle Hank.not all Bennett men are dumbasses."

    That earned a smile.

    "Well.maybe not all Bennett men," Paloma conceded.

    "Thank you," Noah smiled. "Now.what did Ethan do to Theresa?"

    Paloma shook her head. "It's not my place to tell."

    "Come on," he pushed. "He's my brother, you know. And I've known Theresa my whole life. What did he do? I might not like him, and I might not put a lot of faith in his intellectual abilities," Noah smirked. "But I can tell he loves her."

    "Oh yeah?" Paloma shot back.

    Noah nodded his head.

    "If he loved her so much."

    "I really believe he does," Noah stated.

    "Then tell me this."

    "Okay," Noah agreed.

    "Why did he sleep with another woman?"

    Noah's jaw fell open.

    "What did you say?"

    "Ethan slept with another woman," Paloma told Whitney.

    All the color drained out of Whitney's face.

    "And when I find out who she is."

    "You'll what?" Noah asked.

    "I don't know," Paloma admitted miserably. Tucking her dark hair behind her ears. "How could she? How could she do something so low? Tear a family apart like this? Theresa's devastated. And Matthew. Poor baby. He doesn't understand. Ethan's a bastard. But this woman.words can't even describe."

    "Um.Noah? Would you like something to drink? Water? A soda?" Whitney interrupted.

    "Soda?" Noah shrugged. Throwing an arm around Paloma's shoulders and pulling her back against him.

    "Paloma? You want anything?"

    "No," Paloma said tearfully. "I can't believe it, Noah. I can't."

    Whitney reached a shaky hand up to open the cabinet. And pulled out two glasses.

    "I hate her. I hate her. The worst thing.what if she's someone Theresa knows?"

    The glass slipped from Whitney's numb fingers.

    And shattered into a million jagged pieces.


    @@@@@





    Hank cursed under his breath as he bounded up the stairs. Two at a time. What the hell had gotten into Grace?

    Gwen's figure disappeared around the corner. Her auburn hair flying behind her.

    "Gwen! Gwen! Slow down!" He pushed the heavy door open just in time to see her shut her apartment door.

    "Go away, Bennett!" she cried as his fists pounded on the door. "Just go away!"

    Hank sighed and leaned his head against the door's frame. "You might as well let me in, Gwen, because you're not going to get rid of me. Please open the door."

    The door creaked open slowly.

    And he saw her tear-stained face.

    "What are you looking at?" Gwen spat.

    He stepped closer, and she took a step back. "Gwen? You're upset. I only want to help."

    She scoffed at him. "Help? Nobody wants to help me. Nobody cares about me. Nobody cares that he ruined my life. That he threw me away like yesterday's trash. That he treated me like dirt."

    "I care," he said softly. Reaching out to her.

    "I don't want to feel this way. After all these years.I want so much to move on. But I can't. I can't," she sobbed.

    He reached a tentative hand to her face.

    "I'm afraid. I don't know if I can." she whispered.

    "What?" he asked gently. Cupping her face in the palms of his hands and brushing her tears away with the pads of his thumbs. "What are you afraid of, Gwen?"

    She searched his brown eyes. One of her hands came up to cover his.

    "What are you afraid of?" he asked again. His gaze shifting to her lips. One of his hands slid to the nape of her neck. Tangling in her hair. And he leaned his forehead against hers.

    She closed her eyes. "To love again."

    He pulled her into his arms and let her cry.


    @@@@@





    Theresa and Matthew were long gone. With Mama.

    Danielle was upstairs. Playing with her new computer game.

    Sheridan was wrapped safely in his arms.

    "Are you still awake?"

    "Yes," she laughed softly. "Luis.it's not even late."

    "You were so quiet I."

    She lay a finger against his lips. Hushing him. "I was listening to your heart beat."

    "Uh huh?" he chuckled.

    "And thinking."

    "Sheridan."

    "I want to go, Luis. I need to go."

    He sighed and released him arms from around her. "Sheridan, we talked about this. He tried to kill you. You don't owe him anything."

    "Luis," she said softly. Twisting the rings on her fingers. "I can't explain it. I.I just need to do this. Say you'll go with me. You don't have to be okay with this. But I need you there."

    He grabbed her hand in his and squeezed. "Okay," he relented. "I'll go. But if he so much as looks at you wrong.And I can't make any promises that I won't deck your nephew again."

    She smiled slightly. "Thank you," she breathed. Pecking him on the lips. "I'll call Charity and ask her if Danielle can stay over."

    Luis watched her climb the stairs. Every instinct he had was telling him this wasn't a good idea. But he couldn't deny her this.


    @@@@@





    "Who are you?"

    That question echoed in her brain.

    She still didn't know the answer. She was beginning to think she didn't want to.

    "Who am I?" she laughed.

    It was an ugly, hollow sound that sent chills up her spine.

    "Kay.don't be silly. I'm your mother."

    Her touch was so cold.

    The Amazing Grace rocked underneath her.

    "So many questions."

    More than she could count.

    "You shouldn't ask so many questions, Kay."

    The sun was fading.

    She needed to get home.

    The boat shifted under her feet.

    Groaning.

    "The answers might be more than you can handle."

    Eerie laughter rang in her ears, and she whipped her head around searching the wharf for anyone.

    Anything.

    "Too many questions."

    She stumbled over the coiled anchor rope as the boat rocked harder.

    An uneasy feeling in the pit of her stomach.

    "DON'T QUESTION ME!"

    The boat rocked violently.

    Pitching her forward.

    She screamed as the anchor pulled taut around her ankle and dragged her into the black waters.

    Stealing all her breath.

  8. #24
    Join Date
    Oct 2000
    Posts
    489

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

    Chapter 23






    Terror.

    That's what she felt as the darkness swallowed her up.

    She clawed at the rope around her ankle futilely. Desperate to stop her descent.

    Help me, her mind screamed. Someone help me.

    The anchor was heavy.

    Her chest hurt.

    She couldn't hold her breath much longer.

    Her dark hair swirled around her like a halo.

    This is it, she thought.

    I'm going to die down here.

    How pathetic.

    Her life.it didn't amount to much.

    Too many years wasted on a man that didn't love her.

    God help me, she prayed.

    I'm drowning, she realized.

    If it weren't so damn sad, she'd laugh at the tiny little bubbles escaping her nose.

    Tiny little bubbles turned into bigger bubbles as her lungs gave out, and she took gulping breaths.

    Sea water never tasted too hot.

    She smiled as she watched her lifeless body float toward the light.

    Heaven.

    Funny, she always knew she was going to Hell...

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~

    "Come on, Kay. Breathe. Breathe," a voice urged.

    His lips covered hers, and her chest rose with his gentle breaths into her lungs.

    "Breathe," he demanded. Sweeping her wet black hair from her pale face.

    What's happening to me?

    Salt water burned her throat, and she started choking.

    There was a smile in his voice. "That's it," he said. Turning her over on her side. "That's more like it."

    She gasped for air. "Chad? What happened?"

    Chad's chocolate eyes looked puzzled. "Hell if I know. I turned the corner just in time to see you take a nose dive off the side of the boat. Are you okay, Kay?"

    "What kind of question is that?" she snapped. "Of course, I'm not okay.

    How did you get me out?" she asked. For the first time she realized he was

    dripping wet.

    His pocket knife gleamed when he held it up. "Never knew that thing would come in so handy."

    She pushed him away. Struggling to sit up on her own. "My head's killing me," she moaned.

    "I imagine it would," he smirked. Fitting his hands beneath her arms and hauling her to her feet.

    She wobbled unsteadily for a few seconds. All sense of equilibrium lost. "Thank you, Chad. You can go now. I'm fi.I'm fin."

    "That's what I thought," Chad said as he caught her in his arms. "Fine. Yeah, you're fine alright," he groaned as he hefted her up against him. "Can't even stand on your own two feet. You ain't going nowhere on those," he muttered as he stepped off the deck of the Amazing Grace.




    @@@@@







    "Whitney! Are you okay?" Paloma asked in a concerned voice.

    Noah searched for a broom to sweep up the mess.

    Whitney's hands shook as Paloma stared into her eyes. "I.I'm fine, Paloma. I don't know what came over me," she laughed nervously.

    Paloma squeezed Whitney's hands reassuringly. "It's just not your week," Paloma smiled gently. "We all have bad days sometimes. It seems like it's been a bad WEEK for everybody."

    "Really?" Whitney asked. Looking down at their joined hands.

    "I already told you about Theresa's troubles. But Luis and Sheridan are having a tough time of it, too."

    Whitney smiled sadly. "I feel so bad for them. Especially Sheridan. Losing a baby like that."

    Paloma's brown eyes teared up again. "Losing a child is one thing. But the way Andrew died.it devastated them. They've never really been the same."

    She knew what that felt like. Never really being the same. "I'll replace the glass," Whitney offered.

    Paloma's laughter tinkled from her lips. "Don't worry about. I'm just glad you're okay."

    "You ARE okay, Whitney?" Noah asked.

    The look in his blue eyes unnerved her.

    "I'm okay," she laughed it off. "Paloma," she changed the subject. "That movie you wanted to see is at the Multiplex. Why don't you and Noah go?"

    "Sounds like a good idea to me," Noah grinned affably. "Come on, Loma. Maybe we can salvage this rotten day yet."

    Paloma's brown eyes sparkled. "I don't know, Noah. What if."

    "Take my cell," Whitney handed the phone over to her.

    "See? No excuses," Noah said.

    "Okay," Paloma smiled. "But I have to get ready."

    "What are you waiting for?" Noah shooed her away. "I don't have all night."

    "Yeah," Paloma said. "All those hot dates you got lined up."

    "Would you just go?" Noah rolled his eyes.

    "Thanks Whitney!"

    "Yeah, thanks," Noah smiled at her.

    "You're welcome," she whispered.

    It was the least she could do.




    @@@@@






    "You're a good friend," she whispered.

    Her auburn hair tickled his nose. "Gwen."

    "No, Hank. I mean it. You're a good friend. Anybody else would have been long gone by now. Everyone else is. Except you. And Sheridan." But Sheridan has her own problems now.

    What she said was true. "Thank you," he murmured against her hair.

    "This feels.strange," she laughed softly.

    "What?" he grinned into her amused blue eyes. "Us? Being civil to each other? Or me holding you? I can stop if you want me to," he said. Relaxing his hold on her.

    "No!" Her cheeks burned with embarrassment. "I mean.don't. It feels nice. Strange, yes. But nice," she smiled shyly.

    Gwen shy? He chuckled. "Thanks. I think."

    "You're welcome," she laughed.

    "You should do that more often. Laugh, I mean."

    She quirked her brows at him. "Why?"

    "You have a nice laugh, that's all," he admitted. "Geez. Does there have to be a reason for everything?"

    "No. I guess not," she conceded. Staring into his brown eyes.

    "What?" he tipped her chin up with his index finger. "Do I have something in my teeth?"

    She smirked and rolled her eyes. Growing serious when tucked her hair behind her ear. "Hank? What are you doing?" she asked in a hushed voice.

    Do something! Stop me, please. Forget what's going on with Grace. What was going on with him? "I'm not sure," he said. Threading his fingers through her hair and pulling her closer.

    Gwen's hands slid up his chest to his shoulders. "Hank, I."

    "Shh," he whispered.

    And she met his lips with a sigh. Her hands clutched at his shirt as his mouth moved against hers in a sweet kiss.

    "Gwen.I'm so."

    Her mouth sought his again. Silencing him. Momentarily at least.

    "Gwen," he panted. Resting his forehead against hers. "We need to stop. Right now. This isn't us."

    Her blue eyes darkened. And her hands fell from his shoulders as she climbed off of him. "You're right," she said softly. Turning her back to him. "This isn't us. You can't stand me. I can't stand you. Right?"

    "Gwen," he grabbed her hand. Pulling her back down on the sofa beside him. "Listen to me. That's not what I meant. You know it."

    She removed her hand from his and rose once more. Standing tall. "I think you should leave, Hank."

    "No," he shook his head. Trying.wanting her to understand. "Not like this."

    Her blue eyes brimmed with angry tears. "Just leave Bennett!" she demanded. "I can't."

    "Okay," he relented. "I'll go now. But this conversation is not over."

    "That's what you think," Gwen whispered to herself after the door shut behind him.

    It wasn't going to happen again.




    @@@@@





    "Lauren, dear," Ivy smiled. "You didn't have to."

    "Mother," Lauren squeezed Ivy's hand. "Grandfather and Adam are the only ones that feel like celebrating. Adam said Aunt Sheridan's not coming. I'd rather be with you," she said. Handing Ivy a tub of popcorn.

    "What's this movie about anyway?" Ivy asked curiously. Popping a kernel of popcorn into her mouth.

    "I'm not sure," Lauren admitted. "But it's gotten rave reviews. And it has cute guys," she laughed.

    Ivy's blue green eyes sparkled at her, and she arched a golden brow. "How cute?"

    "Too die for sexy," Lauren squealed. Tugging on her hand. "We're going to miss it if we don't hurry."

    "Lauren," Ivy protested as her daughter pulled her through the throng of theater-goers. "They're only previews."

    Lauren rolled her eyes. "Sometimes they're better than the movie. Seriously, Mother. We won't get a good seat. Come on."

    Ivy laughed. "Okay. What have you gotten me into?"



    @@@@@





    "Amanda? Has Aunt Sheridan arrived yet?" Adam asked. Lifting the brandy decanter and pouring himself a glass. "For that matter.has Father arrived yet?"

    Amanda's blue eyes narrowed. "Luis hit you. What makes you think they're coming? No one else has."

    That's okay, Adam thought. Grandfather wanted it to be a PRIVATE party. "She'll come. She won't be able to stop herself. Look what the cat dragged in," he muttered under his breath. "Dear Lord. Would you look at that cheap suit? Luis! So happy to see you," he greeted.

    Luis glared at him and slipped a protective arm around Sheridan's waist.

    "Aunt Sheridan.you didn't have to come," Amanda sighed.

    "I know," Sheridan answered. Her blue eyes watching Adam cautiously. "I needed to."

    Amanda turned to her brother. "Adam.what the hell are you and Grandfather up to? I'm warning you," she hissed. "If you try something."

    "Where are all the guests?" Luis asked suspiciously.

    "They couldn't come," Adam sighed. "I'm afraid it's just going to be us. Family."

    "Sheridan," Luis held her hands in his. "I don't like this. We still have time to leave before."

    "No, we don't," Sheridan said in a tremulous voice. "He's here, Luis."

    "Father!" Adam exclaimed with false joy. "Welcome home!"

    "I second that emotion," a voice filled the room.

    A collective gasp went around the room as Alistair Crane emerged from the shadows.

    "Now the 'party' begins," Adam whispered in his sister's ear.

    And Amanda felt dread wash over her in waves.

    Something was going to happen.

    She just didn't know what.

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