Chapter 24



"But Mommy." Matthew whined. "I want to go to the party."

"Matthew.I already told you. We can't go," Theresa explained patiently. Tugging his shirt over his dark head.

"But why?" Matthew crossed his arms and glared at her.

"Matthew!" Theresa said in exasperation. "We just can't go. Okay?" she softened her tone.

"Why can't I stay with you and Daddy? I don't want to go with Nana. I want to stay here," Matthew grumbled as he watched his mother zip up his duffel bag.

Theresa knelt in front of him with a smile and reached out to cup his cheek. "Your Daddy and I.we need time alone. Grown-up time."

"I hate grown-up time," Matthew muttered under his breath. A look of total dejection adorning his little brown face.

"You'll have a fantastic time with Nana, Matthew. I know you will," Theresa told him. Climbing to her feet and adjusting the strap of the duffel on her shoulder.

"Mijo," Pilar smiled warmly. Ruffling his dark hair. "Are you ready?"

Theresa nudged her reluctant son out the front door and down the steps to her mother's old car. "I'm sorry, Mama," she apologized. "Sometimes he just gets like this, and nothing I do helps."

Pilar laughed softly. "I know that feeling well, Theresita. Matthew," she said. Opening the back door for her little charge. "Spending the night with me isn't THAT bad. Is it?" she asked.

The frown left Matthew's face. He didn't want to disappoint his abuela. "No," he said softly. "It's not THAT bad."

Theresa giggled at the exaggerated expression on her son's face. "Okay, you. I'll see you tomorrow. Promise to be good?"

Matthew's big brown eyes stared back at her solemnly. "Promise," he vowed.

Theresa kissed his forehead with a sigh. And rose to her feet to embrace her mother. "Thank you, Mama," she whispered.

Pilar cupped her daughter's cheek in her palm. "Things will work out, Theresita. They will. Just have faith in your and Ethan's love."

"Nana," Matthew called from the back seat. "I can't.I can't get this." He threw the safety belt buckle down in frustration.

"Bye, Mija," Pilar told her. Helping Matthew with his seatbelt before climbing in the front seat and starting up the car.

"Bye, Mama," Theresa waved. Long after the little car had disappeared from sight.

Wolf whimpered at her side.

The lights in the living room shone brightly. Illuminating the dog's face in the darkness.

She could see Ethan. Pacing back and forth. Looking haggard and worried.

She gave Wolf a quick scratch between the ears and straightened up.

Ready or not.It was time to face her problems. Every last one of them. She needed to know the whole truth before she and Ethan could have any kind of future.

"Please don't let it be more than I can handle," she prayed.


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Lauren slumped further down in her seat. Chancing another glance at her mother beside her.

Tears slipped down Ivy's ivory cheeks.

The lovers on-screen were in the midst of a heartrending goodbye.

Maybe this wasn't such a good idea after all, she thought. "Mom?" she hissed in the darkness. "Mom? Are you okay?"

Ivy smiled through her tears. "Lauren.Darling. I'm fine."

"Are you sure?" Lauren questioned. "We can leave at any time." Great move, Lauren. Bring your mother to a truly depressing film to chase her own worries away.

"Lauren."

"Sorry," Lauren apologized.

"Could you keep it down back there," a voice in front of her said harshly.

Lauren's cheeks blazed with fire. Something about that voice."I'm going to get some more candy. Want anything?"

Ivy shook her head.

Lauren held the tub of popcorn over her head as she stood up. "Are you sure?"

"Keep it down. Or I'm going to tell the manager."

It would be SO easy to dump this tub of popcorn over Mr. SmartAss's head and claim it was an accident, Lauren thought silently. She instantly felt horrible for thinking such mean thoughts. "Sorry," she mumbled. Stepping over the purse in the floor in front of her.

The owner of the purse made NO effort to move it.

Lauren sighed and shot a disgusted look her way. "A little courtesy would be nice."

"Yeah.it would."

SmartAss again.

"Noah."

Lauren's blond head jerked around. Noah? As in Noah Bennett?

"Lauren.watch."

Uh oh, she thought as the strap of the purse tangled around one of her high heels, and she pitched forward.

Popcorn AND soda flying everywhere.

"Out," Ivy cringed as the tub of popcorn emptied onto some poor unsuspecting victim's head in front of them, and the soda dripped from the ends of his hair. "Lauren.are you alright?" she asked.

"I think so," Lauren smiled self-consciously. Scrambling out of the gentleman down the aisle's lap. "I am so sorry, Sir."

"It's not him you should be worried about," Ivy hissed.

"YOU! I should have known."

Lauren's hazel eyes blinked at the anger so clearly visible in the blue eyes of none other than.Noah Bennett. "What is THAT supposed to mean?"


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"Dad? Are you sure you don't want me to stay?" Jessica asked. Staring up at her father with concerned blue eyes.

Sam smiled down at her. And at Simone and Reese in the doorway. "I'm sure, Jess."

"But Mom."

"Mom is fine," he assured her. "I won't let anything happen to her. I promise."

"Don't worry about us, Jessica. I'm sure your father and I can think of something to occupy our time," Grace said slyly.

Reese blushed in embarrassment.

Simone stared at a family portrait on the wall in front of her with wide eyes.

"If you hear from Kay, give her Simone's cell number," Jessica told Sam as she slid her purse on her shoulder.

Grace smiled oddly. Her blue eyes taking on a frightening intensity. "We will," she promised. Snaking her arms around Sam's waist.

"Bye, Mom. Dad."

The door slammed behind the trio, and Reese's car cranked up seconds later.

Grace turned around in Sam's arms with a wicked smile. "I thought they'd never leave. We're finally alone."

Sam closed his eyes with a groan as her hands slid underneath the cotton of his tee-shirt and massaged the skin there.

"Open your eyes, Sam," Grace ordered as she yanked the shirt over his head.

And a scream of horror froze in his throat.



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She moaned softly. Blinking at the harshness of the light.

"Kay.Kay.it's Eve. Can you hear me?"

"Dr. Russell?" Kay asked out of habit. Confused. "What are you doing here? Where am I?" she asked. Panic rising within her as she realized she was in a strange place. A foreign bed. Wearing next to nothing.

"You passed out on me back at the wharf," a voice answered.

"Chad," she whispered. Her breath growing short as the memories came rushing back.

The blackness of the water. The horrific knowledge she was drowning. The evil voice that made her heart cold in her chest.

"You're in Chad's apartment," Eve told her gently as she checked her pulse. "From what Chad told me.you're lucky to be alive. What happened Kay?"

Kay raked her fingers through her black hair and looked up at her with haunted dark eyes. "It was her."

"Who Kay?" Chad asked curiously. "Some woman? What did she do?"

"Kay. Calm down," Eve instructed. "Your heart is racing."

"Not some woman, Chad. Her. My mother."

Eve glanced at Chad. Pity in her gaze.

"I'm not crazy. You have to believe me, Dr. Russell," Kay pleaded. "It was her."

"Kay.you're not making any sense here," Chad sighed.

"She did it. She made me fall. She tried to drown me," Kay insisted.

"Kay," Eve said sadly. "Why? Why would you mother want to hurt you? She loves you."

Kay shook her head. Black hair spilling over her shoulders. "Because she's not my mother. Something's wrong with her, Dr. Russell. She's.she's evil."

Eve nodded at Chad.

Chad moved to the edge of the bed. Gripping Kay by the shoulders.

"Have you been taking your medication, Kay?"

Kay's dark eyes grew wild. "My med.Dr. Russell! I swear. I'm not crazy!" she cried as Eve withdrew a syringe from her black bag. "Chad! You believe me, don't you?"

Chad's dark eyes couldn't meet hers.

Kay felt the sharp prick of the needle as it plunged into her vein.

Eve swept her hair from her forehead tenderly.

Chad lowered her back against the pillows.

Her eyes felt heavy. Her limbs leaden. Her vision swam.

"You did the right thing, Chad."

Eve's words sounded far away.

I'm not sick anymore, she wanted to shout. Wanted to scream at the top of her lungs. That was a long time ago. I'm better now. I'm not crazy. "Please," she begged. "Believe me."

"Shh, Kay. Close your eyes," Eve urged.

Chad watched her eyes flutter shut. And he couldn't help but wonder.could she be telling the truth?


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Sheridan's hand trembled as she took the flute of champagne from her father's hand and set it down on the table beside her.

Luis's eyes watched his every move with suspicion.

Alistair appraised them both with cold blue eyes.

Julian struggled to keep his feelings masked.

"To Father's release," Adam toasted.

Amanda's blue eyes flashed, and she slowly tipped her glass over. Watching in fascination as it dripped to the marble floor.

"You bi."

Alistair's lay a calming hand on his grandson's arm. "Adam.your sister's reservations are perfectly understandable."

Amanda stared deep into her father's eyes. "Why did you do it, Father? Why?" She wanted to believe.that he wasn't a monster after all.

Julian ducked his head in shame. "I can offer you NO excuses."

Sheridan's blue eyes glittered with angry tears at his answer.

Alistair and Adam exchanged a secret smile of satisfaction.

"Let's not dwell on the past," Adam said diplomatically. "It's time to move into the future. As a family. Luis.Aunt Sheridan.Amanda.Father.let us go into the Solarium. I'm sure you'll find the atmosphere.less formal."

Sheridan took comfort in the warmth of Luis's hand on the small of her back, and Amanda's gentle smile.

"Sheridan.we don't have to do this. We can leave right now. I won't think any less of you. You're already the bravest person I know," Luis said softly. His dark eyes searching hers.

"I know, Luis," she answered. Surveying Julian's blank expression a few feet away. "But this is something I have to do," she smiled shakily.

Adam opened the doors to the Solarium with a flourish.

Alistair watched Sheridan's reaction expectantly.

Amanda's face paled.

"Oh my god," Sheridan whispered shakily as her eyes traveled the length of the room.

And Luis felt his heart lodge in his throat.

Pictures. Dozens and dozens of pictures.

Andrew.at play. Chocolate covered cheeks and lips.

Andrew.curled up asleep. His tiny brown thumb in his mouth. A fistful of sun-kissed hair clutched in his free hand. His beloved teddy bear on the pillow beside him.

Andrew.smiling his sunny smile up at his sister. Danielle's blue eyes shining with so much joy.

Andrew.building a castle in the sand. Luis helping him every step of the way.

Andrew.in the bathtub. Amidst a sea of bubbles. His brown eyes alight with mischief. Just before he died.

Sheridan ran blindly. In escape.

Luis and Amanda close behind her.

Adam's brown eyes showed no remorse. "Do you think Aunt Sheridan liked her present, Grandfather?"

Alistair's laughter sent shivers down Julian's spine.

Sick bastards. The both of them. And they were both going down. He'd make sure of it.



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"Tessa! Tessa, are you almost finished in there?" Danielle asked.

The door creaked as she pushed it open.

Tessa's long yellow hair hung loosely down her back.

"Tessa," Danielle smiled sweetly. "Do you want me to help you with your hair?" she asked. Picking up the pink cup at her side.

Tessa looked at her with pale blue eyes.

"Close your eyes," Danielle instructed. Turning on the tap and filling the cup with warm water.

Tessa's slender body jerked as the water dripped down her face. Plastering her yellow hair to her skull.

"Andrew..."

Childish laughter echoed in her ears.

"Andrew.Mama doesn't want bubbles in her hair."

"You have such pretty hair, Tessa. So soft. And silky," Danielle sighed as she gently emptied more water from the cup and reached to pick up the bottle of shampoo.

The bubbles tickled his nose, and he giggled. He loved bubbles. Almost as much as his toys. The yellow rubber duck squeaked as it made its way through the bubbles.

Water dripped into his brown eyes, and he whimpered. "Oh Baby.Mama's sorry," she said. Kissing his forehead.

He smiled. Mama's kisses made everything all better.

"It reminds me of Mom's hair," Danielle babbled. "But hers is shorter. Curlier. Yours is so straight. Like mine," she said. Twirling a strand of her own dark hair around her index finger.

"Mama.play."

She smiled at him. Unable to resist him anything. "Just a little longer," she laughed. Giving him Eskimo kisses.

"Mommy! Mommy!"

"Danielle! What's wrong, Sweetie?"

"My baby brother had hair like Mom's. Yours," Danielle sighed. Lathering the sweet, strawberry-scented shampoo in Tessa's pale locks. Her hands stilled as she remembered.

"Mommy! Mommy!" she sobbed.

"Danielle!" she cried. "Andrew.Baby. Stay right here. Okay? Mama'll be right back," she promised. Placing the rubber duck in his brown hands. "She promises. Danielle! Mommy's coming!"

Her footsteps clattered down the stairs.

Blood gushed from Danielle's mouth. "Mommy.Mommy," she screamed as she picked her up in her arms.

"I fell down the stairs once," she whispered. Raising a hand to her chin. "I didn't have any front teeth until I was in the second grade."

Tessa's blue eyes stared straight ahead.

"Danielle.what happened, Sweetie?"

"I.F-F-F-ell," Danielle sobbed. Great, hitching sobs.

She screamed in pain when her mother touched a gentle hand to her lip.

"Oh Baby," she sighed. Carrying her over to the kitchen counter and picking up the phone. "Mommy's going to call Dr. Eve."

A busy signal beeped in her ears, and she lay the phone down.

A throbbing pain in Tessa's head made her cry out.

The rubber duck rolled to a stop on the floor.

A thud from upstairs made her heart hammer in her chest.

"Oh my god! Andrew! Andrew!"

"Mommy?"

The stairs seemed endless.

The silence oppressive as she raced down the hall to the open bathroom.

"Tessa. Tessa. You're scaring me. You're scaring me," Danielle shook her younger cousin by the shoulders. "Aunt Charity! Aunt Charity!"

"Mommy?" Danielle's frightened little voice called as she crept up behind her mommy. "Mommy?"

"Get out Danielle! Get out of here!" her mommy screamed.

Danielle looked past her mommy.

The bubbles in the tub were pink.

"Danielle! Please get out!" she screamed. A sound that wasn't human.

"Tessa! Tessa!" Charity grabbed her daughter up in the pink towel Danielle held out.

Tears seeped from Tessa's sightless blue eyes.

"Mommy?" Danielle whispered.

Her baby brother's lips were blue.

Her mommy's hands were covered in blood. Hers? Andrew's? She couldn't tell.

She watched the gentle rise and fall of Andrew's chest as her mommy blew into his mouth. "Mommy? What's wrong with Andrew? Mommy?" she screamed frantically. "Mommy, what's wrong?"

"Danielle," her mommy sobbed. "Call Daddy. Call Daddy."

"Danielle," Charity cried. "Call 9-1-1. Something's wrong. Something's wrong with Tessa."