Chapter 8









"Aunt Paloma? Can I.may I watch cartoons?"

Paloma ruffled Matthew's dark hair affectionately. "Yes. You may," she smiled. "But don't forget.dinner's soon."

Matthew grinned back at her.

Theresa was right. He did have his father's smile.

The little boy scrambled down from his barstool and disappeared into the living room. "Thank you!"

"You're welcome," she responded. She tapped her fingers against the kitchen counter. Dinner. That' right, Paloma. Healthy dinner. Matthew's a growing boy. She opened the fridge and peered inside. It was Whitney's turn to pick up the groceries. Speaking of Whitney.Paloma winced at the sound of the front door slamming.

Whitney's keys clattered to the bar. "Paloma.will you hand me an aspirin?"

Paloma retrieved the small bottle and handed it to her roommate. "Bad day?"

The redness of Whitney's eyes, the lines around them said it all. Whitney's life was in a state of crisis. But she refused to talk to anyone about it. Not even Theresa. Especially not Theresa.

The sounds of Simba and Pumba and Timon filtered through the small apartment.

"Cartoons? Who's.Matthew."

Paloma held out a chilled bottle of water. "Theresa needed someone to watch him while she was at work. Mama's at Sheridan and Luis's."

Whitney took a gulp of the icy liquid and swallowed the two aspirin in her palm.

"I can.we can go somewhere else if you want. Give you some quiet time. You look like you need it."

Whitney's lips twisted into a sardonic smile. "Is that a polite way of saying I look like hell?"

Paloma's brown eyes sparkled. "You said it. Not me," she said. Hugging Whitney's shoulders as she passed. "Rest. Take care of yourself."

Whitney felt tears stinging at the corners of her eyes when she heard Matthew's excited little voice. "Aunt Whitney's here? I want to go say hi."

Paloma's melodic voice was muffled as she answered him.

But Whitney had an idea of the direction the conversation was going without hearing it.

"Bye, Aunt Whitney! Hope you feel better."

And the knife in her heart twisted a little harder.





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"Mr. Winthrop," Amy knocked politely. "Mr. Winthrop.I know you said no calls. But it's your wife, Sir. She says it's very important. She insists she talks to you."

Ethan buried his head in his hands with a groan. How did he keep the guilt out of his voice?

The button on the phone flashed red.

"Mr. Winthrop."

"Thank you, Amy," he said impatiently. "I'll take the phone call." He punched the button and spoke into the receiver. "Theresa.is there something wrong with Matthew?"

There was a moment's silence on the line before her voice filled his senses.

"Ethan.Ethan.I want you to meet me tonight. At the Seascape, The Lobster Shack, you name it. We need to talk. Ethan, I don't want to let our marriage die without a fight."

"Theresa.I can't."

"If our marriage is important to you, if our son is important to you, you will do this for me."

He closed his eyes and imagined the determined look on her lovely face. In those eyes he had fallen in love with long ago. And sighed. It was no use. He had to face his problems some time. "The Seascape. I'll have Amy make the reservations and call you."

"Thank you."

He could hear the smile in her voice as she said it. He hated to think that after tonight that smile.it would be gone.

"I love you."

The line went dead, and he hesitated before putting it back on the hook. "Me, too."





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Adam Crane stared out the floor-length windows of his office. Down at the little ants milling about. Ah. Harmony. Home, sweet home.

"Mr. Crane," Blair said disinterestedly. "When can we get together again?"

Adam's brown eyes swept her figure admiringly. Beautiful. With brains. Too much brains, in fact. And a conscience. He wasn't about morals here. His grandfather had taught him well.

Blair gasped when he pulled her down on his lap with a growl and teasingly ran his hands up her thigh.

"What about now?" he suggested. Whispering in her ear. Toying with the pearls at her neck. He loosened the pins from her honey hair, and it fell to her shoulders once more.

"Mr. Crane," Blair protested. Pushing ineffectively against his chest. "Mr. Crane.I have a meeting."

"You work for me," he said dully.

She whimpered when he crushed his lips to hers.

"The meeting can wait."

"No, it can't."

Adam snarled in disgust as he shoved her from his hold. "Amanda.didn't Father ever teach you how to knock?"

"Here. You might need this," Amanda said icily. Tossing her caramel silk blouse at her.

Adam waited until the door shut behind her before addressing his sister. "What is so important it couldn't wait until I had a little fun?"

"Not what. Who. Father. He's coming home in two days. We have to be prepared."

"Prepared," Adam scoffed. Straightening his tie. "Prepared for what?"

Amanda didn't answer. "Family meeting. Tonight at the Mansion. I've already told Lauren. It's your job to call Aunt Sheridan. I have to go now. Convince Chad to come."

Adam rolled his eyes as soon as her back was turned. Chad? And Aunt Sheridan? And Lauren, even. Grandfather wouldn't be pleased. But he couldn't go against Amanda's request without looking suspicious. He punched in a few hastily looked up numbers and spoke in his best loving nephew voice.

"Aunt Sheridan.this is Adam."






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"Mija.who was that on the phone?"

Danielle's feet dangled from the stool she was perched on. "Yeah, Mom. Who was it?"

Sheridan twisted the gold band on her finger. "Your cousin Adam. There's a family meeting at the Mansion tonight. He wants me to come."

Pilar's brow knit in consternation. Adam.Adam was the son of Alistair's heart.

"Can I come, Mom?" Danielle asked quizzically.

"Mija.maybe I should come, too," Pilar offered.

Sheridan smiled at her two worried loved ones. "I'm a big girl, you know."

"We'll all go."

"Dad! You're home early!"

Luis lifted Danielle off her feet easily and twirled her around and around until she giggled helplessly.

Sheridan pursed her lips and shook her head.

"Mijo.any clues yet?"

Luis set Danielle down. Smirking when she stumbled on her feet. "It's still all a mystery, Mama. But I'm working on it."

"Working on what, Dad?" Danielle asked curiously.

Sheridan made a zipping motion across her lips. "Top secret police business," she teased.

"Yeah," he laughed. Leaning down to bestow a sweet kiss on his wife's lips. "What's this about a meeting?"

Sheridan bowed her blond head.

"Adam wants the whole family to meet at the Mansion, Mijo," Pilar answered.

"It's about Julian's release in a couple days," Sheridan admitted quietly.

"Uncle Julian's coming home?" Danielle's blue eyes darted around the room. To each adult.

Luis sighed and slipped his arm around Sheridan's waist. "It's true."

Danielle watched her abuela make the sign of the cross. What would this mean?

Luis kissed the crown of Sheridan's head. "We should get going."

The screen door banged against its frame. And the house by the sea stood empty after Luis's jeep sped down the worn pathway.

A child's cries filled the air.