Sheridan studied the inky black night sky, complete with moon and stars. A swift breeze rattled trees sporadically
dotted around the park, invading the fuzzy warmth her thick fur coat brought. She sat on a swing set next to Luis,
who was busy looking at her while she gazed up at the sky.
"Thank you for dinner."
Sheridan looked over in surprise upon his words. She'd been caught up in the beauty of the winter night.
Smiling gently, she replied, "It was no trouble. I'm glad you came."
Luis chuckled. "Your mother didn't seem too thrilled."
Sheridan shook her head and looked back up at the sky. "She was just irritated. She didn't expect any company."
Glancing at him, she added, "I think she likes you. As a person, that is."
Luis laughed. "What would make you say that?"
"Because she didn't bite your head off when you came through the door," Sheridan replied with a grin.
She jumped from the swing and headed over to a wooden bench nearby, Luis in tow.
They seated themselves side-by-side and tilted their heads back to gaze up into the night.
"So she's one of those women who don't take a liking to very many people?" Luis guessed.
Sheridan shrugged and turned her head to look at him. "Pretty much. My mother is...judgemental, shall we say.
You should be honored that you're on her good side already."
Luis chuckled and looked at her. "I am."
Curving her lips into an amused smile, Sheridan studied his face.
She didn't know how or when it happened, but her smile suddenly slipped away at the intensity of Luis's gaze. It
was piercing, and seemed to touch her soul. She knew she should look away; she wasn't one to make out with taken
men, but her gaze was riveted to his. There was no way she could look away now.
She barely noticed him lifting his hand to her cheek. When he touched his fingertips to her face, heat permeated
her whole, shivers skittering down her spine. She'd read of chemistry between a man and a woman; how one touch
felt electric. She'd never thought it was true.
Luis's touch proved her wrong.
A shaky breath left her lips. He caressed her cheek, and nothing seemed to make sense anymore. Any panic that she'd
felt was gone; in its stead, thoughts of kissing Luis invaded her mind.
His eyes flickered towards her lips, then he caught her gaze again. Sheridan's heart raced. Is he going to kiss me?
The thought was answered when he leaned down slowly. He brushed his mouth across hers, his lips feathery soft.
Sheridan tilted her head up, leaning into the kiss.
His hand left her cheek and he embraced her gently. Sheridan eased her arms around him. Their mouths opened simultaneously.
The moment he kissed her -- really kissed her -- Sheridan felt like she was floating, aimless in direction, only
enjoying the feeling. It surprised her. Her reaction to his kiss was nothing like she'd felt while kissing Darren.
They parted slowly. Dazed, Sheridan caught his gaze.
And then her eyes widened in unison with his.
For a moment, they just stared at each other in shock and confusion. But then Luis stood swiftly and twirled away,
pinching the bridge of his nose.
Unsure of what to do, Sheridan rose behind him and watched him painfully.
"Shit," he muttered. She saw his shoulders rise and fall as he took in a breath. He released it in a
puff of white cloud and turned to her.
He studied her face for a long moment before whispering, "I'm sorry. That shouldn't have happened."
A lump rose in her throat. She managed to nod false agreement, and offered a shaky smile. Shouldn't have happened, Luis? Then why did it feel so right?
She shook off the thought.
"I'm engaged, Sheridan," he reminded her. "I... What I did was wrong. I apologize." He closed
his eyes for a moment, clenching his fists at his side. "I've never cheated on Emily. Ever."
Sheridan turned away just as a tear spilled down her cheek. "You didn't need to remind me that you were engaged.
I didn't forget." She swallowed hard and closed her eyes, fighting back the tears. "It's all right,"
she finished in a trembling voice.
Silence dominated the area for a few painful minutes. Sheridan hugged herself, squinting up into the night sky.
Snowflakes fluttered to the ground, some landing in her hair.
"I should go," Luis finally said.
Sheridan only nodded, her back still to him.
"I'll see you sometime."
She nodded again, reaching up discreetly to wipe a tear from her cheek.
He left the park without another word, heading towards the limousine they'd come in. He hadn't even asked her if
she wanted a ride. The thought brought a bitterness to Sheridan's heart. He knew she didn't have a car. He knew
she'd have to walk home.
Then again, she conceded, he also knew that her house was only a block away.
Lifting her head to the sky, a furrow marring her brow and tears running down her cheeks, she released a sigh.
"Why did you ever think you had a chance?"
Shaking her head, she turned away from the park and began the walk back to her house.
"Rise and shine! It's a beautiful, beautiful morning!"
Sheridan groaned and uttered a whimper. Childhood memories came rushing back to her at her mother's cheerful voice.
She'd always done this; every single morning. And it annoyed the hell out of Sheridan.
She plucked her pillow from underneath her head and buried her face in it, yelling in a muffled voice, "Go
She heard her mother's merry laugh. "Now, now, Sheridan. We have shopping to do! Christmas is only a week
away. Come on. Get your butt out of bed."
Flinging her pillow to the side, Sheridan propped herself up on her elbows and squinted at her mother. "How
can you be so cheerful in the morning?" she muttered in a disgusted voice, falling back against her bed.
Victoria laughed and breezed over to the window, pulling the curtains apart. "How can you be so grouchy in
the morning? Really, I don't understand people like you. Look, it's a brand new day! Beautiful!"
Sheridan groaned again. "Go away, Mom."
Victoria shook her head, facing her daughter. She rolled her eyes. "Be out in time for breakfast and shopping,
or I'm leaving without you."
Sheridan grinned wearily. "Be my guest," she replied, yawning and closing her eyes.
Victoria sighed and left the room, closing the door behind her.
After reluctantly climbing out of bed and dressing in a cotton white shirt and some blue jeans, Sheridan descended
the staircase leading into the livingroom and trotted into the kitchen. Her mother was just scooping some eggs
and bacon on a plate.
She lifted an eyebrow at Sheridan and held out the plate. "Well, look who decided to wake up. You look like
Sheridan yawned and rolled her eyes, accepting the plate. "Thanks for the vote of confidence, Mom. Really.
I appreciate it." She took a seat at the kitchen table and picked at the eggs.
After helping herself to breakfast, Victoria joined her daughter. "So, tell me, what do you want for Christmas?"
Sheridan glanced up at her mother and smiled wryly. "A million dollars. Think you can supply that?"
Victoria rolled her eyes. "Be serious."
"Nothing," Sheridan replied, but it was a lie. She shoved a forkful of eggs into her mouth and closed
her eyes. An image of what she wanted for Christmas loomed behind her eyelids. Oh, yeah. Luis would do nice enough.
Shaking her head after remembering yesterday's happening, she opened her eyes and studied her plate of food. It
was never going to happen.
Luis glanced nervously at his watch. Ten o'clock in the morning.
He released a sigh and ran his hands through his hair, gazing at the huge mansion before him. The Hanson mansion.
The exterior boasted of their wealth, and no doubt, so did the interior. Christmas lights hung from various places
outside of the mansion, and a plastic Santa Clause in a sleigh was propped in the middle of the wintery yard.
Of course, he hadn't come to see what Christmas decorations they'd hung this year. He'd come to see Emily, because
his guilt for what he'd done yesterday was eating him alive. He had to tell her that he'd kissed Sheridan. He wasn't
one to cheat on a person, and he certainly wouldn't hide it if he did. That just wasn't in his nature.
He tentatively rang the doorbell, then backed away a step and waited for an answer. A moment later, a maid dressed
in a cheery red gown and apron opened the door.
"Mr. Lopez-Fitzgerald," she greeted politely. "Here to see Ms. Hanson, I assume?"
Luis nodded. "If you'll just let me go up and see her for myself?"
The maid nodded and backed away from the door. "Of course."
Luis entered the mansion and gazed around. It wasn't too different from the Lopez-Fitzgerald mansion, except the
interior was more expansive in its wealth, despite the fact that the Hansons weren't as rich as the Lopez-Fitzgeralds.
Perhaps they just like to brag more, Luis thought with a bitter frown.
"Thank you, Madison," he said to the maid with a smile. She'd been working for the Hansons since he'd
first met Emily.
The maid nodded and scurried off to do one house chore or the other, and Luis sighed and faced the staircase. He
wasn't quite certain where Emily's room would be, considering they'd just moved to Harmony and he wasn't familiar
with the Hanson mansion; but he'd find her somehow.
He climbed to the first floor and gazed down the long hallway. There were about four rooms on this floor, and probably
the same amount on the second floor.
He knocked on the first door, but no one answered, so he approached the second one. It was open a crack. He peeked
inside, and, finding Emily's familiar nightrobe draped over an exquisitely designed wooden chair next to the bed,
he stepped inside.
And immediately stopped in his tracks.
Emily and the man she was embraced intimately with didn't notice his presence in the room. His expression grew
stormy as he watched the familiar man -- Jonathan O'Neil, a business associate -- begin to remove the sheer article
of clothing Emily was wearing. And she didn't look in any hurry to stop him.
The pain to his heart was sharp, but didn't get close to matching the anger that he suddenly felt. With each caress
passed between Emily and Jonathan, his rage mounted higher, until he could no longer stand it. Taking long strides
toward the bed, he clenched his fists.
That was when both Emily and Jonathan looked up, and jumped apart from each other as though they'd been burned.
"Luis!" Emily's eyes widened. She pulled the thin strap of her silk nightie over her shoulder and stood
from the bed. "I-I--"
"Save it," Luis grated out. Turning his glare on Jonathan, he said ominously, "Get out."
Jonathan gulped and rose to his feet. He hurried from the room, smoothing his shirt and straightening his tie on
the way out.
Luis faced Emily, his jaw set.
"I-I can explain," Emily stammered. "Jonathan and I were--"
Luis laughed frigidly. "Were...what? Kissing? Making out? Or about to have sex? Huh? Which one was it, Emily?"
Emily helplessly rose her hand in the air and dropped it. "We..."
"You know what?" Luis backed away from her, hurt ravaging his features. "I'd come here to tell you
that I kissed Sheridan because I wanted to be honest with you. I felt guilty, Emily. Do you feel guilty?"
He turned his head away, inhaling, for what little comfort it was worth.
"Of course I--"
"No, you don't," Luis interrupted, focusing on her again. He shook his head. "Don't even say the
words, Emily. How long have you been seeing him?" He ran his hands through his hair. "Weeks? Months?
Emily's jaw trembled. "A few months," she confessed softly.
Luis nodded, laughing bitterly. "I suspected as much." He suddenly grew deathly silent, studying her.
"And this baby that you're having."
Emily swallowed hard and shrugged a shoulder. "I..."
"It's his, isn't it?" Luis felt another stab to the heart after speaking those words. Odd, he thought,
considering that he never loved her...as a woman, that is. But her friendship had been special to him. That she
could betray him in the worst way possible... He shook his head, turning away from her to face the door.
"Luis, you have to--"
"I have to what?" he snapped, still facing the door. "I don't have to do a damn thing. I can't believe
I never saw how horrible you really are, Emily." He closed his eyes. "Damn you. Damn you to hell. Don't
ever, ever speak to me again." He finally faced her. "Do you understand? The wedding is off. For good."
"No," Emily cried out desperately. "Luis, you can't do this!" She approached him and reached
out to touch him. He backed away, shaking his head.
"Don't touch me. For God's sake, Emily...don't touch me." He backed another step away. "I can do
whatever I please. After all..." He swallowed. "That's what you've been doing for--how many months now?"
Gritting his teeth, he turned from her. "Goodbye, Emily."
Emily watched him go, never uttering a word.