The streets were busy, people bustling to and fro with shopping bags clutched in their hands and thick winter coats
protecting them from the chill of the afternoon. Snowflakes were still falling, fluttering past Luis as he aimlessly
strolled on, his hands shoved into the pockets of his long black coat. His mind was blank; but for that, he was
grateful. Emily's betrayal had hit him harder than he thought it would.
He knew he hadn't fallen in love with her. But he had loved her. As a friend; a confidante; a companion. They'd
known each other for years, yet, he thought, he'd never seen the real Emily Hanson. The one that had been bestowed
upon Sheridan at their first meeting.
He silently admonished himself. He'd been stupid. Stupid to not see how she really was. Stupid to think she'd been
his friend all these years. He wondered how many men she'd had throughout the years. How long she'd been cheating
on him with other people.
He tilted his head back to look at the sky and released a long-drawn-out sigh. Not that he wasn't in the wrong,
of course. He had kissed Sheridan, and he'd been engaged to Emily. But at least he'd felt guilty, and had gone
to confess it to her, no matter what the consequences could have been had she not been sleeping with one of his
business partners behind his back. Yet another part of him wondered if he would have liked her to have been angry.
If he would have wanted her to call off the wedding, and that was secretly why he'd gone to confess it to her.
But why would he want that?
Shaking his head at the confusing thoughts, he turned a street corner to come upon a small crafts shop nestled
in a grove of trees. Quaint, he thought with an amused smile. The small shop looked more like a cottage than a
business place. But at least it was something different. Something he was unused to.
Out of mere curiosity, he approached the shop and tentatively stepped inside. There were only about ten people
browsing the shelves full of pillows, knitted and crocheted blankets, and other crafts. One person was scrutinizing
a shelf full of yarn.
Luis frowned and stepped further inside, scanning the small place. He groaned when his eyes settled on Sheridan
and her mother. Just what he needed.
Intent on escaping unnoticed, he turned and stepped towards the door, but stopped when he heard her surprised voice
and released a sigh.
"Luis!" He heard her approaching and turned with a feigned smile.
"What are you doing here?" The surprise was evident in her voice. Obviously, she hadn't expected someone
like him to be someplace like this.
He shrugged a shoulder and dropped his gaze to the floor. "I needed some time to think," he mumbled,
not wanting to discuss the events that had transpired earlier in the day.
Sheridan studied his face with obvious concern. "Are you all right, Luis?" Her voice dropped an octave.
"Is this about last night? If it is, I'll be going--"
"No." He forced a smile, shaking his head. "This has nothing to do with last night."
"And what happened last night?" Sheridan's mother appeared from behind her daughter. She eyed him warily.
"What have you done to my daughter?"
Sheridan flushed red. "Mother..."
Victoria frowned at the word.
"Luis didn't do anything. We were just, ah, discussing...how we, ah... Well, the swingsets were wet and the
back of Luis's jacket got soaked, so he had to go home with a wet spot on the back of his coat."
Luis immediately turned away, fighting back laughter. Pathetic.
Sheridan cleared her throat and continued. "So, you see, as one of the richest people in these parts, he was
Luis, managing to control his laughter, turned back around to face the duo.
Victoria released a huff. "If you're going to lie, dear, you'll have to do better than that." She patted
her daughter on the back. "But don't worry. I won't butt into your business. I'm going to go look at the Christmas
bulbs. Be good." She leaned over and whispered something in Sheridan's ear, which, Luis noticed with some
amusment, caused Sheridan's cheeks to flame a fiery red.
"Yes, Mom," Sheridan mumbled.
Victoria smiled and hurried off towards the temporary Christmas section of the shop.
Luis lifted a curious eyebrow at Sheridan after her mother departed. "What did she say to you?" he inquired
with a small smile.
Sheridan bowed her head, twiddling her thumbs. "She, ah, told me to..." She attempted a laugh before
continuing. "Use protection." Her face went an even brighter shade of red.
Luis nodded, amusement shining in his eyes, but didn't say anything.
Sheridan lifted her head to look at him. "Um..." She shifted. "So what are you doing here? What
did you have to think about? That is, if you don't mind my asking..."
The momentary tranquility while being in Sheridan's presence disappeared at her question. Shrugging, he lowered
his head and let out a sigh. Only a second later, he rose his eyes to her face and whispered, "Do you think
I could... Do you think I could talk to you? I mean..." His voice trailed off, and he glanced away. He sounded
like a lost little kid. How pathetic that Emily could make him act this way. She wasn't worth his grief.
Sheridan frowned, worry in her eyes. "Of course, Luis. Would you like to go somewhere?" She reached out
to touch his arm briefly, concerned. "Are you all right? What's happened?"
Luis chuckled and lowered his head. "Just some things. Could we go to your house? I, ah, didn't bring my car...I
Sheridan nodded, obviously confused, but willing to wait for him to explain. "Let me go tell my mother that
I'm leaving. We can walk, and you can tell me about things on the way. All right?"
Luis nodded his agreement and exited the shop to wait for her outside.
Sheridan studied Luis's profile in the cold wintery air as the traipsed along the sidewalk, heading in the direction
of her house. What had him so on edge? And, dear God, if she looked into those exquisite golden eyes once more
and saw the pain reflected there...she'd more likely than not take him into her arms and kiss the pain away.
Forcing her gaze away from him, she looked ahead, waiting for him to speak. He finally did.
"About last night..."
Her heart skipped a beat. So it wasabout the kiss. Did he regret it that much? A sharp pain sliced through her.
"Yes?" she prodded in a quiet voice, glancing at him.
He gave her a reassuring smile before continuing. "I went to tell Emily this morning about it."
"Oh, no," Sheridan whispered. "Don't tell me I caused any troubles in your relationship." She
stopped and grabbed his arm. "I'm so sorry, Luis. I--"
He cut her off with a bitter laugh, lowering his head. "That's not it at all." He looked away, gazing
down the cold empty sidewalk.
Turning, he began to walk again. Sheridan caught up with him and studied his face curiously.
"No. Because when I got there, she was busy cheating on me with someone of her own."
Sheridan's mouth dropped open. Quickly closing it, she looked away. "Oh," was all she could manage.
"Oh," Luis continued in a bitter voice, "about that baby? It's not mine."
Sheridan looked at him in concern. "I'm...I'm sorry, Luis." They approached her house. Sheridan dug into
her purse and pulled out her set of keys, fitting a silver key into the lock and turning it. She opened the door
and let Luis inside, watching as he stopped in the middle of the livingroom and ran his hands through his hair.
After closing the door and dropping her keys back into her purse, she tentatively looked up at him.
With a half-hearted shrug, she admitted softly, "I don't know what to say."
Luis looked up at her, a pained expression on his face. "You know what?" he countered. "Don't say
anything." He approached her and took her into his arms, burying his head in her shoulder. "Just...just
be here for me. That's all I need. Okay?"
Sheridan nodded, reveling in his warmth. "Always, Luis. Always."
He was silent for a moment, but finally whispered, "Emily wasn't. I knew her for ten damn years, and she was
never really there. God, how could I have been so stupid? Sheridan? How could I have been so stupid?"
"Ssshh." She ran her hand up and down his back. "You weren't stupid, Luis. This isn't your fault."
"The hell it isn't," he muttered. "I should have known, Sheridan. The way she acted towards you
at the Book Café and when your mother was in the hospital...I should have known." He let out an unfeeling
laugh. "But there I was, blind to everything, thinking she could do no harm." He let go of Sheridan and
spun away. "For ten damn years, Sheridan. I closed my eyes to everything wrong she did for ten years. Dammit!"
He ran his hands through his hair and took a seat on the couch. Burying his head in his hands, he sighed.
Sheridan watched him for a few painful moments before uncertainly taking a seat next to him. She put a hand on
his arm and whispered, "Luis?"
He looked up at her.
"It'll be okay," she said quietly, with a reassuring smile. "You'll see."
He studied her face for a long moment. Then he leaned forward, closing the distance between them.
Sheridan's eyes widened in shock when their lips met, but she quickly succumbed to the intense feelings his kiss
brought with it. He cupped the back of her head with one hand, using the other to urge her closer to him. She relented,
wrapping her arms around his neck and deepening the kiss.
He pulled back and gazed at her with glazed eyes. "I need you, Sheridan," he whispered.
Sheridan studied his face for a long time, conflicting emotions coursing through her. One part of her told her
no, that it could ruin everything, but another part screamed yes -- this was what she'd wanted for so long, and
she may never get the chance again.
The tempted part of her ruling over the tentative part, she leaned forward and kissed him passionately on the lips,
whispering, "Have me, Luis."
He groaned, taking her into his arms and covering her mouth with his own. Only a moment later, he had swept her
into his arms and was heading upstairs.