Heath opened the door, smiled politely upon recognizing KC, but his smile vanished when he saw the hardened expression on KC’s face as he invited him inside.
He quickly peeked behind his visitor, but there was nobody else.
To say this was unusual would be an understatement and the wheels were turning on high as KC followed him inside.
“Is everything all right?” Heath asked carefully, pointing to a chair.
KC hung his head as he was shaking it, obviously fighting back emotions as he sat down.
“Oh my God! What happened? Is it Everleigh? Is she … is Evey…?” Heath stuttered.
“Coma.” KC managed to get out.
While it was hardly possible, it seemed that Heath, whose vampiric complexion was nearly stark white on a normal day, had paled even further.
“Where is your child?” KC pressed out.
“Sleeping over at her mother’s next door. Bonding.”
“Thank God!” KC moaned relieved. Heath understood that KC probably did not have the strength to keep up appearances for a toddler.
“Was it a car accident?” Heath probed.
“No. Her cousin … long story. She fell down from the first story of a building onto a concrete floor. She is in a hospital in Del Sol Valley. Not stable enough to bring her home, I had to come back for work, but Blaine is sending me back out there on the next plane tomorrow morning. He’s taking all my shifts at his club, since none of the vampires can go see her in the hospital anyway. I am taking the red eye back out tonight, but wanted to tell you in person. Felt it’s what she would want.”
“I … I …”
“Don’t say it. Don’t say anything. I am already barely holding it together. You have no idea what this is like for me. Her parents are with her now. Some family friend, Corbin something and his wife are taking over at Everett’s business until … her condition changes so Evey’s parents can stay with her. Josh is staying with the grandparents.”
“What can I do? And can you keep me updated?”
“Sure. If you could look in on the house until I am … until WE are back, I’d appreciate it. I’ll bring the key by on the way to the airport.”
“With your permission, I won’t need a key.”
“I wish I could do more. I wish I could go see her.”
“Be glad you can’t. It’s heart wrenching. It’s almost too much for me and I am no wimp. She is so tiny and pale, mostly in casts, bandages, tubes and cables everywhere, it’s …” KC’s voice tipped over, he collapsed onto his arms on the table before him and sobbed in apparent desperation.
Heath cursed being a vampire more than ever before. If only he could access a goddamn hospital. How could he just sit here, while his soulmate was hurting so far away from him?!
“They … they said … told us … there is a chance … fifty percent that she won’t make it. OH GOD!!” KC labored the words out barely audible
Then, still fighting with regaining his composure, he gestured a goodbye and rushed out the door.
Heath managed to keep it together until after the door fell shut behind KC.
Getting through security had been barely a blur to KC.
He vaguely remembered walking to the gate, picking up a coffee to assure he wouldn’t fall asleep waiting for the boarding call.
He recalled sitting at the gate, waiting for his flight like a distant nightmare. The people seemed unreal, the place seemed surreal, everything just seemed to not be real. But it was. All too real.
The light of the rising sun above the skies hurt KC’s eyes, lack of sleep and the tears shed for his young wife and her uncertain future, but he had not the strength to pull down the little window shade.
The stress, lack of sleep, worry, the horror of replaying the same scene over and over in his head, torturing himself wondering if and how he could have stopped it all from happening in the first place, all that paralyzed him.
He was on the way back to Del Sol Valley, secretly wishing the plane would just crash and take him with it. If Evey really did not make it … the physicians all had painted a bleak picture, so even IF she made it, nobody knew if she would ever be her old self again. Even the specialists could not say yet if there was irreparable damage to her brain and spine. most of her bones were broken in several places, pierced organs, …
How could the beautiful time they had spent together suddenly and without so much as a warning turn into this pain and suffering just like that? His mind could not even fully grasp all the terrible things that were still going on, the only thing he could think about was that he could not bear the thought of losing her, and how helpless he currently felt. His life had never been simple or easy, it had made him strong, physically and emotionally and he could not recall a single time he cried before her accident.
Flashbacks of them as children, as teens, … the day he went to her home after he had broken out of jail … all the funny moments. Regret of every single unkind word and action, micro-analyzing every moment that he could have been nicer, every argument he could have prevented, guilt. Praying for one more chance to show her how much she really meant to him.
He knew her family was hurting as well. Close-knit as they were, the whole lot of them. Rhys, her uncle and father of Cameron insisted on paying for her treatment, the best available, since he felt guilty as it had been his son who caused it, even though he was in great pain as well.
Cameron had gone missing since that night.
Several traces had run cold.
Chances were that he was no longer alive.
Probably for the better.
While he knew it had been an accident, if Cameron ever crossed his path again, KC could not guarantee for anything.
Weeks had passed since that last exchange. KC was piling clothing into a suitcase on the dining room table at his home in Newcrest, watched by Heath, when he shook his head and asked
“Because I think I can help her. I know I can.”
“You keep those fangs away from her! You are NOT turning my wife!”
“Of course not. From the sounds of it, she is too weak for that anyway. But I can still help. I have been thinking – a LOT. And I think I have a solution …”
“Heath, I am not in the mood. Like I wrote in my text message to you, I just came home to pack some change of clothing and then I will be on my way back to Del Sol Valley. I’ll update you, in person, as promised, but I do not feel like arguing with you about this non-sense.”
“Wait! Please, hear me out. I can heal her. I think. I am almost certain. I am not just some average vampire …”
“Man, I am not a shrink and am not in the mood to listen to your confessions of weirdness. Right now, I literally could not care less about you and your vampire BS!”
“It’s not BS. OK, give me your finger, I can demonstrate. But I will have to cut you, briefly.”
“Screw that! My luck you’ll get all weird when you smell the blood and go nuts. I don’t have time for that shit.”
“Please, I am not a rabid shark. I do not ‘smell’ blood and go ‘nuts’. You don’t run after every cow you see and bite into it, do you? Do you want to help Evey or not? I am hope for all of us right now.”
KC let Heath take his finger, flinched when he cut it, it bled.
KC got angry, yelled at Heath, who just took the finger, put his hand over it, being a vampire his strength far outweighed any of KC’s attempts to struggle free, while Heath closed his eyes and was apparently focused. Seconds later he took the hand off, the bleeding had stopped and the wound was nearly gone.
“WHAT IN CHRIST’S NAME JUST HAPPENED HERE?!” KC stumbled away, staring at his finger, once more in pristine condition.
“I think I can do this on a larger scale, for something much more significant than basically a paper cut. I am almost certain I can heal Everleigh or at least help her get there faster. But I need to get to her. If you can help me with that, I can help her. Please. At least let me try. What have we to lose at this point? I am begging you, KC. She is not improving and from what you told me, the doctors are giving up. Sounds to me we do not have much of a choice, nor much time to dance around the decision.”
KC gave Heath a disgusted glare mixed with genuine shock, then his face softened and turned back to the usual expression of sorrow.
“I need to get on a flight that leaves and arrives in the dark and get to a hotel before the sun rises. The next night, I need to get to her. I cannot access hospitals, so you have to get her outside, somehow.”
“Outside? How the hell do you imagine I do that? She is in a fucking coma! There are more hoses and cables connected to her than there are in your average car. If I even dream of disconnecting one thing, alarms will scream, let alone I am no doctor and don’t know what it does to her.”
“You said you went onto a balcony to think. Is that balcony connected to her room?”
“It is but the cables …”
“KC, there is no other way. We HAVE TO try.”
“Fine. But if this stunt gets me banned from seeing her, I am still taking off your head.”
“Do what you have to. The part you are missing, KC, is that I am hurting too. You may have forgotten or not know how important Everleigh is to me. If she dies, I … ”
Heath stopped speaking and turned away.
“OK, fine, we’ll do it. I’ll see if I can change my flight and get us on the same one and into some hotel by the airport for a night. I have been staying with her uncle since I cannot possibly afford even the cheapest hotel for such a long time. I cannot stand looking at him, looks too much like his son, but I am never there anyway. Only problem is, her parents are with her almost all the time. We’d have to wait till both go eat something or whatever. They are never gone long, at least one is usually back soon. I have no clue how we are supposed to pull this off.”
“We could talk to Caleb Vatore, and have him come clean with them. May carry more weight than our plea …”
“But if he is against it, they all would know we may try it anyway and we can smoke this idea. I think this may be one of those cases where it is easier to beg for forgiveness than ask for permission.”
The plan did not seem to want to work. For days now, each night, as soon as it got dark, Heath would hang around the hospital, just waiting for an ‘all clear’ sign from KC. Twice KC almost got in trouble when he was finally alone with Evey, started moving the bed, and some nurse would come in without knocking, leaving him struggling for a good excuse. Then finally he had enough, jammed a chair against the door handle and pulled Evey in her bed, with all the machines attached as far as they would go towards the balcony, sliding half of the bed out.
“This will do. Why don’t you go and stand watch. Might be better, I have to … touch her.”
“Touch? What?! Where?”
“KC, relax. I swear the last thing on my mind right now is anything romantic with Evey. I want her healthy again just as much as you do. Also, it’s not like I do this healing stuff on a frequent basis. Just try and keep people away for at least 15 minutes – minimum!”
“OK, fine. For Evey.” KC did not like this at all, but left frowning after another look at Evey, then Heath before he pulled the chair away, left the room, closing the door behind himself standing guard in front of it on the other side.
A picturesque old church in the scenic landscape of the rolling hills and a late Autumn sprinkling golden sunshine and colorful leaves on everything.
The beautiful woman in the front pew was inconsolable.
Most of the females in attendance were crying hard, the men had expressions of sorrow engrained into their faces, as the preacher rambled on about a young life lost well before his time, a young man, who lost his ways.
The woman from the front now got up and ran outside, sobbing hard, one of the men noticed and followed.
“Here.” he said softly, handing her a tissue. She paused when she recognized the man through the veil of her tears, but took it.
“Sure. Let’s sit.”
“I am glad you came.”
“He was my son too.”
“Figured you’d think it would be stupid to have a funeral without a body. Presumed dead.” she swallowed hard, recalling that police decided not to spend any more resources on trying to find a young man with a gun and a guilty conscience who was addicted to pretty much everything known to mankind. To them, he probably died out in the desert and became fodder for vultures and other animals.
“No, I get it. Closure. Helps me too, I think. If for nothing else, then with all the guilt.”
“What would you have to be guilty about, Rhys?”
“The boy needed help, and I didn’t see it. Evey saw it, she did try to help and it nearly got her killed too, if she doesn’t end up dying after all, and all that is on my conscience.”
“Rhys, none of this is your fault! Cam was an adult. And I am to blame, for all of this. Had I only not …” she could not finish for pain and remorse.
“Why did you, Natalie? I thought you and I were a team? I thought you loved me. We were high school sweethearts … ”
“Really Rhys, now? At a church? During our son’s funeral?”
“Good a place as any. Makes it tougher to lie, too.”
“No lies. I tried to tell you the truth but you were so busy throwing me out.”
“Tell me now. Since we are here for closure, I’d like closure for this too. When did you stop loving me?”
“I never have, I still love you, Rhys, and ONLY you. It has only ever been you. Rosenstein was … I guess if you want to put it that way, I am part of the #MeToo movement. I was so young, so stupid. When my career did not want to take off, even when I pulled the ‘my dad is THE Liam Cameron’ card, I felt desperate, and when Rosenstein offered me that first big role I wanted it – bad! I was like a starving wolf and he was holding a steak. He put a condition with it. Sleep with him. So I did, thinking it would be once and done. But he videotaped us and used that to pressure me into doing it again. And again. For years. I was so ashamed. But I swear, our kids are yours. I always made sure nothing could happen with him and even had them tested – secretly.”
“You should have told me! That should have stopped! He needs to be held accountable! We did not need your income, and there is no shame in being a mother and wife, Natalie.”
“I know that now. I should have quit. And now, my entire life is in shambles, my son probably dead, you hate me, and Belle is …. lost – my career over anyway. It was all in vain and I lost what was always most important to me – you and our children. ” she jumped up to turn away and started crying.
Rhys followed and pulled her close.
Night had fallen. A lonely person was standing by the cliffs, overlooking the ocean and the lights of familiar houses in the distance.“Hello beautiful, come here often?” his quiet, soft voice sounded like lyrics to a song the perpetual breeze by the cliffs was playing.
“Oh, you startled me. Hi Rhys!”
“I missed you looking at me that way.” he smiled and their fingers touched as they stood close.
“What way?” she tried not to see something she wanted to see, but that had not been there for a long time.
“The way that makes me forget that you are a big movie star and the most beautiful woman I have ever seen, and I am just a nerd with a typewriter.”
He pulled her over to the bench and kissed her.
“Rhys, I am really vulnerable right now. Does this mean what I think it means? If not, we have to stop or I will lose my mind for certain.”
“I have never been clearer in my life. Before all this, I was just heartbroken, I was mad, but I never stopped missing you. Or loving you. So if all this had any good it was that it made me realize that life is not about who is wrong or right at any given time, it is about doing the right thing when it matters.”
“Wow, Rhys … I don’t know what to say. There is so much I want to say, but I do not even know where to begin ….”
“You do not need to say a thing. I have something to say. Something to make right. Get up, will you?”
She did, he pulled a small red rose from inside of his loose sleeve. Natalie cried.
“Rhys, I love you!” she sobbed, smiling.
“I love you too, Natty. I have a question for you … will you marry me? Again?”
He did not kneel but she nodded, then kissed him again.
“YES! Oh god yes. Rhys I missed you more than I can say.”
He whispered into her ear and they hurried back to her parents large estate on the cliffs, snuck up the stairs and into her old childhood room.
Both lived here now, Natalie had moved back here after the separation and Rhys and their daughter Isabelle just could no longer stand another moment in Del Sol Valley after all that had happened. This house was big enough that they could avoid each other and all they had separate, spacious rooms.
Within minutes both were in her old childhood room, unchanged since she moved out, even the old picture of her and Rhys as teens still on the wall, within seconds they were unclothed and reliving their honeymoon from over twenty years ago.
Laying next to each other afterwards, both smiling, happy to once more have felt the closeness both had missed since their terrible and sore breakup many months ago. Both jumped when his cell phone rang.
“Don’t answer it!” Natalie whispered but he had already dug it from the pocket of his jeans which lay bundled up on the floor, and pushed the ‘talk’ button.
His smile, vanished, became a shocked expression, his responses to the caller were mere yes and no replies as he paled.
“I understand. My wife and I will be there as soon as we can, next flight out, to identify him.”
“NO!” Natalie begged, then began sobbing hard.
“Natty, stop. You hear, stop and listen. NATTY!” he shook her when she did not react.
“They found a young man, injured and discombobulated, severely dehydrated and with memory loss, no phone or wallet on him, but he matches Cameron’s description. They want us to come out and identify him. Here, they just sent a picture. Hard to tell with how dirty and injured he is, but I think it’s him! He is alive, Natty. ALIVE! Our boy lives!”
“I am getting dressed!”
It happened too fast for KC to stop. The nurse had insisted he let her into Evey’s room, when he had run out of excuses he plainly told her no, causing her to get the doctor. Now two nurses and the doctor struggled with KC to get into the room, he lost and they all burst inside.
“What the hell!?” the doctor complained when they found Evey’s bed half way out on the balcony.
“She needed … ahem … air. She loves fresh air!” KC lied nervously.
“Get her back inside now, nurse! And you, Sir, I that was irresponsible at the very ..”
“DOCTOR!” one of the nurses called out, her voice alarmed, he let off KC and ran over.
“OH MY GOD!”
KC closed his eyes.
Many months had since passed yet again. Autumn had turned into Winter, Winterfest and New Year’s had come and gone, but nobody in the entire Cameron clan had felt up to celebrating any of it.
In the meantime, Spring had sprung and brought many changes with it, not just for Mother Nature.
The young man sheepishly stood up off the chair he had been waiting on, his eyes clear and firmly focused on one person. A girl. A pretty girl of slight build with beautiful, large green eyes which now met his. Her parents behind her pushing her wheelchair towards him now.
He stood still for a second until she almost reached him, a lump in his throat, which changed into tears of relief and joy mixed with a laugh when she stopped in front of him and smiled.
“So, no hug for the quasi-cripple?”
He crouched down and pulled her into an embrace, as careful as his joy would allow.
“I am so glad you are all right.” he told her, his eyes confirmed his words to be genuine.
“Likewise, although I kinda want to beat you up with my crutches. Yeah, I am working on getting my butt out of the wheelie, semi-successfully I’d say. But I am getting there. I’ll walk again … eventually.”
“Nobody would stop you from beating me. I deserve every bit of it. No permanent scars, I hope?”
“Nah, just have a lot of healing still to do.”
“My sweet baby cousin. I am so very sorry. For everything. I know what happened was my fault, is inexcusable, but hopefully one day you can fully forgive me.”
“Already done, you dork! I am glad you didn’t kill yourself.”
“Can’t take credit for that. I actually meant to, but passed out while I was pulling the trigger, made a mess, ended up with temporary amnesia – probably from the mix of drugs and alcohol – and lost hearing permanently in my right ear from the gun blast. My brain is not working the way it used to before all that, so I am going to have to live with someone to take care of me, cos I keep forgetting the simplest things every now and then. I am a mess. Deaf and dumb.”
“Gives me a great excuse to randomly yell at you that you are NOT dumb, Cam. I am glad you are here now, getting help and getting better. And you look great, cousin.”
“I love ya, Eve … and thank you, for everything.”
“What are you thanking me for? I didn’t get to do anything, because someone tried to bounce me around like a rubber ball before I got the chance to meddle.”
“Ouch. I deserve that. Well, you didn’t die, I didn’t die and you don’t hate me. Thanks for that.”
“I could never hate you, Cam. Maybe think you are an asshole sometimes, but not hate you.”
Cameron took her hands into his.
This was a rehab and recovery center for substance abuse and addiction. Cameron had requested to be checked into one and refused to leave until he was 100% certain he was okay. He had already put his house on the market and once he would be released from the center, he would leave the town and move back to Brindleton Bay to live with his grandparents, who had plenty of room. He barely minded the hearing aid, he purposely chose a bright color for it and kept his hair short these days, so he would be reminded of it every time he looked at himself in the mirror. He never wanted to forget what had happened to assure, it would never be repeated.
She was staring at the swaying trees outside, when she finally realized someone was trying to get her attention and the others were giggling.
“I think you came back to work way too early, Everleigh. I mean, if I were the daughter of the bossman, I’d be milking this not come back weeks before I am even supposed to. But if I came back, I wouldn’t stare holes into the walls without even trying to hide it.”
“I am grateful I still CAN go anywhere. For as long as I have been out, I thought I’d’ve forgotten everything already. Came pretty close, I think, having a super-hard time here.”
“You probably fell on your head, too.”
“She should be be fine then, with that hard noggin of hers.”
“Glad to know I was missed.”
“You were! We all got so tired of dancing naked on the table without the boss’ spy down here, good you are finally back to straighten us all out.”
Evey joined in with the laughter and stuck her tongue out. It was harmless teasing and she knew it. Plus, she was tired of people doting on her and trying to take everything out of her hands to do it for her. That may be fun sometimes, but not as a permanent status, especially not someone as deeply independent as Everleigh.
But it all had her thinking too. She had fought KC, her dad and mom to let her come back to work, and now that she was here, she felt out of place.
That evening she limped over to the small flower shop at the corner.
The casts and bandages were gone, as was the need for a wheelchair, but she still had a bit of a rough time when she had been on her feet for a longer time.
“EVEY!” Sam exclaimed, after seconds of staring at her like a mirage, she ran over.
“OMG – look at that baby belly! It’s gigantic! Sure that it’s only one in there?!”
“YES! Don’t you even jinx it. That one is already plenty for me. Oh, Evey, I heard you were back, but I didn’t want to impose. You didn’t go to work, did you?”
“I sure did!”
“You’re an idiot!”
“Thank you, KC slash mommy slash daddy slash all my co-workers …”
“We all have a good point, though! Just worry about you, sweetie!”
The young women hugged.
“Do you want to grab a bite to eat together? I cannot drive yet, obviously, but if you would …”
“Why don’t you come to my home and I’ll cook? I have so much to tell you and I want to hear every little detail about your drama!”
“KC!” Heath let him in, once more there was nobody else, which worried him.
“Relax, Heath, all is well with Barbie! I come in peace … and because I never get a minute to speak to you alone when she is around. Everything happened so quickly and all of a sudden and I never got to properly thank you, man. I don’t know what you did, but thank you. You got us Evey back. THANK YOU!” KC hugged Heath, who let it happen, then carefully pat his back.
“Sorry I had to ditch back there on that balcony, but … you know. I would have been even harder to explain.” Heath said.
“It’s all good. They were too distracted by finding Evey woke up and was healing right before their eyes in fast forward, that I would not be surprised if half the coma patients at that hospital are hanging half way out on the balconies of their rooms right now. Probably windows too.”
Both men laughed.
“I wish it would not drain me so very much or I would start that as a full time business, healing people.”
“Two edged sword there buddy. If the wrong people get wind of that skill, you would not have a prayer. I’d keep that to my damn self if I were you.”
“You are right. I spent a decade in human slavery back when Evey … first saved me. Long time ago, she was only 15 then. I am so glad I finally got to repay her in kind. A favor though, KC, if I may: could you keep that between us?”
“Absolutely. My lips are sealed. Well, except Evey. It may have come up already.”
“That’s fine, she knows about my … skill.”
“Of course she would. Look, I know we have never really seen eye to eye, and I also know a lot of that is because of me, and I know that what you did out there, you didn’t do it for me, but from the bottom of my heart, thank you Heath. I think you are actually a really all right guy, and maybe you and I can find some common ground after all and maybe we can occasionally hang out … without the girls, just … dude stuff, you know. If you wanted to, of course. If you are … uh .. too busy I’d understand.” It was obvious that saying all that made KC uncomfortable, he got up and started to head for the door, Heath following.
“Oh no, I am not busy at all … that would be …”
KC’s phone beeped.
“Ha, speaking of the devil. My lovely wife is out in Willow Creek and is requesting my chauffeur services.”
“Willow Creek? What is she doing out there? Shouldn’t she be at home, recovering?”
“Tell me about it. Your stubborn BFF went to work. Went over to Sam’s place for dinner afterwards. Sent a Selfie too, check this out.”
He showed Heath the screen and both chuckled over the purposely silly photo.
“Glad to see she still has her sense of humor. Are you okay with her working already?”
“Hell no, but have you met Evey? Not much I can do about that. We all tried, her dad, mom, grandparents. Stubborn as heck, that woman.”
“Would you mind awfully if I tagged along? I have something for Sam. A gift for her baby. Less conspicuous if I am one among friends, rather than if I were to go see her on my own.”
“Copy that. Let’s get!”
Samantha looked at the storefront, nervously playing with her hands. A lovely building. Elegant and different, like its owner. She had driven by at least a dozen times by now, today it was Saturday and she had decided to just walk on in. Many people went shopping on Saturdays, right?
She entered and did not see Paris, but was amazed by the shop. Usually antiques shops were just glorified permanent flea markets, offering just random old stuff for exuberant prices. One look and she could tell, these were real antiques, delicate and valuable. Beautiful furniture, delicate tea service, and a dress that caught her attention on a mannequin in a corner by the window. Golden, and stunning, the exact opposite to what Sam, the girly tomboy, would ever choose.
“It would look ravishing on you.” she heard the soft yet slightly smoky voice behind her and felt hot and cold when she turned around and looked into Paris stunning eyes. Paris looked like a model in some one-piece suit and might well go straight to the red carpet from here.
“Hi. Yeah, a little out of my price range, I am afraid.”
She gave her a mysterious smile then turned, clapped her hands and told the remaining customers that she was closing now.
Everyone obliged right away.
“Where are you going?”
“You said you were closing.”
“Not you, hun. Stay.”
“Ok.” Sam could get out before Paris pulled her close, her arm around her expanding waist.
Paris locked up, made tea and they sat right there on the showroom floor, on some antique and sinfully expensive furniture, talking and drinking the tea.
Afterwards, Sam got the tour, and thought she would have a heart attack when Paris took her hand while talking to her in her small office.
Paris spoke to her, encouraging words, the put her arm around her. Sam felt elated.
They parted ways soon after that, but would meet for lunch the next day.
Lunch had Sam’s tail in a spin. She felt valued, important and happy. Especially when they exchanged numbers and addresses. Finally!
They would meet again, the next day, for a stroll through downtown Windenburg.
“Hm?” she turned, trying to put some of her hair behind her ear, when Paris snapped at pic.
“Why did you do that, I am a mess!”
“You are beautiful.”
“Oh .. uh …”
Paris kissed her. Right there, out in the open.
Once she got her bearing about her, Sam realized that life went on as before, nobody even paid much attention. All normal. Huh. Except, she felt different. Like she mattered again. For the first time in a long time.
It did not take long until they became an official couple.
Sam had to realize that Paris was not your cookie cutter girlfriend. She had a gigantic apartment in the Art District downtown San Myshuno, which she shared with her ex-husband and adult daughter. At first that kind of arrangement was uncomfortable for Sam, and when she at some point asked Paris straight out if she still had feelings for her ex, she laughed then told her
“He is my daughter’s father, Sam.”
“I meant … romantically.”
“Sam, I am gay. I like him, I care about him, but I do not want him, not like that. I thought that was pretty obvious. If not, I guess I’ll have to try harder, hun.”
“Are we … really … is this real?”
“As real as you want it to be, beautiful.”
“I want this to be all real.”
“Then I say it is.”
The next day there was a delivery at her store, a package for Sam. When she wiped her hands on her apron to unwrap it she nearly fainted. In a box, wrapped carefully in tissue paper, the sinfully expensive golden dress from Paris’ store and a note
‘For my most beautiful queen.
Love, Paris XOXO’
“Ugh … can you at least try to come up with a new nickname at some point? Anyway, I have been thinking. And I came to a conclusion. I do not know how to say this without making you upset … ”
“Are you leaving me for Heath?”
“What? No. Huh?”
“Never mind. So what is it, babe?”
“I want to go on a vacation with you. A big one. Europe. For a month or so. Been thinking about it for a long while now, but while I was still stuck with those damn crutches I knew I didn’t even have to bring it up. Crutches are history now, so here goes.”
“Did you rob a bank on your lunch break?!”
“No. But my overprotective family ganged up on me, offering to gift both of us a cruise or trip of some sort, something relaxing to forget all about the rough months the two of us have had, and while daydreaming at work today I realized I may have been a bit too quick on the trigger with ripping them all new ones. I think I want to do that with you. Before you start, grea-gran Blaine was there too and already offered to take over for you again.”
“He worked for me the entire 5 months you were in the hospital in Del Sol Valley and a lot of my shifts after you were transferred here. I cannot have him cover again, I mean, he is my boss. Seems a bit greedy to have him pay me for the work he is doing, dontcha think? And I thought we said we did not want to take money from your family, want to do it all on our own?”
“I know, and we will do it all on our own again, but I need this KC. We need this. We were separated for so long, well, I know you were there all the time, but it wasn’t like we could do stuff together, me being in a coma and all. Truthfully, I feel like it changed me. I cannot put my finger on it, but I want a whole month with just you. Nobody else, just you and me. No family drama, no babysitting for Heath, who I am tremendously grateful to but still, … just us. Far away. See the world. Be a young couple and do what young couples do, experience different cultures, see cool stuff, sight-see, make awesome memories together. And maybe when we get home, we talk about becoming a family. Not right away of course, but sometime down the line, I could see us doing that. You know … since I was a little girl I wanted nothing more than to be like my daddy, a successful architect, all business, no play, and now that I am back at work I just do not like it that much anymore. My heart is just no longer in it. Josh is already having a much easier time with all this when he goes and helps daddy out after school, so much easier than I ever had with it, and daddy finally got him interested too. Got him all hot and bothered to study architecture after he graduates. EC Architects does not need TWO kids to continue that legacy. I might as well bow out and do something else and just help out when the going gets rough or something as a freelancer or so. There is something my heart is trying to tell me that I want more now …”
“Wow. OK. All right. Yeah. OK. Wow. Yowsa! That was a lot – and unexpected. But you know what? Let’s do it, girl! Bon frigging voyage to us! And when we come back, we’ll see how we feel about the rest. How’s that, babe?”
“YES!!!!” she jumped atop him smothering him with kisses.