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Devastated, Sam was sitting on a tree trunk. Shakira was laying in the grass in front of it and Liz sat down, next to the jungle woman.
Glaring darkly, Sam crossed her arms in front of her chest and grumbled, "I do not want to say goodbye to you."
The blonde smiled. "You don't have to say that. I want you to come with me."
"I cannot," Sam replied and shook her head sadly. "Who is going to take care of Shakira?"
Tears welled up in Liz' eyes and she turned away from the other woman.
"You want to go home to your family, right?" Sam whispered after a while.
The business woman nodded, sobbing. Carefully, she took one of her hands and held it between her own smaller ones. "Please Sam, come with me... I don't want to live without you."
Samantha was now crying too, but nodded.
Liz looked at her, still holding on tightly to her hand. "I know that it is a very hard decision for you. I feel such pain in my heart to see you suffer like this. If it would be my decision then we would take Shakira with us. I bet Taylor would be so excited." A brief smile flickered over her features when she imagined the expression on her little sister's face, if they would return with the panther. "But sadly we can't do that."
The wild cat had noticed the sad mood and cuddled up to Sam.
"No. Shakira belongs in the jungle, where she is free."
Liz gently stroked the cat's head, between her ears and the panther started to purr. "I'm going to miss you so very much, little pussycat."
Both women were crying openly as they patted and stroked Shakira's soft, black fur.
"Oh God, why do I have to make this decision?" Sam sobbed. "It's just not fair." She hugged Shakira to her chest, her whole body trembling and shaking from the force of her sobs.
Liz' heart was almost breaking and she gently caressed the brunette's back, trying to calm her down somewhat.
A few minutes later, Sam wiped away her tears and looked firmly into emerald eyes. "I want to go with you, " she declared.
Liz' heart skipped a beat. "Are you sure? I don't want to force you to do anything."
"I want to be with you," Sam assured her. "I want to have a family. I was alone for a very long time. Then you came and now... now... I can't be alone anymore..."
The blonde reached out and gently stroked her cheek. "You will never ever be alone again. I promise you that."
While Alexander was waiting for the return of his fiancée, he talked via cell phone with the manager of a luxury hotel on a neighboring island. "Alright, I'm taking the Wedding Suite after all. Fortunately, I was able to find my fiancée."
"Oh, now that is really wonderful news. Congratulations, Mr. Parker," the manager gushed.
"Yes, I think so too. Could you prepare everything for a romantic evening for me and her? You know, candles, flowers, champagne and all the other romantic stuff."
"Oh, but of course, Mr. Parker."
"Good... oh yeah, I nearly forgot..." Actually, he didn't want to mention it, but he knew that wouldn't go over too well with Liz. For right now, he didn't want any trouble with her. Alex sighed. "I need a room for another guest."
"I'm very sorry, Sir. Unfortunately we are booked completely and there is not one room left."
"Come on, now. There has to be a way. It wouldn't need too much comfort."
"I will see what I can do."
Alex was glad. "Great. I'm sure whatever you can find will be fine."
"Wonderful. I will see you soon, Mr. Parker."
"Yeah, until later." Alex had barely hung up when he discovered Liz, who was walking towards him. "There you are. Can we finally leave here? This wet heat is going to drive me crazy. Besides, I really need to go and see a doctor because I'm hurting all over." He took a look around. "Where is the jungle savage?"
Liz scowled at him. "Stop calling her that! Her name is Samantha."
Alex rolled his eyes and exhaled sharply. "Fine, where is Samantha?" He stressed the name.
"She'll be here in a minute. She is just getting something from the tree house."
"I hope she will hurry. I need something cold to drink!" the man grumbled.
"Give her a little time. She needs to say goodbye."
He snorted. "Oh does she? To whom? Here is nothing but plants and bugs!"
Liz was starting to get annoyed by his behavior. "You just can't understand. She has spent all her life here on this island!"
Alexander sighed. It was definitely time for a little sweet talk. "You are right. Please, excuse my impatience. All I want is to go back home as soon as possible." He drew her in a hug. "Oh Lizzy. I missed you so much, my sweetheart. We all thought we would never see you again."
"I know. If Sam wouldn't have found me, who knows... dear God, I better not think about that."
"Now everything is going to be okay," he promised and gave her a tender squeeze. Then he held her away from his body and looked her up and down. "You are as beautiful as ever."
Liz blushed brightly due to the scrutiny.
"You know, even though I find your jungle outfit extremely sexy," Alexander said, leering, "I do believe you should change into something else." He gave her a bundle of clothes. "Here. I brought you this from home and I'm sure you will feel very comfortable in that."
Liz took the bundle and retreated behind some bushes to change clothes.
Sam had gotten her name bracelet from the tree house. Now, she was sitting in the grass and gently stroking Shakira, who's head was laying on her lap. "Our ways will part now, Shakira. But, I will not say goodbye, because I know that one day, we will see each other again."
The panther started purring and rubbed her head against Sam's cheek.
Big tears were flowing once more from bright, blue eyes. Sam took Shakira's head between her hands and looked deeply into her amber colored eyes. "I will never forget you, never. You will always be in my heart." She placed a gentle kiss on the wildcat's nose. "Take good care of yourself, my sweet one. And now, go."
Sam rose and gave one final, loving caress to the panther's head. "I love you."
Shakira rubbed her head against her favorite human's leg once more and then disappeared into the thick undergrowth of the jungle.
Sam watched her companion of 10 years leave, unshed tears sparkling in the corners of her eyes. After a moment, she wiped them away and sniffled. "A new life is about to start now. My new life with Liz." She felt a warmth spread through her with that thought and a small smile appeared on her features.
Victoria sat on the hospital bed, her fingers fumbling nervously at the hem of her silky blouse, while the doctor removed the dressing on her cheek. "That looks good. The wound is healing up nicely. I will take out the stitches now. It might tweak a bit but I will do it as painless as possible," the doctor told her.
"Thanks a lot," Victoria replied, sarcastically.
After a while the man had finished his work. "Okay, that was it."
"How is it looking? Is there still something to be seen? I want a mirror right away!"
The doctor gave her a mirror and she practically tore it out of his hands and gazed at her reflection. "Oh my God!" she exclaimed in shock. "I'm looking like the failed experiment of Dr. Frankenstein!"
"Don't exaggerate. It isn't that bad," the doctor tried to calm her.
"You have no idea what you are talking about!" Vicky continued to rave. "I have a scar right there in the middle of my face!"
"It's barely visible and it will fade even more with time..."
"I am a top model, god damn it! I can't be on any catwalk of the world looking like this! DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT!!!" she screeched.
"I'm really sorry, but there is nothing more I can do. You'll have to accept it."
She scowled at him, her eyes turning to tiny slits. "Does that mean I'm supposed to walk around like this for the rest of my life?"
The doctor nodded. "The sooner you come to terms with it the better."
"I will sue you and the whole hospital!" Vicky declared, outraged. "You have messed up my face!"
"Do what you want, you know that it is not true."
Victoria jumped off the bed, grabbed her hand bag and stormed to the door. "You will hear from my lawyer! You can bet on that!" With that she hurried out of the room.
The doctor sighed. "Oh man. Hopefully my other patients are in a better mood today."
Alexander, Elizabeth and Samantha had barely managed to enter the hotel as the manager came racing towards them. He was smiling widely and grabbed Alex' hand, shaking it firmly. "Mr. Parker, there you are. How nice to see you again." Then he turned to Liz. "Oh, and you must be Ms. Elizabeth Stuart, the lovely fiancée of Mr. Parker, right?"
The blonde blushed and smiled bashfully, while shaking his big, meaty hand. "Uh..."
Sam, who was wearing a T-shirt and flowery shorts from Alex, caught the eye of the manager next. He gave her appearance a disparaging look. "I guess you are the guest that needs a room too."
"That's right," Alexander chimed in quickly.
Liz looked at him in confusion. "Wait a minute. What do you mean?"
"We have our room and she..." he pointed his thumb in Sam's direction, "... has her own room. Everything has been prepared and we can celebrate our reunion, undisturbed."
"No Alex, that's impossible. There is no way that I can leave Sam alone."
He sighed in resignation.
"Is there a problem?" the hotel manager wanted to know.
"No, everything is just fine," Alex answered and turned to Liz. "Alright. You really want to share the room with her?"
Liz looked at him imploring. "I can't leave her alone. These surroundings are completely foreign to her, you have to understand that. She doesn't know anything but the jungle in which she grew up."
While Alexander and Liz were having their discussion, Sam discovered the big, golden bell on the counter and pressed on it. Everybody present jerked in surprise as the loud 'BING' rang out. Samantha was the first, who got her composure back and she slapped her hand on the bell again and again.
The hotel manager got annoyed. "Ma'am! Would you please stop that?"
Alexander was very embarrassed and Liz had a hard time to keep from grinning, because she thought it was very cute. The dark-haired man cleared his throat and turned to the manager. "Sir, would you please show the ladies to the suite and me to my quarters?"
The hotel manager's eyebrows rose in surprise. "Are you serious?"
"Am I stuttering or do I look as if I'm joking?" Alex groused.
"As you wish, Mr. Parker." He snapped his fingers and one of the bellhops accompanied Alex to his quarters.
Liz took Sam's hand and the women followed the hotel manager to the 'Wedding Suite'.
Barking happily, the black poodle puppy Nepomuk was jumping after a colored ball. Catherine looked on, smiling. "Wonderful, what a good boy you are. Yes, get the ball, my sweet. Get the ball."
Nicodemus, who had been sleeping, suddenly raised his head and then raced barking to the entrance door.
Catherine looked at her watch. "Oh, that must be Vicky. Hopefully her doctor's appointment went well."
These words had just left her mouth as the model called whining from the hall, "Mooooooommy? Are you there?"
"In the living room, my dear."
Vicky entered and Catherine looked up. She saw the red-rimmed eyes of her daughter and jumped off the couch to pull her into her arms. "My darling, what happened?"
"Oh Mooooooooooooommyyyyyyyyy! I have a scar and it will stay! I will never be able to work as a model again! I will be ugly and disfigured for the rest of my life!"
Catherine sat down with her on the couch and started to rock her a bit. "Awww, my precious. I'm so sorry. Is it really that bad? Let me have a look at it."
Victoria turned her face so that her mother could see the pale pink, one inch long line on her cheek. "Dear, don't you think you will be able to hide it with some make-up?"
The model shook her head wildly in denial. "I will never step on a catwalk ever again! I'm deadly serious!" She crossed her arms in front of her chest.
"Alright, if you don't want to then you don't have to," Catherine said. "How would you like working in our movie company?"
"Doing what? Being the newest character in one of our monster movies?"
"Victoria! This really isn't the time to get sarcastic! The world is not going down just because you have a tiny scar on your face!"
Poking out her lower lip, the model apologized. "I'm sorry, Mommy."
"Now, listen first to my suggestion and then think about it, alright?"
Vicky sighed but relented. "Okay."
The 'Wedding Suite' was huge and comfortable. Big doors parted the living room from the bedroom and the bathroom. The doctor that had examined Sam had just left. The brunette's wounds were healing nicely. Still, the doctor thought she should take great care and not do too much with her bruised ribs.
Liz was going through the bar. "Look at that. They have every kind of alcohol you could think of." In the little fridge she found a bowl with soft candy, chocolates and different kinds of other sweets." A big smile appeared on her features and she called out, "I think I just found paradise."
Sam came to her and saw what Liz had found. "What's that?"
"You mean 'that'?" the blonde asked, unwrapping a piece of chocolate and putting it into Sam's mouth. "How do you like it?"
Sam chewed carefully and her eyes widened as the taste filled her mouth. "It's delicious. What is it?"
Liz grinned. "That's the stuff dreams are made of. It's called chocolate."
"Do you have that at home too?" Sam wanted to know.
"Of course, lots of it."
Sam smiled, unwrapped another piece of chocolate and put it between Liz' lips. The blonde closed her eyes and moaned in satisfaction. "Ohhhhh, how much I missed that."
Somebody knocked at their door.
Liz gave the bowl to Sam and got up to open.
The widely beaming face of Alexander greeted her and he entered. "So, my sweetheart? How do you like the room?"
"Oh, it's great."
His eyes fell on Sam, who was busily tasting her way through the sweets. "Actually, I wanted to spend a romantic evening with you, just the two of us..."
"I explained it to you," Liz interrupted him. "I can't leave Samantha alone."
His upper lip twitched in annoyance. "Talking of Samantha... we have to talk too."
"Does that have to be now?"
"Yes," he replied firmly.
Meanwhile, Sam had stepped protectively in front of the blonde. She didn't like Alexander's tone at all.
"I want to talk alone with my fiancée, if you please!" he demanded, glaring darkly at her.
Sam stared at him and a low, threatening rumbling noise, kind of like a growl, escaped her throat.
Unconsciously, Alex retreated one step.
"It's okay Sam, it really is." Liz took her hand and led her into the bedroom. "Don't be afraid. It's not going to take long and I'll be back with you."
Sam nodded, but only reluctantly she let go of Liz' hand.
The blonde left and closed the door, while Sam sat down on the floor, holding on to the candy bowl. She didn't like it at all that Liz would be alone with the man, who had wanted to kill Shakira.
The voices from the living room rose in volume and Sam whispered into the silence of the bedroom, "He will regret it if he hurts her."
Catherine and Victoria were still sitting on the couch. "So, my dear. If you really don't want to work as model anymore, I think it would be great if you work in the movie company. Talking with customers. I really think you would like that."
Vicky rolled her eyes. "But Mommy, they won't look at me. They will just stare at this huge scar on my face!"
"I really can't understand why you are making such a fuss. You saved Sara's life. Who knows how that could have ended if you wouldn't have been so brave."
The blonde snorted in disdain. "Yeah, and what good did it do me? Because of that crazy girl I have to give up the greatest job!"
"Victoria!" her mother thundered. "I will pretend I didn't hear that comment."
"But it's the truth!" she whined.
"My dear, you know that it's solely the fault of that damn Christopher Stuart. And now, I don't want to hear anything about that anymore."
"I said it's enough! Please, think about it if you would like to start working at the movie company."
"Fine," Vicky hissed acidly, rose and stomped off to her room, closing the door behind her with a loud bang.
Catherine shook her head softly and mumbled to herself, "Stubborn, just like your father."
Alexander had poured himself a whiskey and sat down in one of the big, overstuffed, white armchairs as Liz returned to join him. "You wanted to talk? About what?"
"I think that's quite obvious. It's about your new friend."
Liz crossed her arms in front of her chest. "What about her?"
"You're seriously intending to take her back with you to L.A.?"
"Yes, I told you that before."
"Do you have any idea how hard it will be to get visa for her? Not to mention to make her a citizen?"
Liz shook her head. "I don't see any problem at all."
His eyebrows rose. "Now that's interesting. Where will she live? Where will she work?"
"She will live in my house with me and my siblings and I'll hire her as my personal bodyguard."
Alex shook his head. "I really can't believe this!"
"Where exactly is your problem, Alex?"
"Oh, I can tell you that! My problem is the savage that you picked up in the jungle!" He brandished his bandaged hand in front of her nose and then pointed at his face where the scratches were clearly visible now. "Look at what she did to me! She broke my hand and clawed at my face like a wild beast! And still you are seriously thinking about taking her home with you?"
"Alex, you have no idea whatsoever what I have been through! If Samantha wouldn't have found me after the plane crashed, I would be dead by now!"
"But she is an uncivilized brute! Just a moment ago she was growling at me. It seems she cannot even speak our language!"
"Yes, she can! She just doesn't want to talk to you," Liz pointed out. "I'm really fed up having to discuss everything with you. Sam is the way she is and she will come home with me. You can accept that or not, but that is how it's going to be!"
Alexander looked at her flabbergasted. Never before had his girlfriend dared to talk back like that. "Fine, when you have come back to your senses let me know. Have a great evening with your Jungle Jane!" He grumbled some more to himself that Liz thankfully couldn't understand and then he left.
Liz took a deep breath and let it out slowly to calm herself. "Idiot!"
In the meantime, Sam had started to have a closer look at her new surroundings. The big bed, which bore a lot of silk-covered pillows, made weird, gurgling noises as she sat down on it. She bobbed up and down a bit. "These sounds are really weird." Sam crawled to the middle and lay down, stretching out her arms and legs. "But it is very comfortable. The pillows are so soft and smell so good." She looked up and discovered the big mirror on the ceiling, that hung right above the bed. Thinking about it, she just shrugged her shoulders because it didn't make much sense to her.
She rose and went into the bathroom. Almost everything was white and the golden faucets and showerhead had been polished to a shine. Sam examined and checked out everything.
She made a few faces in front of the mirror until she discovered the white porcelain bowl. The lid was open. Sam gazed inside. "Hmm, a hole with water... I wonder... could it be a spring?" She found a button that said 'press' and she did just that. A roaring gush of water rushed into the bowl to replace the water that had just been flushed away. Sam was keen on that and pressed the button again and again until it took a while for more water to come. She was so engrossed in this phenomenon that she didn't realize that Liz had joined her.
"Hey Sam, what are you doing?" she asked, smiling.
Sam grinned broadly. "I found the little waterfall!"
Liz laughed. "No, no, no. That's called a toilet."
The brunette wrinkled her forehead. "What is it for?"
"Well you sit down on it when nature calls."
Liz blushed. "You know... when you have to go to the bushes. And after you're done you press the button to flush it away"
"Oh... okay. So that means it is not a spring to drink from?"
"For heaven's sake, no! Did you drink from it?" the blonde felt her heart pounding wildly in concern.
Sam shook her head.
Liz held a hand to her chest and exhaled sharply in relief. "Good. Because you can get very sick if you would have done that. Come on, let's go back to the living room. I will show you something very amazing."
Sam hesitated and looked at her, clearly uncomfortable.
"Is the man gone?"
"Don't worry, Alex is gone," Liz confirmed.
Sam took Liz' hand and guided her back to the bedroom. "There is something wrong with the bed," she announced to the stunned blonde.
"It makes weird noises when you sit down on it."
The business woman sat down and realized what Sam meant. "That's a waterbed."
The brunette frowned once more in confusion. "There is water in the bed? Isn't it going to get wet?"
Liz smiled. She thought it was very cute how Sam was discovering bit by bit her new surroundings. "No. The water is in the mattress and as long as nobody is poking holes in it with pointy objects than the bed is not getting wet."
"Ah. And what is this for?" She pointed at the ceiling.
Liz gaze followed Sam's arm and found the huge mirror. Blushing a glowing red, she explained embarrassed, "Oh that... that is... oh well... well, basically it is completely unimportant. Come with me and I'll show something far more interesting."
Sam was satisfied with that answer and followed the small woman to the living room.
Liz showed her a black box with a gray front surface. "That is a TV. I just press down on this little button and ... WHAM..."
Sam jerked in surprise as suddenly bright, flashing lights in all colors and sounds came from the box. She looked at it and said in an awe-filled voice, "A magic box."
Alex sat on the camp bed in the very tiny quarters. "God, this is sooooo below my dignity!" he raved. "I bet when I'm home, my face will be covered in pimples! I also probably get herpes, I can already feel the corners of my lips tingle! The only thing missing are cockroaches or other nasty bugs jumping around in here! Right now, I could sit with my fiancée and relish a nice candlelight dinner, but no! I'm sitting in this hole while Liz is amusing herself with that jungle bitch!"
He took a few deep breaths, trying to get over his frustrations. "Well, at least I've got a TV and a telephone."
He decided to call his mother. "Hi Mom, it's me."
"Oh, Alex! It's great to hear from you. Is there any news? Have you finally found Lizzy?"
"Yes, I did find her," he confirmed, matter-of-factly.
"Fantastic," his mother exclaimed. "When are you coming home?"
"We will fly off tomorrow midday. I will call you again tomorrow and tell you when exactly we will arrive in L.A. ."
"What's wrong, my son?" Catherine asked. She could hear from his dejected voice that something was up. "You sound so unhappy. Is everything alright?"
Alex sighed. "Yes, everything is fine."
"Oh come on, I'm your mother and I can tell that there's something bothering you. You can tell me, you know that."
"Alright. I'm sitting here in some small storage room where somebody put a camp bed in for me to sleep on. My lovely fiancée though is living in the 'Wedding Suite' together with an uncivilized savage."
"WHAT???" Catherine was shocked and confused at once.
"Oh, but the best thing is yet to come. Liz is being stubborn and she really wants to take the jungle savage home with her."
"Have you talked with her about it?"
"At least I tried, but she is not listening to me at all."
They discussed the situation for a long time.
"Listen , my dear. We will see what's going to happen as soon as you are home."
"Okay, Mom. Till then."
"Until then, my son. Don't worry. I'm sure Liz is only taking care of this Sam because she thinks she owes her that."
"Okay, Mom. You are probably right. Bye." He hung up and switched on the TV. "Let's see if there is anything good on. Oh no, that can't be. That fucking thing doesn't have cable!" He only had 3 channels that worked, but on one of them they showed music videos. "Oh, what do we have here. Ooooooh, sexy! Well, at least one almost naked blonde is dancing through my room tonight. Even though I would like her much better in my arms and wrapped around me." He laughed and took a big swallow from his cold beer bottle.
Liz looked smiling at Sam, who was completely enraptured by the TV, watching cartoons. 'She is like a child. So innocent and pure. Absolutely amazing.'
Samantha laughed about the cartoon characters and then turned around to Liz. "Do you have that at home too?"
"Oh yeah, you can bet on that," the blonde confirmed. "I think Taylor would die if there wouldn't be cartoons and animated movies."
"Your sister likes that?"
Liz grinned. "She absolutely loves it."
The brunette smiled. "I guess then I will get along with her well."
"I think so too."
Sam turned back to the TV while the blonde grabbed the telephone to call home. She punched in the number. Her heart was pounding out of control while she waited for somebody on the other end to pick up.
"Hey, big brother. It's me, Liz."
For a moment there was silence until Chris had gotten his composure back. "Liz! Thank you, God! You really are alive. I still can't believe it. Oh please, please, don't let this be a dream."
"Believe me, I'm feeling the same," she replied. "It is so good to hear your voice."
"When are you coming home?"
"We will fly out of here around lunch time and sometime the day after tomorrow we will land in L.A. ," Liz explained.
"We?" Christopher asked, puzzled. "Who is 'we'?"
"Alexander, Samantha and I."
"Alex is with you?"
"Yes. I'm sure it took a lot of efforts, especially money wise, but he never gave up and found me."
"Very interesting," Christopher said, but it didn't sound like he meant it. Over the phone though Liz couldn't see the frown on his face. "Who is Samantha?"
"The angel that rescued me. She found me after the plane crashed. I'm telling you, without her I wouldn't have survived even one day in the jungle."
"Oh my goodness, if I imagine what you've been through..."
"No Chris. Please, don't do that. I'm fine now and everything is going to be okay. Tell me, what's been going on at home?" Liz asked instead, hoping to steer her brother away from any dark thoughts.
"Karen is taking care of everything in the company. You will be amazed at how much she got accomplished."
"That's great. How is Taylor? Could you give her the phone? I'd like to talk with her."
Chris hated having to disappoint her, but there was no way around. "I would if I could, but she is still not back from her training session."
"Oh, okay. When she gets back then please give her a hug and a kiss from me and tell her that I love her, okay?"
"Of course, I will do that. She is going to freak in happiness." Chris couldn't suppress a chuckle because he was picturing in his mind how that was going to look like. "You know, she never gave up hope that eventually we would find you again. She's been working on something with Jack and his buddy Peter. They came up with a plan right out of an agent-thriller."
Liz laughed, "Yeah, I can see that."
Chris became quiet as another thought rose. "There also was a time when I thought that I did not only lose you, but her too. It was nearly like after Dad's death."
"Oh no," Liz responded in dismay.
"Don't worry though, she is back to herself. Everything is okay."
The blonde exhaled in relief. "Good, I'm glad."
"And now, please tell me what's been going on with you."
"Oh, I wouldn't know where to start."
"I think the best would be to start with Samantha. This has to be one very impressive person."
Liz smiled and looked at the woman, who was still engrossed in cartoons and didn't notice what was going on around her.
Jonathan returned home from another busy day at the office. "Catherine? Are you home? I'm back," he called from the hall.
Nicodemus and Nepomuk were prancing happily around his feet and then finally the red-haired woman stepped out of the living room. "Oh, there you are." She hugged him. "I have some really great news."
His eyebrows rose. "Really? What's up?"
"Alex found Lizzy!"
Jonathan's eyes widened. "Seriously?"
"Yes! This is so wonderful. The day after tomorrow both of them will finally be home," his wife gushed.
"You are right," Jonathan agreed, "that's some great news. Hey, maybe we should have a celebration? A little welcoming home party?"
Catherine smiled widely. "Oh, I do like that idea."
He nodded. "Good. It's not long until then, so I guess I better get started with the preparations." With that he disappeared into his study.
Catherine returned to the living room and sat down on the couch. Lost in thought, she stroked her dogs. "Soon the wedding preparations can start too and after that this whole nightmare is over and the Stuart's company will finally be mine. All I need to find out now is what secret my dear husband is hiding from me. And also what's up with this weird Samantha that Alex mentioned? I really have to look into that."
Incessantly, the telephone was ringing in the darkness. William almost fell out of bed and stumbled to it, picking up the receiver. "Hello?" he croaked in a voice rough from sleeping.
"Hey, Uncle Will," Chris' happy voice sounded
"Christopher. Do you have any idea how late it is?"
"I know, I know, it's the middle of the night in Scotland. I really am sorry for waking you, but I've got important news," the artist responded.
"Is everything okay at your end?"
"Are you sitting?"
William wrinkled his forehead. "No. I'm standing, but what does that have to do with anything?"
"It's better to sit down because this news sure will make you drop." Chris replied. He sounded very excited about something.
"Okay, alright, I'm sitting. Now stop this nonsense and tell me finally what's up."
The blonde man took a deep breath and then blurted, "We found Liz!"
William blinked dumbfounded. "What?"
"Yes, you heard me correctly. The day after tomorrow, Liz will be back home!"
His mouth opened and closed a few times, until William finally managed to say, "That... that is... that is absolutely fantastic! Hey, how about I'm coming for a visit next week?"
"Can't you come sooner?"
"No Chris, I'm sorry. I need to find somebody first that will take care of the bar while I'm gone. Remember, last time that guy I had nearly caused a disaster."
The artist sighed a bit disappointed. "Okay, we will see each other then sometime next week."
"Yes, I'll be looking forward to it."
"Me too. Good night, Uncle Will."
"Good night, Chris." He hung up. "Finally the family is reunited and all the chaos will come to an end. But how is Liz going to react when she finds out that Chris is now married?"
Samantha was sitting in the huge tub, surrounded by nicely smelling mountains of foam. The yellow rubber duck had her attention for the moment, because she thought it was very cute. She looked up and discovered Liz, who was leaning against the door's frame. "Hey!" Sam greeted her happily.
Liz walked towards her and knelt in front of the tub. "Hey you. Don't you think it's time for you to come out? You've been in here nearly an hour." She let one hand slide inside the water to test its temperature. "Oh, that water is cold and I bet your skin has already turned all wrinkled."
Sam looked at her hands. "You are right about the skin, but the cold water doesn't bother me."
Liz laughed at that reply. "Yeah right, that's because you are used to always bathing in that awfully cold springs and lakes." The blonde went to the sink to brush her teeth. "If you want, you can stay in the tub a while longer. I just don't want you to swim out too far."
Sam chuckled. "I don't believe that's possible in here. I do think I should get out though."
Liz was putting some toothpaste on her toothbrush, looked up and froze.
Sam was standing there in the tub, just as the creator had made her.
Quickly, the blonde averted her eyes, but the view of this beautiful, athletic body had been burnt into her memory.
Sam climbed out of the tub, took the big towel off the toilet lid and started to dry herself.
Unconsciously, Liz' eyes darted again and again to the mirror to catch a glimpse of the brunette's body. 'Just what is wrong with me?' she thought to herself. 'I'm acting as if I have never seen a naked woman before. But she is so very beautiful... these muscles... and still so very feminine...'
Sam had put on a T-shirt and a pair of silky boxer shorts, of course, both of it borrowed from Alexander. "I will go to the other room to see if there is another cartoon on."
"Okay, I'll be with you in a second," the blonde told her. As soon as Sam was out of the room, she had to take a few deep breaths to calm herself.
Taylor came home from another training session. She was greeted by Tasilo in his usual stormy way. "Hey, my sweet. It's okay," she said and bent down to stroke his head.
In the next moment, Christopher jumped out from behind the door, grabbed her, lifted her and placed a big kiss on her cheek.
"Wow, now this is a greeting," Taylor commented, chuckling. "Did something happen?"
"Yes, one could say that. Jack just called. If you want to you can visit him tomorrow at work."
"That's great," the teenager beamed happily. "Then we can discuss how we get Liz back from Vanuatu."
The artist grinned. "Nope, that's already been taken care of."
"What? Why?" Taylor asked in confusion.
"Because Liz called."
"Seriously? She called? Here, at home?"
He nodded. "Yes. And the day after tomorrow she will be with us again."
The girl hugged her brother. "That is so cool! Oh, I'm so happy! How is she? What did she say?"
"Oh, she is fine so far." Chris cleared his throat. "There is just one thing you are not going to like."
Her brother hesitated a few more seconds and then blurted, "Alexander Parker found Liz."
Taylor's face darkened. "WHAAAAT? Why does it have to be that a... I mean why does it have to be that guy?"
"I don't know. But now we owe him at least a thank you."
The teenager snorted and crossed her arms in front of her chest. "Never in my life will I say thank you to him!"
"I know. I don't like it either but I guess it has to be like that."
"Oh yeah, I can already picture his arrogant face and then he will start sweet talking, going like, 'Hey Stuarts, I brought you back your sister and to show how grateful you are for that, I would like to have your movie company for my mother.'."
Chris had to laugh about Taylor's imitation of Alex.
"He can forget about that. Do you think Liz could throw him out of the plane on her way home?"
"Oh yeah, sweetie. You would like that, wouldn't you? Joking aside, Liz is going to bring someone home with her."
"Samantha Fox, the singer?" Taylor asked wide-eyed.
Chris chuckled. "No. It seems that Liz met some kind of female Tarzan while she was lost in the jungle."
"She will live with us."
Another thought popped into Taylor's mind and she asked, "Did you tell Liz about our other 'roommate'?"
Chris slapped his forehead. "Ah shit! I completely forgot about that with all the excitement going on."
The girl shrugged her shoulders. "Doesn't matter. She will get to know Norman sooner or later. I wonder how this Samantha will be. I think we are going to have lots of fun in this house now."
Restlessly, Sam was tossing and turning on the king-sized bed. It was in the middle of the night but she was unable to sleep. In her mind the thoughts were whirling and tumbling and she just wasn't able to relax.
"Sam? Is something wrong?" Liz asked, concerned.
"I can't sleep."
The blonde was wide awake now. "Is it because of your ribs? Are you in pain?"
"A little bit, but that's not it," Sam replied in a small voice.
"Hey, come here." She pulled Sam into her arms and placed the brunette's head on her chest so that Sam's head was resting directly above her heart, while she tenderly stroked her back. "You miss Shakira, huh?"
"Yes. She is all alone now. But, I know she'll be fine without me."
Silence fell and Liz thought that Sam had finally found access to her dreamscape.
"I'm scared, Liz. I am horribly scared," Sam finally admitted.
"What about my family?"
Sam took a deep breath and exhaled sharply. "What if... what if they will think about me like Alexander does?"
Liz closed her eyes as she felt a painful tug at her heart. "You heard what Alex said?"
"He wasn't exactly keeping his voice down."
The blonde hugged Sam tighter to her body. "Everything he said is not true. You, Chris, Taylor and I are going to be a family, no matter what anybody thinks or says, even if it is Alexander Parker. I hope he'll come back to his senses soon. His behavior today was really impossible. He doesn't even know you but judges you already. I promise, it's going to be okay. And now, please, try to sleep. Soon we will be flying home and you are going to have a real family."
Sam smiled in the dark. "A family..."
"Yes, where you will find love and safety. You will never be alone again."
"Never alone..." Sam mumbled drowsily. Liz' backrub was doing the trick and relaxed her. Her eyelids were growing heavy. "Never... alone... again..."
"Shhhhhh... go to sleep... everything is going to be okay. I promise."
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