FIUR and VLAMME
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Liz was in the kitchen, cutting the flower's stems before putting them into a vase.
Jack went to her, glancing around questioningly. "So? Tell me, where is the mysterious Samantha?"
The blonde grinned, took Jack's arm and dragged him along. They stopped in front of the patio door and Liz motioned to him to have a look in the garden, where Sam was still lying, asleep and holding on tightly to her huge, stuffed toy.
Jack's eyebrows rose in astonishment. "That's her?"
"Yes," Liz nodded. "Why are you so surprised?"
A bit embarrassed, he rubbed his neck. "To tell you the truth, I was expecting something completely different."
"I don't understand what you mean."
"Well, according to Alexander you brought some wild jungle savage with you, but I think she looks quite normal."
Liz sighed. "I really don't know what kind of problem Alex has with her."
"Maybe he sees her as a rival," Jack said matter-of-factly.
She frowned. "Why?"
"He was in my office today, crying and whining my ears off, complaining that you are only spending time with her."
"That's true, because these are strange surroundings for her. I need to help her to get along. Alex told me that he understands."
Jack made a dismissing hand motion. "I bet he just needs some more attention and have his ego stroked or whatever."
Liz didn't have time to answer, because Norman called them to come eat.
"Finally, it's about time. I'm starving."
She laughed. "Go ahead. I'll wake Sam and then we will join you."
"Okay." Jack went to the living room and Liz entered the garden.
She walked to the sleeping brunette and knelt down in the soft grass beside her. Reaching out her hand, she tenderly stroked her cheek. "Hey Sam. Wakey-wakey, sleepy head."
Two bright, blue eyes slowly opened and found the emerald colored ones, hovering above her. Sam smiled and whispered, "Hi."
Liz felt her heart warm and returned the smile. "Hey. Did you have a nice nap?"
The sound that came from Sam's throat sounded like the purr of a very content cat.
"How about something to eat? Are you hungry?"
Right that instant Samantha's tummy roared, voicing its neglect like never before. Both women were laughing. "Okay, I think that answers my question," Liz said and helped Sam rise. The brunette reached for her cuddly toy and took that with her. Hand in hand, they returned to the house.
"Liz? Can I ask you something?"
"You know that you can ask me anything."
"I don't want to sleep in the tree house tonight..." Sam began in a small voice.
Liz was a bit puzzled. "But yesterday you wanted to be alone."
"I know, but then I felt so lonely... without you..."
The blonde smiled at her tenderly and squeezed her hand. "Oh Sam, " she said lovingly. "Listen. I will let Chris set up another bed in my room and then you can sleep there."
"Thank you," came the relieved and very happy reply.
"You are very welcome. And now let's go in. There are two people, who would really like to get to know you."
Sam looked a bit unsure.
"There is no need to be afraid, okay? Both of them are very good friends of mine. Also, you know that I would never allow anybody to hurt you. You know that, don't you?"
Sam pondered this a few seconds, but in the end she nodded.
Christopher came towards them. "Hey, what's keeping you so long? Norman has already loaded the table with food. The only things missing are you and Taylor."
Liz eyes widened in disbelief. "Taylor is still upstairs?"
"Boy, this phone call seems to be weighing on her quite heavily."
Sara went inside the house. She was completely confused. For the life of her, she couldn't understand why her father was so angry at Richard. Thinking about it some more, she finally shrugged her shoulders. "There's nothing more I can do. I'm sure Richard will explain the situation and get the misunderstanding out of the way." She climbed the stairs to her room, her cat following closely behind. Shutting the door, Sara sat down on the bed. "Okay, and now let's see, who wants something from me at this late hour." She picked up the receiver and pressed a button so that the call was put through to her room. "Hello?"
On the other end, Taylor's hands were sweating and her heart was pounding wildly from nervousness. As she heard the 'Hello' it took all her willpower to not hang up immediately.
Sara frowned and said once more, "Hello?"
Taylor gathered all her courage and finally answered. "Yes, uh... hi... it's Taylor." She quickly continued and didn't let Sara get a word in. "I know that I am probably the last person that you would like to talk to, but I really have to tell you something. I'm... uh... I mean I... uh... it..." Taking one more deep breath the girl just blurted it out. "What I'm trying to say is, I'm sorry... I am really very sorry for everything... that I ruined our friendship... and... and that I was so nasty and mean towards you... and also for what my brother did to you... that... that... it really wasn't fair. And most of all, I'm sorry that I listened to Victoria even though I should have known better. If I could turn back time then I would do things differently, but now it's too late. I'm also not expecting you to forgive me... I just... I just wanted to tell you I'm sorry..." Taylor waited a mere second, then her courage left her and she quickly hung up. Burying her face in her hands, she groaned depressed, "Oh boy... I'm such a coward."
Completely and utterly stunned, Sara looked at the receiver. "What was that?"
Deeply concerned, Billy was pacing in front of Michiru's hospital room. "Why is it taking so long?" he grumbled to himself. "Hopefully it's nothing serious. Oh my God, what will I do if it is something serious? What if Michiru is dying?" Unseeingly, he stared at the wall and brought his hands up, slowly rubbing his temples. "No, no, no! I have to stop thinking like that! Everything is going to be alright, I just have to stay calm. That's it, take a deep breath and calm down. I can't be of any help to Michiru if I freak and run around like a headless chicken."
Finally, Billy sat down on an orange-colored plastic chair. "Everything will be fine... maybe if I tell myself that for an hour or so I will actually start to believe it."
After what seemed like hours, the door opened and a smiling nurse stepped into the corridor.
Instantly, Billy jumped off the chair and blurted, "How is she?"
"Well, I'd say it depends from which angle you look at it."
He frowned. That was one weird answer.
"You can go inside now. Dr. Sullivan will explain everything. Have a nice day."
Billy wished her the same and entered the room.
The doctor shook his hand, introducing himself. "Hello, I'm Dr. Sullivan. Are you Mr. Chambers?"
"Yes. Please, doctor, tell me, what's wrong with Michiru?" He was standing close to the bed and the pale woman lying there took his hand.
Looking at him with tear-filled eyes, she announced in a small, trembling voice. "Billy, I am pregnant."
Billy blinked a couple of times, his mind having trouble to process what he had just heard. "You... you are... pregnant?"
"But how... how is this possible? You... I thought you said you are infertile?"
Michiru sighed. "That's what the doctor in Japan told me. But obviously it's not the case."
Billy sat down on the edge of the bed and carefully placed one of his large hands on her tummy. "You are really going to have a baby?"
Tears were softly rolling down her cheeks. The coach smiled despite that. "Yes. I'm really going to have a baby."
The doctor cleared his throat. "There are a few things I need to tell you, then you can go home. Ms. Kasawaki, it really is important that you rest for a few days. Stay in bed for 2 or 3 days and avoid any kind of stress. Your breakdown nearly caused you to lose your child."
"No need to worry, Dr. Sullivan," Billy chimed in. "I will take care of her and make sure that she does as you said."
Juan was sitting very relaxed on his couch, wearing a huge grin on his face. Once in a while he sipped from the champagne glass he held in his hand. "I knew I was going to get that role! With my male charm and my handsome looks I will get any role. Yes, 'Lords Of The Darkness' will be one step, leading me higher and higher till I'm top in Hollywood. And, I am NOT gay! I can't be gay! I'm playing a sword-slashing villain and those are never from the other side. No matter what crazy Billy Chambers said, there is no way in heaven or hell that I could be gay." He quickly stomped down on the little voice in the back of his mind that wanted to speak up. "I'm not gay. No, no, no."
At first, Sam had felt very uncomfortable in the presence of all the people she didn't know. Especially Norman. He was always looking at her in such a weird way and she just couldn't figure out why that was. Fortunately though, he had left after they ate and Sam had relaxed some.
She was sitting with Chris and Liz on the big leather couch, while Jack and Dani had gotten comfortable in the overstuffed armchairs. They both listened wide-eyed as Liz told of her adventures in the jungle of Vanuatu. "I'm telling you, if Sam wouldn't have found me, I would have never made it through one day out there."
Jack rubbed his chin. "You know, I think you should make a movie out of it. I mean, something like that doesn't happen every day. A business woman crashing with a plane in the jungle at the end of the world. Man, that's one way cool story!"
His exclamation earned him a poke in the side from Danielle. "Really Jack. She lived through hell and you are making such jokes about it."
"That's okay, Dani, don't worry," Liz interrupted. "The idea isn't that bad. There is just one problem."
Jack's eyebrows rose. "Really? What problem?"
Liz chuckled. "There is no way we will ever find two actresses that look as hot as Sam and I do."
Jack's face fell in pretended sadness. "Too bad," he pouted. "But it was such a great idea."
Everybody else laughed.
Christopher had a look at his watch. "I've got to go. I have an appointment at the gallery."
"We will go too," Jack said.
Liz rose. "Okay. I will walk you to the door."
At the entrance door, the blonde hugged Jack. "It was great to see you again."
"I so totally agree, Lizzy. Dani and I had a great time. Your Norman is one super cook. But the best is that you are back. You have been missed greatly."
Liz nodded. "I also am very happy to be back." Then she embraced Danielle. "I hope you will get better and I'm sure your memory will be okay soon too. If you need anything, please, don't hesitate to call me, okay?"
Danielle smiled at her. "I will do that, I promise."
"Okay then, until soon." Jack was about to go, but then he turned around one more time. Leaning close to Liz, he admitted, "No matter what Alexander says... Samantha is cool!"
The blonde couldn't help the big grin that appeared on her features. "I know."
Jonathan barely had time to enter the house, because Catherine was already waiting for him. With crossed arms she scowled at him. "So, did you finally come back to your senses? Have you finally accepted that your place is here with me? Did you really think you would have been better off with that bitch? You are such a fool! Did you not learn anything from the situation with Kayla?"
He finally had enough. "Stop it!" he yelled at her, his face red with anger. "Stop making everything dirty that means something to me! You don't understand anything about my feelings!"
She scoffed. "Is that so? Then why are you always crawling back to me when your petty little affairs don't work? And every time I forgive you, don't I?"
"Yes," Jonathan muttered, helplessly.
"And do you know why I'm doing that? Because our family is the most important thing to me. I'm protecting our family, no matter what the cost! You are a part of this family. You are the father of my children! But what kind of example are you to them? Accept it that you belong at my side! You will never find a better woman than me! The sooner you realize that the better! Accept the fact that Kayla is dead! She is not coming back and you will also not find her in any other woman!"
He inhaled sharply and if looks could kill then Catherine would have met her creator right that moment. "I really can't believe how cold-hearted you are! I LOVED KAYLA! SHE WAS MY EVERYTHING! She will always be a part of me and you cannot take that away from me, never!" That said, he left her standing there, retreated to his study, poured himself a scotch and sat down at his desk. "No, I will never forget Kayla! The same goes for Michiru. Oh God, I hurt her so bad. If only I would have been honest with her from the very beginning... everything would be okay now..."
Still boiling inside, Catherine sat in the living room, absent-minded stroking the fur of Nicodemus and Nepomuk. "I knew he would come back. He always does. I lost him once to another woman... I won't allow that a second time!"
After Jack, Danielle and Christopher had left the house, Liz returned to the living room, finding Sam at the patio door. "Hey, is there anything interesting to see?" she asked softly.
"Taylor," replied the brunette.
Liz looked outside.
Taylor was there, sitting on the swing, her head and shoulders hanging down.
"She is very sad, isn't she?" Sam wanted to know.
"Yes, she lost a friend."
Sam looked at her and carefully inquired, "Did Taylor's friend die?"
"No. There were a couple of misunderstandings and meddling from another person. Now Sara is gone and they couldn't talk about everything."
"I don't like it when she is so sad. Can we not do something to make her happy again?"
Liz patted Sam's shoulder gently. "I'll go and talk with her."
"Okay. I will wait here and play with Tasilo."
As soon as he heard his name, the German shepherd came racing towards her, wagging his tail and rolling his beloved, yellow tennis ball in front of her feet.
Liz tenderly squeezed Sam's hand. "I'll be right back." She walked through the garden and knelt down in front of Taylor, placing her hands on the girl's knees. "Hey sweetie."
Taylor didn't look up from where she was staring at the grass. "Hey."
"How did the call go?"
The teenager sighed heavily. "To say it in one word... bad."
"I stammered and stuttered like the world's biggest idiot, but I think somewhere in there was the apology." Taylor placed her hands on top of her sister's.
"You were nervous, little one. That happens," Liz tried to make her feel a little bit better. "So?"
"How did she react? What did she say? Did she accept your apology? Come on, this feels like pulling teeth..."
Taylor shrugged her shoulders. "I don't know."
"What is that supposed to mean?"
"After I was done stuttering I hung up."
Liz looked at her with a disbelieving expression. "You didn't wait for her answer?"
The teenager shook her head.
"Awww sweetie. And now?"
"I don't know. I don't want to talk about it anymore. How late is it?"
Liz looked at her watch. "About 6:30."
Taylor jumped off the swing. "Shit! I'll be late for my next training session!"
Sara was quickly putting her clothes in a traveler's bag. She had eavesdropped on a conversation between her father and Rose. Now that she knew that they wanted to send her off to therapy, she was glad that she had listened in, even though she knew it wasn't nice.
"If they believe I will go to a shrink then they are so wrong! There is nothing wrong with my psyche! Also, I'm not going to stay here another second. My own father betrayed me. I still can't believe it. It's a good thing that I got this offer from Paris. Taking pictures for a French sports magazine. Should be interesting since I've never done that before. And the best is that nobody there really knows me. I can do whatever I please and nobody can force me to do anything I don't want. I also can leave these memories about Los Angeles behind me and submerge myself completely in work." She closed the zipper on the huge, black bag. "Okay, I think I got everything. I'm taking Dad's old pick-up truck to get to the airport in Sydney and from there it's off to Paris." Sara put a plastic transport box on her bed and set her Tugger inside. "Of course, you'll be coming with me, my sweet."
Creeping to the door, she laid her ear against it and listened intently. The whole house was silent. "I guess Dad and Rose finally went to bed." Quickly, she wrote a little goodbye note, shoved her credit card into her pants' pocket, grabbed the box, took her bag on her shoulders and left her room. "Out, out, freedom calls," she whispered to herself, grinning widely. Slowly, she tip-toed down the stairs, reached for the car keys and stepped out of the front door, letting it silently close behind her.
In the darkness she crept towards the garage.
Suddenly a hand placed itself upon her shoulder.
Suppressing the urge to cry out, she whirled around wide-eyed, nearly dropping the transport box. Recognizing the person that stood there she whispered in disbelief. "Richard?"
Back in her loft, Michiru was lying in bed, while Billy sat on the edge of it. "Do you need something? Do you want me to get you something?"
She rolled her eyes, completely nerve-wrecked. "Billy, I really find it very sweet that you are so concerned, but you are worse than my mother!"
The doorbell rang before Billy could shoot back a remark.
"I guess that's Taylor. Could you please open the door?"
"But your doctor said you are supposed to stay in bed for the next couple of days and also to avoid any kind of stress," he reminded her.
"I'm not leaving the bed and I sure as hell won't have any stress with her," she promised, barely resisting the urge to pout. "Would you now please open the door?"
Taylor was a bit surprised as Billy opened the door.
He just smiled warmly at the girl. "Ah, the beautiful blonde hair and green eyes run in the family, I see. Come on in, Taylor, she is in the bedroom."
The teenager blinked in confusion. "Uh... do I know you from somewhere?"
"Oh, where are my manners..." He took her hand and shook it. "I'm Billy Chambers. Michiru has been telling me all about you."
"So, you've been the one who made Norman look more presentable? You really did a great job there, Mr. Chambers."
He waggled his eyebrows. "Thank you. But, you can call me Billy. Mr. Chambers is my father."
Taylor grinned. "Okay."
Billy led her to the bedroom. "Michiru. Here is a visitor for you," he called out.
"Would you please stop this nonsense?" the coach asked exasperated. "Come on in, Taylor."
"Are you sick, Ms. Kasawaki?" the girl asked as she saw the other woman lying in bed. "Maybe I should go..."
Michiru quickly reached for her arm and dragged her towards her until Taylor sat down on the edge of the bed. "No, please, don't go! I'm really glad you are here because it means that Billy will leave me alone for a while."
"What's wrong with you?"
"I got a little upset this morning and nearly had a miscarriage."
Taylor looked at her, dumbfounded. "You... you are pregnant? Please, don't tell me it's from Jonathan."
Michiru gazed at her fingers that were fiddling with the blanket that covered her legs. "Unfortunately it is."
"Does he know?"
"No. I'm not going to tell him either."
"Why not?" Taylor wanted to know.
"Because yesterday I found out a few things about him. Imagine that, he is married and has two adult children. And to me he said that his wife and daughter died during birth. That lying bastard!"
"I have to tell you something," the girl began. "Hopefully you won't hate me afterward."
"I've known for some time that your Jonathan is the one Jonathan Parker from Hollywood. He offered me money so that I would keep my mouth shut."
Michiru was shocked. "Did you take the money?"
"No." Taylor shook her head. "I told him to tell you the truth soon or I would do it."
"I saw it yesterday on TV. There was a report about the big celebration at the Parker house... that's how I found out."
"I'm sorry it happened like that."
Michiru laughed but it sounded miserable. "It was quite a shock."
"I can imagine that. I really wanted to tell you."
The woman patted the girl's hand. "I believe you and I'm not mad at you. Let's talk about something else."
Taylor thought for a moment and then blurted, "How far along are you?"
"The doctor said in the beginning of the second month. I just need three days of rest and then we can go back to your training. And now, please tell me, how does your sister like being back?"
"Oh, she is very happy."
"That's great. What about the woman she brought with her? How is she? Did you already become friends with her?"
A wide grin spread across Taylor's features. "Well, there is only one word to describe Samantha... she is absolutely COOL!"
Richard was just as surprised as Sara was as they stood facing each other in the moonlight. "Sara? What the hell are you doing out here? It's the middle of the night!"
"What does it look like?" she hissed back, annoyed. "I'm leaving!"
"Because Dad and Rose came up with the brilliant idea to send me off to therapy with a shrink!"
Richard was taken aback. "Seriously?"
"Yes," she grumbled. "Thanks to Aunt Cathy, who always has to stick her nose in everybody's business even though it's none of hers."
"I'm sure if you were to talk with your Dad..."
She cut him off quickly. "It's of no use."
"But he will worry if you disappear just like that," Richard said, trying to make her see reason.
"That's why I left a note. Now, I really don't want to stand around here anymore, having one stupid discussion after another. I need to get to the airport."
"Just how did you plan on getting there? Hitch-hiking?"
Sara snorted. "I'm not that crazy. I thought about driving Dad's old pick-up truck."
"Too bad, that won't work. It's broken."
She exhaled sharply and cussed. "What am I going to do now?"
"I could drive you."
"Really? Oh please."
They climbed into Richard's jeep and a moment later they were on the road to Sydney.
After the uncomfortable silence became too much for her, Sara asked, "Why were you outside at this time?"
"I packed my things and loaded up my jeep as I saw something creeping around in the darkness." Richard explained.
"You wanted to leave too?"
"'Want' is the wrong word. I have to." He sighed, heavily. "Your Dad fired me."
"WHAT?" Sara exclaimed, shocked. "Why?"
"He thinks I have shamelessly taken advantage of your hurt and emotional state of mind."
She frowned and then thought back to her father's fierce temper tantrum as he had found them together in the stables. "Did you not explain the situation to him?"
"He wouldn't have listened to me anyway. To him what he saw was clear. If I would have been in his place, I would have probably done the same thing."
Sara didn't know what to say to that so she kept silent. After a while she switched on the radio, searching for some good music. The jeep rolled on towards Sydney.
Danielle had been exhausted from all the excitement and had gone to bed early. Jack and Elias were in the living room, watching some TV. "I've only got two more days before I have to go to Paris. Are you sure that she will be okay?"
"Don't worry, Jack," the psychologist replied.
"I know, you will take good care of Dani... but still..."
"She is doing much better. I couldn't believe my eyes earlier when you came back and she was smiling so brightly."
Jack nodded. "Yes, visiting the Stuarts was very good for her."
"I know," Elias agreed, smiling also. "There was a light in her eyes when she was telling me about it. The Stuarts seem to be a very nice family."
"That they are," Jack confirmed. "Maybe you could go with Dani and visit them once in a while as long as I'm gone? It will take her mind off things and she can relax and have some fun."
The concern the other man showed made Elias ask him the next question. "Jack, I would like to know something."
"Have you and Danielle been lovers once?"
The tall man turned bright red and cleared his throat in embarrassment. "Uh... yes... but that was a long time ago."
"Why did you break up? I mean to me it is quite obvious that you still have tremendous feelings for her," Elias pointed out.
Jack made a declining hand motion. "That's just pure friendship. Nothing more and nothing less."
"What happened back then?"
"I really don't want to talk about it. Both of us have made mistakes, let's leave it at that."
Elias realized he must have hit a very sore spot and retreated. "Okay."
"I have one more favor to ask of you though. Whatever happens, please make sure that Dani stays away from this bastard Alex. He is the root of all evil that has befallen her."
"You can rely on me," the psychologist assured.
"Good." Jack seemed to relax some. "I don't know yet for how long I will be in Paris. I promise I'll be back as soon as I can."
"I really understand your concern, but Danielle also has to learn to get by on her own."
The computer specialist hung his head. "You are right. I'm acting like a mother hen."
"No. You are acting like a man, who wants to protect his friend. And that is wonderful. But Danielle has to get her life under control on her own and you have to accept that you cannot protect her from everything. She has to make her own decisions."
Jack looked at him and the psychologist's words were beginning to make sense. "Okay. I will go to Paris and not worry one tiny little bit. How is that?"
Elias smirked. "That's exactly what I was trying to tell you."
Sara and Richard were sitting on a bench at the airport, waiting for Sara's flight number to appear at the black board.
"So, you really want to go to Paris, huh?"
Sara nodded. "Yes."
"And what will you be doing there?"
"I have an offer from Pierre Devereux... taking pictures for a sports magazine. It'll be something new and exciting, " she explained. "What about you? Where will you go? What will you do?"
Richard shrugged his shoulders. "I don't know yet, but I'm sure somehow, somewhere a job will come up for me."
"I think you should talk with my Dad once more. I'm sure everything will turn out okay. He can't fire you just like that because you didn't do anything wrong."
Richard sighed. "According to him I did. You know how he is. Once he has made up his mind it is very difficult to make him see otherwise."
"But it is not fair," she grumbled, darkly. "You were punished for something you didn't do!"
Sara's flight number appeared at the board and she still had to go through security. "You have to go."
Tenderly, he placed his index finger on her lips. "Don't say anything. It happened and we can't change it. Now you have to think about your future."
Tears welled up in her eyes. "Okay."
"I'm going to miss you," Sara whispered into his shirt.
"Me too, little whirlwind. Before you go, I need you to promise me something."
"Call your father as soon as you are in Paris. I don't want him to worry."
She sniffled and wiped her eyes. "Yes, I thought about that too."
They held each other a while longer until Richard saw the clock again. "You really have to go now or else you will miss your flight."
"Bye Ray. Take good care of yourself. Till soon." She kissed him softly on the cheek and he blushed.
"Bye Sara," he managed to say through his tight throat and watched her leave.
***** THE NEXT DAY *****
Distressed, Rose stormed into Matthew's study. "Mr. Jones! Mr. Jones!" She brandished a small sheet of paper in front of his nose.
Matthew looked up from the documents he had been studying. "What happened? Why are you so upset?"
"Sir, I just went upstairs to wake Sara and make her come down for breakfast... she is gone!"
Matthew looked at her in disbelief. "WHAT?"
"She is gone, Sir. All her things are gone too, as is the cat."
He hurried out of the study and raced upstairs to Sara's room, Rose following close behind him. "I can't believe it! Where could she have gone?"
Rose gave him the note. "That was on her bed."
Matthew read the note out loud. "Dear Daddy, when you read these lines I'm already on my way to Paris. I'm sorry for my sudden leave, but I just can't take it anymore. I will call you as soon as I am in Paris. Please, don't worry about me. Until soon, Sara." Exasperated, Matthew crumpled up the sheet of paper. "Paris? What the hell does she want in Paris?"
Rose shrugged her shoulders. "I really don't know, Sir. She never mentioned anything to me."
A dark thought reared its ugly head and he asked carefully, trying to stay calm, "Is Richard and his things gone too?"
Matthew's face became red with anger and a protruding vein began to pulse strongly on his forehead. "Now everything becomes clear! If I get my hands on this son of a bitch I'm going to kill him!"
"I don't know what you are talking about," Rose replied, a little bit frightened because she had never seen her boss this furious.
The house keeper was confused. "Who?"
"That bastard Richard convinced my daughter to run away from home with him!" he roared, beside himself with anger. "To Paris of all places, the city of love! He really thought about everything. I really would like to know for how long he has been planning this?!"
"Sir, you think Richard..." shocked she held a hand to her mouth. Then Rose shook her head. "No, no, I can't believe that. He is not like that!"
"Enough," Matthew demanded, glaring at her fiercely. "There is no need for you to defend him! I finally know all about him and his intentions. If there is just one hair out of place on the head of my sweet daughter, I'm going to throttle him with my bare hands! This I swear on everything that's holy to me!"
Victoria was posing in front of the large mirror that stood in the middle of her room. In the background the stereo system was running, playing the song 'Beautiful Morning' from 'Ace of Base' and she crowed along at the top of her lungs.
"Oh yes. It really and truly is a beautiful morning. Now, if only I could decide on what to wear." She sighed heavily as if she would have to bear the weight of the whole world on her shoulders. "Tsk... huh... it can't be too sexy but also not boring. What should I wear? Business suit or a dress? Something light colored or rather dark?" Victoria sighed again. "If only I knew what appeals to Jack Carpenter. Maybe I should ask Mom? I'm sure she has some advice. Anyway, it has to be something that will knock Jack's socks off. This man is a dream and a hundred times more attractive than Juan or Christopher. There is no way I will let him go! Somebody like Jack is not found every day. That means grab quickly and hold on tightly. And once I have him, I will never ever let him go!" A smile appeared on her face that showed slight traces of madness. "Yes. He won't be able to resist my good looks and super natural charm."
Bearing a most happy expression, Karen was leading Liz through the house, which she intended to buy. "Isn't this house just great?" she asked. "Big, spacious, many rooms."
Liz looked at her a bit confused. "Do you have enough furniture to be able to put something into each room?"
"Well, not yet." Karen grinned. "But, now that my great boss has returned from the jungle and it's going so well with the company, I'm sure I'll be promoted and get more money, right?"
The blonde snorted. "Maybe, I'll think about it. There is something though that I just don't understand."
"Why do you want to buy such a huge house for just yourself?"
Karen waggled her eyebrows. "Whoever said that I would live here on my own?"
"You won't?" Liz blinked in surprise.
"At first I will. But, I also want to have a family. Let's face the facts. I'm not getting any younger and my biological clock is ticking away. Well, and for a horde of kids, one needs to have lots of room. All I need now is the right man with whom I can spend the rest of my life."
Liz cleared her throat and matter-of-factly blurted out one name. "Chris."
"Chris? Chris who?" came Karen's acid reply. "I don't know any Chris! Or do you mean this idiot that sadly is your brother?"
"Oh, come on, Karen. Please, give him another chance."
"I did that twice and each time he broke my heart. Do you really think I will be that stupid a third time?"
"Didn't he explain to you the situation with Sara?" Liz inquired.
"Yes, but that's not changing anything. Not only did he hurt me, he also hurt Sara." Karen scowled. "I'm sorry Liz, but I really can't take it another time."
"He knows that he made a mistake. You are the only one for him."
Karen crossed her arms in front of her chest and looked hard at Liz. "What if something were to happen to endanger the company again? Will he once more leave me for the first pretty face with loads of money that comes along? No, thank you. I can do without him."
Liz wasn't about to give in though and she tried once more to reason with her. "I'm sure, he would never do something like that again. He learned from his mistake. Why don't you see that you two are the perfect couple? Any blind person can see that! Please, Karen, please. He loves you."
Karen's eyes widened at the last words. "Oh, is that so. I have to tell you that your brother really has a weird way of showing that!" She sighed and rubbed her forehead. "Can we please stop with this? I don't want to fight with you. Let's change the subject."
"Okay. I don't want to fight with you either."
They sat down on the carpeted floor in the otherwise empty house and Karen said, "Tell me about Sam. How does she like it in the city after being all her life in the jungle?"
When Victoria came downstairs to have breakfast, Alexander of course couldn't resist and had to make a snide remark. "For whom did you get dolled up like that?"
"It's none of your business," she snapped back. "Mind your own stuff and leave me alone!"
"Are you in a bad mood or something?" he asked, barely suppressing a sneer. He so loved picking on her, especially in the morning.
"No, but if I have to bear your presence one second longer I'm going to be in a bad mood!"
"If you are looking for a fight you can have it," Alex growled.
Catherine interrupted them quickly. "It's enough!"
"But he started it," Vicky complained, pointing a finger at her brother.
"I just asked a simple question!" Alex shot back.
"It was a stupid question and one like that deserves a stupid answer!"
"I said enough!" Catherine roared. "Stop it right now! Both of you! Alex, don't you have to be somewhere?"
Grumpy, he rose from the table. "Yeah, yeah, I'm already gone."
Once he had left, Catherine turned to her daughter. "So, tell me, my darling. What man has conquered your heart?"
Victoria grinned. "Jack Carpenter. Oh Mommy. He is so wonderful. When I met him that very first time at the country club he seemed quite boring. Now, I got to know him better and he is just great."
"Oh sweetheart. I am so happy for you. Jack Carpenter truly is a fine man. I believe the two of you would make a nice couple."
"Do you really think that?"
"Of course, my dear. You have to be careful though that no other woman gets her hands on him before you," Catherine admonished.
"Oh, don't worry about that," she told her mother very confidently. "He will submit to my charms today."
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