FIUR and VLAMME
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"It's really very easy," Taylor said, explaining to Sam how to use the controller for the Playstation. "With these keys you let the character on the screen jump and fight. With this stick here you are making it move forward, backward, to the left or to the right." She gave Samantha the controller with an encouraging smile. "Try it. You'll like it."
The brunette took the little black, electronic devise and the game started. 'That really is very fascinating,' she thought to herself. 'This small person in the magic box is doing whatever I tell it to do.'
The phone rang.
Taylor rose from the pillow, which she had been sitting on and stretched. She walked to the phone. "I'll be back in a bit, Sam. You can have some more fun playing."
While the woman turned her attention back to the TV, the teenager picked up. "Hello?"
"Hey, my little ice princess. It's me, Uncle William."
"Hey! How are you doing?"
"I'm fine, thanks. How are you?"
"Oh, I can't complain. I'm having fun."
"That's good. I'm calling because I wanted to tell you that I will come for a visit the day after tomorrow."
"Really? Now that's way cool! I'll be looking forward to it." In the background she heard the engine of a car, indicating that Liz had returned. "Hang on a second, Uncle Will."
"Sam?" She waited until the tall brunette turned to her, and then she announced with a big grin, "Liz is back."
Sam jumped up and hurried to the entrance door. She opened it and saw Liz, who was unloading the trunk of her car.
"I'll help you."
"Thank you, that's very nice of you," Liz replied and smiled. "Where is Taylor?"
"On the phone."
Sam just shrugged her shoulders, picked up some of the bags and carried them inside, to the kitchen.
While putting away all the things, Liz asked, "What have you two been up to?"
"We watched some cartoons and played with this neat magic box Taylor has."
A knowing grin appeared on the face of the business woman and she laughed. "Did you play each game Taylor owns?"
Having heard that question, the teenager entered the kitchen and chimed in, "No. We just started." She hugged her big sister. "Hi."
Liz dishevelled her hair. "Hi, sweetie. Who called?"
"Uncle Will. He wants to come by for a short visit. He will arrive the day after tomorrow, stay for 2 days and then he sadly has to go back again."
The blonde frowned. "That really is a short visit. Did something else important happen while I was gone?"
"Nope. Where have you been?"
"Oh, Karen and I were looking at a house."
"Why?" Taylor asked, wrinkling her forehead.
"Karen wants to buy it."
"A whole house for herself?"
"Well, she also wants a husband and children."
"Ah." Taylor thought about this and it brought her to the next question. "But not Chris, huh?"
Liz sighed heavily. "No. I'm afraid between her and Chris it's really over."
Taylor nodded. "It's his own fault for acting like such an idiot."
"The ways of love are often unfathomable."
The teenager snorted. "Where did you get that? From one of your cheesy lovey-dovey movies?"
Instead of answering, Liz pressed some bags into Taylor's hands. "Put that where it belongs in the living room and shut up. You really should be more tolerant because I'm not making fun of the fact that you're still watching cartoons even though you'll soon be 19 years old."
That wiped the grin of the girl's face and pouting she announced, "Not all of them are cartoons. It's called anime, you know? And besides, Sam is a lot older than me and she likes cartoons too. And anime!"
Liz laughed. "Something else you have in common then."
"That's right." Taylor disappeared into the living room.
"So, tell me. Did you sleep better the past night?" Actually, Liz didn't need to ask Sam that because she had been awake the whole night watching the brunette sleep.
Sam's reply came immediately. "Yes. I wasn't feeling lonely with you close by."
'I know exactly what you mean,' Liz thought, but didn't dare to voice it out loud.
Christopher was pacing in his gallery. For hours he had been trying, but he just couldn't concentrate on work. His thoughts were constantly circling around Karen. No matter what he tried, he couldn't get her out of his head. He was about to pull his hair in frustration. "What shall I do? I'm going to go crazy if I don't come up with something soon! Karen is absolutely the woman of my dreams. Stupid as I am, I messed it up already twice. It can't happen a third time. But how can I do it? When I call her, she hangs up on me. When I go there to talk with her, she just closes the door right in front of my face. I sent her flowers, chocolate and candy, I drew her a picture, I carved her a statue, but she just sends everything back without a word whatsoever. I'm slowly running out of ideas. Of course, I could send a plane to fly over her appartment building and it would have a banner that says, 'I love you, Karen. Please marry me! With love, Chris.'" He sat down, buried his face in his hands and sighed, "It's of no use. I think I should ask Liz. She is Karen's best friend, and she is a woman. I'm sure, she can help me with this tricky situation. Yes, I'll do that. I'm going to ask Liz."
Now that he had figured out what to do, he felt a bit better and his mood turned to a happier one.
Norman sat in the pool house, brooding. "Could it be? Could Samantha be the baby from so long ago?" A shadow layed itself over his eyes, the memories rose and played out in his mind like a little movie.
The small plane landed on the lake. Norman climbed out of it, holding a bundle in his arms. It was a baby, covered in blankets. "Why am I doing this? Why am I letting this woman make me do something like that?" he grumbled to himself and walked into the jungle of the small island. "To leave a newborn kid at the end of the world... just how low did I sink? But I need the money. I need it so bad. With the money I can pay my debts from gambling and all my worries will be over." His conscience reared its head and made him feel bad. "Maybe there is a village close by. They can take care of her then." It took him a while but eventually he found a village. At the outskirts of it, he placed the bundle on some grass and disappeared as quickly as he could when he heard voices. The baby began to cry...
The memory of that cry haunted him now still as much as then. He shook his head to come out of his dark thoughts. "I have to get more information on Samantha. The best is if I ask Liz. If I am right and Samantha really is the baby girl from then... maybe I will finally get my vengeance on the woman, who forced me to do it and abandon the little girl there. I did the job, but the damn bitch didn't pay the promised money and I ended up a homeless person, living on the streets as a beggar." His face hardened and rage boiled inside him. "Maybe now she gets what she deserves. She had it coming for a long time."
The doorbell rang and Liz opened. Her eyes widened in surprise because Alexander was standing in front of it, holding a bouquet of red roses. "Hello, my love," he greeted her and smiled in the most tender way that she had ever seen.
She was a bit taken aback and the first thing she asked was, "Alex? What are you doing here?"
It came out a bit harsh, hurting his feelings right away. "What a nice greeting," he muttered sarcastically. "No hug, no kiss, no 'Hi Alex, how nice to see you.'?"
"I'm really sorry," Liz apologized immediately. "It's just that my head is on other things at the moment."
"Yeah, I noticed that," he snapped. "You don't have any time for me at all."
"That's nonsense. I explained it to you. I have to take care of Sam. I was the one, who brought her here. Now, I have to help her to get along in her new home."
"Sam, Sam, Sam. That's all I've been hearing for days. Sam here, Sam there. But, what about me? I am your fiancé! We wanted to get married or did you forget about that too?!"
She glared at him. "No. But I'm not going to desert Sam just because you are feeling neglected!" Roughly, she ripped the flowers from his hands and stomped into the kitchen to put them into a vase. "You said that you understand!"
Alex followed her. "I do understand. But do you understand that I want to spend some time with you too? I love you. I have missed you so much, sweetheart." He wrapped his arms around her waist from behind, pressed his front against her back and snuggled his face into her long hair. "All I want is a little bit of time with you alone. Is that asking too much?"
Liz didn't have an answer for that, so she kept silent.
"Hey, I've got a brilliant idea," Alexander announced. "Why don't you let your sister go to the zoo with Sam?"
She turned around and asked, "Are you crazy?"
"Why? I'm sure she would love it there. Tons of nice animals and green plants... everything looks like in her jungle. She will feel very much at home, don't you think?"
Liz rubbed her forehead. "Sure. Do you know what's going to happen once she figures out that the animals are caged? She will freak and immediately start to free them!"
He lifted his hands in a calming motion. "Okay, okay, it was just a suggestion. No need to rip my head off."
"I'm going with my family to the beach tomorrow. If you really and truly want to spend time with me, you are welcome to go with us."
Alex forced a smile on his face. That wasn't what he wanted, but to smooth some ruffled feathers he thought it would be best to play along. "Okay. That sounds like a plan. I'll be looking forward to it."
Liz smiled and hugged him. "Good."
'I, the Stuart family and the jungle savage at the beach. I'm sure it's going to end in a disaster.'
Victoria was very disappointed and barely resisted the urge to pout. The reason for her unhappiness was that she couldn't find Jack Carpenter anywhere. "Just where could he be? I will look once more into his office. If he isn't there, I will go home." She walked along the corridor and discovered that the door to his office was open a crack. Vicky peered inside and saw the man of her dreams, who was looking for something in the drawers of his desk. "Jack!" she called out in happy excitement.
Surprised, he whirled around to look at the person that had just said his name. "Oh, hello, Miss Parker."
She made a declining handmotion. "There is no need for that. Call me Vicky. All my friends do that."
"Okay. How may I help you, Vicky?"
Unintentional, she blushed a little bit as she asked in a very soft voice, "Would you like to have lunch with me?"
"Oh, I really would like to. Unfortunately, I don't have time. I'll be flying to Paris tomorrow."
"Really? For how long will you be gone?"
"I don't know yet. I guess, for however long it takes to check out this new technology, which they want to sell us. It could take a while."
Victoria was obviously crestfallen. "Too bad. Well, it can't be changed."
"Let me tell you what," Jack interrupted her quickly. He didn't like to see her sad. "As soon as I am back, I'll go eating with you."
This promise brought a bright smile to her face. "I'll be looking forward to it."
"Me too," he confirmed and returned her smile.
She left his office and he went back to gather some more papers that he would need for his trip. "Boah, what a woman."
***** THE NEXT DAY *****
Nerve-wrecked, Michiru rolled her eyes for what felt like the hundredth time that day. Unstoppable, and for over an hour by now, Billy had been going on and on about Juan Rodriguez. In a magazine he had found an article about the singer's music video shooting. "God, this picture is so awesome. Look, Michiru! Juan in the Cupid outfit, I made. Isn't it just precious? His abs, his muscled chest, ooooh, I think I'm about to melt. And the heart tattoo on his arm... I think that is soooooo cute. Look, Michiru!"
"Alright, alright, I'm looking!" she yelled. "You've been showing me that picture for over an hour now!"
"Am I getting on your nerves?" Billy asked carefully. He knew that sometimes he could overdo it a bit once he started to get really into something.
She sighed. "Billy, I really think it's great that you are in love. Just be careful that you are not developing some kind of obsession here."
"Do you honestly think I'm doing that?" He sounded dejected.
"Billy, you are my friend. I just don't want you to give your heart to somebody, who doesn't return your feelings," she pointed out.
"But he does that." Billy insisted.
"How can you know that?"
"How can you know that he doesn't?"
Michiru shook her head. "Don't answer my question with a question. You know how much I hate that."
"I can feel it Michiru," he responded. "There is something very special between him and me. He just is still too scared to admit it. But there is something."
"Yeah, I thought the same about Jonathan and me. Look how that turned out," she said brokenly and fought tears.
Sara was making herself at home in the hotel room. Holding Tugger in her arms, she stood on the balcony and had a great overview of Paris. "Man, I never would have thought that one day I would see the 'City Of Love' that close up." She glanced at her watch. "Mhh. I still got some time until the meeting with Pierre Devereux. I can take a shower. If I still got some more time, I'm going to call Daddy."
Sara thumbed through the file with the pictures she was going to show Mr. Devereux. "Huh? How did that end up in here?"
It was a picture of Taylor she had shot at one of the girl's training sessions. She took it out of the file, looked at it and thought back to the weird phone call. "Why did you hung up on me, Taylor? Were you not serious about your apology? Why didn't you let me answer?"
Christopher threw the bright yellow frisbee disc as far as he could and Tasilo raced after it, barking happily.
Meanwhile, Alexander did his best to impress his bikini-clad fiancée on his surfboard, riding the biggest waves and doing lots of crazy and dangerous stunts.
Unfortunately, Liz' eyes that were hidden behind sunglasses were glued to another vision. Sam and Taylor were busy building the greatest sandcastle.
Liz jerked in surprise as something cold and slimy landed on the naked skin of her back. She had been so enraptured with Samantha that she had not noticed how Alex had come out of the water. He had crept towards her and placed the jellyfish on her back.
Alex guffawed, while the blonde tried to free herself from the slimy thing. "What the hell is the meaning of this?!" She was greatly annoyed.
"Don't get so upset. It was just a joke," Alex explained, still grinning.
"I really can do without your stupid jokes!"
He lay down next to her on the big towel. From the corner of his eyes, he could see that Sam was looking toward them. To Liz he said, "I'm sorry. Will you please forgive me?"
"You nearly scared me to death!"
Alex placed a little kiss on her lips. "I'm sorry... I'm really... really... really... sorry." In between the words of his apology, he kissed her tenderly again and again. He also stole a glance at Sam and from the expression on her face, he knew that she didn't like what she had to witness.'Would you look at that?,' Alex thought to himself. 'It seems like Jungle Jane is jealous. That should teach her a lesson and make her realize that Liz belongs to me.'
His kisses grew wilder with each second and he rolled on top of the blonde. "Ohh Babe! I've missed you so much!" he groaned.
"Alex, stop it! People are already looking at us," Liz said, feeling very uncomfortable with his sudden show of affection.
"So what? Let them. They are just envious."
She squirmed, desperately trying to sit up. "I told you to stop! Get off me!"
Alex held her down, placing kisses up and down her throat. "Don't be like that. We are engaged, it's normal."
Liz fought to make him stop, but he was too strong. Tears of rage welled up in her eyes.
As Sam saw how much Liz was fighting, her protective instincts kicked in with all their might. Letting go of the small shovel, she sped to the towel. There, she grabbed the completely surprised Alexander, pulled him off Liz and pushed him to the sandy ground. Protectively, she placed herself in front of the small blonde. Angry, ice-blue eyes were glaring at the man and a small, animal growl escaped her throat.
Exasperated, Alex roared, "I have had it with your little jungle savage!" He brushed sand off his body and scowled at Liz. "I'm under the impression that you are using your Sam as an excuse to delay our marriage!"
Faced with so much honesty, Liz was shocked. "That's not true! You are just acting like a fool!"
That stung and the indignant Alex pointed at Sam. "Oh, but she can do whatever she wants, right? One of these days Jungle Jane will creep into my bedroom and throttle me while I'm asleep!"
"Stop talking such nonsense!" Liz snapped, putting her hands on her hips and glaring at him. "Why would Sam want to do that?"
"Jealousy! Pure and simple jealousy!"
"Yes, I can see it in her eyes!" he retorted.
"Yes, Liz. Yes," he interrupted. "I know it. Because I have you and she..." he paused to cast a disparaging look in Sam's direction, "...she is nothing!"
"Stop talking like that about Sam! There is no need to be nasty!"
He sneered. "Yeah... go on and defend her... that big baby..."
"You know, I'm really sick and tired of fighting with you. Each time it's because of her!" He gathered his things and surfboard. "I'm going to call you tomorrow and together we will set a date for our wedding! Bye!" Without looking back, he marched to his car and dove off.
Scared, Sam looked at Liz. Their eyes met and Liz reached for Sam's hand, squeezing it tenderly. "Don't worry. None of this is your fault," she told her, but the brunette didn't relax.
Karen had a free day and decided it was time to pay a visit to Storm and Thunder. She felt That she had neglected her horses, and she wanted to spend more time with them again. A stable hand greeted her as soon as she got out of her car. "Hello, Ms. Miller. It's nice to see you again."
Karen smiled at him. "Hi Fred. Yeah, I've got more time now that the company is out of the worst problems and my boss returned."
"Your horses have missed you a lot."
"I know," she replied with a serious expression. "It's too bad that I'm on my own and can't ride both at once. Would you like to come with me?"
Fred shook his head. "I'm sorry, Ms. Miller, but I can't."
"Too bad. I would have liked having some company."
Fred rubbed his chin, thinking about how to help her. He snapped his fingers suddenly. "Ms. Miller, I got an idea. We have a new supervisor here. Actually, he is my boss. He is responsible for the horses. I'm sure he would go for a ride with you." Quietly, he added, "He is somewhat of a horse whisperer. The animals trust him because they can feel he is calm and honest. They are much more well-balanced since he's here."
Karen pricked up her ears. "I'm getting curious. Would you introduce me to him?"
Fred pointed at a building. "There he is." He waved strongly. "Mr. Thornton! Mr. Thornton, could you please come here for a second?" Fred turned to Karen. "You are going to like him, I'm sure."
Alexander still had not calmed down. Angry, he drove in his open car along the beach promenade. Hitting the steering wheel once in a while, he growled, "Argh! How dare Liz play me for a fool?! Does she seriously think, she can play Mother Theresa? That has to change and it will change. I'm not falling for her delaying tactics anymore. Starting now, I will set up new rules. I'm tired of waiting for her and living like a fucking monk." A greedy grin appeared on his face as he recognized a woman. "DANI?" He stepped on the brakes abruptly and brought the car to a stop with squealing tires. Alex got out of the car and ran over to the unsuspecting woman. Opening his arms wide for a hug, he said, "My dear Dani! Finally, we see each other again."
A bit intimidated by his behavior, she retreated a few steps. "Do I know you?" she asked, suspiciously.
"Don't you recognize me?" he asked, crestfallen. "It's me... Greg! The last thing you told me was... that the most beautiful thing in your life is to be in my arms..."
"Really?" Danielle inquired, still cautious.
He looked at her with sad eyes. "So, you have forgotten all our hot nights together? I don't mean anything to you? But, I have always loved you! Now it's making sense to me why suddenly one day you stopped calling me." Alex sighed heavily. "Well... I guess this is it then... bye..." He turned around and walked slowly with hanging shoulders to his car.
Danielle called after him, "Please, Greg... wait. I'm sorry, but I've lost all my memories."
Alex sneered to himself, then turned around with a dismayed expression firmly fixed on his face. "Really? God, that's horrible." He placed a hand to his chest. "And here I am, accusing you, while you've been having such a rough time. I really am sorry."
"Yes, but I don't understand why Jack never mentioned you?"
"It was you, who wanted to keep our relationship a secret," he explained hypocritically.
Danielle was torn. She didn't know if she should believe his words or not. "You really are very charming Greg, but..."
"It's alright," Alexander said, tenderly placing an arm around her shoulders. "How about we see each other this evening. Maybe we can go somewhere nice and have a bite to eat? Please. It will give you some time to think about it. If you do feel uncomfortable with me or don't trust me, then you just don't come and see me, okay?"
"Alright," Danielle responded, relieved.
In Paris, Sara came out of the bathroom, rubbing her wet hair dry with a big, fluffy towel. Smiling, she looked at her sleeping tomcat that had curled up on the bed. A heavy sigh escaped her as her eyes fell on the telephone. "It's still night in Australia and I don't want to wake up Dad and Rose. I'll postpone the call until later. Yes, I'll call as soon as I'm back from the meeting with Mr. Devereux."
Meanwhile the cat woke up and stretched his limbs.
Sara sat down beside him and scratched him behind his ears. "Don't look at me like that, okay... yes, I'm a coward and I don't want to call Dad just yet... are you satisfied now?"
She rose, finished putting on her clothes and gathered the things she would need. At the door, she told the cat, "I will call Dad later, I promise, Tugger. As soon as I am back. Until later, my sweet." Sara blew him a kiss and left the hotel room.
Confused and her feelings in an uproar, Danielle returned to the house at the beach. She was surprised to find Jack there. "Jack? I thought you would be in your office the whole day?"
"I just got here," he said. "Plans have changed."
"Why are you so frantic?"
"The airline called me at the office and explained there was something wrong with my booked flight. That's why I have to hurry because my flight will be in 3 hours already." He continued throwing things into his suitcase. "The next flight would be in a week and that would be too late. That's why I have to take this one."
He looked up and saw the shadows of fear traveling over her features. "Don't worry, Dani. Elias will stay with you the whole time while I'm gone."
She sat down on his bed and just watched him for a moment. Finally she asked, "Jack? Do you know somebody called Greg?"
He was barely listening to her, his mind firmly on the task at hand. "...Mhh... do I have everything?... I think so... What did you say?... Greg? No, I don't know someone but then I don't know everyone with whom you used to hang out."
She nodded. "Too bad."
"I really am sorry, but I am running late. I gotta go." Jack hugged her and said, "We will talk about it when I'm back, okay?"
"Okay, just promise me something."
"Whatever you want."
Danielle grinned. "Bring me a surprise from Paris."
"Alright, for you always," he declared and chuckled. Jack kissed her gently on the forehead and went to his car.
"Have lots of fun in the city of love, Jack!"
"Ha ha, Ms. Funcracker. I'll go there to work and nothing else will happen."
She smirked roguishly. "You can never know before. Who knows, maybe you'll meet the girl of your dreams there."
He shook his head and started the engine. "I can't believe that women nowadays still believe in such clichés. Impossible. I will call when I'm there. Bye, Dani."
"Bye Jack!" she shouted and waved until she couldn't see the car anymore.
Christopher had gone to his gallery and after Sam and Taylor had entered the house, Liz closed the entrance door with a mighty bang. "I don't know why, but suddenly Alex is constantly getting me into a rage!" she hissed, still upset about the scene at the beach.
"Suddenly?" Taylor asked, raising her eyebrows. "That guy has always been an asshole," she added quietly, hoping that her sister wouldn't hear that.
But Liz had heard her and she pointed a punishing stare at the teenager.
Taylor rolled her eyes. "I'm going to get ready for my next training session."
"I thought you said Ms. Kasawaki has to take it easy for a while?"
"What do you mean?"
"Because of the condition she's in. I thought..."
"Ah, no, no, no." Taylor shook her head. "She said that my training doesn't need to suffer because of her pregnancy."
"Okay, sweetie. You know, it really is important that you keep having these sessions if you want to reach your goal."
"Yes, I know."
Liz hugged her. "Have fun then."
"Hey, uh... can I take Sam with me?"
This question surprised the blonde. "Why?"
"Because I told her that during my sessions I get to do Martial Arts like in this one Playstation game that I have. I want to prove it to her. From the way she looked at me, I don't think Sam believed me."
Liz rubbed her chin. "I don't know..."
"Awww pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaase. I promise nothing will happen to Sam and I won't let her out of my sight."
Hesitatingly, the business woman finally nodded. "Okay, go on then. But, you better be back on time for dinner. I'm going to cook tonight."
Taylor's mouth fell open in disbelief. "You?" She quickly reached for Sam's hand and dragged her out of the room. "I think we will eat at a restaurant!" she called back, grinning.
Liz watched them as they put on their shoes. She pointed a finger at her little sister and sing-songed, "Don't you dare, sweetie."
Taylor chuckled, grabbed her bag and went with Sam to her car.
After the door had closed behind them, Liz felt a bit lonely in the big, silent house. She had a look around. "I've never been alone since I'm back. It's a little creepy. What should I do? I have to be able to do something without Sam around me." She ventured to the kitchen. "I think I'll have some iced tee." She took the box out of the refrigerator and was about to close the door, as she jumped in fright. "Ahhh... Norman..." She held a hand to her wildly beating heart. "I totally forgot about you. Don't ever again creep up on me like that. You scared me."
The man apologized immediately. "I'm really sorry, Miss Stuart. I didn't mean to do that. May I ask you something?"
Skeptically, she looked him directly in the face.
"Hello Mr. Thornton," Karen greeted him and shook his hand.
Out of politeness, Richard took off his cowboy hat and returned the greeting.
"I have heard a lot about you, Mr. Thornton."
"I hope only good things. Please, call me Richard."
Smiling, they shook hands. "Alright, my name is Karen Miller. You may call me Karen."
Richard nodded in confirmation. "Nice to meet you."
Karen liked him immediately and so she didn't hesitate to tell him, "I would like to go on a ride with Storm and Thunder and would like to have some nice company so that both of them can have exercise at once. Would you like to come with me?"
He looked her deeply in the eyes. "I can't think of anything I'd rather do." He turned to Fred and told him to get the horses ready.
The young man hurried away immediately to carry out the order of his boss.
"Your horses are the most beautiful of the whole stables," Richard acknowledged, "But since their owner is such a beauty I guess that's only natural."
"Oh, you are a flatterer, huh?"
"No. I'm just stating the truth."
Blushing and bashful, Karen quickly changed the subject. "So, where are you from?"
Richard stared off into distance. "I'm from 'down under'."
Her eyes widened. "That's far away. Why did you leave Australia?"
He sounded very bitter as he answered, "There was nothing there to hold me back that would have been important to me. I sold my jeep and got me a ticket to Los Angeles."
"That was a huge step. Why L.A. though?" Karen continued.
"I've heard a lot about it and I wanted to see it with my own eyes... some people will never come here again... it's perfect for me."
She wanted to ask some more but held herself back, because she noticed from the hurt expression that he had some painful memories. For a moment an uncomfortable silence fell.
Fred returned with Storm and Thunder.
"There come the horses," Richard said and helped Karen up on Storm before he climbed gracefully on Thunder's back. He laughed. "I'm sure this will be a great ride!"
The excitement, she heard in his voice, made Karen laugh, too.
Dani stood on the porch, sipping on a glass of pepsi and looked up at the blue, cloudless sky. She saw a rising plane and sighed. "Jack's up there, on his way to Paris and I... I can't get Greg out of my head... maybe he knows something about me that Jack couldn't tell me? Can I risk a meeting with him? Greg wakes an oppressive feeling in me. Still, I am curious to know more about him and myself. Just what should I do?"
"May I help you somehow?" a voice asked from behind her, making her jump.
Completely out of breath, Taylor and Sam arrived at the training hall. "Ms. Kasawaki," the teenager panted, "I really am sorry that I'm late again, but I brought someone with me that I really would like to introduce to you." She didn't get an answer, and so she called out again, "Ms. Kasawaki?"
"I'm in my office."
Taylor stormed in and Michiru raised her head, looking at the girl instructively. "You will never find your inner calm if you are always so hectic and restless."
The teenager nodded. "I know, I still have a lot to learn." She smiled and pointed at the tall brunette next to her. "This is Samantha."
Sam looked at the small Asian woman in wonderment.
When she wouldn't say anything, Taylor explained, "She doesn't talk much yet."
Michiru rose and smiled at the stranger. "It's nice to meet you."
"She really would like to see my Martial Arts training session," Taylor blurted, excited beyond belief.
"Oh. Well, if Samantha would like it, I could teach her some moves too," Michiru offered.
The girl beamed. "Really, now that would be cool! She can come with me then to all my sessions." She wanted to go ahead and change into her other clothes, but Michiru held her back. "Hang on a second. There is something important I need to talk with you about."
Taylor's face fell. She thought something horrible was going to happen. "You mean you don't want to train me anymore because I'm always late, right? Or is it because of your pregnancy?"
Michiru shook her head. "No, nothing like that. Don't worry. Actually, this is about a special training."
Frowning, she looked at her coach. "I don't understand."
"I got an offer from China for a collaboration between several different figure skating schools. You could train for a few weeks at the best figure skating school of China. In Beijing. Think about it and tell me your decision. This is a great chance for you that won't happen again any time soon. Alright, now you can go change and we will start with the exercises."
Taylor stared at her dumbfounded. "China?"
With her heart pounding wildely, Dani whirled around. She relaxed as she recognized the man behind her. "Oh, it's you Elias."
"Did you expect someone else?" he asked, considerately.
Danielle quickly shook her head.
"I can tell there is something on your mind."
She hesitated, her eyes darting nervously around.
"Just let go and tell me. You know that you can talk with me about everything," he reminded her, softly.
"Well, I met somebody..." she began, unsure. "He claims that he knows me... very well even..."
Elias looked at her. "I guess for this subject, I'm the wrong one. I don't know anybody from your past in person."
"I know, I know, " she said, a sad expression on her face.
"I guess you will have to talk with Jack for that."
Danielle sighed. "I don't think so. He's on his way to France."
"Already?" That caught Elias by surprise.
"Yeah. There were some problems and he had to change his flight."
"To get back to the stranger... what impression did you get from him? Do you think he was honest about everything he said?" the psychologist wanted to know.
"You think Greg could... uh..."
He interrupted her. "Did you say Greg?"
"It wasn't that long ago that a man named Greg was here. He said, he was a friend and he wanted to know how you were doing," Elias explained. "Yes, now I remember. How could I have forgotten about this?"
Dani smirked and patted his shoulders. "None of us is getting any younger," she joked.
"Thank you," he replied sarcastically, but then laughed when she snorted.
"How about something to eat?" she asked conciliatory. "I made 'mousakka'."
Elias licked his lips and rubbed his tummy. "Mmmh, yes, my favorite meal from home."
Liz looked suspiciously at the man in front of her. "It depends on the question, Norman."
He scratched the back of his head, a nervous habit. "Uh... it is about... when you were lost..."
This statement totally surprised her. "Why is that of interest for you?"
Norman cleared his throat. "Well... one of my hobbies is geographics."
A dark blonde eyebrow rose. "Really?"
"Uh... actually... uh... I had a friend... who once... visited Vanuatu," he stuttered.
"A nice coincidence. But how can I be of help to you? I don't even know the name of that tiny island Sam and I were on when we were in Vanuatu."
He made a dismissing handmotion. "That's okay."
Liz looked at him questioningly. "You are confusing me."
Nervously, Norman ran his hands through his short hair. He didn't like to remember some things from his dark past. "Were there other people like Sam?"
"No, and only on one small neighboring island was a village of natives. Sam was raised there until she was 17 and then they chased her away."
Norman dared to ask another question. "What was she doing there all alone at the end of the world?"
Liz sighed. "Sam doesn't remember. She was a baby then. The only thing she has left is a medallion."
He froze and paled a little bit. Then his mind started to work feverishly. "Do you have different newspapers and magazines?"
The blonde found it weird that he changed the subject so abruptly but told him where he would find some old newspapers and magazines.
"Thanks," Norman responded. "I'll take some with me to the poolhouse. Until tomorrow morning then. I don't think I will be over again today."
Shaking her head, Liz watched him leave.
It was raining in Paris when Sara got out of Pierre Devereux's office. The meeting had been to her satisfaction. She could convince him of her talent as photographer, and he decided to have her work for his magazine for a while.
Suffering horrible jetlag and being in a bad mood because of it, Jack left the airport and was looking for a cab. He finally saw one. "Ah, there is one. I better hurry and get in before somebody else will snatch it. God, the weather is awful."
The rain was now coming down full force and Sara hurried to her taxi to get to a dry place.
At the same time, both Sara and Jack sat down on the backseat of the black car.
The cab driver was happy. "Oh, two guests. Do you have the same destination?"
Tiredly, Jack looked up and saw that he had company. "Oh. It's you," he said indifferently. "The world can be such a small place. I really don't have the energy to fight with you though."
There was a long pause.
Hesitatingly and a bit dejected, Sara replied, "Why do you think I always want to fight?"
Jack was stunned. "Well, that's how things go between us, right? I say something and you hiss or snap at me. We part ways until we see each other the next time. And when that happens, it starts all over again."
"If you say so." She was very calm.
Jack remembered what Taylor had told him, about what had happened with her and Chris. He felt sorry for her. "Listen. I'll go and get another taxi. I will let you live your life and never bother you again." He was about to step out, but Sara grabbed his arm and pulled him back inside the car. "Please stay," she said, trembling slightly.
Jack looked deeply into her eyes that started to fill with tears.
"Have you finally made up your mind where you want to go?" the cab driver chimed in.
"Hotel 'La Coeur'," Sara told him, quietly.
"Now that's a word." The driver turned back around and the car started to move.
An oppressing silence fell, until Sara found the courage to whisper, "Jack, I... forgive me. Please, forgive me everything. Please." Sobbing, she slid over, leaning against his shoulder and he carefully drew his strong arms around her.
Tenderly, he stroked her wet hair. "Shhhhhhh. Everything is forgiven and forgotten. Are you okay?"
Sara shook her head and looked up at him. "I was so mean to you and treated you so bad. You didn't deserve that."
"A lot has happened since then. All that stuff is behind us," he promised.
She couldn't believe what she heard. "Do you really mean it?"
"Of course," Jack smiled.
Unconsciously, their lips drew closer to each other. They met and held in a long, tender kiss.
The taxi driver had a quick glance into the rearview mirror and grinned. "Ah, l'amour!"
STAY TUNED FOR THE NEXT EPISODE...
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