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It was evening in Los Angeles.
Jack and Victoria left the restaurant ‘California'.
“Dinner was excellent, Vicky, but you really didn't have to do this,” Jack said.
She nodded, smiling. “But I had to. I'm glad that I talked you into riding with me in my car.”
He had to agree to that. “Yes. You were completely right.”
They reached her car and got in. “You see, Jack, it's far more comfortable in my Porsche than it would have been on your drafty motorcycle. Not to mention that it would have ruined my hair if we would have had a neck-breaking ride on that monster of yours...” Happily Vicky babbled on and on, while Jack stared at the quickly passing lights outside. A thought rose...
“Whooohooo! To rent that bike was the greatest idea you ever had, Babe!” Sara exclaimed as she threw her arms up and felt the wind blowing into her face. Then she wrapped her arms around Jack again and said into his ear, “With you, I would ride to the end of the world. This feeling of freedom is just incredible!”
Jack took a deep breath and said softly, “Yeah, freedom was what you wanted and freedom is what you have now...”
“That's right,” Vicky responded, not knowing that he had not been talking to her. “Well, and here we are. This is the building where I have my apartment. Would you like to come up for a cup of coffee?”
“That would be great,” Jack replied.
In the elevator, Victoria said, “You won't ever regret that you came with me tonight.”
Jack looked into her seducing, brown eyes, unable to speak. His mind was still racing with memories of Sara.
Victoria shut and locked the door behind her, muttering to herself, “I will make all your heavy thoughts go away.”
Jack took a look around and then out of the window. “Wow. You have a great view from here, Vicky.”
“Thanks,” she called from the kitchen. “Have a seat, I'll be with you in a moment.”
He sat down on the white, soft couch.
Soon, she joined him, carrying two champagne glasses and sat down beside him. Giving him one glass, she said, “Cheers. To us.” She noticed that he was sitting rather stiffly, so she pushed him gently back into the pillows. “Lean back and just relax. I'll take good care of you.”
Jack emptied his glass quickly and she hurried to fill it up again. “You know, I think I believe you,” he responded.
“Just relax and forget everything that was before me,” Vicky whispered, her voice having a hypnotizing effect on him.
Jack lay down and stared at the ceiling. “Oh yeah. I like that.”
She grinned. “Now that you're with me you don't have to think about anything.” Slowly, she opened his pants and took off his shirt, before she covered him in hot kisses. She sat down on his hips and he looked at her with fiery eyes, liking this wonderful distraction. Then she took her clothes off, seducing him with every move she made and trapping him in her passion.
The telephone rang at the Stuarts' house. Thinking that it might be Vicky, who would bother him some more, Christopher picked up hesitantly. “Hello?”
“What's Vicky doing at our house?” Taylor asked right away, without beating around the bush.
Chris released a relieved breath. “Taylor! Finally you are calling. Are you okay?”
“Please don't change the subject. Answer my question.”
“So, it was you then that time on the phone.”
Taylor just waited until her big brother finally explained, “Please, believe me, Vicky paid me a surprise visit but she was gone quickly after that.”
“What did the Bimbo want?” The girl was growing impatient.
“Just the usual stuff to annoy me. Nothing important. Now please, tell me what's been going on in Beijing? Anything exciting? What about your training?”
“Oh, everything is just great and I am happy to be here.”
Christopher was disappointed about her answer. “Oh,” he said, trying not to show that he was a bit hurt.
“I'm homesick a lot of the time,” she admitted in a small voice.
“Phew. And here I was scared you wouldn't miss us at all.”
“How can you think that? You know that I would miss you all like crazy. Also, I got some interesting news.”
“Yeah? What's that?”
“Imagine this... I met Sara here and we talked about everything. That felt real good and I'm glad all that stuff is out of the way.”
Chris smiled. He could hear that his little sister sounded much happier. “And how is she doing?” he wanted to know, feeling a slight tug at his heart when he thought about his role in the whole mess.
“Don't worry. Everything is forgiven and forgotten.”
“Good, I'm glad. I hope she is going to visit us sometime.” He really was relieved now.
“You don't know the best thing yet, but I'll tell you once I'm back home. Can I talk with my big sister now?”
“Hang on a second. I have to wake Liz first. She is sleeping and Sam just fell asleep next to her,” Chris explained, intending to lay the phone down and get Liz.
“That's cute,” Taylor responded, grinning. “It's okay, please, don't wake them.”
“You know, Liz is going to kill me once she finds out that you called and that I didn't wake her. I had to promise that I would wake her up.”
The teenager chuckled. “I promise I'll call again tomorrow and then I will talk with her for hours. Okay?”
Chris relented. “Alright.”
“Listen, I gotta go. Sara and I want to go to a real Chinese restaurant.”
“That sounds as if you and her are the best of friends again,” he remarked.
“I think it's even better than before.”
Christopher laughed. “I'm so glad. Bye, little sis. I love you."
"I love you too," Taylor replied. "Please don't forget to say hello to Liz and Sam. Till later.”
Danielle was sitting on the porch of Jack's beach house. She pulled her legs to her chest and wrapped her arms around them, resting her chin on top of her knees.
Elias came to her, gave her a cup with hot chocolate and draped a blanket over her shoulders.
“Thank you,” she said and smiled at him. Taking a swallow of the hot brew, she moaned her approval. “Your hot chocolate truly is the best.”
He sat down next to her and together they stared at the sea, both of them contemplating their own thoughts.
“It feels good to sit here like this with you,“ she broke the silence. “I feel very safe.”
“That's a nice compliment.”
Quickly, Danielle changed the subject. “Will Jack be coming home today?”
Elias shrugged his shoulders. “I don't know. I really don't know. Just don't worry about him, he'll be fine.”
“Yes, I know. He is a big boy,” she replied and chuckled, softly.
“How would you like visiting the Stuarts tomorrow?”
His question surprised her greatly, but after pondering it some, she agreed to visit the Stuart family the next morning. “Will you be coming with me in case Jack's not here?” she asked in a small voice.
“Of course I will,” he assured her. “As soon as you feel uncomfortable we will leave. That really is no problem. I am convinced though that the visit will help you.”
Danielle rose. “I'm tired, I'll go to bed.” Bending down, she placed a little goodnight kiss on his cheek. “Thank you so very much for everything you did and are still doing for me,” she said before she retreated inside the house, leaving a bewildered Elias behind.
Meanwhile, Liz had sunk deeper into the land of her dreams. Sam had carefully carried her upstairs and put her to bed. Chris also had yawned his, “Goodnight,” and disappeared to his room.
By now, Liz was deeply buried into her cuddly pillows and blanket, while Sam lay there next to her, enjoying the closeness. Since the brunette had moved into Liz' room she crawled every night into the blonde's bed to be close to her and feel her warmth. In the early morning hours though she climbed back into her own bed, fearing to upset her with her presence. Also, she was still unsure what feelings Liz had for her.
“Goodnight, sweet Angel,“ Sam whispered and kept staring at the blonde's peaceful features until she grew drowsy and fell asleep.
Sighing, Liz turned over and submitted to the dream
She peered through the leaves of a rose bush at the sensual scene in front of her.
Sam lay naked in the ankle-deep water, supported on her elbows. Smiling, she motioned for Liz to come closer to the waterfall.
The blonde stepped forward. Looking down at herself, she noticed without shame that she too was without any clothes.
Sam threw back her long, black hair, revealing her well formed chest to Liz, whose body began to quake with longing.
Unconsciously, she used the tip of her tongue to wet her dry lips and swallowed hard. Taking small steps she slowly walked closer to Samantha. As she stepped into the water, she saw how it swept around the brunette's attractive body and Liz felt the desire to caress her and cover her in kisses from head to toe. “I feel more for you than friendship,” she confessed quietly. “I long for you and your body.”
Challenging, Sam raised an eyebrow and motioned once more for her to come closer.
Being intoxicated by Sam's charm, Liz lowered herself on the brunette's lap, wrapping her athletic legs around Samantha's velvety curves. She breathed in deeply, inhaling the sweet smelling scent of the other woman's skin. Losing herself in the clear blue eyes before her, she whispered, “My throat is so dry...”
Sam dipped her fingers into the water and then slowly painted the cool wetness on Liz' lips.
“That's not enough,” the blonde smiled.
Samantha's eyes flashed and she used her whole hand to get more water.
Thirsty, Liz lowered her lips to the offered drink on Sam's palm. But before she could get to it, Sam leaned back and emptied her hand over her bosom. The tiny water drops rolled over her heated skin and Liz swallowed again, clearly aroused. Without hesitation, she leaned forward and began to collect the drops with her tongue and with great enjoyment. Her tongue was gently circling over Sam's skin, who arched her back a bit more and a lustful moan escaped her throat as she felt Liz' hard nipples pressing against her belly. The blonde loosened the grip she had on her with her legs and Sam lay completely down, relishing the tender caresses.
Liz noticed how Sam's body was vibrating under her touch and her desires for this beautiful woman grew even more. Carefully, she lowered her whole body on top of her, longing to kiss Samantha's sensual lips.
The brunette wrapped her arms around her and whispered, “Please... kiss me...”
“There is nothing more I'd rather do,” Liz replied. Their lips drew closer and closer to each other and finally they sealed in a very erotic French kiss. Unfortunately it grew disgustingly wet. Frowning she let go of Sam and the dreamscape floated away...
... to make room for reality. Liz woke up and found Tasilo next to her, who was excitingly dragging his huge, pink tongue all over her face. “Oh God, Tasilo! Get off me! Now!” The dog jumped off and ran out of the room.
Still feeling hot from her dream, Liz noticed that all her pillows and blankets had fallen on the floor. She turned over and found Sam, peacefully slumbering beside her. A big sigh escaped her throat. “Just a dream,” she muttered, a bit disappointed. “Tasilo, why did you have to wake me?”
Suddenly, Sara jerked up and looked around. Her breathing was fast and her heart was pounding. “Oh... I'm in Beijing... guess I nodded off... I don't want to dream anymore.” Looking at Tugger, she asked him, “How could one prevent that? You don't have a solution by any chance, do you, my sweet?” Burying her face into a pillow, she let the bitter tears flow that stung in her eyes. Sara was in such an uproar that she didn't hear the knocking on the door.
A few seconds later, Taylor entered the room. “Sara?” Finding her friend on the bed, she set down on the edge and carefully placed a hand on her back, making Sara jump.
Her face and eyes red from crying, she rose and took the tissue that Taylor held up for her. “What happened Sara?”
The photographer kept her silence, not offering any explanation at all.
“Come on. You can tell me.”
Sara was battling with herself and after another moment she gave in. “It's nothing bad.”
Taylor's eyebrows rose. “Oh really? Then why have you been crying so hard?”
“I'm just at the end of my rope. When I close my eyes the only things I see are images of Vicky's attack.” Again she fought the tears that wanted to well up and continued in a trembling voice, “They haunt me everywhere. I can't stop it and eventually it's getting the best of me.” She sniffled into the tissue.
Taylor nodded. “I understand. When I was little and my Dad died, I was also having nightmares.”
“How did you get rid of them?” Sara sobbed.
The teenager looked at her, serious. “It took a while... and therapy...”
As soon as she heard that word, Sara rolled her eyes and made a declining hand motion. “I don't need that. I'm strong enough to get through it by myself. As long as I have enough distraction, I'll be fine.”
Taylor shook her head. “Repression is not good. The pain will just cut deeper into your soul. My therapist was a cool guy and it really helps to have somebody to help you not to repress your fears.”
Sara sighed. “You know, there was a time where I didn't have any nightmares.”
“Really? Cool. When?”
“He... I know you don't like him, but... during the time with Jack...”
Taylor was surprised. “Jack? Jack Carpenter?”
Sara nodded, self-consciously.
“That's quite interesting, considering that he was always trying to woo you but you showed him the cold shoulder.”
“Actually, he became my buddy while Liz was gone and then you disappeared.”
Sara threw herself upon the bed. “Oh no,” she groaned. “It would be easier if you wouldn't like him.”
Taylor shrugged her shoulders. “Sorry, but he is a cool guy.”
“I know. That's why it's so hard.”
The teenager sat down next to her, pulling her legs to her chest and wrapping her arms around her knees. “It seems as if the right people always meet at the wrong time.”
“You know... it was my fault that Jack and I broke up.”
Taylor looked at her with great interest. “Do you still love him?”
Sara nodded and her eyes sparkled. “Jack was the right one! My time with him was the best of my life.”
“Tell me more,” Taylor begged, smiling.
***** TWO MONTHS LATER *****
Relaxed, Elizabeth sat in a deckchair, reading a book while Samantha was playing with Tasilo.
Danielle joined them. “Hello you two!” she called out happily. “Isn't it great that even though it's already the end of November, it's still wonderfully warm here in California?”
“Yes, we truly are in luck,” Liz remarked and smiled. Then she looked around, searching. “Did Elias not come with you today?”
“He is at the university talking with some students about child psychology,” Danielle explained.
“What about Jack?” Liz continued asking. “It's been a while since I last saw him too.”
Danielle was obviously crestfallen. “I have a feeling, he moved in completely with Victoria Parker. Elias and I have not seen him often either these past few weeks.”
Liz was very surprised. “I didn't know that it was that serious between them.”
“I think there is something wrong. He has changed a lot,” Danielle admitted.
“What do you mean?”
“He's become very quiet and withdrawn. I don't know how to explain it. If he does grace us with a visit, he is different than before.”
Liz nodded. “If I know Vicky, she probably has him wrapped up completely. But, as long as Jack is happy like that we shouldn't be concerned.”
Danielle sighed. She didn't like it, but Liz was right and there was nothing that they could do right now. So, she changed the subject. “Is there any news from Taylor?”
Liz grinned as she heard the name of her little sister. “She is doing great and calls us every day. Still, I really am glad that she will be coming home soon. I miss her really badly and she's never been away from home for that long. I really really really miss her.”
Michiru clapped her hands and motioned for Taylor to come to the boards. “You did wonderfully today,” she praised the teenager. “Skate slowly a couple more rounds to calm down and then you can stop for today.”
While Taylor was doing her slow circles on the ice, Sara entered the hall and came to a stop beside the Asian woman. “Hello, Ms. Kasawaki.” Pointing at Michiru's tummy, she said, “Wow. It's not only visible on your face anymore that you are pregnant.” Then she leaned over the boards to watch Taylor.
Michiru tenderly rubbed her growing belly. “That's true. I will go and lay down for a bit. Standing up for too long will only put a strain on me. Until later, Sara.”
After Michiru had left, Taylor slid over to Sara, grinning broadly.
“What wrong with you, Cheshire Cat?” the photographer wanted to know.
“You've been avoiding it for a loooooooooong time. Now, there will be no more excuses. We have the whole hall all to ourselves. So, put on the skates and come on the ice.”
The expression on Sara's face came close to that of a deer that was caught in the headlights of a fast approaching car. “Taylor, please!” she whined. “I'm not so fond of the cold element.”
Not giving in, the teenager reminded her once more, “No more excuses.”
“Australians and ice don't get along well... only if the ice is in a drink or in ice cream! Please, believe me.”
Taylor didn't show any mercy. “Come on, come on, come on. It's about time to change that.”
Grinding her teeth, Sara gave in and put on the skates. She stepped through the opening and immediately her hands flew to the boards, holding on tightly. “I'm going to make a fool out of myself.”
“You know, you will have to let go of the boards if you want me to help you.” She reached for her with her hands and while Sara was still pondering how to get safely out of the situation, Taylor had already dragged her to the middle of the ice.
“AAAAHHHH!” Sara yelled. She tried to keep her balance on shaking legs, while Taylor skated masterfully around her, unable to suppress the huge grin on her face.
Indignant, Sara exclaimed, “You are making fun of me! I want back to the boards, now!”
Taylor shrugged her shoulders. “Well, go ahead. I'm not holding you back.”
“Oh you... That's not fair. The ground is slippery!” As carefully as possible, Sara started to move. Already in the next second, she found herself flat on her butt. “Ouch!”
Nervously, Christopher knocked at the door to Karen's office and then entered. “Hey Karen. How are you doing?”
The blonde woman looked up from her work and replied, indifferently, “Oh, it's you Chris. Here, you can take these files to Liz. In the red are documents that she needs to sign and in the green is some stuff she needs to look at. The rest are the usual things. Tell Liz though she should not stress herself. Anything else?”
Chris was very disappointed about her cold attitude. “Karen, please. Could you not at least try to have a more friendly tone? For weeks now I come in here every day to get files for Liz and every time I hope to get one friendly word from you.”
Unimpressed by his heartfelt speech, Karen turned back to her work. Matter-of-factly, she told him, “What's the saying? ‘Hope dies last'.”
Desperately, the artist tried again. “Listen Karen... uh... even Sara forgave me... could you not forgive me too?”
She looked into his pleading, green eyes.
“Please. Just give me one more chance. That's all I want. I only love you!”
Karen sighed. “Christopher. Can you not understand me or do you not want to understand me? I lost my trust in you and it will not magically appear again.”
“I do understand you, but...”
“I don't think you do,” she responded, resignedly. “I have work to do, so please go. Or is there anything else important?”
Crestfallen, Chris turned in direction of the door. “Oh yes. Taylor called this morning, announcing that she will be back home on her birthday. Liz wants to have a surprise party for her and she would like for you to come.”
Karen nodded. “Of course. I'll be there for Taylor's party and I'm looking forward to seeing her again and to hear about her adventures in Beijing.”
“Okay, till tomorrow then.” Dejected, Chris left the office and didn't see how Karen watched him go with sad eyes.
“Bye,” she whispered quietly.
Taylor had gotten her camcorder and held it toward Sara, filming her every move. “It was a good idea to keep all this footage.”
Sara scowled. “You really are mean. Just be careful that your arm and the camcorder won't get attached to each other,” she grumbled.
“Hey, when we are old and gray we will laugh ourselves silly about that,” Taylor replied, looking at her friend with a most innocent expression.
Meanwhile, Sara had managed to get back on her feet, trying to slide back to the opening of the boards. “You just wait,” she threatened. “I will have cruel vengeance and then I will laugh about you.”
Taylor just grinned, greatly amused. “Ooooooh, can you see how badly my knees are trembling?”
Sara was getting ready to counter, but again she fell and landed on her behind, no matter how hard and wild she brandished her arms to keep from losing her balance. She lay down on the ice and mentioned, unmoved, “I will just lie here until somebody finds me and rescues me.”
The teenager smirked. “You are not going to make it five minutes on the cold ground. You are already freezing when the sun disappears behind some clouds for the blink of an eye.”
With a dark expression, Sara sat up and crossed her arms in front of her chest. “That's because of my Australian genes.”
Taylor broke into loud laughter as Sara began to crawl on all fours towards the boards. With tears in her eyes, she said, “Oh man. The video will be all wishy washy from shaking but you are just such a great object to film.”
Sara rescued herself and finally made it off the icy area. While pulling off the skates she looked directly at the camera and responded, “It's great that at least one of us is having tons of fun.”
Taylor poked out her lower lip playfully. “Awww, don't be like that or you will get nasty wrinkles.”
After that comment, Sara couldn't suppress her laughter anymore.
Both were rolling on the floor, laughing so hard they had tears streaming down their cheeks. They only stopped once their bellies started hurting.
Taylor was the first to regain her composure. “I have a free day and you don't have to work tomorrow. What are we going to do?”
“Well, I already have something planned for the both of us,” Sara answered.
“Really? What?” Taylor was barely able to contain her excitement and the other woman knew it.
She used that fact shamelessly against the teenager. “I'm not going to tell you,” she sing-songed. “That's your penalty for torturing me.”
“Oh man,” Taylor pouted. “What could it be? Mhh... we already were in a computer hall... amusement park too and lots of other fun stuff... mmh... please, just give me one tiny little hint... please?” She looked at the photographer with imploring eyes.
Sara though was not to be swayed. “Nope.”
Wearing a new and very small bikini, Victoria was leaning against the patio door of the Parker house, gazing lovingly at Jack.
Clad in boxer shorts, the tall computer specialist lay beside the pool, going through some files and documents.
Alexander walked out and Vicky mentioned, “Don't you think that Jack has a body to die for? So muscled and well-formed.”
Her brother rolled his eyes, not bothering to answer.
Victoria went on, “Look how wonderfully he does his job. Ever since we got together, he works more and better for our company. He is just fantastic!” Taking a look at Alex, she couldn't suppress a snappy remark, “This man should be your idol.”
That was the last blow to make Alexander's irritation rise to the surface. “You are getting on my nerves, Vicky! Think whatever you want, Princess!”
Victoria shot back, “Do you always have to be so negative?” Throwing back her hair, she stalked off, still unable to let go of the walk she had to have when she was a model. Her chest swollen with pride, she walked over to Jack and mercilessly pulled him into the pool with her.
Alex had to turn away. So much love in plain sight tended to make him sick. “Goodness, so much happiness. I can't bear to watch this.”
Catherine came to stand beside him and placed a hand on his shoulder. “It's not going well with Elizabeth nowadays, is it?” she inquired, concerned.
“I don't know what's wrong with her,” Alex growled in answer. “If she doesn't stop acting like a bitch soon, I'm going to forget this whole marriage crap.”
Catherine shot him a glare. “Never!” she insisted firmly. “Everything is going to work out, you will see.”
“If it wouldn't be for that jungle woman Samantha, Liz and I would be off on our honeymoon. Everything and everybody is against me,” he grumbled. “Nothing is going like I want.” He pointed at Vicky and Jack in the water. “I believe that these two lovebirds are going to marry sooner than I will, even though Liz and I have been together for ages.”
Catherine smiled. “Don't worry. Your wedding will take place. I already found the perfect day where we will announce the exact day of your marriage.”
Alex looked at her astonished. “Really?”
“Yes. We will announce it on the day of our traditional ‘Mask Ball'.”
He nodded, satisfied.
***** THE NEXT DAY *****
Sara's eyes wandered from her watch to the sky, down to the empty place in front of her and back to Taylor.
Impatiently, the teenager was bouncing on her heels. “What are we waiting for?” she asked for the hundredth time.
“Mhh. Ms. Kasawaki is taking care of Tugger. Actually, it can start now.”
“That's what I'm saying the whole time,” Taylor stated, looking expectantly at Sara's stony features.
The photographer began to grin. “I'm not going to say one word.”
Suddenly, they could hear the noises of an approaching helicopter.
“Finally,” Sara said, taking Taylor's hand. “I thought they wouldn't come at all.” Dragging the teenager along she yelled, “That's our flight!”
Taylor's eyes widened. “That's for us?”
Sara nodded. As they had reached the helicopter, the co-pilot climbed out and helped them into the machine.
“Wow!” Taylor exclaimed. “Great service and the interior looks like that of a 5-star-hotel.”
Sara shrugged her shoulders and grinned. “Only the best.”
“Can was start now, Ms. Jones?” asked the voice of the pilot over the headphones the girls had to wear.
“Of course,” Sara chuckled. “Let's not lose any more time.”
Taylor was overwhelmed by all she saw and Sara greatly enjoyed seeing her speechless. “Would you like something to eat or to drink? How about playing some games?”
“I got ‘Dead or Alive 5' here... more realistic than the other parts.”
Taylor smiled. “Sure!”
“Okay, let's fight then!”
Liz was rolling on her bed, dreaming her favorite dream that appeared nearly every night now. “Ohhhh Saaaaam... Sam... ohhhh...” she breathed, hugging her pillow tighter to her chest, not knowing that Sam was laying next to her, wide awake.
Smiling, she brushed some blonde strands away from Liz' forehead and just stared at her beautiful angel in the pale moonlight.
Frightened, Danielle picked up the phone at Jack's house. “Hello?” She jerked as she recognized the angry voice on the other end of the line.
“Listen, Danielle. I have fucking had it! For weeks now you've been pushing me away. What's the meaning of this shit?!”
“Greg. Please... I really don't want to see you anymore... please, just leave me alone and don't call me anymore...”
He interrupted her quickly, snapping, “Does that mean it's over? Just like that?”
Danielle sighed. “Yes. I don't want to see you or hear from you ever again. Please, leave me alone.”
Furious, Alexander shot back, “Now listen to me, you ungrateful little bitch...”
Tears welled up in her eyes when she heard that.
“...You are nothing without me! You will regret your decision, cunt, that I swear!” Then he hung up.
Sobbing, Danielle let go of the receiver and unplugged the telephone cable from the wall. She was a nervous wreck and his constant attacks were wearing her down even more. “Maybe I should meet with Greg and then his threats will stop?” she whimpered, wrapping her arms around her legs. Instantly, she shoved the thought as far away from her mind as possible. “No. Never again.” Silently, she tiptoed into Elias' room.
He was sleeping soundly.
Leaning against the door, she observed him and a small smile flickered briefly over her face. “I don't want to disappoint Elias.” Her thoughts turned back to the man she knew as Greg. ‘He was so nice in the beginning. What happened to make him suddenly like this? If only he would stop harassing me.'
Intimidated and scared to death because of Greg, Danielle crawled into bed beside Elias, snuggling up to him.
In his sleep, he put an arm around her protectively and for the first time in a long while Danielle felt safe.
Evening had fallen in China and the co-pilot turned around to look at Sara and Taylor. “We will land soon,” he announced, smiling at the girls.
“That's great,” Sara responded. “Could you do me a favor and circle above the event? I would like to see it from high up.”
“As you wish, Ms. Jones.”
Their eyes shining with wonder, both girls stared out of the helicopter's windows. “Wow! A concert on the ‘Great Wall' of China!” Taylor exclaimed.
“Do you see these huge lights? They are turning the night to day.”
“Look at how many people are there.”
Sara grinned. “It's a big event. There will be also tons of reporters and other press people,” she explained.
Taylor was still trying to figure out what exactly was going on. “Yes, but who...” On a huge screen she discovered fans that were holding up pictures and screaming for the superstar Shakira. “I... I d-don't b-believe this...” she stuttered.
Sara told the pilot that they could land now, hanging a concert pass around Taylor's neck.
The teenager had a look at it and her eyes grew even bigger. “V.I.P? How did you do that?” she wanted to know.
“Relations with the right people are everything,” Sara explained, winking.
As soon as the girls had gotten out of the helicopter, they found themselves surrounded by press people, who were asking a lot of nosey questions. Taylor just shook her head. “No interviews today. Thanks for being so understanding.”
The concert security came to their help, leading them on top of the ‘Great Wall' and behind the huge stage there.
“SARA?” Somebody called out from behind them.
She turned around and stormed into the arms of Jon Bon Jovi. “Hey! How are you doing?” Gesturing at him she told Taylor, “He and his guys were playing at the party of my 16 th birthday.”
“Nice to meet you,” Taylor said and shook hands with the rockstar after Sara let go of him.
The photographer laughed. “Be careful, Jon is a real heartbreaker.”
The teenager snorted. “Not for me. I can take good care of myself.”
“It was nice seeing you again, Sara,” Jon Bon Jovi said. “Oh, your Dad transferred the money today.”
Noticing Taylor's questioning glance, she pointed out, ”This is a Charity Event and each artist is performing here for free. My Dad's been supporting this organization for years.”
“Cool. I like that.”
Then Shakira was announced and with bright sparkling eyes, Taylor pulled the camcorder from her backpack. “I'm ready for that show! Liz and Sam are so going to love this.”
Yawning, Christopher rubbed the sleep from his eyes, as he encountered Samantha. “Good morning, Sam.”
He saw her beaming face and asked playfully, “Has your grin been etched into your face forever?”
“I slept wonderfully,” Sam replied, happily.
Christopher smirked and remarked, matter-of-factly, “Isn't love just the greatest thing?” Immediately, the brunette blushed embarrassed, so he quickly changed the subject. “My bosses really like your idea with the panther. I'm very grateful that you came up with it or it would have taken me forever to figure out another character. That's why I have a little surprise for you.”
Sam looked at him in joyful expectation. “A surprise for me?”
The blonde artist nodded. “Yes. Now that the pool house is free again, I brought some painting equipment over there so that you can paint and draw whenever you feel like it. You see, there was this little birdy chirping to me that you really enjoy painting.”
Sam couldn't believe it. “All of that is for me?”
“Yes. You absolutely deserve it and so much more.”
While Chris and Sam were wrapped up in a conversation, Tasilo was outside, scratching with his paw against the patio door.
Chris frowned, “What does he have in his mouth? It looks like a gray bundle.” He opened the door to let the dog in. “I hope it's not a rat that he likes to hunt.”
Sam knelt down in front of the German shepherd. “Hey big buddy. Would you please show me what you got there?”
“Goodness, Tasilo you are completely soaked. Have you been in the pool? That's not like you. Usually, you keep away from water.”
“It's moving!” Sam suddenly exclaimed.
Whimpering, Tasilo slowly lowered the bundle into Sam's open hand.
Chris peered over her shoulder, curious as to what it would be.
A little cry of delight escaped Samantha's chest. “Awww, a cat. It's a little baby cat.”
Trembling and dripping wet, the little fur ball meowed, the sound tugging at their heartstrings. Tasilo tenderly licked his new-found protégée.
“I'll go get a towel,” Christopher said.
Sam picked up the little cat, gently rubbing the wet fur with tender fingertips. “You are so cute. Just what did you do outside? Did somebody forget about you?”
Chris returned with a fluffy, cuddly towel. “I think somebody left her out to die.”
Shocked, Sam covered her mouth. “Who would do something so cruel?”
He could only shrug his shoulders and looked into her sad eyes. “You know, I think we should adopt the little one.”
“Yes. That would be nice.” Smiling again, Sam looked at the cat and told her, “Now you too belong to the Stuart family.”
Tasilo wagged his tail and barked in agreement.
Taylor and Sara were speechless after Shakira's show. Both of them thought they had really lost it as the Colombian singer walked over to them. “Hey. Did you have fun?” she asked and smiled.
The girls couldn't say anything. They just stared at her awestruck.
“Hello? Is anybody home?” Shakira asked again and then laughed happily.
Taylor was the first, who got her composure back. “Sorry. We just got a bit overwhelmed. You were absolutely amazing. Your dancing... your voice... everything was just great.”
The singer placed a hand above her heart. “Thank you, thank you. I don't think I deserve so much praise, but thank you. Sadly, I will have to go soon because my flight for Europe will depart in a couple of hours.”
Taylor smiled. “I bet your fans there will just be as fascinated as we were.”
“Well, I hope so.”
“Shakira, please wait a moment,” Sara suddenly said, snatching the camcorder from Taylor's hand. She pointed it at the singer and her friend and started filming. “I'm sure that Taylor would love being on the tape with you.”
The singer beamed and pulled the completely surprised teenager into her arms, making funny faces at the camera. Abruptly, she got called away by her manager, but she turned to the girls once more. “I hope we will meet again soon. Maybe then we will have some more time to talk.”
“Bye Shakira!” The girls called out and waved until the singer had disappeared.
“Wow. She is one cool lady,” Sara said to Taylor. “You know... I think I forgot to switch the camcorder on record... oooops... sorry...”
“WHAT?” Taylor exclaimed in shock.
“Don't worry, I was just kidding.” She gave it back to her. “Here, take it. I think it's still running.”
Taylor quickly let her eyes run over her camcorder to make sure that it was still intact.
Sara then grabbed her sleeve and pulled her along. “Come on. They can't start the After-Show-Party without us!”
The teenager didn't like that too much. “Do we have to go there?”
“Yes,” Sara insisted.
Sighing and rolling her eyes, Taylor relented.
After looking at his watch, Christopher announced, ”I better go now and bring all these files that Liz has finished to Karen. Until later, Sam.” He gathered up the things he would need to deliver to Karen's desk.
“Bye,” Samantha replied before she turned her attention back to the little cat.
It was only a mere moment after Chris had left that Liz appeared in the living room, yawning. She rubbed her eyes and once she managed to open them halfway, she discovered the little fur ball that Sam held to her chest. “Awww, now that is the cutest thing I've ever seen,” she said, her voice still a bit rough from sleeping. “Where did you get her, Sam?”
Exhausted from her ordeal, the little cat had fallen asleep in the brunette's hand and Sam carefully rubbed her back only with one finger. “Tasilo is the hero. He rescued her from drowning in the pool.”
“Oh God, that's horrible... you poor little thing...”
“Chris said that we could keep her and adopt her to the family.”
Liz nodded and knelt down next to Sam to get a better look at the new family member. “Yes. That's a wonderful idea.”
The cat woke up then, rolling over in Sam's hand to have her belly rubbed.
“Awww, she really is cute,” Liz said once more. “She needs a name.”
Sam held the cat up, looking deeply into her big, shiny, green eyes. “What would you like for a name, little one, huh?”
Liz rubbed her chin, thinking. “Mhhh... the name has to fit her...”
“I think we should wait till the whole family is present and name her then so that everybody gets to have a say.”
“That's a great idea, Sam.” Liz smiled at her. “We will wait two more weeks until Taylor is finally back. I'll be so glad when the time of waiting will be over. Also, we will go to our cabin in the mountains.”
Samantha gazed deeply into Liz' eyes. “I am really looking forward to that.”
“Yeah, me too. From Christmas till the new year we will see nice forests and gleaming white snow. Then there will be the crackling fireplace, roasting marshmallows, baking cookies, singing Christmas songs and last but not least there will be presents.”
“Presents?” Sam wrinkled her forehead, waiting for the blonde to explain.
“Yes. Everybody gets a little piece of paper with a name on it. That person gets a little personal present, nothing big or expensive because we have that too. It's a family tradition.” Liz sighed heavily. “Mom started it when Dad bought the log cabin and since then we've been there every Christmas. That was so beautiful when we were kids, prancing around the Christmas tree...” Tears began to well up in her emerald eyes and Sam reached over, stroking her cheek tenderly.
STAY TUNED FOR THE NEXT EPISODE...
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