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Jonathan handed Jack the huge knife and fork. “Would you please do us the honor of cutting the turkey?”
“It would be my pleasure,“ Jack replied, smiling.
Meanwhile, Catherine pulled Vicky to the side. “So? Did he ask you yet?”
Victoria grinned. “No, not yet. But, it's only a matter of time. We have been talking about it. God, I swear, he is such a dream of a man. If I wouldn't love him so much already, I would fall for him right now,” she gushed, happily.
Alexander, who had heard everything, rolled his eyes, nerve-wrecked.
A dark glare from his mother though made him swallow whatever sarcastic remark lay on his tongue. ‘I hope this shitty day will be over soon,' he thought and went to fix himself another drink.
Jack put the cut meat on the plates and they all sat down at the table to enjoy the meal.
Jonathan raised his glass. “To this wonderful meal and to this wonderful Christmas celebration. May we have lots more of those together. Cheers!”
They clinked their glasses together and then began to eat.
“Oh Mommy,” Victoria exclaimed. “Your turkey is awesome like always.”
“I agree,” Jack said.
Catherine was visibly flattered. “I'm glad that you like it, Jack. So? When is it going to be?”
“What do you mean?” Jack asked, wrinkling his forehead in confusion.
“When will you and Vicky make me a proud grandmother?”
This unexpected question surprised him so much that his food went down the wrong pipe and Jack coughed heavily, while Vicky was pounding on his back and shooting dark glares at her mother.
Alexander grinned to himself. ‘Hm. Suddenly this day became quite interesting.'
Liz stood at the window of the cabin, gazing out, greatly concerned. It had been a few hours since Karen fled from the house. Two hours ago Christopher had stormed out to search for her. “I don't understand it. They should be back by now.”
The mood to celebrate Christmas had vanished quickly for everybody.
Samantha joined her and calmingly stroked her back. “He will find her, you'll see. Anytime soon the door will open and both of them will enter, unharmed.”
Liz sighed. “I will sit down with the radio set. It's getting dark outside and a storm is about to break loose. If they are still out there, they are not going to survive!” She was about to panic and it took all her self-control to not break down in front of the others.
“Chris was a boy scout,” Taylor chimed in. “I'm sure he will come up with something.”
Liz looked at her little sister. “I hope so, sweetie. I really hope so.”
Karen lay in the snow and her strength gave out completely. During her flight, she had managed to break her ankle and then she had tried to drag herself back to the cabin, unsuccessfully. In the whirling white she had lost her way. “So, that's it,” she muttered to herself. “The end. Somehow I imagined it differently.” She closed her eyes. Her body couldn't feel the cold anymore, she just wanted to sleep. But suddenly, she heard something over the loud howling of the wind. It sounded as if somebody was shouting her name. She wanted to call back, but she didn't have the strength.
“KAAAAAAAAREN! KAAAAAAAAREN! WHERE ARE YOU??? KAAAAAAAREN!” Chris shouted, scanning his surroundings carefully. About 10 meters away, he saw something laying in the snow. “Oh God, no!” He had found her.
“Karen, my love. I'm here. I'll get you home.”
“It's so cold... so cold...” she mumbled.
“Don't worry, sweetheart. Everything is going to be alright.”
“Yes. I'm here with you,” he confirmed, holding her in his arms. “Together we will make it.”
“I... I love you,” she confessed, trying to open her eyes, but her lids were just too heavy.
“I know, darling.” Carefully, he picked her up. Her whole body was shaking and her lips were blue. Tiny ice crystals had become stuck on her eyelashes and eyebrows.
“Karen, you have to stay awake,” he told her.
She whimpered. “I'm so tired...”
“I know, but you can't go to sleep right now or you might never wake up again.”
“Okay...” she breathed weakly.
“Keep talking, so that I know that you are awake.”
“I can't think of any jokes right now...”
“Just tell me something. I don't care what it is.” Slowly, Christopher began to walk, holding on tightly to the precious cargo in his arms.
Then the snowstorm enfolded them, unleashing all its power on top of their heads.
Spread out on a checkered blanket, Matthew lay on the beach and watched his daughter, who was trying out her new surfboard that she had found under the Christmas tree.
‘The holidays are nearly over and soon Sara will start therapy with Dr. Elias Lunaris. Hopefully, things will turn better now,' he thought to himself.
Sara came out of the water, let her board fell to the sand and hugged her father. “Oh Daddy,” she exclaimed happily. “The new surfboard is really cool. Now, I will check how the new camera works under water. Finally, I can take great shots of coral reefs and the pretty colorful fish down there.”
“Wait a second,” he replied as she was about to race off again. He rummaged in the bag and brought out a package. “Before you dive back into the water, why don't you open this? It was in the mail this morning.”
Sara looked at it and then saw the stamps from Los Angeles. A wide grin appeared on her features. “I already know who sent this.” After opening the package, she found a letter and a DVD. The case said ‘TAYLOR'S DOCUMENTARY OF BEIJING'. Sara's grin grew even bigger. She ripped the envelope open and read the letter. “Hi Sara! I hope this package finds you happy and in good health. If not then the only thing you need to do is put in the DVD and you will laugh yourself silly. This is the Director's Cut and I left everything the way it was, just added a few funny sounds here and there. I hope you will have lots of fun with it. Thanks for my birthday present. I hope we will see each other again soon. Until then, Taylor.”
Still grinning, Sara looked at her father. “Dad? Would you like to see a complete different side of Beijing?”
***** THE NEXT DAY – BOXING DAY – 26 th OF DECEMBER *****
Karen's mind was in a state between sleep and wakefulness, as she felt somebody tenderly stroking her forehead. It took great efforts to open her eyes and once she had managed it, she found herself laying in Christopher's arms.
He smiled as he saw her brown eyes open. “Hey.”
“Where... where are we?” she croaked through a very dry throat.
“In a cave. We've been here the whole night,” Christopher explained, tightening his grip that he had on her. “We can try now to make our way back to the cabin. The storm is over.”
“You saved my life,” she stated.
“Nah. I'm sure you would have done the same for me.” He cleared his throat because her words embarrassed him. Then he looked at her and added, “Besides, I know you don't want to hear it, but I do love you so very much. I always will.”
He sighed, heart-broken. “Yes, I know. You can't love me anymore. I hurt you too bad.”
“But I do,” she confessed. “I was fighting my feelings for you. That's why I pushed you away and was always mean to you.” Tears gathered in her eyes and she turned her head away.
Christopher reached for her chin and turned her face towards him again so that he could look at her. “Let's try to start from the beginning once more. This time it will work... if we both truly want it. Karen, I love you more than anything else. That's why I will ask you again. Will you become my wife?”
The sound of a helicopter cut through the silence and for the moment the question was forgotten.
“It sounds like a helicopter.”
“I guess they sent out a search party,” Chris said. “I'm sure, by now Liz and the others are going crazy with worry.”
Karen felt bad. “I shouldn't have run away,” she muttered.
He stroked her cheek. “Hey, nobody will give you a hard time. You felt pressured and needed to get away. It's okay.”
“And what good did it do? My ankle is broken and you sound as if you are about to get a real bad cold, if not even pneumonia.”
“I'll gladly battle that as long as I have you back.” He carefully lowered her to the ground and went out of the cave to get the helicopter crew's attention.
Karen lay there, trying to come to terms with the whole situation. And one question kept echoing through her mind... “Will you become my wife?”
Vicky opened the glass door to the balcony and stepped out to join Jack.
He leaned against the balustrade and stared off into space.
She took his hand and said, “Come on back inside, to our cuddly bed. You have another free day.”
“In a bit,” Jack replied indifferently, looking at the city that spread out in front of him.
“It's too cold for me out here,” she whined. Then an idea came to her and she let go of the sheet she had wrapped around her naked body. “Maybe you can warm me up,” she breathed and rubbed her thigh between his legs.
“Ohhh,” he moaned as he felt himself stir. “You really are determined to make a baby, huh?”
Abruptly, Victoria stopped her seduction and hissed venomously, “What are you trying to suggest, huh? Does that mean you don't want to have children with me?”
“I didn't say that...”
“But you thought it!” she interrupted him roughly and crossed her arms in front of her chest.
“No, no. It's just that your mother really caught me off guard with that comment and I hope she's not expecting to become grandma in the next few months or years. Does she?” he wanted to know.
Victoria was still pouting.
Jack placed his arms around her waist and pulled her against him.”I didn't mean it bad. It's just that creating a family and raising kids is a serious matter. We really have to think about it and plan ahead. It's a decision with lots of consequences. If I do become a father I want to be a good one, who will never abandon his children and on whom they can always count.”
Vicky beamed happily and her eyes sparkled adoringly. “Oh Jack, you are going to be the best Daddy of the world and I'll be the best Mommy of all times. If we have a little girl I will take her everywhere and buy her pretty, expensive dresses and...”
“Hey, hey, hey, princess,” Jack interrupted her. “We are still young and have all the time in the world. To have children means to take on lots of responsibility and that will take up lots of time. Time that for right now we have for ourselves and can enjoy however we want to.”
That comment was fine with her and she felt better, knowing that she would have her model figure for a while longer. She pressed her nude body tightly against his muscles.
“I'm sure your Mom can be a bit more patient,” he stated.
Victoria covered him with hot kisses and breathed aroused, “Stop talking and let's go back to enjoy ourselves.”
He lifted her up, she wrapped her legs around his hips and he carried her inside. Tenderly, he played the tip of his tongue against her ear. “You are insatiable.”
“I just know what you like to do most,” she groaned, lustfully.
“You think so...”
“I can prove it... day and night if you want to...”
The phone rang at the ranch in Australia.
Rose picked up the receiver. “Hello?”
“Hello Rose, it's Richard.”
She was so astonished that she nearly dropped the receiver.
“I... I just... I just had the feeling to call...”
“Finally we hear something from you!” she exclaimed, almost hysterically. “I really should be mad at you. We were so worried about you and we all miss you terribly. Especially Sara.”
Now it was his turn to be surprised. “Sara? Sara is back home? Did they make up? Is she okay?” Richard shot out one question after the other.
Rose laughed. “Yes, yes, yes and Mr. Jones really regrets what he accused you of in the heat of the moment. He wants you to come back so that he can apologize to you.” There was a pause and then she added, “Then you can also see Sara again.”
“I can't,” Richard replied, not betraying any emotion. “I have a job here that I like and... it's okay how it is now.”
“What nonsense are you talking there, boy? For whom is this situation any good? And most of all, where are you anyway?”
“In America, working with horses,” he said.
“Well, America is big. Where exactly?” Rose continued to prod. “You don't have any family there and I'm sure you feel lonely, am I right?”
“It's okay. I like it here and I never cared about close family contact. That only leads to problems.”
Rose frowned. “What does that mean? I really don't know what's up with you.” She shook her head and glanced in direction of the stairs. “Ohh, Sara is coming downstairs,” she told him happily. “Hang on a second. I'm sure she will be able to convince you to come back home. After all, you are like a big brother to her.”
“Yeah, for everyone I am always only the big brother,” he mumbled under his breath so that she couldn't hear it.
“Sara? Sara, sweetheart... Richard is on the phone... come quick!”
“No! No, I don't want to. Not yet...”
Sara smiled and took the receiver from Rose's hand. “Ray? Ray, is it really you?”
After a short moment of silence she just heard the tooting noise of the telephone. “He hung up.” Sara was stunned. “He didn't say anything.” Tears welled up in her eyes and she looked at the housekeeper. “Why didn't he want to talk with me? I don't understand it.”
The phone rang again and Sara picked up quickly. “Ray!... Oh, sorry... Yes, I understand... Yes, I will make sure somebody will pick you up at the airport. Okay, until later. Bye.” She hung up.
Rose regarded her curiously. “Who was that?”
“Oh, Dr. Lunaris and his companion just landed. Can you please send out the limousine to pick them up?”
Sara sighed. “Thanks. I'll be in my room if somebody needs me.”
Rose watched her leave. “Oh, little one, please don't be so crestfallen. Everything will be alright.”
Alexander knocked briefly at the door and then entered the study of his mother. “Mom, I thought you said you didn't want to work during the holidays?” he asked a bit puzzled as he saw her bent over some files.
“Oh, you know me, my son. The company has to be running even during holidays,” she explained with a small smile. “Besides, I'm working on the guest list for our Mask Ball.”
He rubbed the nape of his neck. “I guess I shouldn't disturb you then.”
“You are here, so, go ahead and tell me what you want.”
“Did Dad have an affair?” Alex asked, matter-of-factly.
Catherine's eyes flashed. “Which one do you mean?”
“Uh... I guess I hit a sore spot.”
“I don't think I should discuss stuff like that with you, my son.”
“It's just that... uh... yesterday evening I heard you having a fight again... about somebody called Kayla...” He watched his mother closely, waiting for her reaction to the name.
Exasperated, she asked, “What do you know about Kayla?”
“Well, I remembered something that was about 30 years ago...”
Catherine motioned for him to continue.
“Dad left us to live with that woman, but then he came back. Why?”
Indifferently, she turned back to writing some invitations. “The little whore dumped him.”
Alexander's eyes widened in astonishment. “Just like that? I thought it was very serious between them.”
She shrugged her shoulders. “Maybe they both came back to their senses and did the only right thing. Anyway, this chapter is of no interest to you... for nobody.”
His mother's answer wasn't satisfying at all, so he tried again. “Was Kayla very rich?”
Catherine looked at him uncomprehendingly.
“Did she inherit something or so?”
She laughed. “No, she didn't have anything of value.”
He rubbed his chin. “That's strange... what could it be then?”
“Alex, why are you asking me all these questions?”
He shrugged his shoulders. “No special reason. I'll let you go back to the guest list.” With that he left the study.
“He is planning something, I can feel it. Fortunately, all evidence has been destroyed... just not... if only I knew what Norman did with the medallion.” Frustrated, she turned back to her work.
Elias and Danielle climbed out of the air-conditioned limousine and stepped into the heat of the Australian sun.
Danielle scanned her surroundings, taking in the dusty way, the wide paddocks, the stables and the main building.
They walked to the entrance door and Eli commented, “This old English style looks very nice.”
The door opened and Rose stepped out to shake their hands in greeting. “Hello... Dr. Lunaris, I presume? And this lady would be... uh... your assistant?”
Elias smiled. “No, but I talked with Mr. Jones about it and he said it would be alright.”
Rose nodded. “Please, come in. My name is Rose and I'm the housekeeper and the cook.”
In the living room, Danielle gazed out of the patio doors into the big garden. “It's really wonderful here. Do you have any neighbors?”
Rose laughed while she set glasses and a pitcher of cold, self-made lemonade on the table.”It's a few miles till the next house but therefore you have absolute quiet, just like Mr. Jones loves it.” She filled the glasses and gave them to Elias and Danielle, who took the refreshment gratefully. “Mr. Jones is excusing himself. He has some business to do in Sydney.”
“What about his daughter?” Eli asked.
Rose swallowed. “Well, Sara is in her room. I don't think she will be down before dinner. I think by now the driver will have carried your things to your rooms. Why don't you rest a bit and relax. You must be exhausted from the long trip. You also can freshen up a bit. Please, follow me and I'll show you to your rooms.”
Both, Danielle and Elias thanked the friendly housekeeper.
“Of course, I will let you know right away when Mr. Jones is back.”
Karen woke up due to loud sneezing. She opened her eyes and found Liz, Samantha and Taylor standing around her hospital bed. Next to her sat Christopher, who was just blowing his nose. Karen reached for his hand and gave it a tight squeeze.
“It's so great to see you awake,” Chris said, sniffling. “How are you feeling, sweetheart?”
“I'm feeling weak. And you seem to have a real bad cold.”
Christopher gently brushed a hand through her long, blonde locks. “That's a small price to pay for your life.”
They got lost in each other's eyes until Liz' words reached them in their trance. “Karen, you did break your ankle and I think I speak for everybody when I say that we are glad to have you back safe and sound.”
A nurse entered the room. “I'm sorry, but you all will have to leave now. Ms. Miller needs lots of rest to get her strength back.”
Samantha, Liz and Taylor said goodbye to Karen and walked out the door.
Christopher didn't move so Karen looked at him questioningly. “The doctors said they want to keep you here till the morning of New Year's Eve so that your body can recover.”
“Oh no,” she said, dejected.
Chris rose from the chair and placed a tender kiss on her forehead. “I'll come visit you every day and I'll get you out of here at the morning of New Year's Eve, I swear. Now, go to sleep.” He whispered the last few words.
Chris already had his hand on the door handle when she called after him, “YES!”
He looked at her questioningly.
Tears were streaming down her cheeks as she sobbed in explanation, “Yes, I want to become your wife.”
Chris was crying now too. He stormed back to the bed and gave her another kiss. “I love you.”
“I love you too.”
They smiled at each other and then he left, turning around once more to blow her a last kiss.
In front of the door he crashed into Samantha, Liz and Taylor, who had been listening at the door. Chris smirked, “I should have known that curiosity would kill you.”
The three women pulled him in a hug and congratulated him.
“I'm so happy that you found each other,” Sam said.
Liz grinned. “I knew, it was only a matter of time. Nothing can stand in the way of true love.”
“We will have another wedding,” Taylor exclaimed, bouncing on her heels.
“Hey, hey, hey. Don't get ahead of yourselves,” Chris told them, trying to calm them down.
“Why?” Liz wanted to know. “You are going to get married once and for all.”
“That's right!” Taylor agreed. “One worry less and we finally don't need to listen to his constant whining anymore.”
“Whining?” Chris inquired, frowning.
Liz groaned. “Yes. It was so bad at times.”
Still confused, Christopher asked, “What?”
His sisters just sighed and patted his shoulders before they burst into laughter.
It was later that day as Elias entered Matthew's study, greeting him politely with a firm handshake.
“Have you settled alright, Dr. Lunaris?” Matthew wanted to know.
“Yes. It is very generous of you to let us stay in your wonderful house.”
Matthew motioned for the other man to sit down in the leather chair in front of his enormous desk. “I want you to spend as much time with my daughter as possible and I want you to be close by whenever she might need you.”
Eli nodded. “I understand and that's the reason why I'm here, Mr. Jones.”
Matthew sighed and loosened his tie. “I just came back from the office. An agent of my insurance company gave me this file.” He handed it to Elias.
While the psychologist read it, Matthew continued, “My yacht lay in the harbor of L.A. and was supposed to carry Sara and her husband safely into their honeymoon a few months ago. As I told you already, the wedding never took place, but an investigation by the insurance company confirmed that the explosion of the boat at midnight was no coincidence. They found parts of a bomb.”
Elias was shocked. “That's horrible.”
Tiredly, Matthew rubbed his face. “My daughter, my only child could be dead right now. Who... why... I just don't know what to do anymore. How can I protect her? I can't confront her with this. She already has enough nightmares to deal with.”
“Please, calm down, Mr. Jones. I will help you and most of all Sara. Therapy will start day after New Year's Eve. Before, I would like to give her the chance to get comfortable with my presence so that a base of trust can be established,” Elias told him.
Matthew nodded. “Alright. But, I will demand some more investigation so that we catch that son of a bitch, who tried to do something to my little angel!”
A bit worried, Elias looked at Matthew's firm face.
***** NEW YEAR'S EVE – 31 st OF DECEMBER *****
The snow in front of the cabin was sparkling in the bright sunlight that fell from a cloudless, blue sky. Taylor was busy building a huge snowman. She looked up as she heard the jeep and yelled, “Liz! Sam! Chris is back with Karen!”
Sam came running out of the house, holding a big pot that she wanted to put on the snowman's head.
Liz followed her from the kitchen. “Great, now we can celebrate the new year together.”
Chris got out, walked around the car and opened the passenger door. He helped Karen out of the car, who commented, “Argh, damn it. I don't think I can play in the snow with my leg in plaster.” She had gotten a crutch and with that she limped to the cabin.
“Stop, stop, stop,” Christopher called out.
Karen turned around and looked at him. “What?”
“Let me be a gentleman and carry you over the threshold.”
She blushed. “I thought that was only done in a different situation?”
Chris laughed and picked her up. “Just think of it as exercise for later.” He turned to his little sister. “Taylor? Would you please bring in Karen's crutch?”
Taylor nodded and followed them. “I moved to the couch in the living room so that you two can have the other room,” she announced grinning.
Outside, Sam was a bit puzzled. “What is this custom about?”
“What do you mean?” Liz asked.
“Why did he carry her inside?”
“Well, I don't know where it came from, but after the wedding, one will carry their beloved woman over the threshold of their house to show her how much one loves her,” Liz explained.
Sam contemplated what she had just heard.
The blonde touched her head. “Damn, I got a pot on the stove, I have to check before it burns.” She was about to hurry back to the kitchen as Sam took her hand, pulled her into her arms, picked her up and carried her inside.
Speechless, Liz looked at the brunette's beaming face. “For a beloved woman...”
Liz' heart pounded out of control and she thought, ‘Oh Sam, why do I have such feelings for you...'
In Australia, the new year had already began. Elias took Sara for a walk instead of having a normal session at the house. He thought it would be better to talk without any pressure and he wanted for Sara to tell him about her fears on her own.
“I will be frank with you,” she said. “I didn't want to go to therapy until Taylor opened my eyes and I discovered that I can't do it without help.”
Elias nodded and asked, “Taylor? Who is that?”
“Oh, she's my best friend. We met again in Beijing and she told me that after some bad stuff happened in her childhood she found back into life with help of therapy.”
Eli thought about it and inquired, “Taylor Stuart?”
Sara was astonished. “Yes. Hey, does that mean you were her doctor when she was a child? She is very grateful for what you did to help her, you know?”
“I didn't know that.”
“Now, I am relieved,” Sara told him. “I know that you are the best and I know that you can help me. Didn't you see Taylor again after therapy?”
“Then I've got the perfect thing for you, Doc. A DVD that Taylor made in Beijing. We could watch it this evening with my Dad, Rose and Danielle.”
He smiled. “I would love to.”
After that, Sara told him everything about Christopher, the wedding catastrophe, Vicky's attack and her nightmares. She also told him about her wonderful time in Paris that she spent with Jack.
“Doc, you have to promise me that you won't tell my father anything about what I just said.”
“Do not worry. I'm a doctor, I'm not allowed to do that anyway.”
Sara released a relieved breath. “Okay. I know I hurt Jack very bad with my impossible behavior and I would like to prevent that from happening with Rose or my Dad. That's why I want to keep everything a secret from them to not pull them down into this whirl of emotions that's raging inside me. I made enough wrong decisions. Daddy shall not be concerned because of me. I have to make it.”
“We will make it together,” Elias promised.
She smiled and they walked back to the house. “I'm going diving with Danielle this afternoon. Would you like to come too?”
“No thanks. I think I will just walk around a bit.”
Sara laughed. “Okay, your loss.”
The time till midnight went by, while Liz was preparing food and drinks. She had told Sam to put the champagne bottles outside in the snow so that they would be well cooled for later.
Samantha came back inside, shivering. “It's real icy outside. It also stopped snowing again and the freshly fallen snow looks very beautiful. I like it.”
“I'm happy to hear that,” Liz replied. “I would like to see it with my own eyes and we can go outside as soon as I am done here. Taylor, would you like to come too?”
The girl's eyes were glued to the TV screen where a warrior woman was brandishing her sword and she didn't even look up from her game. “No. Did you remember the alcohol-free champagne for kids?”
“Of course I did, since I want you to drink something too when the adults cheer for the new year later,” Liz replied. “Did you finish your snowman?”
“Yes. Sadly though we don't have a broomstick here.”
Liz wrinkled her forehead. “We don't have a broomstick at the cabin? Have you asked Chris?”
“Yes, but we don't have anything to place into the snowman's hand,” Taylor answered, a bit dejected. “So, he'll stand there, unfinished.”
Christopher returned from the bathroom with Karen in his arms and sat her upon the couch. “Are you comfortable sitting like this?” he asked concerned. “Do you need a blanket? Would you like something to eat or drink?”
She laughed. “Calm down, sweetheart. I'm doing wonderful thanks to your great care. If only I would find my crutch then you wouldn't have to carry me everywhere.”
“Oh, I like doing that,” he smiled.
“Yeah, I got that impression too. Still, where could the thing be?”
Christopher sat down beside her, snuggled up to her and shrugged his shoulders innocently. “It doesn't matter.”
Liz was done with her preparations and put on a warm jacket. “I don't think you two lovebirds would like to come out with us, would you?”
Karen and Chris were wrapped up in their cuddling and didn't hear her.
Liz sighed but forgot any sad thoughts as Samantha took her hand and pulled her out of the log cabin. Her eyes sparkled as she saw what Sam had done. “Oh Sam. All these lights look beautiful. Where did you get them?”
“I found them in the shed and I wanted to surprise you with it,” Samantha explained, smiling.
“Thank you.” The blonde's attention fell on Taylor's snowman and she burst into laughter. “Goodness, I didn't know that Taylor's guy was an invalid.” She pointed at the snowman and now Sam discovered Karen's crutch in his hand too. “Why did Chris do that?”
Liz grinned. “So that he can be close to Karen the whole time...”
Sam stepped in front of Liz, so that the blonde could feel her warm breath on her face.
“...so that he can touch her...” She gazed deeply into Sam's watchful, interested eyes. “...without having to explain it to others... without regret... without fear to get judged by others...”
Sam wrinkled her forehead. “That's why Chris is hiding things?”
“Ohh... uh... yes... kinda like that... I think.”
Tenderly, Sam stroked across Liz' heated cheeks. “They are very red.”
Liz wanted to distract Samantha so she came up with a bright idea. “Hey, can you do this?” She let herself fall into the snow, landing on her back in the untouched white blanket. Then she brandished her arms and legs, wiping snow aside. “Okay, now help me up.” Liz reached for Sam's hand, but the brunette used too much force and so Liz landed in her arms. “Look at the snow,” she told her breathlessly.
Disbelieving, Sam regarded the print of Liz's body in the snow. “That's... that's an angel! You created an angel of yourself.”
“You are so beautiful.”
Feeling heat rise once more in her body, Liz distracted her again. “You are an angel too.”
“You mean I can do something like that?”
“Of course. Try it.” She pushed Sam into the snow. “Now move your arms and legs like I showed you.”
Sam did as she was told, slowly at first but her enthusiasm increased and she whirled her arms and legs wildly.
Liz laughed. “Alright, I think that's enough. Come on, I'll help you up.” Unfortunately, she had overestimated her own powers and unintentionally she ended up on top of the other woman.
“I guess I was too heavy for you,” Sam commented.
Liz swallowed hard. “It seems that way...”
“You are as light as an angel.”
“Uh... I think we should go back inside before we catch a cold.”
Sam though, just stared at her and whispered, “You have the face of a true angel.”
Liz melted at the words. “Sam... I... ”
Taylor chose that moment to open the door and look outside. “What are you doing out there so long?” she called out. “It's nearly midnight. Come on back in, guys.”
Sam sighed and Liz scrambled up. “We will be there in a second,” she called back.
After their dive, Danielle and Sara had gotten comfortable on a large beach towel. They lay there and let the sun take care of their tan.
“You are looking so content today. Got good news?” Danielle commented.
“Oh, I'm just happy. I have a feeling that everything is going to be alright, thanks to Dr. Lunaris. The man is great. He knows an answer to everything, making it sound logical even to my ears. He is a dream...” Sara broke off when she saw Dani's frightened face. She smirked and continued, ”...of a therapist.”
Feeling caught, Danielle replied quickly, “It's not what you think.”
“Is that so? What am I thinking?”
Danielle was very uncomfortable to talk about her hidden feelings. “He is only my therapist.”
“Okay, okay, he is the best thing that could have happened to me.”
Sara nodded, satisfied with that answer. Then she gazed out at the open sea, wistfully.
Danielle thought back to a conversation she had with Elias, earlier that day.
“Actually, I'm not supposed to talk about it, but I have to tell someone and I'm relying on you to keep silent,” Elias said to her.
“Remember when Jack came back from Paris and was so crestfallen and he only told us that it is a matter of love?”
“Sara is that matter.”
Her thoughts were interrupted, as Sara announced, “I'm planning to go back to Los Angeles as soon as possible.”
Danielle was astonished. “Why? Here you have heaven on earth.”
“No,” Sara shook her head. “My true love lives in Los Angeles.”
“Oh. What kinda guy is he?”
Sara went into raptures. “He is tall, wonderfully shaped and he has beautiful blue eyes. Besides that, he is very smart, funny, romantic and very passionate... ah, he is everything I want. I never met a man like him before.”
Danielle grinned. “Sounds like you fell pretty hard, huh?”
“I guess. From now on though I won't make any more mistakes.”
Sara chuckled. “I don't think I need that. Now let's go back to working on our tan. I want to make an impression once I'm back in Los Angeles.”
After Liz and Sam had changed clothes they admired the party decoration that Chris and Taylor had hung up. Then they went to the table where he was filling the glasses with champagne.
“What happened to the bottles?” Liz wanted to know.
“The labels came off due to the wet snow,” Taylor answered. “But I memorized exactly which bottle is without alcohol so nothing can happen to me.”
“Hurry up with the glasses or else we will miss the countdown.”
Highly concentrated, Taylor looked at her new watch and started with the countdown. “10... 9... 8...”
The others chimed in, “... 7... 6... 5...”
“Not so fast,” Taylor cried out and then continued at the right pace, “4... 3... 2... 1... HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!”
Happily, Chris threw confetti around and the family clinked their glasses together, cheering to the new year.
“I really am happy that we all are here together after everything that burdened us during the last year,” Liz said.
“You are absolutely right,” Christopher agreed. “Our family went through a lot and...”
“We should always stay together the way we are today,” Taylor interrupted him.
Karen raised her glass. “I like what Taylor said, let's cheer to that.”
Chris laughed. “And now, let's dance! Karen, please excuse me when I dedicate this dance to my charming sisters.”
Karen grinned. “Never fear. I'll wait here until you are back.”
“Who would like to go first?” he asked, looking from one sister to the other.
Taylor quickly declined. “No thanks. I rather have another drink.” She looked at the bottles. “Damn... which bottle was mine? Uh... I think this one...”
While Chris was dancing with Liz to some fast-paced music, Sam also had another drink. “Hmmm, that stuff tickles nicely on the tongue. I think I'll have some more...”
The early morning hours had begun, as Chris staggered with a sleeping Karen in his arms to their room. “Good night, sweeties,” he whispered to the other three.
Liz was the only one, who could answer him sober. “Good night.”
Taylor and Samantha were sitting side by side on the couch, happily blabbering Britney Spears' song ‘Oops, I did it again'.
“No... no... no more again,” Sam slurred. “The bo-bottlesh are... empty... all empty...”
Taylor was so tired, her body sank to the side and her head fell on Sam's lap. “I shink... uh... some-ting wash wrong wish she allohole-free shampain...” she mumbled. In the next instant, she fell snoring off the couch.
As Liz came back from the kitchen where she had been cleaning up she had to smile at the peaceful scene that was presented to her. Taylor had entered the land of dreams and Sam was trying to catch a balloon with her mouth, but it sadly slipped away from her again and again.
“I think next time I have to pay better attention as to what these two are drinking,” Liz said. She managed to get Taylor back on the couch, covered her with a blanket and pressed a kiss on her forehead. “Sleep well, little ice princess. I hope your head won't hurt too bad tomorrow.”
Then she regarded Sam and was facing a dilemma. “Mhh. Now how do I get you upstairs?”
Sam was very confident about her abilities. “I can... uh... whash's she word? Uh...”
“Walk?” Liz supplied.
“No... fly!” Sam shouted for joy.
“Of course. Come on. Put your arm around my shoulder, I'll support you. Together we will make it upstairs.”
Sam was humming some song and suddenly her hands landed on Liz's breasts from behind.
The blonde felt her knees go weak and heat rushed through her, but she quickly got her composure back. She grabbed Sam's hands and held them off her upper body. “Sam, please find something else to hold on.”
“Mmhh... shorry...” and a few other unintelligible word came out of Sam's mouth.
Somehow, Liz had finally managed to get the brunette up to the room and she fell instantly on the bed. “Im sho hot...” Sam muttered and tried to take off her clothes, unsuccessfully. But she thought she had done it. “Shuper... Lish, c'mere... cuddle...”
Wobbling, Sam sat up and dragged the blonde with her to the bed. “Wanna love you, Lish...”
Elizabeth wanted to say something but then she noticed that Sam had fallen asleep. Smiling, she looked at the other woman, who was tightly pressed against her, sleeping peacefully.
Liz sighed. “Ohh Sam. Tomorrow we'll be back in the city and reality will catch up with us.” There was sadness in her eyes as she lay down her head, holding on to the brunette in her arms.
***** A FEW WEEKS LATER *****
In a great mood, Victoria entered Jack's house. “Darling, I just got our costumes from the tailor.”
Curious, Jack came into the living room. “So, do I finally get to know what we are going to be at your family's Mask Ball?”
Vicky opened the bags, regarding him closely for any reaction. “Ta Dah! So? What do you think?”
Jack was searching for the right words. “Well, I can only say something when I know what it is supposed to be.”
She backhanded him tenderly in the stomach. “Don't pretend to be stupid. Do you see this white mask? You are the mysterious Phantom of the opera and I'll be the beautiful Christine, the lady that holds your heart and whom you are deeply in love with.” She pulled her dress from the bag and held it up for him so that he could better inspect it. “See, my pretty dress.”
Jack wasn't exactly impressed and did not show much enthusiasm. “It's not what I've imagined...“ He saw her expression darkening so he quickly added, “... but, if it makes you happy, so be it, princess.”
“The phantom costume is perfect for you,” Victoria insisted.
“Really, it's not my style... I would much rather be an Action hero or something cool like that.”
“Puh. No way. The ball will be in about two weeks. Lots of press people will be present. I don't want us to look like fools. Besides, the Parker family always goes with something classic.” Offended, she stroked the fabric of her dress. “By the way, starting today we will go on a diet so that you will look very elegant in your tuxedo.”
He was shocked. “What? Why me?”
Vicky patted his stomach. “Remember, on pictures everybody looks 10 pounds heavier.”
“So what? I don't care!”
“I know, but I do.”
Jack didn't talk back. Instead he pulled her into his arms. “I know a much better method to burn calories.”
She frowned. “Really? Do I know that method?”
He lowered her to the couch, opening her blouse with practiced fingers. “Yeah, I think you do. We've been doing it a lot...”“Ohhh Jack... yes... let's do it again...”
STAY TUNED FOR THE NEXT EPISODE...
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