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Juan was in his apartment, going over some notes he had made concerning the choreography of his new music video that was to be filmed soon. The door bell rang and the singer went to open it. It was a rather unexpected surprise that awaited him as his lover Victoria Parker stepped inside, hugged him tightly to her chest and began to smother him with hot kisses.
He managed to free his lips for a second and stuttered, "Uh... Vi-Vicky... th-that's a surprise... I... I didn't know... th-that we had a date this evening?"
Vicky stroked his cheeks and answered, "Yes, but I'm here because I wanted to ask you something."
Juan raised his eyebrows in question. "What did you want to ask me?"
"You see, I have to go to Paris for a few days," the model explained, smiling tenderly. "I want you to come with me."
"Oh, Bella... that..." he began and tried to find the right words to let her down gently.
"Look Vicky, I feel very honored, but… uh… I can't come with you. I have an important project coming up that can't wait."
Victoria 's face fell as she realized that her wonderful plan to also get some fun while working in Paris would fail. "So, some project is more important to you than spending time with me?"
Juan looked at the floor and uttered, quietly, "I'm also waiting for a call from the casting chief of your movie production firm."
Suddenly everything became clear to Victoria . "That's it! You wanted to get inside the movie business and that's why you kissed up to me!" she screeched, her face turning red with fury.
"No, no, that's not..." A harsh, stinging slap across the face ended his response to the accusation. Staring at her in disbelief, Juan kept silent and held his hurting cheek.
"You son of a bitch! How could you do this to me? I don't ever want to see you again. It's over!" Tears streaming down her face, the model quickly left the apartment.
"Now that went well," Juan mumbled to himself and turned back to his notes. "I think I'm losing my touch with women."
It didn't take long for the door bell to ring again. Maybe Vicky was back so they could make up? It wasn't the blonde model though, it was his important project. "Ah, my friend, Big Jack." Juan greeted the other man enthusiastically. "Come in, come in, we have much to do."
Jack had just managed to close the door behind him when Juan gripped his arm and dragged him wildly grinning into his living room, blurting, "Let's begin right away with lesson number one and soon you'll be a ladies' man."
Chris and Karen were in the living room of the Stuarts' house, sipping some tea. "How did Taylor take the news?" Karen wanted to know. Being the best friend of the family, she was very concerned not only for Liz' wellbeing but also for her family.
The blonde man sighed. "She is very scared and confused, but I'm sure everybody would be in a situation like that."
Karen nodded staring into her tea cup.
"Has there been any news?" Chris asked, hoping against hope that a miracle would happen.
"All they know is this... Catherine hired a private pilot. The little plane with Liz on board left Tokyo Airport right on time and after that there was no more contact."
Chris placed his empty cup on the small table and thought about this for a moment. "That means Liz is lost somewhere between Japan and New Zealand and we don't know if she is still alive." Frustrated, he ran a hand through his long hair. "She has to be alive. I don't think Taylor could cope with another death in the family and I sure couldn't either."
Faced with these words, Karen felt a painful squeeze around her heart."Chris, you know that you can count on me. You know that I will help you in every way I can and I'm always going to be here for each of you."
He smiled at her gently. "Yes, I know that. I could always rely on you when I needed you. The same goes for my sisters." Chris reached over and cupped her face tenderly, looking deeply into her warm, brown eyes. "Why did I ever let you go?" he whispered, gently stroking his thumbs along her cheeks. "That was the biggest mistake of my life."
Before Karen could give a reply, his lips met hers in a soft kiss that was quickly followed by some more. She let it happen until she realized what exactly they were doing, and she put a stop to it. Her hands found his shoulders and she pushed him gently away from her. With her heart racing and slightly out of breath, she said, "We shouldn't do this."
"Why not? I love you. I have always loved you," Chris confessed quietly.
"And I never stopped loving you..." she admitted.
"Then please give us a second chance."
Karen sighed. She knew her next words would hurt him but there was no way around. He needed to know the truth. "Chris, at the moment you are very emotional and I don't want anything happening tonight only to wake up tomorrow and find you're regretting it. You already broke my heart once and I will not allow you to do it again."
The hurt was clearly visible on his face so Karen quickly changed the subject. "I think it's time for me to go."
Chris just nodded.
"Would you please tell Taylor that if she wants she can come to me tomorrow? I thought I would take her for a little ride with Storm and Thunder. Maybe that will help her a little and take her mind off the situation."
"Yes, that sounds like a good idea."
She hugged him. "Good night, Chris."
He kissed her again, trying to pour all his love in this one kiss to make her see that he was really serious about a second chance for them. "Good night, my love."
With that endearment, Karen's heart gave a lurch. She smiled and left then.
Deep in thought, Chris was leaning with his back against the front door and made a decision. "I will never let you go again."
***** THE NEXT DAY *****
Liz awoke in the middle of the night. Pale moonlight fell through the window on the interior of the tree house. She took a look around and found the panther curled up in one corner while the dark haired stranger was sleeping peacefully next to her.
"It wasn't a dream after all," Liz mumbled quietly to herself.
Carefully and slowly she rose and went outside. She stared at the night sky where thousands of stars sparkled and shone in the far distance. Thinking about her home, her sister, her brother and her friends, she couldn't hold in the tears anymore. Soon they were streaming along her cheeks and Liz tried to suppress the harsh sobs that meant to break free from her throat in order to not wake the woman and her pet.
A hand was placed softly on her shoulder and Liz turned around. The stranger was there and looked at her with such compassion and warmth that the business woman couldn't help and cried even harder.
The other woman gently wiped the tears off Liz' face and pulled her into a warm embrace.
Her whole body shaking with sobs the blonde held on tightly as she felt the stranger tenderly stroking her long hair to calm her down.
After a while Liz took a step back and stared into the woman's blue eyes. "I'm sorry that I woke you. I... I really don't know what came over me. I think... the whole situation is just too much for me to handle." Brushing off some more tears that seemed unwilling to dry up any time soon, she looked again at the night sky. "I want to go home. I miss my family and my friends..." Her emerald eyes turned back to the woman in front of her. "I wish there was a way that I could communicate with you. I... I really would like to know your name..."
The stranger just stood there with an unreadable expression on her beautiful features.
Liz sighed in defeat and shook her head sadly. "But you don't understand one word that I'm saying." Slowly she went back inside and lay down on her make-shift bed.
The other woman followed some time later. There was a war raging inside her for she was keeping a secret from the blonde woman that had so unexpectedly entered her life. Now the question was should she reveal it? She felt comfortable with her and ever since she had seen her in that pond for the first time. While sitting hidden on a tree, she felt drawn to her. After some thinking, she came to a decision. For now she would leave things as they were for a few more days and maybe then she would reveal everything.
His eyes still half way closed Chris shuffled into the kitchen to make himself some coffee, hoping that a cup of the black brew would help to fully waken him.
Taylor was already sitting at the table, eating her cornflakes without much enthusiasm.
"Hey, little one," her brother greeted her, disheveling her hair as he went by to the coffee machine. "Did you sleep?"
"I tried. Wasn't very successful," the teenager mumbled, playing with her food.
"It was the same for me." Chris admitted, added the coffee powder, filled water in the machine and switched it on.
After some moments of silence that was only disturbed by the gurgling of the coffee machine, Taylor said, "I called Uncle William."
"Good. When will he be here?"
"He doesn't know that yet. He has to see first when he will be able to get a flight. He said he will call again this evening to let us know."
Chris nodded. "Okay." Then he looked at the clock that hung ticking on a wall. "Oh, I have to hurry. I need to go."
"Where to?" Taylor asked, drawing her eyebrows together in question.
"To Sara," the artist explained. "We have to discuss how we get out of this wedding mess, since our little charade backfired so badly."
"Ah, okay. Good luck."
His coffee now done, he sat next to his little sister and looked at her. "You know, I don't want for you to hang at the house all day, moping around and being sad. Karen said she would like to go with Storm and Thunder for a ride and she would like it if you would go with her."
Taylor thought about it for a minute and then agreed. "Okay, I can do that."
Chris smiled and patted her arm. "Good. Go and call Karen to let her know. I need to get dressed and then I'm off."
The girl hesitated a moment and then asked, "We will find her, right?"
"Yes, we will find Liz. Count on it," he promised and hugged her.
Taylor returned the hug fiercely and whispered, "I love you."
Chris pecked her on the forehead. "I love you too, little one." He rose, picked up his cup and went in direction of his room. "I really have to hurry now. Until later."
The teenager wished him a good day and turned back to her cornflakes. Her face contorted in disgust as she saw how mushy they had gotten. "Well, I guess I forget about breakfast and call Karen right away." The meal ended up in the trash and Taylor left the kitchen.
Sitting in the big leather chair in his office, Alexander furiously smashed the receiver back down on the telephone. "This is fucking unbelievable!" he roared and scowled. "Are there only idiots working for the administrative body? Nobody can tell me anything and of course nobody feels responsible for it!"
At the outburst Catherine looked up from some papers she had been reading. "Alex, please calm down."
"I don't want to!" he refused stubbornly. "We throw away tons of money for nothing! This freaking search will cost us a damn fortune!"
"The money is completely unimportant," Catherine responded strongly. "Don't you see? This is your big chance."
Alex looked at her, frowning. "My big chance for what?"
"To show yourself to the press, the world and most of all to Lizzy's family, in a better light. You know that your image needs that desperately after the mess with Danielle Stiehl," his mother explained.
"Yes, you are right," he said and a wide grin appeared on his face. "Maybe we do get some benefits out of this after all."
As Liz woke for a second time it was light outside. She sat up and scanned her surroundings, noticing that her dark-haired lifesaver wasn't there. The female panther stretched and yawned before she stalked over to the blonde business woman and sat down next to her. Liz stroked and rubbed her between the ears and the animal began to purr.
"What do you know? I can't believe I was scared of you. You are just one big pussycat, aren't you?" She rose and began to search for something to dress in beside the sheet that was wrapped around her body. Instead of her ruined business suit she found what appeared to be a dress, made from a roughly woven material, with thin shoulderstraps. Liz put it on and it seemed to fit nicely even if the grayish brown color wasn't exactly the newest fashion. She found her laptop in what appeared to be some kind of shelves, next to a little bracelet. "Now that is strange," Liz mumbled and had a closer look at it. The bracelet was made of little white cubes. Each cube bore one black letter and made up a name. She knew that newborn babies would get bracelets like that in hospitals. "Samantha? Could it be?"
Liz looked at the panther. "Is Samantha the name of your friend?"
The panther just stared at her, the tip of her tail twitching from time to time.
Liz shook her head and sighed. "Now I'm talking with an animal. I think I'm about to lose my mind." She took the bracelet and sat down on her bed, pondering this new discovery.
Taylor grabbed her keys and went to her car. Her mood still wasn't one of the best, but maybe Chris was right and a little meeting with Karen, Storm and Thunder would cheer her up.
Tasilo was already inside the car, waiting impatiently for the journey to finally begin.
The teenager climbed in, started the engine and drove in direction of the horse ranch that was at the outskirts of the city. In downtown L.A. , she ended up in a traffic jam.
Lost in thought, she jerked in surprise as she heard a familiar voice calling her name. She looked to the side and there next to her, with a big grin on his face, was Jack Carpenter on his motorcycle.
"Hi Jack," she greeted him.
"Hey, how are you doing? Also getting a dose of traffic jam in the morning?" he wanted to know.
Taylor rolled her eyes and grumbled, "You are so funny."
Jack got off his motorcycle and leaned over the open window on the passenger side. He looked concerned. "Now, what's wrong with the youngest of the Stuarts today? Stress at home? Can I help you in some way?"
Taylor sighed. "Liz is missing."
His eyes widened in shock. "What? Little Lizzy is missing? Oh no!"
"So much concern? You don't even know her," the girl bristled.
"I was with her at the film college in England ," Jack replied calmly.
"Oh, sorry, I didn't know that," Taylor explained, still a bit stunned that the man actually knew her sister. "It's just that..."
He smiled at her. "Don't worry, I understand. You couldn't know that." He took a little business card and a pen from the breast pocket of his leather jacket and scribbled down his phone numbers.
The traffic jam was about to dissolve and Taylor pointed that out to him. "The driving can continue."
Jack gave her the card. "Here are my phone numbers. Please, call me if you have any news concerning your sister or if any of you needs help, okay?"
The teenager promised to do that and he climbed back onto his motorcycle, racing off as soon as the road was clear.
Sara was waiting impatiently for Chris' arrival. Nervously she paced around the living room of her father's yacht. As the blonde man finally appeared, she smiled brightly and asked, "Would you like to have breakfast with me?"
Chris returned her smile with a friendly one of his own. "Since I only had a cup of coffee before I came here... yes, I'd like that."
While preparing the breakfast, Sara gathered all her courage. There was something burning on her soul. "Chris, I... I... I have a confession to make. Chris, I..."
But the artist wasn't listening to her and said instead, "I have some bad news."
"Liz is missing."
It took awhile for Sara to process the words she had just heard."Oh... I'm so sorry." She looked out of the window and tried to find the right thing to say. It was hard though. "That must be horrible for you... for you both... especially for Taylor ."
"She's strong. After all, she's a Stuart. It wouldn't be the first time that fate throws a heavy load on us."
Sara was completely absent-minded and didn't notice when he stepped behind her. Chris called her name. "Sara? Are you okay? I didn't know that it would affect you like that." He placed his hands on her shoulders and turned her around to face him. There was a weird expression on her face and Chris didn't know what to make of it. "Hey, don't worry. Everything will be okay. Thank you very much for your great sympathy."
Sara gazed deeply into his eyes. "It is not because of your sister."
He turned away and went back to the living room. At the table his eyes fell on the big bouquet of flowers. "Wow, I didn't notice these roses before."
Leaning against the door frame, Sara smiled as she watched him bending forward to take in the flowers' sweet scent.
"Mmmh, great smell."
The photographer responded, "I got them this morning."
Chris had another look at them. "Gee, that must be several dozen. Who gave them to you?"
At that question Sara's smile faded completely. "What? They are not from you?"
Liz was still sitting on her make-shift bed, waiting for the strange, dark-haired beauty to return. She was playing with the little bracelet she had found earlier. Now she had even more questions, but she feared they would also be left unanswered. If only she had some way of communicating with her lifesaver. She was still pondering about what to do when the other woman returned from her trip, bringing different sorts of exotic fruits. She knelt in front of Liz and pulled her machete from her belt.
For a second the blonde's heart stopped as she saw how the wild woman raised the weapon to strike. She recovered quickly as the blade tore into the green skin of a fresh coconut and chopped off the top. With a warm smile she gave it to Liz and then looked at her to see what the business woman would do with it.
Feeling a bit self-conscious, because she wasn't used to being stared at so openly, Liz blushed, but took the offered nut. She drank the sweet, cool milk that was inside. "Thanks, that was good," Liz said and the stranger's smile grew even bigger.
Silence fell and the blonde stared at the floor. They shared the rest of the fruit. After they had finished their meal the stranger rose to leave the tree house again and Liz called, "Samantha?"
Whirling around, she looked in surprise at the small woman that was still sitting on the bed and was holding out the little bracelet. "So, it's true. Your name is Samantha. That means you have to come from some kind of civilization, right?"
Instead of answering, Samantha quickly went over to Liz and snatched the bracelet from her delicate hand before leaving the tree house in a hurry with the panther on her heels.
Utterly stunned about this, Liz stayed behind, alone. "I think I scared her," she mumbled to herself, burying her face into her palms. A heavy sigh escaped her chest and the tears that seemed to be so close these days threatened to make another appearance.
Jack parked his motorcycle at the small underground car park and went to the big studio where Juan was impatiently waiting for him. "Ah, Big Jack, there you are. Welcome to lesson number 2," the Latino singer greeted him with his usual bubbly personality. "Did you follow my advice and sent the roses to the lady of your heart?"
Jack nodded. "Yes, I did. Also anonymous like you wanted me to. I just don't know what that's supposed to accomplish if she doesn't know who sent her the flowers."
Juan waggled his eyebrows. "Psychology, Big Jack. Pure and simple psychology. Stuff like that raises women's attention and their curiosity," he explained.
"I just don't understand what she sees in Chris," Jack muttered darkly. "What does he have that I don't?"
Juan made a depreciative gesture. "Let's not concern ourselves with him at the moment. For today let's go with teaching you some dancing... tango... And I think we need to strongly exercise your hip movement... it is a catastrophe to say the least."
Jack groaned. "Do we really have to do that? Dancing is just not for me... and that hip move... it seems so..." He couldn't find the right word to describe what dancing felt like to him especially the corny hip move Juan wanted to practice with him. It certainly didn't feel to him that a real man should do stuff like that.
Filled with indignation, Juan glared at him. "Now, that was a low blow that really hurt me, Big Jack. Of course you need to do that, and you need to learn how to dance. Women like to dance! The right move is very important for dancing and I know you can do it better than the last time. You asked for my help and now you better listen to me and do as I say."
Jack rolled his eyes in annoyance but gave in. "Alright, but it better pay off that I make a fool of myself."
Juan smirked and nodded. "It will Big Jack, you just have to put a little more effort in it."
Back at the "Moondance", the yacht of the Jones family, Chris looked completely puzzled at Sara, who had just asked if it was him that had sent her the huge bouquet of roses. "No, why should I send you flowers?"
Sara laughed, but it sounded forced and not happy at all. "Of course. Dumb of me to think that." She fought a big battle inside to keep the tears that wanted to spill free at bay.
"I guess they are from a secret admirer then," Chris said, trying to lighten the mood that suddenly had become so tense.
"Probably," Sara mumbled, looking at the carpet, all thoughts of having breakfast with the blonde artist forgotten.
Chris began to feel uncomfortable and quickly brought up the subject that was the actual cause of his visit. "I want to give an explanation to the press later today to announce 'the end of our relationship'." He pulled a sheet of paper from his briefcase. "I already prepared it. Why don't you have a look at it and tell me what you think."
Sara reached for the paper, her fingers were slightly trembling.
Chris frowned. Something was definitely wrong but he couldn't put his finger on it. He knew if he would ask she would deny it and say that everything is fine.
The young photographer didn't really read it. She just stared at the lines of letters for a few minutes, her thoughts tumbling and whirling and then gave it back to him. "I guess we can leave it like that. It's the best for everyone like that. Just, please, give me a little time to tell Aunt Cathy. She is already planning a double wedding and this time I don't want her to hear it from the media."
Chris nodded. "Yeah, that's okay. It will be hard for her I'm sure. Do you want me to come with you when you tell her?"
"No, no. Better not. I'll do it on my own," Sara rejected.
"Alright," Chris said and stuffed the paper back into his briefcase. "Please don't wait too long with it though."
Sara forced another smile on her face. "I will drive to the Parkers right away and I'll call you later... if I'm still alive then."
Chris grinned, hugged her and patted her back. "Good luck. It will be okay soon, you'll see. Until later then." He gave a little wave and left the boat.
As soon as he was out of sight, she took the roses and threw them over board.
Taylor walked slowly into the stables, from which she heard happy neighing. Tasilo followed her and barked in excitement, wagging his tail fiercely. The teenager's sad mood had lightened somewhat and a little smile appeared on her face as she saw Karen coming towards her.
The blonde woman wrapped her in a tight hug. "Good morning, sweetie. How are you feeling today?"
"A little bit better," Taylor muttered but refused to look at her. She knew Karen would see it on her face that she was not feeling well. Always everybody could see what was going on inside her with one look at her face.
Karen disheveled her hair, took her hand and dragged her along. "Come on, the stable hands are ready saddling Thunder and Storm. I thought we could take a little ride down to the beach. Maybe it will cheer you up a bit, huh?" Karen asked, smiling encouragingly at the girl.
Taylor shrugged her shoulders. "I guess it's worth to try." It sounded more like a question than a statement. "How can I think about anything else if I don't know if Liz is alive or not?" she thought but didn't dare to say it out loud.
Karen climbed on her Appaloosa stallion Thunder and a bit stiffly Taylor mounted Karen's Pinto mare Storm.
They set out at a slow pace and Tasilo pranced happily around them.
Sara stopped her car in front of the big stony stairway of the Parker residence. The iron gate closed behind her automatically. Her feelings in a complete uproar, she climbed the stairs and rang the door bell.
Alexander opened and Sara fell into his arms, hugging him fiercely. "Ohhh Alex," she exclaimed. "I heard about your fiancée's disappearance. I'm so sorry that has happened. It has to be hard for you not knowing what's going on."
Alexander nodded. "Yes, especially if the local authorities are such a big disappointment."
"If there is anything, anything at all that I can do for you then don't hold back and please let me know, okay?"
"Thank you," he replied to her heartfelt statement. "I really appreciate having such a good friend as you. Now come on in. Mother is already waiting for you. You know where her study is. I'll be outside on the sundeck for awhile. Maybe you can come and hang out with me for a bit afterwards?"
Sara nodded and went to Catherine's room.
The red-haired head of the Parker family looked up from what she was doing as the door opened and the young photographer stepped in."Hello, my dear." She greeted her effusively and kissed her on both cheeks. "Please, have a seat. Would you like something to eat or drink? Maybe some sweets?"
"No, thanks," Sara responded. There was this huge knot in her stomach and she wouldn't be able to eat or drink anything at the moment. "There is something bothering me."
Catherine sat down next to her and took her hands. "You know you can tell me everything. What's burdening your heart, dear?"
Sara took a deep breath and tried to find the right words. "Uh... Chris and I... we never were... I mean... it's over between us." She was waiting for Catherine to get mad but it didn't happen. The older woman just looked at her with a tender expression. Sara continued to explain, without actually revealing the truth that there had been nothing going on from the beginning. "We... We just didn't fit together..." Tears formed unwanted in her eyes as soon as these words had left her mouth.
Catherine pulled her into her arms, consoling the clearly upset girl. "Oh, my dear, don't cry. He just wasn't the right one for you. Just forget this artist and we will not talk about it again."
"I need some time for myself," Sara sobbed. "That's why I want to put the project 'Parker Chronicles' to rest for awhile."
"I understand that completely," Catherine responded. "I also wanted to put the project on hold for a bit... at least until Elizabeth has been found." She reached for a little box on the near table and gave Sara a tissue.
She took it gratefully and dried her eyes. "Thank you, Aunt Cathy."
"No problem, that's just one of the reasons why I was chosen to be your god-mother, you know?"
Unwillingly Sara had to laugh. "Yes, I know. You are the best."
Catherine smiled. "Oh, I knew that. Say, could you do me a little favor?"
"Could you take care of Alexander? I'm a bit scared he might do something rash now that he is in such a sad mood because of the thing with Elizabeth . Maybe it will also help you a bit. I mean you two get along so well and maybe you could have some fun and cheer each other up?"
Sara rose. "Of course. That's a wonderful idea."
Catherine hugged her one last time and then the photographer left her study.
Before she went to Alex, she pulled out her cell phone and called Christopher to let him know that he could fax the paper to the press.
"I really have to pull myself together and finally stop to think so much about Chris. There is nothing and there will never be something," she admonished herself and then went out to the sundeck.
Jonathan Parker was a little fidgeting in front of the door before he rang the door bell. Ever since he met the Asian woman and had spent some time with her he was unable to get her out of his head. It was rather spontaneous that he had called her earlier to invite her to a picnic. Of course his wife didn't know anything about it, but he was so intrigued by the delicate woman with the warm, dark-brown, almond-shaped eyes he couldn't seem to help himself. He had to get to know her better. Breathing in deeply, he finally rang the door bell.
Michiru Kasawaki opened the door of her loft and was greeted by a huge bouquet of sunflowers that blocked her sight. "Flowers for a true sun", came a happy voice from behind it and finally she was able to see Jonathan's gently smiling face.
"Oh, thank you. Please, come in," Michiru responded and took the flowers from his hands. She led him into the living room. "I'll be back in a second. I just have to find a vase for these."
Jonathan strode over to the window and whistled. "You have a wonderful view of the ocean from here."
"I know. It took me quite a while to find this beautiful place though," came Michiru's voice from the kitchen, where she cut the stems and put the flowers in a vase.
"Had to be expensive."
"It's alright, it won't put me in the poor house," she answered as she walked in. She placed the vase on the low table, arranging and adjusting each flower. "So, where are you taking me for the little picnic we had planned?"
"Oh, you know, we could also stay here and just talk... getting to know each other better..."
"Yes, we can do that. I'd like that," she agreed and smiled at him.
At that Jonathan's heart gave a lurch. A warmth that he hadn't felt in a long time, especially not when he looked at his wife, spread inside his chest.
Left alone in the tree house, Liz was overcome by a wave of despair and heart-wrenching loneliness. She took her laptop from the shelves where she had found it before and tried once more to get it to power up. This time it worked and she managed to get into some files that were stored on it. She found a folder with some great photos of her family that had been taken during the last winter vacation they had spent in Aspen . The dam broke as she looked at the familiar grinning, happy faces and the tears broke free. Harsh sobs shook her whole small frame. "I want you all back," she gasped. "I want to go home. I want my family back!" Completely defeated and exhausted, she broke down and curled up into herself on the make-shift bed.
In her misery that was pouring out, she didn't realize that Samantha had returned and was hesitating to enter the tree house, looking at the crying blonde with sad eyes. She slowly went over then and gathered the business woman into her arms. Samantha held her, rocked her gently and made soothing noises, all the while feeling her heart clench in compassion.
Chris had just sent the fax that would tell the press about the sudden end of his 'relationship' with Sara, as the phone rang.
"Yes, hello, my favorite nephew!" came the excited, happy voice from the other end of the line. "Here is your Uncle Will."
The artist had to smile immediately. His uncle always managed to cheer up everyone, no matter how hard the situation or how sad the mood was. "Hey you. Taylor said you would call again. When is your flight going?"
"What do you mean when is my flight going? You could finally get a move on and pick up your dear Uncle from the airport."
Chris was surprised. "What? You are already here?"
"Of course I am. I would already be at your house but your cabs are so horribly expensive. I will refrain from using such an expensive way of transportation."
The artist snorted. The miserly way of his uncle still amused him. "Okay, Uncle Will. Just stay where you are. I'll come and get you."
"Good, I'll be waiting. Till then, Chris."
"Bye," he responded and hung up. He laughed again and shook his head. Now that Uncle Will was here everything would somehow be okay. Grabbing his keys, he went to his jeep and set out in direction of the airport.
His excitement constantly growing, Juan stared at Jack's muscled body.
The tall computer specialist had taken off his sweat soaked T-shirt and was dancing with his chest bared. Little beads of sweat were forming and rolling own his well-developed abs and Juan swallowed hard. "Is it getting hot in here or is it just me?" he asked, laughing a little in embarrassment.
"I could really use something to drink... with lots of ice." Jack replied, a bit out of breath from the constant moving around on the dance floor.
"I'll go and get you some."
Jack sat down on the floor. "You know, I really have enough for today. And this silly dancing is getting on my nerves too. This whole nuisance is of no use, because in the end I will never get the chance to go dancing with Sara anyway," he grumbled.
"Don't give up," Juan said and gave him a bottle of chilled water. "It will pay off, I swear, my friend."
Jack screwed off the lid and took a couple of big swallows. "God, I'm completely soaked with sweat."
"Oh, if you want you could use the shower here."
"No thanks," the other man denied. "I'll go down to the sea and cool off there. Thanks for the lesson." He gathered all his things and gave the water bottle back to the singer. "Bye."
"Uh... when would you like to have the next lesson?" Juan was nearly unable to keep the eagerness out of his voice when he asked that question.
Jack's thoughts were already on something else and so he just said, "I'll call you to let you know."
Sara sat down next to Alex, who had gotten comfortable in a deckchair close to the pool, under a big umbrella. "I have just hired a private company to search for my Liz. They will check each inch between Japan and New Zealand for her," he announced quietly.
Sara nodded. "You are doing all you can. Any more is not possible," she confirmed. Catherine's words for some cheering up reverberated through her mind and she changed the subject. "Say, would you like to go with me for dinner this evening? We could go to the " California ". I've been told it's nice there."
Alex smirked. "What would your soon-to-be-husband say to that? Shouldn't he take you there?"
"It's over between us," she responded sharply.
"Oh, I'm sorry to hear that." He elbowed her gently in the side and whispered, "To tell you the truth I never could see you next to him anyway. More next to a real man, like I am." He chuckled and Sara couldn't help herself and snorted. She slapped him on the arm. "Stop it, idiot."
"With him out of the picture there is no way I would deny you the deepest desire of your heart. Yes, I will go with you for dinner." Alex grinned and waggled his eyebrows playfully.
Sara knew he was just kidding. It felt good to laugh again and she began to look forward to have a fun-filled evening with Alexander. "As charming as always, huh?"
"You can bet on that. So, what do you think? Can I come to pick you up at 7:00pm?"
The photographer pretended to be thinking hard about it and Alex rolled his eyes. "Come on, Sara. Yes or no. It's not that hard."
"Come at 8:00. I need more time to make myself pretty."
Alex laughed loudly. "There is no use for that and you know it."
"8:00, and no second sooner," she insisted and rose.
He rose to and breathed a little kiss against her knuckles. "Your wish is my command."
Sara backhanded him gently in the stomach as he started chuckling about their little game again. "I swear, you just are one big comedian. See you later, Alex."
After Liz had found back to herself and had somewhat calmed down she let go of the stranger, whom she now knew as Samantha. Seeing the fascinating gaze that the dark-haired beauty was giving the laptop Liz pulled it onto her lap and began to explain the pictures to her. She still didn't know if Samantha was understanding anything of what she was saying but the talking helped her and it bridged the otherwise uncomfortable silence that would likely fall again. "Do you see this?" she asked and pointed at a picture of Chris and Karen. "That's my brother, Christopher. He is a dreamer but also a great guy. The wildly smiling blonde is Karen. She is my assistant at work and my best friend. She is the nicest person I have ever met and she is a big help and always there for me and my family, especially in hard times. Back then, Chris and Karen were still an item. I honestly don't know what made them break up because I believe they were made for each other." Liz looked at Sam, who looked back at her with an unreadable expression that Liz misinterpreted. "Yes, I know, you don't understand anything that comes out of my mouth, but it helps me to talk." Another picture came up and Liz smiled. "This is my little sister, Taylor. As you can see here she is trying to teach our Uncle William how to ice skate. Boy, that was so funny and we were laughing so hard the whole time, for uncle Will fell more than he actually skated." She giggled. "You have to know that Taylor is a very talented figure skater and I'm very proud of her."
It was late afternoon. Taylor and Karen raced in full gallop along the beach and then stopped for a little break. The whole time they had not spoken much, but Karen felt now was the right time. The sea foam was floating around the horses' hooves as Karen slid down from Thunder's back while Taylor was still sitting on Storm, crying silently to herself.
Karen touched her gently on the leg. "Hey, sweetie, come on."
The well-known endearment made Taylor cry harder because it reminded her even more of her lost sister.
"Awww, Taylor. Honey, don't cry." Karen pleaded. Her heart felt heavy and she didn't know what to do short of pulling the girl off the horse and into her arms for a hug. She doubted though that it would make Taylor feel better or that she would even allow it. "You'll see, they will find Liz and everything is going to be okay," Karen said and smiled at her.
Taylor became angry. "Empty words, that's all I get from everyone. Just leave me all alone!" She kicked Storm in the sides and galloped back to the stables.
" TAYLOR !" Karen called after her but she knew it was in vain. She sighed deeply and shook her hand softly. "That went over well." The blonde mounted Thunder and spurred him on, following Taylor and Storm that became smaller and smaller in the distance.
Jack came out of the water, took his towel and dried his body. He looked up and noticed Sara not too far away, who was sitting on a bench and looked listless at the open sea. Jack wrapped the towel around his hips and sat down next to her. "Hi," he greeted her cheerfully. "We have nice weather today don't you think?"
"What..." Sara turned to the person that was talking to her and her face darkened as she realized it was her unwanted suitor. "Oh, it's you. Is it fun for you to get on my nerves? Don't you have any hobbies?" she hissed, outraged.
Jack was taken aback by the sudden anger. "Just why are you so on edge?"
"So, you want to know the whole sordid truth? Well, I'll tell you. It's over with Christopher Stuart. Satisfied now? Why aren't you laughing? Should be a great source of fun for you!" Tears slid out from under her sunglasses as she said that.
"Why do you think that I'm a mean guy?" Everything in him screamed to reach out and wipe her tears away.
"Just leave me alone Jack!" She got up and he could see that she trembled, though he wasn't able to tell if it was from barely restrained anger or being upset about Christopher Stuart. "We are from different worlds and we are totally different people that have nothing, ABSOLUTELY nothing in common. Get that finally into your brain!" She left him sitting there after her outburst and hurried to her car to drive off.
"I'm so sorry, Sara," Jack mumbled to himself. "Damn Christopher!" He ran a hand through his wet hair and come to a decision. "I know he is Lizzy's brother, but I will teach him a lesson for hurting Sara. I swear!"
Liz was still showing Samantha the pictures of her family, and the dark-haired jungle inhabitant was more intrigued than ever. As they reached the last one, Liz said, "About earlier... I really am sorry if I have somehow upset you. It just... it would be nice to call you by your name."
The other woman stared at her.
Liz sighed in defeat. "It's okay... we will find some way to communicate with each other... and until then..."
Samantha opened her mouth and really spoke for the first time in a smooth alto voice, "I am Samantha."
The business woman stared at her in shock. She blinked then and pinched herself to make sure she hadn't just imagined that the woman had talked to her. "Y-you sp-spoke... you... you just sp-spoke in m-my lan-language..." Liz stuttered, greatly surprised. "I ... I... I can't believe it." A huge grin appeared then on her face. "That's absolutely fantastic! I can communicate with you!" she exclaimed excited and her cheeks flushed. "Samantha tell me, the whole time I have spoken with you... did you understand everything I said?"
"But why didn't you say anything?" Liz blurted and it came out sharper than she intended it to be.
The other woman slowly began to retreat but Liz held her back. "No, no... please don't go. I'm not mad at you. I just want to understand why?"
"I... I had to make sure," came the hesitating answer and Sam was looking at her hands, like a little kid that had been scolded by its mother.
Liz drew her eyebrows together. "You had to make sure what?"
"That I can trust you."
"And? Do you trust me now?"
Samantha smiled. "Yes, yes I do."
Liz shook her head slightly and looked at her. She was a bit surprised that Samantha's English was so well and she thought she could detect a slight trace of a British accent. She returned her smile. "That's a great beginning. But, you know, you saved my life before you even knew who I was."
Sam became a bit bashful. "Sometimes... sometimes I think more with my heart... instead of... instead of using my head."
"I would probably be dead by now if it wasn't for you. So, sometimes thinking with one's heart is a very good thing," Liz pointed out.
Sadness was clearly visible on Sam's face as she answered quietly, "Yes, but not always."
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