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Sara sat silently on the couch, watching her father, who was pacing in front of her.
Jack and Rose had retreated to the kitchen, since Matthew wanted to talk with his daughter alone.
Disbelieving, Jack shook his head and asked, “How could Sara keep it from her Dad that she and I are together? Hell, we are engaged! The whole time I thought everything was fine. Just what is going on with her?”
“Don't get upset, Jack. You have to understand her. Of course, it is absolutely not right that she kept your relationship a secret, but Mr. Jones always reacts very sensitively when it concerns men,” Rose explained.
Jack sighed. “But we really do love each other. I can't imagine life without Sara anymore.”
The elderly woman smiled knowingly. “I know, I can see it on both your faces. But, you'll have to give Sara and her father time to get over their problems. The mess with Christopher Stuart and that wedding is still very present in Mr. Jones' mind. He just wants to protect his daughter from further heartache.”
Jack ran a hand through his hair and nodded. “I can understand him.”
Angrily, Matthew asked, ”For how much longer did you want to keep Jack a secret from me? Why are you doing that?”
“We love each other,” Sara answered in a small voice.
“That sounds familiar,” he scoffed.
“Daddy, please, let the past rest. Jack is the man of my dreams and you won't be able to change my opinion.”
He glared at her. “Next thing you will tell me that you are already planning another wedding…”
Sara didn't say anything. Unnoticed by Matthew, she slowly slid the engagement ring off her finger and hid it.
“I'm going to have a very good look at Jack Carpenter, before anything further happens without my approval,” her father stated.
She looked at him a bit shocked and jumped off the couch. “Daddy, I'm an adult…”
“There will be no more discussions,” he cut her off quickly. “I'm planning to get a house here in L.A. where I will stay with Rose. And you, young lady, will live with us.”
Sara was so angry and upset about her father's decision that she ran out of the door, without saying another word.
Shocked, Catherine stared at her daughter. “What do you mean, why did I do it?”
“All these years you've lied, giving me a false identity. I just can't believe that I've been living all this time in a golden cage, not knowing that you are keeping my true heritage a secret from me!” Vicky retorted.
“Please, calm down, my precious,” Catherine said and lifted her hands. “It was only to protect you. I really am sorry that you found out about the bitter, ugly truth.”
“What?” Wide-eyed, Victoria regarded her mother before she yelled, “YOU ARE SORRY THAT I FOUND OUT THE TRUTH?! You should be sorry about the fact that you kept it from me, mother. Or maybe, you and I are not related either?” She nodded with tears in her eyes. “Yes, I was probably left on your door step...”
“Vicky, darling, please, you are talking nonsense…”
“And how am I supposed to know what's true and what is not?” Victoria raved.
Catherine tried to reach for her and meant to pull her into a hug, but the young woman resisted. “Please, calm down. Everything will be alright.”
“Nothing is alright! I only want one more thing from you…”
Catherine's breath caught.
"I want to know, who is my true father?”
“Oh precious,” the red-haired woman began hesitatingly, her eyes darting nervously around the room.
“No more excuses,” Victoria told her darkly.
Catherine sighed. “Okay, but remember, I would have liked to spare you this…”
“I am waiting. Tell me.”
“I don't know…”
Flabbergasted, Victoria's mouth fell open. “What? But you have to know…”
“Your father, I mean Jonathan and I… we had a fight. It was a very stupid fight. I was so angry that I went to a bar. There I met a stranger and we had a lot to drink. After, we drove to a motel where we spent the night together. The next morning I drove home and tried to forget about it, but…”
Victoria shook her head sadly. “You couldn't forget it and then you were pregnant… with me.” Tears rolled down her cheeks.
Catherine nodded. “I don't know anything about him. Not even his name.”
Sobbing, Victoria went to the door. “I'm the unwanted product of a one-night-stand. That was very irresponsible of you. I hope you didn't get any disease too.” With that, she left her mother standing there.
Impatiently, Alexander paced the underground parking lot. As he saw the black limousine of his father enter, he leaned against his silver corvette, crossed his arms in front of his chest and waited.
Jonathan got out, unable to hide his surprise of seeing his son there. “Alex?”
“Yes. I hope you have not forgotten about me completely, Dad. But, it wouldn't be the first time now, would it?”
Nerve-wrecked, Jonathan went to the elevators. “I don't want to have a fight with my only son. So, please, hold back and let the past stay in the past.”
Angered, Alexander reached for his father, turned him around and grabbed the collar of his shirt. “I HAVE to remind you of the past! Why are you doing this to us again, especially to Mom?”
“Mind your temper, Alex!” Jonathan retorted and pried his son's hands off his shirt. “This is only between your mother and me. There just is no other way. She and I don't get along anymore. Don't worry though. The financial things have been taken care of. You can keep your way of living without money problems.”
Stunned, Alexander stared at him. “That's it? That's all?”
The elevator door's opened and Jonathan entered. “What do you want to hear? Son, you are old enough and you don't need me as much as my little daughter Sakura. I want you to know one thing, Alex. I love you and whenever you have problems you can come to me.”
The doors closed slowly and disappointed Alexander called out, “I'm not going to accept your decision.”
Richard was pacing nervously in front of the beach house where Jack and Sara lived. “Maybe it's better when I go,” he muttered to himself. “If Sara finds out that it was me, who brought her Dad here, all hell will break loose.” His eyes widened. “Oh no, there she is coming. But what…”
Richard quickly raced up the stairs to the front porch, because Sara was staggering and about to fall. He managed to catch her. “Hey, careful. What's wrong with you?” he inquired, concerned.
She held on to him for support. “Oh, that was just an unimportant little spell of weakness.
Richard frowned. “That sounds as if that wasn't the first experience.” He looked at her suspiciously.
Sara just waved her hand. “Lately there's been lots of stress what with the rebuilding and redecorating of the house. Now and again I get a little dizzy, that's all. Nothing serious.”
“I don't know about that. You almost took a deep fall…”
She chuckled. “Yeah, I'm not so graceful right now. Don't tell anybody. I don't want them to worry about me for no reason.”
Grinding his teeth because he didn't like it too much, Richard nodded.
“It was my luck that you came by,” she continued. “Do you know what? Daddy and Rose are here! You wouldn't believe what he wants me to do. I'll tell you on the way.”
“On the way?” he asked surprised.
“Let's go for a little drive. I know you would like to greet them, but I really need some fresh wind blowing into my face while I think about some stuff. I don't want to drive myself. I also don't want to be present when Daddy and Jack get to know each other better… yes, I know. I'm a coward. At least, I'm admitting it.”
Richard grinned. “Okay, let's go then.”
They went into the direction of his car and Sara threw one last glance at the house. “I hope they all will have calmed down some once we return.”
It had been hard, but the loud grumbling of their stomachs finally forced Elizabeth and Samantha to abandon their comfortable bed. Now they had to satisfy a different kind of hunger.
Hand in hand, they strode along the boulevard, barely able to keep their eyes off each other. “Can we please go eat first?” Elizabeth asked. “ I fear, I'm going to fall into a coma from weakness. When I'm with you, I'm burning more energy then I can replace.”
Samantha stopped and lovingly ran a hand through the blonde's short hair. “Of course we can eat first.” Then she added with a smirk, “You'll need loads of energy for your dessert. Loads and loads and loads…”
Elizabeth leaned in and the tips of their noses were nearly touching. “What will my dessert be?” she breathed.
Samantha raised an eyebrow and huskily replied, “Me. Maybe with a little bit of cream for my honey?”
Elizabeth rolled her eyes in pleasure and licked her lips. “That sounds absolutely wonderful. Why don't we just skip dinner and the movie and get right to the sensual dessert?”
The brunette placed a tiny kiss on her nose, grabbed her hand and pulled her along. “No way.”
What the couple didn't know was that they were followed by a paparazzi, who Catherine had hired. Taking picture after picture, he caught them again at a noble Italian restaurant where they sat in golden candlelight, enjoying their dinner and exchanging seductive glances.
They drank red wine and ate tortellini that they tenderly fed to each other. The photographer's watchful eyes didn't miss a thing. His camera's lens didn't either.
After they had finished their meal, they walked at a leisurely pace towards the movie theater, holding on tightly to the other.
From a safe distance the camera followed them.
Her face covered in tearstains, Victoria hesitatingly crawled into Dorian's tent that had been set up in the Stuart's garden. “Are you really sure?” she asked, looking at him with red-rimmed, wounded eyes and sniffled.
Dorian brushed one hand against her palm and gave her a reassuring smile. “Yes, the Stuarts are all out of the house and I don't think they will be back anytime soon. There is nothing you need to be afraid of. For now, please, tell me what happened. You sounded completely devastated when I talked with you earlier on the phone.”
She dissolved into tears again and sank into his arms. “It is so horrible,” she sobbed.
Tenderly, he stroked her back. “Shhh, it's alright.”
“I was at my mother's office and asked about my creator, just as you suggested.”
“Do you know the truth now?” he asked quietly.
Victoria looked at him, her face a mask of despair. “No. It was an unimportant one-night-stand and she doesn't know anything about him. Not even his name.” Crying, she buried her face at his chest.
“I can understand you. I know it feels horrible. We both share the same fate. Our mothers couldn't tell us, who our fathers are. I wish I could help you somehow.”
“You are helping me every second that I can spend with you,” she hiccupped. “That's more than I could hope for.”
Carefully, Dorian lifted her chin and softly kissed her on the lips.
It soothed her pain. Sighing, she lowered her body on his makeshift bed, pulling him on top of her.
Elizabeth and Samantha stopped in front of the small cinema and looked up at the posters of the movies that were available. She had one hand in the back pocket of Samantha's jeans and the brunette was tenderly stroking over the blonde's well shaped behind.
“Hmmm, which movie do we want to see?” Elizabeth asked.
Sam grinned. “Isn't there one that was produced by ‘Stuart Films'?”
“Very funny. Sadly, our biggest project is still in the beginning of its development. Besides, our sponsors and I have not been meeting yet to see about that,” Elizabeth replied and then looked pleadingly at the other woman. “Please, let's not talk about work.”
“You are right. Let's not spoil our beautiful evening.”
The blonde pointed at a movie poster that appealed to her. “What about this fairy tale? I mean we would have to concentrate on the subtitles but from the pictures it looks to be promising.”
Samantha smiled. “Sure, whatever you want, my Angel.”
Elizabeth went to pay for the tickets and Samantha watched her. ‘I don't think I will be able to concentrate much on the movie.' She had not realized that she had spoken out loud but in the next instant Elizabeth was back and looked at her innocently. “Really now? Why is that?” she inquired.
“Because... I'll take you to the final row of seats,” Samantha whispered into her ear. The hot breath made the blonde shiver. “Once the lights are out… well, you will see…” she nibbled on the earlobe and Elizabeth squirmed, barely resisting the urge to squeal in delight.
Chuckling and giggling they entered the movie theater.
In the distance, the paparazzi lowered his camera and exchanged it for his cell phone, dialing Catherine's number. “Already tomorrow, I'll be able to show you a few exclusive and interesting shots. You'll be very happy,” he promised and hung up.
***** A FEW DAYS LATER *****
Tension ruled in the conference room of ‘Stuart Films'.
Elizabeth found herself face to face with three not quite happy sponsors and her hopes sank lower and lower.
“Ms. Stuart,” one of them said. “I just cannot see that you have a precise plan. For today, you promised us a complete package about the movie.”
“Yes, I know, but…” Elizabeth tried to defend herself.
“If it is too much for you and your company, I could understand that,” the second man chimed in. “I mean you are a woman and you mange this company on your own…”
The third sponsor quickly cut him off, because he didn't want to risk getting sued for discrimination. “The biggest problems we see, are your insufficient sources of computer technology.”
“The movie will live from perfect special effects,” the first man said. “We can't risk…”
Elizabeth was just about to give up and end the meeting.
The door opened and Jack stepped in, clad in business suit and tie. He gave everybody present a beaming smile and placed his briefcase on the big table.
“Jack,” Elizabeth managed to say, after she had gotten over the first moment of surprise and shock.
The sponsors rose from their chairs and shook the man's hand in relief. “Mr. Carpenter, how great to see you…”
“We didn't know that you would be here.”
“I thought you were working for the Parkers?” the third sponsor asked.
“No.” Jack replied and shook hands with them all. “I only give my talents to the greatest producer of Hollywood.” He winked at the blonde, who was still quite stunned. “I think, gentlemen, you share my opinion that only the experienced and well working team of ‘Stuart Films' can make sure that this whole project will be a success.”
“Yes,” one of them replied and nodded.
Jack opened his briefcase, took out the rough drafts he had made concerning the special effects for the movie and placed them in front of the sponsors.
They had a quick look at them and came to a decision rather quickly. “That is just great. But why didn't Ms. Stuart tell us that you would be on board for this project too?”
Six pairs of eyes turned to Elizabeth, who couldn't explain a thing and so Jack threw in, “Well, she is always saving the best for last.”
One of the sponsors grinned. “Oh, she likes to surprise. It worked, Ms. Stuart. It worked very well.”
The third sponsor nodded. “Now that all our worries have been wiped away, there is only one thing left to say. Your company has convinced us and we gladly place our trust and money into your capable hands.”
As quietly as possible, Sara unlocked the door to the beach house and called out, “Jack… Jack?” She jerked in surprise and placed a hand over her pounding heart as Peter came around a corner, munching on a bagel. “What are you doing here?” she gasped and then sneezed.
“Bless you,” he mumbled through a bite. “Jack let me in this morning so that I can do some research for Sam from the jungle.”
“Oh yes…” That was all she could say before she covered her nose and mouth with one hand and sneezed again. “He told me about it.” She searched in her pockets for a tissue and blew her nose strongly.
“Wow, the little viruses sure have you in their grip, huh?” Peter commented.
“Yeah, just a mild case of the summer flu. Nothing serious. So, I guess Jack is not here?”
Peter swallowed the last bit of his snack and shook his head. Then he returned to Jack's study and sat down in front of the PCs. “Shouldn't you know about his whereabouts?” Peter grinned.
Sara sat down in a nearby armchair, sorting the used tissues from the unused. “That would be nice.”
“Did the newly engaged couple already have an argument?”
“No, not that. It's a long, complicated story,” Sara answered. “Here is the short version for you. We had to compromise with my Dad. Till the wedding, I'll live with Dad and he is getting to know Jack better and is not sending a team of FBI agents after him to find out all about his past.”
“Oooh, now that's hard.”
Sara was caught in another sneezing fit and then replied, “You can say that again. I'm glad that Jack told Dad the news while I wasn't here.”
Peter nodded. “I'm sure he liked that a lot.”
“Yeah, now he calls me his little coward.”
Some time passed and Peter finished his research on the Internet. He printed a few pages. “Well, that's it. I just had too little information. But, at least I could follow a trace to a hospital in New York.”
“It's a success even if it is a small one,” Sara responded. “That you were able to find out anything at all is great.”
“Thanks for the compliment. Okay, now I put the results in an envelope and give it to Sam. I'm sure, she wants to be alone when she gets to know that a Kayla died in that hospital.”
Sara nodded and led Peter to the door.
“Do you have anything exciting planned for the rest of the day?”
Sara shrugged her shoulders. “I'll lay down, be bored and wait for Jack.” She sneezed again a couple of times.
“You know, maybe you should go and see a doctor about that,” Peter suggested.
Sara shook her head. “It'll go as quickly as it came. I'll just take a couple of pills.”
Utterly satisfied with the turn of events, the sponsors had left the conference room and Elizabeth wrapped Jack in a big bear hug. “What… how…” she stammered, still unable to wrap her mind completely around what had just happened.
He squeezed her and then held her away from his body, smiling at her. “Oh, my little Lizzy. Karen helped me. I wanted to ask you about a job, but your little sister suggested that I should talk with Karen.”
Elizabeth frowned. “Why?”
He grinned. “Because you are in 7 th heaven. Taylor mentioned that you and Sam really deserved to spend as much time as possible with each other and I really didn't want to intrude on your newfound love.”
Elizabeth brought out a bottle of champagne from a small fridge, while Jack continued. “I've been working with Karen for a few days now.”
“Does that mean I'm officially hired?”
She gave him a filled glass and clinked hers against it. “Of course, you are.”
“Alright, big boss. Uh… may I please take the rest of the day off?”
Elizabeth grinned. “You just have your first official day at work and you already want time off?”
He pouted a bit and batted his eyelashes at her. “Please?”
She pushed him gently into the direction of the door and told him, “Alright, go home to your Sara.”
Once he had left, Elizabeth sank back into a chair, feeling exhausted from the meeting but also happy with the way it had turned out. She reached for the newspaper, thinking it might help her relax some.
Unfortunately, she was wrong about that. One look at the cover made her freeze in shock. In big letters, the headline announced, ‘THE OUTING?! – The shameless behavior of Elizabeth Stuart'. Beneath it was a big picture of her kissing Samantha.
Elizabeth just stared into space until her assistant came in and nervously said, “I really am sorry to bother you, Ms. Stuart, but the phone's been ringing off the hook and the media wants interviews with you.”
“Yeah, I bet they do,” Elizabeth muttered under her breath. “Probably not about the movie project though.”
“What do you want me to do?” the assistant inquired.
Distracted, Elizabeth answered, ”Cancel all appointments for today. I'll work the rest of the day from home. I don't want to be disturbed at all.”
“Of course, Ms. Stuart. Have a great rest of your day.”
Michiru had just said goodbye to Taylor and went to the weight room to see how Samantha was doing. She found her studying the newspaper and looked over her shoulder to see which article had the other woman so engrossed. Michiru saw the huge headline and the picture under it. She was a bit worried as to what Samantha's reaction was going to be.
The brunette crumbled up the paper and flung the ball into the closest corner, before jumping up and hugging the coach. “Finally, no more hiding!” she exclaimed happily.
Michiru looked at her greatly surprised. “Wait a second. You actually like this?”
Samantha smiled. “Well, not the way they wrote it, but that…”
Michiru stroked her back. “You are happy that you can share your love with the whole world now, right?”
“Yes,” Samantha nodded. “To me there is nothing more beautiful than sharing my life with Liz.”
The coach smiled weakly and pointed at the newspaper. “Let's hope then that Liz reacts to this just as you did.”
“Why wouldn't she?” Samantha asked, wrinkling her forehead. “We are in love with each other and everybody can know it. I don't see, why I should hide my feelings in front of others.”
“I really appreciate the fact that you are such an honest person, Sam. Unfortunately, most of society is not thinking like that.”
“Why can't people always be honest with each other? Life would be less complicated and more comfortable that way.”
Michiru didn't know what to answer and so she said, “I just want you to be careful and don't expect too much.”
Defiantly, Samantha hit one of the punching bags and responded, “I know that Liz feels and thinks the same as I do. These are the only things that count for me.”
A loud banging noise woke Sara from her medicine-induced state of drowsiness and she realized that she had fallen asleep on the couch of the beach house. Her head pounding painfully, she scrambled up and staggered to the door to open it. Tired and exhausted, she let her father and Rose in. “Great, a check-up visit,” she mumbled sarcastically.
Matthew glared at her, a bit aggravated. “I had hoped not to find you here. Instead, you should be out there, trying to get a job.”
Sara lay back down on the couch and wrapped herself in the blanket. Sniffling, she answered, “You mean to spend less time with Jack…” She sneezed again.
Immediately, Rose stormed into the kitchen and called out, “Please, don't argue. First, let me brew a chamomile tea for the poor child so that she'll feel better soon.”
Matthew sat down beside his daughter and said, “You can recover in our home.”
She rolled her eyes and replied, “Dad, here is my home. Besides, I'm waiting for Jack because he'll be back from work soon.”
Matthew was stunned. “He already found work? That quickly?”
“Yes, he is working for Elizabeth Stuart as Supervisor of the special effects for their newest movie project,” she told him proudly. “But, if it makes you happier… I promise, I'll find a job for myself, once I got rid of this annoying cold, okay?”
Matthew grumbled something and then kissed his daughter on the forehead. He rose. “I have to go. I have an appointment in the city, but I'll leave Rose here to help you.”
Once more, Sara rolled her eyes and mumbled, “Yeah right, the word ‘chaperon' would fit better.”
“Did you say something, sweetheart?” he asked, frowning.
“No… I love you, Daddy!”
Matthew was just about to reach for the doorknob as the door was opened from the outside and Jack stepped in with a bouquet of red roses. He looked up and found himself face to face with Sara's father. “Oh, hello Mr. Jones.”
Matthew regarded him with a cold glance. “I'll go now.”
Jack closed the door behind him and whistled through his teeth. “Wow, I think he still isn't over our last conversation.” He placed the bouquet aside as Sara came racing towards him, hugging her beloved. “How is my poor, little, sick sweetie?”
“Now that you are finally here, I'm feeling much better.”
They were about to get lost in a passionate kiss as Rose yelled, “STOP! No kissing as long as Sara is sick and could give it to you.”
“Oh no,” the couple exclaimed unhappily at the same time.
“No talking back,” Rose admonished, brandishing her index finger at them. “Here is your tea and you can still talk with each other…”
Taylor almost dropped her salad bowl as the entrance door was closed with a mighty bang. The teenager went to the corridor where she found her sister, who stood there, lost in thought. “Liz?” she asked hesitatingly. “Is everything alright?”
“D-did you re-read t-the newspaper?”
That question had Taylor wonder. “No. Why? Is there something important I should know?”
“Is Sam here?” Elizabeth shot out the next question, her eyes darting around like that of a scared rabbit.
Taylor chuckled as she thought of Samantha. “No, she is still training with Michiru. She really takes her training very seriously and I think for both of them it is a lot of fun. Especially when they get wrapped up in their talks. They can talk for hours about God and the world, and who knows what else. Mostly, they even forget about time during that so I think it'll be late till Sam is back.”
Elizabeth looked at her sister with an expressionless face, but inside her raged a storm of unidentified feelings. “Oh, really?”
Taylor nodded. “Sometimes I think that Sam wants to be the greatest warrior of the world.” Happily, the girl babbled on.
Elizabeth could only think about Michiru.
“… and Sam really wants to accompany us to the championship…”
“Yes, Michiru…” Elizabeth muttered inaudible.
“… even though I thought, she would never be able to be apart from you for one day. Well, I guess, I'm wrong once in a while, too. But I think, Sam doesn't want to come because of me. I think, she wants to use the chance to continue her training with Michiru. I think she's addicted to that,” Taylor said and giggled.
With every word that fell off her little sister's lips, Elizabeth's hands clamped tighter and tighter around her briefcase and her heart was racing. Racing with unbound jealousy. Her voice was harsh as she said, “I'll be in my study and I don't want to be disturbed at all, understand?”
Taylor was a bit taken aback. “Uh… okay. When Sam comes home…”
“I also don't want to be disturbed by Sam!” Elizabeth cut her off and stormed off.
A few minutes had passed since the blonde had locked herself into her study, but the teenager was still staring after her. “I wonder what's wrong with her today.” Then she shrugged her shoulders. “It's probably stress because of the big movie project. We should just leave her alone for a bit and everything will be fine.”
***** A FEW DAYS LATER – CHAMPIONSHIP *****
The sun was about to rise when Michiru entered Samantha's hotel room. “Good morning,” the Asian woman greeted her in her usual cheerful style and with a big smile on her face.
Samantha turned away from the open window and towards the other woman. “Good morning.”
Michiru stepped closer to her and inhaled deeply the fresh morning breeze. “The air and the view are just great. One could forget that we are in Seattle.”
Samantha nodded sadly.
“You are missing Liz, am I right?”
Nodding again, Samantha confessed, “That is not all that has been bothering me. It's… I tried to find out something about my past.”
“I know, you told me about it. Was your search successful?”
“Well, Peter found out something but I have not dared yet to look into the envelope, which he gave me. It's still laying in the tree house at home, sealed shut,” Samantha explained. “I hid it there… probably also from myself.”
Michiru reached out and tenderly stroked the other woman's dark hair. “You are scared of what's inside the envelope. You are scared of the truth.”
Samantha sighed. “I'm being silly, I know. This stuff is past, meaning it already happened and can't be changed.”
“No, don't say that,” Michiru replied. “Even though the past can't be changed, this information has the power to change your life in the future. Didn't you talk with Liz about your worries and fears?”
Tears welled up in Samantha's blue eyes and she supported herself on the windowsill. “I couldn't unload my problems on her, too. Since the day where there was the article in the newspaper, she is acting so different… almost unapproachable… pushing me away. She barely talks with me and stays out of my way. I think that all the stress in the company, working at home, the family and I combined is just too much for her to cope with.”
Michiru looked at her friend in disbelief. “You honestly think that you are a burden to her?”
“Yes, I don't have another explanation for her strange behavior lately. Actually, I'm glad that Taylor and I are out of L.A. for a couple of days. This way Liz gets some peace and quiet that she needs so badly, and then everything will be as it was before.”
Patting her head once more, Michiru placed a little kiss of encouragement on top of it. “It will be. Now, let's take care of our little figure skater princess.”
That comment was enough to make Samantha forget about all her worries and awoke her protective instincts. “Yes, we have to keep our eyes and ears open for that bastard that's after her.”
“Yes. I didn't want to believe it at first when Liz told me about the whole thing. It was very scary as she mentioned that he actually dared to break into the house. Today is Taylor's big day. Let's make sure that she doesn't notice anything out of the ordinary.”
With a bit of wistfulness, Victoria looked back at the house that had been her home for as long as she could remember. Then she turned around and her face held a bitter expression as she put the last box with her things on the passenger seat of her venom-yellow Porsche. “Now there is no turning back,” she told herself. “I have to sort my feelings. I have to start a new life, which will begin now.”
Her mutterings were interrupted by loud engine noises and she saw Alexander appearing in his car.
Surprised, he got out of his car and walked over to his sister. His eyes traveled over the boxes in her car. “Vicky? What's going on?”
“I'm moving out,” she answered shortly.
“Did I miss anything? First Dad, now you… is that the newest big thing?”
“Oh, I guess you have not heard the news then,” Victoria replied sarcastically. “Jonathan is not my father.”
He was too stunned to say anything.
“I'm the product of a one-night-stand that our mother had with a stranger. Congratulations. You are the only true heir of the Parker family.”
Alexander stared at her, still speechless.
Victoria sneered. “Awesome. For years, I've been trying and today I finally managed to make you shut up.”
“But what… what…” he stammered.
“Close your mouth again, Alex. At least, now we know why there was never any love between us that brother and sister should feel for each other.”
“Oh Vicky, I…”
“Hey, don't you dare cry, okay? Big brother...”
Alexander hugged her like he had never done before in his life.
“I'll be going now,” she said and freed herself from his embrace. “Here, take the keys to the house. It can be that we won't see each other for a while.” With that, Victoria climbed into her car, started the engine and drove off.
He watched her for a long time, even after her car was out of his sight. There was one thought that he couldn't shake. “Mother doesn't know who Vicky's father is? I don't believe that. Not when it comes to Mom. She is so fussy and thorough with everything… No, I bet she knows it.” Alexander looked at the house, up to the window of Catherine's room. “Maybe, I'll find something there.”
A while later, he entered her room and went through her desk, rummaging in the drawers. “There has to be something… just a little hint…”
During his search, he noticed a loose board in the bottom drawer. He lifted it with his pocketknife, revealing a hidden space. Alexander grinned. “What do we have here?”
He found a stack of letters that were tied together by a bright red ribbon. Quickly, he opened one after the other and went over the written lines. Each time the letters had been signed with the name Colin.
Alexander rubbed his chin, brooding. “Hmm… Colin… Colin… Somehow the name sounds familiar. But why is that? I think, I'll take these with me and have a closer look at them.”
Elizabeth had invited all their friends to come over to the Stuart house to watch the figure skating championship on TV.
Dorian and Danielle were already there. Elias had excused himself, because he had to be at a doctor's convention. Christopher was still promoting the animated movie in Europe and couldn't be there either, so Richard accompanied Karen.
The doorbell rang again and Elizabeth hurried to open the door.
Sara was waiting in front of it with Jack, who held Sakura on his arm.
Elizabeth grinned and couldn't help to make a remark. “Hey, I didn't know that you became proud parents.”
“Please, don't say any more,” Sara begged. “ Jack might take it to heart. We are just taking care of Sakura until Michiru gets back from Seattle. Billy went with Juan on a tour and Michiru doesn't trust Sakura's father yet to leave her alone with him.”
“We enjoy taking care of the baby,” Jack added. “This way, we also get to spend more time together.”
Elizabeth laughed. “I believe that. You really like children. Now, come on inside. Everybody else is already here.”
They entered the living room and greeted the others.
Karen smirked, “Did I hear anything being said about liking children? Because I'd like to give a huge belly and lots of pregnancy problems to the person who said that.”
Tenderly, Sara shoved Jack in Karen's direction, announcing, “Here is the hero.”
Karen just sank deeper into the couch and groaned, “I'm feeling like a giant meatball.”
“It's almost over,” Elizabeth said to her, smiling and patting her hand. “You'll get through the last few weeks too and then you'll be rewarded with sweet twins.”
Danielle asked if she could hold Sakura for a bit and Jack placed her on her lap. “I think we will have a baby boom,” the actress laughed.
Jack pulled Sara closer to him and chuckled, “So? What do you think? Should we add something to that too?” He waggled his eyebrows and she slapped him in the stomach, hissing, “Stop it.”
Richard rolled his eyes and went to the kitchen.
Jack had seen the other man's reaction and followed him. In the kitchen he asked, “Do you have a problem?”
Richard didn't say anything. He just stared at him.
“Do you honestly believe that I don't know that it was you, who sent her father here? But, whatever you wanted to accomplish with that, it didn't work. Actually, you did us a favor. Because now we are closer than ever before. Please, just keep out of our business.”
Sara came upon them, placing an arm around both men's shoulders. “So, are my two cuties getting along?” she wanted to know.
Richard and Jack glared darkly at each other, but said, “Of course.”
Jack looked at Sara and added broadly grinning, “But with you I get along best.” Then he proceeded to bend his fiancé backwards, placing a passionate kiss on her.
Sara felt her senses reeling and her knees grew weak. “Wow,” she gasped. “What did I do to deserve that?”
“You deserve it every second of the day. We still have lots to make up for since your cold.”
‘I think, I'm going to be sick,' Richard thought to himself.
From the living room, Elizabeth called, “Come on, hurry up! It will start anytime soon!”
“We're on our way,“ Sara called back, dragging Jack and Richard after her.
They sat down in front of the TV and waited with restrained breathing for the show to begin.
Her heart was pounding out of control while Taylor went through her stretching and warming up exercises in the backstage area of the ice hall.
Samantha was standing the whole time next to her with crossed arms, her eyes patiently scanning their surroundings.
Michiru returned from the boards and mentioned, “All the girls are doing great.”
Swallowing hard, Taylor closed her eyes for a second and commented nervously, “That's real great for encouragement.”
“Don't get upset, Taylor,” her coach told her and smiled. “You've been working very hard to get here and today you'll give it your best. Relax and don't cramp up while you're breathing.” Then she placed one hand on the girl's back and the other on her stomach. “Remember to use the breathing technique that I showed you.”
Taylor relaxed and Michiru continued, “For right now, you are in second place, only 0.5 points behind Tiffany Brooke Walther. You will have no problem to move past her if you give your best and I know that you will.”
Taylor concentrated and once more went over the steps of her program in her mind.
“You'll be the last to skate, so blow them away.”
With upmost care the man in the first row checked his new camcorder and then adjusted his clothes. ‘I put on my best clothes, just for you, my sweet daughter. I also went to the hairstylist to get my hair cut. Hopefully, you'll like it, my precious.'
He adjusted his big glasses, which he only wore to conceal his face, sat back and waited.
Concerned, Michiru's eyes traveled through the hall before she turned back to Taylor. “Tiffany Brooke Walther will be next and we should have a look at her. Can be that we might have to change a few components of your program.”
“Okay,” Taylor answered and stalked with protective covers over her skates to the boards. Michiru joined her, rubbing the girl's back to calm her further.
Samantha's eyes darted over the audience, but it was impossible to find a threat among the huge hall that was filled with hundreds of people.
The fans cheered as Tiffany stepped on the ice in her little pink dress, blowing kisses and waving at the audience.
The girl on the ice was of no interest to the man. He zoomed in on Taylor, watching and recording her every move. “My beloved daughter. There will be a surprise waiting for you, after you have won this competition.”
Elizabeth pointed at the TV screen. “There! That's Taylor's biggest American rival, Tiffany Brooke Walther.”
“Nothing compared to the French bitch Nicolette Valmy,” Sara mumbled.
Jack placed a tender kiss on the nape of her neck and she felt a pleasant shiver travel across her back. Tenderly, they held hands and exchanged loving glances.
Elizabeth watched them, feeling a bit jealous. ‘Why? Why can our love not be as… normal?' she thought to herself only to chastise herself in the next moment. ‘What am I thinking? Our love is normal. It just is not accepted. I have to set up priorities as to what counts more.' She ran a hand through her hair in frustration. ‘The movie company means everything to me. It's what is left of my parents and it was their dream, but…'
Karen interrupted her thoughts. “Look, Sam, Taylor and Michiru are standing at the boards, watching the pompous bimbo on the ice.”
“Yes, really,” Dorian chimed in.
“Our three Musketeers,” Sara chuckled.
Danielle pressed a little kiss on Sakura's cheek and pointed out, “Look there, your Mommy is on TV.”
“I guess it will be Taylor's turn soon,” Jack threw in.
Elizabeth's eyes were solely resting on Samantha. “Oh Sam, I miss you so much. Would you forgive me, if I put the survival of the Stuart family and work above our happiness together? I know, I can't ask this of you. The choice is a cruel one and it hurts having to make a decision. If only you knew how the press has been harassing me these past days. They will not rest until they know everything about you and me. They want a scandal and I must not give them one.' Tears welled up in her emerald eyes and she quickly blinked them away. ‘I'm so sorry. I do love you.'
“Man, this suspense is really killing me, “Dorian mentioned.
Danielle chuckled, “I think Sakura doesn't share your opinion, she just fell asleep.”
“Taylor has to show the bitch, who's the best. She has to beat her.” Sara said, scowling at Tiffany's face on the screen that was grinning happily into the cameras.
“That's right!” Karen added in a too loud voice and waved a fist.
Jack looked from Sara to Karen and back. “You are beginning to scare me.”
“Yes, Karen. Please, calm down a bit,” Richard admonished. “You have to take care of yourself and the babies. Too much excitement is not good for them.”
“Hush!” Liz hissed. “It's starting.”
Everybody stared at the screen with bated breath, while Taylor went through her program.
“Please, Taylor, don't make any mistake,” Karen whispered and then held a hand to her belly as she felt something move there.
“Boah, these are the longest 4 minutes of my life,” Elizabeth said.
“There, the final pirouettes…” Sara breathed.
It was completely silent in the room until Dorian remarked, “I can't believe it… she did it!”
The others didn't dare to say anything until the judges had given their points.
Taylor seemed to be very happy with her performance and the audience honored her show, throwing flowers and stuffed animals upon the ice, also giving her standing ovations.
Michiru accompanied her to the bench where they would sit and wait for the announcing of the points.
The girl was still breathing heavily, but greeted her family, friends and fans and waved at the camera.
Nervously, Elizabeth chewed on her fingernails, “What is taking them so long?”
“Please, please, please…“ Sara chanted and kept her fingers crossed tightly.
“Damn it, come on, she deserves the most points!” Jack exclaimed
They were really getting into it now, just not Karen. Beads of sweat formed on her forehead and the color of her face turned from red to chalky white.
Finally, the jury declared the results and Taylor received high scores for technique and expression.
Loud cheering erupted in Seattle as well as in L.A. as a big, fat, flashing ‘#1' appeared in the lower part of the screen next to Taylor's name.
“YIPPEE! Taylor is the American Champion!” Elizabeth shouted and jumped up from the couch, doing a little happy dance. “She's got the ticket for the Olympic Games!”
They all wrapped their arms around each other for a group hug and then Karen said almost inaudible, “I think, I'm having contractions.”
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