FIUR and VLAMME

proudly present

HOLLYWOOD DREAMS

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DISCLAIMER:

Well, we only can say one thing... it is a Soap Opera. Everything that can happen will probably happen and because we do not want to give away too much we only say that much... Expect the unexpected... :-)

The story is finished and will be posted in parts. It was written from 2002 till 2004. The translations were done in 2006. The whole story was revised in 2012.

COMMENTS:

Please, feel free to tell us what you think. We are waiting for feedback at

fiur-vlamme@web.de

SPECIAL AUTHOR’S NOTE:

A video containing the intro for the first season can be found at:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WishToglgO0

If you are interested in more, please visit our YouTube Channel (The Domain of Fiur and Vlamme)at:

http://www.youtube.com/user/Vlamme80?ob=0&feature=results_main

There you can see trailers for upcoming stories, watch our Xena musicvideos, listen to music that inspires our stories, have a look at Fiur’s gorgeous artwork or share Vlamme’s anime obsession :-)

(c) 2002 - 2012 by Fiur and Vlamme

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EPISODE 6

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Dejectedly, Chris returned from the hospital and threw himself upon the couch in the living room. ”Oh Lizzy. I’ve never noticed just how much you are doing for our family and the company. So many problems that you have to shoulder…”

The front door opened and Uncle William entered.

”Hey, Uncle Will,” Chris greeted him.

His uncle stepped inside, not looking at him as he told him, ”I brought Taylor to the ice hall. She said she wanted to practice a bit more until her coach shows up.”

”That’s good,” Chris replied and finally their eyes met. William wasn’t used to the sad tone in his nephew’s voice. His eyes widened as he saw the bandage covering half of Chris’ face. ”Goodness, what happened to your nose?”

”Oh that, just a little accident. Nothing to be worried about.”

William just nodded. ”If you say so. Got any other news?”

The blonde artist shook his head. ”We’ve got invoices coming in and there seems to be no end in sight. The refusals of the banks are piling up and nobody wants to help us. It just is becoming too much for me, Uncle Will.”

”Is it really that bad? Does Taylor know what’s going on?”

”I don’t think so and that’s exactly how I want it to stay. Stuart Films is about to go bankrupt… it does sound horrible now that I’ve realized it myself,” Chris said quietly.

”And how will you ensure to keep this a secret from Taylor? Not to mention the public?”

”It would break her heart to know that everything that’s left of our parents will be destroyed. Just like it would do to me.”

William nodded sadly. ”You know if I could I would help you out, but I don’t think that what little money I have on the side will be enough, will it?”

”We also don’t have many savings left because the last production just cost too much.”

”How about asking the Parkers for help?”

Chris glared at his uncle. He couldn’t believe that William would suggest this.

”NO!” he exclaimed harshly. ”Asking the Parkers is something I will never ever do! Then I could give the company right away to Catherine on a silver platter!”

Placing his hands on Chris’ shoulders, William tried to calm the young man down.

”My point is that we are running out of options. What are you intending to do now?”

”I will find some way,” Chris promised. ”I have to. And it most certainly will not include the Parkers!”

*****

Under Catherine’s watchful eyes, Karen read the prepared contract again and again.

” ‘Parker Enterprises’ would really like to admit ‘Stuart Films’. You only have to sign this and all your financial problems will disappear in the blink of an eye. You are just giving up your lawful independence. Money won’t be a problem and you will still be able to do your own productions under the name ‘Stuart Films’,” Catherine explained, circling Liz’ assistant like a vulture, waiting for the right time and her prey to drop dead in order to pounce on it.

”But we will belong to 'Parker Enterprises and Movie Productions' then. I really have to think about this some more, because it actually is not my place to make this decision,” Karen explained and rose. She stuffed a copy of the contract into her briefcase and looked at the other woman. ”I will let you know by the end of the week if we will go with this contract or not.”

”Good." Catherine was satisfied for the moment. "I will be looking forward to your answer. Good bye.” They shook hands and Karen left, still a bit stunned. She had come to confront Jack Carpenter about his unusual, brutal behavior towards Chris at the beach this morning and now Catherine had dropped this bombshell on her out of nowhere.

*****

Her mind was completely somewhere else as Taylor moved in circles over the ice. The echoing sound of light clapping brought her back to the matter at hand.

Michiru stood there and waited until the girl came skating towards her. "For a total beginner you sure are doing well," the coach commented, regarding her charge seriously.

"I know I'm doing badly," Taylor replied in a small voice and couldn't get herself to look at the woman. She also felt bad that she had not shown up to several training sessions and was now waiting for Michiru's wrath to hit.

"Now that is interesting. If you already know everything then what do you need me for?"

The teenager frowned and finally lifted her eyes off the ice and looked at her. "I was better at it before... but now... now it feels as if something is missing."

Michiru nodded. "You are missing the base."

Looking completely confused Taylor asked, "What does that mean?"

The coach pointed to a bench. "Let's go over there and have a little talk. You can take off your skates; we are going to start at the very beginning."

"Okay."

They sat down and Michiru began, "Now, imagine that your abilities are a house."

The girl looked at her, blinking in utter confusion. "A house? What..."

"Yes, your abilities are like a house. The thing is, in your case, the house is unfinished. You are already on the first floor but you forgot to build the basement and that's why everything is breaking down again and again."

There was a long moment of silence where Taylor tried to wrap her mind around what Michiru had said and contemplated it real hard. "And you want to help me build the basement?"

The coach nodded and smiled. "That's exactly what I'm going to do. We will strengthen your sense of balance, and then there is your coordination and the power of your body and above all your expression when you skate..."

Taylor waved her hands impatiently. "Alright, alright, alright and where does all of this lead?"

Now the Asian woman smirked. "It will lead over the last floor to the roof and from there to the highest point of the house. And from there, you can get on your tiptoes to reach for the stars. We can get everything accomplished with the help of some Martial Arts."

Taylor's eyes widened in astonishment and then a happy gleam appeared inside them as she heard the last two words.

*****

Alexander and Jack were back on the premises of the Parker Film studios and entered one of the huge halls. During their lunch, there was only one subject that they were talking about; Sara Jones.

"You know, I would take Sara right away..."

"If you wouldn't already be engaged to Liz," Jack interrupted Alex quickly, reminding him of his lost fiancée.

Alex waggled his eyebrows and grinned, "Yes, yes, Jack, but..." He made a show of looking around and then lowered his voice to continue in a conspiring tone, "...but Liz is not here."

Jack's eyes widened in shock as he heard that and the dark haired man just slapped him on the shoulder, "Don't worry, buddy. I was just kidding. I could never do something like that. Sara and I have known each other forever and we have lots of the same interests. That makes things a bit easier... if you get my drift."

"How I wish I could change places with you," Jack thought to himself.

Jonathan Parker walked towards them and their discussion about a certain photographer came to an end.

"Hey Dad, you are looking quite satisfied, "Alex commented and smirked.”Like an old tomcat that got his cream." He didn't even try to suppress the snort that followed after his own stupid joke.

Jonathan cleared his throat and announced that his meeting had been positive.

"Okay then, let's hurry with checking up on the sets. I have a boat to visit and to smoothen out some angry waves." Alex grinned at Jack while saying that and slapped him one last time on the back.

*****

As Steven McLure entered Catherine Parker's office to bring her some files, he found the red-haired woman in an unusual good mood. She was filling up a glass with champagne and had a huge smile on her face.

Steven placed the files on her desk and said, "My, you sure are quite happy today, Catherine."

She looked up, gave him the glass and filled herself another one. "Yes, I truly have a good reason to celebrate today, Steven. 'Stuart Films' will soon belong to me."

The lawyer's eyebrows rose. "Really? So the rumors in the press are true? The company really is bankrupt?"

The head of the Parker family nodded, "It really looks like that. At least, they are unable to pay their bills and soon enough the first creditors will knock on their door."

"Does Alexander know any of this?"

Catherine frowned. "I don't think so, but what has my son got to do with it?"

Steven rubbed his neck. He was feeling a bit uncomfortable having to voice this particular thought but then he just went with it. "Well... we all know that Alexander is quite a 'lady's man' and it could be that he might use your takeover of 'Stuart Films' to get out of the engagement with Elizabeth Stuart."

"No, no! That's out of question. The engagement will not be broken. Otherwise, Alex will forever stay a confirmed bachelor and who knows what kind of crazy ideas he will come up with then," Catherine insisted.

"You are right," Steven responded. "But it will need a strong hand to 'tame' him."

"And that is exactly the reason why Elizabeth has to be found as quickly as possible!"

"You really believe that she is still alive?"

A dark look came over Catherine's face as she contemplated that thought. "Whether she is or not... the Parkers will come out of this as winners." With that she raised her glass to Steven. "Cheers."

He nodded and also raised his glass. "Cheers, Catherine."

*****

Having finished their training session, Michiru and her protégée sat in the locker room of the ice hall.

"I want to apologize to you," Taylor said while tying her sneakers.

Michiru looked at her, a bit confused. "What for?"

"For the past few weeks... I didn't show up for the training sessions..." Taylor began in a small voice, not looking at her coach. "...and I..."

The Asian woman smiled and patted her gently on the arm. "I was never mad at you about that, you know?"

Now Taylor looked at her in surprise. "Really? I've been so scared all day before I came here to face you."

"You have to confront your fears or else you will always be scared,” Michiru responded and gave a little laugh before she continued, "Am I really that scary?"

"No, you are not scary at all. In fact you are very nice and tons better than my former coach. Now, I'm actually having fun again while figure skating."

Michiru smiled in contentment.

A moment of silence fell and then Taylor asked, "I hope I'm not too forward here, but have you found any friends here in L.A. yet? I know it has to be hard being in a new city all by one's self..."

"Oh yes, I already met a very nice American."

"Really? What are they like?"

"Well... He is a real charmer. What about you? Is there a special someone in your life?"

The girl gave her a look that said 'you've got to be kidding me'. Taylor shook her head and declared firmly, "With all the stress all kinds of relationships are having around me I really am glad to be single and that's how it will stay." She stuffed her skates into her bag. "I have to go now. I better not be late for the family dinner. Until tomorrow then."

"Yeah, until tomorrow, Taylor. Have a nice evening."

"You too, Ms. Kasawaki."

Michiru waited until Taylor had left the locker room then she pulled her cell phone from her pants and dialed a by now well known number. "Hello... Do you already have plans or can we see each other this evening?... Really?... A Candle-Light-Dinner?... Yes, that would be great.... Alright... Until later, then."

*****

Because of her little shopping trip, Sara's mood had improved for the moment as she arrived at the harbor. She stopped at the little house that belonged to the harbor master. "Good evening, Mr. Lee," she greeted him.

"Ah, Ms. Jones, nice to see you. What can I do for you?"

"I need somebody who will bring my purchases to my yacht and I need to ask something of you. I want a helicopter ready for me whenever I might need it and nobody is allowed to come to my yacht without a special invitation by me. I want to be called first before you let anybody come up there."

The man nodded. "Of course, Ms. Jones, whatever you wish will be done. But there already is a man on his way to your boat. He said he's a friend and wanted to wait for you there."

Sara was suspicious. "What was his name?"

"Mr. Carpenter."

The photographer closed her eyes for a second as she felt the fury rise inside her guts once more. "Now that is entirely too much. He's gone too far this time." Without saying goodbye to Mr. Lee, she raced off to her yacht.

As she got out of her car, she saw his motorcycle close by and then she recognized Jack, where he sat on the sundeck, looking out at the sea. Seething with anger, she forcefully closed the car door and stomped over, wanting to teach the man a lesson once and for all.

Jack jerked as he heard the banging noise and whirled around, only to look at the very angry face of the boat's owner.

"I want to know, right this instant, why are you stalking me, Jack? It will only take a second to call security and I'll have you thrown out!" Sara screeched, about to lose her temper completely.

The special effects artist raised his hands in defense. "How about a 'hello' first? I came here as fast as I could to arrive before Alex will."

"Oh, Alex is coming? Some good news at last!" she snapped, still red in the face from fury.

"He is nothing but a Casanova..."

"Stop talking about Alex like this," Sara interrupted him. "He is having a hard time at the moment. Besides, you are not my babysitter and I don't think it's any of your business with whom I spend my time."

Jack tried once more to reason with the photographer. "He's a bad influence for you and..."

Again she cut him off, her eyes flashing dangerously. "I'm an adult and I can do whatever I please. I have only one more thing to say to you. Stop your stupid advances. You can do that with one of your cheap secretaries but not with me. NOW get off my yacht!"

Jack looked at her in surprise. "You don't mean that..."

Sara crossed her arms and looked at him darkly. "Do you really want me to call security? Get off the boat and don't come back!"

Mumbling something about stubborn women, he finally left.

*****

Returning from her training session, Taylor closed the big entrance door behind her and called out, "Hello? Is anybody else home?"

She didn't get an answer. Loud voices could be heard from the living room, rising in volume. It sounded like they were fighting. Before the teenager reached the door to the living room, she caught parts of the conversation. "...on the machine...everybody..." That was definitely Christopher's voice.

"I didn't know that." The other person sounded quite familiar also. It was Karen.

"You cannot decide stuff like this on your own..."

"We're going to lose the company..."

"No, our family and you are not going to take her offer!"

"So, do you have a better idea then?"

Taylor opened the door and entered the room. "What the hell is going on here?"

Chris and Karen jerked in surprise and looked at her. "Hi Taylor. Uh...it's nothing you need to concern yourself with,” her brother explained, but it wasn't very convincing.

Taylor frowned as she saw his face. "And what happened to your nose?"

"Oh that, just a little accident this morning. Nothing to worry about."

Karen was silent and continued to set up the table, putting the plates and utensils on it.

"Dinner is about to be ready. I'll go and fetch Uncle Will," the blonde man announced.

Before he could leave though, Taylor reached out and took his arm, holding him back. "Wait, please. I want somebody to tell me what's wrong? I'm not stupid. I know when something is up."

Karen and Chris looked at each other, but remained silent.

The teenager nodded in understanding. "Fine. I'll be in my room. I just lost my appetite." That said, she stomped upstairs.

*****

Catherine sat down in front of the lit fire place, with two glasses and a good bottle of wine. "What's keeping you, Jonathan? I want us to have a nice, quiet evening together. Just the two of us. It's been so long since we did that."

Jonathan walked in, wearing his best suit and Catherine's eyes widened in astonishment. "What's the occasion for that, my dear?"

"I'm sorry, love. I have a very important dinner with a business partner."

"And since when are you doing this on your own?"

He stepped behind her and massaged her shoulders a little bit. "You've been so stressed lately. I didn't want to burden you with any more business matters."

Catherine sighed sadly, "Really, Jon. It's been so long since we last spent time together, just the two of us."

"I know, I know and I promise I'll make it up to you soon. I really have to go now though. Bye. And please don't stay up. It can be late before I'm back." He was about to leave as Catherine asked, "What's the name of this important business partner?"

"Oh, somebody from an Asian company."

"Alright, I hope the meeting will be a success. Have fun, my dear."

"I'm sure I will have that," he mumbled inaudible and smiled to himself as he left the house.

*****

Feeling dejected, Jack sat in Juan's hotel room. A minute ago, he had told the Latino singer everything about another disastrous encounter with Sara Jones.

Looking compassionately at the tall man, Juan said, "If she is like that, it's best to forget her."

"What?"

"I'm serious, Jack. If she is so shallow then she doesn't deserve such a great guy as you are."

"Thanks, but it's not so easy, you know."

Juan sighed and there was a little amount of annoyance audible. "You've got it bad, man."

"Today she behaved like a stubborn, little girl. And I don't even want to imagine what's going to happen just because she's trying to prove something. I don't trust Alex and I certainly don't want Sara to end up like Danielle," Jack voiced his worries to the other man.

"Would you please relax? It's her life and obviously she doesn't want anybody to tell her what to do. Now, lean back and have a drink with me."

Instead of calming down, Jack jumped from the couch. "I think I should talk with Taylor. I hope she will even speak with me after what I did to Chris. I can worry about that later. Taylor is friends with Sara and I know, she will be able to talk to her. Yes, this is what I'm going to do. Tomorrow, I'll give Taylor a call and then we get this mess out of the way. Thanks Juan, you really were a great help." As he hugged him, the singer felt warmth spreading throughout his body. Before he even knew what was going on, Jack let go of him and was out of the door. "Oh, no problem, it was all my pleasure, my friend," he mumbled dreamy-eyed and sipped his champagne. "Wow," he breathed and a smile slowly spread across his features. "What an embrace."

*****

Taylor was lying in bed, wide awake, and in the end her growling tummy made her get up and leave her room. She was about to go downstairs to the kitchen as she saw that a light was still on in the living room. Chris and Karen were still also awake and as it seemed still fighting about something. Quietly, Taylor sat down on the stairs and listened.

"Catherine left a message on the machine that she wanted a meeting of our families and what are you doing? You go to her and you're practically offering her our company."

"It wasn't like that, Chris, I told you that. I went there to confront Jack and suddenly Catherine was there and dropped this contract on me. I didn't know that she had called here and the company's situation is bad!" This was the first time that Karen had raised her voice.

"You cannot decide about something so important on your own."

"That's why I haven't signed the contract yet. I know, I've only been Liz' assistant until now and from one day to the next I'm supposed to lead the whole company on my own!"

"Doesn't matter, I'm going to rip this contract to shreds!"

Karen looked at him, her mouth open. "Are you out of your mind, Chris? That's our only chance to save the company!"

"You are destroying our family with this! My parents built this company from nothing and I will not stand by and look on as Catherine takes over!"

The blonde woman gave a small laugh. "Until now the company didn't seem to interest you much. It's the same old problem with you, Chris. You're far too emotional in your decision making."

"You just had to start with this again, Karen. Just tell me why we broke up? Because you are too cold sometimes and everything you do has to be logical and rational."

Just how had this happened? This morning everything had been great. They had been walking on the beach, they had even kissed and everything had been fine. Karen pinched the bridge of her nose. "Chris, I really don't want to fight with you anymore. Let's talk about this again tomorrow, without mixing business with pleasure."

"Yeah, let's put it off until tomorrow, like always," Chris spat angrily.

"Please calm down and lower your voice before you wake up everybody else in the house."

Without another word the artist grabbed his car keys.

"What are you doing?"

"I need to get out of here." Leaving her sitting there, he stormed out and the door closed behind him with an angry bang.

Shocked by everything she had heard, Taylor was still sitting on the stairs. She had not known just how bad the situation was until now. Tears gathered in her eyes and she heard Karen cry in the living room.

*****

Michiru stepped out of a limousine in front of a small restaurant that was located in the mountains of L.A. Jonathan had sent the car to pick her up at her loft. At the restaurant's entrance, he welcomed her with a tender kiss to her delicate hand.

"Oh Jonathan, what a romantic place this is and the view of the valley is breath-taking."

He smiled gently at her and whispered close to her ear, "Just wait until we are inside, my lotus blossom."

Michiru was absolutely surprised as she took a look around. "No other guests?"

"No, everything is just for us."

Her eyes sparkled with happiness. "Flowers and candles everywhere."

Still smiling, he kissed her hand again. "Only the best for my most beautiful lady." Jonathan snapped his fingers and a curtain was drawn aside to reveal 4 violin players that immediately began to enchant them with wonderful classic music.

Gripping his hands tightly, she sighed and tears started to fill her eyes. She was so touched by all he had done to make this an unforgettable evening. "Oh Jonathan."

He just bowed and asked, "May I have this dance with you, beautiful lady?"

She smiled and answered, "Yes, handsome sir."

*****

At the same time, inside the "Majesty", one of the greatest nightclubs the city had to offer, Sara and Alex were having a great time, celebrating a wild party. As Alexander announced that the next round of cocktails would be on him, the crowd of guests cheered wildly.

"I think you convinced them!" Sara screamed to be heard over the loud music.

Both of them already had a few drinks and were now dancing on the tables to booming hard rock music, tightly wrapped around each other.

*****

It was way past midnight. Chris was still cruising the streets of Hollywood in his jeep. Meanwhile, he was fiercely regretting the fight he had with Karen, but his ego didn't allow him to give in. "I have to show Karen that there is a better solution than taking Catherine Parker's offer," he said to himself, but his desperation about the situation didn't fade. Driving by the "Majesty", he decided to go in to take his mind off his worries, even though he usually wouldn't do something like that.

As soon as he had set a foot inside, he wanted to leave again, because he felt completely out of place. Two half-naked women came towards him and dragged him to the bar. Disgruntled, he sipped on a Pepsi and let his eyes slide over the crowd. They nearly popped out of his head as he recognized Alex and Sara. It seemed that Sara wouldn't be able to stand on her own for much longer while Alex was drooling all over a table dancer, who was about to seduce him.

Having seen more than he could handle, Chris didn't think long about it and took action. He marched over to them and said, "Sara, I think you had enough for today. Come on, I'll drive you home."

Sara staggered and nearly fell into his arms, almost unable to form a complete sentence. Giggling, she replied, "Chris... what is tha-that funny thi-thing on your no-nose... wanna ha-have drink too?" Her words were interrupted by her silly giggling and the occasional hiccup.

"No, please. Let's go."

"No-Nope... don't wanna... mo-more champion... uh... cham-champagne!" She whirled around so fast that she nearly lost her balance and crashed into Chris.

"Hey Stuart, leave my baby alone," Alex chimed in but soon enough his eyes were back on the dancer.

"Keep out of this Alex, you are disgusting," Christopher hissed.

Clumsily, Sara wrapped herself around Chris and mumbled, "Don't... no figh-fighting. I'll go wi-with Chris."

"Fine, do what you want," Alex responded, dismissing them.

Together Chris and Sara left the club.

Outside, she started to prance drunkenly around him. "Fi-Finally... you and me..."

"Yes, you and I are going to get into the car now," he responded and pulled the car keys from his pocket.

Cross-eyed, Sara looked at him and decided, "I wi-will drive..."

"No, you won't. I'll do that."

After lots of grumbling and protesting the artist finally managed to get the rebellious woman into the passenger seat and closed the seatbelt around her.

He started the car and the radio went on immediately. Sara started to rock in her seat and ordered, "Co-come on, sing wi-with me..."

"No better not, I need to concentrate."

"Do-don't be ma-mad at me..."

"I'm not mad at you. Just don't hang out so much with Alexander, that's not good for you." When he looked over, he saw her staring at him with big eyes that were glued to his lips and he had to laugh. "You didn't understand anything of what I just said, did you?"

"Mmh... I lo-love yo-you..."

He shook his head and sighed. "Of course."

"Mmh..."

Later, Chris supported Sara, who staggered and stumbled, and so they made their way to the yacht of the Jones family. Once inside, Sara let go of him and wanted to dance.

Gently, Chris guided her in direction of her bedroom and said firmly, "No dancing. Sleeping."

She grinned and started to undress. "Yes, slee-sleeping with yo-you."

"No, no, no. Only you will sleep."

"Do-don't wanna..."

Frustrated, Chris ran a hand through his long blonde hair. This was harder than he thought it would be. He finally managed to press her down into her bed and tucked her in. "I really think I should better stay here until you slept this off. Who knows what other stupid ideas than singing and dancing you come up with? For all I know, you might just jump overboard, because you feel hot or something." He was about to close the bedroom door behind him as he heard Sara mumble, "Chris... I lo-love you."

Shaking his head, he pulled a big armchair in front of the bedroom door to make sure that Sara couldn't leave undetected in the middle of the night. He made himself comfortable in there and waited for sleep to take him. His mind was still racing, trying to find a solution that would help in keeping Catherine's hands off the Stuart film company.

*****

Having a great time at the restaurant, Michiru and Jonathan didn't notice how quickly time was flying by. Finally, she also managed to get him to reveal more about his past.

"I've been telling you the whole story of my life by now, and still, I know so little about you. Please, tell me something more about you."

Jonathan hesitated for a moment. Then he gave a sad sigh and began, "I once was married to a very beautiful woman. Oh god, that really was a long time ago... nearly 30 years by now. Her name was Kayla..." he stopped as his voice broke and the pain, he felt in this moment, was obvious.

Michiru reached for his hands and took them gently in her small, delicate ones. Tenderly running her thumbs over his knuckles, she asked, "What happened?"

"She was pregnant. We were so excited as the doctors told us that it would be a sweet little girl... there were complications... and I will never ever forgive myself that I wasn't there for them in this hard time. I lost them both during birth... the doctors of the hospital told me... I didn't even get to see them one last time... I couldn't even say goodbye... and with them died my hope to ever have a happy and fulfilled life." A sob got caught in his throat and he turned his face away.

"Oh Jonathan, I'm so sorry."

*****

In the early hours of morning, shortly before dawn, Alexander finally left the club too and staggered drunk to his car. With screeching tires, he drove along the roads in the Hollywood Hills without a care. In one of the sharp bends, he lost control of the car and it raced down a slope. Due to the impact with several trees and the fact that he had not worn his seatbelt, he was thrown through the windshield and lay there, unmoving.

*****

At the moment, Liz wished for nothing more than to be able to take back what she had said about her getting eaten by a crocodile. Had she known that it would upset Sam this much, she would not have even considered cracking a joke like that. Looking apologetically at the brunette, she said, "I'm really sorry, Sam. You are right and one shouldn't crack jokes like that about death."

"And I am sorry for my outburst. You didn't deserve that. It is just... I have seen so much death and the thought..."

Liz quickly interrupted her. "Let's not think about it anymore. Everything is fine so let's just forget about it."

The jungle woman nodded and reached for one of Liz' hands. She pulled the blonde up from the floor. "Come on, the canoe is waiting."

Liz smiled. "I'm so looking forward to everything that you are going to show me."

"Oh, there is much to see, I promise. We cannot see it all in just one day."

Another wave of sadness passed through her and Liz announced in a small voice, "As it looks like, I'm going to be here for a long time."

Sam gently squeezed the small hand she still held in her own. "But you are not alone. Everything is going to be fine."

"I'm so glad that you found me when you did. What a great coincidence or maybe it was a stroke of luck... or just plain fate or something."

Together they left the tree house, Shakira following right behind them.

Again Liz squeezed her eyes shut tightly and held on to Sam strongly as they slowly floated to the ground with help of a rope. Actually she wasn't scared of heights. She also rode every roller coaster without any problems. That's why it was so weird. She really couldn't explain where this strange tingling sensation came from that happened in her stomach whenever they used the rope to leave the tree house.

Dexterously, Shakira climbed down the tree and joined them on the forest floor.

Sam guided them through the thick undergrowth to the river.

Quickly, the panther pushed past them and was the first to sit in the canoe, right in the middle of it. Liz squeezed in behind her and Sam took the front seat. She laughed as she saw the blonde eyeing the water suspiciously. "You really don't need to be scared. There are no crocodiles in there."

"I'm not scared," she reassured her, "because I have you with me for protection. I'm just wondering how the water can be so clear." She saw how Sam took a paddle and asked if she could have one too.

"Have you ever been in a canoe before?" the brunette wanted to know, greatly interested, and gave her a paddle.

"Well, my uncle took us once on a tour with a rubber dinghy. We went wild water rafting. I figure that it cannot be that different."

Sam grinned. "I think you are going to like it and we will have lots of fun." She used her paddle to push the little boat away from the shore and off they went for another adventure.

***** THE NEXT DAY *****

The house was silent as Taylor and Tasilo came downstairs. "Strange," the teenager whispered to herself. "Why is nobody awake yet?"

Entering the kitchen, she discovered Uncle William and Karen, who sat there wrapped up in complete silence. Only the ticking of a clock could be heard. "Morning," Taylor mumbled as she stood in the door looking at them with crossed arms. She didn't get an answer and it seemed that though their bodies were sitting there, their minds were off in another time and space. "Good morning," Taylor tried again a little bit louder.

William finally looked up from where he stared at the table. "Oh Taylor, good morning to you, too. We didn't hear you."

"Yeah, I noticed that." She took a bowl from the cupboard put some cornflakes inside, added milk and joined them at the table. The depressing silence fell again until Taylor had enough and said sarcastically, "Remind me to have breakfast with you more often. That's really a lot of fun." She got up and took the bowl. "If anybody is searching for me, I'll be in the living room, watching cartoons." That said, she left the kitchen.

William sighed, "We have to tell her."

"I know," Karen replied, dejectedly. "I just wish I knew how to tell her. This is about the only thing that she has left of her parents. But to save the company, I see no other way than taking Catherine's offer. Of course, Chris has to be stubborn about it!"

"Talking about my nephew, where the hell is that boy? He better be prepared for what he has coming for him as soon as he gets here. Just what was he thinking? To disappear and stay away without a word..."

"We had a fight," Karen answered sadly.

"So what? That sure doesn't give him a reason to drive off to God knows where!"

*****

The sun was shining through the window and right into his face as Jonathan woke up. He was lying behind Michiru in a spooning position, his arms tightly wrapped around her waist. Gently, he kissed one of her naked, pale shoulders. "You are so very beautiful, my lotus blossom," he mumbled. As his tired eyes fell on the clock on the night stand, he jerked up, shocked. It was already past 8:00.

"What... what is it?" Michiru asked, not fully awake yet herself.

"Oh, nothing important," Jonathan replied, grinning. "I'm just late for work. But I didn't want to leave without saying goodbye."

"If that's it," she grumbled playfully and turned away from him. "Goodbye."

"Hey, hey, hey not so fast." He turned her back around so that she was facing him. "I also wanted to thank you for last night. For being so understanding and listening to me... because of Kayla... that really meant a lot to me."

She smiled and gently cupped his face. "It meant a lot to me also that you trust me so much to tell me about it." Michiru followed this statement with a tender kiss.

"Do you already have plans for today?" he wanted to know.

"Yes, I have a very important training session with my new protégée. But I don't have any specific plans for this evening."

"That's good," Jonathan announced before he finally got out of bed. "I'm sorry, but I really have to go now." He disappeared to the bathroom.

Michiru grinned into her pillow. "Ah boy, can it be that I found the man of my dreams?"

Sometime later, Jonathan returned in his business suit from the bathroom.

She sent him a seducing glance from half-closed eyes, waving lasciviously with one hand and pulling back the cover a little bit, revealing one of her her naked, well-toned legs. "Until this evening, my Tiger!" she purred.

Jonathan swallowed hard.

The cover rose up even more and the man's eyes nearly fell out of his head. "I... I'll go... I'll go now..." But he stood there as if rooted to the spot.

Michiru waved again. "Bye."

"Yes... bye." And finally he really left. He raced to his car. Once inside, he released a deep sigh. "What a woman." Memories of the past night, they had spent together, made a wide, happy smile appear on his face. He was just about to start his car, only to be interrupted by the ringing of his cell phone. "Yes?... Catherine... please calm down... I cannot understand you; you have to please calm down.... WHAT?... Oh God!... Yes, yes, don't worry, I'm on my way! Please try to calm down. Remember your blood pressure." Jonathan hung up and started the car, his hands slightly trembling now. "God, I so hate hospitals! I don't want to lose another child. Please, he has to make it. He just has to." With squealing tires he raced off, praying that everything would be okay.

*****

 

STAY TUNED FOR THE NEXT EPISODE...

 

 

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