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The darkness that covered his senses like a veil slowly retreated to make room for the pain, which spread throughout his whole body. Tormented, he groaned and then he could hear a voice. It was a female voice that drifted quietly to his ear. "Mr. Parker? Mr. Parker? Can you hear me?"
One after another his eyelids were pulled up and a small light shone in them, checking his pupils' reflexes.
He groaned again in pain.
"Mr.Parker, you are in the hospital," the voice explained. "Everything is going to be okay."
"What... what happened?" Alexander asked, trying to remember his last conscious thought, but he couldn't.
"You were in a bad car accident. But don't worry, you are in the best hands. Would you like something to drink?"
"Yes, please," he croaked through his dry throat. As soon as the straw was in his mouth, he began to suck greedily on it.
"Slow down, slow down," the voice admonished him. "Take only small sips or you will get sick."
Alex did as he was told and after a few sips he relaxed. "How bad is it?"
"You've got a couple of broken ribs and a major concussion. You also have a few cuts on your face but fortunately they won't leave scars. You were quite lucky to get out of the wreck like you did. Now enough talking, you need lots of rest. I'm going to give you a shot against the pain and then you'll sleep a little bit. How does that sound?"
"Heavenly," Alex croaked and felt the sting of the cold needle in his arm. It didn't take long for the medicine to start working and he welcomed the darkness that came with it, releasing him from pain.
Slowly, Sara opened her eyes just to squeeze them tightly shut the next moment. The sunlight blinded her enormously. Her mouth felt as if something had crawled in there and died on her tongue. Her skull was hammering as if a horde of wild horses was galloping through it and then came the worst. Quickly she rolled out of bed and stumbled out of the room.
On her way to the toilet she didn't notice the tall, blonde artist, who was still curled up in the armchair next to her door. Tearing open the door to the bathroom, it fell shut behind her. In the last second, she managed to lift the lid. Firmly embracing the toilet, she said hello to all the drinks she had had the night before.
Chris knocked at the door. "Sara? Are you okay?" he asked in concern.
Sounds of retching and coughing could be heard.
"I take that as a no," Chris replied and couldn't help the small smirk that appeared on his face. He went to the kitchen.
Having emptied her stomach, Sara rinsed her mouth and looked into the mirror that hung above the sink. Her face was deadly pale and her eyes blood-shot. "How attractive we are this morning," Sara told her reflection disparagingly. "I swear, I'm not going to drink like that ever again."
Scenes of the past night and the wild party flashed before her mind's eye and then she remembered her unseemly behavior towards Christopher. "Oh, my God," she groaned and put her head down. "I'm sure he thinks the worst of me now." Sara sighed, "Well, what's done is done and can't be changed." She shuffled into the kitchen where Chris was already waiting for her with some aspirin and a glass of water. "Good morning, sunshine!"
The photographer grabbed her aching head and muttered, "Chris, please, stop yelling."
"You don't feel so peachy today, do you?"
"I've never so bad in my whole life," she responded, whining.
Chris gave her the pills and the water. "Here, take this and then go back to bed."
"Thank you. I think I will stay in bed all day. Could you please tell Taylor that I'm very sorry, but I cannot come to dinner tonight. I really feel like shit and I don't think it will be any better this evening."
Christopher nodded. "No problem, I'll do that. I have to go now. I'm sure everybody's pretty worried about where I am."
Sara blinked in surprise. "Have you been here the whole night?"
"Of course. Somebody had to make sure that you didn't do anything stupid what with the condition you were in."
She looked at her feet in embarrassment and mumbled a small, "Thank you."
"You're welcome. What are friends for?" He walked to the door. "Okay then. Rest up and we will see each other sometime soon. Bye."
"Bye. Drive carefully!"
Chris sent her a smile and pleasant shivers raced through Sara's body.
As soon as the artist had left, she returned to her bedroom and lay down. She hugged her pillow to her chest and a huge grin spread across her features. "He's been here the whole night to protect me. He is just so damn cute and sweet." With these nice thoughts, she closed her eyes and went back to sleep.
Taylor was still entertaining herself with cartoons as Karen entered the living room and sat down beside her. "I just wanted to say that I'm leaving now. Could you do me a favor, please? When Chris finally comes home... could you please send him over to me?"
The teenager finally had enough. She used the remote to switch off the TV and then glared at Karen. "What the hell is wrong?" she demanded to know. "I really want some answers and I want them now. Please, don't say that everything is okay, because that's one big fat lie. Why are you and Chris constantly fighting? What is with the company? I know you have had big discussions here and you're screaming and yelling at each other, but as soon as I appear everybody gets silent."
Karen closed her eyes for a second and sighed. "How much have you heard?"
"Enough to know that something is seriously wrong," Taylor responded. "Please, tell me. I am a member of this family too and I deserve to know."
"The company is bankrupt, Taylor."
The girl thought she had heard wrong. "What?"
"The company is bankrupt and since Liz has disappeared, more and more customers are leaving and giving their accounts to different film studios."
"Okay, I will sell my car," Taylor announced.
Karen stroked her cheek and smiled at her sadly. "That's very sweet of you, but I don't think it will be enough."
She thought about that and then decided, "Alright, this means I will have to go by bike but I will also sell my motorcycle. It still won't be enough though, will it?"
Shaking her head and fighting tears, Karen replied," I'm afraid not. But we have an offer from Catherine Parker..."
Before the blonde could even finish her sentence, Taylor exploded, "That evil, back-stabbing bitch! She's using every chance she gets to put her greedy hands on our company! Did you take the offer?"
"Not yet. I have to talk some more with Chris first. No matter which decision we'll reach, it will be the best for the company."
"The fights you're having with Chris... is it because of the company?"
Karen decided to put a stop to the questioning. "Listen, Taylor. This is between your brother and me. I really don't want to drag you into that."
Another question was burning on Taylor's heart so she went ahead and blurted, "But you love him, right?"
"Yes, more than anything else," Karen responded without hesitation. "I will always be there for each one of you and when you have problems you can always come to me."
Taylor hugged her. "Thank you, Karen."
"You're welcome, little one."
They sat like that for a moment until Taylor let go and looked at her. "I've been thinking... Can we go riding again tomorrow?"
Karen laughed and disheveled the girl's hair. "Of course we can. But only if you promise that you won't be so quiet again that I'll have to entertain myself."
Taylor grinned and lifted one hand. "I swear."
"Good. Until tomorrow then. Bye." With that Karen left.
The entrance door had barely closed behind the blonde woman as the phone rang. William picked up. "Hello?... Yes... hang on a second, please... TAYLOR! IT'S FOR YOU!"
The girl came out of the living room and took the receiver from her uncle's hand. "Hello?"
"Hi, it's Jack."
"Hey Jack, what's up, man?"
"Do you have some time? I need to talk with you about something important."
"Of course. About what?"
"Can you come to my office?"
Taylor looked at the clock. "Yeah, I can be there in about an hour."
Jack sounded relieved. "That would be great. Till then."
"Yes, bye." She hung up. "Uncle Will, I've got to go. I'll be back soon."
"Alright, just don't forget that you've got an important training session this afternoon."
Annoyed, Taylor rolled her eyes. She hated it that everybody felt the need to constantly remind her of stuff. "Yeah, yeah. I won't forget. I know that I have training."
Sam and Liz were still on their little canoe tour. The blonde business woman just shook her head in wonder. She had never seen such amazing flora and fauna up close. "Oh Sam, " she sighed. "It's so beautiful here. To see this untouched nature and the exotic animals in their original habitat without cages or panes like at zoos... it's really incredible. I wish Chris could see all this. The inspiration he could get here would be amazing."
Sam smiled. "I'm glad that you like it."
"Oh, 'like it' is not the correct expression for what I'm feeling. I'm simply overwhelmed by all this beauty."
"Take a tight hold of your paddle. We are going to hit some rough waters soon and then we are going to take a little break. I'm sure you're hungry and I'm too. After that, I'm going to show you where I found Shakira, if you'd like?"
"Yes, that would be great," Liz answered. She really was having a great time and this little tour was just the right thing to take her mind away from any heavy thoughts. They cruised down the river until Sam shouted the warning, "Alright, here we go, the rapids have arrived!"
Shakira, who still sat in the middle looked on in boredom while the canoe whirled around in the water like a nutshell.
A wild grin was on Sam's face. Also on Liz' features it was visible that she had lots of fun. "WHOOOOOOHOOOOO!!!" she cried at the top of her lungs to be heard over the rushing water. "This is better than every roller coaster at home!"
Sam's grin got even bigger. "I knew you would like it."
Completely exhausted, and because of that more bitchy than usual, Victoria entered the house. She had just arrived after a non-stop flight from Paris. The first thing she noticed when she stepped into the big entrance hall was the unusual silence. "HELLO?" she called out, in the hopes her family would come rushing own the stairs, or from wherever they were, to greet her. "Is anybody home?"
Nothing but stillness answered her.
"That's so typical," Victoria groused. "Nobody here to welcome me home! Just where are they?"
Finally, Isaac, the butler, came hurrying towards her. He had been on the phone when she had hollered.
"Isaac, do you know where my parents are? When I was at the airport I called them at work but nobody picked up."
The butler looked pale and he was very nervous. "Miss Victoria, I don't know how to tell you... maybe you should sit down..." He took her shoulders and tried to steer her in direction of the closest chair.
"I don't want too," she grumbled and pushed him away. "I've been sitting the whole damn time in a plane. Just tell me what's going on and where my family is."
"They are at the hospital."
"What? Why?" Vicky's eyes widened in horror. "Oh my God, it's Daddy, isn't it? He's had another heart attack, didn't he?"
"No, it's Mr. Alexander."
Victoria frowned. "What? Alex had a heart attack? But he is far too young for that!"
"No, Ms.Victoria. Your brother was in a car accident."
First her face paled and then she freaked completely and started running around like a chicken without a head."Oh my God! I have to go there right away! I need to be there. Mommy will need me there and Daddy too!"
Isaac raised his hands, making calming gestures but Vicky was by now in a full blown panic. "Ms.Victoria, don't you think it would be better to rest for a few hours?"
"NO! I need to be there! Get me the keys to my Porsche!"
The butler did as he was told and Victoria ran to her favorite car.
Jonathan hurried to the nurse at the front desk. "Hi, I would like to see Alexander Parker."
The nurse looked him up and down and then asked, "Are you related to him?"
"I'm his father."
"Follow me then, Sir. Your wife is already here, maybe you can get to calm her down some." She led him along the corridor and the next moment he found himself strongly embraced by a hysterical Catherine. "Oh Jonathan, finally, you're here!"
"How is Alex," he wanted to know, stroking her back and massaging her shoulders while she was still holding on to him, hiding her tear-stained face on his jacket. "Could you talk with the doctor already?"
"No," she replied and sniffled a bit. "But I was told he would be here soon."
"Mr. and Mrs. Parker?"
They turned around and there was the doctor coming towards them. He shook hands with them and introduced himself. "Hi, I'm Dr. Montgomery."
"How is my poor son? Will he be better soon?" Catherine asked tearfully, still holding on tightly to her husband.
"Your son must have had a very powerful guardian angel. At the time the accident occurred, he was drunk and did not wear the seat belt. He was thrown through the windshield. He has a concussion, a couple broken ribs and cuts on his face. His sight is a bit affected, but that should be okay again in a few days."
Catherine had a hand over her mouth to muffle the sobs that tried to break free from her throat.
"May we see him now?" Jonathan wanted to know.
"Yes, of course," the doctor replied. "Please, don't get upset though. His condition is not as bad as it looks." He pointed at a door. "Your son is inside this room. Have a great day." With that the doctor left them to go and see after another patient.
They had entered the room for barely a second as Catherine once more dissolved into tears and harsh sobs. "Oh, my son. My poor, poor darling son." She set down on the edge of the bed and took one of his large hands in hers. "Just what are you doing, Alex? Why do you always end up in such situations?"
Jonathan just stood there, staring silently at his wife and son.
"You cannot be left alone for even 5 minutes or you do something crazy," Catherine whimpered and now stroked Alexander's hand gently. "Just don't worry, sweetheart. Mommy is here and will take good care of you."
Alex didn't hear nor could he feel anything of this, because he was sleeping under the influence of a powerful pain killer.
Obsessed, Jack hammered away on the keyboard of his computer. "Come on... come on, damn it! Jump... jump... JUMP... damn! How come that in the movie you are not as stupid as in here?... Come on and jump you stupid bit..."
Before he could finish the last, not so nice word, somebody was clearing their throat. Jack hit pause, looked up from his monitor and discovered a widely grinning Taylor, who leaned with crossed arms against the door frame. "Am I interrupting something important?"
He laughed. "No, you can help me. As Playstation pro this shouldn't be a problem for you."
She went over to him, stood beside him and glanced at the monitor. "Tomb Raider 1? Are you serious?"
Taylor snorted. "Now, this is easy. Pay attention." She hit a combination of a few keys and one moment later Lara Croft had managed to jump over the abyss.
Jack looked at her completely flabbergasted and Taylor laughed. "Was that what you needed to talk about so urgently?"
"No. Please have a seat," Jack said and pointed to another office chair.
Taylor sat down and lifted her eyebrows in question. "What's up?"
"Sara Jones and you are friends, right?"
"Well, I have not seen her for a while because of the thing with Liz. But yes, one could say we are friends."
Jack ran a hand through his hair. "I... I really would like for you to talk with her. Our best buddy number 1, Alexander Parker, is a bad influence on her."
Taylor wrinkled her forehead. "You honestly think that if I would say to her, 'hey Sara, don't hang out with Alex' that she will listen to me?"
"Oh, come on, Jack. You really don't believe that, do you? She's an adult. Aside from that, the Parker Clan and her family are friends. They've known each other for centuries."
Jack sighed. "I know all that. But I just don't want Sara to end up like Danielle. You know how Alex is!"
"Hey, if this has you so worried, why don't you go and talk with Sara?" Taylor asked bluntly.
"I tried, but for some reason, I cannot have a normal conversation with her without having her flip me off."
"Alright," Taylor replied, seeing that Jack was really worried about Sara and that he felt quite helpless as to what to do about it. "She's coming to our house this evening for dinner. I will see what I can do."
He released a relieved breath. "Thank you." With this subject off the table, he started a new conversation. "Is there any news concerning your sister?"
Taylor shook her head sadly. "No. But there is a question I've been meaning to ask you. I sent an email to Liz' laptop. Let's imagine this... she finds it and answers... is there a way to find out where the email came from and therefore somehow finding the place Liz is at?"
Jack rubbed his chin. "Wow, that's an interesting theory. How did you come up with that?"
"Desperation, pure desperation," Taylor responded, forlornly.
"I tell you what. I'm going to talk about this with a friend of mine. His name is Peter Banes. He is a computer specialist and works for the Ministry of Defense."
"Yeah, that would be cool. Thanks. We all are holding on to a very thin thread of hope."
"Just don't give up and don't lose hope."
Taylor glared at him. "Do you have any idea how often I'm told that?"
He looked at her sympathetically. "Taylor..."
"Forget it, it's okay," she said. "I need to go now. Gotta prepare myself for an important training session. Call me as soon as you've talked with your friend. Bye."
Jack gazed at the door the teenager had just closed behind her. "Yeah, better not show any feelings at all, right? Just like your big brother." He reached for the telephone and punched in a number.
Nobody was home as Chris returned from Sara's yacht. He took the letters out of the mail box and hurried to his small studio. The artist sat down on a chair, closed his eyes and tried to relax some. It was useless though since his thoughts were in a constant whirl and his mind was working feverishly. Should they take the offer of Catherine Parker? No, that was something he would do under no circumstance. The next question was, where could they get the money they needed to get the company out of this bad situation? Since Liz had disappeared, his creativity had also suffered greatly and for weeks he had not been able to sell a painting or anything. He thought about selling the panther statue for a second, but stomped down on that quickly. Taylor loved the statue so much, he couldn't part with it. Well, and if that wasn't enough there was this stupid fight he'd had with Karen the night before.
Chris rubbed his temples. "God, I think I need a vacation. Maybe I could go on a little trip with Karen? Ah no, I don't think she would want to. Besides, the problems will only grow if I keep pushing them away." He sighed and had a look at the mail, grumbling, "Bills... bills... bills... who would have thought!" Then he discovered a magazine with beautiful photographs of nature. Chris thumbed through it but a shot of the Grand Canyon held his attention. "Wow, this is a great shot. I wonder who took that?" His read the text next to the picture and his eyes widened in disbelief. "Sara Jones did that? Interesting... Sara..." For some reason he thought back to what the doctor said that had bandaged his nose. "...billions of money she will one day inherit..." Then another memory popped in his head. Sara's drunken mumblings from last night, "...I love you, Chris..." He stared into the distance. Again and again these two sentences echoed through his mind until it became too much for him and he left the studio. Barely out of the door, he crashed right into his Uncle.
The telephone on the nightstand vibrated and shrilled. Drowsily, Sara rose. "Damn it! Can the whole world not stand still for just 5 minutes?" She picked up. "Hello?"
"Hello, my dear. It's Catherine."
Hearing the sad voice Sara was suddenly wide awake. "Hi, Aunt Cathy. Is there something wrong?"
Sniffling, Catherine replied, "I don't know how to tell you, but you need to know..."
"Did something happen?" Sara asked and felt her heart beating faster and a lump growing in her stomach.
Catherine broke down again and sobbed, "He had a car accident."
"No... it's... it's Alex!"
"What?" Sara gasped in shock.
"Oh God, Sara, he is so badly injured! Can you come over and visit with him for a bit? He needs every support and help he can get. I'm so worried about him."
The photographer nearly fell out of bed in her haste to get up. She searched for some clothes and started getting dressed while holding the receiver pressed between her ear and shoulder. "I'll be there as soon as I can."
After Catherine had told her the address, they hung up. Sara stumbled through the yacht to find all the things she needed, especially her car keys. "Oh Alex. Just what are you doing? Why the hell did you drive? Maybe that's also my fault. I shouldn't have left you alone in that club."
Sam and Liz sat on top of a small cliff. Shakira basked in the warm sun beating down on her black fur. She was resting her head on Sam's thigh and relished the gentle stroking she received between her ears.
"Alright, so, tell me where you found the little pussycat?" Liz said and smiled at the jungle woman.
"Well, I was sitting in exact the same spot I'm sitting now."
Sam nodded. "Yes. After I was banished from the village I was walking a while through the jungle and I ended up here. I decided to have a little break and rest. So, I was sitting here and suddenly there were these weird noises. It sounded like the cries of a little child. I scanned my surroundings, but couldn't see anything."
Liz was completely enraptured by the story. "So, where was she?"
Sam pointed ahead. "Take a look over the cliff's edge."
The business woman did as she was told and her eyes widened. "My god, that's a drop of at least 15 feet," she exclaimed. "Are you honestly telling me that Shakira was in that water hole down there?"
The dark haired beauty knelt next to her and looked down too. "Yes. My guess is that she somehow fell in there while trying to get away from the poachers. That drop saved her life."
"And what did you do then?"
"I just jumped in and got her out of it," Sam explained and her mind went back to that day. "She was completely soaked and chilled to the bone. She was trembling all over but as soon as I had her in my arms she held on to me and didn't want to let go."
"Where did you go with her?" Liz wanted to know. "Did you already have your tree house then?"
Sam shook her head. "No. I went with her to the caves."
Liz frowned. "The caves?"
"The caves have always been a place of refuge for me. Whenever there was trouble at the village, for which I was to blame of course, I retreated to the caves. I never showed them to anyone. Not even Emily." Sam turned away bashfully and looked at the ground. "But... you know... I... I would show them to you...if you want... if you don't want then we won't go... I'm sure you are already horribly bored with me..."
"No, I'm not." Liz interrupted her. She waited until Sam looked at her and this expression of insecurity she could see tore at her heart. Liz reached out, took the other woman's hand and smiled at her. "I would love to see the caves."
Sam returned the smile and off they went, Shakira following close behind.
Taylor stepped into the Dojo. Michiru had told her to go there instead of the ice hall. The teenager was excited and also a bit scared of what her Asian coach had planned for this special training session.
Michiru came towards her and greeted her with her usual warm, disarming smile. "Good, you are right on time. Before we start with your training today, I would like to give you something." She pulled a silver necklace with a Ying-Yang pendant from her pocket. "The white part represents your skills concerning posture, technique, expression. The black part represents your coordination to get all these factors in tune with each other. That is what we have to work at the most," Michiru explained and fastened the necklace around Taylor's neck. "Alright, we can begin now."
The girl was so surprised she just managed a stuttered thank you for the necklace. After that Michiru gave her a bundle of clothes and pointed her in direction of the locker rooms. "Go and get dress, I'll be waiting here."
Still in shock Taylor gazed at the clothes in her hands but then went to the locker room to get dressed as quickly as she could.
As she returned she was bare footed and wearing a white Chinese suit with a black belt. A big green dragon had been embroidered on the back of the jacket.
Michiru waved for her to join her in the middle of the room. There were two metal poles that had been screwed to floor and ceiling. On each pole was a rubber rope. Michiru now connected each rope to the small loops on Taylor's belt. Then the ropes were pulled upward until the girl was floating in the middle of the room, between the poles and held up by the ropes.
Taylor cleared her throat. She was feeling a bit uncomfortable, since she didn't know what would happen next. "Uh... Ms. Kasawaki? I really don't want to criticize your training methods but... uh... what exactly are we doing here?"
Michiru smiled. "Are you feeling uncomfortable?"
"Well... actually, I think the right word is helpless," Taylor replied hesitantly.
"Do you trust me, Taylor?"
The girl's eyes widened. "Is this a trick question?"
"Please, just answer truthfully. Do you trust me?" Michiru wanted to know.
"I don't think I have another choice since I'm kinda stuck hanging here. I'm beginning to feel like Lara Croft in that one scene from the movie. You know, where she's doing some wild gymnastics on ropes like this above the stairway in her house. 'Bungee Ballet' or whatever they called it," Taylor remarked sarcastically.
Michiru laughed and pressed a button on the remote control in her hands. Vanessa Mae's "Yantra" sounded from the speakers that had been set up in each corner of the room. "Okay Taylor, this is what I want you to do. I want you to transform the music into movement of your body."
The girl swallowed. "As I said, Lara Croft's Bungee Ballet, great."
But from that grace Taylor was still miles and miles away. She whirled and turned wildly on the ropes and she wasn't at all in rhythm with the music.
"Taylor, you are far to hectic. Calm and slowly is the way to do it," Michiru said.
As the teenager had found back to herself from her wild somersaulting and was once again floating calmly between the poles, the coach stopped the music. "You have to relax, you are far too tense. I think it would be best if you would close your eyes."
"But then I won't see what I'm doing!"
"You don't need to see. Feel Taylor. You have to feel the music and the rest will come naturally then."
Sara felt the need to leave immediately, after she saw that Victoria was waiting in front of the hospital room Alex was in. But she had promised Catherine that she would come, and she also wanted to know about Alexander's condition. She took a deep breath and walked to the blonde model. "Hi Vicky."
"Hi Sara," she replied in the most bored tone the photographer had ever heard.
"How is Alex?"
"How am I supposed to know? Mommy and Daddy are in there."
Silence fell until Victoria couldn't hold it in anymore. "There is this interesting news I've heard."
"Yeah? What's that?"
An evil smirk appeared on Vicky's face as she gloated, "Christopher Stuart dropped you."
"I don't want to talk with you about that," Sara snapped back.
The model laughed. "Awwww... does little Sara have a broken heart? I could have told you from the beginning that you soooo are not his type."
"Right, because you soooo are his type."
Victoria glared at her and her brown eyes turned to little slits. "Chris and I are made for each other. One day he will realize that and then he will marry me."
Sara snorted. "Right, in your dreams. You really don't think that Chris likes such a pompous blonde bimbo as you, do you?"
Visibly upset about this comment Vicky countered, "I'm leagues ahead of you and you will never reach my quality."
"Of course, nobody could reach this sphere of arrogance and conceit you are floating in."
Before the model could reply, the door opened to reveal Jonathan and Catherine.
"How is Alex?" Sara asked Catherine, who looked at her with a tear-stained face.
"Ohh, Sara, dear. Thanks for coming so quickly."
"He is sleeping at the moment," Jonathan answered the question. He was exhausted too.
"May I see him?" Sara pleaded.
"I want to see him first!" Vicky demanded. "After all, I'm his sister."
"The doctor said only one more person is allowed to see him. He needs lots of rest."
Hearing that, Sara dug deeply into her acting abilities and announced innocently, "Ohh Vicky, I'm sure that would be too much for you. All the stress from arriving home not so long ago from a non-stop flight, and then the horrible news here..."
Victoria draw her brows together. "What?"
Sara turned to Catherine. "She just told me that she's feeling a little sick and weak. We should show consideration for Vicky... who knows, she might have a breakdown if she sees Alex in his wounded state."
Catherine nodded in agreement. "Sara is right, sweetheart..."
Her mother grabbed her at the bony shoulders and pressed her down into the closest chair. "No but. Please, sit down and relax. Jonathan, please, get us a coffee. Sara, you can go in and see Alex for a bit. We will wait right here until you come back."
"Thank you, Catherine. Until later, Vicky."
The model glared at her retreating back as she disappeared into Alexander's room. "You're going to pay for that, Sara."
"Oh, Uncle Will. You are here. I thought nobody was home," Chris said after having recovered from crashing into his Uncle.
"Of course, I am here. And from the looks of it you finally found your way back home, too," William grumbled back.
The artist was confused. "What do you mean? I'm living here."
His Uncle crossed his arms in front of his chest and raised his eyebrows. "Is that so. And where have you been the whole night?"
Chris turned away. "I don't need to explain myself to you."
Williams face reddened a bit in anger, but his voice was still calm. "Karen and I have been worried sick about you. Thank God that Taylor didn't notice you've been away all night."
"I'm an adult!"
Now his Uncle exploded. "Then act like one! You've never done something like this before. Where have you been?"
Chris was nerve-wracked by the whole situation and so he blurted, "I was with Sara. Are you satisfied now?"
"Isn't that a friend of Taylor's?" William asked, obviously astonished.
"Don't look at me like that. I'm not going to say anything more, because it is none of your business." He turned to leave and threw a "Bye" over his shoulder.
"That's it?" his Uncle called after him. "You just want to go again like that? Where? To Sara or what?"
Angry, Christopher retorted. "Leave her out of this! If it is of any interest to anybody, I'm at my gallery, trying to sell some paintings to support my family!" That were his last words, before he stormed out of the house once more.
William had a look at Chris' studio and found the magazine that been left laying there, showing the pictures of the Grand Canyon. "Hmmm. Sara Jones... I think I will need to have a word with her and tell her that Chris and Karen are together. She should stay away from him."
Taylor was doing much better at the 'Bungee Ballet' and she really had a lot of fun floating and whirling around on the ropes to the beautiful music. After another hour, Michiru announced that they would stop for the day. She helped the girl out of the ropes and gave her a bottle with water. "You were doing great up there. See? I told you so, if only you would relax and then you could really feel the music."
Taylor smiled and thanked her for the praises.
"But still, never forget the right breathing technique."
Silence fell while Taylor drank her water and Michiru stared out of the window, dreamily running a hand through her dark hair.
The teenager saw this and grinned. "Boy, your new friend must be a real 'Superman' with the way you are floating up in the 7th heavens."
Michiru grinned. "Oh yes, that he is."
"Really? Like with butterflies in the stomach and whispering endearments and stuff?"
The Asian woman nodded. "He lovingly calls me his lotus blossom and he is my tiger."
Embarrassed, because that was far too much information Taylor blushed and cleared her throat.
Michiru didn't notice that and went into raptures. "He is older than I am and that makes him so interesting. And he is so romantic..." She told her about the wonderful evening they have had the day before.
Taylor got a weird feeling as Michiru said his name. "Jonathan? Wow, he must be quite a rich man if he can book a whole restaurant for just 2 persons."
"He is in the movie business, that is all I know. He doesn't talk much about himself."
The weird feeling in the pit of Taylor's stomach just grew stronger.
Quietly Sara crept closer to Alexander's bed and sat down in the chair that stood beside it. She was shocked as she saw the cuts and bruises on his face that the accident had left behind. "Alex, Alex, just what did you do?"
"Hey sweetie. Finally there is a voice in this room that I like," he croaked.
"You are awake! Alex, I'm so sorry this happened. I shouldn't have left you alone at the club..."
"Shhh..." he interrupted her and searched for her hand, taking it gently in his much larger one and stroked her knuckles. "No, Sara. I actually am happy that the Stuart guy showed up and took you with him. Else you would have been in the car too and who knows what would have happened to you. I could have never forgiven myself if something had happened to you, because of me and my reckless ways."
"Do you know what, Alex? Chris was there with me the whole night," she admitted.
A smirk appeared on Alexander's face. "I'm feeling that you are radiating happiness like crazy... did you two..."
Sara blushed and slapped him gently in the stomach. "No, we didn't! Stop these thoughts right now or I will leave and instead Vicky will come here. I'm sure you're dying to see her."
"Vicky is here?"
"Yep. Still the same old, same old."
Alex groaned. "I'm begging for mercy, please. Keep my little, hysterical, bitchy sister away from me. It's bad enough that Mom already freaked like crazy. That's why I decided to pretend I'm sleeping after she broke into tears a third time."
Sara changed the subject back to the matter at hand. "I would like to thank Chris, but I don't know the best way to do that. Maybe I should buy him something? How about a Landrover, his jeep is so horribly old and I'm sure it has seen better times."
Alex snorted and regretted it the next moment as his broken ribs made themselves known with a piercing ache. "For just one night? Don't you think you're exaggerating a little bit here? Just give him a check."
She wrinkled her forehead. "What do you mean?"
"He doesn't need anything more than money as indebted as they are."
Sara was surprised. "I didn't know that. But now everything is becoming so much clearer. That could be the reason why Chris kept his distance from me. He thinks, he is not good enough for my demands, and he doesn't want to burden me with his problems. He is such a sweet guy."
Alex was still skeptical. "I think you are making this into something that just isn't there."
Sara made a declining hand motion."So what. You are not going to take my confidence away."
"Yes, I know. You always get what you want, right?"
"Just like you!" She responded, strongly.
Alexander sighed. "If you only knew. You don't have parents that tell you 24 hours a day what and what not to do."
"Now, you are exaggerating. I honestly don't know why you are complaining. Anyway, as I can see, you are doing much better. I will go before the doc comes back to throw me out. I think I will surprise Chris."
"What? You're leaving me for the Stuart guy? What am I? Chopped liver? Thank you very much," came the pouting remark.
Sara laughed. "That's right. Take good care of yourself and I'll see you soon."
"Yeah, yeah. Go, before you can see my heart breaking."
The photographer placed a little kiss on the tip of his nose. "Get well soon." Then she left.
STAY TUNED FOR THE NEXT EPISODE...
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