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Sara lay on the bed on her yacht, her whole face beaming with incredible happiness. Her thoughts were circling around Christopher. "I knew that he loves me. From the first moment I saw him I knew he is the right man for me. Now, the only question is, how can I help him and his family to save their company? If I offer money, he won't take it. He is far too proud for that. I could buy a few of his paintings, without him knowing who did it." She thought about this for a while and came to the conclusion that it would be the best decision. "Yes, I believe that is a good beginning, until more will come to my mind." Satisfied with this, she rolled over and closed her eyes, a big grin still etched into her features.
Catherine was just about to leave the living room. She switched off the lights, intending to go to bed, as her daughter came storming into the room.
Crying, Victoria threw herself into her mother's arms, hugging her tightly and sobbing into her crème-colored silk blouse. "Oh, Moooooommmyyyyyy!"
Gently patting the back of her distressed child, Catherine asked, "My poor darling, what happened?"
"Juan... he has another woman..." the model forced through her tight throat, while her tears continued to leave a huge wet spot on her mother's shoulder.
"My dear, I am so sorry to hear that."
"Why are all men always so mean to me?" Victoria whined.
Catherine took her face into her hands and used her thumbs to tenderly wipe the tears away. "You just didn't find the right one for you yet. Maybe you should stop chasing the males. They are so not worth it that you waste your precious time on them. One day you will meet the perfect one, you just have to stop trying so hard now."
Vicky's crying ceased and she considered her mother's wise words. "You are right, Mom," she agreed after some time.
"What about getting yourself a hobby? Something that will take your mind off your stressful job, hmm? I heard that riding is supposed to be very relaxing."
The blonde model wrinkled her nose. "I don't know about that. Horses are so big and I could get dirty."
Catherine sighed, barely resisting the urge to roll her eyes. Just why did this girl always had to be so damn difficult. "But Vicky, there are stable boys everywhere that will keep everything clean."
Victoria's face brightened, not because that everything would be clean. It was the word 'stable boys' that brought a smile to her lips. "Stable boys?"
"Yes," Catherine nodded. "I'm sure there are also a lot of nice young ladies about your age with whom you could become friends," she added and smiled, hoping to steer her daughter's mind in another direction and off the subject of men.
"Seriously?" Vicky still looked doubtful about this endeavor.
"Alright. I want to start with my new hobby right away tomorrow," the model declared, and left her mother with a spring in her step.
Catherine rubbed her temples tiredly and sighed. "Children. God, will they ever grow up?"
Eventually, they had reached the safety of the tree house. The sun was about to go down as Sam, Liz and Shakira climbed up the last few meters.
Sam was very worried about the small blonde. Liz felt ice-cold to the touch, her whole body was shaking and trembling violently, and she whimpered quietly.
"We are back home, Liz. You can let go now." Sam said softly, unsuccessfully trying to unwrap the arms from her neck that were holding on so tightly.
Liz didn't let go, instead she just tightened her grip.
The brunette sat down on the make-shift bed with the business woman sitting on her lap.
Liz buried her face at Sam's throat and wrapped her legs around her waist.
The panther pulled a blanket from the other bed and dragged it over to the women.
Samantha covered them both with the blanket and began to rock the precious bundle in her arms. Tears slowly gathered in her blue eyes. "My poor, little angel. You're in shock. I didn't want for this to happen. I just wanted to make you happy. I'm so sorry. You have to believe me."
Shakira lay down next to them, quietly observing the pair.
One hand was stroking Liz' back, the other the panther's head, while Sam never quit the gentle rocking, which seemed to have a calming effect on the trembling blonde. "Don't worry Shakira. She will be okay soon, I promise."
The black wildcat closed her eyes and Sam held Liz tighter to herself, continuing to rock her in a warm embrace and humming a soft melody. Finally the trembling stopped. Liz had fallen asleep.
***** THE NEXT DAY *****
"Good morning, little one," Chris greeted his sister as he entered the kitchen and found her there, having her usual breakfast, consisting of a bowl of cereal and some milk.
"Hey, there you are big brother. I didn't hear you come in last night," she replied, happy to see him.
"Well, that's no wonder, because you fell asleep in front of your computer. I had to carry you to bed. Must have been some very exciting game you must have been playing," Christopher commented and winked.
"No game. I have to tell you something. It is soooooo cool that you won't believe it."
The artist grinned about the excited tone in his sister's voice. "Alright, tell me," he answered and busied himself with the coffee machine.
"Well, Jack Carpenter and his buddy Peter, mostly Peter though, have worked out something. Now, we have a much better chance of finding Liz! Remember, I sent her an email... if she got it and sends one back, we can find out where she is. Ain't that just the coolest thing?"
She didn't get an answer. Frowning, she tried again to get her brother's attention. "Chris? Hellooooo? Hey, did you listen to me?"
He snapped out of whatever trance he had been in. "What?"
"I said Jack and his buddy are helping us in finding Liz."
"Really? That's great." Chris looked at his watch and his eyes widened. "Boy, it's late. I gotta hurry and get to the gallery."
Taylor looked at him dumbfounded. "Since when are you working on a Saturday?"
"I need to sell some paintings. We need the money real bad," he explained and stormed away to get dressed. As he came back he quickly had his coffee and some crackers. "Gotta go, have fun today, okay?" The artist dropped a tiny kiss on Taylor's head and then he was gone.
"Okay... that certainly was weird," Taylor mumbled. "I wonder what's wrong with him. His mind is constantly somewhere else, no matter what I'm telling him. I guess, he has to take care of a lot of things... what with the money situation and stuff. Or maybe, he is working real hard on his plan to get Karen back." Her eyes fell on the clock that hung on the wall. "Shit! It really is late! Tasilo!"
Shortly after that anxious call the German shepherd came racing around the corner. "There you are. Come on, we have to go. Karen is waiting for us with the horses and you can have a big run. What do you think, sounds good?"
The dog barked and pranced excitedly around.
Taylor grinned. "Yeah, I thought you would like that." She grabbed her car keys and went out, Tasilo hot on her heels. Barely a second after she had opened the door, the big dog was already inside and sat down on the passenger seat. Taylor fastened her seat belt, put on her sunglasses and the 'No Doubt' CD into the player. Starting the engine, a well-known song blared loudly from the speakers. "Hey baby, hey baby, hey..." The girl's head was bobbing in rhythm with the music and she drove off to meet Karen.
The sun shone softly through the window and its light fell on the pale face of the small woman, who lay unmoving in the bed. The monotone beeping of the heart monitor and the rustling of the machine, which ensured her breathing, were the only sounds that could be heard in the otherwise silent room.
A young man took blood from her, while another nurse hung a new bag of fluid nourishment on the infusion rack.
"Hey Rebecca," Michael nodded to the nurse. "Are there any signs that she will soon awake from the coma?"
"I'm afraid not."
"It's such a pity. She was such a great actress and now she's withering away, directly in front of our eyes. I'd find it horrible if I would have to lay here like this."
"I find it even more horrible that nobody is here to help her through it," Rebecca replied. "She's been here a while now and in all that time there has not been one visit from family or friends."
"I guess she doesn't have any anymore," Michael commented on that. "After the press ripped her and her reputation apart, nobody would like to be friends with someone who they called, 'a coke-sniffing whore', or would you?"
"If Danielle Stiehl would be my friend, I would do ANYTHING to help her, I'm telling you," Rebecca declared fiercely.
Michael smiled. "Yeah, me too. So that she can make great movies again like 'Moonwarriors'."
The nurse grinned as she saw his dreamy-eyed gaze. "Can it be that you've got a major crush on her?"
Blushing brightly, he responded, "Well, you have to admit, she was incredibly sexy in that movie next to all those other half-naked, female warriors..."
Rebecca chuckled, "I knew that your judgment was kinda jaded. You are such a little pig, Michael."
"I know, but I'm cute," he retorted, grinning broadly.
"I think I liked her best in 'Light of Love'."
Michael snorted in disdain. "It was so obvious for you to like such lovey-dovey crap. Eeeeew, what nasty stuff... no action, no sword fights or explosions at all. Boooooring."
"Are you done now? There are other patients that we need to take care of too, Michael."
Impatiently, Karen stepped from one foot to the other while she waited for Taylor. "I really think it's about time that somebody gives you a watch," she mumbled to herself and had a look at hers, seeing that another 5 minutes had passed since the last time she had looked at it.
Behind her, a voice said, "I hope you didn't mean me with that statement."
Karen whirled around.
There stood Victoria Parker, wearing ironed riding breeches and black riding boots that had been polished to a shine. Her white blouse reflected the sunlight so strongly that it was blinding. The outfit was completed by a black riding cap on her head and a riding crop in her hand.
"Oh, hello Ms. Parker. What are you doing here?" Karen asked, greatly surprised.
The blonde model smiled at her. "Why so formal? Call me Vicky." She reached out her hand. "All my friends call me Vicky."
With a bit of reluctance, Karen took the offered hand and shook it. "I'm surprised to see you here. I wouldn't have thought that you'd like horses."
"Well, actually it was my mother's idea. She thinks riding is good to relax and to find new friends. What about you? My guess is that you really love horses. Are you coming here often?"
"As a matter of fact, yes. As long as what little free time I have allows it," Karen answered, giving Vicky a fake smile. She so wished that the model would leave her alone.
"So, and are you always alone?"
Karen groaned inwardly. 'Please don't let her ask if she can come with me.' Out loud, she said, "No. Usually, either Elizabeth or Taylor Stuart accompany me."
While Vicky was gushing and going on about stuff that was of no interest to her, Karen scanned once more her surroundings. She finally discovered Taylor, who was hurrying towards her. Tasilo, as always, followed close behind the girl. "I'm sorry, Vicky, I have to go. My date just arrived. See you later. Have fun on your first riding trip!"
Before Victoria could give a reply, Karen sprinted quickly over to Taylor. She didn't pout for too long because a short moment later one of the stable boys came to her. He was tall, muscled and good-looking, so Vicky forgot all about Karen.
"Ms. Parker?" he addressed her.
Slightly annoyed, she grumbled, "How many more times do I need to tell you, call me Vicky." She stressed the last word.
"Alright, Vicky. Your horse is ready. Do you want to go on your own or would you like for somebody to accompany you on your trip? Since it is your first ride, I think it would be better if someone would go with you."
Victoria looked at him with a smile and batted her eyelashes. "So, would you like to come with me?" she purred in her most sensual voice.
"Yeah, I can do that."
She clapped her hands once, before holding them to her cheeks, never taking her eyes off him. "Fine. What's your name?"
"Good. I'm hoping, Kyle, that the horse is clean. I don't want to make my new riding clothes dirty. I also don't want to get any diseases. Has the horse been vaccinated? Just in case it bites me. I don't want to get rabies. Does the horse bite? Does it kick? I really hope it has a gently nature. I don't want..." While Vicky was going on and on about dozens what if and what not, Kyle turned away so that she wouldn't see how he rolled his eyes.
Chris stood in front of his canvas, shirt and pants stained with paint. In one hand he held a brush, in the other the palette with oil paint. Critically, he regarded his master piece and thought it was horrible. He grabbed it and threw it angrily into the corner of the room. "It's no wonder that nobody wants to buy my pictures! They are all ugly! Who in their right mind would hang something like that on their walls?!" he exclaimed and his fury rose even more. His eyes fell on a board with statues and busts that he had created. With one strong hand movement, Chris wiped the board clear and looked on as the work fell to the floor, where they burst into a thousand pieces. "Crap! All of it is crap!" he raved. After he was done with his outburst of anger, he looked around and saw that the whole room resembled a battle field. In the middle of the destruction, he sank to his knees and buried his face into his hands. Chris nearly started to cry in his desperation. "Just what shall I do? What shall I do?" How long he sat like that he didn't know, but after a while a gentle hand was placed on his shoulder.
It was Sara. The look on her face expressed great concern. "Oh God, Chris! Are you okay?" Her eyes took in the destroyed pieces of art. "What happened here? Did somebody break in? Who destroyed all your beautiful work?"
"It was me," he retorted, unable to meet her gaze.
Sara was shocked. "What? Why? Why for heaven's sake are you destroying your own master pieces?"
"They were all crap!"
"How can you say something like that?"
"Listen, I don't expect you to understand it," Chris snapped. He was in no mood to explain himself to anybody right now.
The photographer just stared at his expressionless face. "What's wrong with you? Why are you doubting your talent?"
"What talent?!" Chris exploded now and his face turned red. Holding up his hands, he ranted, "Look at them! Once they created great things but now... I can't do it anymore. My life is running down a sewer. I'm one giant loser in every way possible!"
"What are you talking about?" Sara wanted to know. "When I look at you then I see the most wonderful man of the world."
Chris snorted in disdain, but the young photographer continued, "A very intelligent, honest, young man, who is fun to be with. A man, who is taking good care of his family. A man, who creates the most wonderful pieces of art I have ever seen."
Christopher shook his head stubbornly and replied coldly, "Maybe you should take a closer look, because that's not who I am."
Sara had enough. She knelt down in front of him, took his face into her hands and forced him to look at her. "Get it through your thick head that I love you the way you are. And that won't change! Let me help you to see you with my eyes." She kissed him tenderly, but he didn't react. "Together we will make it. I love you, Chris." After that statement another kiss followed, which turned quite passionate.
Sitting on Storm and Thunder, Karen and Taylor were riding next to each other, relishing their little trip on this beautiful sunny day.
"Hey Karen? Who was that blonde you were talking to earlier?"
"Oh, you can guess three times. I'll give you a tip. You really like this person a lot," Liz' assistant replied and grinned.
Taylor frowned. "Really? It wasn't Liz... it wasn't Dani and you are here... uh... huh? So, who was it?"
"That you like her was a sarcastic comment." Karen explained and saw realization dawn on Taylor's features.
"Oh no! That can't be. Vicky?"
Karen snapped her fingers and exclaimed, "Bingo! 100 points for the candidate! Thank God, you finally showed up or else my ears would have fallen off from her nagging voice."
"Since when is Victoria Parker interested in riding?"
"I guess, since her mother told her it would be good to relax and to find new friends," Karen explained.
"I guess this means it's over and out with Mr. Latino-Lover-Superstar. Who in their right mind would want to be with a bimbo like her anyway?" Taylor mentioned and then added, "Thank God that my brother has better tastes, right, Karen?"
Karen didn't return the teenager's wild grin. Her face had darkened considerately and in her mind's eye she once again saw what had happened in Chris' gallery between the artist and the photographer on the evening before. "Could we please change the subject?" she muttered.
Taylor was taken aback. "Don't tell me you two are still mad at each other."
"I really don't want to talk about it."
Silence fell, until Taylor broke it by asking, "Would you like to know something about my new training sessions?"
A small smile appeared on Karen's face. "Yeah. I bet it's very interesting now that you've got this Asian coach, isn't it? What's she like?"
"Oh, she is so very cool," the girl gushed. "She is always nice and happy, not strict at all. The training is a lot of fun and she's teaching me Martial Arts too. Totally cool, don't you think?"
By now Karen was grinning. "Sounds like you hit the jackpot."
"Exactly. Maybe next year I will finally get a medal."
"I'm sure you will. And we all get to see you in first place."
Taylor smirked. "Keep talking, that is so good for my self-confidence."
Karen laughed. "I think I better be careful, before your ego becomes bigger than your head."
Both of them chuckled and urged their horses into a gallop.
Jack entered the private clinic and went to the front desk. "Hello. My name is Jack Carpenter. I would like to visit Ms. Danielle Stiehl."
"One moment please, Sir." The nurse reached for the telephone and punched in a number. "Yes, hi. I would like to speak with Dr. Gordon... hello, Dr. Gordon. Mr. Carpenter is here. He would like to visit Ms. Stiehl... good... yes...alright, bye." She hung up and turned to Jack with a smile. "Dr. Gordon will be here in a minute to talk with you. Please, have a seat over there." The nurse pointed at a row of chairs in the entrance area.
"Thank you," the tall computer specialist replied, walked over and sat down.
It didn't take too long until the doctor appeared, accompanied by a woman. "Hello, I'm Dr. Gordon," he greeted Jack and shook his hand. "This is Rebecca Cox, she is Ms.Stiehl's nurse."
"Nice to meet you. How is Dani doing?" Jack was burning to know.
"Her condition has not changed since she came here. Our staff is taking care of her 24 hours a day, but of course, they are only a poor substitute compared to family and friends, for whom this situation so desperately calls. We all have the opinion that people, who have fallen into a coma, are still aware to a certain point of their surroundings. The chances to recover are far higher if a person the patient is close to will be there a lot, holding their hand, talking with them and so on. I've told the same to Ms. Stiehl's parents, but obviously they are not interested in their daughter's wellbeing."
"That's why I'm here," Jack responded. "I want to take care of Dani."
"Are you sure?" the doctor asked him. "It will take a lot of your time."
"Yes, I do know that and I want to do it."
Dr. Gordon smiled. "Alright. Ms. Cox, please, show him to Ms. Stiehl."
As they both entered the room, Jack's heart nearly stopped as he saw Danielle lying there, covered in tubes that were hooked up to machines, which enabled her to be alive. He sat down on a chair next to the bed and took one of her delicate, pale hands into his. "Dani? I don't know if you can hear me but I hope so. It's Jack."
He didn't know if it was real or just wishful thinking on his part, but he believed he had just felt her fingers move slightly.
Restlessly, Catherine was pacing in her office. Then she walked over to the telephone, pressed the repeat dial button and waited 10 seconds before she slammed down the receiver once more. "God damn it! Am I the only person, who works on a Saturday?" She ran her hands through her flaming-red hair, which by now looked quite disheveled. "Argh, it's driving me insane that Karen Miller isn't calling! I wish, I had her home number or her cell phone number. Well, I guess I will have to be more patient. It won't be long before the Stuarts come crawling to me and beg me to help them. What a triumph that will be when it happens."
***** TWO WEEKS LATER *****
Shakira was using her teeth to pull at Liz' nightgown, which made her wake up. "What... what is it?" the blonde asked, bleary-eyed and sleepy. She became aware of the panther that was still pulling at her gown. "Argh, Shakira! It's the middle of the night," Liz grumbled, thinking that the wildcat wanted to play with her.
The panther though didn't let go and jerked a bit rougher.
Now, the blonde could hear the scared, whimpering noises that came from the other bed. "Sam is caught in nightmares again," she whispered under her breath and slowly crawled over to her. Gently, she stroked her forehead, hoping that it would somehow let the brunette sink into a deeper sleep with much better dreams, but it didn't work.
A scream was torn from her throat and Sam sat up, her heart pounding out of control, "Oh God, NOOOOOO!!!"
Liz was right there to pull her gently into a consoling embrace. "It's alright, Sam. Just a bad dream."
"You fell," the jungle woman whimpered. "I didn't get to you in time and you fell!"
Rubbing the dark head tenderly, Liz explained, "No, I didn't fall. Because you saved me."
Sam was sobbing now. "You could have died. I endangered you..."
"That's complete rubbish," the blonde cut her off, quickly. "How could you have known that the stones would break?"
"No but. It was just an accident. Besides, nothing happened."
"You were in shock for days!" Sam retorted strongly after that statement. "I thought I was going to lose you!"
Not knowing what else to do, Liz tried a different approach. She lay down and pulled Sam with her, placing the brunette's ear right on her chest. "What do you hear?"
The jungle woman was completely bewildered by this situation and couldn't say a word.
"Can you hear it? Can you hear how my heart beats?"
Sam finally nodded and swallowed hard.
"That means, I am still alive, because you were there in time to save me. And now, please, stop beating yourself up about a situation that you couldn't foresee. Everything is alright and I'm fine. Okay?"
The agreement came in a small voice and soon after that the two had fallen asleep, with Sam's head still resting on Liz' chest. Shakira used the chance and curled up on the blonde's bed.
Christopher sighed. He actually didn't want to do what he would have to do now, but there was no other way than to confront his little sister. He found her in her room, as usual engrossed in her computer.
"Taylor, I need to talk with you for a second."
"It can't go on like that, little one."
Taylor looked up from the screen. "I don't know what you mean."
He sat down on her bed, searching for the right words. "It can't go on that you are enraptured in your computer day and night. I worry about you. You don't eat enough, you barely sleep and I think your training is suffering too."
The teenager just waved him off. "Don't worry. I'm fine. And I will be even better as soon as I get a note from Liz."
"That's exactly my point. I know that Jack and Peter have put this idea in your head about the email. But you've sent a mail over a month ago and don't you think if Liz would still be alive then she would have answered by now?"
Taylor scowled. "Could you please get to the point and tell me what exactly it is you wish to tell me?"
Now came the moment that Chris had been so afraid of. He swallowed and then dropped the bombshell. "We have to stop pretending. We have to accept the fact that our sister is dead," he announced in a small voice.
It was completely silent in the room, until Taylor jumped off her chair, exploded and shouted, "How can you say that?! You're just giving up on her and declare her dead?!"
Chris tried to stay calm. "I know that it's hard..."
"Are you out of you mind?" Taylor stared at him in disbelief. "I cannot, I don't want to and I won't accept that! I really find it horrible and unfair of you to ask that of me!"
The artist now raised his voice. "Don't you think I miss her too? But we have to be realistic! Liz won't come back!" It came out harsher than he had intended and promptly Taylor burst into tears, making him feel sorry immediately. "Little one, I'm sorry, please... but we have to get our lives back under control. Liz will always be in our hearts." He wanted to take her into his arms, but the girl roughly shoved him aside.
"I hate you!" she sobbed, before storming out of the room, leaving her brother behind with tears in his eyes.
"I'm sorry. I'm so sorry, little one. I wish it would be different." He heard her car start and knew that she would drive off to be alone and think for a while. Christopher wiped his tears away and went to his studio. He took a small, velvet jewelry box from his desk's drawer. Opening it, he stared at the sparkling ring. "Yes, we have to get our lives under control. I know what I have to do."
Alexander Parker glared at the ceiling of his hospital room, his fingers drumming impatiently on the blanket that covered his legs. For three days now he had his sight back and the pain wasn't as bad as it had been in the beginning. "Argh, I've got to finally get out of here, quickly," he mumbled darkly to himself. He had a huge problem. It was called Ireen Jenkins. Normally it didn't bother him that women flocked to him like moths to a flame. He actually relished it. But with this particular woman it was different. Not only did he find her fat and butt-ugly, she also got strongly on his nerves with her constant stupid babbling. Besides that, she loved to change his bandages and to wash him. Especially his lower body got lots of her attention during each washing.
The door opened and Alex was about to hide under the cover, but then he discovered that it was just his mother. "Hello, my dear," she greeted him. "How are you doing today?"
"I'm fine," he exclaimed grumpy. "Mom, please, do something. I don't care how, but get me the hell out of here! I will lose my mind if I have to stay here one more day!"
She tried to calm him down and placed a hand on his. "I know, my son. The food is not exactly what you are used to..."
"It's not about the food!" he cut her off, quickly. "I'm feeling uncomfortable here. If I could be home then my condition would improve in a second and I would be well again."
"Sweetheart, I don't know..." his mother responded, haltingly.
She couldn't finish her thoughts because the door opened once more and in stepped Alexander's arch nemesis; the nurse Ireen Jenkins.
As the man saw her, his eyes opened wide and he looked like a deer caught in the headlights of a fast approaching car.
"A wonderful good morning, Mr. Parker. Time for washing," she sing-songed and smiled broadly.
"Alright, my son," Catherine took this as her cue to leave. "While your nurse takes care of you, I will have a talk with your doctor."
Alex looked as if he might start crying any moment soon and whined, "Yes, please, do that and hurry."
His mother had barely left the room as Ireen pulled the blanket away from him and took the wet sponge from the bowl with lukewarm water. "Alright, Mr. Parker. Here we go..."
Alex bit his lower lip, closed his eyes and decided to bravely get through this embarrassing situation.
As Rebecca Cox entered Danielle's room, she saw the same scene she had seen the past few days. Jack Carpenter was sitting on a chair, right beside the bed and tenderly held the delicate hand of the comatose actress. "Good morning, Mr. Carpenter."
"Hello, Ms. Cox," he returned her greeting friendly and gave her a small smile.
"I have great news for you," she announced.
"Oh really? That's great to hear. What is it?"
Rebecca smiled. "Ms. Stiehl is obviously getting better."
Jack looked at her, confused. "What do you mean? How is she getting better? I mean, she's still in a coma and completely unmoving. There's not the tiniest twitch in her eyelashes or anything."
"Well, that would be a real giant step," the nurse explained. "You've just been here 2 weeks. If you allow me, I would like to show you something." She placed some sheets of paper in front of him. They were evaluations of ECG and EEG. "Look here. Whenever you are close to her, her heart rate picks up speed a bit and her brain shows definitely activity that wasn't there before."
"And these are signs that Danielle is doing better?"
"Yes, Mr. Carpenter. It seems that she is aware of your presence and that she's trying to come back from whatever dark place she is in. It still is a long way but I do believe she climbed the first hurdle."
Now a wide smile appeared on Jack's face, brightening it up. "That really is great news," he agreed.
Unstoppable, the rain fell in large drops on the leaf roof of the tree house. Inside, Sam sat in one corner and repaired a hole in her leather outfit. Shakira was curled up in another corner and slept. Bored out of her skull, Liz had taken some of the business papers that she would need no more and had created paper planes and little Origami figures. She was just about to get another sheet of paper from her briefcase as something else caught her eye. "I so totally forgot about you. Hey Sam? Would you like to see something amazing?"
The jungle woman put her stitching work aside and crawled over to the blonde.
Liz gave her a little box, made of plastic and metal. The business woman waggled her eyebrows and smirked as she saw Sam's interested and curious face. "It is called a MP3 Player."
"What's it for?"
"You will see that in a minute. Or better yet, you will hear it." Liz switched on the little device. She attached the cable with the earphones and gave it to Sam. "This is the part you put into your ears," she pointed out and showed the brunette how to plug the earphones into her ears.
Sam wrinkled her forehead. "Why?"
"Trust me, you will like it." Liz said with such a disarming smile that Sam couldn't help it and let the blonde put the things into her ears. "And then you push this button," she announced and did it.
Sam's eyes widened in astonishment. "Music! The little magic box is playing music!" she yelled in excitement.
Liz grinned broadly. "Do you like it?"
"I love it." Cindy Lauper was crowing 'Girls just want to have fun' and the brunette's feet were moving to the beat. As the song was over Liz took the player back.
Sam remembered something as her eyes fell on the sleeping panther. "You said at your home Shakira is a pop star. Do you have a song from her too?"
"Well, not on this little gadget, but I think I've got an MP3-file of 'Whenever, wherever' on the laptop." She set up the small computer and booted it. In the background the email program was still running since she had never switched it off and suddenly a tinny, electronic voice sounded, "You've got mail."
Liz was dumbfounded. "I can't believe it. I've got access to the internet?"
Sam raised her eyebrows. She had no idea what the blonde was talking about.
"I'm sure it's just business mails." Using the touchpad, she clicked on a button and then froze. Tears gathered in her eyes and she pressed a hand to her mouth to keep the loud sob in that wanted to escape her throat.
Sam was very concerned and asked, "Liz? What's wrong?"
The business woman whimpered, "Oh God... Taylor..."
Sara was greatly surprised as she opened the door and saw herself confronted by a sea of red roses. "What..." she gasped bewildered.
The brightly smiling face of Christopher was revealed from behind the flowers. "Hello. May I come in?" he asked politely.
"Sure," Sara answered and stepped aside to let him in. She sized him up and whistled. "Wow, for whom did you dress up like that? Are the roses for me?"
"Of course they are for you. Do you like the suit?"
She nodded. "Very elegant. What's the occasion?"
"Well... I... I wanted... to talk with you," he finally blurted after a while of stuttering .
"Oh. What about?"
"Maybe you should sit down," he said.
The photographer took a seat on the closest chair. "Would you please stop with the secrecy?"
"Actually, I wanted... to ask you something," Chris admitted.
"So, just tell me already," Sara exclaimed, about to lose her patience.
The artist took a deep breath and gathered all his courage. It was now or never. He went down on his knees in front of her and pulled the little jewelry box from his jacket. "I wanted to ask you... if you would want to become my wife?"
Sara's face bore an expression of surprise that quickly faded to make room for extreme happiness. Before she could answer they were interrupted by the insistent ringing of Christopher's cell phone. He didn't move though. Staring at Sara, he waited breathlessly for her answer.
"Don't you want to answer that?" Sara asked, raising her eyebrows questioningly.
"You didn't give me an answer to my question," he pointed out.
She grinned. "I'm sure you know my answer. Now, pick up, it might be important."
He took out his cell phone and answered it. "Hello?"
"Hi, it's Karen."
There was a painful sting in his heart, which he decided to ignore. Coldly, he replied "I don't have time right now."
"You will have to make time for this," Karen snapped furiously. "Taylor is here. She is completely distraught! How could you say something like this to her? You know how much she loves Liz!"
Chris looked at Sara and sighed. "Okay, okay. I'll be with you in a moment. Try to calm Taylor down."
"I feel so honored that you found time to bless me with an appearance, Sir," Karen answered sarcastically and then hung up.
The blonde man stuffed the cell phone back in his pocket.
"What happened?" Sara asked in concern.
"I'm sorry. I have to go and see after Taylor."
Sara nodded. "I understand, you don't have to say anything. Do we see each other this evening? We could meet at the 'California'. They have great food there."
"I would like that, since we do have a reason to celebrate." Chris replied, smiling gently at her. They shared another passionate kiss before he left.
Sara busied herself with her roses, unable to keep the huge grin off her face.
"I know, I know," Jonathan said and sighed. "But my job takes up a lot of time," he tried to explain and hoped that Michiru wouldn't be mad anymore. They had a good time until talk came to this.
"So, you expect me to believe that and that it is an explanation why I'm seeing you less and less. I can never reach you anywhere. You sometimes don't even answer your phone. All your activities and especially everything about your work is one big secret. It seems to me, you're actually trying to keep me out of your life," Michiru answered, showing that she wasn't satisfied at all with the situation.
The last statement had hurt the man and so he replied, "You are imagining things. I'm not keeping you out of my life, my lotus blossom. I promise, I'll spend more time with you. I need you and I want to be with you. It's just work. I promise, I'll make it up to you." He gave her a sad puppy dog look, hoping that it would melt her heart.
Michiru just crossed her arms in front of her chest, not impressed in the slightest. "Yes, yes. I've been getting this for weeks now. Frankly, I'm tired of wasting my time with waiting for you only to have you cancel on me in the last second."
Jonathan reached out, wanting to pull her into his arms, but she didn't let him. "I truly am sorry, Michiru. Please, forgive me, but I really have to go now."
"Can I come with you and see where you work just once?" she asked in a small voice.
He just declined. "I think it would just horribly bore you."
Michiru exhaled sharply and turned away.
"We will see each other again tomorrow," Jonathan promised and pressed a tender kiss to her cheek, before leaving her loft.
Karen entered her living room with a cup of tea. Taylor was sitting there, still sniffling and red-eyed from the talk they had just had, before Karen had called Christopher. "Here Taylor, have some tea. It will be good for you."
"Thanks Karen," the girl replied and blew her nose once more.
"Chris will be here in a moment."
Taylor looked at her in shock. "What? Here? I don't want to talk with him. He hurt me so bad."
Karen sighed, "Yeah, lately your brother seems to hurt quite a lot of people."
"What do you mean?" the teenager asked, confused.
The blonde was fighting with herself, but in the end she told her the truth. "You have to know that Chris and I will not be together again."
Those news hit Taylor like a ton of bricks. "What... but... but..." she stuttered.
"There is somebody new in his life," Karen admitted, sad. "It's Sara Jones."
Taylor's jaw was about to hit the floor. "WHAT? Sara? No, that's impossible. It was just a joke... a hoax for the media and to keep Vicky away from him..."
Karen shook her head.
"I can't believe it. I cannot stay here one more minute. I don't want to see him. Not now!" the teenager exclaimed and jumped off the couch.
But it was too late, because the door bell chose that moment to ring.
Karen rose and pressed a button to ask who it was. "It's Chris," she announced a second later and Taylor's eyes widened.
STAY TUNED FOR THE NEXT EPISODE...
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