“What?” Eve gasped in shock. Clutching her heart as if she were about to have a stroke, Eve started to cry. “You are such a horrible man. The child I had with Julian was a boy.”
“Did you deliver him?” Alistair challenged her. “Or was this boy handed to you five minutes after he was born?”
“Why, yes!” Eve exclaimed, wiping her eyes.
“Well, my dear, a lot can happen in five minutes,” Alistair pointed out.
“What are you talking about, Father?” Julian asked, holding Eve’s hand tightly for support.
“A boy was handed to you, Eve, but he was not your son. He was a decoy.”
“What?!” Julian cried in shocked disbelief.
Alistair dismissed his outburst with a flip of his hand. “As I was saying…I had the babies switched so that Eve would think she had a son. That way, she would never track her down and never come after the Crane fortune.”
“You think I would have used my child to get at your lousy money?!” Eve screamed hysterically.
“One can never be too sure, my dear. You wouldn’t be the first one,” Alistair remarked. “Besides, there was no room in the Crane family for a colored twit.”
TC grabbed the table edge for support. His head was swimming, and his stomach threatened to turn over again.
Liz hailed a waiter to get some water. After he arrived, she gave TC the glass. “Here, TC, this should help. Drink it slowly. You may want to be around for the rest of this.”
Alistair eyed Eve and continued. “The baby you and Julian had was a girl. I placed her in a foster home. The boy you thought you gave birth to was returned to his mother.”
“So my baby never died?” Eve’s voice trembled.
“No, that was said to mislead you, to make you forget about this child you had with Julian.”
“A mother never forgets her child!” Eve cried bitterly.
Julian placed a comforting arm around Eve’s back and hugged her to his side as she cried. “I am so sorry, Eve.” Tears rolled down his cheeks. “I am sorry our child had to grow up without us.”
“Oh, spare me, Julian,” Alistair laughed. “I did the girl a favor. Lord knows, you’ve been a miserable father to your other children.”
“Well, can you blame me? They were conceived at gunpoint,” Julian retorted, referring to the fact that he was forced to marry Ivy Winthrop and produce heirs for the Crane fortune.
Alistair laughed. “You were hardly forced, Julian. But I do sympathize for all those nights she had a headache. Ivy must hold the world record for nighttime ailments.”
Rebecca laughed. “No wonder Julian cheated on her repeatedly.”
“How…how did I end up with Whitney?” Eve asked, turning to face Alistair again. This was all too much to conceive.
“She wasn’t doing so well in foster homes, and you and TC were looking to adopt. I thought, what a golden opportunity. So I made arrangements to have you adopt her.”
“Why? Why would you care what happened to Whitney?” Julian asked.
“Well, that is the best part. It was my own private joke: TC raising a Crane! TC, you ever wonder why Whitney liked tennis?” He turned to TC. “Julian’s gift; you raised Julian’s daughter as your own tennis star. Marvelous job you did too, although you are a bit over the top with it,” Alistair praised him. “I thought to myself, ‘What is the one thing that would totally destroy TC Russell? When I heard you were looking to adopt, I knew. It was ingenious. Brilliant,” he boasted. “The reason why? Simple, I wanted to, because of his ridiculous hatred toward the Crane family. How appropriate that you should marry Julian’s lover and raise his child. A perfect way to get even, I thought.”
“You sick, twisted bastard!” TC cried as he rose from his chair, picked it up and threw it at Alistair.
Alistair frowned gravely. He snapped his fingers, and Harry and his partner grabbed TC. With a nod of approval from Alistair, they dragged him out the side door and shut it.
The crashing and banging could be heard around the club. TC screamed bloody murder, and a sickening crunch shut him up.
Eve gasped in horror. “Dear God, Julian, what are they doing to him?”
Julian raced up onstage and grabbed his father by the jacket. “You order them to stop right now,” he snarled at him.
Shocked at Julian’s boldness, Alistair stared at his son for a moment, smirked, and then signaled the guard at the door.
The guard banged on the door, and the crashing suddenly stopped. The door opened and the two security guards came back in, dragging a bloody TC with them. They dropped him at the door and walked back to their posts.
“TC?” Eve cried out, pushing Julian’s arm aside and racing over to her husband’s crumpled body. “TC?” She leaned over him, trying to get him to respond.
Liz rushed over to help Eve. “Is he going to be all right?” she asked, her voice full of concern.
“I don’t know,” Eve cried as she turned TC over.
His face was bloody from the broken nose. TC groaned when Eve touched his ribs to see if anything was broken, and then passed out.
“I think he may have some broken bones.” Eve wiped the tears from her eyes. “He needs to get to the hospital so I can take a better look.”
“I’ll drive you,” Julian offered, standing behind Eve.
“I don’t want to hurt him any further. Please call an ambulance, Julian.” Eve turned to him, her eyes red from crying.
Julian touched her on the shoulder. “I’ll get one here right away,” he promised.
Liz knelt down beside Eve. “Please be OK.” She took TC’s hand in hers as tears ran down her cheeks.
Eve ignored her and tried to wake TC up. When he didn’t respond, she turned to Alistair. “How do you live with yourself? How can you enjoy hurting others like this?”
Alistair shrugged. “I don’t give it a second thought.” He rose from his chair. “My business here is done. What you do with the information you were given is up to you.” With that, he disappeared into the back of the club.
Julian returned to Eve’s side just as TC was regaining consciousness. “The ambulance is on its way, Eve. They should be here any minute.”
“Thank you, Julian,” Eve said.
“E..ve,” TC groaned.
“TC, I’m right here.” Eve bent over him.
“I…I’m s..o sorry, Eve,” he cried weakly.
“Shhh, it’s OK, TC. We’ll talk about it later.” Eve smoothed his brow as she placed his head in her lap.
“No,” TC said, “I have to tell you now. I have to…tell…you.” He gasped for breath.
“Take it easy, TC. Your ribs may be cracked. The ambulance will be here soon.”
“Ple…ase…” TC coughed. “Please, Eve.”
“Everything is going to be OK. I am right here.” Eve tried to calm him.
“Don’t…leave… me.” He choked out the words as tears streamed down his face.
“I won’t. I’ll be with you every step of the way,” Eve promised as tears formed in her eyes as well.
Julian’s throat tightened as he listened to the exchange between Eve and TC. Their bond was still clearly there. When it came down to the wire, they supported each other, and Julian knew there was nothing he could do to break that.
“Forgive me, Eve,” TC croaked. “I’ve been…such a fool.”
“Shhh…” Eve cried. “It’s OK. We’ll work it out, just like we always have.”
Julian withdrew from the scene when the paramedics arrived. Liz followed him. “Looks like you’ve lost her again, Julian!”
“Shut up, Liz!” he snarled at her.
When TC was strapped onto the stretcher, Eve followed him to the ambulance.
“What happened here?” one of the paramedics asked.
“Alistair Crane and his goons.” Eve wiped the tears from her face.
Understanding, the man nodded. “Tough break. Alistair Crane is the last guy I would want to mess with.”
Julian stood in the entrance of the club and watched as Eve climbed into the ambulance with TC and took his hand, holding it in hers. When Eve looked up, his heart skipped a beat as her eyes met his.
Eve held Julian’s gaze. The misery she saw there haunted her as the unspoken words flowed between them. She knew that he wanted more than anything to be beside her and support her, but he respected her need to be with TC. She caught her breath when a tear rolled down his cheek. ‘Oh, Julian,’ she thought. ‘I know how much it must hurt you.’
TC groaned, and Eve turned to him. After a moment, her eyes sought Julian’s once more. Her heart sank. Julian was gone.