Julian stood in the shadows of a huge ceiling-to-floor curtain, holding Evan, now a year old, in his arms.
Evan poked him with his finger and giggled when Julian made a face.
Julian kissed his cheek. “You be a good boy today, OK? Whitney is getting married.”
Evan continued to play with his face.
Julian noticed Eve across the room and grinned. His smile quickly disappeared when a sudden foul odor hit his nostrils. Turning his nose up, Julian held Evan at arm’s length. “You have great timing, son,” he complained as he turned Evan to face Eve. “Look – Mommy!” He made sure the toddler saw his mother.
Evan started to kick and squeal when he spotted Eve. “Mama!” he cried, holding his arms toward her.
Julian happily obliged and set him down, watching in the shadows of the curtain as Evan waddled toward Eve.
Eve turned to see him coming toward her.
“Mama!” he cried again, holding up his arms to her.
Eve stooped to pick him up. “Honey, why are you…? Ohhh.” She frowned, looking up just in time to see Julian duck behind the curtain. “Well,” she snorted, “it’s a good thing you aren’t stuck with your daddy for an entire day. I wouldn’t be surprised if he used a broom and garden hose on you. Remind me to pay him back for this.” She turned and headed for the stairs.
As Eve went to deal with Evan, Julian came out of his hiding place. He spotted Ben Master standing in the foyer and headed over to greet him. “Didn’t you bring a date?” Julian asked.
“Yes, she went to ‘freshen up,’” he laughed. “And where is your wife?”
Julian looked toward the stairs. “Ugh, the same,” he said. Suddenly overcome with guilt, Julian excused himself and went to find Eve. “I’ll be right back, Ben.”
“Take your time!” Ben called after him, as he grabbed a flute of champagne from a servant.
After greeting a few other guests, Julian headed toward the stairs and noticed Eve standing near the entrance bathroom, looking into the hall mirror and applying fresh lipstick. He approached her cautiously and wrapped his arms around her waist. “I’m sorry, my love,” he whispered in her ear.
When she stiffened in his arms, he knew he was in trouble. He dealt with trouble the only way he knew how. Turning her to face him, he swiftly captured her lips with his, kissing her passionately in hopes of softening her apparent anger. When she didn’t respond, he stepped back and peered at her. “What’s wrong?” He looked her up and down. “Why have you changed your hair and dress?” he asked.
A resounding slap rang in his ears. “I do not appreciate being manhandled by someone who thinks I am ‘his love!’” Tracey Rozz snapped.
Julian reached up with his handkerchief and wiped her smudged lipstick. “Eve, it’s only a dirty diaper,” he protested, when Tracey batted his hand away.
“What?!” Tracey cried in dismay, lifting her hand to where the hankie had touched her face. “How disgusting!” She raced for the bathroom and slammed it in Julian’s face.
“Women!” Julian fumed.
Ben approached and handed him a flute of champagne. “Have you seen my date?”
“I’ve never met her; how should I know if I’ve seen her?” Julian retorted rudely.
Ben stared at him a moment and then shrugged. “She looks just like…”
“Julian!” Pilar interrupted.
“Yes,” Julian snapped, clearly disturbed by Eve’s odd behavior.
“TC and Simone have just arrived. I thought you might want to know,” she said, taken aback by his abruptness.
Softening, Julian apologized. “I’m sorry, Pilar. It’s just been one of those days,” he explained.
“Thank you for letting me know.” He breathed deeply and exhaled loudly. “Sorry, Ben; you’ll have to introduce me to your date later.” He handed him his empty glass and headed for the foyer again.
TC Russell stood inside the entrance of the Crane Mansion. The new look didn’t impress him as his stomach churned at the thought of having to be anywhere near anything Crane. ‘I am here for Whitney,’ he reminded himself. “Simone!” TC called, spotting Julian heading towards him.
“Yes, Daddy?” She rushed through the open door of the mansion. “I was just looking around. This place is amazing!” She gushed.
“Whatever! It’s Crane,” TC replied.
“TC, Simone, welcome!” Julian exclaimed, smiling nervously.
“Get out of my face, Crane,” TC said coldly.
“Home wrecker!” Simone spat as they brushed past him and headed for the ballroom.
Julian watched them walk away. “Well, that went well. This day just keeps getting better.”
He was about to go look for Eve again, when he heard the sound of stilettos snapping against the hardwood floor. He turned. His eyes widened in surprise as a beautiful African-American woman reached up and slapped him across the face. “You bastard!” she cried angrily.
Covering his cheek in astonishment, Julian groaned. “What did I do?”
“You said you would call! You promised!” Her eyes flashed angrily as she raised her arm to hit him again.
Julian caught it in mid-swing. “What are you doing? I have no idea what you are talking about,” he said, exasperated.
She looked at him for a moment. “Well, here is a reminder.” Throwing her arms around his neck, she firmly pressed her lips against his.
Julian’s eyes widened in shocked surprise as his mind raced, trying to figure out who she was. Finally, after struggling to pry her death grip off of him, he managed to push her at arm’s length.
“Excuse me!” Eve interrupted, her eyes flashing with fury. “Get your paws off my man.”
“Eve!” Julian exclaimed. “I can explain.”
“Please do.” She stepped between him and the woman.
“I have no idea who this is…” Julian started.
“My name is Priscilla Jones. Does that ring any bells?” She then turned to Eve and eyed her up and down. “Is this the tramp you left me for?” Her nose turned up in displeasure.
“Eve is not a tramp.” Julian grabbed Priscilla’s arm. “I do not appreciate strangers coming into my house and calling my wife names. Now, if you don’t mind…leave.” He pointed her toward the door.
She turned to face him again, her demeanor softening. “You really don’t remember me?” she asked.
“No, I don’t,” Julian replied, wiping a weary hand across his brow.
Priscilla stared at Eve. “We met in Boston about 20-some years ago. We had a passionate fling. One day Julian decided he wanted to go try out a new Jazz club. Well, I hate Jazz, so he ended up going alone. He promised to call me the next day, but he never came back.”
The wheels in Julian’s head were spinning. Yes, he remembered her…one-night stand was more like it…the Jazz club…The Blue Note…the night he met Eve.
Julian’s eyes met Priscilla’s. “I’m so sorry. I was a complete cad back then. I really don’t remember making any promises; there were so many young…” He stopped when he felt Eve’s nails digging into his back through his jacket. He cleared his throat and smiled. “What I am trying to say is, that is where I met Eve.” He placed his arm around her waist and hugged her close. “My heart has belonged to her ever since.”
Priscilla’s eyes flashed as she stepped close to Eve. “He was my man first! Weren’t there enough men to go around? Why’d you have to steal mine, you hussy?” she snarled.
Julian turned red. “She didn’t steal me from anyone, nor was I ever yours. If you want to remain here as a guest and a date to whomever, I suggest you stop insulting Eve,” he breathed heavily.
Stepping backwards, Priscilla straightened up. “Fine, keep him then. Besides, I found a good man - one who hasn’t been tarnished by the likes of you!” she spat at Eve and then marched off.
Julian turned to Eve and took her hands in his. “I’m sorry about that, my love.”
Eve smiled in amusement. “Are there any more surprises that I should know about?”
“I hope not. This day hasn’t exactly been what I expected our daughter’s wedding day to be like,” he replied. “Sorry for leaving you to deal with Evan.”
Eve smiled and brushed her hand over his tux. “It’s OK. Besides, I don’t want his diaper to fall off during the wedding.” She laughed.
He grinned and stepped back, wrinkling his brow. “How come you keep changing?”
“What? I haven’t…”
“Eve…” he interrupted her. “Simone is here.” He pointed her towards her daughter.
Eve’s heart leaped at the sight of Simone. “Julian, do you think she has forgiven me?” She turned and searched his face.
Julian smiled tenderly. “How could she not, my love? You are a wonderful mother. Go…go talk to her.” He kissed her gently.
“I need a drink.” Julian exhaled, lingering a moment to watch Eve and Simone.
TC stood in the beautifully decorated ballroom as instructed, waiting to be taken to Whitney. He wasn’t happy to be near the Cranes again, but he was looking forward to seeing his daughter after such a long time. He missed her. His heart, though, was still bruised from the blow that she was actually Julian Crane’s daughter with Eve; but, he wasn’t going to let that bastard ruin his little girl’s day.
It thrilled him to no end that Whitney had chosen him over her biological father, Julian, to walk her down the aisle. Knowing that she still considered him her dad made him proud of his accomplishments as a father, even though he thought she could do a lot better than that punk Chad Harris.
Scanning the room, his heart leaped into his throat when he spotted Eve looking into her compact, adjusting her hair. He approached her cautiously, partly still mad at her, partly thrilled to see her again. Stopping directly behind her, he whispered, “You’ve always been the most beautiful woman at any occasion.” He couldn’t resist leaning forward and kissing her shoulder. “I miss the pleasure of holding you, feeling your skin against mine…making love to you.” He turned her around and pulled her into his arms, kissing her passionately.
Wrenching herself from his arms, Tracey reached up and slapped him. “Pervert! What the hell is wrong with you people? First someone wipes my lip with a dirty diaper, and now you get fresh with me.” Her nostrils flared with irritation. “I swear to God, if anyone tries anything else with me today, he is going to be singing soprano for the church choir on Sunday!”
TC stared after her, stunned by her outburst. The least he expected was ‘Hello, TC.’ “Living with Julian Crane has definitely turned you into ice,” he mumbled, shaking his head in amazement. “What a waste of a beautiful woman.”
Ben turned and grinned when he saw Tracey heading toward him. “I have been looking everywhere for you!” he exclaimed.
“We have not been here for more than an hour, and already I have had two guys hit on me, and one of them tried to assault me with a diaper! What is wrong with these people?” She explained everything that had just happened to her.
Ben couldn’t help but laugh.
“It’s not funny!” she returned.
“My dear, there is something you should know.” He chuckled
“What? Tell me. You’re not messing with me, are you?” She eyed him suspiciously.
“No, I wouldn’t do that.” He laughed, turning and pointing towards Julian Crane. “Is he one of the men that ‘hit’ on you?”
“Yes!” she exclaimed. “He also tried to wipe my lip…”
“Julian with a diaper…somehow I can’t quite picture that.” He smiled.
“It’s true!” she insisted.
“OK, OK, I believe you.” He laughed. “The reason Julian hit on you is right over there.” Ben pointed toward Eve, who was walking over to Julian. “She is his wife, dear, and she looks just like you.”
Tracey’s eyes widened in shock. “Oh no, Ben, why didn’t you tell me? I would have at least been more…well…prepared.”
“Well, I didn’t think it would be a problem. I have been trying to tell Julian about you, but I always get interrupted,” he explained.
“Oh, those poor guys.” She covered her burning face. “I slapped them both. I can about imagine what they must think of me.”
“They probably deserved it.” He slipped his arm around her waist.
“Ben!” she exclaimed. “You’re terrible.”
He laughed. “It’s going to be an interesting day,
I think. Crane parties are always a hit.”