“Come in, but only if you aren’t Chad,” she giggled.
TC opened the door slightly and peered in. “Whitney?”
“Daddy!” she exclaimed with a smile and rushed into his arms. “I am so glad you came.”
“Me too, sweetheart,” TC breathed, tears clouding his vision.
Pulling back, Whitney studied him. “Are you crying, Daddy?”
“No.” TC brushed his eyes and smiled. “I have just missed you so much.”
“I missed you too, Daddy. I wasn’t sure you were going to come.” She closed the door behind him. “I wasn’t sure you would come, considering…”
“I almost didn’t; then I thought, why should I let a Crane ruin my baby’s day? She wants me to escort her down the aisle, and I am not going to let Julian Crane stop me from being there for the angel I still consider to be my daughter.” He smiled.
“Oh, Daddy, I still think of you as my daddy too. I always will.” She hugged him again. “Did Simone come?” she asked tentatively, not expecting her estranged sister to have made an appearance.
“She did. She was rather reluctant, since she still thinks you stole Chad from her. I did get her to see that if Chad wanted to be with her, he would be marrying her, not you.” He smiled tenderly. “I think she finally sees it.”
Whitney breathed a sigh of relief. “That’s good. I wanted her to be my bridesmaid, but I think that is wishful thinking on my part.” She sighed and turned back to the mirror.
“Well,” TC said, placing his hands on her shoulders. “Maybe when she sees you, she will change her mind.”
“Maybe…” Whitney echoed.
Outside, on the terrace, Eve cautiously approached Simone. “I am glad you agreed to meet me out here. I really wanted to talk to you in private.”
Simone turned and faced her mother. “You know, I don’t think I can get over what you did to our family, Mom.”
Eve swallowed hard, trying to get rid of the lump in her throat and the pain in her heart. “I know it’s hard for you,” she began, “to accept that your father and I don’t have a future together anymore…”
“But you would have if Julian hadn’t come along and ruined it all,” Simone insisted.
“It wasn’t Julian’s fault,” Eve replied. “It was me. I was the one who hurt your father, not Julian.”
Simone looked at her for a moment and then turned to stare across the grounds. “If Julian hadn’t pursued you, would you have left Daddy?” She turned to watch her response.
Eve pressed her lips together and shook her head. “I don’t know. I can’t answer that.”
“Well, I know. This wouldn’t have happened if Julian hadn’t seduced you,” she declared.
Eve sighed. “Can we just not talk about this? It’s been so long, and I have missed you so much.”
“Fine.” Simone folded her arms across her chest.
The door opened, and Evan came running out.
Eve looked up and spotted Julian standing in the doorway. He smiled tenderly and then closed the door. Eve understood. Julian was trying to help.
Simone stared at the boy for a moment; then, she stooped down and touched his cheek. “Hello, what is your name?” She smiled.
He stared at her in wonder.
“His name is Evan. He is your brother, Simone,” Eve said.
Evan shyly reached out to touch Simone. He poked her cheek and giggled.
Simone laughed. “He is so cute.”
Eve smiled as she watched Simone bond with her brother. “He seems to like you very much.”
Simone stood up. “Maybe he and I can spend a little time together; I have never had a brother.”
Eve’s heart leaped. “Do you mean that?”
“I do. I may have a hard time getting used to you being Julian’s wife, but I don’t think I will have a problem getting used to having a brother.” She smiled and stooped down to play with Evan again.
“If you want, you can play with him now. There is a swing right over there.” Eve pointed to the swing set among the huge towering trees. “He loves to swing.”
Simone took Evan’s hand. “You want to swing?”
He nodded his head eagerly.
“You go ahead then. I will be right inside if you need me,” Eve said, encouraging the tender relationship between Simone and Evan.
She stood and watched them walk to the swings, turning when Julian opened the door. Smiling, she walked up to him and kissed him. “Thank you, Julian. I may not have convinced her to accept you as my husband, but Evan had no trouble touching her heart.”
Julian placed his arms around her waist and kissed her neck. “You’re welcome, my love. I noticed the tense look on Simone’s face and thought Evan might be able to help resolve her bitterness toward this whole situation, at least a little.” He smiled.
Eve leaned against him. “Well, it was a very good idea. I am glad you thought of it.” She ran her fingers along the nape of his neck. “If we didn’t have a house full of guests, I would thank you properly.” She grinned mischievously.
“Hmm,” Julian murmured, his eyes lighting up. “Maybe I can take a rain check?”
“Definitely.” She kissed him lightly. “In the meantime, I think it’s time I greeted TC.”
Tracey Rozz sipped her champagne, watching the rest of the guests arrive. “Where did Julian and my double go?”
Ben turned to scan the room. “I have no idea. We get distracted for one moment, and they disappear.”
“Hmm, that was some distraction.” Tracey laughed.
“Yes, it was,” Ben mused.
“Maybe we can try it again later?” she offered with a smile.
“You’re on. But I have to warn you, I get better each time around,” he boasted.
Winking, she wagged a finger at him. “So do I.”
Julian stood just inside the mansion entrance and smiled when Sheridan entered.
Luis followed, a scowl on his face, dragging a young girl behind him. “Tell me again why we couldn’t bring our own son but had to bring Sandy?” he complained.
“I told you, Luis. She is homeless, and I volunteered to look after her till we can find a proper home for her. Besides, she would have been too much for the sitter, and coming here might do her some good,” Sheridan explained.
Luis grimaced. “You are a billionaire, Sheridan. You shouldn’t have to 'baby-sit' the homeless.”
Sheridan gawked at him. “Are you serious? It is because I am able to that I have to do everything I can to help her.”
Julian approached them and smiled. “I’m glad you could make it. I was getting worried.”
“Well, if it had been up to me, we wouldn’t be here,” Luis remarked.
Julian laughed. “Get used to it, man. It never will be.”
“HEY!” Sheridan protested.
Julian laughed and turned his attention to Sandy. “And who might you be?” He smiled his welcome.
“Stuff it, Grandpa,” she retorted rudely.
“Sandy! That wasn’t very nice!” Sheridan exclaimed.
Sandy rolled her eyes. “Whatever… I just want to get some champagne and party.”
“I don’t think so!” Sheridan cried in dismay.
Luis turned to Julian and smiled. “This is the lovely misfit who saved your life when that mugger held you and your lawyer friend up in the alley behind the Book Café. If it wasn’t for her eager fingers, you might be dead right now.”
Sandy’s ears perked up. “What? I saved his life? Do I get a reward or something?” She eyed Julian expectantly. “Like a million dollars maybe?”
Julian laughed and then turned to Sheridan. “Why don’t you take her shopping? On me. Buy her some new clothes or something.”
“That’s it, just clothes?” Disappointment clouded her face. “That blows!”
“Sandy!” Sheridan tried to get her to be quiet.
Luis grinned. “I told you it was a bad idea to bring her.”
Sheridan gave him a dirty look and turned to Julian.
Julian grinned. “You said she was homeless?”
“Well, why don’t you see about getting her a room at the Crane House?”
Sheridan slapped her forehead. “Why didn’t I think of that before?” She turned to Sandy. “Julian and I started a new charity, a home for young people like yourself who have no place else to go. You each get a room of your own, three squares a day...”
“Really?” Sandy cried.
“Yes, really. The only thing you have to worry about is the rules they have there. The rest is all taken care of.”
Sandy threw herself into Sheridan’s arms. “Thank you so much!” she cried, tears rolling down her cheeks. Turning to Julian, she said, “I am sorry for insulting you. I won’t forget this…ever!”
Julian smiled. “That’s OK; I just want you to get the care that you need.”
Wiping her tears, her face turned red. “I am such a baby.”
Julian drew her close and hugged her. “No, there is nothing wrong with tears,” he said, as he stepped back and lifted her chin. “I knew you weren’t as tough as you acted.” He smiled. “I pray that God will bless you and look out for you, Sandy.” He tenderly wiped her tears. “I have to go now. Why don’t you get seated; the wedding is due to start in a few minutes.” He began to walk away and then stopped. Turning, he bent to kiss her cheek. “Thank you for saving my life.”
Sandy beamed proudly.
Sheridan grinned happily as she watched Julian walk toward the stairs.
Luis was equally pleased, but for entirely different reasons.
Eve knocked lightly on Whitney’s door. “Whitney, honey, can I come in?”
“Yes, you can come in, Mom.” Whitney looked at TC, who shifted uncomfortably.
Eve entered the room and closed the door behind her. She paused when her eyes met TC’s. The silence between them was deafening and very awkward.
Whitney looked from one to the other. “Ugh…I need to check my make-up. I’ll use the mirror in the bathroom.” She hurried off before either of them could protest.
After a moment of silence, Eve stepped closer. “How have you been?” She hoped to break the ice.
“Fine,” he replied curtly.
Eve nodded. “Good, I’m glad.”
TC looked at her for a moment and then sighed. “Eve, about before… I’m sorry, I was out of line,” he said, recalling how he had grabbed and kissed her, and she had rewarded him with a healthy slap.
Eve blinked. “What do you mean?”
“I shouldn’t have behaved that way. I am truly sorry.”
Eve wrinkled her brow in confusion. Opening her mouth for a moment, she then promptly closed it again, trying to think of something she might have missed that he could be referring to. Stumped, she decided he must mean the day their marriage ended. “If anyone should apologize, it should be me,” she finally said.
“No, Eve, I was out of line,” TC insisted.
“It’s OK, TC, really. What’s done is done,” Eve said, realizing that some things will never change. “I’m glad you decided to come.”
He exhaled loudly. “I wanted to be here for my little…” He stopped himself.
“It’s OK, TC. She is your daughter in every way that matters. You raised her.”
He smiled. “Thanks, I appreciate that.” He turned and looked out the window for a moment, watching Simone play with Evan. “Are you happy, Eve?”
Startled, Eve looked up and studied him. She then walked to the window, standing next to him. “Yes.”
He turned his head toward her. “We were happy too.” The hurt in his voice was unmistakable.
Eve swallowed hard. “Yes, we were.”
“Then why? Why did you let Julian Crane seduce you with his fast cars and easy money?”
Eve stepped back. “He didn’t seduce me, TC.”
“Yes, he did,” TC insisted firmly.
“It’s pointless that we discuss this. We will never agree when it comes to Julian.” Eve struggled to keep her tone civil.
“You’ve got that right!” His eyes flashed. “How you can want him is beyond me.”
“Well I do, and nothing will change that,” she said, staring out the window once more. “I do, however, wish that things between us hadn’t ended so badly.”
TC smiled. “You know, it wouldn’t have hurt so bad had it not been with Julian Crane.”
“I am sorry that you were so hurt, TC. I honestly didn’t mean for things to turn out like this. I didn’t plan it, or look for it. It just happened. I realized that I have always loved Julian, and I hope that one day you will find that kind of love yourself.”
TC nodded. “Well, it’s pretty obvious how much you love him…though I think I’ll pass on having anything even remotely similar to anything ‘Julian.’ All I ask is to find a woman he hasn’t tainted.”
“Please don’t talk like that,” Eve whispered.
“Sorry,” TC said.
“So, have you met anyone new out in LA?”
TC smiled. “Yes. I don’t want to jinx it, but I think she might be the one.”
Eve brightened. “That’s wonderful! I am so happy for you. I really hope it works out.”
“Yeah, me too.”
“Well,” Eve started, “I think I better go relieve Simone of Evan. She looks exhausted.” Eve laughed. “Evan loves to swing and won’t let you rest, even for a moment.”
“Whitney, you can stop eavesdropping and come out now!” Eve called.
The bathroom door opened. “I wasn’t.” She smiled.
“Sure,” Eve replied.
“I am glad you guys are talking. That is what I prayed for - that you both would share my special day and be happy.” Whitney hugged them close.
Eve and TC looked at each other.
“I think we raised a wonderful young woman,” TC said.
Eve smiled proudly. “That we did.”
Ben and Tracey sat down, giving up on finding Julian and Eve.
“I will have to introduce you to them later.” Ben straightened out his suit.
“Just promise you won’t leave me alone again. I don’t want to run into anyone else who might mistake me for Eve,” she said, helping him smooth his jacket.
“But imagine all the fun we could have with that!” he remarked with a grin.
“I don’t think so.” She laughed. “I have had all the fun I can handle for one day.”
“Ah, what about the fun we had earlier? Are you still game?” He raised his eyebrows mischievously.
Her eyes twinkled. “Are you?”
He glanced around the room for a moment. “This wedding is moving at a snail’s pace. I think we have time for one more round.” He got up and took her hand. “Let’s go.” He grinned.
Tracey stood near the huge curtain that separated the ballroom from the bar. She touched it, feeling the smoothness of its rich burgundy velvet. Smiling, she noted that one could get lost in a massive curtain like that.
Warm hands on her shoulders snapped her back to reality.
“Hmm, ready?” Ben whispered in her ear.
“Oh, yes!” she replied.
“OK, here goes,” he said, sending a dart sailing for the dartboard near the bar.
Ben grinned with pleasure as he handed her three darts. “Told you…”
Tracey ignored his remark and fired a dart.
A ‘clink’ of metal striking metal caused Ben to gasp as her dart hit the bull’s-eye, touching his dart. “Good shot!” he cried.
“Told you!” she mimicked with a grin.
The bartender stared at the board. “Wow, that is nice throwing,” he said, impressed. “Two darts so close...cool!”
An usher approached them, informing them that the wedding was about to begin.
Grinning, they decided to call it a draw and returned to their seats.