Luis opened the door to the cottage and flipped on the lights. "We're home!" he said, a big smile on his face.
"Oh, it's so good to be back home!" Sheridan cried. She was holding the car seat in her hands, with a sleeping Julia Eve inside.
"I would carry you over the threshold, but with the baby..."
"That's not necessary," Sheridan laughed, walking into the cottage. "I am just thrilled to be home!" She set the car seat down on the couch. "I would get her out, but she's sleeping so peacefully."
"Let her sleep," Luis said. "We can show her the place later."
"Oh no!" Sheridan exclaimed.
"What's wrong, darling?" Luis asked, his concern for her evident in his voice.
"The baby, Luis! We're not ready for her; we don't have any place for her to sleep even." She scanned the room frantically with her eyes. "What are we going to do?"
Luis grinned. "That's not a problem, Sheridan. Come with me," he said. He led her into the bedroom and turned on the light.
Sheridan let out a gasp. The room had been completely transformed. Near the bed was a beautiful white bassinet, trimmed with pink. In the corner sat a baby swing. Beside the dresser was a wooden changing table that matched the room's furniture perfectly. Next to it was a stack of diapers.
"My goodness!" Sheridan cried. "How...how did you do all this, Luis?"
He smiled, thrilled that she loved the surprise. "Mama helped me pick things out," he explained. "We went shopping this morning. She stayed to organize things a little while I went to see you in the hospital."
Sheridan's eyes filled with tears. "This is so wonderful," she said, walking over to the bassinet and rubbing her hand over it.
"Look over here - a chest for the baby's things," Luis said. He motioned to a small wooden chest near the bedroom door. "Go check inside," Luis urged.
Sheridan walked over to the chest and opened up a drawer. Inside were all the baby clothes Julia Eve would need for months. "Look at this...sleepers, onesies, gowns, socks, booties." She held up a pink pair of booties. "How wonderful!"
Luis grinned. "Mama did most of it," he admitted. "She knows how to shop for a baby."
"I'll say!" Sheridan said. "This was the most special thing anyone could have done for us. I need to call Pilar right now and thank her."
"In a minute," Luis said, walking up behind Sheridan and putting his arms around her. I just want to give you a welcome home hug."
She turned around and slipped her arms up around his neck. "How about we have a proper hug then..."
Luis tightened his arms around her waist and bent down to lean his head against hers. He gave her an affectionate squeeze and lifted her feet up off the floor.
After Luis had gently set her feet back on the ground, Sheridan looked into his gorgeous eyes and smiled. "I can't believe how perfect everything is," she said.
"I wanted it to be perfect," Luis stated. "And you haven't seen everything yet. There are all kinds of baby things in the bathroom and toys in the closet. Here's something I wanted to get her." He reached over on the bed and picked up a stuffed giraffe. "Do you think she'll like giraffes?" he asked. "They've always been my favorite animal."
"I think she'll love giraffes!" Sheridan declared, taking the stuffed animal from Luis. "They're beautiful animals." She giggled as she put the giraffe down inside the bassinet.
"What's so funny?" he asked, beginning to laugh right along with her.
"Nothing," she chuckled.
"Yeah, nothing, huh?" he joked. "Why don't I give you something to laugh about then?" He began tickling her as he inched their bodies closer to the bed.
Sheridan laughed and jokingly tried to get away from his tickling hands. He pushed her down on the bed and began roughhousing with her. She couldn't stop laughing as she screamed, "No, no, stop!"
"Stop?" he said, pretending to be hurt from her rejection. "Then I suppose you'll want me to stop this too..." He leaned down and kissed her, his hands on the bed on either side of Sheridan, supporting his weight.
"No, no," Sheridan said, coming up for air between kisses. "Don't stop that!"
Luis grinned and gently pressed his body against hers as their mouths met for an intensely passionate kiss. How long he had waited to taste those exquisite lips again in this cottage...to feel her tongue joining with his in a sensual dance! Luis realized this must be what Heaven was like - he had been living in Hell for too long.
His hands cupped her face and felt her smooth, beautiful skin.
Hers roamed from his shiny, thick hair to his strong neck and on down to his broad shoulders. She then pressed her hands firmly against his back, and as she did it, she could feel the passion rising between the two of them.
They finally parted their lips and Sheridan fought to get her breath back. "Wow! That was the longest kiss I have ever experienced!" she exclaimed.
"It was great, wasn't it?" Luis said, running his fingers through her hair as he lay beside her on the bed. "I wish we could do more but..."
"I know," Sheridan said, sounding disappointed. "But I'm not allowed for a couple of weeks because of the baby - Julia Eve! Luis, I almost forgot all about her. She's still in the car seat. I'm going to go check on her." Sheridan quickly got up off the bed and headed for the living room. Luis followed.
There on the couch, still sleeping in her car seat, was their beautiful baby girl. Sheridan bent down and kissed her. Julia Eve opened her eyes and looked at her mother.
"I think she recognizes you," Luis said.
"You too, Daddy," Sheridan said, smiling. "Our wonderful family is finally together. What more could we ask for?"
"I can't think of anything," Luis admitted. "I have everything I want right here." He leaned down to kiss Sheridan and then got on his knees and kissed the baby's cheek.
"She's perfect, isn't she?" Sheridan asked.
"Oh yes," Luis agreed. "Both of my girls are perfect."
Eve slowly opened the door to her home. She took a deep breath as she walked inside. The lights were on, so she knew TC was still up. She walked over to the sofa and set her purse down beside it. She nervously paced the floor in front of the couch, thinking of what she was going to say.
Just then, TC entered the living room from the kitchen. He was carrying a bowl of popcorn and a can of soda pop. He smiled when he saw Eve. "Hi, baby, I'm glad you're home already," he said. "At least they didn't make you work late on your first full day back. Want some popcorn?" He lifted up the bowl and smiled. "I made plenty. Simone's out with a friend, so it's great to have someone to share it with."
Eve shook her head. Already, guilt was creeping into her consciousness. She took another deep breath. She knew she couldn't let anything stop her. Tonight was the night for truths. "TC, listen, I need to talk to you," she said as bravely as she could manage. "There are things I have to tell you - things you're not going to want to hear..."
TC looked at his wife in surprise. "OK, baby, why don't we sit down here and talk?" He set the popcorn and drink on the coffee table and parked himself on the sofa. Eve hesitated and then walked over to the chair that was perpendicular to the couch and sat down on it. She felt it was better if there were space between them when she told him the truth.
Eve sat staring at the wall for a minute, trying to figure out where to begin. She had planned on giving TC a hypothetical situation first, to kind of ease him into it. Then she wanted to admit the person she was talking about was her. She would first discuss her days in school, next her job at the Blue Note, and then she would slowly reveal the story of how she met and fell for Julian Crane. Discussing the child they shared would be one of the last things she told him - unless she got up the courage to let him in on what had been going on recently.
Looking at her husband just now and noticing that he was so curious as to what she was going to say made it difficult for her to get up the nerve to tell him the truth. TC seemed so eager tonight, so mellow - nothing like the bitter man that she had seen so much of lately. Eve was hard pressed to know where to start.
Sensing his wife's hesitancy, TC smiled. "What's going on, Eve? What did you want to tell me?"
Her heart racing, Eve thought of all the things she had planned to say...how she was going to ease into the truth about her past. But looking at her husband, she just couldn't do that. She felt like the swimmer who was preparing to get into an ice-cold pool. There were two ways to do it - ease yourself into the water slowly or dive right in. Eve was one to always dive right in. It was better to get the shock over with quickly, she surmised. Tonight would be no different.
Eve took in a deep breath to calm her rapid heart and blurted out, simply and clearly, "I'm in love with Julian Crane." There, she had done it. Now, she waited for all hell to break loose.
TC stared at Eve. The expression on his face didn't change. She wondered if he had heard her.
"I...I said that I am in love with Julian Crane," Eve repeated, hoping to get some sort of reaction from her husband. Was what she said just too much for him to process and accept?
"I heard you," TC said softly, swallowing hard. "Is this some kind of a joke? Are you telling me this just to get me to fly off the handle? Should I be looking around for hidden cameras here?"
"No, TC, it's true," Eve revealed. "Julian and I are in love." Thud. If her heart was going crazy at this point, what was happening to his? She looked at him worriedly.
"I know what this is - you're just confused from your time being held captive in that pit. That's it. Sam was telling me about cases like that - where victims fall for their abductors. That's what happened here, isn't it? Only you got close to Julian because he was being held with you, not because he was your kidnapper." He let out a sigh. "Well, it's not real, honey... We'll deal with it."
Another wave of guilt swept over Eve. His mind was already trying to reason away what she had said. He wasn't able to handle it. "No, TC, listen," she tried once more. "It's not that, really. I don't think you understand. You see, Julian and I were involved long ago, before I met you. We loved each other years ago too."
TC's face began contorting. His eyes suddenly glazed over with a look that could kill. She had never seen such anger and hatred in those dark eyes before. TC was often angry, but usually it was a loud, boisterous kind of anger. This was different. There was a cold, silent rage enveloping her husband. A chill ran down Eve's spine. In TC's eyes she saw one thing and one thing only - murder!
"TC, listen, I didn't intend to fall in love with Julian again. It just happened...not in the pit either, but before. We have become close lately. He's helped me through some tough times...like with Whitney."
"I'll...kill that bastard. He's a dead man!" TC blared, his eyes so enraged they made Eve fear that he would lose it at any second.
"This isn't Julian's fault," she tried to explain. "There were always feelings between us, I guess - things that we had never dealt with. I tried to wall them up and pretend I was the perfect wife and mother. He buried them under booze and countless women...but I guess those feelings were always there for both of us."
"This has been going on for years?!" TC hissed, his eyes bulging and nostrils flaring. Eve knew his blood pressure had to be going through the roof. "You and that pig have made a fool of me for over twenty years?!!"
"No, TC, it wasn't like that," Eve said, using the calmest voice she could manage. "There was nothing going on between Julian and me during the past twenty years, nothing. I was faithful to you for all of those years, believe me. Actually, I truly hated him. It's just I realize now that there were still feelings there, all that time, buried beneath the surface."
"But you haven't been faithful lately, have you? You've slept with him, haven't you, Eve?! I can tell; I can see it in your eyes. You whore! You slept with my worst enemy, the scum of the earth Julian Crane, not just before you met me but recently...and you think I'll understand? Is that it?! You think I won't want to kill both of you with my bare hands?!"
He stood up quickly and in two strides was over to where Eve was sitting. She jumped up hurriedly and backed her way to the front door. He put his arms out against the door, penning her in between them and stepped closer so that he was inches from her face. "What are you going to do now, Eve? Are you going to run straight to your lover's arms? Well, I don't think so. I think you're going to stay right here with me. I won't let that pig have what is mine." He inched his face even closer to hers.
Eve's eyes reflected the fear she was feeling. What was he going to do to her? She had never seen TC so upset before. She never thought he would hurt her, but now she wasn't so sure...
TC moved closer and forced his lips upon Eve's, kissing her roughly. She tried to resist, but couldn't get away. He was too powerful. She finally did the only thing she could - she bit his lip hard, drawing blood.
He screamed out in pain and pulled back, wiping the blood with his hand. "Damn bitch!" he yelled, looking at the blood on his fingers. His icy gaze returned to Eve's face. "You're not worth it anyway," he sneered, his teeth clenched. "You've been soiled...soiled with the likes of Julian Crane. I don't want you, Eve. I'll never want you again. I want you out of this house - now!"
He backed up some more to let Eve free. "I...I need my things...my purse," she cried, her eyes full of tears and her body shaking like a leaf.
"Get them! I'll be in the kitchen. I want you gone in ten minutes, and I never want to see your face here again, is that understood? You've made your bed with that pig, now go lie in it!" He turned and marched into the kitchen, never once looking back.
Eve's hands were shaking so much she could barely pack. She sobbed loudly as she gathered up her purse and some of her essential belongings. It hadn't sunk in yet that she may never be back in this house again.
When she was done, Eve set the suitcase down by the door. "I'm going now, TC!" she called in a loud, shaky voice, hoping that he would hear her. "I never wanted it to be like this!" She wiped the tears from her face and gave the living room one last glance. "I never wanted it to be like this," she repeated softly, fighting back more tears. She picked up her things and headed out the door.
Eve had no idea where she was going, but she knew where she wasn't heading...to Julian's. She couldn't go straight from TC's arms to his; she wasn't ready. There were still things she needed to discuss with TC as well.
Sighing, Eve put her belongings in her car and got in, her hands
still shaking as she fumbled with her seatbelt. She looked sadly at the house
she had lived in all these years as she backed her car out of the driveway.
She knew that no matter what she decided to do from here on out, her life would
never be the same again. There could be no turning back now.