The reasons why she was so happy on this day were simple ones. Her son Alexander was now engaged to Elizabeth Stuart, who was the owner of "Stuart-Films", and he would soon marry her. This meant she would be able to get her hands on some parts of a movie producing company, on which Catherine has had her eye for quite a long time now. Her daughter Victoria was on her best way to become one of the world's top models and she also had started to build up an acting career.
But now, Catherine Parker's own movie company had gotten the money they needed to produce a new fantasy movie with the name "Lords of the Darkness". A biography of the Parker family was also planned.
Sara Jones, a young photographer and daughter of a friend from the family, was supposed to take the pictures that would be needed for the book.
Catherine lifted her champagne glass and knocked with a golden fork against it. "Dear family and friends. May I have your attention, please?"
The crowd grew silent and each eye in the room was fixed on Catherine Parker.
She smiled and continued, "We have been celebrating the engagement of my beloved son Alex and his charming Elizabeth..."
Loud cheers and clapping interrupted Catherine's speech. She waited until it was silent again. "Now, I would like to introduce Sara Jones, the daughter of a very good friend of our family. I have decided that it's time to write down the chronicles of the Parker clan and she will be the one to document our lives for the future. Sara will stay with us for a while and all I can say is that I'm very glad to have her as our guest." Catherine placed her arm around the shoulders of a dark haired, young woman, who couldn't have been older than 20 years. Her sea green eyes darting nervously around, Sara smiled bashfully at the crowd that smiled back and clapped.
At this moment the big doors flew open and a friendly, "HELLO!" rang out.
In stepped a blonde-haired girl with a big grin on her face. It was Taylor Stuart, Elizabeth's 18 year old sister. Her green-brown eyes jumped from guest to guest looking for somebody. "Ohhh, am I too late? Did I already miss Juan?" she asked.
Loud mumbling began as people heard the famous name.
Catherine sighed and then shot Taylor a dark look. "No, I was just about to announce him... as a surprise."
Taylor grinned, embarrassed. "Ooops, sorry."
A high pitched voice sounded out from somewhere in the background. "Ooooooh, is it true, Mom? Is it true that Juan Rodriguez is going to sing for us?"
"Yes, my darling Vicky," Catherine answered and smiled.
While everybody waited as to what would happen next, Elizabeth turned to her best friend and personal assistant, Karen Miller. "You did it!" she exclaimed in excitement. "The party is wonderful and I bet my future sister-in-law, Victoria, is going to be so happy because you managed to get Juan Rodriguez to come here. God Karen, you are a real treasure."
Karen grinned cheekily, showing off cute dimples. "I know."
Catherine raised her voice again to make herself be heard. "May I present for all your enjoyment, the Latin Superstar, Juan Rodriguez!"
Hot Latin beats drifted from the hidden speakers as Juan entered the room. In tight leather pants and a see-through top he danced gracefully through the hall, his hips in a constant sensual movement.
Victoria was visibly in seventh heaven. "Ooh, this man is a dream," she squealed and was about to swoon.
During Juan's performance Taylor made her way through the crowd and went to her big sister, who greeted her with a warm hug. "Hey sweetie, you are late."
Taylor cleared her throat and rubbed her neck. "Yeah, I know. I did it on purpose."
Liz eyebrows rose at that.
"I thought I would miss Mr. Slimeball Nr. 1 Juan, but as you can see I was not late enough."
Liz chuckled. "Oh come on now, he's not that bad."
"I think he is. Just look how he is working his charms on Vicky." Taylor said and pointed over Liz' shoulder.
The blonde turned around, watched the spectacle for a few seconds before she grinned at her little sister. "That's all done on purpose to make Vicky happy."
Taylor had been looking around again and now she asked. "By the way, where is Chris?"
"Uh... somewhere. I don't know exactly where he is, but I know he is around somewhere."
At this moment a muscled arm wrapped itself around Elizabeth's waist, drawing her close. It belonged to her fiancé, Alexander. "How is my wonderful future wife doing?" Obviously, he had had too many drinks and his slurry speech was sound proof of that fact.
Before Liz could answer, his dark-brown eyes turned to Taylor. "Now lookey here, the little figure skater has finally arrived."
Taylor scowled at him and hissed, "That's none of your business!"
"Oooh... touchy, aren't ya?" he smirked. Alex snuggled close to his fiancée, until he caught a flash of long, dark blonde curls in the crowd that were on their way to the exit. "Excuse me, my love," he mumbled, pressed a sloppy kiss on Liz' cheek and disappeared.
Shaking her head, Taylor looked at her sister. "Just what is it about this guy? He is such an arrogant a..."
Liz cut her off before the nasty word could slip from Taylor's lips. "Taylor!"
"What?" she exclaimed, annoyed. "It's the truth!"
"Sweetie, you know he has good sides."
"Oh really? I wonder where he is hiding those?" the teenager snorted in disgust.
Liz sighed. "I don't want to talk with you about this subject anymore. He is the man I need... oh look. Juan has finished his performance. This means the party is over. Do you want to come with me or are you going to drive yourself?"
"My motorcycle is outside. I'm going home on that."
"You know how I feel about that, don't you?"
Taylor rolled her eyes. "Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know. I'll be careful, I promise. Bye Liz, until later." That said the blonde girl turned around and walked away.
In a dark office, Alex had finally managed to find the dark-blonde woman he had followed. "Hey Dani, are you feeling lonely? Do you need some company?" he asked and stepped closer to her.
Danielle Stiehl was leaning with her back against a big desk and smiled lasciviously in the starlight that fell in through the window. "Don't you have to take care of Lizzy?"
He touched her face and whispered against her soft lips, "Oh, I'm sure she will be fine without me. I want to be with you."
"Is that so? Good. Let's sneak out and be quick about it."
Victoria and Juan were standing on the balcony. The slender blonde nearly devoured him with her glowing, deer-brown eyes as she asked him, "Would you like some more champagne, Juan?"
He held out his glass and she filled it once more. "How about a walk on the beach?"
Vicky smiled. "Yes, that is a wonderful idea. That way we can get to know each other better..."
"And you are sure that you really don't want to stay in our guest house, Sara?" Catherine asked, gently patting the girl's hand.
Sara smiled. "Yes, I'm sure I will be fine on the boat."
"You know, your father will kill me if anything were to happen to you while you are here?"
"Aunt Cathy, don't worry. I will be fine."
Catherine sighed and rose. "Stubborn, just like your father, my dear. Very well, it is obvious that I can't change your opinion, so I will give up."
"But you will come to the country club tomorrow, to have lunch with us, won't you?"
"Of course I will, Aunt Cathy."
Catherine beamed at her in excitement. "Good, good. The whole family will be there. I'm sure you will have such a great time then."
Sara rose from the couch and hugged the other woman. "I'm sure I will. Thanks for the invitation."
Catherine squeezed her a bit harder before letting her go.
"Good night then, Aunt Cathy, until tomorrow."
"Yes, until tomorrow, Sara. Sweet dreams."
Sara was already out the door as Catherine called after her, "If you need anything you have my cell phone number! I'm only one call away!"
Outside, Sara chuckled. She had been waiting for that phrase. She called back, "I will be fine, Aunt Cathy. Quit worrying!"
Elizabeth was sitting on the bed in her room, holding a framed picture of the Stuart family. Tears rolled down her cheeks. No matter how much she tried to wipe them away, new ones followed almost immediately. "It is the only way. The only way."
There was a knock on the door and quickly she tried once more to brush her tears away. "Yes?"
Her older brother, Christopher, entered the room. He was tall where she was small, but both had the same long blonde hair. Chris wore his in a pony tail. His green eyes met her blood-shot emerald ones and he knew that something was wrong. He sat down next to her and pulled her into his strong arms. "Hey, what's wrong, Lizzy?" he asked softly.
"Oh Chris! I don't know what to do anymore. Our company will go down and I don't know what to do."
"It really is that bad? Why didn't you say something sooner?"
Liz sniffled and wiped her eyes. "I didn't want to burden you."
They were silent for a minute and then Christopher asked, "Is the company the reason you want to marry Alexander Parker?"
She shook her head in denial. "No, I..."
"Please, Liz. Don't lie to me. Tell me the truth."
She lowered her eyes to the floor and a whispered, "Yes," escaped her throat.
Chris nodded. "I will talk with Uncle William. Maybe he knows what we can do."
Liz looked at him hopefully. "That might be a good idea. Just do me one favor. Don't tell Taylor."
"No!" the blonde exclaimed sharply. "Not one word to Taylor about the company!"
Chris was about to speak, but the telephone rang.
Elizabeth picked up the receiver. "Hello?... Yes... oh, hello Mr. Tomoe... yes... yes, of course... no, no problem at all... okay... yes... yes... I will be on my way to you tomorrow... splendid... alright, until then, Mr. Tomoe. Goodbye." She hung up.
Chris was about to burst with curiosity. "And? What was that conversation about?"
Liz looked at her brother and a tiny smile appeared on her face. "I will travel to Tokyo tomorrow for a meeting. You know that I've been trying to make a few contacts outside of our country?"
"Well, as it looks like Japan seems to be interested."
"Really? Wow. Now that is what I would call great news." He grinned and hugged his sister again. After he let go, he looked her deep in the eyes. "Just promise me one thing."
"What, big brother?"
"Please think again about those wedding plans you have, please."
Liz exhaled sharply, but agreed to do that. The siblings said good night and Chris went to his own room.
Catherine entered her husband's study. She observed him for a while as he went through some papers on his desk. He still wore his business suit and looked as if he had just left his office. "I missed you at the party, Jonathan."
"Oh, I'm sorry, dear. I had a very important appointment at the office that couldn't wait."
"On the day your only son is celebrating his engagement?" she asked furiously and took a glass from a near table. She picked a bottle of whiskey and filled the glass. "How very sensitive of you."
Jonathan walked to her and took the glass from her hands. "You are going to change your opinion after I tell you whom I could win for our project." He said confidently and smiled before swallowing the amber colored liquid that burned in his throat.
Catherine crossed her arms. "Let's hear the news," she ordered harshly, still too upset with her husband to forgive him for missing the party.
Jonathan waggled his eyebrows and grinned. "Jack Carpenter. This new guy everyone claims is a god when it comes to the arts of Special Effects..." He waited for her reaction, his eyes never leaving her face.
Catherine cocked her head, thinking that he had just said that to calm her down. "Really?"
Jonathan's grin widened and he nodded.
"I'm impressed, my darling... and I will forgive you." She came around the desk and kissed him softly on the lips.
"I have invited him to our lunch tomorrow... who else is going to be there anyway?"
"You and I, our precious children, Elizabeth... I don't know if she will bring her siblings but that is likely to happen. Then Sara of course, and now also Jack Carpenter it seems. Other than that nobody else was invited."
Jonathan frowned. "You know, I'm not exactly looking forward to being observed and photographed by Sara all day long."
"Why, Jonathan? Are you hiding something?"
"Of course not! But it will be uncomfortable for me."
Catherine kissed him again. "Now, don't be like that. Besides, Sara is no stranger. She is the daughter of our good friend Matthew Jones. Everything will be fine. And I really don't think that she will hover over you with her camera the whole day long."
Jonathan grumbled a bit, but in the end he gave in. "You are right. It probably won't be that bad."
***** THE NEXT DAY*****
It was late in the morning as Alexander awoke in Danielle's apartment. Quickly he scrambled out of the bed after he had looked at the watch. "Oh shit! My mother is going to kill me!" He hurried to get dressed and left the flat.
Danielle was still in bed and let him go without getting up.
Alex raced down the stairs and he was just out of the door as he nearly crashed into Karen, who walked along the street. She was very surprised to see him here. "What are you doing here? I thought you were with Liz?"
He ran a hand through his dark hair. "I'm in a hurry, so, I really cannot stay and chat with you." That said, he jumped into his red corvette and raced away in direction of the country club.
Shaking her head, Karen looked after him but then her brown eyes fell on the name tags on the door of the apartment building. One of them read Danielle Stiehl.
Taylor lay on Liz' bed and watched her sister while she was packing her suitcases.
"And how long will you be gone?"
"I don't know yet. Two, maybe three weeks."
"That long?" Taylor whined. "Am I going to get a surprise when you return?"
Liz looked at her sister and had to fight a big grin as she saw the pout that was on the teenager's face. "Was there ever a time you didn't get a present when I came back?"
Taylor smiled. "Okay, okay. I just wanted to remind you. Did you cancel that lunch with the Parkers today?"
"I said that I could not come. Catherine was not very happy about it. But you and Chris will go."
"What?" Taylor looked at her sister as if she had lost her mind. "No! There is no way that I will go there. Can't Chris go alone?"
Liz placed her hands on her hips and tried to stare her sister down. "You honestly want to leave your brother alone there, where Vicky is going to talk his ear off?"
"But... but Liz! I will be soooooooo very bored there. I'm your sister, I thought you loved me and now you want to set me up for the most evil torture?"
"Oh come on Taylor, put those sad puppy dog eyes away, you know they don't work with me."
The teenager grumbled. "Can't blame me for trying though."
"Please, sweetie, please. Do it for me. Please?"
Defeated, Taylor finally relented, but made sure that her sister could hear the suffering in her voice. "Okay, okay. The torture I willingly endure for my precious siblings..."
Liz smiled. "Good. Okay, this is the plan. Chris will drive me to the airport. Then, he comes back home to pick you up and you two go to this lunch." She closed her suitcases and remembered something important. "Oh, I nearly forgot to tell you. Your choreographer called. She wants to get together with you next Tuesday to talk about your programs for the Olympic Games."
"Oh joy," Taylor responded sarcastically. "That means my great coach will also be there and I'm sure she will again find something to nag about on the new choreographer."
Liz hugged her little sister tight to her chest. "It will go well, I'm sure. Be nice while I'm gone, okay?"
Taylor snorted. "Hey, what's that supposed to mean? I'm always nice, you know me."
Liz chuckled and pressed a tender kiss on Taylor's forehead. "Yeah, I know. I love you, sweetie."
"I love you too. Come back soon, okay?"
Victoria Parker had some problems leaving Juan's hotel room. Every time she tried to get up, he would pull her back into his arms and kiss her passionately. "Juan, Juan... I really have to go now."
"Do you really have to go?" His dark eyes that looked at her so longingly had such an effect on her that Vicky nearly gave in again. But in the end, she rose and slipped quickly into her clothes.
"Will I see you again?" came the soft question from the bedroom door of the expensive suite, where Juan stood and watched her as she put on her high-heeled shoes.
"Of course, you will. Soon."
Her hurried arrival at home was greeted by her mother. Catherine stood there with a serious expression on her face. She had her arms crossed and her right foot was tapping the marble floor in the entry hall. "Where have you been all night long, young lady?"
"Out, with friends." Vicky replied quickly, not looking into Catherine's piercing eyes.
Her mother nodded, but it was obvious that she did not believe one word of Vicky's explanation. "Is that so? Well, I hope none of the press has seen you. That would be bad for our image."
Jonathan appeared from behind and announced, "The car is ready."
"Great," replied Vicky and turned to walk up the stairs to her room. "I will just have a quick shower. I'm down in a few minutes."
"And make sure to put on another dress!" Catherine shouted after her.
At the country club, Sara lay on one of the many deckchairs, relishing the hot midday sun, as a shadow fell across her. Without opening her eyes she said, "I would like to have another drink, thank you."
"Don't you think that alcohol in this heat would be bad for you?"
Sara took off her sunglasses at the unfamiliar voice and stared at the stranger. He was tall and muscled. His laughing, blue eyes looked down at her and he brushed back some of his half long, dark-blonde hair.
"Are you a health nut or something?" Without waiting for an answer she rose from the deckchair and went inside to greet the Parker family that had finally arrived, not knowing that she would soon see the stranger again, for it was Jack Carpenter.
Chris drove his jeep in front of the house and honked a few times until the big entrance door finally opened. Taylor came storming out, followed by her wildly barking German shepherd, Tasilo.
Chris opened the passenger door for his little sister, but Tasilo reached the car first, jumped inside and crawled to the backseat where he lay down, his tail still wagging like crazy. The big dog loved riding in the car.
"Liz is on the plane. Please, get in the car, Taylor. The quicker we are there the quicker it will be over."
"I'll tell you something. I'd much rather go for three weeks to Siberia with my coach for ice bathing than having to hang out with those idiots to have lunch, " the teenager grumbled annoyed, which earned her a big grin from her brother as they drove off.
Lunch at the country club was a relatively calm affair.
Vicky's eyes were glued on Christopher' face, who sat there indifferently and did nothing to return her smoldering glances.
Taylor was bored to death while Alex tried to question her about figure skating, even though it was quite obvious that it didn't interest him in the slightest.
"It is a shame that Elizabeth can't be here today," Catherine mentioned, dabbing gently at the corners of her mouth with a napkin.
Chris nodded. "Yes, that's true. But there is nothing to be done about it when work is calling. Who knows, Tokyo might be the big chance."
At this, Alex pricked up his ears and turned to his future brother-in-law. "Tokyo? Isn't that a bit too big for you?"
Angered, Jonathan glared at his son, who quickly changed the subject. "So, Jack. Tell us. Are there any news in the cyber world? Like... uh... new mice or do you work everything with touchpads?" He laughed, but stopped quickly as he noticed his mother scowling at him as well.
"Alex! Watch it, "she hissed.
Sara was very amused as she saw the blush that suddenly spread across Alexander's features after his mother had scolded him. She thought it was interesting that this would happen to a 35 year old, adult man.
Taylor was finally so fed up with the whole situation that she rose from her chair, excused herself and disappeared in direction of the ladies room.
Sara followed her shortly after and the two girls met in front of the mirror. "You were pretty quiet throughout lunch."
"Well, I have nothing much to do with the Parkers and I try to keep it that way," Taylor explained.
Sara thought about it. "Yeah, but they are nicer than Jack. I think he is Mr. Know-It-All. Actually, I wanted to ask you something else."
"Is there something going on between your brother and Victoria?"
Taylor shook her head. "No. Even though I'm sure that Vicky would like that."
"So that means Christopher is single?"
Sara raised her hands in defense. "No worries. I was just curious, that's all. Christopher told me you have a training session this afternoon. May I accompany you and take some pictures of you?"
Taylor shrugged her shoulders. "Sure, why not."
Sara smiled at that. "Cool. Hey and, you can come back out now... Alexander and Victoria have already left."
The blonde girl grinned satisfied and followed Sara back to the table.
Chris was engrossed in a conversation with Jack. "I didn't know that you and Liz know each other."
"Know each other? We are like best friends since we met at college some years ago." Jack exclaimed in his deep voice.
"Yeah, but one thing is weird. She didn't tell me that she was about to get married."
Christopher wrinkled his forehead. How could that guy be friends with Liz and not know anything about her marriage plans?
Jonathan turned to Jack, asking, "What are your plans for today? What are you going to do after we are finished here?"
"I thought about going sailing for the afternoon. The weather is so beautiful."
"That is a wonderful idea," Catherine chimed in. She looked up as Sara and Taylor arrived back at the table and took their seats. "By the way, Sara is living on the boat of her family during her stay here."
Jack smiled. "Is that so?"
"Yes. Oh Sara, could you be a dear and take Jack back with you to the harbor? He doesn't have a car."
Sara was not excited about that, but to please Catherine she agreed. She glared at Jack and ordered, "Don't you dare nag at me about my driving style."
Still smiling, he replied, "I wouldn't dream of it, Ms. Jones."
The young photographer shot him a dirty look.
"Hey, where is Chris?" Taylor asked.
"Oh, he got called on his cell phone and had to return immediately to his art gallery," Jonathan explained and then Catherine continued, gently patting the girl's hand. "We said that we would drive you home."
Looking like a deer caught in the headlights of a car, Taylor searched for excuses. Under no circumstances did she want to spend another second in the presence of any of the Parkers. "Oh... that's nice but... uh... please don't go to any trouble because of me. I will call a cab."
"That's out of question," Jonathan said. "Why spend money like that if you don't need to?"
"I will call Karen, she can get me. It's really no problem at all."
"No, no, no." This time it was Catherine, who shot down Taylor's suggestion. "I'm sure she has better things to do. We told your brother we would bring you home and that is what we will do. End of discussion."
Sighing in defeat the teenager relented, but she was not happy about it. "Okay then."
As soon as they had reached the harbor, Sara tried to rid herself off Jack as quickly as possible. "Okay, we're here." She got out of the car and Jack stepped out too, but he didn't look as if he would leave any time soon.
Sara lost her patience. "I don't want to be impolite, but I'm in a hurry. I need to get my things ready for Taylor's training session."
"Will I see you again?"
The dark-haired woman looked at him as if he had lost his mind. "I hope not!" she hissed and strode to her father's white yacht, leaving him standing there.
Inside, she started to gather the things she would need to get some good shots of Taylor. Her mind was still circling around Jack Carpenter. "What a pompous, conceited ass."
Jack turned and walked to a little boat where some of his friends were waiting to take him sailing. He was still grinning because of Sara. "How about that? This woman has fire, I just know it."
In another part of the town, Taylor was still suffering in the car of the Parkers. Catherine had turned around so she could look at the girl that sat in the back seat and felt quite uncomfortable. "So tell me Taylor, how big do you think are your chances to win a gold medal at the Olympic Games next year?"
"Not that big," the teenager mumbled, wishing she were somewhere else.
"Really? I think you might have very good chances. I thought you were quite wonderful at the last World Championship."
Taylor rolled her eyes and murmured a little, "Thank you." Inwardly she prayed that they would finally reach the Stuart house so that she could leave and be free from the questioning.
The redeeming words finally came. Jonathan announced that they had reached their destination and stopped the car.
Taylor stepped out as fast as she could. "Have a great day Mr. and Mrs. Parker," she blurted and ran to the safety of the house.
Catherine watched her, shaking her head. "A bit introverted, don't you think? Otherwise, a nice girl."
Jonathan gave a little grunt of approval and turned the car around.
Alex sat in his office as Danielle tip-toed in. "Hey, my sweet lover boy. Do you have a little bit time for me?" she asked, her eyes blazing with desire and something else as she looked at him.
The dark-haired man was furious as he saw her standing there in a skimpy outfit. "What the hell are you doing here? Are you out of your mind?" he hissed.
"I don't know why you are so upset. Elizabeth is not here." She came closer and her voice had now this husky tone that always drove him crazy.
Alex swallowed hard. "Look, it's dangerous. My parents or anybody else could come in here any minute and catch us."
Danielle sat down on his desk. She reached out and started to stroke one of his arms with her fingertips. "If that happens then I will say I'm here for a casting."
Now that he had a closer look at her, he noticed that she was high."Yeah sure. Get out."
"You don't mean that."
Firmly he pointed at the door. "Get out! I'm not going to say it again."
Shocked she looked at him. "You cannot... you can't just throw me out of your office."
"I can't? Watch me!"
"You are going to pay for that, Alex."
"Yeah, yeah, I can't wait for that." He dragged her off his desk and pushed her to the door. "And now, get out!"
Victoria stepped out of the pool and adjusted her new bikini as Juan appeared and crooned, "Ah Bella. In front of me stands the most beautiful woman of L.A."
Vicky grinned wildly and then crooked a finger at him. "Would you like to join me in the water?"
"But I don't have something to wear for the pool..."
"So what?" Vicky asked and lifted an eyebrow, while she slowly started to open the strings of her biking top.
Juan smirked and a moment later they were enjoying themselves in the pool.
Karen appeared a few seconds later. Her jaw nearly hit the floor and quickly she stuttered an apology. "I'm sorry to interrupt, but I'm looking for Alexander. There are some things I need to talk with him about concerning the wedding."
Vicky managed to free her lips from Juan's hot kisses and gasped, "He is in his office." Then she turned back to her Latino lover.
She didn't hear Karen's mumbled, "Thank you," who disappeared wide-eyed after having been subjected to the spectacle.
Karen was about to enter Alexander's office as the door opened. A pale Danielle stumbled out and crashed into her. She managed to catch her and slowly helped her to the ground. "Dani?"
Danielle's eyes rolled back and quickly Karen felt for her pulse that was very weak. What scared her even more was that Danielle had ceased breathing and Karen started CPR immediately. She noticed Alex, who just stood there and stared at her in astonishment. "Don't stand there like that!" she shouted at him. "Call an ambulance, damn it!"
Still unmoving Alex stood at the door.
"Alex!!! Damn it, call an ambulance!"
After that he did what she told him and Karen released a relieved breath as she heard the sirens. Two men appeared and carried Danielle away.
"Wow, Karen. You were fantastic!" Alexander praised. "You saved her life. Did you see that on "ER" or something?"
Karen couldn't believe his nerve. "Do you know what Alex? You really are the biggest asshole I ever met!" She stormed out of his office, intending to follow the ambulance to the hospital.
Taylor was a bit out of breath, but her coach didn't grant her any rest, ordering her to go on.
Tatjana Yagudin, a stout Russian woman with flaming red hair and a serious face, stood beside the ice and watched her young protégée. Once upon a time, she herself had been a superstar in figure skating, long before she came to the United States to become a coach. At the moment, she had her arms crossed and watched every movement Taylor made like a hawk. "Taylor! What are you doing? I said pirouette! Just what is wrong with you today?"
The teenager was trying her hardest to please her coach, but for whatever reason she couldn't concentrate.
"Taylor, why are you fidgeting like that? Would you listen to what I'm telling you?" boomed Mrs. Yagudin's voice again and echoed through the hall. "Yes! Yes, that's more like it. And now triple Salcho."
The fear was evident in Taylor's face. Her last attempt of doing this jump had ended with a painful fall and since then she had refrained from trying it again. Better safe than sorry was her motto in that and so she had only jumped it as a double. Taylor knew that a triple jump in a program would give her much better points in the competition.
"Come on, Taylor. Do it!"
Sara entered the hall and searched for a seat close to the ice.
The young figure skater gathered all her courage and jumped. She landed safely and Mrs. Yagudin clapped her approval. "See, I knew you could do it!"
The flash of Sara's camera made the coach jerk back from her rapture. "What is the meaning of this? What are you doing here?"
Completely out of breath, Taylor raced to the other side and tried to calm down her upset coach. "It's okay. She's a friend of mine."
Sara came walking towards them, excitement clearly written all over her face. "Hey, that was just awesome. Can I take some more pictures of you?"
Taylor nodded. Muttering Russian curses, Mrs. Yagudin retreated, leaving the girls alone.
"Thanks for saving me," Taylor gasped, still trying to catch her breath.
"No problem," Sara smiled. "You owe me now, and maybe I'll collect on it later."
"Good... now what do you say? I'll tell you the poses and you just do it. Deal?"
"That's fine with me. I can rest a bit during that."
As Alexander came home, his father was already waiting for him. "It's good that you are here, son. I have something to tell you. Tomorrow morning there is a big conference concerning the new movie project and I want you to lead it. Of course, Jack will come too."
Alex fought the urge to roll his eyes. He had no interest in the stupid conference. He had no interest in work at all, but he also knew he had to do it from time to time to keep his parents happy. "Tomorrow morning? Fine. I'll be there."
"I hope so. I don't want to be disappointed again. But most of all, your mother doesn't wish to be disappointed again."
Taylor had just managed to enter the house as Tasilo stormed down the stairs and jumped at her, nearly burying the teenager underneath him. "Hey, my sweet, little doggie. Have you been a good boy?"
Whimpering in excitement and wagging his tail as if it were a propeller, Tasilo pranced around her.
She felt her pants' pocket vibrating and pulled out her cell phone. "Yes?"
"Hey, sweetie! I just wanted to tell you that I have arrived safely in Tokyo."
At the other end, Elizabeth was smiling about the enthusiastic tone. "You know I want."
"That's wonderful, sweetie. That means you are going to get the gold medal next year, huh?"
"Sweetie, I won't expect too much, I promise."
"I have a surprise for you."
Elizabeth laughed, knowing that she had hit a nerve, which was Taylor's infamous impatience. "No, no, I will not tell you. You'll have to wait until I get back."
"No, no, sweetie. Remember the saying 'Patience is a virtue.' "
"But you still love me, right?"
"Okay then. Give my greetings to Chris, Karen and Danielle. I will call again soon. Until then sweetie. I love you."
Followed closely by Tasilo, Taylor went into the kitchen to make herself some dinner and feed her dog.
An hour later Chris returned home. After Tasilo had put him through the same greeting ritual as Taylor, Christopher called out, "Taylor? Are you home?"
"I'm upstairs! Torturing the Playstation!" the girl called down.
Chris climbed up the stairs and found his sister engrossed in some Martial Arts game. "Don't you think a little bit of culture would be good for you?"
"If that means you want me to hang out with you at your boring art gallery, then no. Thanks."
"There is nothing boring about my art gallery. You just don't appreciate my art, that's all."
"Well, if your art wouldn't be so boring maybe then I would appreciate it."
Chris took his seat beside her on the couch and patted her head. "You have an answer for everything, huh, little Ms. Smarty Pants?"
Taylor just grinned and answered without taking her eyes off the screen, "That's what happens when one grows up with two older siblings."
Chris chuckled before he grew serious. "I have some bad news."
The girl halted the game and looked at her brother. "What's wrong?"
"Danielle is at the hospital."
"She is in a drug induced coma."
Taylor drew her eyebrows together in disbelief. "What?"
"I was just as surprised as you are," Chris explained and leaned back, rubbing the bridge of his nose. "I didn't know that she had problems with drugs. Karen just told me. And imagine that... Danielle broke down in front of Alexander Parker's office."
The frown on Taylor's face deepened. "What was she doing there?"
Furiously Catherine paced up and down in Jonathan's study. "Just how could this happen? A woman collapsed in our company building and right after she was in Alexander's office."
"Maybe she was sick. Perhaps she had a weak heart or something," Jonathan replied, who was standing by his desk, watching his wife.
"No, she did not!" Catherine angrily shot back. "I was told that the woman is in a drug induced coma!"
"Now, please, sweetheart, don't get so upset. Remember your blood pressure."
"What I would like to know, what's our son doing with a drug addict?"
Jonathan ran a hand through his long gray hair that fell across his shoulders. "How am I supposed to know that? Why don't you just ask him?"
Her piercing light-blue eyes flashed at him dangerously."I did that, but he won't tell me anything. Maybe it's time that you finally do your fatherly duties!" She left the office and closed the door behind her with a loud bang.
Angered, Jonathan brushed a stack of papers off his desk. "Great, just great!" He inhaled deeply a few times and then sat back down again. "When will she finally accept the fact, that our children are adults and responsible for themselves?"
He opened a drawer and took out a silver frame with an old picture. It showed a beautiful dark-haired woman with warm, deep brown eyes. "We could have been so happy, my angel. Why did fate take you and our child away from me?"
***** A FEW DAYS LATER *****
Catherine was in her office going through some papers as the phone rang. She picked up the receiver. "Hello? Catherine Parker speaking."
"Hello Catherine, it's me, Liz."
"I'm fine. I'm actually at the airport."
There was a pause at the other end before Liz answered, "It didn't work out. I'm on my way home. Actually the reason I'm calling here is because nobody is answering our phone at home and neither Chris nor Taylor are answering their cell phones. I sent them each a text message that I'm coming home tonight but who knows when they get to read it..."
Catherine went on for a few more minutes until Elizabeth agreed to do this job for her. She hung up and sent her an email with all the information her future daughter-in-law would need. Smiling, she rubbed her hands and declared to the silence in her office, "I so love it when everything goes according to my plans."
Once again Alexander was late for a very important meeting. Not thinking about anything and quite recklessly, he raced through the city. Soon, he was stopped by a police car.
An officer stepped out and demanded to see his driver's license and the papers of his car. "Do you know why I have stopped you, Sir?"
"No," Alex grumbled darkly. "I don't have the slightest idea."
"You were driving too fast."
Alex took out his wallet and wanted to give the police man 200 Dollars. "Listen. Why don't we just forget the ticket? I am really in a hurry."
The officer was now really suspicious. "Sir, please get out of the car. Put your hands on the hood and spread your legs."
Alex knew he didn't have another choice. He sighed exasperated but did as he was told.
The police man started to pat him down. As he reached the pockets of his jacket he found a little plastic bag with tiny pills. "What do we have here? Little happy pills?"
"Give me back my meds right this instant. I'm a diabetic!"
"Of course you are." He reached into the other pocket and revealed a little bag with a white powder. "And I suppose you mean to tell me that this is special powdered sugar for when your girlfriend wants to bake you a cake, right?" The officer put him in handcuffs and told him his rights.
"I know my rights, you stupid..."
"Be careful what you say, Mr. Parker. Before I hear another thing I can add as a reason for putting you in jail." The officer led him to his car and pushed him none too gently inside.
At the Parkers' movie company, Jonathan, Catherine and Jack were impatiently waiting for Alexander to make his arrival.
"Just where is that boy?" Jonathan was clearly unhappy. "I told him about 300 times to be here on time."
Catherine was worried a bit. Maybe something had happened to her only son?
Their answer came a mere second later as the phone rang.
Catherine picked it up. "Yes?... Alex? Damn it, son, where the hell are you?... What?... Is this one of your idiotic jokes?... What?!... I can't believe this... No!... NO!!! You don't say one word until our lawyer gets there! Do you understand me?... Good, until then." Catherine hung up and rubbed her face, trying to calm down a bit. Her face was red and there was a vein on her forehead that pulsed angrily. "One day that boy is going to be the death of me!"
"What's wrong?" Jonathan wanted to know.
"Call our lawyer, Steven McLure. Alex was just arrested for drug possession."
Jonathan looked at her in disbelief. "That can't be true."
"Unfortunately, it is. I will cancel the meeting and try to find a way to get rid of the media before any of this reaches the public."
"Alright, I'll see if I can reach Steven."
Jack just stood there, trying to comprehend what was going on.
Chris was sitting at Danielle's bed in the hospital.
Karen entered the room.
"Hey Karen. Were you able to contact her family?"
The blonde-haired woman sighed and dragged another chair to Christopher's side to sit down. "Yes, I talked to them but they won't come."
"It appears that the family hasn't wanted anything to do with Danielle for a few years now."
Chris shook his head. "I don't understand this. She always told us how very close she is with her family."
"Obviously that's not the only thing she's been lying about to us. Chris, you can't allow Liz to marry Alexander Parker. This bastard will destroy her just like he did with Danielle."
Chris wrinkled his forehead. "What do you mean?"
"I mean that Alex is lusting after everything that's considered female. And I believe that Danielle wasn't the only one with whom he did the nasty behind your sister's back!"
Liz was at the airport and once more tried to get a hold of either her brother or her sister. "Damn it! Where the hell are you two?" She tried their cell phones again but nobody answered. "I don't get it. Have they both dropped off the face of earth or something?" Liz was about to send each of them another text message as she was approached by a man, who wore the uniform of a pilot. "Ms. Stuart?"
"Hello, my name is Bobby Laye. Mrs. Parker sent me to fly you to Wellington in New Zealand."
Elizabeth was astonished. "A private jet? Wow."
Bobby smiled at her. "Yes. Mrs. Parker only wishes the best for her future daughter-in-law. If you would please come with me?"
Liz followed him, still amazed that Catherine had managed to provide such a service in short notice.
It was early afternoon as Taylor and Sara exited the movie theater, still laughing about the funny movie they had seen. Taylor switched on her cell phone and found that Liz had tried to call her a few times. Then the text message came through. "Hey, now that's great."
"What?" Sara asked curiously.
"My sister will come back home today. I'm supposed to pick her up at the airport after my training session."
"Cool. She was in Japan, you said?"
Taylor nodded. "I'll be glad when she's back home. I always miss her so much when she's away on business trips. I mean sure, Chris is still here and he is a great big brother, but he is not Liz."
Before Sara could reply, she heard her name being called. Turning around to look at the person, her face darkened almost immediately as she recognized Jack Carpenter.
Seeing that her new friend wasn't so happy, Taylor quickly saved the uncomfortable situation. "Hey Jack, we're in a bit of a hurry. I have to go to my training session and Sara has an important meeting concerning her job."
The smile disappeared from Jack's face. "Oh, too bad. Well, maybe another time. It was nice to see you again, Taylor. Goodbye, Ms. Jones."
He left and Sara grumbled something, which Taylor didn't understand, but she was sure it wasn't something nice.
Evening had arrived and Taylor was waiting at the airport to pick up her sister. Time went by but nothing happened. There was no trace of Liz at all. She went to one of the pay phones, fed it some coins, punched in the number and waited for Christopher to pick up. "Hello?"
"Chris, it's me."
"Taylor? Hey, is something wrong?" He sounded concerned.
"I don't know yet, but the plane has been here for 2 hours but I cannot find Liz. You know, after I switched on my cell phone earlier I saw that she had tried to call me a couple of times, then she sent a text message and after that she tried again to call a few times."
Chris thought about that. He himself had the same amount of calls and messages from Liz. "Maybe she sent the message and then something came up. She probably wanted to tell us that she is coming on a different flight."
"Yeah, could be," Taylor replied, but she couldn't shake the feeling that something was wrong.
"Listen, little one. Go home, I'll be there shortly. As soon as Liz is at the airport she's going to call us or she'll take a cab back home.
"Good. Until later."
"Yes, till then." Taylor hung up. She rubbed her forehead, thinking hard. The whole situation was just too weird to her. Something came to her mind then. "Maybe I missed her somehow and Alexander already picked her up?" With that she put some more coins in the pay phone and called the Parker residence.
She squeezed her eyes shut in pain and nearly let go of the receiver as a shrill voice screamed into her ear from the other end of the line, "I already told you paparazzi bastards about a hundred times! I WILL MAKE NO COMMENT TO THE ARRESTING OF MY SON!!!"
And suddenly the voice was soft and friendly, "Oh Taylor, sweetheart, what can I do for you?"
"Yes, of course, sweetheart. She is on her way to Wellington in New Zealand to have a look at the locations for our new movie. In about 2 weeks she will be back home," Catherine said in the sweetest tone she had.
Taylor was so stunned she just managed to stutter a thank you.
"Oh, it was my pleasure to talk to you, sweetheart. Have a great rest of your day."
It clicked, indicating that Catherine had hung up and Taylor did the same, a confused frown firmly etched into her face. "Sweetheart? Arresting of my son? Liz is in New Zealand? What the hell is going on?"
Elizabeth was sitting in a comfortable seat of the plane. She wondered once more how Catherine managed to get her to do things for her time and time again. "Just how stupid am I?" Liz mumbled to herself, glaring out of the window. "Why do I let myself get bossed around by Catherine so much?" Her self-criticism was interrupted as the plane started to shake and tremble.
Over the speakers she heard the pilot explain, "I'm sorry, Ms. Stuart. Please fasten your seat belt. There are some turbulences ahead."
Trying not to panic, the blonde woman did as she was told and fastened the seat belt. Her fingers gripped the armrests tightly. The plane was shaking stronger now. They were in the middle of a heavy storm.
Liz closed her eyes. "I don't want to die, I don't want to die," she repeated again and again. A small scream escaped her throat as the plane started to drop at lightning speed. 'Oh God, I don't want to die!' That was her last thought before the world turned black around her and she fainted.
The plane crashed into the jungle of a small island.
STAY TUNED FOR THE NEXT EPISODE...