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SPECIAL AUTHOR'S NOTE:
SPECIAL AUTHOR'S NOTE:
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"What are you watching?" she asked, curiously.
"Tomb Raider," he replied without taking his eyes off the screen.
"In French? Do you even understand a word they are saying?" This really surprised her.
"Bits and pieces."
Sara shook her head. "I don't get it. I really don't get it at all."
"What?" Jack asked, matter-of-factly.
"I don't understand how the whole male population can have the hots for Lara Croft, no matter which country they are from?"
He grinned like the Cheshire cat. "She is the most beautiful woman in the whole, wide world."
"Oh, thank you very much," she snapped and scowled.
"Hey. I wasn't done with my comment. She is the most beautiful woman in the world, right after you."
Sara put her hands on her hips. "Oh, and now you expect me to feel all flattered, or what?"
His grin widened. "The most cool about her are these two powerful things."
She snorted. "I bet, since they are constantly shown real close up."
"Well, I was talking about her neat guns but these other two things aren't that bad either."
Sara laughed and hit him with a couch pillow on the head. "Men. They are all the same!"
"Was that an insult or a compliment?" Jack inquired.
Once more she hit him with the pillow. "I'll be thinking about that."
"What is the saying? A little slap to the back of the head is supposed to be good for thinking processes. Come on, I'll help you with that," he announced, grabbed a pillow himself and only a second later they were wrapped up in a pillow fight, giggling and chuckling.
Liz lay on her bed. Lost in thought, she stared at the ceiling of her room.
There was a hesitating knocking on her door.
"Yes?" she called out.
Slowly the door opened and Samantha entered the room. She sat down next to Liz on the edge of the bed and took one of her small hands.
"What's wrong Sam? Do you need something?"
"No, I… uh… I just wanted to make sure that everything was okay with you," she replied, looking intently at the blonde.
Liz smiled. "You don't need to be concerned about me. I just need a good night's rest, that's all."
"You are sad," the brunette stated.
"What makes you think that?" Liz was surprised that the other woman was able to see right through her. "I'm just a little bit stressed."
"What happened at Alexander's house?" Sam wanted to know, not believing that stress was really the matter.
Liz turned away from the imploring blue eyes and faced the wall. "I don't want to talk about it."
"Was he mean to you again?"
"I said, I don't want to talk about it!" Liz replied harshly.
Silence fell for a moment in which Sam was just looking at the still form of her friend, who stubbornly stared at the wall.
"Maybe you should come with us to Taylor's training sessions and try some of Michiru's relaxing techniques…"
That final comment made the frustration rise to the surface that had been boiling inside her all day. "Stop it! Please, stop it, Sam! I don't want to hear one more thing about Alex or Michiru!" Tears ran down her cheeks. "I want to sleep, okay?! I just want to sleep!"
Sam was dismayed about the tears. "Don't cry, Liz. Please, don't cry." She reached out and pulled the blonde's head to rest on her lap. Stroking the soft, long hair, she whispered, "Shhh. Everything is going to be alright. Whatever is bothering you, you can tell me… I am here. I will protect you from it all, no matter what it is."
"Oh Sam," she sobbed. "I'm sorry. I'm just so tired."
"Shhh… sleep now."
Liz closed her eyes and concentrated on the feeling of warmth and safety she felt in that moment. It didn't take long and she was fast asleep.
***** THE NEXT DAY *****
The big, black limousine held in front of the cemetery's iron gate.
Jonathan stepped out of the car, holding a bouquet of white lilies in his hand. Purposeful, he walked across the cemetery until he stopped at one of the graves. On the tombstone it said, 'KAYLA PARKER - The most beautiful Angel on earth.'
Jonathan placed the flowers on the grave. "Hello Kayla, my beloved Angel. Today it's been exactly 29 years since you and our baby were taken from me. I still miss you so very much. Not a day goes by without me thinking of you. Again and again I'm cursing fate that took you so cruelly away from me, as well as our sweet daughter that I never got to see, that I never held in my arms, whose voice I never got to hear."
He fell on his knees, unmindful that his expensive suit would get dirty. "I remember clearly the day and how excited you were when you told me that you were pregnant." A lone tear slid down his bearded cheek. "That was the happiest day of my life." He knelt there, lost in thought.
Tired and worn out, Jonathan returned home from work. He fell on the couch, closed his eyes and sighed heavily.
Gentle fingertips began caressing his forehead and his eyes opened again. He smiled as he discovered Kayla, who was hovering above him. Jonathan wrapped his arms around her waist, pulled her down towards him and on the couch.
Kayla laughed. "I thought you were tired?"
"Nah. One glance into your beautiful eyes is enough to make me wide awake again," he explained, grinning.
"Oh. If that is the case then…" She leaned down, kissing him tenderly and he held her face in his hands, returning the kiss with whatever gentleness he could muster. "Oh, my Angel," he breathed.
"I have to tell you something."
Jonathan looked at her questioningly. "Okay."
"I was at the doctor's today." Noticing his frightened glance, she quickly added, "No darling, calm down. It is nothing serious. Actually it is something very beautiful."
"What is it?" he asked.
"I'm pregnant," she declared and her smile lit up the whole room.
Jonathan's smile was just as big as Kayla's. "A baby? You'll be having a baby?"
"Your baby, Jonathan," she responded, happily. "I'll be having your baby."
"Oh sweetheart. I really don't know what to say."
"Are you happy?" Kayla wanted to know.
Jonathan knelt down in front of her, pressing his face against her belly. "Now our happiness will be complete. That is the most beautiful gift somebody could ever make me. I am the luckiest man alive because soon I'm going to have a little daughter."
Kayla looked at him with a mixture of surprise and curiosity. "How can you know it's going to be a girl?"
"Ohhh, I just got this feeling," he replied and smiled up at his wife, his hands gently rubbing her tummy.
"I love you, Jonathan."
"And I love you, Kayla."
Jonathan rose and reached out a hand to stroke across the smooth, cold tombstone. "You both will be forever in my heart. Somehow… someday… I will see you again." A last heavy sigh was wrung from his throat and then he returned to the limousine.
The place was already overrun with tons of people, as the Stuart family arrived at the Disneyland area. After going through a lot of pushing and shoving, they finally managed to get their tickets to enter.
Christopher was holding a map of the amusement park. "Where to first?" he inquired, grumpy.
William frowned at his tone. "Now, what's wrong with you, huh?"
"Oh, he is just a bit offended," Taylor chimed in.
"And why is that?" William wanted to know.
"Because Karen didn't spare him one glance when we went to her place to drop off Tasilo."
"I know that this is bothering you a lot, my boy," Uncle William said. "But, we are here to have fun!" He gently rammed his elbow into his nephew's side. "Come on, smile!"
"Okay, okay, alright," Chris relented. "Let's go then and have fun." Grinning, he stormed ahead to the entrance gate and the others followed him.
"Hey guys," Liz called out. "If for some reason we lose each other in there then we will meet this evening in the hotel, okay?"
"We will not lose each other," Taylor replied. "We need Uncle Will to hold our bags while we are on the rides."
"Ha hah, very funny," William responded.
"Alright then, let's go." Liz took Sam's hand and together they marched through the gate and entered the park.
Samantha scanned her surroundings wide-eyed. From each direction impressions rained on her so that she was overwhelmed for a moment.
Liz noticed that and squeezed her hand. "Hey, is everything alright?"
Sam inhaled sharply and then nodded.
They walked a few steps and the blonde grinned as she heard William, Christopher and Taylor having a heavy discussion as to where they should go first.
A huge Mickey Mouse came towards them and Sam retreated, feeling a bit intimidated. She quickly hid behind Liz' back and peered carefully over her shoulder.
"Don't be scared, Sam. Nobody will hurt you here."
"But he is so big," the brunette replied in a small voice.
Liz went to the Mickey Mouse and wrapped her arms around him in a big bear hug. Looking at Sam she said, "See? No danger at all."
The other woman was still a bit suspicious. Hesitatingly, she drew closer to the enormous Disney character.
As she was close enough, Liz reached out and pulled her into the hug.
Chris had seen it all and he quickly got the camera out to keep this moment forever in digital form. "This will make one great picture," he commented, laughing.
A horde of screaming and squealing kids had discovered Mickey Mouse and raced towards it.
Once more Liz took Sam's hand. "Come on, guys. I can hear roller coasters and carousels call our names.
"It's about time," Taylor mumbled. She was getting impatient and had started to bounce on her heels. "I was beginning to think that you wanted to hang on to Mickey the whole day."
Danielle was sitting at the table in the kitchen and held her aching head. In front of her there was a steaming cup of chamomile tea. Its scent alone was enough to make her stomach role and churn.
Elias entered the room, greeting her in his usual happy way. "Good morning!" Smiling cheerfully, he sat down opposite her. "So? Did you sleep well?"
"Are you always in such a happy mood when you get up in the morning?" she grumbled in annoyance.
"I guess so. What kind of a bug crawled up your butt today, huh?"
Danielle's head sank to the table and she groaned. "I'm feeling sick."
"What do you think is causing it?" he inquired gently.
"I don't know. My head is pounding, my mouth is dry, sometimes I break into a sweat for no reason," she complained, trying hard not to whine even though she really felt like it.
Elias looked at her intently. "Maybe you caught yourself a little virus or something… during one of your little nightly trips."
Danielle jerked in surprise. She had not thought that he would know about that. "I don't know what you are talking about."
"Are you denying that you crept out of the house again last night?"
"I couldn't sleep so I went for a walk," she explained quickly, hoping that he would leave her alone.
"If it is only that, then why are you making such a big secret out of it?"
"I'm not doing that!" she snapped, getting angry.
"I think you do," Elias responded, calmly. "Danielle…"
"You know what," she interrupted him roughly. "This senseless discussion is of no good. I'll go back to bed." With that she left him standing there and went to her room.
"Great!" he called after her. "I'm glad that we can talk so well. We should do that more often!"
Norman entered the house. "Thank God, they all went away on that weekend trip. It will give me enough time to find something." He walked up the stairs to the second floor and stopped in front of the door to Liz' room. "Hopefully I'm going to find something useful." Norman went inside and began snooping around, going through cupboards, the wardrobe and drawers, searching each corner of the room. After a while his gaze found the medallion that was on Liz' desk. Norman grinned. "Bingo! This is the absolute bull's eye!" He took it in his hands and looked closely at it from each angle. "Oh yes. This little piece of jewelry should be enough to make beads of sweat appear on Catherine Parker's forehead. Let's see how arrogant you'll be after you've seen that. I'm sure this charming good luck charm will bring you down from your high place."
"Oh man! That was so absolutely cool!" Taylor exclaimed happily, talking about the roller coaster they had just ridden. "Too bad that you are not allowed to ride it twice in a row."
"That's quite good," Chris mentioned. "Another wild ride like that and the constant grin would be etched into our faces forever."
"Okay, let's take a little break," Liz suggested. "Besides, I'm getting hungry."
William nodded. "I can only agree with that."
Christopher looked at him questioningly. "Why? So far you were on no ride."
"I can do without that, thanks. Just watching you and those other crazy people makes me dizzy. But, it is costing a lot of energy to hold all your bags, you know?"
Chris chuckled. "Okay, let's find something to eat before our Uncle will fall out of his shoes in weakness."
"Can we go to the action cinema afterward?" Taylor wanted to know.
"I think that will be a bit too much for Sam," Liz answered. "But, you can go with Chris. I'll go with Sam to watch the parade and we will meet again after the fireworks. Okay?"
Taylor nodded, grabbed the arm of her big brother and dragged him with her.
"Hey, wait for me!" William called after them "I want to go with you to the action thingie."
"I thought you said you wanted a break and something to eat?" Liz asked, raising both eyebrows in astonishment.
William made a declining hand motion. "Later, later. Now I want some action!" That said, he hurried after Christopher and Taylor.
"Come on, Sam. We will get us something to eat and search for a place where it is a little bit calmer."
They got themselves a Hot Dog and sat down in the shade of a big tree, a bit away from all the hustle and bustle, screaming kids and their stressed parents.
Wrinkling her forehead, Sam stared at the sausage in the bun. "But why is it called Hot Dog?"
Liz shrugged her shoulders. "Frankly, I really have no idea. I can assure you though that no dog got turned into meat for this. I swear."
Feeling better about it now, Sam took a bite. "Mhhh," she moaned in appraisal. "It does taste good."
"I'm glad," Liz said and ate hers.
After they had finished their quick meal, Liz reached for Sam's hand to help her up off the ground. "You are going to like the parade. You'll get to see many Disney characters there."
The blonde grinned. "You really loved the Tarzan show we saw earlier, didn't you?"
Sam nodded. "It was a little bit like being in my jungle."
"Are you homesick for Vanuatu?" Liz inquired carefully. She wasn't sure if she was going to like the answer that would follow.
Sam looked at her feet. "I miss Shakira," she admitted.
"Oh Sam. I'm so sorry."
The brunette shook her head. "No, no. It's okay. Yes, I do miss Shakira, but here with you I have so many things that I never had. For the first time I have a real family."
Liz was so touched by Sam's words that tears welled up in her eyes and she hastily blinked them away. "It is wonderful that you are feeling comfortable with us."
The brunette smiled. "Yes, I do. You, your brother and your sister have accepted me just as I am."
"Oh yeah. Taylor absolutely adores you and you also don't have to be afraid of Chris. As for Uncle William… I admit he can be a bit much sometimes, especially loud, but he really is a nice guy. Now, we have a parade waiting for us. So, let's get going." Liz turned to go, expecting Sam to follow her.
"Wait a second."
The blonde whirled around and looked at her questioningly.
Sam stepped in front of her and leaned closer. "You have something there." She lifted her hand and tenderly used her thumb to wipe a mustard smudge away from the corner of Liz' mouth.
Liz' eyes closed at the tender touch and a feeling of warmth traveled through her body.
Her eyes flew open and looked directly into Sam's. 'Oh, these eyes… These wonderful, beautiful, amazing, blue eyes…'
"Liz? Are you okay?"
Blushing brightly, Liz tore her eyes away from the intense stare and looked at the ground, clearing her throat. "Yes, everything is fine."
"Are you sure?"
"Yes." She forced a reassuring smile to her face, hoping that Sam would not ask her anymore.
Jonathan sat in his study. He tried to distract himself with work but it was in vain. Once more memories of his life with Kayla rose.
Kayla was showing him the ultrasound picture of their unborn child. "Do you see that? Here is the head. Here are the little arms and here are the little legs," she pointed out, smiling happily.
"I don't see anything. Just a confusing mix of black and white."
"Oh Jonathan," she sighed.
"No really. I can't see anything that is supposed to look like a baby. I think I'll be patient the next coming seven months and wait till I can hold our little precious child in my arms. I definitely want to be there when the birth starts."
Kayla smiled and tenderly stroked his cheek. "You better be there, right beside me. I need you to hold my hand through the pain."
He kissed her and held her tight. "Don't worry, I'll be there the whole time."
A hand landed on his shoulder and brought him back to the present.
"Daddy? Daddy is everything alright?" Victoria asked.
"Oh, Vicky, sweetheart. I didn't hear you enter."
She nodded. "I know. You were lost in thought."
He rubbed his face tiredly and then looked at his daughter. "What can I do for you?"
"I just wanted to tell you that it's time to get dressed."
He blinked in confusion. "What for?"
Vicky sighed and rolled her eyes. "Don't tell me you forgot."
"Forgot? What?" His confusion grew.
She put her hands on her hips and looked at him exasperated. "You wanted to go to the ballet with Mommy and me!"
"To the ballet?"
"Yes! You promised me that weeks ago!"
Jonathan thought about it and far in the dark recesses of his mind he could remember that he indeed had promised that. "Yes, that's right. I did say that. Okay. Which ballet was it again?"
"'Swan Lake'," Vicky replied, helpfully. "Now, get going. It's not long anymore till it starts."
"Alright. I'll be getting ready."
Victoria left the room and Jonathan sighed heavily. He felt a painful tug at his heart and buried his face in his hands. "'Swan Lake'… why the hell must it be 'Swan Lake'? From dozens of ballets it has to be Michiru's favorite one."
***** THE NEXT DAY *****
Hand in hand, Sara and Jack walked along the 'Champs Elyseès'. In front of a stall with souvenirs they stopped. Sara took a miniature Eiffel tower in her hands and looked at it. "You know, we have to get up there too."
Jack shook his head vehemently. "Oh no, no way. Not with me."
"Why? Is little Jacky-Boy scared of heights?"
"Nonsense!" he denied. "It's the tourists. Do you know how many people will be trying to be up there? All that pushing and shoving. No thanks. I can do without that."
"But the view from up there is supposed to be extraordinary," Sara continued. "I have to see that!" she insisted.
He thought about it and came up with a brilliant idea. "Why don't I rent us a little plane or helicopter. We can have a flight above the city, just you and me. There won't be any tourists to get on our nerves. Also, there won't be any screaming kids. It will be only you and I and the city of love. What do you say?"
She smiled. "Well, I have to admit it sounds very enticing."
"I knew you would see it my way," he replied, grinning.
Sara chuckled. "You are so full of yourself."
"Is that a problem?"
"No, not at all. I like men, who know what they want."
He bent forward and growled into her ear, "I want only you."
His hot breath and the words caused a pleasant shiver to spread over her back.
Samantha took one final look around. She had to say goodbye now to this wonderful, magical land and it made her a bit sad.
Chris took some more pictures and Uncle William was quite the willing model, making faces at the camera while everybody laughed.
"What do you think, Chris," he asked. "How many pictures did you take during this trip?"
The young man shrugged his shoulders. "A lot. Hopefully they will all turn out beautiful."
Taylor chuckled. "Yeah, especially those of Sam and the big fat Mickey Mouse. I believe she's hugged every Disney character of the whole park."
"You know, I liked the fireworks and the parade with the tons of lights the best. I think I feel myself newly inspired," Christopher remarked. "Well, and we had so much fun like we didn't have in a long, long time."
"I can only say that I will never go into this action cinema thingie again," William muttered.
Liz looked at him in surprise. "But you wanted to go there so badly."
"Yes. But, my dear niece and nephew could have told me that they would have a Star Wars battle in there and that the seats would be moving. I have bruises all over."
"That's the price for action," Taylor chimed in, smiling innocently.
William snorted disdainful. "Next time I much rather watch the parade."
They walked by the teacup carousel and Liz noticed Samantha's longing gaze. "Hey, you've ridden that at least seven times. Would you like to go again?"
The brunette's eyes lit up in incredible happiness and she nodded.
"Well, go ahead then. We will wait here."
Sam didn't like that too much. Quickly, she grabbed Liz' hand and dragged the blonde with her.
"One thing is for sure," William said, smiling as his niece and her friend went off to ride the teacup carousel once more. "Sam really likes carousels."
"Oh, Uncle Will. You should have seen her on the day of her arrival. At the airport, she was riding on the luggage carousels," Taylor told him.
He could see that picture in his mind and chuckled. "Yeah, I bet everybody present had never seen anything like that before."
"That's for sure. The eyes of many people popped out of their heads that day."
Completely stressed out, Catherine returned home from work. With a loud bang she closed the door and threw her briefcase in the corner.
Isaac came from the kitchen and gave her a stack of letters. "The mail, Ma'am."
Catherine just nodded, went into the living room, to the small bar and poured herself a big glass of gin tonic. Frowning, she had a look at the mail, going over the different envelopes. "Invoice, advertisement, invoice, invoice, invoice, advertisement. It is always the same," she growled. Her heart skipped a beat as she discovered another of the white envelopes without any writings on it but her name. With trembling fingers she opened it to find a letter that once more had been pieced together with words from magazines and newspapers. "Midnight… at the harbor… just what does he have in his hands? God, just what am I supposed to do? If it is really Norman Kent… if he has evidence… But that can't be! I protected this secret for 29 years! No! There is no way that this homeless bastard is going to destroy my life. I will prevent that from happening at any cost!" she swore and her mind began working feverishly.
Uncle William was already sitting in the plane and was back on his way to Scotland. The rest of the Stuart clan had gotten Tasilo from Karen's place and then returned to their house.
Sam went upstairs to change.
"Hey Liz," Chris said. "Have you checked the mail box?"
"Why? Are you expecting any mail?" She looked at him and raised her eyebrows. "I really don't think that Karen will bombard you with love letters any time soon."
"Ha hah, very funny."
Taylor chose that moment to appear and she held the mail in her hands. "Hey Chris, here is a letter for you."
He practically tore it from his sister's hands. He ripped the envelope open and read the letter, his grin getting bigger and bigger with each passing second. "I did it!" he announced happily.
"What?" Liz wanted to know.
"You know that a while ago I applied for this position where they were searching for somebody, who would like to draw for cartoons and animated movies?"
Liz nodded. "Yes, I remember. Does that mean they want you?"
He gave her a thumbs-up. "Yeah, that's exactly what they are saying."
"That's just awesome," Liz whooped and hugged her brother. "I am so happy for you, Chris."
"I am very happy too," the artist replied.
Taylor joined in the hug. "Wow, that really is so cool. My brother will create cartoons and animated movies. We have to tell Uncle Will tomorrow about it. He will freak in joy."
Unfortunately, their happiness was only short-lived.
Devastated and her face covered in tears, Sam came storming down the stairs. "LIIIIIZ!!!"
The blonde grew immediately concerned. "Hey, what's wrong?"
Liz reached for her and guided her to sit on the couch. "Come here. Sit down. Now, tell me. What's gone?"
"My medallion," Sam sobbed, distressed.
"I put it on the desk in my room," Liz told her calmly.
"It's not there anymore! It's gone!"
The blonde gently patted her knees. "Just don't get upset. Try to calm down. We will find it. It can't just disappear."
"Are you sure you put it on the desk?" Christopher inquired.
Liz rubbed her forehead. "Yes, I really put it there."
"We will help searching," Taylor said and they went upstairs.
Restlessly, Catherine was pacing at the arranged meeting place. "Just where is he," she growled under her breath and scowled. "First he wants me to come here in the middle of the night and then he doesn't make an appearance!"
"He has been here for quite some time," a voice said and Norman stepped out of the shadows. "I just had to make sure that you were following my exact orders and that you came here alone."
Catherine crossed her arms in front of her chest, glaring at him. "So, what exactly is it that you want from me?"
Norman couldn't believe her nerve. She was still the same arrogant bitch as she had been 29 years ago. "I thought that would be quite obvious," he retorted. "I want my money! Each and every goddamn cent that you owe me!"
Catherine decided to play dumb. "I don't know what you are talking about."
"I thought as much. Okay then, I'm going to help your bad memory to recover somewhat. 29 years ago, we had a deal. I was supposed to get rid of your little problem and with the money you would give me, I wanted to pay off my gambling debts. I fulfilled my part of the deal, you didn't."
"Can you prove that we had a deal?" she asked, lurking. "As I see it, you are just some kind of leech that's trying to get a lot of money from me."
Norman tried to stay calm, but her arrogant behavior slowly made him angry. "So, you want it the hard way then, huh? As you wish, you can have that! I'm sure the police will be very interested in this. Oh, and not to mention the trial that's going to follow. Actually, I already can see the headline that will grace each newspaper: 'Head of the Parker Clan behind bars.' Sure has a nice ring to it, wouldn't you agree?"
"You would not dare to go to the police!" Catherine raged.
Norman shrugged his shoulders. "Why not? I don't have anything to lose, because I don't have anything and I'm the lowest of the low! You made sure of that!"
"That's absolutely ridiculous," she spat furiously. "You don't have anything, absolutely nothing that would prove any part of your wild story. They will declare you crazy and send you off to a madhouse!"
He chuckled. "Oh yeah. You are so sure of yourself, aren't you?" Carefully, he pulled the medallion from his pants' pocket. The silver of the delicate necklace sparkled in the moonlight.
Catherine's light blue eyes widened in disbelief and she grew pale as she recognized the piece of jewelry. "How… how is this possible? Where did you get that?" she gasped in surprise.
"I just want my money. Everything else is unimportant."
Silence fell in which each tried to stare down the other.
"I'm waiting for an answer, Mrs. Parker. Will you now keep your part of the deal?"
"I… I'll think about it," she replied hesitatingly.
Norman raised an eyebrow. "Yes, do that and think good. Else it will be bye-bye High Society and hello Jail. I will get in contact with you again soon." He disappeared into the darkness of the night.
Angry beyond belief, she kicked a wheel of her car. "Damn it!!!"
***** ONE WEEK LATER *****
Michiru and Billy were sitting in the living room of her loft, having breakfast.
"You are really sure that you want to do that?" he mumbled around a bite of toast.
Michiru rolled her eyes. "For the hundredth time, Billy, yes."
"You are also sure that you can manage that in your condition? I mean, not only will you have to take care of Taylor but also of yourself. Most of all, you have to think about your baby."
She folded her hands and looked at him pleadingly. "Would you please finally stop worrying? I know what I'm doing. I also know what I'm capable of and what not."
"But your condition…"
"Is just very wonderful," she interrupted him quickly and finished his sentence. "I'm just pregnant and not an invalid, okay?" Michiru snapped. Billy was really beginning to get on her nerves.
He raised his hands in a calming gesture. "Alright, alright, don't get upset before your kimono flies away."
"Then stop your silly babbling!"
Billy poked out his lower lip, pouting like a reprimanded child. "Okay. And what am I supposed to do here all the time on my own?"
She sighed impatiently. "Take care of my loft, water my plants and flowers, play with Bombalurina and Demeter and do whatever else comes to your mind."
Billy wrinkled his nose. "I don't think that your cats really want me for company."
As if on cue, both got off the couch and rubbed themselves against Billy's legs, purring in happy contentment.
Michiru grinned cheekily. "I think they just proved you wrong on that statement."
"The little traitors," Billy growled playfully. "Alright, I will be your plant and cat sitter but only if you get me something nice from Beijing."
"You can count on that," Michiru promised.
Taylor was in the process of packing her bags for the big trip to Peking. "Okay, I think I have everything. I better charge my cell phone again. Oh, I nearly forgot… the MP3-Player and something to read." She stowed everything into her big traveler bag. After she had closed the zippers, she sat down on her bed. "Tomorrow, I will already be in Beijing. Wow, I'm sure it's going to be very cool."
Taylor looked up from the carpet and discovered Samantha, who was leaning against the frame of the open door. "Hey Sammy. What's the sad face for? Did something happen?"
Sam shook her head.
"I'm done packing. Would you like to watch some more cartoons with me?"
The brunette nodded and followed Taylor to the living room.
"Alright. Which one?" the teenager inquired. "Tarzan?"
The sadness disappeared from Sam's face as she nodded and grinned.
"I thought as much," the girl responded smiling and put the DVD in.
They both sat down on the comfortable leather couch and waited for the movie to begin.
"Sammy, could you please do me a favor?"
Bright blue eyes wandered from the screen to Taylor's face and looked at her attentively.
"When I'm not here, could you please take care of Tasilo and play with him?"
Sam patted a small hand and nodded.
"Thank you," Taylor responded. "Also, please, have an eye on my sister. Especially when that asshole Alexander is around. I still don't understand why Liz doesn't just send him packing. It was a good thing that you were there at the beach to help her. Who knows, it could have ended real bad. That just reminded me… I have something for you." Taylor stormed to her room and came back a moment later, holding a black T-shirt. "You know, since you are now officially the bodyguard of my sister, of course you need an uniform." She unfolded the shirt. On the front was a big red S encased by a yellow pentagon with a red rim. "Do you see that?" Taylor asked. "That is the sign for 'Super Sam - The Invincible'," the teenager declared.
Sam grinned and wrapped her arms around the completely surprised girl, who had not expected such a reaction at all.
Taylor laughed. "I guess this means you like it?"
Instead of finally saying something, Sam just tightened her grip to a bone-crushing hug.
"Okay, okay," the girl gasped, trying to get some air, "a little 'yes' would have done too."
Victoria lay on her back on top of her bed, resting her legs against the wall and lamented. "Oh Jack! Just where are you? Just how could I reach you? If only I knew in which hotel you checked in, in Paris. Why didn't you leave me your cell phone number?"
She turned over on her belly, her thin arms hung over the edge of the bed and her fingertips danced across the fluffy, pink carpet. "For almost two weeks now he is in that damn Paris! Just what is taking so long? And I am here, all alone. I can't sleep, I can't eat… damn it all!" Vicky sighed heavily. "I never had such strong feelings for any man. Not for Juan, not even for Christopher. Oh, Jack… I miss you so much and long for your presence. Hopefully you will be back soon."
Not knowing that back in L.A. another woman would cut out her heart to be with him, Jack was in the lobby of the hotel, waiting for the arrival of Sara. He wore a fine tuxedo. Once again he looked at his watch. "If she's not coming soon then they are going to start without us," he muttered to himself. They had read a small flyer from the hotel. There it said that today would be 'An Evening Of Romance', complete with candlelight dinner and soft, romantic music for the people, who wanted to dance. Again he looked up the stairs, didn't see anything, so his eyes returned to his watch. "I'm really wondering what could take so long to slip into a dress."
Finally, Sara appeared in a black cocktail dress.
As Jack saw her, he swallowed hard and his mouth ran dry. He tried very hard to keep from staring at the vision of beauty that came closer.
Smiling gently, Sara stopped in front of him. "Hi. I am sorry it took so long, but I had some trouble with the zipper."
His mouth gaped open and he stared at her in fascination.
"Jack?" She waved her hand in front of his unseeing eyes. "Jack? Breathe, before you pass out."
Loudly, he inhaled. "My god, honey. You look incredibly beautiful," Jack praised.
She smoothed out some non-existent wrinkles and beamed at him. "You like it?"
"I'd say that 'like' is not the right word. You look absolutely adorable. I love this dress and what it does to enhance your beauty."
"I guess it served its purpose then," Sara replied.
Jack nodded and leered at her, playfully. He bent forward to whisper into her ear, "Actually, right now I had a vision of you without this dress."
He grinned, "1:0 for me."
Slapping his arm, she hissed, "You really are impossible." But she wasn't mad at him. In fact, she felt wonderfully flattered.