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More than just a little tipsy, Karen staggered into her apartment, followed by Juan. She had barely managed to close the door behind them, as she found herself in his sultry embrace.
"Oooooh, you're quite passionate, aren't you?" Karen slurred.
Juan just grinned. "There's nothing I can do about that. I'm a Latino boy. I was born passionate. It's in my blood," he explained, while his eyes dropped to her cleavage and he licked his lips. "Besides, who would be able to resist a hot woman such as yourself?"
She freed herself from his grasp. "Oh, and you are charming too." She giggled. "Really Juan, it was a very nice evening and I had a great time with you."
He reached for her once more and their faces were so close that only an inch was between their lips. "You know," he whispered against her mouth. "I could make this evening unforgettable."
Both closed their eyes as their lips met. Karen moaned lustfully and Juan took that as sign to deepen the kiss. Breathlessly, they parted after a while and he pulled her firmly against his body, covering her throat with hungry kisses.
Her eyes still closed, Karen got lost in the gentle touches. "Oh Chris!" she moaned.
Abruptly, Juan stopped. "What?"
Her eyes flew open as she noticed the mistake she had just made.
The singer's pride was hurt. "I'm showing you all my passion and you are thinking about the one man that hurt you and disappointed you so much?" He couldn't believe it.
"I think it's better that you leave now," Karen muttered in a small voice.
"Yes!" Juan exclaimed angrily. "I think so too!" Storming out of her apartment, he closed the door with a bang behind him.
She sank down on the couch and buried her face in her hands. "Why?" Karen sighed. "Why can I not just forget you, Chris?"
It was late after midnight as Taylor returned home. The concert had been great. Ever since she had seen her favorite band live and got to talk with them, thanks to the VIP cards from Victoria, she was the happiest human being on earth.
Tasilo was the first to greet her. Wagging his tail, he came racing down the stairs, followed by Christopher.
Taylor rolled her eyes. She knew that she was in for another speech by her brother.
"So," he began. "How was it? Did you have fun?"
"Cool," she replied, indifferently. "How was your party?"
"Great. Sara really outdid herself, making the party something very special."
"Yeah, I bet," the teenager hissed, acidly.
Chris ignored it and continued, "She also had a big surprise for you, but you were not here."
"Like I said, I don't care about any stupid surprises from her!"
"She hired 'No Doubt' just for you!"
Taylor hesitated a second before exploding, "So what?! She only did that to get me wrapped around her finger too. Besides, it may be that you have not noticed, due to the rose-colored glasses that you are wearing, but 'No Doubt' are out!"
Christopher's eyes widened in shock that his sister would talk back to him like that. "Just what's gotten into you? You have changed completely. Since when are you hanging out with Victoria Parker anyway?"
"She is at least somebody I can count on. She won't leave me hanging. She's listening to me when I say something, and she's not using my friendship for her own purposes, like other certain people did!"
"NO! Cannot just everyone leave me alone? I'm tired. I'll go to bed now. Come on, Tasilo."
Chris watched his sister disappear into her room. Then he sat down on the stairs.
A moment later, Sara joined him and sat down beside him.
The artist sighed, "You were right."
"Really? About what?" she asked.
"It's of no use to talk with her."
"Well, you were right too," Sara said and elbowed him gently.
"Yeah... the stupid, Scottish stubbornness runs in the family."
Despite the difficult situation Chris snorted, which in turn made Sara laugh and soon they were giggling and chuckling away on the stairs.
***** A FEW WEEKS LATER - ONE DAY BEFORE THE WEDDING *****
Together with her bridesmaid Victoria, Sara went over the schedule for the upcoming wedding once more. "Did you understand everything? It is important that all goes according to plan so that Chris and I can go off for our honeymoon on time. One more thing, Vicky. Stop flirting with my man!"
"I really don't know what you mean," Victoria responded innocently.
"You really expect me to believe that? Accept it that you can't win Chris. What I find the most evil is that you involved Taylor in your nasty schemes."
"I really don't know what you are talking about."
Vicky's indifference made Sara angry. "It is completely unimportant! No matter what you are planning, it won't work!" She pulled a copy of the schedule from her briefcase. "Here is the schedule. Don't be late." With that, she left Victoria sitting there and left the little café.
Victoria eyed the sheet of paper and an idea popped into her mind. "So Sara, you are planning some big fireworks before you go on a honeymoon cruise with my beloved man? I will ensure that you won't forget that experience." A devilish grin appeared on her face and an evil glint in her eyes. "Before that though, I will do something else. When the priest says the special words, asking if there is anybody who has to say anything against this wedding... then I will stand up and declare that I love Christopher." She sighed, enraptured by this vision her mind had just conjured up. "This will be a very dramatic appearance." Victoria grinned and folded the sheet of paper.
Danielle was looking out of the window of her hospital room.
Jack entered, smiling brightly. "I wish you a wonderful day."
"Wow, you are in a very good mood today," she commented and returned his smile.
"Come with me, I would like to introduce you to somebody."
Danielle looked at him questioningly. "Is it somebody whom I don't remember?"
"No, but what would you say if I bring you to somebody, who can help you with your memories?"
"What do you mean, Jack?"
"Professional help, Dani. I think it's time to see a psychologist," he explained.
Her eyes widened in shock. "You want me to go to one of those mad shrinks? Never!"
"Why not?" he asked. "I thought you said you wanted your memories back?"
"Of course, but I'm sure I can accomplish that without a therapist. Most of them are out of their minds more than their patients and after the therapy one is crazier than before."
The computer specialist wasn't about to give up. "Listen to me, Dani. I have a suggestion to make. Have a look at him. Listen to what he will have to say. We won't have to go there ever again if you still find him horrible after that first visit, okay? I already met him and he is very nice. I'm sure, he will be able to help you."
Danielle was still skeptical. "Really?"
Jack nodded and looked at her, hoping that she would go with him to see the psychologist.
She pondered this for a moment and then relented. "Alright. Let's go visit Dr. Freud so that he can tell me what a nutcase I am."
"His name is Elias Lunaris."
"Oh, that sounds kinda familiar..."
Taylor rolled her eyes. "Why do you have to go see your mother right now?" she whined. There was no way that she wanted to be in the presence of Catherine Parker.
Vicky sighed. "Listen. You don't need to come into her office with me. I just need to get something and then we can go and have fun, okay?"
"Okay," the teenager agreed. "I'll wait here in the corridor. Just remember, I still have a training session later today."
The model put a fake smile on her face. Who would have thought that having a friendship with someone would take up so much time? "I'll be back so quickly you won't even notice that I was gone."
Taylor snorted. "Yeah, right. I'll stop the time, racer."
Victoria chuckled. "You are such a little fun cracker." Then she disappeared into the office of her mother.
Bored out of her skull, Taylor looked at the paintings that decorated the walls. It was weird, abstract stuff.
Suddenly, Jonathan stepped out of his office. "Taylor, now that's a surprise. What are you doing here?"
"I'm waiting for Vicky. We want to visit the archeological museum," the girl replied, coldly. She hoped he would disappear again and leave her alone. But sadly, she didn't have such luck.
"Oh, that's interesting. How is your training going?"
Undecided, Jonathan was starting to nibble on his lower lip, only to blurt in the next moment, "I really need to talk with you."
Taylor frowned. "About what?"
"Follow me. It's important that I speak with you alone."
The girl didn't like that too much, but went with him into his office.
Jonathan closed the door. "Please, have a seat."
"No thanks, I like standing better," she declined.
He shrugged his shoulders. "Whatever. Would you like something to drink?"
Taylor crossed her arms in front of her chest and one sneaker-covered foot started to tap the fine, Persian carpet. "Could you please tell me what you want from me?" she asked, impatiently. "I have other things to do and most of all I have a training session later too."
Jonathan fixed himself a drink and emptied the glass in one swallow. "Alright, I'll make this short. It's about Michiru. How much do you want?"
Taylor was by now completely confused. "What?"
Christopher jogged along the beach. Completely out of breath, he stopped running and walked a bit.
"Hey, Stuart? Still in poor shape? You look downright exhausted," came a voice from behind him.
He closed his eyes for a second to gather inner courage and then he turned around.
Alexander stood there in his expensive jogging outfit. He had his arms crossed in front of his chest and wore a huge grin on his face.
"I don't think my shape is any of your business," Chris retorted.
"Believe me, it is of no interest to me at all. I'm just here to warn you."
"Oh really?" The blonde man raised his eyebrows. "About what?"
Alexander's eyes narrowed to tiny slits. "You are going to marry Sara tomorrow. To me, she is something like a sister. If I find out that you're treating her bad, you're going to regret the day that you were born. I swear!"
Chris lost his cool. "Now you listen to me! I don't like being threatened. Especially not by a pompous ass such as yourself!" He turned around to leave, but then turned back to the dark-haired man and added, "Another thing. Keep your sister, the schemer, away from Taylor! It's not easy for her at the moment. The silly babbling of Vicky is only making her more insecure!" With that, he finally left and Alex could do nothing, but look on dumb-founded, while Chris walked away from him. "Interesting," he mumbled. "When did the dreamer grow a spine?"
Taylor was still in Jonathan's office. She looked at him, wrinkling her forehead. "I have no idea what you are talking about."
"Does Michiru know that you know me?" Jonathan asked.
"Does she know that I have a family?"
"No. But she is talking about you as if you were the greatest man on earth."
A small smile appeared on his face. "Good, good. And that is how I want it to stay. It's a secret between you and me."
Taylor scowled. "I don't want to have anything to do with your dirty, little secret! Do you know what will happen if Michiru finds out what you are doing?"
He looked at her firmly. "She won't, if you don't say anything. What amount should I put on the check?"
"I can't believe it," the girl exclaimed. "I don't want any money from you!" She was about to go but Jonathan held her back. "Please, Taylor. I'm desperate! Tell me what you want and I'll do it!"
Taylor thought about it for a moment. "There is one thing that I want you to do, but not in order to buy my silence. I want you to keep your wife away from our company."
"I don't know how successful I will be. I swear, I will give it my best," he promised.
"I still think you should tell Michiru the truth. Sooner or later she will find out about it."
Jonathan shook his head. "I can't. I'll lose her if I do that."
"You should ask yourself whom do you love more; Catherine or Michiru. And then set your priorities. In the long run, your little game will fail. And in the end, you will lose everything." With that statement, Taylor finally left his office.
Jonathan took out the picture of Kayla and stared at it. "I've already lost everything. I don't want to go through that a second time."
***** THE DAY OF THE WEDDING *****
Matthew smiled happily as Sara stepped into the living room of the yacht, wearing her wedding dress. Happiness was also clearly visible on her face and she was beaming. Her father hugged her. "Dear, you look absolutely wonderful."
"Oh Daddy, I'm so excited. This is going to be the most beautiful day of my life."
"Yes, I'm sure of that," he agreed, his smile just getting even brighter.
She looked down at herself, her fingers tenderly stroking over the fabric of the dress. "What do you think? Will Chris like the dress?"
"He will be absolutely enraptured once he sees you," Matthew replied and then laughed. "Even if not, I'm sure he loves you so much that he would marry you if you would wear a potato sack."
"Yes, he is such a wonderful man," Sara gushed once more. "He's been through a lot in his young life but still he doesn't give up."
Matthew nodded. "I know, fate wasn't exactly kind to him and his family. He is a remarkable, young man."
Sara looked at her watch. "Oh, we have to go now. Daddy it's time to meet the photographer."
He was still skeptical about his daughter's idea. "Are you really sure that you want to do that? You know it will cause bad luck if the groom sees the bride before the wedding..."
"Daddy, you know that I'm realistic and that I don't believe in such silly stuff," she interrupted him and rolled her eyes. "Now please put on your suit or else we will be late. I want my wedding day to be perfect. Nothing is allowed to go wrong."
Many miles away from Los Angeles, Liz was sitting in the tree house, making a new mattress out of palm leaves for Shakira. During a nightmare, the female panther had ripped her old one to shreds. As she heard a sound from the entrance, the blonde looked up. "Oh my God, Sam!" she exclaimed in shock. "What happened?"
The brunette entered the house, her face a mask of pain. Her right side was covered in abrasions, some of the wounds were bleeding.
Liz put aside her work and wanted to help Sam over to the bed.
"No, wait. Let's go over there before I bleed all over everything."
As she helped the jungle woman in one of the corners, she noticed that Sam's breathing sounded weird. "Are you in pain when taking a breath? Have you broken anything?"
"No, just bruised."
Liz raised her eyebrows. "Are you sure?"
"Believe me," Sam responded. "I know firsthand what broken ribs feel like."
The business woman went to get some pieces of cloth and a bowl with water. She began to clean the wounds as best as she could.
Sam gritted her teeth. The pain was unbearable, but she didn't want to appear weak in front of Liz.
The blonde woman tried to divert Sam's attention off the pain. "It's still raining like crazy out there. When is it going to stop?"
"I don't know."
The expressionless voice had Liz worried. "Sam, what happened? Did an animal attack you?"
Sam shook her head slowly.
Carefully, Liz wrapped her ribs after helping her out of the soaked clothes and into a dry, light cotton shirt. She discovered a laceration above Sam's eyebrow and cleaned that too. "If it wasn't an animal, what happened then?"
Sam averted her eyes and didn't answer. She was so embarrassed by what happened and that she needed Liz' help.
Gently cupping the face of the brunette, she looked her deeply in the eyes. "Please, Sam. Tell me what happened," Liz begged her softly.
Quietly the jungle woman began to talk. "I wasn't paying attention, slipped and fell off a tree."
The blonde stroked her cheek gently. "That's not bad. That could happen to anybody."
"Not me!" Sam insisted.
"Sam, after all, you are just human."
"Something like that must not happen to a warrior! Every mistake has consequences especially in an environment like the jungle. What would have happened if the fall would have killed me? What would have become of you then?"
"That doesn't matter at the moment," Liz replied.
Sam wanted to protest, but the blonde placed a finger over her lips. "Shhhh. Don't get upset, think about your bruised ribs."
Cleaned and wrapped up, Sam was supported by Liz and slowly brought over to her bed. "Rest now and try to sleep a little bit," Liz said and ran her fingers tenderly through Sam's dark hair.
Karen sat in front of the mirror in her bedroom, fixing her hair and applying some light make-up for the upcoming wedding. At first, she didn't want to go. She couldn't sit by and watch how the man, she loved more than anything, would marry another woman. But Taylor had begged and pleaded with her for days, until she had finally relented.
"Maybe it's a good thing that I gave in and go to that wedding. I really have to get over it. Christopher Stuart is one part of my life that has to be finished once and for all. Right after the party, he will disappear with his bride on their honeymoon and I take care of Taylor and Tasilo." Karen thought about this and then felt a small smile gracing her features. "That's it. I will just stop thinking about Chris. Instead, I will look forward to the fun time I'm going to have with Taylor and Tasilo while he is gone." Her smile grew. "Maybe we can go to Disneyland for a few days and have all kinds of other fun. That is exactly what I need and no males around. Especially not after the catastrophe with Juan." Karen looked at her reflection and thought her look was okay. She exhaled sharply and then said to herself, "Alright, let's get this over with." It surprised her that her voice sounded so brave, because inside, she was shaking.
Christopher adjusted his kilt and tied his shoes. "Good, I'm ready. I can't believe it, but today is the day. My wedding day. I wish Mom, Dad and Liz could be here," he mumbled to himself, staring at the floor. "My Uncle hates me for the marriage, and my little sister hates my bride. If only I knew what lies Victoria told her about Sara, then we could get it out of the way and the situation would get better." A heavy sigh escaped his throat. "I guess that will have to wait until later. And Karen? I highly doubt that she will appear here or talk with me outside of the movie company. Of course, she has all rights to do that. I hurt her very bad for a second time."
His thought processes were interrupted by a knocking at the door. It opened and the bright smiling face of Matthew looked into the small backroom of the tiny chapel. "Well, son? It's time."
"Okay, I'll be there in a second." Chris checked his clothes one more time. His hand was already on the door handle as he took a deep breath. "There is no turning back now."
It was the middle of the night but there was still a light burning in the tree house. Liz guarded Sam's sleep. She was glad that the brunette was sleeping because she knew that the pain must be unbearable. 'You are so unbelievably brave and strong,' the blonde thought. 'You didn't shed one tear even though every breath must hurt like hell.'
Sam turned over and ended up on her hurt side. With a tortured groan she woke up.
Liz was there immediately and helped Sam to turn back over on her other side, placing the brunette's head on her lap to stroke her hair.
Sam gritted her teeth and squeezed her eyes shut, but the pain didn't seem to fade. "Oh God, it's hurting so bad," she groaned.
Gently, Liz stroked her hair and face. "You don't need to hide your pain from me. It's okay to cry, you know?"
"A warrior... never... shows... any... weakness..." Sam sobbed.
"Is that what they taught you at that village you grew up in?"
"What about Emily? Did she never console you when you were sick or sad?" Liz wanted to know.
"Only when I was a child."
"Why not later too?"
Sam's face became an expressionless mask and she didn't answer.
The blonde nodded her head knowingly. "I know why. They told you this rubbish that a warrior doesn't show any pain or feelings. Am I right?"
"Yes," Sam admitted in a small voice.
"So, I guess whenever something was wrong with you, you retreated to your caves to get through it on your own, correct?"
The brunette nodded.
Liz sighed. "I wish you could have had a mother like I did." That statement made a memory rise and Liz thought she would share it with Sam.
They had just come back from the doctor's. Liz, at the age of seven, was sitting on her mother's lap. Big tears were running down her cheeks.
Mary-Ann kissed her daughter's feverish forehead tenderly and rubbed the small tummy that was hard from cramps.
"It's hurting so bad, Mommy," the small girl sobbed.
"I know, sweetie. I know. We have to wait for the meds to kick in and then you will feel better, I promise."
The sobbing increased. "I'm so sorry Mommy."
"What for?" Mary-Ann asked, completely baffled. "What are you sorry for, sweetie?"
"I know that you and Daddy wanted to go out and now you can't because I am sick," Liz explained.
The woman hugged her daughter to her. "Awww, that doesn't matter. Daddy and I can go to the theater another time. The only important thing right now is that you will feel better soon." Mary-Ann began to rock her gently and hummed a calming melody.
"I am home!" the voice of a very excited boy rang out and Christopher entered the living room. "Mom? Why are you not dressed up? I thought Dad is going out with you and Rachel will take care of us tonight?"
She smiled at her 9-year-old son. "No hon. We will stay home. Lizzy is sick."
Chris sat down next to his mother on the couch. "What's wrong with her?" he asked concerned, seeing the tear-stained face of his younger sister.
"Well, upset tummy, a high fever and some diarrhea. She's feeling very bad."
"But she will be okay, right?"
"Yes, she will, Chris."
The boy smiled. "Hey, you wanna see what we did in art class today?"
"Yeah," his mother answered and smiled.
Chris opened his backpack, took out a sheet of paper and gave it to Mary-Ann.
"Awww, how cute," she said, clearly delighted. "You drew our family. But Chris, what's that here?" she asked, pointing at the bundle the woman on the picture was holding in her hands.
Chris grinned cheekily. "That is Lizzy's and mine brother or sister."
Mary-Ann looked at her son in wonderment. "You would like to have another sister or brother?"
"Yeah! Can I have one for my birthday?"
His mother chuckled. Then she looked at her daughter, who had calmed down. The medicine obviously was taking effect. "What about you, sweetie? Would you like to have another brother or sister too?"
Liz thought about it. Then she smiled and cuddled closer to her mother. "Yes, Mommy. That would be nice."
Liz looked down on Sam, who had carefully turned and was now laying on her back. "Well, and two years later, shortly before Christmas, we got Taylor," the blonde explained and smiled.
Sam returned the smile. "Your mother is wonderful."
"Yes, she was the most loving woman that I knew."
The jungle woman wrinkled her forehead. "She was?"
Liz took a deep breath. "She... she died... she died 18 years ago..."
Christopher and Matthew were standing at the marriage altar. 4 violin players began to play. Some girls were throwing flowers and blossoms around and Victoria, the bridesmaid, was walking towards the altar.
Chris had a look around and discovered the whole Parker clan in the front row. A bit away sat his little sister, scowling and with crossed arms. She really wasn't happy. His heart skipped a beat as he recognized the person that sat next to Taylor. It was Karen. Her face didn't betray any emotion and looked as if it was carved from stone.
Meanwhile, Vicky had reached the altar and threw some smoldering glances at the blonde artist.
The special wedding music 'Here comes the bride' was played then and Sara entered the chapel. Slowly, she walked up to her future husband, who welcomed her, smiling tenderly. "You look absolutely gorgeous."
They turned to the priest. "We all have come here to witness the marriage of these two people that are standing in front of me."
Taylor's scowl became even fiercer when she heard that statement, while Karen's face was still expressionless.
The priest looked at Sara. "Ms. Sara Jones. Do you wish, to marry Christopher Stuart, to love and honor him, in good times and in bad times, till death do you part, then please answer with yes."
Sara didn't even think long. She just blurted, "Yes, from the bottom of my heart."
The priest then turned to Chris. "Mr. Christopher Stuart. Do you wish to marry Sara Jones, to love and honor her, in good times and in bad times, till death do you part, then please answer with yes."
Silence fell. Everybody was waiting for Christopher's reply.
He looked around once more. His eyes came to rest on Karen's face.
Vicky started to become restless. 'Come on! Say something! So that the priest continues and that I can say what I need to at the certain point!' she screamed at Chris in her mind.
Christopher looked briefly at Sara then back at Karen.
"Mr. Stuart?" the priest tried to get his attention. "Did you not understand the question?"
"Chris, what's wrong?" Sara asked, scared.
Matthew wrinkled his forehead. "Chris? We are waiting for your answer."
Again, the artist looked at Karen, then he turned to Sara. "I... I really am very sorry... but I can't."
Sara was in shock. "What? Chris, what are you talking about?"
"Please, forgive me, Sara. I cannot marry you." With that he stormed out of the chapel.
At the same time as those words left Christopher's lips, the world turned pitch black in front of Sara's eyes and she fainted. Unconscious, she fell down on the red carpet in front of the altar. Deadly silence ruled in the room, until Matthew came out of his shock-induced paralysis and knelt down to help his daughter.
Affected by this turn of events, Karen slowly walked out of the chapel. Outside, she met Chris, who was completely distraught. Silently, they stood there and just looked at each other.
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