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ninekaronas

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Reply with quote  #101 
Chapter 20

When the trio had cleared the last guard post they stopped so Zach could put Kendall down. He changed his mind when she immediately started groaning again. Josh flew to her side. "What's wrong, Kendall? Are you in pain? Where does it hurt? Oh God, you're not in labor are you?" He was on the verge of panic, but Zach's demeanor calmed him.

"Relax, Josh. This is just Kendall's way of escaping Madden. She's actually getting good at it. Go on, Kendall. Tell your brother you're faking." He smiled down at her, but she wasn't smiling. She was trying to curl herself into the fetal position in his arms. "Kendall, we're free. You don't have to do this anymore. Why are you still faking?" The longer he talked the softer his voice got. He was suddenly filled with dread. "You're not faking, are you? Oh God. Hang on, honey. I'll fix it." He looked at Josh. "You're the doctor, tell me what to do!" he shouted.

Josh found a small cave nearby and led them to it. He had to force Zach to put Kendall down, and even then he wouldn't let go of her. Josh knew Kendall needed to be examined, but how could he do it? His own sister? As it turned out, the choice wasn't his to make. Kendall refused to let him anywhere near her. So he asked the questions and told Zach what to do so he could determine their best course of action.

He quickly decided that Kendall was having labor pains, and he knew he had to stop them. It was still way too soon. "I've gotta go back," he said emphatically. "I need medicine from the clinic." Zach nodded but Kendall was against it. "This baby has survived a plane crash, a hurricane, a jump from a cliff and a crazed doctor who wanted to take him too soon. No way am I losing him now!" she said. She was between contractions and thought she'd be okay without the drugs. "Please, Josh. It's too risky. Let's just go hooooooooooommmmme." She squeezed Zach's hand as another contraction hit her. Josh didn't waste another second. After reminding Zach of a few breathing techniques, he rushed to the hospital, leaving Zach and Kendall alone. Zach stroked his wife's hair, trying to keep her calm.

"Let's talk about me," Kendall said with a weak smile. "What did you think the first time you met me?" Zach sighed dramatically. "Kendall, we already had this conversation." "I want to have it againnnnnnnn," she said on a moan. "Beautiful! I thought you were beautiful," Zach said quickly, fighting to keep his voice even. He hated seeing her in pain. "And?" she prodded. "And sexy. That red dress you were wearing was really-" I was wearing a brown dress, Zach." "Are you sure? Because I was-" "Yes, I'm positive. It was brown." She looked up at him just in time to catch his smile. "You remember?" "Of course I do. Brown halter dress with gold earrings. Wild curly hair and eyes that sparkled like diamonds. I'll never forget it." Kendall reached up to stroke his face, but she fell asleep before she ever touched him. Zach laid down beside her and pulled her up against him. He fell asleep a few minutes later with his hand stretched protectively across her belly.

-------------------------

Kendall woke up in the same hospital room Dr. Madden had held her in. She looked around for Zach, but he wasn't there. She called for him, but he didn't come. She got out of bed and went to the window, only to find that the bars were still there. She ran to the door, but was quickly subdued by the guards and gently placed back into bed. She screamed, but no one seemed to hear her.

She buried her head in the pillows and began to sob uncontrollably. How did she get back here? Where was Zach? Did Josh stop her labor? Kendall heard Zach's voice calling to her, and it only made her cry harder. She knew he wasn't there. It was just her subconscious conjuring him up because she needed him so badly. She stilled every time he called her name, then resumed her sobbing when his voice was gone.

Then she felt his lips on hers. She opened her eyes to find him leaning over her, drying her tears. The worry on his face made her feel guilty. She tried to sit up, but he wouldn't let her. "Zach? Are you really here?" she whispered. "Where am I gonna go? I'm never leaving you again," he said as he kissed her again. "Where are we?" she asked. "Still in the cave, waiting for Josh. You just had a bad dream, that's all. You're safe. And I won't let anything happen to you, or our son," he added as he rubbed her stomach.

"Is Josh okay?" she wondered aloud. Before Zach could answer, her brother came crashing through the foliage and dropped to his knees right in front of them. He tossed Zach an alcohol pad and told him where to rub it while he got the syringe ready. Within seconds he had injected Kendall with the medicine that he hoped would stop her labor. "The rest is up to you, Kendall. You need to stay calm and get some rest. Now this shouldn't make you sleepy, but don't fight it if it does."

"Yes sir," Kendall said with a mock salute. She tried to sit up again, but both men were against it. So they compromised. Zach sat against the wall of the cave and Kendall rested against his chest. That way she could see what was going on and he could rub the baby. Josh started rummaging through the duffle bag he'd brought with him, drawing Kendall's attention.

"Did you bring me some chocolate?" she asked. "Sure, Kendall. I popped into the local 7-11 on my way back. What kind do you want? Reeses? Snickers? Oh wait, I know. You're a milk chocolate girl. Right?" Kendall rolled her eyes. "You could have just said no," she snapped. "That would have been a lie," Josh said as a smile spread across his face. He reached into the bag and pulled out not one but two Hershey bars. Kendall snatched them from him and ripped the paper off of the first one. After scarfing down the first four sections, she remembered her manners and thanked him. Then she offered her husband a bite, frowning only slightly when he took a large bite.

"You wouldn't happen to have a Cosmo in there, would you?" Kendall asked demurely. "Sorry, mom," Josh said before turning to Zach. "But I do have this." He pulled out a flask and handed it to his very grateful brother-in-law and watched while he took a long gulp. He thanked Josh and took another drag. "Hey!" Kendall whined. "I shared with you." "Sorry, mom," Zach chuckled as he brought the flask to his lips again.

"What else you got in there?" Zach asked. "Let's see. Some more of the medicine I gave Kendall, just in case. Plus some other medical supplies we might need. Whitney was very helpful. She knew where everything was, including the chocolate," he said with a knowing glance at Kendall. "And she's the one who reminded me to get some food." Josh unpacked some sandwiches and fresh fruit, along with some cold milk for the mother-to-be.

"You feeling better?" he asked as he handed Kendall her lunch. "No more contractions?" Kendall covered Zach's hands with her own and shook her head. "Nope. All gone. So give me that sandwich, will you?" They all laughed and actually managed to have a pleasant lunch, in spite of the circumstances. Until the walkie-talkie Josh had stolen sprang to life. Kendall gasped when she recognized Dr. Madden's voice.

"Stop fussing over me and go get Kendall. Kill the men on sight, but do not harm her or the baby. I repeat, shoot to kill both her husband and her brother, but protect her with your life. I want that baby alive."

Kendall looked at Josh and was devastated by the pain on his face. She couldn't believe that the man who considered himself his father would so easily order his execution. And all so he could get his hands on her son? It just didn't make sense. Could he really be that obsessed with her mother? What did those two crazy old fools think they were going to do with a newborn baby anyway? It was beyond ludicrous. It was insane. She smiled wryly at that thought. Of course it was insane. They were insane. And trying to make sense out of anything they did was equally insane.

"I guess that's it," Josh said in a voice dripping with bitterness. "Fail the old man once and you're condemned to death." He looked up at his sister and shrugged, hoping to convince her it didn't matter, but the tears in his eyes gave him away. Kendall felt Zach tense and knew he was just as angry as she was. But when he spoke, his voice was calm and even.

"Doesn't matter, Josh. We're your family now. That man never deserved a son like you. Just one more thing he and my father have in common. Cut him out and leave him here. It's the only way." Josh nodded and turned away from them. He knew Zach was right. And Greg Madden had already stopped being a part of his life. So why did it hurt so badly to hear him order his death? It certainly gave him an even deeper understanding of the complexity of the relationship between Zach and his father. He turned back to Zach, who was speaking softly to Kendall. He'd made the adjustment. He didn't need his father's approval. In fact, that's the last thing he wanted. Zach had cut all ties to his father and just walked away. Josh decided maybe it was time for him to do the same thing.

"He's out," he said quietly, and nothing more. He looked at Kendall briefly, but held Zach's gaze longer. He could read his brother-in-law's acceptance and understanding and was shocked by how deeply it moved him. Zach was right. They were his family now. Greg Madden was just a man who spent a lifetime lying to everyone around him. With a deep sigh, it was done. Zach nodded his acknowledgment before placing a kiss on Kendall's temple. Then he eased away from her and motioned for Josh to join him outside the cave.

"So," Josh said as soon as they were alone. He looked over Zach's shoulder to be sure Kendall hadn't followed them and then lowered his voice as an added precaution, "Now what?" "We have to get Kendall to safety," Zach said. "She's the one he wants, but I'll be damned if he's going to get anywhere near her or my son. Ever!" "I agree," Josh said, "but how do we keep her safe with a bounty on our heads? We can't outrun them on foot." Zach scratched the dense stubble on his face and let out a long breath. "You take Kendall to safety. I'll go back and take care of Madden and my father."

"Like hell you will!" Both men turned to see Kendall standing at the opening of the cave. She walked over to Zach and took his hand in both of hers. "Aren't you the same man who just promised me he'd never leave me again?" she asked. Zach glanced over at Josh, wishing they didn't have an audience for this conversation. He knew what he had to do, but he also knew Kendall wouldn't understand. Josh took the hint and went back inside the cave to gather their belongings. He could see that Zach was determined and he knew he and Kendall would be leaving soon.

"Kendall," Zach began, but stopped when she put her fingers to his lips. "No, Zach. I don't want to hear it. No excuses, and no promises. You said you wouldn't leave me and I'm holding you to it." Zach kissed her fingers before removing them. "I also made a promise to keep you and our children safe," he said. "I have to honor that above all else. And this is the only way I know how to do that." Kendall's shoulders sagged and she dropped her head in defeat. Zach couldn't see them, but he knew there were tears in her eyes. "Look at me," he said softly, then gently lifted her chin when she didn't comply.

"Kendall, please try to understand." He brushed his thumbs across her cheeks to erase the trail of tears. He hated leaving her like this, but he was out of time. The longer they tarried there, the easier it would be for Madden's men to find them and capture Kendall. And he knew he would die before he let that happen. "I do understand," Kendall said at last. "I understand that I'll never see you again. Sure, I'll have a great heroic story to tell our sons about what a brave, wonderful man their father was. But I don't want our boys to have a legend, Zach. I want them to have you."

"Sweetheart, this is not a suicide mission. I'm not going off to die. I have every intention of coming back to you, safe and sound. I want to be there when Spike sees his beautiful mother again. I want to be there when our little one decides it's time to come out and meet us face to face. I want to be there when our boys put on their first pair of ice skates and knock a puck around. I want to be there when our last child has left home and I have you all to myself again. And I want to be there when our first grandchild is born. I want all of it, Kendall. A long, happy life filled with laughter and tears, fighting and making love. That's what you promised me, and I'm damn well gonna hold you to it." He watched as new tears spilled from her eyes, then he took her face in his hands and kissed her.

She wrapped her arms around him and held on tight, willing herself to wake up from this nightmare. But she wasn't dreaming, and she couldn't stop him from leaving. So she did the only thing she could do ... she accepted it. She turned her face up to his and stared into his eyes, closing hers when his lips met hers one last time. He held her in his arms for just another moment, then yelled to Josh.

Zach watched as his family walked away from him and prayed they would make it to safety. He knew Josh would protect Kendall with his life, he just hoped it wouldn't come to that. He was determined to see that it didn't. He thought about Kendall's words. She was right. Their boys didn't need a legend for a father, they needed a man. And he desperately wanted to be that man. But if it took sacrificing his own life to see their's fulfilled ... well, he knew he wouldn't hesitate. Their lives came first. He had done it. With Kendall's help, he had broken the Cambias Curse.

With a final glance at the spot where Kendall and Josh had disappeared into the jungle, Zach smiled sadly and headed back into hell. He was determined to deal with his father once and for all. He refused to spend the rest of his life looking over his shoulder, waiting for his father's next attack. No, he would end it today. He turned his eyes heavenward. "Please, God. Keep my family safe until I can get back to them. And if I don't make it back, send somebody along to take care of them. Don't let Kendall spend the rest of her life mourning. She deserves so much more than that. She deserves happiness. Please send her happiness."

TBC

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Ann

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Reply with quote  #102 

This is pure torture......thank you.


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Ann
Purdue0612

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Reply with quote  #103 
Really great story!
Please come back real soon!
zendall44

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Reply with quote  #104 

Thanks Karen!  This is a best seller!  Can't wait for more.


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tkrocks

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Reply with quote  #105 
I love this story. This chapter had some great LOL moments for me before it turned serious again. Love that Zach is going to take care of his father once and for all, and I have no doubt he'll come out on top--he's like a cat--always lands on his feet. Update again soon please.
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Love is an act of endless forgiveness, a tender look which becomes a habit.--Peter Ustinov
Roseann

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Reply with quote  #106 
Karen, you really should have told me I was going to need tissues!  Beautiful writing...looking forward to the next chapter.
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ninekaronas

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Chapter 21

Kendall trailed behind Josh, turning to look back over her shoulder every few minutes. "He'll be back, Kendall. You'll see. He has too much to come back to." She nodded, but wasn't convinced. "But what if the choice isn't his?" she said sadly. "Zach Slater is nobody's victim," Josh stated emphatically. "You know that better than I do. He'll be fine." Kendall nodded again, trying to take comfort in her brother's words. She knew he was right. Zach wasn't a victim. He was too smart for that. But it didn't keep her from worrying about him.

"If you really want to worry about somebody, be afraid for those two old men. They're the ones in danger," Josh said with a smirk. "I hope he kills them both." Kendall immediately regretted her words. She looked at her brother, an apology on her lips, but he waved her off. "Forget it," he said, his voice barely above a whisper. He grabbed her hand and tried to quicken their pace. He needed to get Kendall to safety before anybody caught up to them.

Kendall smiled when they broke through the tree line that opened out onto the beach where she and Zach had spent their first weeks of captivity. Of course, they hadn't realized at the time that they were captives, so the time they spent together would always be a cherished memory for her. She threw her head back and took a long, deep breath. In a strange way, she already felt like she was home. And she already felt the absence of Zach. As she took in the campsite, she felt the ache in her start to spread.

Josh watched as she walked over to the makeshift tent and picked up something off the ground. She hugged it to her as if it was a precious heirloom. She shook it out and then slipped it over her head. When he got closer, he could see that it was a red t-shirt. One that he had seen his brother-in-law wear many, many times. He pulled his teary-eyed sister into his arms and hugged her as tightly as her swollen belly would allow. He started to pull away from her, but hesitated, his lips hovering near her ear.

"Are you okay, Kendall?" he asked calmly. "No more pains?" She tried to pull away from him so she could see his face, but he wouldn't let her. "Yes, Josh. I'm fine. The pains have stopped." Again she tried to pull away and again he held her fast. "Why?" she asked. Something was wrong. She could feel the tension in him. "Can you run, or do you need me to carry you?" "No, I can-" "Run!" Josh screamed as he stepped away from her. He pulled her along behind him as they ran back to the cover of the trees.

Kendall screamed when shots rang out and she heard a bullet hit its mark just a couple of feet from her. Josh dragged her behind a large tree and placed his hand over her mouth. "Shhh," he whispered into her ear. "Don't make a sound." She barely nodded and he let her go. He took a few steps away from her, trying to find the enemy in the dense foliage, then he suddenly rushed back to her and pulled her to the ground, rolling them underneath a large, leafy bush. They both held their breath as they watched two pair of feet walk right past them. Josh looked up to see two armed guards walking away from them. He waited until they were out of sight before speaking.

"Okay, here's what we're gonna do. I have a boat anchored just around that bend," he said pointing in the opposite direction of the guards. "If we can make it to that biggest rock over there, we'll be home free. Can you make it?" "I can make it," Kendall said breathlessly. "Just say when." Josh took one last look over his shoulder before helping Kendall to her feet. "Stay along the tree line as long as you can. We'll be safer there. But once we have to cross the beach, run like hell. Okay?" "I will." "And Kendall, if something happens to me, you just keep running. You'll see the yacht as soon as you get past those rocks. There's a rowboat tied to a tree. Take it and get to that yacht. No matter what. Do you hear me?" She nodded again. "You're coming with me, aren't you?" she asked. "Right behind you," he replied. "When!"

On his command, Kendall put one hand on her stomach for support and ran as fast as she could toward the boulder Josh had pointed out. She couldn't hear anything but the sound of her own heart beating. She wanted to make sure Josh was behind her, but when she slowed to look he yelled at her to keep going. They stayed hidden among the trees for as long as they could, but eventually had to leave the safety of their cover. Kendall had never felt as vulnerable as she did running across the sand to that rock. She scurried around it and pressed herself against the other side while she waited for Josh to join her. He was only seconds behind her. He gave her a quick hug and then helped her get settled into the small boat that would carry them to the safety of the yacht.

"We made it ... at last!" Kendall said when they were underway. She couldn't understand why Josh was laughing at first, but it all became clear as they got farther from shore and closer to the waiting yacht. There, looking like a gift from heaven, was the At Last. After all she and Zach had been through, to see this piece of home was more than she could handle. She burst into tears. She knew she couldn't stop them, so she didn't even try. Neither did Josh. He just loaned her his shoulder and tried to be patient. By the time they were ready to board, Kendall was all cried out. Or so she thought.

As soon as she stepped aboard she was greeted by the captain. The same captain who was present on the happiest day of her life: her wedding day. "Very good to see you again, Mrs. Slater," he said as he offered her his arm. Kendall, seeing how tired he looked, began to realize just how many people had been looking for them for all those weeks. She was touched by his loyalty and his concern. Once again, she burst into tears. Josh rescued the captain by giving him orders to contact the Coast Guard and the Pine Valley Police Department as soon as possible. Then Josh led Kendall to the sitting room below deck. After getting her settled, he went back on deck to fill in the details for the tired and overworked crew.

"Fire!" Kendall sprang to her feet at the sound of the crew running over her head. After several minutes of nervous pacing, she had just forced herself to sit down and rest when she heard the commotion. "Did he say..?" she began, but it was too awful to repeat. She was just about to go above deck when the door flew open and Josh ran inside. "Is there a fire?" she asked breathlessly. She tried to push her way past him, suddenly needing to feel the wind on her face. He let her go, falling in line behind her.

"Yes," he said, "but not on the boat. We're safe, Kendall." He waited for his words to register. She turned to him and he could see the panic in her eyes. "We're safe," he repeated. He pointed to a spot on the horizon where black smoke was wafting above the trees. "Oh my God," Kendall screamed. "Zach!" She ran to the rail and even considered jumping overboard. She needed to get to Zach. She was still trying to decide if she could make it to shore when she felt a hand on her arm.

"Don't even think about it," Josh said. She turned to glare at him, but he was undaunted. "I mean it, Kendall. Don't force me to lock you below deck. I'm heading back to the island, but you can't go with me. Zach would take my head off and you know it." "Lock me in .. I'd like to see you try!" Kendall yelled. "He's my husband, Josh. He needs me and I'm going. You can't stop me and you're just wasting precious time trying." Josh tightened his grip on her arm and sighed dramatically. "Dammit, Kendall! Okay, but you'll have to wait on the beach. Do we have a deal?" Kendall nodded. "Deal. Now let's go."

-------------------------

Josh disappeared into the jungle with most of the At Last's crew, leaving Kendall all alone on the beach. She could see the billowing black smoke in the distance and she knew it was coming from Dr. Madden's compound. The urge to follow Josh was almost too strong to deny. So what if she'd made him a promise? She made promises to Zach, too. Vows. And those were more important than anything else. She was just about to step into the darkness of the jungle when she heard the sirens.

Within seconds she was surrounded by Coast Guard vessels, the noise from their sirens drowned out by the sounds of the helicopters circling overhead. She felt her knees buckle, but resisted the urge to sink to the ground. Instead she immediately began giving orders to the authorities as they flooded the beach. Upon seeing a face she recognized in the crowd, Kendall ran to meet him. "Otto!" she cried as she took in the small group of men behind him. "Thank God you're here. See that smoke? That's where Zach is. Please go get him, Otto. All of you. Do whatever you have to do, just help him." Without a word, the men walked purposefully into the jungle, ignoring the protests of the officials who were combing the scene.

After what seemed like an eternity, people started pouring onto the beach. Kendall watched them, straining to find Zach. She noticed Josh and Whitney leading a group of pregnant women and nurses carrying newborns to safety. She smiled briefly when she saw that Whitney was carrying a baby. She could tell by the loving way she carried the child that it was her own baby. Kendall ran to her brother and begged him to tell her that Zach was okay.

"I don't know, Kendall. He wouldn't leave until he knew the hospital was empty. He was fine when I left him." Kendall scanned the faces of those still emerging form the jungle, hoping to find her husband. She took some comfort in the fact that none of his men were around either. She knew each of them would protect Zach with their lives. So wherever he was, he had plenty of help. Her attention was diverted when she heard someone call her name. She turned at the sound and let out a scream when she saw who it was. There, standing on the beach a few feet away from her, was Erica. And she wasn't alone. She was holding Kendall's son in her arms.

"Spike!" Kendall cried as she ran to throw her arms around her family. Her tears mingled with those of her mother's as they clung to each other. They finally pulled apart when Spike demanded his mother's attention by jumping from Erica's arms into hers. Kendall kissed him over and over again while he rubbed her face and laughed. "Da-da," Spike sputtered, which made Kendall laugh. She looked down at the Red Wings shirt she was wearing. "That's right, Spikey. This is daddy's shirt." She hugged him to her again, desperate to feel his soft skin against her, but he wasn't having it. "Da-da," he repeated as he tried to climb out of her arms. Kendall finally realized he was looking beyond her and she turned to see what held his attention.

That's when she saw him. Zach. He was standing in the clearing, watching their tearful reunion. He was surrounded by his men, all of whom were covered with soot and ash. His hair was wild and his beard was full. And there were tears in his eyes. Kendall thought he had never looked better. She wanted to run to him, but her legs wouldn't cooperate. But it didn't matter. He was already halfway to her.

Erica and Josh stood aside and let Zach, Kendall and Spike have a private reunion. There weren't many words exchanged between them, but Erica could tell that Zach was the one doing the talking. And she could just imagine what he was saying by the tears that ran freely down Kendall's face. It struck Erica that she'd been a real fool where Zach was concerned. She felt almost guilty for the grief she had given them over the years and for any time she may have cost them together. She was on the verge of telling them just that when Josh read her mind. "Later," he mouthed as he took her hand and escorted her back to the yacht.

-------------------------

"What happened with your father?" Kendall asked much later. She and Zach were standing on the beach, alone in a crowd. He was holding Spike in one arm and the other was wrapped around Kendall. They still weren't ready to let each other out of arm's reach, but the tears had finally dried up. Now there was nothing but smiles. At least until Kendall mentioned Alexander.

"He's dead," Zach said coldly. Kendall didn't know what to day. She knew Zach wasn't sad about his father's death, but congratulating him on it didn't seem right either. "Did you?" she began, but stopped when he started shaking his head. "No. I didn't do it. Madden got to him first." Kendall tightened her grip on his waist. She looked up at him, trying to gauge his reaction, but his face was characteristically stoic.

Without even looking at her, he knew what she was doing. "I'm okay, Kendall. My father has been dead to me for a very long time. I'm just glad I didn't have to kill him," he added in a whisper. He looked at her at last and Kendall could see the conflict. She knew without a doubt that he would have killed his father to protect his family. But it would have haunted him for the rest of his life. No matter what they had been through over the years, Alexander was still his father. Still the man whose blood flowed through Zach's veins. Killing him would have killed a part of Zach. She felt suddenly grateful that Greg Madden was still alive. At least he had been good for something.

"What about Dr. Madden?" Kendall asked. Zach lifted his chin in Otto's direction, but said nothing. "Zach?" Kendall warned. "Don't do anything you'll regret." He smiled down at her and couldn't resist the urge to kiss her. "I won't," he said, his lips hovering above hers. "So who started the fire?" Zach didn't kiss her, but he didn't move away either. He just stood there, staring into her eyes. Just when Kendall decided he hadn't heard her question, he answered her. "I did," he said. "How do you think we got Madden to come out of hiding?" Kendall's response was swallowed by Zach's lips as they met hers. Suddenly she didn't want to talk about Greg Madden anymore.

-------------------------

"He's a great uncle. And he'll be a fantastic father." Whitney blushed at Kendall's words, embarrassed by her lack of subtlety. Josh pretended not to hear Kendall, but there was a definite hint of color on his cheeks as well. He glanced at Whitney and found her watching him. He smiled at her, then rolled his eyes at Kendall. Zach watched the whole thing through Spike's hands, laughing as his son continued to pat his face. He wouldn't let Zach out of his sight. In fact, he cried if anyone besides Kendall tried to take him from his daddy's arms. But that was okay with Zach. He was content to spend the rest of his life holding on to this boy and his beautiful mom.

After answering a million questions, the Slaters were finally free to go. They took one last look at the place they'd called home for the last several weeks and entered the sanctuary of their yacht. While the authorities searched the island for clues, Zach's men followed the orders they'd been given. Then they climbed back into their helicopter and flew away, a little more crowded than when they came.

Zach stood on the deck and watched as the island grew smaller and smaller until it was nothing more than a spot on the horizon. He'd tricked his wife and son into taking a nap by lying down with them. But he was too restless to sleep, so he decided to go up on deck and get some air. He smiled as he passed the sitting room and heard Erica grilling Whitney. While all the other women and their babies had been carried to safety by the Coast Guard, Kendall insisted that Whitney and her new baby girl travel with them. There was no explanation made as to why the adoption hadn't happened, but it was obvious to everyone that it was no longer an option for the new mother.

Zach didn't turn when he heard someone come up behind him. He knew without looking who it was. There was so much to say to this man who had sacrificed everything to save his family. Zach had fallen into a habit of thanking God often for the family he'd been blessed with. But until recently, that prayer of thanksgiving had really only extended to Kendall and Spike and their unborn child. But the circle was widening. Now Zach knew he needed to include his wife's family as well. Even Erica, he thought. And especially Josh.

Josh watched as a smile played at the corners of Zach's mouth. "What's so funny?" he asked. Zach turned to him and threw an arm around his shoulder. "Life, Josh. Life is funny." "Uh-huh," Josh said, giving his brother-in-law a knowing look. He could literally see the tension leaving Zach's body as they sailed off into the sunset. He rubbed a hand over his face, feeling the stubble, and wondered if he looked half as bad as Zach ... or if he'd ever been half as happy. Zach raised an eyebrow at Josh's sudden smile. "Something you want to say?" he asked. "Yep. I meant to mention it sooner," Josh replied, as he returned his gaze to the horizon. "About that reward..."

TBC

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ninekaronas

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Well, this is it. The end. Thanks to everybody who stuck it out with me. Until next time ...
 
EPILOGUE

"Zach, if you tell me to breathe one more time ...," Kendall hissed. "What is that supposed to mean anyway? Of course I'm breathing!" It had been a long delivery and Kendall's sense of humor had vanished hours ago. The miracle of childbirth had her longing for another coma. She clutched Zach's hand and tried to make sure he felt as much pain as she did. He had stood beside her the whole time, stroking the sweaty curls away from her face and offering her ice chips. And wishing he could take the pain away.

They'd had it all planned. The time would come, her water would break, and they would calmly proceed to the hospital and demand drugs immediately. They had timed it, drilled it, and mapped their route from several locations. It was going to be a smooth, stress-free delivery. But they didn't count on the flat tire or the dead cellphone battery. And how could they know there would be a major winter storm? "Snow tires?" Zach had said with a shrug. "I'm from Vegas. You do know that's in the desert, right?" He'd immediately felt contrite for his tone when Kendall grimaced in pain. "Hang on, honey. I'll get you there in plenty of time."

And he did. They got there in plenty of time for her to deliver, but the doctor was hesitant to give Kendall the epidural she so desperately wanted. "It's complicated," he'd said. "Then dumb it down for me," she'd replied bitterly. "The bottom line is it's too risky, for you and the baby." Kendall turned to the one man she knew could make anything happen. "Zach, honey," she said sweetly, "would you please explain to the good doctor here that if he doesn't get me a shot right now, the biggest risk is to him?" Zach looked at the doctor, then back at Kendall. "There must be something you can do," he said as his gaze returned to the doctor. "Come on. Can't you see she's in pain?"

"I understand that, Mr. Slater. And I sympathize. But we've been over this twice already. It's simply too dangerous, given the circumstances. You don't want to harm the baby, do you?" Zach's glare was openly hostile at the question. He looked at Kendall and was surprised to find her napping. His eyebrows shot up as he waved the doctor away, never taking his eyes off Kendall's face.

Unfortunately, the peace and quiet was short-lived. The pains were coming much closer and Kendall just wanted it to be over. She alternated between praising Zach and screaming at him. Once, when she told him there was no one else on earth she wanted to share this experience with, he leaned in to kiss her. "Get off of me," she spat. "That's how I got here in the first place!" She pushed him away, then grabbed his arm before he could get too far.

"You know, I could just go wait outside. Maybe go have a drink or something," he teased. "Don't you dare. How could you say such a thing, Zach? Do you really want to leave?" Kendall cried. She was so weak and more tired than she'd ever been. But to Zach she was never more beautiful. "Where am I gonna go? Everything that matters is right here." He leaned down to kiss her again, and this time she met him halfway. She touched his face gently as she dropped back against the pillows.

Less than an hour later, Team Slater welcomed its newest member: Joshua Ian Slater. Both parents cried, but neither as loud as their son. Zach took him from the nurse and laid him on Kendall's chest. Little Ian stopped crying as soon as he heard his mother's voice. "Smart boy," Zach whispered as he bent to place a kiss on first the baby's forehead and then Kendall's. "He already knows he's got the best mom in the world."

Zach stretched out on the bed beside Kendall as soon as the room was cleared. Erica had come and gone, refusing to let anybody else near her daughter. "Kendall needs her rest," she'd said. Now it was quiet and there was no sound except for the hospital monitors and the soft breathing of their son as he slept in his mother's arms. Kendall was tired, but she wasn't ready to sleep. She didn't want to miss a second of this precious time with her family. She looked over at the bedside table and smiled at the picture of Spike that Zach had placed there. She felt contentment like she'd never known before.

Kendall moved closer to Zach when he put his arm around her. She looked up at him, but he was a million miles away. She watched him, feeling a twinge of jealousy for whatever had stolen his attention. But when he looked down and caught her staring, he smiled at her warmly, once again making her feel like the most important thing in his world. She started to ask him what he was thinking about, but decided against it. His every thought didn't belong to her.

Zach could see the indecision in his wife's eyes. He was just glad she didn't ask. He wasn't ready to tell her about it yet, but it was getting harder and harder to keep it a secret. Unbeknownst to Kendall, he had flown out and visited the site just a few days before. Everything was moving along rapidly, now that the permits were all in place. When he set out to buy the island, he had no idea who he would be buying it from. None of them had realized that the property actually belonged to Greg Madden, and therefore Josh, who sold it to his brother-in-law for the price of a good bottle of scotch.

The hospital and living quarters had been demolished, but that was the only activity that part of the island had seen. No, Zach was having a cozy little beach house built on the other side of the island, on the exact spot where a tiny little makeshift tent once stood. And standing tall and proud right next to the wrap-around porch was a very large palm tree with a special set of initials carved into the bark. It was going to be Kendall's anniversary present. Zach just hoped he could hold out that long.

His attention was diverted when Kendall shifted to put the baby in the bassinet beside the bed. Then she settled back against him and laid her head on his shoulder so he wouldn't see the smile that spread across her face. "Tell me what you thought the first time you saw me," she said. "Oh, God. Not again. We already had this conversa-" "I want to have it again," she interrupted. "So tell me." Her voice was so soft he had to lower his head to hear her. Just to provoke her, he didn't respond. But she didn't seem to notice. He looked into her face and found her fast asleep. She looked so fragile, and yet so strong. "Beautiful," he whispered as he placed a soft kiss on her lips. "I thought you were beautiful."

THE END


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zendall44

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Reply with quote  #109 

Thank you Karen!  Such a beautiful and exciting story.  I really hate to see it end.  You are a very gifted writer and I hope to see more stories from you in the NEAR future!


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tkrocks

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Reply with quote  #110 
Perfect ending! Oh, how I loved this story and your writing. Thank you! May I have another please? Seriously, rest up and come back with another great one--soon!!!
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searose

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Reply with quote  #111 
That was a wonderful story Karen.  As always, it was a lot of fun to read each chapter.  Thank you for sharing your talent.  I will wait for your next series with great anticipation.
Have a very happy holiday season!

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Puppetwrangler

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Reply with quote  #112 
Thank you, Karen.
This story has brightened many dreary days.
Lorene
rosierozz

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Reply with quote  #113 

Thank you that was a wonderful story.  Why can't the writer on the show write like that? 

Ann

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Reply with quote  #114 
Yikes! After I stalked you for this story, I can't believe it took me four days to find it again. I hate when life gets in my way. *sigh*
Thank you Karen, and I can't wait for the next one.

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Roseann

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Reply with quote  #115 
Karen, that was a perfect ending...I enjoy reading your Zendall magic... Looking forward to the next one...hope it's not too long!!
Thanks....
Roseann
Usagiharuka

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Reply with quote  #116 

wonderful story

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