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ninekaronas

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Reply with quote  #51 

 

Chapter 12

 

Zach stared at her in horror, unsure of what to say. Even though her words didn’t come as a complete surprise to him, the confirmation still hit him like a ton of bricks. “That bastard!” he growled, roughly rubbing his hands over his face as he fought to keep his temper in check. For the first time in his life, he wished Ryan was there in the room with him. He itched to bash in his skull. But he couldn’t give in to anger. Not yet. He needed answers. He needed to know everything.

 

“Kendall, I need you to tell me everything you remember about Memphis, especially if it concerns him,” Zach said, indicating the man whose smiling face seemed to be mocking him from the pages of the photo album. He gently took the book from Kendall and shoved it under the bed.

 

It occurred to Kendall that she had found the book in that same position under the couch. Her heart tightened in her chest as she envisioned Zach looking through that album, reliving old memories of a wife he couldn’t find. She suddenly hated the man in the picture, and she didn’t even know why. She felt betrayed and angry at whoever had caused her family so much pain. And it was obvious that this man had something to do with it. But what? She was so tired of all the unanswered questions. She just wanted to crawl back into Zach’s arms and let the world pass them by. But it wasn’t that simple. Not anymore.

 

“Kendall?” Zach repeated, bothered by the wall he saw her put up. She turned to look into the eyes of the only person on earth she trusted. She wanted to tell him everything, to answer every question she could see written in his eyes. But there was still so much she didn’t remember. And what she did remember would only cause Zach pain, because he loved her so much. And because she loved him, she didn’t want him to know all that she had been through. Still, she knew she couldn’t refuse him. 

 

Zach reached out and cupped her face in his hands and it proved to be her undoing. She closed her eyes when his lips met hers, wishing they could stay just like that. But when he pulled away, she saw more than just love in his eyes, she saw determination. And she knew he was right. It was time to put it all on the table.

 

She settled herself against Zach, bringing his arm around her tighter and rested her head on his shoulder. She could feel the warmth of his skin against hers, but it wasn’t a distraction this time. It didn’t awaken passion in her like it had the night before. This time it made her feel warm and safe. And loved. She laid her hand over his heart and took a deep breath. It was time.

 

“I don’t have any memory of how I got to Memphis,” she began in a faraway voice. “I’m not really sure how long I was there before I woke up. About a year, I think. My first memory is of lying in the darkness listening to music. After a few moments, I realized it was dark because my eyes were closed. When I finally found the strength to open them, the brightness of the sunlight coming through the window forced me to close them again. After a while, I was able to keep them open long enough to take in my surroundings. I couldn’t move my head much, but I’m not sure why. I don’t know if it was just weakness, or if there was something attached to me. I could tell I was in a hospital, but I couldn’t remember what had happened to me. I had just started to realize that I recognized the song when it all faded to black.”

 

“You had a serious brain injury,” Zach interjected. It had never occurred to him that he might know more about her condition than she did. “They probably had your head and neck stabilized.” She lifted her head to look at him. He met her gaze and answered the question she was about to ask. “I saw your medical file,” he said evenly. “When I found out where you had been all this time, I sent one of my men to Memphis.” He stopped his explanation there, hoping she wouldn’t press him. He wanted to hear what she remembered before he started filling in any blanks.

 

Kendall continued to stare at him, waiting for him to say more. When he slowly shook his head at her, she realized he wasn’t going to say anymore. “Do you still have the file?” she asked. He nodded, dreading her next question. “Can I see it?” Her voice was a faint whisper. If he hadn’t been watching the words leave her lips, he wouldn’t have known she said them. “No,” he said, his voice gentle but firm. “But Zach,” she began, much louder this time, “I have every right to see it.” 

 

Zach turned his head and stared into space. Kendall knew he was seeing all the things he was trying to protect her from. But it didn’t matter. She wasn’t a child and he had no right to keep this from her. She didn’t realize it, but Zach’s thoughts were mirroring her own. He wanted desperately to protect her from the ugliness of what she’d been through. But he couldn’t. It was done, and she had survived. Hiding the pictures from her wouldn’t change anything. She had every right to see them if she wanted to.

 

Still staring at nothing, he relented. “Okay,” he said softly. He turned to look at her then. “I don’t want you to see it, Kendall. It’s raw and ugly and brutal. But I won’t keep it from you.” She relaxed beside him and kissed his shoulder. She didn’t say anything for a long time and Zach was beginning to wonder if she’d fallen asleep, when she suddenly spoke.

 

“I was in and out like that for a couple of weeks, slowly getting my strength back. I’d come to expect that each time I woke up, there would be music playing. It was comforting, you know? It reminded me that I was alive. I came to realize that it was the radio my roommate played around the clock. I told you about her, remember?” Zach nodded. “Tina,” he said. “Right, Tina. Anyway, eventually I was able to stay up for longer periods of time. I was hooked up to all kinds of machines and there were tubes sticking out of me everywhere. I was told by the doctors that I was lucky to be alive. I kept asking them what happened to me, but nobody knew. They were waiting for me to tell them.”

 

“Eventually I was strong enough to start physical therapy. God, Zach, it was more painful than you can imagine. One knee was busted and the other leg … well, you saw what happened to the other leg. It’s so ugly.” Zach ran his hand over her hip and pulled her leg across his torso so he could run his fingers along the scar. “Nothing about you is ugly, Kendall.”

 

“That’s not what he said,” she replied sadly. “The wound was healed by the time I woke up, but the scar was nasty. The nurses used to massage some kind of cream into it and that was supposed to minimize the scar tissue and reduce the redness. I was in the middle of a rubdown one day when I heard somebody gasp. That’s when I saw him for the first time.”

 

Zach felt her stiffen beside him, but forced himself to remain perfectly still except for the hand that was rubbing her leg. “I didn’t know who he was, but he acted like he knew me,” Kendall continued. “He had tears in his eyes as he studied the scar on my leg. I insisted that the nurse cover it, but it was too late. He was beside my bed telling me how sorry he was. He was rambling about my beautiful skin and now there’s that horrible scar. I believe ‘deformed’ was the word he used.” She smiled when Zach bristled, knowing he was upset on her behalf. She thought it was the sweetest thing he could have done.

 

“I asked him who he was, and he looked at me like I had two heads. That’s when I became really scared. I mean, I knew I wasn’t remembering anything about myself, but I just thought it was the trauma of it all. At least that’s what the doctors had told me. But he was the first person I laid eyes on that I was supposed to know. And when I didn’t recognize him at all, I became very upset. I burst into tears and he tried to comfort me, but it only made things worse. I didn’t want him to touch me, which made me feel bad because he was so nice. He seemed so sincere.”

 

She raised her head to look into Zach’s eyes again. “But I couldn’t help it, Zach. I don’t know why, but I didn’t want him there. I wanted him to leave me alone, and I told him so. He looked so hurt by that, and it made me feel terrible.” She waited for him to interrupt, but he didn’t. So she continued.

 

“Weeks would go by without me ever seeing him. I knew he was checking up on me because the nurses told me. And he sent me flowers every week. Everybody there thought he was so charming. They all loved him, so I wanted to love him too. He said all the right things, did all the right things, but there was something missing.”

 

“Did he tell you who he was?” Zach asked. He had so many questions, but he wanted to hear this in her own words, at her own pace. So he vowed to be patient. He reminded himself of the many times he’d dreamed of holding her in his arms like this, skin to skin, the rest of the world a million miles away. It was worth the wait.

 

“I only saw him a few times, but he never told me his name. Which was strange. I heard him tell Tina once when he thought I was sleeping that his name was Eric Shepherd and that I was his wife, Lisa. But he didn’t want her to tell me that. He wanted me to remember who I was and not have to live with fake memories. So he called me Amy, just like everybody else.”

 

“Why is that strange?” Zach asked. “Didn’t I do the same thing?” Kendall nodded. “Yes, that’s not the strange part. It’s when I was finally released. I hadn’t seen Eric for a couple of months. I don’t think he even knew I was getting out of the hospital. But when I went to deal with what had to be a huge hospital bill, they said my husband had already made arrangements for it. When I questioned it, they showed me a form signed by somebody named Alexander Cambias, Jr. He never mentioned that name to me. I don’t even know who that is.”

 

Zach exhaled sharply. “Yes, you do,” he said. When Kendall turned to look at him, he stroked her face. “You’re lookin’ at him.” “I don’t understand,” Kendall said. “I was born Alexander Cambias, Jr.,” Zach began. “When I was old enough to make it on my own, I escaped my father and changed my name. Eventually I became Zach Slater, a successful casino owner. That’s when I met a beautiful woman with sparkling green eyes and fell madly in love.” “Just like that?” Kendall asked. “One look and you were a goner?” Zach shook his head, but said, “Just like that.”

 

He leaned down to kiss her, but she met him halfway. She was tired of talking about hospitals and strangers and head injuries. She wanted to recapture what they’d found last night. She wanted to feel that connection again, the one she’d been missing since she woke up in that hospital bed. Zach allowed Kendall to deepen the kiss, responding quickly to her need. He needed her too. He needed to be reminded that she wasn’t the same broken woman in those pictures that were etched in his brain. She was healthy and whole, and more beautiful than ever. And she wanted him. After all she’d been through, she still wanted him and the life they had together.

 

It stirred something in him he couldn’t explain. It made him feel humble and undeserving, but it also made him feel revitalized, as if he was the one being made whole again. And right now, more than anything, it made him feel hungry. Hungry for her. Hungry for the feelings she awakened in him. Hungry to recapture all that they had lost.

 

He pulled her on top of him, then rolled them both over, relishing the feel of her skin against his as he covered her completely. He wanted to let Kendall set the pace this time. He was willing to be whatever she needed. Slow and loving, or wild and passionate. He waited for her to become the aggressor.

 

Kendall looked up at him, amazed at the depth of her own feelings for him. She could see his heart in his eyes again, and it had the same effect it always had, it made her burn for him. She wanted to feel him, to be a part of him, until the day she died. And at that moment, she knew she would get her wish. Their souls were joined, even when their bodies were not. That connection could never be broken. Hadn’t the last two years proven that? She smiled as she pulled Zach’s head down and wrapped her arms around his neck. Zach eagerly met her lips, then they both gave in to the flames of passion that engulfed them.

 

*************************

 

“I used to lie in bed at night and imagine you holding me like this,” Kendall whispered. She was lying on her side and Zach was lying behind her, his arms wrapped around her and holding her close. “I always knew you were out there,” she continued as she traced circles on his arm. “But how could I know how much I would love you?” She closed her eyes against a sudden swell of emotion. She felt Zach kiss her temple as his thumb brushed the underside of her breast. “I was so scared, Zach. I didn’t know where I was or how I got there. I didn’t know if I would recover from all of my injuries. And I didn’t trust the only person who came to get me. I just knew he wasn't who he claimed to be.”

 

“Once, when I heard him come into the room, I pretended to be asleep. I felt so guilty, but I couldn’t face him. He slipped into bed behind me, just like you are now. But it didn’t feel anything like this. All I remember feeling was cold and empty. And so alone. It wasn’t what I had imagined.”

 

“I’m sorry you were alone,” Zach said, his voice soft and low against her ear. “I won’t let you slip away again. I promise.” He turned her over and settled her on top of him, needing to feel her heartbeat against his. Kendall fell asleep to the sound of Zach’s even breathing and the feel of his hands moving gently, but possessively, over her back.

 

Lay down beside me
Love me and hide me
Kiss all the hurtin'
Of this world away
Hold me so close
That I feel your heart beat
And don't ever wander away

 

 

TBC


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Roseann

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Reply with quote  #52 
Thanks Karen...what great bedtime reading...  Looking foward to the next chapter!
Roseann
zendall44

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Reply with quote  #53 

Thanks Karen!  I really needed this.  There just aren't any more words to describe this beautiful story.  What an amazing writer you are!


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Reply with quote  #54 

Thanks again for a wonderful story!!!

Ann

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Reply with quote  #55 
Absolutely spell binding! I don't think I have ever been so caught up in a story before. I love the way you always have Zach deal with Ryan and I can't wait to see what you have in store for him this time.
Thank you.

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Ann
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Reply with quote  #56 
Wow another great chapter, I am so loving this story. I love you stories so much. Can hardly wait for the next chapter. Ryan needs to suffer for keeping Kendall's where about from him and the boys all that time,so unfair... More soon please ...
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Reply with quote  #57 
Absolutely fabulous.  As always I eagerly await the next installment.

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ninekaronas

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Chapter 13

“Okay, Zach. I told you what I remember. Now tell me who that guy really is.” Zach and Kendall were sitting on deck wrapped in thick blankets, enjoying a glorious sunset. They had just shared a nice long bath together when Kendall decided she wanted to get some air. So Zach, always ready to oblige, scooped her up and wrapped her in a towel before grabbing the blankets and carrying her from the room. He sat watching the wind blow through her hair while she watched the sun disappear into the ocean.

“I told you that you got pregnant with Spike to help your best friend,” he said, unsure of how much to tell her. He finally decided to give her full disclosure, just like he’d asked her to do for him. When Kendall nodded, he continued. “Well, Ryan – that’s the guy in the picture – was the father of that baby.” Kendall gasped. “He’s Spike’s father?” Zach reached for her hand. “There’s more. You and Ryan were a couple once. In fact, you were engaged to be married, but it fell apart when your best friend, Greenlee, convinced him to marry her instead. They fell in love and you became the enemy.”

Kendall stared at him. She knew he wouldn’t lie to her, but she couldn’t imagine how she could have loved that man or why she would have had their baby if they treated her so badly. Zach, reading her thoughts, cut to the chase. “You worked through it. You got over Ryan, and you and Greenlee patched things up. Greenlee wanted to have his child, but she couldn’t, so you volunteered to be a surrogate. Oh yeah, did I mention that Ryan had faked his own death and you both thought he was gone forever?”

Zach said it so seriously, but she could see the mischief in his eyes. “Are you telling me the truth?” she asked, unable to contain her own smile. “Every word,” he said, crossing his heart. “God, it sounds like a soap opera,” she laughed. “Nah, you couldn’t make stuff like this up,” he said, finally gifting her with a smile.

“Anyway, long story short. He came back from the dead, Greenlee was mad and left town, leaving you with a baby to deal with. You decided to keep Spike and gave Ryan parental rights. Ryan fell in love with Annie and everything was good until Greenlee came back. After months of going back and forth, we all became friends and life was pretty good. Until one morning when Ryan woke up and forgot what year it was. He was trapped in 2004 and wanted to pick up where he left off … with my wife.”

Kendall smiled at his choice of words. She loved it when he called her his wife. “So when he saw me in Memphis, he knew who I was and he deliberately kept me from you?” The weight of what he’d said finally hit her. “He called himself our friend and he didn’t tell you where I was? Why?” Zach reached over and pulled Kendall’s heavy chair closer, impressing her with his strength. How could hands that strong be so gentle, she wondered as she laced her fingers through his.

“He was lost and confused … and completely selfish,” Zach continued, interrupting her thoughts. He struggled to find the right words. “He cares about you Kendall, I sincerely believe that. But he’s also a dangerous, violent man. I don’t trust him. I never have. And when I find him, I swear …” He didn’t finish the sentence, but Kendall could see the violence in him. She could feel it bubbling underneath the surface. But it didn’t frighten her. It made her feel safe. She loved his physical strength because she knew he had the strength of character to back it up. He was always in control.

“When did you last see him?” Zach asked when he’d gotten his temper under control. He recognized that it was getting harder and harder to keep it suppressed, but he wouldn’t let Kendall see it. She’d been through enough violence to last a lifetime and he didn’t want her to think he was capable of anything like that. The last thing he ever wanted to do was scare her.

“I honestly don’t remember,” she answered calmly. “He didn’t visit for a long time. I continued to get better and was eventually ready to be released. I left Memphis without telling anyone where I was going. Who would I tell?” she added with a shrug. “He doesn’t have any idea where I am, Zach.”

“And you have no idea where he went when he left you?” She shook her head. “No. He never mentioned a place. He did say once that he was getting everything ready so we could be a family again. A real family.” She looked at Zach. “I wonder what he meant by that.”

Zach’s blood ran cold. He knew exactly what Lavery was planning. He was already curious about Kendall’s reaction to Ryan in Memphis. Even though she didn’t remember him, it didn’t explain why she was so wary. Why didn’t she trust him? Amy had proven to be a pretty trusting, guileless girl. So what was it about Ryan Lavery, a man that Kendall cared for, that made Amy so suspicious?

He quickly excused himself and returned to the bedroom to find his phone. He didn’t want to alarm Kendall, but he couldn’t wait until they were back on land. He wondered if Ryan had discovered that Amy was gone. He knew he’d be furious when he found out he’d lost her. Furious, and desperate.

The first call Zach made was to Rachel. He needed to know the boys were okay. Then he placed a call to Johnny Mathis, giving strict orders about what he wanted done immediately to insure Spike’s safety. He couldn’t stop Ryan from seeing his son, but he wanted to know the second he showed his face.

Zach closed the phone and tossed it on the bed, staring at the spot where it rested. Kendall was the key to all of this. She was Spike’s custodial parent. If necessary, she was the one who could …

“What’s taking so long?” Kendall asked from the doorway. Zach turned to face her, his expression immediately changing from concerned to blissfully happy. That’s what Kendall did for him. She made everything possible. As long as they were together, nothing could touch them. Not even jealous ex-lovers with memory loss. Kendall was right, he thought with a smile, this was starting to sound like a soap opera.

“So,” she added when he didn’t answer. “You trying to ditch me or something?” He moved to stand in front of her, slowly unwrapping the blanket from around her shoulders. He smiled when he saw the goosebumps, unable to resist the urge to kiss her bare skin. He made his way to her lips, finding them cold from the October wind, but not for long. Kendall sighed into his mouth as she relaxed against him, trusting him to keep her from falling.

With one hand on her waist to steady her, he took the other hand and ran his fingers down her neck and over her shoulders, settling them at the top of the towel that was still wrapped around her. Never taking his eyes from hers, he pulled the towel away from her body and felt it fall at his feet. He felt Kendall’s fingers at his waistline, fumbling at the towel he still wore. He laughed when she became frustrated, then pulled her hands away. He was just about to remove the towel when they both jumped at the sound of the ringing phone.

Zach groaned, but Kendall giggled. Cursing under his breath, Zach went to the bed and snatched up the phone. Kendall watched as his anger was quickly replaced by fear. “Who is it?” she asked hoarsely. “Home.” Kendall gasped and ran to where Zach was standing, stopping only long enough to grab the towel at her feet. She was relieved to see that Zach was smiling now.

“Sure, it’s okay,” he said softly. “Put him on.” Zach motioned Kendall closer and tilted the phone so she could hear. “Daddy?” she heard a soft, sleepy voice say. “What’s wrong, little man?” Zach said, his eyes on Kendall. “I had a bad dream,” Spike said. “The monster again?” Zach asked “Uh-huh,” came the reply. “Didn’t you use the hockey stick I gave you? No monster can stand up to that. Remember how I showed you?” “Uh-huh. I cross-checked him just like you said.” “Good boy. And he ran away, right?” Zach said, nodding as if Spike could see him. “Yeah, but can I sleep in your bed in case the monster comes back?” “Sure you can. I’ll be home soon to tuck you and Ian in.”

Kendall faded off on the conversation. She was lost in the sound of that sweet little voice. She put her hand over Zach’s as he held the phone, desperate to get closer to the boy on the other end of the line. She looked at Zach through her tears and smiled. The look on his face took her breath away. He was transformed. The love she saw in his eyes, not just for her, but also for her son, melted her heart.

The next thing she knew she was wrapped in his arms and he held her as she cried. “Oh my God, Zach!” she said at last. “My son … that was my son!” He kissed her quickly, then kissed her again. Her reaction to the sound of Spike’s voice was something he would never forget. He couldn’t seem to wipe the smile off of his face. And neither could she.

Until she remembered what he’d said. “You need to get home to see the boys and relieve the nanny, don’t you?” She tried to keep the disappointment from her voice, but failed miserably. “Is it still Rachel?” she asked. Zach looked surprised. “Yes, how did you know?” “It just came to me,” she said with a shrug. “Do you remember what she looks like?” Kendall shook her head and looked up at him. “No, but if she’s been living in my house all this time, with my husband, I know what I hope she looks like.” “Tell me,” Zach said as he wrapped his arms around her waist. “Short, fat and over 60,” Kendall exclaimed. Zach wanted to laugh. She was actually pouting. This was the woman he married. “See, you do remember her,” he said, his face giving nothing away.

“Do you really have to go?” she asked, pressing her face against his bare chest. “We can’t stay here forever?” he answered gently as he pulled her closer. “Why not?” “Because our life isn’t here. This is just a part of what we have, but there’s more, Kendall. A lot more.”

“But this is my favorite part,” she grumbled. Zach smiled. “Mine too,” he said. “And we’ll definitely be back. But we can’t hide from the rest of the world. Besides,” he added, “Kendall Hart Slater doesn’t hide from anything.” He’d meant to challenge her, but immediately regretted it when he felt her tense.

She eased away from him, the sadness in her eyes pulling at his heart. “But what if I’m not ready to be Kendall Hart Slater? What if I’m still just Amy?” She looked so lost. Zach hadn’t seen that look in a while, but he recognized it. She was unsure of her place in a life she didn’t remember … in a world full of strange people and foreign places. He kissed her and let his fingers linger on her face as he looked into her eyes.

“Then you’re Amy. It doesn’t matter to me. I’m not expecting you to come home with me and pick up your life as if nothing happened. It’s gonna take time. I understand that. I’ll wait for you, Kendall … Amy … as long as it takes.” She stood on her tiptoes and kissed him, timidly at first, then deeper.

“What about my job at the Marigold Sky?” she wondered aloud. “You don’t ever have to go back there,” he said. “Yes, I do. My things are there.” She stepped out of his arms and walked away from him. “I have to go back,” she said. “But everything you left behind is still waiting for you at home. Anything else you need, we can replace,” he argued. He didn’t know why, but he didn’t like the thought of her resuming her life so far away from him. He wanted her here, in Pine Valley, where he could see her, touch her, make love to her, every single day. Her words caught his attention.

“I have something there that can’t be replaced. I need to go back.” She turned to look at him, afraid of what she might see. But he wasn’t angry. He was worried. “You can come with me if you want,” she suggested. She didn’t want him to think she was trying to escape him. Far from it. She had found him at last and she would never let him go. This was about reclaiming her past, not running away from it.

“Okay,” Zach said, “and then what?” “Then … I don’t know,” Kendall shrugged. “Where do we go from here?” Zach cocked his head to the side. “How about if we don’t go anywhere. We just stay right here?” Kendall folded her arms across her chest. “Isn’t that what I said earlier? You said we couldn’t.” Zach nodded as he moved closer to her. “We can’t. But you can,” he clarified. He watched as Kendall’s eyes glanced around the room before meeting his. “You mean, live here?” she asked. “By myself?”

“Sure, why not? It belongs to you. And it’s a lot closer than that dive you’re living in now,” he teased. “Zach Slater! That’s a perfectly nice room. How dare you insult my home! You’re such a snob,” she said with mock indignation. Zach liked seeing the fire in her eyes again. He took a step closer, invading her space, and said low in her ear. “Honey, the last thing I am is a snob. I’ve lived in places that make your room look like The Plaza.” “Then why?” she began, but stopped when he moved even closer.

“I just wanted to see your passion again. Your eyes are blazing and your chest is heaving. I bet your skin is hot to the touch.” Kendall closed her eyes at his words. She was hot alright. His nearness always had that effect on her. She waited for him to touch her, but he didn’t. She could feel him watching her, but his hands remained fisted at his sides.

She opened her eyes to find him studying the towel she was wearing. “Didn’t I already take this off?” he asked huskily when his eyes met hers. Kendall nodded. He ran one finger along the top of the towel, dipping it beneath the fabric so he could get a better grip. Then, with one swift motion, he ripped it from her body.

Kendall gasped. “What happened to not hiding?” she said. “Nothing wrong with hiding for a little while longer,” Zach replied as he let his eyes travel the length of her body. “Will you think about staying here? It really is your home, too.” Kendall noticed his own breathing was getting deeper. It made her feel powerful.

“If you promise me one thing,” she said seriously. He reacted to the tone in her voice. “Anything,” he said immediately. “I want to meet the boys, Zach. I want to see my sons.” Zach nodded. “Of course. Whenever you want.” “But” she added when he reached for her and pulled her against him. “Yes” he growled. “I’m not ready for the rest of it, Zach. Just you and our babies. Can that be enough for you? For a little while longer?”

Zach walked her backwards until she felt the bed behind her knees. He eased her backward, then lowered himself beside her. He looked into her eyes. “Whatever you want, Kendall. We can do this at your pace. Nobody will bother you. No expectations. No demands. As long as you’re ready for me.”

His words were cut off by her lips. She pulled his head down to her and kissed him. It wasn’t soft and gentle. There were no tears. It was a kiss of urgency and need. It was a kiss of possession. She didn’t know what tomorrow would hold for her. The future was a scary place for a woman with no memories of the past. And she knew that despite Zach’s best intentions, there would be expectations and demands. Eventually the world would expect her to become the woman she used to be.

While the prospect of that scared her, it also excited her. She wanted her life back. She wanted friends and family and a place to belong. And she wanted desperately to remember every second she’d spent with this amazing man who owned her heart.

“I’m ready for you, Zach.”

TBC

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Puppetwrangler

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Reply with quote  #59 
Thanks for the new chapter. I really like this story.
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Reply with quote  #60 

Thanks, Karen...another great chapter...

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Wow this story rocks !!!!  Thanks for another great chapter. I am so loving this story....  More soon please  : )

Dana 

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zendall44

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Thank you Karen!  Another wonderful chapter.  Can't wait for more!!!!


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Reply with quote  #63 

Thanks Karen another great Chapter! I really love this story!

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“I’m ready for you, Zach.”
*sigh*
I'm also ready for the rest of this beautiful story!  I have a feeling we are in for some excitement soon.

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Chapter 14

Zach leaned back in his chair and folded his arms across his chest. It was all too confusing. The more he discovered about Kendall’s disappearance, the more questions he had. Why was she instinctively afraid of Ryan? Zach had never trusted him, but Kendall always had. And while it was obvious that Ryan was responsible for moving her to Memphis in the first place, Zach couldn’t understand why. Was Kendall hurt in Los Angeles and transported out of state, or was she already in Memphis when she was attacked? He took a deep breath and let it out slowly, then picked up the file that was still lying open on his desk.

And why did Lavery use Cambias funds to pay her bill? Surely he knew it would eventually be discovered. It had taken weeks to trace, but eventually Zach’s accountants had figured out how Ryan had managed to access that much cash from Cambias accounts that he should no longer have access to. He had laundered it through several offshore sources, always using the name Alexander Cambias, Jr.

That fact angered Zach most of all. Alexander Cambias, Jr. no longer existed. So how could his own company honor that name and allow the transfer of so much money? It was inexcusable, and he would personally see to it that whoever allowed it was held responsible. It wasn’t about the money. Hell, he would have gladly paid every dime he had to get his wife back. But to think that somebody else could use his name to keep her from him … well, it was unfathomable. And it made him furious.

In spite of the anger burning deep inside him, he couldn’t help but smile when he his mind drifted back to the one topic it never really left … Kendall. After all these weeks, it was still hard to believe that she was really here, in Pine Valley. Home to stay. Or at least she would be after today. He was going to pick her up later and move her into the At Last.

It had taken a lot of convincing on his part. Kendall’s first instinct was to refuse. She was afraid that things were moving too fast and she didn’t want to disappoint him. So he’d dropped her off at her room across from the Marigold Sky with the promise that she would think about it. He remembered how empty he felt as he drove back home, each mile that he put between them weighing heavily on his heart.

He’d gone home, carried his sleeping sons back to their beds and tucked them in tight. Then he climbed into his own bed – cold and empty – and stared at the ceiling. It all just felt so wrong. He rested his hand on Kendall’s side of the bed as he’d done so many other nights, but this time was different. He didn’t feel the ache he normally felt. There was no feeling of loss this time. No frustration and no worry. This time he was drowning in a new emotion … longing. After spending the previous night with her, he knew he’d never be able to stand that empty bed again.

The next thing Zach knew he was standing outside Kendall’s door, knocking softly. He’d left a note for Rachel and kissed the boys goodbye, then got back in the car for the trip back to Kendall. When she opened the door, soft and sleepy, he felt like a weight had been lifted from his shoulders. He could finally breathe again.

”Zach, what are you doing here?” she’d asked as she moved aside to let him in. “It’s where I belong,” he replied, pulling her into his arms. She sighed against his chest. “I’m so glad you’re here,” she whispered. Without another word between them, Zach stripped out of his clothes and joined Kendall in the small, lumpy bed. He was asleep within minutes with his beautiful wife draped across his chest.

When he awoke that morning, it was to find Kendall staring at him. She kissed him softly, then agreed to move aboard the yacht until she was ready for more. “It’s where I belong,” she said, repeating his own words. “This,” she added as she snuggled up against him, “is where I belong.”

Zach’s mind was brought to the present by a ringing phone in the outer office. He went back to the files he’d been studying for most of the morning. Upon learning that he was the one who had paid for “Amy’s” hospital stay, the hospital had released the official records to him. It just proved how invaluable Johnny was. There was nothing in this file that Zach hadn’t already seen. There were a few more detailed reports, and it was much more organized, but the information was virtually the same.

Zach’s eyes scanned the pages for the dozenth time, and this time a name jumped out at him: Dr. Clayton Matthews. It wasn’t really his name that caught Zach’s attention, it was his specialty … OB/GYN. But Kendall wasn’t raped. He flipped back to the ER report and confirmed that fact for himself. “No signs of sexual assault,” he read aloud. So why would she …

“Am I interrupting?”

Zach looked up to find Kendall standing in the doorway. Her trademark curls were pulled into a ponytail and her face was hidden behind a pair of over-sized sunglasses. She immediately stepped inside and closed the door behind her.

He quickly closed the file and stuffed it into a drawer before rushing to greet her. “Not at all,” he said as he kissed her cheek. He took her hand and led her to the leather sofa that lined one wall of the office. “What are you doing here?” he asked when he’d settled himself beside her. “I can’t believe you took the risk, but I’m glad you did. Did anybody see you?” He reached for her hand as he waited for her to answer his questions.

“No, I don’t think so. There was nobody in the outer office, so I let myself in. We have an appointment, remember? Is now a bad time?” Zach brought her hand to his lips and kissed it softly. “For you, there is no bad time. But I don’t remember any appointment. What’s it about?” Kendall smiled sweetly as she held his gaze. “It’s about the folder you just hid in your desk. I want to see it, Zach.”

He lowered his eyes to their joined hands. It was hard not to picture the images in his mind. They haunted him daily and he knew it would be the same for her. He never wanted her to see them. Ever. “No, Kendall. I don’t think that’s a good idea.”

Instead of getting angry, Kendall’s eyes softened. She placed her hand on Zach’s unshaved cheek and smiled when he leaned into it. She could see the pain in his eyes and knew he was trying to protect her, and she loved him for it. But she was determined. He could see that in her eyes.

Zach hung his head in defeat. He walked over to the bar and poured them both a drink. Kendall declined hers at first, but he insisted. “You’ll need it,” he said. Then he walked to the desk and retrieved the file, dropping it on the couch beside Kendall. He started pacing when she tentatively picked it up, but quickly returned to her side when he heard her gasp.

He waited for her to break down, but she never did. She thumbed through the pages carefully, paying special attention to the photographs. She worked silently and methodically, never lifting her head from the folder in her lap. Zach sat beside her, stunned by her stoicism. When she’d flipped over the last page, she closed the file and put in on the table in front of her. She reached for the scotch, killing it in one long drink. Only then did she look up at her husband.

Zach saw the tears in her eyes, but he’d been expecting that. It was the other emotion that he saw that took him by surprise. She was embarrassed. He could sense the shame she felt, but he didn’t understand it. Why would she feel ashamed? She was an innocent victim. Didn’t she know she never needed to be embarrassed in front of him? Did she think he blamed her?

“Kendall?” he said helplessly. He didn’t know what to say or where to begin, but he couldn’t stand the look on her face. “Talk to me,” he said when she continued to stare at him. She shook her head mutely. Zach watched as the tears began to roll down her face. “Kendall,” he repeated softly as he pulled her onto his lap. He sat back on the couch and cradled her in his arms while she sobbed.

“Why do I always end up crying when I’m with you,” she asked when the tears were all gone. “Because you can,” he answered. He continued to hold her against his chest as he rubbed her back. “You’ve been through a lot, Kendall. Why wouldn’t you be emotional? Nothing wrong with that.” Kendall smiled at his casual tone. She knew he was upset too. He hadn’t wanted her to see those pictures, and now she understood why. But she wasn’t sorry she’d looked at the file. She needed to know everything. It was the only way she was going to remember.

“I’m sorry, Zach,” she said. “I’m sorry that you had to see me like that. It’s humiliating for me, and I know it must be very hard on you. I wish I’d done more to protect myself … fought harder, or …” Zach took Kendall’s chin in his hand and turned her face to his. She could feel the anger he was trying to hide from her.

“You have nothing to be ashamed of. Do you hear me? Look at me,” he demanded when her eyes fell. He waited for her to meet his gaze before continuing. “You didn’t do anything wrong. The bastard who did that to you is the only one to blame. And I’ll find him, Kendall, so help me …” his voice broke on that solemn vow. He took a deep breath and started again. “You have no reason to be ashamed. And I never want you to feel embarrassed in front of me. Ever.” He brought her face to his for a kiss, then settled her back against his chest.

“Why would anybody do such a thing?” she asked several minutes later, her voice soft as a whisper. “I don’t know, honey. I can’t imagine what would turn a man into such a monster, but he’ll pay for it. I promise you that.” “Was I … I mean, did he …” Kendall stammered, unable to ask the question that plagued her. “No,” Zach said simply. Kendall could hear all the pain and anger in that one word. The same pain and anger that she was feeling. She closed her eyes against the emotions and drew comfort from Zach’s strength. Within minutes she was fast asleep. Zach held her for a long while, unwilling to let her out of his grasp.

Kendall awoke to find herself lying on the couch in Zach’s office, his jacket draped over her. She sat up quickly, angry at herself for falling asleep. Would she never stop humiliating herself? She looked up to find her husband watching her. She smiled weakly and stood to her feet.

“Why didn’t you wake me?” she asked, lowering herself into a chair across from him. He shrugged. “I like watching you sleep,” he said. “I’ve missed that a lot.” Kendall nodded, not sure what to say. She ran her fingers through her hair and smoothed out her dress. She suddenly sat up straighter, a look of confusion on her face.

“I remember sleeping on a couch in your jacket. I was waiting for you.” She looked up at him to see if he understood what she was remembering. “Where were you, Zach?” “In a hole,” he said evenly. “It’s a long story,” he added when she opened her mouth to speak. “I was in an accident and fell into an underground bomb shelter.” “How long were you in there?” Kendall asked. “Five weeks.” She could tell it wasn’t a subject he wanted to discuss, so she dropped it. “I’m sorry,” she said, sensing his discomfort. “So am I,” he replied dully.

“Do you think I’m in danger, Zach?” she blurted out. She couldn’t shake the violent images of her assault. As odd as it sounded, she wished she could remember the attack. She’d feel less vulnerable if she knew what had happened. Zach leaned back in his chair and fidgeted with his wedding ring, something that had become a subconscious habit.

“I’m not sure,” he said at last. “I’ve got a team of investigators trying to find the animal who hurt you, but there’s not much to go on. I don’t even know if you were attacked in Los Angeles or Memphis. But my gut tells me it was random.” Kendall breathed a sigh of relief. “So you think I’m safe?” Zach shook his head.

“I didn’t say that. I don’t think you need to be afraid of the man who attacked you. On the contrary, he’s the one who needs to be afraid.” “But,” she prodded when he didn’t elaborate. “But I am still worried about Ryan. I think he may pose a threat.” Kendall stared at him. “Why would he want to hurt me?” she asked. “He doesn’t think he would be hurting you. He thinks he loves you, remember? And he thinks you belong together, just you, Ryan and Spike. I don’t think he’ll give up the fantasy that easily.”

Kendall was shocked. “You mean he’d come after Spike? Take him from his home and uproot his life just to keep you from finding out where I am?” She couldn’t believe this was a man she had once loved and trusted. “I think he’d do anything to keep you for himself, yes,” Zach said.

“He made plans to move to Memphis, and he was going to take Spike with him. I guess he thought the three of you could just start over as one big happy family. But you left before he could pull it all together.” He looked up at Kendall, suddenly weary of all the explanations. “He couldn’t marry you as long as you and I were still married. He needed me to divorce you, which he knew would never happen. So he tried to convince me to have you declared legally dead.” Zach remembered a conversation he’d had with Ryan a few months after Kendall disappeared.

”Lavery, what do you want?” Zach growled at his unwanted guest. He’d spent the better part of the day crawling inside a bottle and company was the last thing he wanted. Especially this company.

“How long you gonna do this, man?” Ryan asked. “Do what?” Zach asked angrily. “Grieve for my missing wife? Until the day I find her, or the day I die. Whichever comes first.” Ryan took the bottle from Zach’s hand and placed it back on the table. “It’s time to face facts, Zach. Kendall is dead and she’s never coming back. You need to accept that.”

Zach slammed his glass on the table and glared at his nemesis. “Who the hell are you to come in here and start giving out orders? Kendall is not dead. Do you understand? She is not dead. I'll never accept that. She’s out there somewhere, waiting for me to find her. And I’m gonna find her. Any day now.”

“What, like this? How you gonna find her, Zach? The only place you’ve looked is the bottom of that glass. And do you know why? Because you know she gone forever. You know it, and it’s eating you up inside. I understand, Zach. It’s killing me too.” Ryan’s fake sincerity just fueled Zach’s anger.

“You don’t understand a damn thing, Lavery. Kendall is my wife. Not yours. Never yours. Mine. And I’m telling you for the last time, SHE IS NOT DEAD!!” Ryan held up his hands in surrender. “Whatever you say, man. But I think it’s time you make it official and move on with your life. If not for you, at least for the boys. They need you, Zach. They’ve already lost their mother.”

Zach jumped to his feet and grabbed Ryan by the neck. “Don’t throw my boys in my face. They haven’t lost me or their mother. I’m gonna find Kendall and bring her back here where she belongs. See yourself out. Now!


Kendall swallowed the lump in her throat and asked the question that couldn’t be avoided. “Do you think he’s the one who hurt me?” Zach pursed his lips and looked away from her. She could tell he was giving it serious thought. She could also tell it wasn’t the first time he’d considered it.

“No,” he said after a lengthy silence. “I don’t trust him, and I don’t ever want him anywhere near you or Spike again. But I honestly don’t believe he would brutalize you like that. He’s had problems with his temper in the past. So if you had a black eye, sure, I could hold him responsible. But this,” he said, holding up the file, “I just don’t see him doing that. Especially not to you.”

Kendall felt relieved, but not for long. “But just to be safe,” Zach said, his eyes meeting hers, “I’ve got men looking for him. I talked to Gus this morning. I showed him Lavery’s picture and asked if he’s seen him around. So far he hasn’t, but I gave him some incentive to call me the minute he does.”

“Do I have men watching me?” she asked suspiciously. “Just one,” he replied, his gaze intent. “Anyone I know?” she prodded, already knowing the answer. “You might know him. In fact, you might be married to him.”

Kendall smiled as she walked over to stand in front of Zach. He made her feel so safe, no matter what. She took his hand and he immediately pulled her forward until she was sitting in his lap again. He kissed her softly, then again with more urgency.

Kendall reached up and covered his hand where it rested on her neck. She felt the cool metal of his wedding ring. She smiled at the fact that he still wore it, even after two years of her absence. “What?” he asked when he found himself kissing her teeth.

She pulled their joined hands down to rest in her lap, still stroking the ring. “I was just thinking how romantic it is that you never took off this ring. You never gave up on me.” She looked into his eyes and saw the truth. She also saw complete and total acceptance. “How could I?” he said. “What am I gonna do without you?”

“I’ve got people looking for your rings, Kendall. All over the world.” He ran his finger over the spot where they should be. He hated the thought of somebody else wearing those rings. “They won’t find them,” she said, interrupting his thoughts. “Then we’ll replace them,” he said. Kendall shook her head. “They can’t be replaced, Zach.” “Of course they can. They’re just metal and stones. That can always be replaced.”

He tried to sound casual, but he didn’t sound convincing, even to his own ears. He pulled Kendall into his arms. They both knew the rings were a lot more than metal and stones. And they both knew replacing them was not an option. Zach gritted his teeth in frustration, while Kendall hugged him, a knowing smile on her face.

“Come on, I’ve got a surprise for you,” Zach said as he lifted Kendall to her feet. “Get your coat.” “Where are we going?” she asked as she took the hand he offered. “For a stroll in the park.”

*************************

Zach checked his watched as they sat down on the park bench. “Any minute now,” he said. “What are we doing here, Zach?” Kendall asked. “It’s freezing cold. Not exactly strolling weather.” “Patience,” he said, his eyes searching the horizon. “Ah, here we are.” He settled back against the bench and pulled Kendall up against him. He tilted his head in the direction of the playground, and that’s when Kendall saw them … Spike and Ian.

She looked up at Zach and then back to the two small boys playing in the distance. They seemed oblivious to the cold, just as Kendall now was. She waved her hands in front of her face in an effort to keep the tears at bay. She didn’t want to cry anymore. She wanted to laugh and sing and shout to the heavens. Instead she curled up closer to Zach and enjoyed the beautiful gift he’d given her.

“I wish I could talk to them,” she said, turning to Zach. “I know you do.” He hugged her closer to him. “And you will. But…” “I know,” she interrupted. “It wouldn’t be fair to let them see me until I’m ready to come home for good. It would be too confusing for them.” Zach nodded, relieved that she understood the position he was in. He wanted more than anything for her to say she was ready to move back into the house he’d built for her, but he didn’t want to add to the pressure she was already under. But he also had to do what was best for the boys. Just for a little while longer, he hoped.

“That Rachel looks good for a 60-year-old,” Kendall said sarcastically, causing Zach to laugh. Both boys turned at the sound of it and came running. “Daddy!” they cried in unison. Zach ran to meet them while Kendall ducked into a small grove of trees. He scooped both boys up into his arms and smothered them in a bear hug, causing them to giggle. “Who were you talking too, Daddy?” Spike asked. Zach looked around, but saw no trace of Kendall. “Just a friend of mine, son. A very good friend.”


TBC

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Ann

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Reply with quote  #66 
Oooooooh, this just keeps getting better!
Thank you Karen, you are truly a master story teller.

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Purdue0612

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Reply with quote  #67 

Have I mentioned that I really really love this story!!!

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Reply with quote  #68 
Thank you for the new installment!
Lorene
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Reply with quote  #69 
Thanks, Karen...waiting patiently for the next chapter!!!  Have a great weekend everyone.
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Reply with quote  #70 
Well, consider this one a freebie. What was supposed to be the introduction got away from me and turned into a chapter of its own. Can I help it if Zach is so inspiring?



Chapter 15

Zach found himself once again making the long drive to the Marigold Sky, hoping to find Kendall there. She had disappeared from the park when the boys spotted them. He’d walked Spike and Ian back to the playground, telling them he couldn’t stay because he had an important errand to run. But his errand had vanished. Zach expected to find her waiting for him by the car, but she was nowhere to be found. He tried calling her cell, but it went straight to voice mail.

Since the original plan had been for him to pick Kendall up that afternoon and help her get moved to the At Last, he hoped to find her in her room, waiting for him. But she wasn’t there. After pounding on the door and calling her name for what seemed an eternity, he tried the knob and found the door unlocked. He took a deep breath and eased it open.

“Kendall,” he called, wincing at the way his voice seemed to echo through the empty room. Even though most of the things in the room weren’t Kendall’s, he could still feel the difference. She was gone, that was obvious. Her few belongings had been what made the place a home. Without them … without her … the place was cold and lifeless.

So now what? Where could she be? And why would she run off like that? Was she upset about seeing the boys? Or was she angry with him for not leaving them sooner? He shook his head absentmindedly and reached for his phone. He was just about to leave another message when he heard something move behind him.

“She’s gone.” Zach turned to see his old friend Clinton standing in the doorway, carrying a stack of clean bed linens. There was a woman in a maid’s uniform standing on the sidewalk behind him. Zach snapped the phone closed and shoved it into his pocket.

“She left,” Clinton repeated, confused by Zach’s demeanor. He seemed agitated, which didn’t make any sense because the lady had been so calm. She’d smiled at him so sweetly and looked so happy that he’d just assumed she was going home to her husband. So why was he here now looking for her? It didn’t make any sense.

“I can see that,” Zach said evenly. “Do you know where she went?” Clinton immediately shook his head, not wanting to incite the man’s anger. “She didn’t say,” he added. When Zach didn’t respond, the desk clerk grew bolder.

“I thought you told me you wanted to fix things between the two of you. I never would have told you where she was if I knew you were just going to let her slip away. Don’t you remember what you said? You wanted to patch things up. Obviously that didn’t happen,” he continued. “Obviously you just made things worse if she slipped away when you weren’t looking. Funny thing is, she didn’t look mad. In fact, she was smiling and very friendly. A beautiful woman like that shouldn’t be -“

“Stop!” Zach bellowed in order to be heard over the incessant chattering. “Thank you,” he said simply as he walked past the nervous little man and made his way across the street to the diner. A quick conversation with Gus told Zach all he needed to know.

“Yeah, Amy was here all right,” Gus said. “She thanked me for giving her a job and a place to stay and told me she wouldn’t be back. She even gave me a kiss. On the cheek,” he quickly amended, just in case this guy was the jealous type. He’d seen the way Mr. Moneybags eyeballed all the male customers who flirted with Amy, and he didn’t want any trouble.

“Did she say where she was going?” Zach asked, bemused by the fact that the gruff, burly man was intimidated by him. “Not specifically,” Gus said easily. “She just said she got what she came for and now it was time to make a fresh start. She wouldn’t even take the paycheck I owed her. Damnedest thing,” he muttered, wiping the sweat from the back of his neck.

“You seen any sign of the guy I told you to watch for?” Zach asked impatiently. He had a good idea where Kendall was, and he was wasting too much time here in Hooterville. “Nope. I’ve been on the lookout, but he ain’t been in here,” Gus said, sounding almost disappointed. Zach knew he was looking for a payoff, but that didn’t bother him. Greed was a great motivator. He pulled out a couple of bills and dropped them on the counter. “Incentive,” he explained when Gus looked at him questioningly.

Zach thanked him and hurried back to his car. Suddenly it all clicked into place in his mind. He knew exactly where Kendall was and he couldn’t wait to get to her.

*************************

Kendall was scattering her few belongings around the bedroom, trying to make it feel more like home. She was finding that nothing felt right unless Zach was with her. He made everything seem possible and all her fears evaporated whenever she was with him. She surveyed the room and decided it was perfect. Not quite as perfect as it was the last time, but that was because Zach wasn’t there.

She looked at her watch and wondered where he was. She’d expected him before now. Surely he knew where to find her, she thought, briefly worrying that maybe he’d be upset with her for leaving the park without talking to him. But she could never have pulled him away from his sons. She’d stood in the shadows and watched them as long as she dared. She knew she would never tire of seeing the three of them together.

She took one last look at her watch as she slipped it off and laid it on the bedside table. “Some day my prince will come,” she sang as she gathered her things and headed to the bathroom. She scolded herself as she sank into the hot water for not remembering to check her phone messages. “Oh well,” she said aloud, “no way I’m getting out of this tub now.” She settled back and let the suds cover her body as the stresses of the day melted away.

*************************

Zach kissed his boys goodnight and stood over their beds, watching them sleep. He felt such contentment. After all the long, lonely months, things were finally getting back to normal. Well, almost. Nothing about loving Kendall Hart was ever normal, or easy. But it was worth every bit of drama. She was worth it. Kendall Hart Slater, he amended, smiling to himself.

He grabbed his duffle bag and made his way downstairs. He and Rachel had a standing arrangement, so there was no need to bother her this time. She knew where to find him if she needed him.

He’d wanted to go to Kendall immediately, but decided to go home first. It was important to keep up the regular routine for Spike and Ian. As much as he wanted to spend every second with his wife, he knew the boys needed him too. They didn’t know yet just how drastically everything had changed. He hoped he’d be able to tell them soon.

*************************

Kendall gave up. She’d put on a slinky silk nightie and even had a bottle of champagne chilling. After all, this was her homecoming … sort of. She waited for Zach, but he never came. She finally remembered to check her messages, but all he ever said was that he was sorry and that he was looking for her. She knew it was too late to call him now, so she changed into something more comfortable and began blowing out the candles that were scattered around the room. Then she felt him.

She turned to find him standing in the doorway, watching her. She felt a flash of anger as she looked down at what she was wearing. This wasn’t how she wanted him to find her. All her romantic plans literally up in smoke and he catches her like this. She was on the verge of explaining her attire when she noticed he didn’t seem to be the least bit bothered by it. In fact, he was s staring at her with a look she’d seen before. The hungry wolf was back.

Without saying a word, Zach walked over to her. His look was so intense that she took a step back, more out of instinct than fear. He kept walking her backward until she was standing against the wall. With nowhere else to run, she waited as he drew closer, invading her space. Kendall’s breath quickened and her chest began to heave. She licked her lips and enjoyed the way it made his eyes darken. She felt the excitement as her body began to tingle, waiting for his touch.

Zach stood directly in front of Kendall, almost afraid to touch her. Just that quickly, he felt out of control. He couldn’t help the way his body reacted to seeing her dressed like that. His first thought was to wonder if she remembered, but the surprise in her eyes told him she didn’t have any idea what she was doing to him.

He reached out carefully and grabbed the hem of the red and white jersey she was wearing. He eased it upward, reveling in the skin he uncovered inch by beautiful inch. He looked into her eyes as he pulled it over her head. He could see the passion there, but also the confusion. She still didn’t understand the power she had over him. But he couldn’t explain it to her. Not now. He was helpless now to do anything except show her.

He stripped off his own clothes with amazing speed and then pressed himself against her as he took her in his arms for a scorching kiss. Kendall didn’t understand what had ignited such fierce desire in him, but she wasn’t about to question it now. She was beyond questions, beyond cohesive thoughts. She was lost to everything but the feelings he invoked in her. She was captured by the wolf.

***********************

“Well, I guess that answers my question?” Kendall said, smiling coyly. She was sprawled on top of her husband listening to his still erratic heartbeat. Zach reached up and brushed the hair away from her face and kissed her. “What question is that?” he asked. “I was gonna ask if you were mad at me for leaving the park. But you certainly don’t feel mad.” Zach smiled. “How do I feel?” he asked, his voice low and teasing. Kendall grinned and pressed herself against him. “You feel great,” she said, “but that’s not what I meant.”

“Why would I be mad?” Zach asked, groaning when Kendall eased off of him and settled against his side. “Because I didn’t wait for you. I didn’t want you to have to leave the boys, Zach. And I was anxious to get moved in here. I just assumed you’d know where I was, but when you never showed up …” her voice trailed off when he turned away from her. “It took me a while to figure it out,” Zach admitted, “but I wasn’t mad. I just needed to go home first to make a few arrangements.”

That got Kendall’s attention. “What arrangements?” she asked. Zach pointed to the duffle bag he’d brought in with him. “I’m staying.” Kendall looked shocked. “But what about the kids?” she began. “Spike and Ian need -“ Zach interrupted her before she finished her protest. “Spike and Ian need me. I know that and I haven’t abandoned them. But I need you, Kendall. So I’ll go home every night and have dinner with them, same as always. And when they’ve gone to bed, I’ll come here. I can’t sleep in that bed alone, Kendall. Not anymore. Not when I know you’re so close. Don’t ask me to.”

Kendall looked into his eyes and saw that his mind was made up. She didn’t really want to argue about it anyway. She wanted him there with her. Always. What harm could it do, as long as the boys didn’t miss out on their time with him? Besides, she told herself, it was only temporary. She’d be going home soon herself. She just needed a little more time to get used to everything. She needed to be stronger. Moving back into their house meant becoming Kendall Hart Slater again. Not just Kendall the wife and mother, but Kendall the daughter and sister and friend. Kendall the businesswoman. It was too much and she just wasn’t ready. No matter how guilty she felt about it, she couldn’t change the way she felt.

“What are you thinking?” Zach asked when she remained silent for so long. “You don’t want me to stay?” Kendall poked him in the shoulder. “Don’t be ridiculous. You know I do. I was just thinking, that’s all.” Zach smiled knowingly and brushed his thumb over her cheek. “It’s okay, Kendall. There’s no rush. I want you to come home for the right reasons. Not because you think it’s what you’re supposed to do.”

Kendall nodded, once again amazed at how well he knew her. She was about to tell him just how wonderful he was, when his next words got her completely off track: “I brought you something.”

Kendall sat up, taking the sheet with her. “Something for me?” she asked, her voice filled with excitement. Zach chuckled at her modesty. He’d touched every inch of her body only minutes before. So why was she hiding from him now? “Uh-huh,” he grunted. “In my bag.”

Kendall scrambled from the bed and quickly pulled the discarded jersey back over her head. She gave Zach a sheepish smile when he chastised her, then hurried over to his bag and unzipped it. She glanced back at him and he nodded. “Go ahead.” Kendall reached into the bag and gingerly pulled out two baby books … one for Spike and one for Ian. She squealed as she grabbed the books and returned to the bed.

“Thank you, Zach!” she said as she rained kisses all over his face. As she made her way through the first book, she couldn’t help but become annoyed with Zach. He was clearly distracted. Everything she said fell on deaf ears, even though she seemed to have his undivided attention. Every question she asked had to be repeated before he could answer it.

“Zach!” she snapped. “What’s the matter with you? Do you want to do this later?” He continued to stare at her blankly, his eyes fastened on the shirt she was wearing. “I’m sorry, Kendall,” he said at last. “But if you want me … you need to … the shirt … you’re gonna have to do something about the shirt.” Kendall looked down at his hand as it slid underneath the hem and stroked her legs.

“Well, I could take it off, but I don’t think that will help, will it?” she asked innocently. He shook his head slowly as his hand climbed higher. “What is it about this jersey?” she asked, placing her hand over his to stop its progress. “My two greatest passions in one beautiful package,” he said. “Where did you find it?” “Between the cushions on the couch,” Kendall explained.

Zach’s mind went back to the nights he’d spent on the boat after the police had called off the search for her. He’d tried to sleep in their bed at home, but he couldn’t. Truth was, he couldn’t stand to be in the house at all. Erica had taken Spike and Ian to stay with her so Zach could concentrate on finding Kendall. That left the house colder and emptier than he could bear, so he spent his nights aboard the At Last.

He’d been unable to sleep in that bed, too. But at least he felt close to Kendall there. He’d spent night after night on that couch, hugging that jersey to him, reliving the times they’d had together there. He replayed the first time they made love, their wedding … all of it. He prayed he would have another chance, and here he was, living out that second chance.

Zach looked up to find Kendall watching him. “The memory of you in that shirt got me through the darkest days of my life. I was afraid, Kendall. Afraid I’d never see you again. Never kiss you or touch you or hold you ever again.” He pulled her closer and held her face in his hands. “I’m glad you’re here,” he whispered as his lips met hers.

Kendall felt the tears forming and closed her eyes against the emotions he stirred deep within her. His pain broke her heart and the love she saw in his eyes humbled her. She closed the book and pushed it aside. Then she settled back into Zach’s arms, this time leaving the jersey on. She wanted him to feel it against his skin … to know that it was real and she was real and the whole nightmare was behind them.

Zach pulled her on top of him and snaked his hands under the shirt to rub her back. He knew what Kendall was doing, and he loved her for it. He loved the feel of the soft jersey against his skin, but he loved the soft feel of Kendall against his skin even more. Slowly, he pulled the jersey off for the last time that night.

He felt the peace of contentment wash over him for the second time that day. He fell asleep later with a smile on his face and the love of his life in his arms.

TBC

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Thanks.
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Thanks for another great chptr....

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Thanks Karen, I'm loving this story.

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Wow another great chapter. Thanks again, it is so good. Wow the things that Hockey jersey does to Zach, sure wish it was me in the jersey with him going ga ga over me lol  mmmmm some nice loving happening here wish the writers on the show would give us some of this instead of what we are getting... Keep up the great work, can hardly wait to read the next chapter.. More soon please ...
 
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Thanks, Karen!   Perfect way to start my day...

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What a wonderful way to start the morning!  Thank you Karen.  I needed another chapter in this wonderful story, like a junkie needs a fix.


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Thanks Karen!  Lovin' every word of this great story! 


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Chapter 16

Zach Slater was a man on a mission. He needed answers, and Memphis seemed like the best place to start looking for them. He leaned back into the soft leather seat of the Cambias jet and tried to relax, but it was an impossible task. His mind kept drifting back to the yacht. Or, more precisely, to the woman who he hoped was still sleeping in their bed. He’d hated leaving her, but he knew if he told her where he was going she’d want to come along. And even though he knew she had every right, he still didn’t think she was up to it. He smiled ruefully when he thought about the fight that he knew was coming when he returned to Pine Valley.

*************************

Sorry honey. You were sleeping so peacefully, I just couldn’t wake you. I can’t tell you how many nights I dreamed of watching you sleep. I’ll be back before you miss me. I miss you already.

Kendall sat up in bed and pushed her hair out of her eyes. She was not a happy woman. She re-read the note she’d found on Zach’s pillow. No. She wasn’t happy at all. How could he leave without even telling her goodbye? And where could he have to go that was so important he couldn’t wait for her? She sighed heavily, smiling in spite of herself when she thought about the pathetic picture she must be making, tangled in bedsheets, disheveled and pouting.

Her mind was replaying the events of last night, when she suddenly stiffened. She turned to look across the room at the bottle of champagne that sat floating in the bucket of melted ice. She got up and walked over to it, disappointed that her plan hadn’t worked out. Then again … looking down at the jersey she’d just pulled back on, she decided that things had worked out pretty well after all.

Kendall picked up the small wrapped box that held her wedding rings. She smiled as a new idea formed. She wondered how long Zach would be gone and read the note again, this time looking for clues. Surely she’d have enough time to pull it together.

*************************

Zach’s first stop once he entered Baptist Memorial Hospital was the hospital administrator’s office. He’d done his research and knew that the man holding that position was newly appointed. Hopefully it would work to their favor. He suspected misconduct in Kendall’s case, and a fresh face was his best hope of getting real answers.

“Don’t say anything,” he said to the man walking beside him. “You’re here as my business associate, not my brother-in-law. Besides,” he added as he looked Josh over, “maybe they’ll think you’re a lawyer. That should grease the wheels a little.” Josh shot Zach a look, pretending to be offended by what he knew was supposed to be an insult. “Nah, I think the fat donation you made will be all the grease you need.” “You took care of that?” Zach asked, lowering his voice as they entered the outer office. “Last week,” Josh assured. He closed his mouth and didn’t speak again until he and Zach were escorted to the elevator by the administrator’s assistant.

“What do you think?” Josh asked as he studied Zach’s face. “Was he telling us the truth, or giving us the brush off?” Zach chewed on his lip as he stared unseeingly at Josh. After a minute, he took a deep breath and shrugged. “I think he told us everything he knew, which was nothing we didn’t already know. Let’s just hope the hospital’s psychiatrist will be more helpful.” Zach knew this woman had dealt with “Amy” personally, so he was much less willing to buy any act of ignorance from her.

*************************

Kendall wanted to talk to Zach but she was afraid to call him because she didn’t want him to hear the excitement in her voice. It would ruin her surprise. She made all the necessary phone calls to put her plan in motion, trying to push him from her thoughts, but how could she? Wasn’t he the reason for all this anyway? When she couldn’t go another second without hearing his voice, she called him, but he didn’t answer. She left a quick message telling him that he was wrong. He wasn’t back and she missed him like crazy. She dialed the number again, just so she could hear his voice one more time, then she went into the bathroom to start getting ready.

*************************

“Ms. Gregory is expecting you, Mr. Slater. Please go right on in.” Josh cleared his throat in an effort to keep from laughing. He couldn’t believe how quickly word had spread through the hospital that Zach Slater was on the premises. Of course, many of them had no idea who he was, but that was Zach. He just exuded power, and people responded to it. Zach thanked the secretary and glanced knowingly at Josh before entering the office of Leslie Gregory, the chief psychiatrist on staff at Baptist Memorial Hospital.

“Mr. Slater, Mr. Madden, please sit down,” the woman said as she indicated the two chairs in front of her desk. “I’ve spoken to the administrator and I know why you’re here. You are Amy’s … I mean Kendall’s husband?” she asked as she turned her attention to Zach. “Yes. I need answers and I’m not leaving until I get them. Will you help me?” Blushing slightly under his intense gaze, Ms. Gregory nodded her agreement. “I was very fond of your wife. Of course I’ll do whatever I can to help. Where do you want me to start?” Zach narrowed his eyes and leaned forward to rest his arms on his knees as if bracing himself for bad news. “At the beginning,” he said evenly.

While the psychiatrist talked, Zach listened in silence. His eyes never wavered from her face and he never interrupted. Josh, on the other hand, paced around the room like a caged tiger, interrupting often to ask questions or correct false assumptions. Zach didn’t try to quiet him. He knew how hard it must be for Josh to hear all the details he’d tried to protect him from. Josh hadn’t seen the file Zach had hidden in his office safe, and he never would. Not if Zach could help it.

“And when I returned from the conference, Amy was gone,” Ms. Gregory said finally. “I was upset that nobody got a forwarding address. I had hoped to maintain a relationship with her, professionally speaking, because I felt like there was a lot she wasn’t dealing with yet.” That caught Zach’s attention. “Like what?” he asked. “Well, I believe she knows more about what happened to her than she thinks. She just doesn’t want to remember. Not yet,” she added when Josh threatened to interrupt. “She’s not ready. But when it comes, I warn you, it will be very hard on her.” Zach nodded and stood to his feet. “She won’t go through it alone.”

“Give us a minute,” he said to Josh, waiting for him to close the door behind him before continuing. “Tell me about Dr. Matthews. Why did he treat Kendall if she wasn’t ra … sexually assaulted?” He still couldn’t bring himself to say the word “raped.” “Clayton Matthews?” Ms. Gregory echoed, surprise showing on her face. When Zach nodded, she reached for the file she’d just gone over. “I don’t see any mention of him treating her. Are you sure he did?” Again Zach nodded.

“His name is on the billing records, as well as in the file I was sent from the hospital. But there is no report from him, and no record of why he was called in to treat her.” The doctor drummed her fingers on the desktop as she glanced over the file once again. “Amy never mentioned it.” When she realized what she’d said, she tried to apologize, but Zach waved her off.

“Amy, Kendall. It doesn’t matter what you call her. I just need to know what happened. Now if she was treated by an ob/gyn, I want to know why. If she was raped, we’ll deal with it. But I need to know. We both do,” he said emphatically. “And if he wasn’t there as a result of sexual assault … well, then, you can see why I’m concerned,” he said, his voice shaking as his eyes searched hers.

“Dr. Matthews is no longer on staff here, but those records should still be on file. Give me a minute and I’ll see what I can find out for you, Mr. Slater.” Zach walked over to look out the window as the doctor tapped away on her computer keyboard. He grew restless, but tried to remain calm. He had a bad feeling about this. Why was the doctor’s name removed from Kendall’s records here? Why the secrecy? He felt fear enveloping him as he waited for answers.

“There’s nothing under Amy Alexander or Kendall Slater.” Zach raised his head, but didn’t turn at the sound of her voice behind him. “Try Lisa Shepherd,” he said in a voice low and full of dread. After only a few seconds, she found it. “Here it is,” she said flatly. Zach could tell from her tone that he wasn’t going to like what she had to say. He turned to find her watching him.

“I don’t know how this happened. There must be some mistake. This shows that your wife was treated by Dr. Matthews. You see,” she said, pointing to the computer screen, “it’s the same patient number. But the name is different. How did you know?” she asked. Zach shook his head. He wasn’t there to give answers; he was there to get them. “What does it say?”

“She was pregnant,” Dr. Gregory blurted. “The ER doctors missed it because she was only a few weeks along. By the time it was discovered, she had lapsed into a coma. I’m sorry, Mr. Slater, but it looks like she lost the baby at about 16 weeks. There was just too much trauma for her body to sustain the pregnancy.”

Zach looked at the doctor blankly. He appreciated her professional demeanor. He didn’t need pity and he didn’t think he’d be able to handle sympathy. He needed to be alone. No, he corrected, he needed to be with Kendall. But Pine Valley seemed so far away. “Thank you for telling me,” he said, his voice thick with emotion.

“Wait here,” she said briskly as she hurried from the room. Zach stood staring out the window, wondering how he was going to tell Kendall. It was all so unfair. Hadn’t she been through enough? He pulled the phone from his pocket and listened to her message again, closing his eyes against the excitement he heard. She was happy, and he was going to break her heart. He turned when he heard somebody come into the room.

“Here you go, Mr. Slater. I could get fired for giving you this, but I think it’s the least this hospital owes you.” She handed him a folder with the name Lisa Shepherd written on the tab. He opened it to find an ultrasound sitting on top. His eyes met those of the psychiatrist briefly before she turned away. Zach stared at the tiny form in the picture, not sure he could believe what he was seeing. But he did believe it. In fact, it was what he had feared most.

“Was it too soon to tell if it was a boy or a girl?” Zach asked. “Well, I’m not an expert and it’s been a long time since I did my residency, but I’d say you had a little girl,” the doctor said, her eyes warm and sympathetic. Zach nodded and turned to go.

“One more thing,” he said from the doorway. “Kendall’s rings. I know she had them when she came into the emergency room.” His mind automatically went back to the pictures. Those rings were the only thing to hang onto from those gruesome images. “Whoever took them did it while she was here. I want them back, or there will be hell to pay.” His voice had turned menacing. The doctor could see that he was channeling his pain into anger over the missing jewelry. She almost hated to tell him what she knew.

“Mr. Slater, I happen to know that Amy, I mean Kendall, has those rings. I gave them to her myself, along with all of her other personal belongings.” She winced at the pain she saw in his eyes. “Have you asked your wife about them?” she offered weakly. She wanted to help him, to offer him something besides more pain, but there was nothing she could do.

Zach closed his eyes and shook his head. No, he hadn’t asked her if she had them. Not outright. But she knew he was looking for them. So why wouldn’t she just tell him? Maybe she wasn’t ready to be his wife again after all. It was too much to think about right now. He couldn’t bear anymore.

“Thank you,” he said as he once again turned to go. She watched as he schooled his features, leaving no sign of the pain she’d just witnessed, and greeted his companion. Suddenly feeling very tired, she sunk into the chair and buried her face in her hands.

*************************

Zach checked his reflection in the rearview mirror of his Mercedes. He had finally made it back to Pine Valley, but now he was hesitant to face Kendall. Would she be able to see the hurt in his eyes? Would she say things she didn’t mean just to take that pain away? Isn’t that what she’d already done? And beyond that, how was he supposed to tell her about the baby she’d lost? Their baby.

He took a deep breath and tried to swallow around the lump in his throat. He wearily climbed out of the car and went to Kendall. No matter what happened, they’d face it together. He decided he wouldn’t mention the rings to her. She’d come to him when she was ready. Until then, he’d just have to hide his disappointment and wait.

“Kendall,” he called when he walked into the bedroom and found it empty. A quick peek into the bathroom proved what he already knew – she wasn’t there. He checked his phone to be sure he hadn’t missed a call from her, but there was nothing. He walked over to the bed and picked up the jersey she’d worn the night before, bringing it to his face to inhale her scent. It all became too much as he felt the tears forming. That’s when he saw it.

Zach reached over and picked up the rose from the center of the bed. He smiled when he noticed the color … red. She did love him, at least that much was true. The rest would come in time. He read the tag that was attached to the stem and smiled. What was she up to?

He glanced at his watch and saw that he had a few minutes before he was supposed to leave, so he took advantage of the opportunity to grab a quick shower. He wanted to wash away the feeling of despair that his trip to Memphis had left him with. There would be plenty of time to deal with that. Right now, he just wanted to be with Kendall.

With the ends of his hair still damp from the shower, Zach put on the suit that Kendall requested and went to wait for the car she was supposed to send. Right on cue, the limo arrived and the chauffeur emerged to open the door for Zach.

“Mr. Slater,” he said formally. “Come on, Tony. Why so formal? Tell me where we’re going.” “Sorry, sir,” the man said as he shook his head. “Can’t disappoint the lady,” he added with a wink. Zach smiled as he settled in for the ride. It didn’t take him long to realize where they were headed.

He watched as the lights of Pine Valley blurred past him. Before long, they were on the familiar winding country road that he’d traveled so often in recent weeks. It had become a warm, familiar ritual. One that he knew he’d miss. He smiled when the car turned into the tiny roadside park where he’d met “Amy” for the first time.

As the door opened, Zach looked up to find Kendall waiting for him on that same bench. Only this time she was dressed much more formally. She stood when she saw him and ran to greet him. He pulled her into his arms and held her tight, fighting the emotions that threatened to overwhelm him. There was hurt and anger and pain, but also love and need and hope. He wasn’t sure what she had planned and he didn’t want to ruin anything, so he forced himself to forget everything except the two of them, right then and right there. For now, nothing else mattered.

Kendall waved to the chauffeur and thanked him, then waited for him to drive away before she turned back to Zach. “Are you surprised?” she asked, suddenly feeling shy. She’d been so glad to see him that she couldn’t contain herself, but it was obvious that something was bothering him. Maybe this was a bad idea.

She shook her head to rid herself of the doubts that had clawed their way to the surface. She loved Zach and all she wanted to do was show him how much. How could that ever be a bad idea?

Zach stood a few feet away watching her with his head cocked to one side. He could see a myriad of emotions playing across her face, but the main one seemed to be uncertainty. He hated the idea that she might be having second thoughts. Was he that transparent? He held out his hand to her and she immediately came to him.

“Yes. Very surprised,” he added when she seemed to have forgotten her question. “Are you okay?” he asked. She looked into his eyes and everything else melted away. No more worry and no more doubt. This was Zach, the man who made all her dreams come true. She was ready for this, no doubt about it.

“I’ve never been better,” she replied as she stood on her tiptoes to kiss him. She tried to pull away, but he wouldn’t let her. He lingered over the kiss, but didn’t try to deepen it. He just needed to feel her close to him. After a few minutes, he pulled away. “Come with me,” she said as she took his arm and walked with him down the path. Before long they came to a clearing, where Kendall had set up a table for two.

She knew the moment he saw it because his breathing hitched. She turned to find him looking at her. No longer nervous, she took his hand and led him to the table. “Are you hungry?” she asked. “Starving,” he said as he pulled her back into his arms for another kiss. This one wasn’t soft and sweet, it was deep and possessive and full of desire.

Kendall broke the kiss and laid her head on his chest. “I missed you today,” she said wistfully. “Why did you leave me? What was so important?” He kissed her again, gently, and stroked her cheek. “Later,” he whispered as he pulled her closer. “Just let me hold you.” They stood locked in each other’s arms for several minutes enjoying the solitude. It was nice to feel like they were the only two people on earth. Zach needed that more that Kendall could possibly know.

When he pulled away from her at last, he really looked at her for the first time. She was beautiful in her deep blue cocktail dress. Zach had never seen the dress before, which meant she’d probably gone shopping for it while he was in Memphis. The thought that she’s spent all day planning to surprise him pulled at his heart, filling him with the warmth that Memphis had stripped him of.

“You look beautiful,” he said as he kissed her cheek. “New dress?” Kendall laughed, taking him by surprise. “Of course it is. I only have one other fancy dress, and it’s still lying in a heap somewhere on the yacht,” she said, blushing. “I spent all day looking for this dress, and every time I went into a store I imagined you shopping there for the last one. I hated every salesgirl I saw.”

Now it was Zach’s turn to laugh. Something he never would have thought possible only a few hours ago. He escorted Kendall to the table and pulled out her chair. They spent the next hour enjoying a nice dinner of chili dogs, cheese fries and hot fudge sundaes, all courtesy of the Marigold Sky diner. Zach laughed over the menu, declaring it perfect. He couldn’t believe she’d remembered.

When dinner was over, Kendall stood up and walked over to Zach, placing a small gift box in front of him. He looked up at her, then reached for the box. Kendall watched as his large, strong hands fumbled with the tiny box, then waited nervously for him to push back the lid. When she heard his moan, she knelt down in front of him.

“Kendall,” he began, reaching for her, but she wouldn’t be dissuaded. She took his hand and flattened it against her chest, smiling at the way his fingers caressed her skin. There was so much she wanted to say, but the words were trapped in her throat. Instead, she looked into his eyes, warm and full of love, and waited as time stood still. They poured their hearts out to each other without ever saying a word. Finally, Kendall spoke.

“When I woke up in that hospital bed, my first thought was of you. I didn’t see your face or even know your name, but I knew you were out there. I felt you, the love of my life, looking for me. Willing me to find my way back to you. And I did, Zach. Thanks to the love you gave to Kendall, Amy found her way home. My heart knew where to find you.

“I won’t say I wasn’t afraid, because that would be a lie. I was afraid. In fact, I was terrified. But that wasn’t because I felt alone. It was because I felt you and the boys, but I didn’t know where you were. I was waiting for a white knight on a horse to come and rescue me, and here you are. You are my hero, Zach. My lover and my best friend. And I don’t want to spend another second of my life without you.”

Kendall choked back the tears that threatened to fall. She didn’t mind the tears, but she wanted to get through this first. It was important for her to get these words out:

“Zach Slater, will you marry me … again?”


TBC

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Oh, Karen...how lovely.
I really look forward to each piece of the story you reveal. Very nicely done.

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Another Great chapter in a great story! I really look forward to your updates every week!   Thanks!

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Thank you again       

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Karen,  thank you so much.  Another great chapter..!
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Karen, this story just keeps getting better.  I love it!!!!!


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Karen, this is by far the best Zen fanfic I have read so far.  How I wish I could see this story being played out on AMC!

Can't wait for the next chapter!

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Chapter 17

“Zach Slater, will you marry me … again?”

Kendall looked up at Zach, trying to read his expression, but there wasn’t one. He seemed to be looking right through her. She felt uncertain and humiliated. She’d been so confident that this was what they both wanted, but this definitely wasn’t the reaction she expected. Why didn’t he answer her? Pull her into his arms and kiss the breath out of her? Hell, at least look at her? She started to stand up, but froze when she saw his eyes fill with tears. “Zach?” she said, resting her hand on his knee.

“Say it again,” he said softly, covering her hand with his own. He finally looked at her, and the raw emotion took her breath away. He looked happy, but there was something else. Relief? Surprise? She couldn’t decide, but neither of them made sense. Surely he knew how she felt about him. “Say it again,” he repeated.

“Zach Slater, will you ma -“ was all she managed to get out before his lips met hers. She wasn’t sure how it happened, but the next thing she knew she was sitting on his lap, completely surrounded by him. She’d never felt so safe or so loved.

“Is that a yes?” she asked when he released her. He took a deep breath, then took her hand and looked into her eyes. “I’m not sure,” he said somberly. “You see, I’ve met someone else. Her name is Amy and she’s the most beautiful woman I -“ He stopped talking with a grunt when Kendall elbowed him. “This is serious, Zach,” she said, trying to be disgruntled. The devilish look in his eyes made it hard not to laugh, but she didn’t want to give him the satisfaction.

“I see that,” he groaned. Then he turned serious. He realized something that both touched and saddened him. He looked beyond the woman sitting on his lap at the empty ice cream dishes and the remnants of the cheese fries. “Amy is the one who proposed, isn’t she?” he said at last. He’d wanted to believe that Kendall had come back to him, and in so many ways she had. But in her mind, she was still Amy. She wanted to reclaim her old life, but she wasn’t there yet. It was Amy who was choosing to spend the rest of her life with him, a choice Kendall had already made.

“Does that make you feel sad?” Kendall asked, confused by his sudden change of mood. She couldn’t deny what he was saying. She knew in her heart that she was Kendall Hart-Slater. But in her mind she was still Amy Alexander. Lost and sometimes confused and afraid of what the future held. But that was before she met Zach. Now she didn’t fear the future, because he would be a part of it. The rest would work itself out eventually. Her thoughts were interrupted by Zach’s voice.

“Honestly?” he said, waiting for her to nod. “Yes. It does make me a little sad.” He lifted Kendall’s chin when she tried to lower her head. “But it also makes me very happy.” He kissed her softly and waited for her to look at him. “Amy’s kisses taste like Kendall’s.” He wrapped his arms around her and pulled her against him. “Amy and Kendall feel the same in my arms.” He held up his hand and showed her his wedding ring. “And now Amy and Kendall have both chosen me. How lucky can one man be?”

Kendall smiled, wondering how he could reduce her to tears so easily. She quickly wiped her cheek and took his hand, bringing it to her lips to place a soft kiss on the platinum band. “You still haven’t answered my question,” she said. “Will you marry me, Zach?” He buried his face in her neck and whispered the words she longed to hear. “Again and again and again,” he said, repeating a vow he’d made to her once before.

Zach reached down and picked up the rings from the table. His mind raced back to the exact second he found out she’d had them all along. The doctor’s words had cut through him like a knife. He’d been hurt by the news, but more than that, he’d been afraid. Afraid it was all a lie. Afraid Kendall was going through the motions to reclaim a life she didn’t really want … a love she didn’t really feel.

“Why haven’t you been wearing them all along?” he asked. Kendall looked down at the rings, then back at her husband. There was that look again, the one she couldn’t define. “I’ve been waiting for the right man to put them back on my finger. I had to be sure it was you.” Zach took the diamond engagement ring out of the box and held it up in the moonlight. “What made you sure?” Kendall held out her hand, indicating she wanted him to put the ring on her finger.

When he did, she kissed him. “You answered the question, and I didn’t even have to ask it.” Zach cocked his head and stared at her, waiting for her to explain. “The inscription,” she said. “I was going to ask any Prince Charming who came along to tell me what it said, but guess what happened?” Zach shook his head slowly. “I fell for the first prince who showed up.” Zach watched her as she studied the ring. “Then what?”

“Well, to be honest, I was afraid to ask him,” she continued. “What if he didn’t know. What if he wasn’t the right prince?” “What if?” Zach asked. “What would you have done if he hadn’t known?” Kendall chewed on her bottom lip as she thought about it. “We’d need new rings,” she said. She laughed, but Zach’s look was serious. He buried his hand in her hair and brought her lips to his.

When he pulled back, he was smiling too. “So what kind of wedding do you want? Something big and splashy? The boys in little monkey suits and you in a fancy white dress and me …” His voice faded away when he noticed Kendall was shaking her head. “You want me to wear the dress? I don’t think …” Kendall put her hand over his mouth.

“All I want is you, Zach. And the life we had together. I don’t need anything fancy or elaborate. I didn’t need it the first time and I don’t need it now.” Zach removed her hand from his mouth. “The first two times, you mean. This would be our third.” She glared at him. He smiled at her.

“Don’t you want something special? Something we’ll both remember when we’re old and gray and full of sleep?” For a moment they sat in silence. Both smiled knowingly, but neither explained. It was obvious to Zach that Kendall remembered hearing him say it before. That was enough for him, and it seemed to be enough for her too.

She took the wedding band from the box and placed it in the palm of Zach’s hand. Then she held out her own hand to him. “Are you sure?” he asked. When she nodded, he pulled off his ring and gave it to her. Kendall leaned forward and kissed him. “This is all I need, Zach. You. Always, only you.” She put the ring on his finger and looked into his eyes, waiting.

He took the tiny ring, brought it to his lips along with the delicate hand it would be adorning, then slipped it on her finger. “Always, only you,” he repeated, just before he claimed her mouth for a passionate, possessive kiss.

*************************

“I have to tell you something.”

Kendall opened her eyes to find Zach sitting beside her on the bed. She smiled up at him, remembering the night before. She checked her finger, just to be sure she wasn’t dreaming. “Good morning, husband,” she said, closing her eyes and waiting for him to kiss her. When he did, she wrapped her arms around his neck and pulled him down on top of her.

For a brief second, she thought she had him. He dropped the folder he was holding and wrapped his arms around her waist, holding her tightly against him. She kissed him enthusiastically and he responded. She knew something was wrong. She could feel the tension in him. But she wanted to hang on to the moment just a little while longer. This was their honeymoon, after all.

He broke the kiss and rested his forehead against hers. They were gasping for air after the kiss, but it was obvious Zach was dealing with something else. She gave him another quick kiss and then settled herself against the headboard.

“Is it that bad?” she asked when he finally looked up at her. “It’s bad,” he said. “I was going to tell you last night, but I couldn’t. Not after all you’d planned.” Kendall watched as a smile spread across his face. He nodded his head slowly. “Um … last night was … yeah …” he ended with a shrug. “Perfect? Amazing? Spectacular? The fulfillment of all of your dreams?” Kendall supplied.

“All of the above,” he replied with a quick kiss of his own. “Which is why I didn’t want to ruin it with sad news. But I don’t want to start off our third marriage – well, fourth for you - with secrets between us. So I’m telling you now.” Kendall poked him in the chest. “It’s not about the number of weddings, Zach. You’re only my second husband, and the first one didn’t count. Isn’t that what you told me?” Zach nodded. “Spoken like the daughter of Erica Kane.”

“Not that again,” she grumbled. “Are you gonna get serious, or not. Because if you want to play, I can already tell you you’re wearing far too many clothes to play the game I had in mind.” Zach arched an eyebrow, then handed her the folder. She was smiling when she opened it, but the smile froze on her face when she saw what was inside.

“What’s this, Zach?” she asked, holding up the ultrasound image. “One of the boys?” She knew she was grasping at straws. She’d already seen both of the boys’ ultrasounds. It certainly wasn’t a sad occasion. She looked at Zach when he remained silent. The look on his face told her everything she needed to know. Her eyes filled with tears.

“How? When? Where did this come from?” She looked through the other reports, but wasn’t really seeing them. None of it made sense. It didn’t seem real. “Our baby?” she whispered, clutching the picture to her chest. Zach nodded. He gathered her into his arms and held her while she sobbed.

“I went to Memphis yesterday,” he began. “I had to see for myself. I needed answers. One of the people I talked to was Dr. Gregory. Do you remember her?” Kendall nodded. “The psychiatrist,” she said flatly. “That’s right. When I asked her about something I’d seen in your medical records, she did some research and found out that you were pregnant when you came into the emergency room, but they didn’t realize it at first. They tried, but they couldn’t save her.”

“Her? It was a girl? Our little girl,” she sobbed. She clung to him, unwilling to hear any attempts he made to soothe her. She blamed herself and knew he must blame her too. How could she have let this happen? Why would God take her little girl, after all she’d been through. Just what kind of monster was she that she deserved this kind of punishment? And how could Zach love her, after all she’d cost him?

“I’m so sorry, Kendall.” She reacted to his words like she’d been slapped. She stopped rocking in his arms and pulled away from him. “You’re sorry? No, Zach. I’m sorry. I’m the one who let our baby die.” She crumbled against him once again, unable to look him in the eye. She couldn’t bear the idea that she’d caused him more pain.

Zach eased her away from him and grabbed her shoulders. “Look at me,” he pleaded. When she didn’t, he repeated it, but it was no longer a plea, it was a demand. “Look at me!” When she complied, he immediately softened. “This is not your fault, Kendall. You didn’t let her die. She was taken from us.” The sadness on her face broke his heart.

“Honey,” he said, his voice breaking. She fell back into his arms, only this time the tears didn’t come. They were replaced by numbness, then anger. Zach’s emotions were traveling down the same path. “I’ll find the man who did this. I promise. We’ll make him pay for what he’s done, Kendall. Together we’ll make him pay.”

He encouraged her to lie down, then stretched out beside her. He was finally in the position she’d wanted him in from the moment she woke up. But this time sex was the farthest thing from either of their minds. He held her close, stroking her hair, until she fell asleep. But for him sleep wouldn’t come. He laid beside his heartbroken wife and plotted revenge against the monster who continued to take things from them.

“He’ll pay, Kendall. I swear he’ll pay.”

*************************

Kendall spent the next several nights sleeping in Zach’s arms aboard the At Last. He continued his routine of going home and putting the boys to bed before coming back to her. It was a lot of trouble for him, and it made Kendall feel guilty because she couldn’t go home with him to stay. Not yet. But he always assured her that he was doing it for him as much as for her. He just couldn’t sleep without her lying beside him. And how was a man running all these corporations supposed to function without a good night’s sleep?

She spent her days puttering around the yacht, absorbing anything she could find that would give her a clue about the life she still couldn’t remember. Zach usually tried to join her for lunch, but it wasn’t always possible. He was a busy man.

Some days she took the car out for long drives. She even visited the Marigold Sky once and was treated like a celebrity. She wouldn’t trade what she had with Zach, but she did miss the simplicity of her life as just another waitress in the diner. She smiled at her reflection in the rearview mirror. She was happy. Despite all the adjustments, she was exactly where she wanted to be. The rest, as she reminded herself so often, would come in time.

*************************

Zach sat down on the side of the bed and rubbed his face. He dreaded making this phone call, but he couldn’t put it off any longer. He knew Kendall would understand, but he still hated it. What was he supposed to do, choose between his wife and his boys? It was an impossible situation. God, he just wanted her to come back home. Was that really asking too much?

He dialed and waited for her to pick up. “Hey hubby! Where are you?” she said. He winced at the cheerfulness in her voice, knowing it wouldn’t be there for long. He reached out to stroke the soft cheek of his sleeping son. He loved the boy more than he ever thought possible.

“Hey honey,” he said. “I’m still at home. I’m sorry, Kendall, but I can’t make it tonight,” he said, all in one breath. His comment was met with silence, then a soft sigh. “Okay. Is anything wrong?” she asked, trying to keep the disappointment from her voice. She didn’t want to behave like a child, and she certainly didn’t want to add to the pressure he was already under.

“Not really. It’s just that … well, Spike woke up last night and got really upset when I wasn’t here. Rachel said she tried to call me, but I didn’t answer. I guess I was preoccupied,” he added, smiling at the memory of what had stolen his attention.

Kendall knew she was blushing. “I guess I should say I’m sorry then,” she replied. “Oh no. Don’t be sorry,” he teased. “I liked it … a lot. But I think I need to stick around here for a couple of nights. Just in case he wakes up again. They’ve been through a lot, you know?”

“Of course,” she said immediately, nodding as if he could see her. “I understand Zach. You have to be there for the boys. Don’t worry about me. I’ll be fine. I’m a grown woman, remember?” Zach growled. “Uh-huh. I remember.” He lowered his voice when he saw Spike beginning to stir. “Tomorrow then?” she asked. “Count on it. I love you, Kendall.” “I love you, too. Goodnight, Zach. Kiss the boys for me.”

And with those words, she was gone. Zach leaned over and picked up his sleeping son. As he lowered him back into his own bed, he gave him a kiss. “That’s from your mom,” he whispered. Then he repeated the routine with Ian before wandering back to his empty bedroom. He stared at the bed like it was his enemy. He knew he wouldn’t be getting any sleep tonight. Not without Kendall.

After a shower, two fingers of scotch, and the most boring financial reports he could find, he was still wide awake an hour later. He turned off the light and tried to force himself to sleep, but it didn’t work. He tossed and turned, hugging Kendall’s pillow to him, but it only made him miss her more. Frustrated, he climbed from the bed and made his way to the kitchen.

He rifled through a few cabinets, stood in front of the open refrigerator for several minutes, and still ended up with nothing. It wasn’t food he was craving. And no amount of alcohol was going to ease the restlessness he felt. He picked up the remote and flipped through the channels, hoping to find an old hockey game on one of the classic sports channels. No such luck.

He was trying to decide between “The Amazin’ Mets of ‘86” or re-runs of Welcome Back Kotter when he heard something. He muted the television and listened. He heard it again. Was somebody knocking on the door? At this time of night?

Grabbing the fireplace poker, he walked to the door and pulled back the shade to take a peek. He jumped at the loud noise the fireplace poker made as it fell from his hands. He picked it up and propped it against the wall as he turned the lock and opened the door.

“Kendall, what are you doing here?” he asked, wondering if he had actually fallen asleep and was now dreaming. She stood on her tiptoes and kissed his cheek, then picked up the suitcase that was sitting at her feet. “I’m home, Zach, right where I belong.”


TBC

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michellelynne

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Reply with quote  #86 
It just keeps getting better.  Great Job. Cant wait for the next chapter...

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Purdue0612

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Thanks for another great update!!!!!!

zendall44

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Thanks Karen!  Great writing, GREAT story!!  Nobody does it better -- you're the best!


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Reply with quote  #89 
Great chapter!  I got a little misty eyed over the proposal and I was sobbing right along with Kendall when Zach told her about their little girl.  I'm glad Kendall is home although I think I'm going to miss Zach slipping away to spend every night alone with her.
Thank you Karen.

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Thanks, Karen...  Absolutely wonderful.

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Chapter 18

 

Zach took the suitcase from her and placed it just inside the door. Then, with a quick glance towards where Spike and Ian were sleeping, he stepped outside, closing the door behind him.

 

“Are you sure?” Realizing how cold it was, he immediately started rubbing Kendall’s arms. “I thought you’d be happy,” she replied, confused by his behavior. He stared at her for a minute, his heart beating wildly in his chest. Of course he was happy, but he had to be sure she was there for the right reasons. He had to think about the boys.

 

“You didn’t answer my question,” he said at last. Kendall shifted her weight nervously, fidgeting with the buttons on her coat. She looked up at him and sighed. “Aren’t you happy to see me?”  He brought his hands to her face and pulled her to him for a kiss. “Of course I am. You know better than that. You also know what I’m asking.”

 

Kendall eased away from him and nodded. “I know what I’m doing and I know what my coming here means. I’ve given it a lot of thought, not just tonight, but over the last several days. I’m ready. My children need me.”

 

“So does their dad,” he said softly. “I know.” She reached out and touched his face. “I need you just as much. That’s why I’m here. Can I come in, Zach? Can I come home?” “What do you think?” Zach muttered as he moved in to kiss her, then suddenly bent down and swept her off her feet. He did kiss her then and carried her across the threshold. “Welcome home, Kendall.”

 

“Want a tour?” he asked when she was standing on her own two feet again. “I’m sorry, is that insulting?” he added, realizing how his question must have sounded to her. “Not at all,” she said lightly. “I do want a tour, but not tonight. Right now I just want to fall asleep in my husband’s arms.” Zach grabbed her hand.  “Your husband wants the same thing. Let’s go.”

 

“Ooh, baseball!” Kendall exclaimed as she followed Zach into the living room to turn off the television. She sat down on the leather sofa, moving aside the pillow that occupied the spot she wanted. “Oh no you don’t,” Zach said as he pulled her to her feet. “You’re coming with me, Mrs. Slater.”

 

As they moved down the hallway, Zach peeked into the boy’s bedroom. He’d wanted to move Spike into a room of his own, but he didn’t want to go. He liked sharing with this little brother. Zach left Kendall standing in the doorway as he walked over to check on Spike, then gave his attention to Ian.

 

“Mommy?”

 

Zach turned at the sound of Spike’s voice and found Kendall leaning over his bed, stroking his hair. The boy was still with his eyes squinting into the darkness. Zach stood beside Kendall, smiling at the look of love on her face. He brushed the tear from her cheek and told Spike in a gruff whisper to go back to sleep.

 

After kissing Ian, Kendall stood in the doorway, watching her sons sleep. Zach moved to stand behind her, wrapping his arms around her waist and pulling her against him. “Look at them, Zach. They’re beautiful,” Kendall said softly. “I love them so much.” Zach kissed her temple. “I know,” he said into her ear. After a few minutes of comfortable silence, Kendall went with Zach to their bedroom.

 

As she entered the room, a feeling of total peace washed over her. The surroundings weren’t familiar. She didn’t recognize the furniture or know which closet was hers, but still she felt more at home than she had since waking up in Memphis. She felt whole and complete and safe.

 

Zach watched her as she walked around the room, touching things, looking at the pictures, running her hand over the soft comforter that covered their bed. She turned to him with tears in her eyes, but said nothing. There was nothing to say. They were both feeling the same things and words just weren’t necessary.

 

He opened his arms and grunted when she threw herself into them with such force he nearly lost his balance. When she leaned into him, he realized what she was trying to do. She was trying to push him onto the bed.

 

“I thought you were tired,” he said, standing his ground. “I never said that. I said I wanted to fall asleep in my husband’s arms, after he makes me tired. So come on, Zach. Work with me.” He growled low in his throat as he lowered his head to kiss her. “Will this work?” he muttered, his lips hovering over hers. Just as they met, he fell backward, bringing her with him.

 

Kendall laughed as she landed on top of her husband in the middle of their bed. “Is this where you welcome me home?” she asked. “Can you think of a better place?” he answered, rolling them both over until he was partially covering her. She didn’t bother to answer him. Instead she wrapped her arms around his neck and brought him closer for a long, deep, drugging kiss.

 

“It’s good to be home,” she said when he came up for air. “You have no idea,” he replied, kissing his way down her neck. She giggled when he found that spot right behind her ear. “Then why don’t you show me?” Zach looked into her eyes and accepted the challenge he saw there. “You just try to stop me.”

 

*************************

Kendall awoke the next morning in an empty bed. She was just about to find her husband and give him a stern lecture about leaving their bed while she was still asleep when she remembered the last time it happened. She immediately reached over to see if he’d left her a note, but there was nothing.

 

“Good morning.”

 

She turned to find Zach standing in front of the window. The early morning sun made him look like a Greek god. Kendall sucked in her breath and stared at him. Zach arched an eyebrow and looked down at himself, suddenly feeling naked. He grinned at her and turned back to the window.

 

“Come over here, sleepyhead,” he said. “I want you to see something.” Kendall wrapped herself in the comforter and walked over to where Zach was standing. She snuggled up against his back and wrapped the comforter around them both. In a fluid move, Zach switched their positions so that he was standing behind her keeping them both warm. He pointed to something on the horizon.

 

“See that?” he said. “That’s where the boys will learn to play hockey. I’ve been teaching them to ice skate, but the pond won’t be frozen for another few weeks. You should see them, they get so excited.” Kendall turned to look up at Zach, his own excitement showing on his face. “I can’t wait,” she said.

 

As if on cue, two small bundles of coats and mittens ran into view, followed by a very patient nanny. Kendall smiled as she watched them play in the leaves, laughing and running from place to place like frisky puppies. She could almost hear their giggles. She was touched by the way Spike took care of Ian. It was obvious Zach had done a good job of raising them alone in her absence. She said a prayer of thanks that he wouldn’t have to do it alone anymore.

 

While Kendall was watching the boys, Zach was watching the man standing just inside the tree line. Otto was going to be Spike’s constant companion until Ryan Lavery was found. Zach noticed Otto gesturing to somebody on the other side of the pond and turned to see Bruno leaning against a tree. He hoped Kendall wouldn’t notice them. He didn’t want her to worry

 

“I see Spike has bodyguards, too. Not as handsome as mine though.” Zach groaned. When he didn’t answer, Kendall turned to face him. “Am I right? Are those guys there for Spike, or is there something you aren’t telling me.” Zach didn’t try to hide his frustration, but he didn’t try to lie to her either.

 

“Spike.” He stared at Kendall, not offering any further explanation. She frowned at him, letting him see her own frustration, and waited. He continued to stare. “Okay, fine!” Kendall said as she dropped the comforter and walked toward the closets. She guessed wrong the first time and walked into a closet filled with expensive suits and hockey jerseys. So she went to the next door.

 

Her breath caught in her throat when she walked into a closet that was twice as big as Zach’s. This wasn’t even a closet, it was a room! She was momentarily sidetracked by all the beautiful things … dresses and gowns and shoes. Tons of shoes! Zach stood in the doorway looking smug, but his gloating was short-lived.

 

She grabbed a pair of jeans from the shelf along with a sweater and quickly put them on. She was in the process of deciding which shoes she wanted when Zach came up behind her.

 

“What are you doing?” he asked. “Isn’t it obvious? I’m getting dressed,” she said sweetly, which just made him more suspicious. “Why?” he wondered aloud. “Because I didn’t think you’d want me to go outside and talk to those nice men in my nightgown.” He threw his head back and sighed. “Kendall,” he said warily.

 

“You could save me the trip,” she said, her tone telling him she wasn’t going to let it go. He growled in frustration and led her back to the bed. “You don’t play fair,” he grumbled. Kendall smiled at him. “I play to win,” she said. “Now tell me what’s going on so we can get some breakfast. I’m starving.”

 

“I don’t know where Lavery is and I don’t trust him. I already told you that. My men haven’t been able to find him. In fact, he seems to have disappeared off the face of the earth. I don’t even know if he knows you’re gone yet. But I can’t take the chance on him taking Spike. So I’ve got two guys watching him. It’s just a precaution.”

 

Kendall started pacing around the room. “But I thought you said this Ryan guy wouldn’t hurt me or Spike,” she said. “I don’t think he will. But he wants to take you both from me, Kendall, and I won’t allow it. That will make him desperate and desperate men do stupid things. I just want to be ready for anything. Okay?”

 

He joined her in the center of the room and kissed her. “Now how about that breakfast?”

 

*************************

 

“Be it ever so humble, huh?” Kendall said as Zach continued the tour of their dream house. “Do you like it?” he asked, suddenly afraid she wouldn’t approve of the house he’d designed for her. She had been quiet during breakfast and it only got worse as he showed her around the house. He knew it was a huge adjustment for her, he just hoped that she wasn’t having second thoughts.

 

Kendall saw his vulnerability and softened. “I love it, Zach. How could I not? It’s beautiful.” Zach was visibly relieved. “You’re beautiful,” he said, kissing her for what had to be the hundredth time that morning. He just couldn’t get enough of her. She smiled, but Zach could see the sadness in her eyes again.

 

“You gonna tell me what’s wrong?” he asked when they were sitting in front of the fireplace. “We can change anything you don’t like, honey. I won’t be offended.” Kendall shook her head.  “I wouldn’t change a single thing, and I won’t let you either.” “And,” he prodded, determined to find out why she seemed distant. “And I was just thinking about the baby,” she admitted at last, her eyes fastened on the crackling fire.

 

Zach followed her gaze. Watching the boys playing this morning had also reminded him of what they had lost. A third set of tiny footprints in the snow. Another stocking over the fireplace at Christmas. Frilly dresses and hair ribbons. All the things he thought he’d have no place for suddenly left a hole in his heart.

 

“Me too,” he said. “I try not to get angry about it, but it’s hard.” Kendall took his hand and waited for him to look at her. “I know. I’m sorry, Zach. Sorry for everything.” She put her finger against his lips when he started to protest. “I know I’m not responsible, but I still need to say it to you. And I want to ask a favor.”  “Anything,” he said immediately.

 

“I want to give our baby a name. Even though she was small, she was a life, Zach. A precious little Slater life and I want her to have a name.” Swallowing around the lump in his throat, Zach nodded. “Did you have something in mind?” “Maybe, but I don’t know how you’ll feel about it.” “Try me,” he said.

 

“I never understood why this name means something to me, but it does. I chose it for myself when I was lost, and I want to give it to our daughter. I want to call her Amy. Is that okay?” It took a while before Zach was able to speak. “It’s perfect,” he said at last, his voice thick with emotion. “Amelia was my mother’s name.”

 

Now it was Kendall’s turn to be mute. She stared into his eyes, finding comfort in their warmth. “I didn’t know,” she said. “Or maybe on some level I did.” She smiled then and the transformation took Zach’s breath away. “Amelia Slater it is.” She let Zach pull her into his arms, amazed at the way the pieces of her life were starting to fall into place. Every day there was something else to confirm what she already knew. This was where she belonged.

 

“Daddy! Daddy!”

 

They both jumped at the sound of the boys bursting through the front door. Zach went to meet them. “I saw her! I saw mommy!” Spike said excitedly. He had flung off his coat and mittens and left them in a pile by the door. Zach lowered himself to the boy’s level and waited for him to say more. “In my room. It was dark, but I wasn't scared.”

 

Before Zach could respond, Ian was there, climbing onto his back. He lifted them both into his arms and turned to the fireplace, but Kendall was gone. He sat down on the couch, one boy on each knee, and tried to explain.

 

“Remember, I told you your mom is sick, but she’ll be back as soon as she gets better?” They both nodded vigorously. “Well, she got better.” They looked at him, their little faces contorted in confusion. Zach couldn’t help but laugh at their sincerity. “Kendall,” he called, watching their faces light up when she came into the room.

 

“Mommy!” Spike screamed as he ran to her, Ian on his heels. The boys both lunged at her at the same time, nearly knocking her off her feet. She knelt down so she could bring them both to her. She took a moment with each child, kissing them and telling them how much she loved them and how much she’d missed them.

 

“Why is she crying, Daddy?” Spike asked when Kendall’s emotions spilled over. “Because she’s happy to see you,” he said, his own emotions threatening. “Come over here and sit with me, all of you,” he said. Kendall picked up both boys and landed heavily on the couch beside Zach. He immediately threw his arm around her shoulders and pulled her closer as Ian climbed onto his lap.

 

 “Daddy gave me your kisses, Mommy. Every day. Both of us.” Spike gushed. Kendall gingerly touched the device behind his ear, shooting Zach a worried glance. He shook his head and smiled at her. “It’s okay,” he mouthed. He had already told Kendall all about Spike’s surgery, but he knew she was still concerned. She just needed some time to see that it really was okay. Spike was fine and his life wasn’t full of limitations.

 

Ian looked back and forth between Kendall and Spike. Zach knew his youngest son didn’t have clear memories of his mother, but he was fueled not only by Spike’s excitement, but also by the stories Zach had told him to keep her a part of their lives. He was clearly fascinated by the woman who was trying unsuccessfully to tame his wavy hair.

 

“Can I now?” Spike asked, looking at his father with unbridled excitement. “Sure,” Zach said, knowing exactly what he wanted. “Need some help?” he asked, but the boy was already gone. Ian climbed down and ran after him, giving Zach and Kendall a minute alone.

 

“You okay?” he asked, lowering his head to see into her eyes. She nodded. “I’m good,” she said. “Better than good, I’m great! They know me, Zach. I was so afraid I would be a stranger to them. That’s why I hid when they came in. I was scared to death.” He pulled her against him and kissed her. “I know. It’s gonna be okay, Kendall. They love you, and so do I.”

 

“I love you too,” she said, just as Spike came into the room dragging a large box. Ian was behind the box, trying to push it, but mostly just getting in the way. Finally Rachel came to their rescue by picking up Ian and bringing him to Kendall.

 

“It’s good to have you home, Mrs. Slater,” the pretty young girl said. “It’s good to be home, Rachel. Thank you so much for all that you’ve done for my boys.” Rachel smiled at the woman who meant so much to this family. She’d only been back one day and already life had been restored to this beautiful house. “My pleasure. They’re great boys,” she said as she turned to go.

 

“Daddy said you like dinosaurs,” Spike said as he handed Kendall a picture he’d drawn. He reached into the box and handed her items one at a time. There were homemade cards and gifts for every holiday. Dead flowers that he’d picked from the yard for her. Tons of drawings and pages ripped from coloring books. Even a tiny bird’s nest that Zach swore he didn’t know anything about. It was a treasure chest of all the things Spike and Ian had wanted to share with their mother over the last eighteen months.

 

Kendall laughed through her tears as she made her way through the contents, thoroughly inspecting each item he handed her. Zach was mostly silent as he took it all in. He was proud to notice that instead of the boys competing for their mom’s attention, they willingly shared her. It served as a reminder to him that he, too, would have to share her. The world would invade upon them soon. He pushed the thought from his mind and enjoyed the moment.

 

“I got the birthday present you bought me,” Spike was saying to a slightly overwhelmed Kendall. She looked at Zach and he winked at her. She laid her head on his chest and tried to absorb everything that was happening. What a difference a day makes, she thought to herself. Yesterday she was happy, but afraid. She was scared to make the leap into becoming a full-time wife and mother … and daughter and sister and friend. But now, as she listened to these precious boys telling her long stories about everything they could think of, she wondered why she’d waited so long. This was the life she’d been dreaming of, and it had been within her reach all this time.

 

 

TBC


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Purdue0612

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Reply with quote  #92 

Another great chapter! I love the reunion! Please update again soon!!!

Roseann

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Thanks, Karen.   Reunion with the boys was great...I was crying right along with Kendall...

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So many emotions all in one chapter, thanks again for the story Karen.  And thanks for bringing Otto and Bruno back to the land of Zen (maybe they can stay around even after Mr. Lavery is found!).


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Thanks Mon
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OMG---what an excellent story---waiting and waiting for the next chapter.


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Fil!!!!!  That banner!!!!! OMG LMFAO! 

ETA:  Where did you get that HAWT pic of The Mahn????!!!!!  Pure Hawtness!

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Chapter 19

Zach smiled when he noticed Ian yawning for the third time in five minutes. Both boys were well past their nap time, but neither of them would leave their mother’s side for a second. Rachel had tried every trick in the book to coax them upstairs, but they refused. Even Kendall couldn’t talk them into it. Zach knew he could get them there with a single command, but he wasn’t going to. He was enjoying the mother and child reunion, and he knew those boys had earned it. No way would he force them to go.

It had been a full day for Team Slater. After sitting patiently while the boys told her everything they’d been saving for all those months, Kendall sat in the kitchen while they, with some help from their father, made a picnic lunch. Despite the frigid temperatures, they took their picnic to the pond and enjoyed the beautiful day, ending up back in front of the fireplace with hot cocoa for everyone.

For Spike and Ian, it was as if their mother had never left. Once they caught her up on everything she’d missed, they relaxed and just enjoyed her presence. They played with their toys, but never wandered beyond arm’s reach. And if she left the room, they immediately jumped up to follow her.

Kendall was amazed at the job Zach had done with them in her absence. They were smart and funny, but they were also gentle and respectful. Just like their father. There was one glaring difference that she couldn’t escape. They talked … a lot! They certainly didn’t get that from their dad. They were so cute when they were tag-teaming on a story, each trying to outdo the other. Kendall was exhausted, but she’d never been happier.

**************************

“Alone at last,” Zach said as he pulled his wife to his side. Spike and Ian were finally in bed. They’d fought it valiantly, but in the end, their tired bodies won out. Dinner was over and Rachel had retired for the night, leaving Zach and Kendall alone on the couch unwinding over a glass of wine.

“They’re amazing, Zach,” Kendall gushed. “Our boys are perfect. Just like their father.” “Actually, I was gonna say they take after their mother,” Zach said, kissing her temple. “Full day, huh?” he added as he propped his feet on the ottoman in front of him. Kendall immediately did the same.

“I can’t believe they felt so comfortable with me. It was like I’ve been here all along. They couldn’t tell the difference, could they?” Zach was thunderstruck. He’d spent the day watching his family reconnect. He saw the pure joy on the faces of his two young sons, and their mother. At least that’s what he thought. Was he just imagining it? Was Kendall pretending in order to make them all feel better?

Kendall could sense the change in Zach’s mood. He went from relaxed and smiling to tense and pensive in the blink of an eye. What did she say? She replayed their conversation in her head, remembering with a groan what her last words were. She immediately felt guilty, but that quickly turned into anger.

“Zach Slater! Don’t you dare look at me like that. You know that’s not what I meant! How could you think I’d do such a thing to you or to those precious little boys?” He stared at her, saying nothing. “I may be a lot of things, but I’m not a liar. Maybe I was before, I don’t remember. But I’m not now. I would never play with other people’s emotions like that. Especially not the people I love most in the world. And if you think I could, then …” Her voice tapered off as she jumped to her feet and tried to storm away.

“Kendall,” Zach said softly, holding her wrist so she couldn’t leave. The gentleness in his voice just fueled her anger. How could he be so sweet and loving after what he’d just thought about her? She tried to pull away, causing him to tighten his grip. After a moment of silent struggle, Kendall stopped fighting. She took the glass of wine she was still holding in the other hand and politely poured it down the front of his shirt. When he gasped, she was able to pull free. She made a break for the stairs, but didn’t get two feet from the couch before he had her by the waist, pulling her down onto his lap.

“Are you mad at me? I can’t tell,” he said, his voice low and teasing. When she continued to glare at him, he eased his hold and sat back against the cushion. “Okay, so you are mad. I see that. Don’t I get a chance to explain?” She folded her arms across her chest and stiffened her spine. “Does that explanation come with an apology?” she asked. “I don’t know. Let’s see,” Zach replied. He released her completely, folding his arms behind his head. “Go ahead,” Kendall snapped when he didn’t start talking fast enough.

“I didn’t mean to insult you, Kendall. But when you said you were surprised the boys couldn’t tell the difference, it made me remember things that I too easily forget.” Kendall lowered her arms, but continued to sit rigidly on his lap. Zach fought the urge to pull her into his arms and kiss her anger away. “I know it’s hard for you, not remembering everything. But it’s also hard for me, because I do. I remember the way Kendall looks at her sons, and I saw it today. I remember the way she strokes their hair and kisses their necks, and I saw that today, too. So I forgot. I forgot that you didn’t remember.”

Kendall's anger vanished. She slumped against him, resting her head on his shoulder. Zach pulled her legs across him and continued. “We need to be patient with each other,” he said. “You’re not the only one who’s trying to find their way. Sometimes I get lost too.” Kendall took a deep breath in an effort to hold back her tears. She’d been selfish. She hadn’t meant to, but it happened. Sometimes she did forget that she wasn’t alone anymore. He was going through all of this with her. She turned her face into his shirt, suddenly desperate to get closer to him.

“You thirsty?” Zach said evenly, causing Kendall to laugh as she tasted the spilled wine on her lips. When she pulled away to look at him, he took her face in his hands and looked into her eyes. “I’m sorry,” he said, as his lips met hers. She kissed him back, ready to get swept away by the feelings he awoke in her. But when she moved her hands to his chest and felt the wetness of his shirt, she remembered that she needed to apologize too. “It’s okay,” he said when she tried. “I know.”

“You ready for bed?” Kendall asked after a few minutes of comfortable silence. “I thought you’d never ask,” Zach replied, peeling the sticky shirt away from his skin. “Are you really tired, or are you just trying to get me naked.” Kendall grinned at him. “I don’t know. Let’s see.”

As they rounded the corner and started up the stairs, they were shocked to find Spike and Ian sitting on the top step. Spike nudged Ian, who sat up sharply. Both boys were clearly exhausted. “If you’re waiting for Santa, it’s gonna be awhile,” Zach said as he climbed the steps. He took both boys into his arms. “Come on guys, back to bed before you fall asleep and roll down the stairs.”

“But we’re not sleepy,” Spike said as he laid his head on Zach’s shoulder. “I can see that,” Zach said. “But you still need to get to bed. It’s late. Okay?” He felt Ian nod against his neck, but Spike remained silent. He stood in the doorway as Kendall kissed both boys goodnight.

“I’m sorry you had to do it alone,” Kendall said when she met him in the hallway. “You’ve been through a lot, all three of you. I hate it, Zach. I hate that you had to be both mother and father to our boys for almost two years.” He walked into their bedroom and sat on the edge of the bed, waiting for Kendall to join him.

“I know. I hate it too. But it’s over now, Kendall. You’re home,” Zach took her hand. “Besides, I was never alone. I always felt you … here,” he said as he brought her hand to cover his heart. “So did Spike and Ian.” Kendall nodded and put her hand on his neck, bringing him close for a kiss. Just before their lips met, they heard something.

“Mommy!”

Kendall jumped from the bed and hurried to the boys’ bedroom with Zach right behind her. “I’m thirsty.” Kendall sighed with relief and smiled down at her oldest son. Zach, she noticed, was not as forgiving. He looked agitated, but he didn’t scold the boy, he just returned to his own room. Kendall got a glass of water from the kitchen and gave both boys a drink before tucking them back in and kissing them good night … again.

When she got back to her room, she heard the shower running. She was tempted to join her husband. After all, she was the one who poured the wine on him. Shouldn’t she be the one to help him wash it off? She was on her way to the bathroom when she saw the invitation on the bedside table. “Halloween Ball,” she read aloud. “A benefit for the Miranda Center.”

She couldn’t believe it was already time for Halloween. Funny how quickly time had flown since she’d met Zach at that tiny little roadside park. Before that, time seemed to drag on endlessly. Now her days were speeding by, moving faster than she could keep up with. She wondered why Zach hadn’t mentioned it to her. She knew about The Miranda Center, he’d told her all about it. But he never said anything about a party.

“What you reading?” Kendall jumped, causing Zach to laugh at her. “Sorry,” he said, still looking at her funny. “Why didn’t you tell me about this?” she asked as she held up the invitation. “Because I was afraid you might want to go,” he said dryly. “Don’t you?” Before he could answer, there was another cry from down the hallway.

“Mommy!”

“Will you come skating with us when the pond gets hard? Daddy can teach you. He teaches me and he never lets me fall.” Kendall smiled down at her chatterbox of a son and waited for him to finish telling her how much fun she would have. “Of course I will,” she said when he took a breath. “Is there anything else?” she asked. “No ma’am. I was just wondering.” Kendall kissed him goodnight ... again … and went back to Zach.

“Now where were we?” she asked as she picked Zach’s robe up off the floor and threw it over the chair. “I think you were about to come to bed,” Zach said as his eyes swept over her body. Kendall noticed that he’d laid the hockey jersey he loved so much on the bed next to him. “No, I think we were talking about the party. What kind of costumes should we get?” she said.

“I don’t wear costumes,” Zach said matter-of-factly. He watched with interest as Kendall began to take off her shoes. There was only one costume he was interested in getting Kendall into … and out of.

“Come on, Zach. It’ll be fun!” Kendall pouted as she removed her socks and tossed them next to her shoes. “No, it won’t.” Zach said, sounding bored but feeling anything but. Kendall stopped her progress and looked at him. “Why don’t you want to go?” Zach looked at her like she had two heads. “Because it’ll be boring. Why do you want to go so badly?”

“I think it could be a lot of fun,” she said as she moved closer to where he was sitting. “Besides, it sounds like a good way for me to get a look at the people who make up my new life. Kinda get my foot in the door.” “You don’t wanna go through that door,” Zach muttered, then he noticed the look on her face. She looked excited, but he saw something else. Fear.

“Kendall, you don’t have to,” he began, but she stopped him. “I know I don’t have to. I want to.” “Then why do you look terrified?” Kendall moved around him to stand between his legs. “Because I am. I’m anxious to get back to my old life, but I’m scared to death of the people who know me … know Kendall. They will be strangers to me, Zach. Strangers with kind, staring eyes and well-intended expectations. Don’t you see? This is the perfect opportunity. The costumes will help me to hide in plain sight.”

While Zach considered it, she resumed her undressing. She pulled her sweater over her head, took off her bra and peeled off her jeans. Before she could get the jersey on, Zach was on her. He pulled her into his arms and ran his hands over her back.

“I kinda like what you’re wearing right now.”

“That’s it! Lady Godiva. And you can be my horse!”

“Nobody will expect me to show up in a costume, Kendall. You’re gonna ruin my reputation.”

“Oh really? That’s all it takes to ruin your reputation? A horse costume?” Zach threw up his hands. “Okay, sure. I’ll feel like a jackass, why not look like one?”

Kendall laughed. “Maybe I should go as a blonde. How would you like that? We’ll get elaborate costumes and –“

“No.”

“Come on, Zach!”

“Tell you what, I’ll go as the man who refused to wear a costume. How about that?”

“Marilyn Monroe and her Secret Service detail?”

Zach just stared at her.

“Antony and Cleopatra?”

“Which one of them is blond?”

“Mae West and ….”

“No.”

“Dale and Roy?”

“What’s with the horse theme? You got something on your mind?”

“Maybe I do, stud.” Kendall said as she cocked an eyebrow. “Oh wait!” she exclaimed. “That’s it! Danny and Sandy from Grease!

“Only if I can be Sandy.”

“Who then?”

“I plan to go as the most envied man in the room, no matter how you’re dressed … or undressed.”

“I could wear the hockey jersey,” Kendall offered, pulling the jersey over her head. “Shake my pom poms.” Zach growled. “We’d never make it there.”

“Dolly Parton, maybe? But I don’t really have all the necessary … that is, my … hair isn’t really big enough.”

“Oh, I disagree. I think your … hair … is just perfect,” Zach said as he eyed her hungrily. He pulled Kendall back into his arms and buried his face in her neck.

“Mommy!”

Kendall looked at Zach, who grinned at her. “You heard him,” he said. Kendall was beginning to get the hang of this routine, so she didn’t move as quickly this time, which prompted Spike to call her again. She grabbed her robe and headed back down the hall.

“I don’t feel good.” Kendall sat on the edge of his bed and pressed her cheek against his forehead. “You don’t have a fever,” she said. “Tell Mommy what hurts.” “My head,” Spike said immediately. Kendall gently rubbed his head. “My stomach.” Kendall smiled and moved her hand to his stomach. “All better?” she asked after a few minutes. Spike shook his head. “Maybe I need to get some medicine,” Kendall said, her brows furrowed in concern. “All better,” Spike said cheerily. “Night Mommy.”

“What was that all about?” Zach said when Kendall entered their room. “He said he had a tummy ache.” “What did you do?” Kendall slipped off her robe and climbed into bed beside Zach. “I rubbed it.” “Hmmmmm ...” Zach growled. “If I have an ache, will you rub it too?” Kendall laughed. “Funny you should say that. I was on my way to help you wash the wine off earlier, but you were too fast for me.”

Zach jumped off the bed and pulled Kendall off with him, dragging her to the bathroom. “Too fast? I’m still in there.” He already had his shirt pulled over his head and was reaching for hers when they heard it again.

“Mommy!”

Zach groaned in frustration. He didn’t know what was going on, but he was about to find out. “I’ll go,” he said as he gave Kendall a kiss filled with the promise of what would happen when he returned. He stood outside the bedroom door and counted to ten, trying to calm himself down so he wouldn’t yell at the boys.

“What is it this time?” he said, his voice sounding calmer than he felt. “I had a bad dream,” Spike said. Zach looked over and found Ian sitting up in bed, struggling to keep his eyes open. “How can you have a bad dream when you haven’t been asleep?” he asked as he walked over to sit on Ian’s bed. Spike shrugged, but said nothing.

Zach laid Ian back down and he immediately turned over so Zach would rub his back. “It’s okay,” he soothed. “Go to sleep.” He leaned over the boy to see if his eyes were closed and found them heavy, but still open. “I can’t Daddy,” he whispered. “Spike will be mad.” Before Zach could question him, he was fast asleep.

Zach walked over to Spike and sat next to him. “You want to tell me what’s going on?” Spike shrugged again, then rubbed his eyes. “Spike,” Zach said, his voice taking on a warning tone. “Tell me why you won’t go to sleep. Are you scared of something?” Spike nodded. “What?” When Spike didn’t answer, Zach pulled him onto his lap. “You can tell me, you know?” Spike continued to stare at him. “Don’t you want me to fix it?” The boy nodded again. “Then tell me.”

“I’m afraid Mommy will disappear,” he said in a rush. All of the frustration drained out of Zach in an instant. He pulled Spike closer and held him tight. “Why do you think that?” he said. “Because she did last time. She was here when I went to bed, but when I woke up, she was gone. I prayed that she’d come back. And guess what?” Zach swallowed around the lump in his throat. “What,” he said gruffly. “She did. I promised God that I wouldn’t let the monsters get her again. So I can’t go to sleep. They might get her.”

Zach eased Spike away from him. “I understand,” he said. “But why don’t you let me take care of your mom. I won’t let the monsters get her.” Spike yawned and nodded. “Okay Daddy. But you gotta promise she’ll be here when I wake up. Okay?” “I promise,” Zach said as he lowered the boy back to the bed. “I’ll send her back in here to kiss you goodnight, but then you have to go to sleep. Deal?” “Deal,” Spike said. He sat up and wrapped his arms around Zach’s neck. After a second, he laid back down and rolled over onto his side. “Night Daddy.”

***********************

Zach sat on the edge of the bed turning the invitation over in his hands. He couldn’t believe she wanted to go. Why would she want to subject herself to a room full of strangers? Of course he knew the answer. She was doing it for him. She wanted to show him that she was ready to resume her life as Kendall Hart Slater, in every way.

Undecided, he tossed the invitation back on the nightstand and noticed the time. Kendall had been gone for quite a while. What was taking so long? He had visions of Spike and Ian keeping her busy with water runs and potty breaks and endless questions. Anything to keep her there. He eased down the hallway and peeked inside the boys’ room, wary of what he would find.

They were asleep. All three of them. Kendall had crawled into bed with both boys and was sleeping soundly sandwiched between them. Zach swiped at a tear that threatened to escape and turned to go. He guessed it was only fair that the boys get Kendall to themselves for one night. Just one night.

He walked into the bedroom and picked up the invitation again. With a sigh of defeat, he made up his mind. He still wasn’t sure if she was ready for this, but it was her decision. He would be there to keep her safe. Otherwise, his job was to be supportive, even if that meant wearing a silly costume to a boring fundraiser.

Zach reached for the phone and punched in a number. “It’s Zach Slater. Yeah, I know what time it is. I’m sorry for calling so late, but I need you to take care of something for me. It’s important to my wife.”


TBC

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Ann

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Reply with quote  #98 

Karen, you are a genius.  This chapter was as perfect as all the others have been. I can't wait for the rest of this amazing story.


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Reply with quote  #99 

Have I mentioned lately that I really do love this story! Can never wait for your updates patiently!!!!

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Reply with quote  #100 

Thanks, Karen....great chapter...looking forward to the next!

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