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theotherDi

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Reply with quote  #101 
Hey Karen,  Thanks for giving us a present!!!



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Jan 25 ABC Soaps In Depth - Twitterverse
@DianeNilsen The last day of Thorsten Kaye on AMC will be the last day of AMC on my television.
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Thanks Mon
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Reply with quote  #102 
Thanks for another great chapter... It brought tears to my eyes..  Can hardly wait till the next chapter in this great story...  Happy Birthday to you...  Thanks again for the great story...
 
Dana  : )  
 


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Chapter 20

Kendall stood in the middle of the bedroom, staring at her reflection in the mirror. She made a slight adjustment to the shoulder-length blond wig she wore before topping it with the beret she held in her hand. She did a half-turn, admiring the way the dress fit her figure. It seemed so modest on the hanger, but the cut was actually pretty provocative, especially considering the period. Between the wig and the makeup, she barely recognized herself.

She turned at the sound of a low wolf whistle and found Zach standing in the doorway, also admiring her reflection. “You like?” she asked as she turned to face him. “You look positively criminal,” he said, smiling at his own joke. Kendall reached up to smooth the lapels of his pinstriped suit. “Another joke?” she said with mock exasperation. “How many you got left?” “Aw, come on Kendall. Don’t rob me of my fun.” Kendall rolled her eyes and walked into her closet. “Grab your hat and round up the boys, Clyde. We’re leaving in ten minutes. Don’t hold me up.” His laughter followed him down the hallway.

Five minutes later, Kendall walked into the living room and froze in her tracks. The boys were standing next to the fireplace in their Halloween costumes, waiting for Zach to take their picture. He directed them on exactly how to pose, causing Kendall to laugh out loud.

“Mimes?” she said incredulously. “Zach, what’s going on in here?” He took one more shot before Kendall entered the frame. She knelt down in front of Ian and tried to wipe the makeup from his face. “No, wait!” Zach said. “We’re not finished. They haven’t done the box thing yet.”

Kendall turned in time to see the twinkle in his eye. “What are you up to?” “This,” he said, indicating the boys, “is payback.” He pointed his phone at the boys and snapped a picture, then chuckled as he dialed a number. When he was finished, he turned his attention to his wife.

“The costumes are a gift from their Aunt Bianca. She’s getting me back for the pony I sent to Miranda on her last birthday. It’s a thing we do,” he added, nodding his head and biting his lower lip in an effort to keep from laughing. “I can’t believe you’re gonna let the boys go out like that. They’ll be made fun of,” Kendall said as she gathered them to her.

“Show her boys. You’ve got 60 seconds,” Zach said. Spike and Ian took off upstairs, squealing as they went. Zach walked over to Kendall and put his arm around her shoulders. “You’re gonna love this,” he said. “You mean this?” she asked as she leaned up to kiss him. “Uh-huh,” he mumbled. He pulled her against him and returned the kiss, forcing her to grab her hat as he bent her backwards.

“Daddy! How long?” Zach straightened and loosened his grip on Kendall. “Ten seconds,” he yelled. “Nine, eight, seven, six, five, four …” Zach stopped counting when the boys came bounding into the room. They were both wearing Red Wings goalie costumes, complete with padding and masks. “It’s tradition,” Zach said, as he ushered his family out the door.

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

By the time they arrived at The Miranda Center, Kendall was having second thoughts. Was she ready for this? What if people recognized her? Maybe it was too soon. Zach took her hand and gave it a squeeze. “I’ll be right beside you,” he said. She gave him a weak smile and a quick kiss. She heard giggling from the back seat and turned to find the boys watching them. Their happy faces lightened her mood, at least for the moment.

A short while later, the nerves were back. She and Zach had taken the boys to the kids’ party and were now standing outside the doors of the makeshift ballroom. Zach had his hand on the small of her back and he could feel her trembling. He leaned down and whispered in her ear. “I forgot to mention this before, but your mom has a bit of a thing for me. So don’t be jealous, and don’t leave me alone with her, okay?” Just as he’d hoped, Kendall laughed.

“My mom, right. Don’t you mean Erica Kane?” Kendall asked sarcastically. “That’s right,” Zach said, ignoring the way she rolled her eyes. “Ready Bonnie?” “Ready Clyde.” Kendall looked at Zach, took a deep breath and walked into the party with her head held high.

“Everything looks great!” she said as she took in her surroundings. She had a sudden memory of coming into a much fancier ballroom on Zach’s arm, only that time she was wearing a beautiful purple dress, not a costume. She turned to ask Zach about it, but the question died in her throat when a rather garishly dressed woman came rushing toward them.

“Well, as I live and breath,” she said. “Zach Slater out on the town. I never expected to see you here tonight.” Kendall came under the woman’s scrutiny next. “And who do we have here?” Zach pulled her closer, resisting the urge to hide her behind his back. He suddenly felt so protective of her. “Opal, this is my date … Amy.”

Kendall didn’t know how to take the look of shock on the woman’s face. She was clearly at a loss for words, and Kendall guessed that didn’t happen often. After a moment of awkward silence, Opal regained her composure. “I’m real happy for you, Zach,” she said good-naturedly. “It’s time, you know? I mean, we all loved Kendall, but …” Zach thanked her and led Kendall away.

“Good for you, Zach.” “Getting back out there, huh?” “About time you moved on.” Kendall heard it over and over again. Seemingly everybody they passed had something to say about Zach’s love life. He took it all in stride, smiling and nodding, letting people think what they wanted. Kendall knew she should be relieved that nobody recognized her, but she couldn’t help but be bothered by the catcalls. She was his wife, damn it. He did NOT need to move on! Finally somebody had the decency to be annoyed that he had a date.

“Zach Slater in a costume? I never thought I’d see the day! I mean, that is a costume, right? And not just a peek into a former life?” Kendall turned to see who the voice belonged to when she heard Zach groan. The woman in the Cinderella costume clearly didn’t expect to see Kendall there. She visibly bristled when Zach put his arm around her waist, her smile turning quickly into a scowl.

“A date? You told me there was nobody else for you but Kendall, Zach. So who is she?” Kendall looked down at her, confused by her sudden outburst. She couldn’t tell if she was overprotective or jealous. “I know what I said, Greenlee. And I meant it.” “Well, you could have fooled me!” she snapped. “Are you even going to introduce me?” She posed the question to Zach, but she was glaring at Kendall. “That depends, are you gonna play nice?” Zach asked, “Or are you gonna move along?” She shot Zach a “go to hell” look and stormed off. “Who was that?” Kendall whispered. “Your best friend.”

As they watched the angry woman make her way through the crowd, Zach’s eye’s lit on someone sitting in the corner. “Come on, I want you to meet somebody,” he said as he took Kendall’s hand. She followed him until he stopped in front of a frail-looking elderly woman with bright red hair, piercing eyes, and the warmest smile Kendall had ever seen.

“Myrtle! It’s so good to see you,” Zach said as he bent down to hug her. Kendall thought she looked so fragile she would break, but when she spoke her voice was strong and full of laughter. “Zach, I’ve been waiting for you. Where have you been hiding, my boy?” Kendall could see how fond Zach was of this woman just by the way he looked at her, and the feeling was clearly mutual.

”Hello, dahlin’,” Myrtle said, addressing Kendall. “I see you’ve brought a smile back to Zach’s face. It’s good to see him so happy again.” Kendall nodded, taking the woman’s outstretched hand. She looked into Zach’s face and saw what Myrtle was seeing. “What can I say, Myrtle? I fell in love the minute I saw her,” he said. Myrtle patted Kendall’s hand. “So did I, Zach. So did I. Even if she did give her mother a lot of grief in the beginning,” she added, her tone slightly scolding. Myrtle laughed at the look on both of their faces. “Did you think you could fool me, Zach Slater?” she said. Then she turned her attention back to Kendall. “Welcome home, dahlin’. I knew he would find you. A love like that cannot be denied.”

Zach was beaming with pride as he and Kendall escorted Myrtle to her car a short while later. He knew she would recognize Kendall right away. Nothing got past her. They were halfway across the ballroom when Kendall felt somebody tap her on the shoulder.

“Why don’t you ditch the big guy and run away with me?” Kendall turned and found herself staring straight into the eyes of the man she’d seen at the diner a few weeks before. She immediately started to apologize, but he wouldn’t let her finish. “Forget it,” he said as he reached out to shake Zach’s hand. “Go ahead, Zach. I’ll keep her company while you see Ms. Fargate out.” Zach looked at Kendall, who nodded. “I’ll be right back, honey,” he said as he gave her a quick kiss. “Don’t steal her,” he quipped to Josh.

“That’s not funny!” Kendall said to his retreating back. “I’m so embarrassed about that,” she added. “Don’t be. I understand completely. And who knows, if I wasn’t your brother …” He shook his head and grinned at her. “I’m Josh, by the way,” he said, holding out his hand. Kendall shook his hand, then hugged him awkwardly. “I know,” she said. “Thanks for all you’ve done for Zach and the boys. He probably hasn’t said anything to you, but he’s told me all about it. He really appreciates you, Josh. He loves you a lot.”

Now it was Josh’s turn to be embarrassed, if the color of his face was any indication. “We’re family,” he said matter-of-factly. “He’s a good guy, Kendall. And I’d do anything for those boys. And for you.” She smiled when he reached into his pocket and pulled out a handkerchief. She dabbed at the corners of her eyes and tried to gain control of her emotions. All night she’d been staring into this sea of faces that meant nothing to her. But this one was different. This was her brother. And even though she didn’t remember him, she still felt a connection. She loved him already.

“Okay Boy Scout,” Kendall teased, giving him back his handkerchief, “how about getting your sister something to drink?” “Sure,” Josh said immediately, disappearing into the throng. Kendall took in the costumes around her while she waited for Zach or Josh to return. She wondered what the boys were up to and was just about to go check on them when she saw Cinderella approaching. She tried to make a hasty retreat, but it was too late. All she could do was wait for the storm to hit.

“Where’s your date?” Greenlee said as she sidled up to Kendall. She didn’t wait for an answer before she started grilling her. “I don’t know why Zach didn’t introduce us earlier. I’m Greenlee Smythe. Kendall - she was Zach’s wife – I don’t know if he told you about her … anyway, she and I were partners and also best friends. I didn’t know Zach was dating again. Where did you guys meet? I mean, you really don’t seem to be his type.” She leaned forward and whispered conspiratorially, “you aren’t a paid date are you? I mean, not that I think Zach has to pay for it. Hell, I’d give him a ride for free anytime, but he’s made it clear that he’s not interested in anybody but Kendall. So what’s your secret?”

“What’s going on here?”

Both women turned to find Erica Kane standing behind them. “Greenlee, why are you interrogating this woman? She doesn’t owe you anything. She’s Zach’s guest, not yours.” Erica noticed the look of relief that crossed Kendall’s face. She wanted to throw her arms around her daughter and tell her everything would be just fine, but she didn’t know how Kendall would react. Especially with Greenlee yapping at her heels.

“I’m surprised you approve, Erica, what with the sainted Kendall not even dead two years yet.” “That is why you’ll always be alone, Greenlee. You are vicious and petty and just plain unpleasant to be around. Kendall is not dead. She’ll be home very soon, just wait.” Erica gave Kendall a knowing smile as Greenlee turned on her. “Hear that Blondie? You’re just a place holder. Enjoy him while you can. I bet Zach is a tiger in bed.”

“Am I interrupting something?”

All three women looked up to see Zach standing in front of them. He looked from Kendall to Erica, trying to assess the situation. Kendall didn’t look too upset and neither did Erica. Greenlee looked furious. So he guessed that whatever he’d missed, the Kane women had come out on top. He moved closer to Kendall and put his arm around her, letting his hand rest on her hip. The move was not lost on Greenlee, who once again stomped off in a huff.

“Why is she here?” he asked his mother-in-law as he leaned in to give her a kiss on the cheek. “Who knows and who cares? All I want to know is when is she leaving!” Erica said as she watched the little diva get lost in the crowd.

Kendall stared wide-eyed at the beautiful woman standing in front of her. So Zach was telling the truth. He did know Erica Kane! Her jaw dropped as the rest of his claims came rushing forward. “It’s okay, Kendall. I won’t let that nasty little viper bother you. Oh, I’m sorry. Would you prefer to be called Amy?”

Kendall shook her head mutely, still trying to believe what she was seeing. She heard Zach chuckle beside her and turned to find him smiling at her. “See?” he said. “She didn’t believe that I knew the famous Erica Kane,” he explained to Erica, who beamed up at him before turning her attention back to Kendall.

“I know now isn’t the time. But I hope we can get together soon. We have so much to catch up on.” She threw her arms around her shocked daughter. “I’ve missed you so much, sweetheart.” When she pulled back, both women were crying. Josh appeared out of nowhere and handed his mother a slightly used handkerchief. Zach brushed Kendall’s tears away. “I’d like that,” Kendall said. “I’ll call you and we’ll set something up.”

Kendall suddenly felt like the room was closing in on her. “I … uh … I really need to … I’ll be right back,” Kendall said as she walked away. Zach started to come with her, but she stopped him. “I’m okay, Zach. Really. I just need some air. It’s so crowded in here. I’ll be right back.” She pulled her hand from his grasp and ran from the room.

Zach pretended to listen to what Josh was saying as he stared at the door Kendall had gone through. He couldn’t decide if he should go after her or not. He didn’t want to crowd her, but she’d been gone for a long time. Maybe she needed him.

“Listen, Josh …” Zach began. “Go ahead,” Josh said before Zach could make his excuses. “It’s good to see you two together again,” he added as he held out his hand. Zach immediately pulled Josh into a hug and thanked him for all the support. “Yeah, yeah. Enough of this mushy stuff. Go take your wife home. She’s probably freezing to death out there. I’ll take care of the boys. They’re chick magnets, you know?” he added with a grin as Zach went in search of Kendall.

He walked through the double doors that led to the balcony, but there was no sign of Kendall. He checked for another exit, but didn’t see one. How could she have left the ballroom without him seeing her? He checked to see if her coat was still there and found that she’d taken it. Fear immediately gripped him. Why would she leave without telling him? Where did she go?

Zach made his way to the car, where he found a note:

Zach,

I’m so sorry. I just had to get away from all these people. I couldn’t breathe. I called a cab. Please don’t be mad, and don’t worry about me. I’ll be home soon. I love you.

Kendall


He stuffed the note in his pocket and started the car. He knew she wanted him to go home and wait for her, but he couldn’t do that. She needed him. And even if she didn’t, he needed her. He couldn’t let her get away from him again. Zach followed her trail out of town. He knew exactly where he would find her.

As he pulled into the Marigold Sky, his heart started beating again. He could see her sitting at one of the booths nursing a cup of coffee. For a few minutes he just sat and watched her. He still worried sometimes that this was all a dream. There was no diner, no Amy, and Kendall was still gone. He woke up ten times a night, just be sure she was still there. How did he ever make it for all those months without her?

“How’s the coffee here?”

Kendall felt herself relax at the sound of his voice. She wondered if he’d always had that affect on her. No matter how scared or lonely she felt, all it took was that voice, or his touch, or even his scent, to make her feel like everything was okay.

“Not bad, but the service sucks,” Kendall said. She slid over so Zach would sit beside her instead of across from her. He willingly complied. “I’m sorry, Zach,” she began immediately. “I know. Are you okay?” he asked. He reached under the table and covered her hand where it rested on his knee. She looked at him for a long time, then she shook her head as tears gathered in her eyes.

Zach put his arm around her and pulled her into his side. She laid her head on his shoulder, but said nothing. When a waitress appeared, Zach ordered a hot fudge sundae with two spoons. “You wanna talk about it?” he asked when they were alone again.

“I don’t know what to say,” Kendall said as she raised up to look into his face. “I want you, Zach. And I want our boys. But the rest … business and family and hateful people who are supposed to be friends … it’s too much. I’m not ready for that.” Zach tucked a stray curl behind her ear, grateful that she’d taken off the wig. “Then don’t do it,” he said, making it sound so simple.

“But that’s not fair to anybody,” she said, her tone pleading. “I felt something for those people, Zach. For Josh and Erica. God, Erica Kane is really my mother! And even Myrtle. I got a real sense of just how lucky I was before all this happened. I don’t want to hurt them, Zach. And I don’t want to hurt you. But what if I can never be what they need me to be? Maybe it would have been better if I’d stayed in Memphis.”

Zach took her face in his hands and looked into her eyes. Kendall saw and felt his anger. “Don’t ever say that! We all went through hell when you were gone. Including you. How could you think coming back here was the wrong thing to do? This is your home, Kendall.” He took her hand and placed it over his heart. “This is your home.” Then he took his hand and placed it over her heart. “And this is my home. Nothing else matters.”

“I wanted to do this for you, Zach. To be Kendall, just the way you remember her. But I failed. I failed you and Josh and my mother. Why is this so hard?” She felt a fresh batch of tears ready to roll down her face, but Zach kissed them away. “You didn’t fail anybody. It’s just too much too soon. You need more time, that’s all. We all understand that. We love you, remember?”

“You’re such a good man, Zach Slater,” Kendall said as she put her hand on his face. He turned into it and closed his eyes. “No, I’m not. I’m just a man who loves his wife. A selfish man who is scared to death that he’ll lose everything again.” Kendall was reminded of a letter she’d found in a box in her closet. She pulled it out of her purse and showed it to him.

Hey Gorgeous!

If you're reading this, well, I wish you weren’t because it means I’ve been gone so long you’re snooping around and that’s not a good sign. You know I love you more than I can say, but I’m going to try to put it down here so you can always hold on to it. Refer back when you need a reminder would you please?

Never in my entire life have I had anything like what I have with you and Spike. Never felt this way for any other woman on Earth. That’s you Kendall. You made me feel a kind of love I never even knew existed. You and the Spike Man did something nearly impossible. You made me a family guy. The kind of man, no, make that the kind of father who dresses up his baby in silly outfits and takes pictures to make his wife smile. Let me tell you, one minute with you smiling or screaming is worth ten years of any other man’s life. I pity the rest of the male population because they’ve missed the excitement and love you brought me.

Now, don’t panic, okay? And don’t get depressed. Pick up your cell and call Ryan. Do it now. Call him and tell him I said to keep you safe because I know he will.

Alright. Now fold this up and have it laminated later so it’s tear-proof because I want it to be legible when you pull it out and bore Spike’s kids and grandkids with it 50 years from now.

You are magnificent Kendall, and everything I am, everything that is good in me is all because I had you. Always, only you.

Zach


Zach read over the letter then looked up at Kendall, who was watching him intently. She remembered how lost and afraid she’d felt the first time she read it. She didn’t know the details, but she felt the pain and fear. It’s how Zach must have felt when she didn’t come home from Los Angeles.

“You really do love me, don’t you?” she said, her voice barely above a whisper. Time stood still as Zach held her gaze. He gently stroked her face, his fingers tracing the line of her jaw. He pulled her to him and kissed her, then handed her a spoon. “A little bit,” he said as he dove into the sundae that was placed between them.

“I love you too, Zach. More than I can say. And as beautiful as this letter is, I don’t want another one like it. Promise me that the next time you go, wherever you go, you’ll take me with you. I can’t bear to lose everything again either. After a minute of quiet contemplation, Zach agreed. “I promise,” he whispered.

They spent another hour there, enjoying each other’s company in a place where nobody knew who Kendall Hart Slater was.


TBC


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Purdue0612

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Reply with quote  #104 

Another just beautiful chapter! Thanks again Karen for writing this ...its really special.....

Roseann

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Thanks, Karen...

zendall44

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Exquisite story, exquisite writing . . . Thank you Karen!


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Chapter 21

“Make yourself at home, Josh,” Zach said sarcastically. Josh looked up to find his brother-in-law standing in the doorway of his office glaring at him. He could tell Zach was annoyed and knew he should probably get out of his chair and away from his desk, but he didn’t. He smiled unrepentantly and continued perusing the papers in front of him.

“What?” he asked when Zach pulled the folder out from under him. “Most people wouldn’t go through other people’s desks,” Zach said ominously. “Most people wouldn’t leave something they didn’t want others to see lying right out in the open,” Josh countered. “Most people who work for me know better than to touch anything on my desk. Anybody else would be looking for a new job,” Zach added as he waited for Josh to vacate his chair.

Sensing Zach wasn’t in a joking mood, Josh got up and moved to the other side of the desk. “Okay, got it. Sorry,” he said as he sat down across from Zach. “So why did you want to meet here at the casino instead of at Cambias?” Josh asked. He could tell by Zach’s reaction that the meeting was the reason for his foul mood, not Josh snooping through his desk.

“I need a favor,” Zach said, unsure of where to begin. “Name it,” Josh replied. Zach looked at him a long while, still trying to decide if bringing him into this was the right thing to do. “Zach,” Josh prodded. “What is it?”

Zach leaned back in his chair and crossed his arms. “I need you to see what you can find out about a man named Clayton Matthews. Dr. Clayton Matthews, actually. He was on staff at the hospital in Memphis where Kendall was treated. “But he’s not anymore,” Josh supplied, sensing Zach’s hesitancy. “Right,” Zach said, chewing his lip in concentration. As if he’d finally settled the battle he was having with himself, Zach leaned forward, resting his arms on his desk, and leveled his gaze on Josh.

“Do you remember when I asked you to leave me alone with Dr. Gregory in Memphis?” Zach said at last. Josh nodded, but remained silent. “Well, she told me something that I couldn’t share with you. Not before I told Kendall.” “Go on,” Josh said. Zach stood and unlocked the safe behind his desk and pulled out a thick file. He opened it and picked up the ultrasound image that rested on top.

“Dr. Matthews is an OB/GYN. When I asked Dr. Gregory why an OB/GYN treated Kendall if she wasn’t raped, she gave me this.” Zach slid it across the desk to Josh. “Kendall was pregnant?” Josh asked incredulously. Zach was both touched and saddened by the tears that immediately formed in his brother-in-law’s eyes. And then the clench of his jaw grabbed Zach’s attention.

“Yeah,” he said, his voice thick with emotion. “I didn’t know. I’m not even sure if Kendall did. But she lost the baby at 16 weeks. Her body had been through too much to sustain the pregnancy.” Josh, who had been studying the ultrasound, jerked his head up to look at Zach at that last remark. He’d been trying to figure out what wasn’t right about the ultrasound, but then his attention was diverted.

“You’ve got her medical file, don’t you?” he asked, his tone accusing. He jumped to his feet. “That’s it right there, isn’t it? Why don’t you want me to see it? Are there pictures in there, Zach? Pictures of what that bastard did to my sister?”

Zach lowered his head. He’d known it would come to this if he went to Josh for help. But Josh was a doctor, and Greg Madden’s son, which might give him access to places and people that Johnnie couldn’t get to. He had to take the chance. He couldn’t fail Kendall, not after all she’d been through. She’d fought like hell to find her way back to him and he owed her that same determination.

“I want to see that file,” Josh said evenly. His calm demeanor could not hide the rage burning inside. “You can’t ask me to get involved with something and then not give me all the facts. Dammit, Zach. She’s my sister!” His voice broke on the last word, his pain evident. Zach knew it was only going to get worse. Josh had heard the details of Kendall’s ordeal on their trip to Memphis, but even that couldn’t prepare him for the horror in those pictures.

“I knew you were gonna say that,” Zach said as he met Josh’s gaze. Josh saw the sadness in Zach’s eyes. He suddenly realized how hard this was on him. He knew Zach was a man who liked to control every situation. He didn’t like asking people for help simply because he didn’t like needing help. But he was relinquishing a part of that control to help Kendall. Josh felt honored that Zach trusted him that much.

Zach stepped away, motioning for Josh to take his place at the desk. With a quick glance at Zach, Josh opened the file, then stared in silent anguish at the photos of Kendall’s broken body. Unbeknownst to him, Zach had removed some of the more grisly pictures, but there was still enough in there to give Josh a good idea of what Kendall had suffered.

Zach was glad to see that Josh’s reaction changed quickly to one of anger. Zach could understand rage. He felt it, tasted it, lived with it every day. The need to vindicate Kendall and the boys consumed him in quiet moments. While a part of him felt guilty for planting these images in Josh’s mind, another part of him welcomed a partner in vengeance. He could see that Josh would be just as driven to find out the truth, and to punish the man responsible.

Josh had barely scratched the surface on the file when Zach’s phone rang. His already dark mood grew even darker when he heard what the caller had to say. “Where’s my wife?” he barked into the phone. “Send Bruno over there and tell him not to leave her side. You stay put, I’m on my way.” Josh stood up as Zach hurried toward the door. “Everything okay?” he asked Zach’s retreating back. Without breaking his stride or ever looking back, Zach answered him.

“Lavery’s back.”


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

Zach was working his cell phone as he made his way home at breakneck speed. He’d talked to Otto and Bruno and Josh, and now he was desperate to talk to Kendall. He dialed her number, drumming his fingers on the steering wheel while he waited for her to answer.

“Hey there handsome,” Kendall said cheerily.

“Hey yourself,” he replied, trying to keep his voice even. “How’s your lunch date going?” Kendall smiled at the sound of his voice and excused herself from the table. She walked out onto the patio in search of some privacy. “Oh Zach, everything is going so well. Erica and Myrtle have been so nice to me.” “Why wouldn’t they be?” he asked. Kendall shrugged. “I don’t know. I guess I just expected things to be more awkward, but they haven’t been. I’m having a great time.”

Zach felt himself relax. “I’m glad,” he said softly. “Where are you?” Kendall asked, turning to look back into the dining room of The Valley Inn. “I’m on my way home,” Zach answered. “For lunch,” he added, hoping she wouldn’t ask any questions.

“Zach, tell me what’s wrong,” Kendall said, her tone taking on a slight edge. “What? Why does something have to be wrong just because I want to go home for lunch?” he hedged. “Because I can see Bruno standing across the room watching me like a hawk,” she answered, giving the bodyguard a discreet wave.

Zach groaned. “God, you’re a hard woman to take care of,” he said. “You mean lie to.” Kendall turned her back to Bruno, but made certain he could see her. She didn’t want him coming any closer until she had her answers. “What lie? I didn’t lie. I am on my way home, and unlike you, I don’t have people lining up to feed me, so…” “Zach,” Kendall warned. “Quit stalling and tell me why I suddenly need supervision.”

With a sigh of resignation, Zach relented. “Ryan is with Spike,” he said, trying to keep the worry out of his voice. “Oh my God, Zach! I need to get home. Why didn’t you tell me that in the first place? I’m leaving right now,” she said as she closed the phone and hurried through the door. She stopped when her phone rang again because she knew from the ring who was calling.

“You can’t go home,” Zach said. “Not yet.” He waited for Kendall to argue, but she didn’t. “Okay, I won’t fight you on this, but you call me as soon as it’s safe for me to come home.” “I promise,” Zach said. “And don’t worry about the boys. Rachel is with them and so is Otto. I’ll be there myself in five minutes. I won’t let anything happen to them.” Kendall begged him to be careful and reminded him to call her as soon as it was over, then she returned to her table and started making her apologies. There was no way she was going to sit there eating chicken salad while her boys were in danger.

“Yes sir, I’ll take care of it.” After hanging up the phone, Bruno walked over to Kendall and waited for her to give him her attention. “Mr. Slater says it’s not necessary for you to cut your lunch short. He’d prefer if you stayed here and finished it.” Kendall glared at him, then looked into the confused faces of Erica and Myrtle. She could see the questions forming. Questions she wasn’t ready to answer. She gave Bruno a weak smile and sat back down at the table. “Zach’s right,” she said casually. “Why leave such good company? Who wants dessert?”

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

Zach hurried up to Otto, who was standing right outside the front door. “He said he couldn’t stay,” the man reported before Zach could question him. “And what did you say?” Zach asked, knowing full well that Otto wouldn’t just let Ryan leave. “I said he was mistaken. He’s waiting inside. Spike is with him, but Rachel just took Ian upstairs for his nap.” Zach nodded and gave Otto orders to go upstairs and wait outside Ian’s room.

He stood next to the fireplace and listened to the conversation Spike and Ryan were having. Ryan, who was kneeling in front of Spike, had his back to Zach. “What about Mommy?” Spike asked. “Mommy’s gonna be there,” Ryan said, clearly trying to convince his son of something. “What about Daddy and Ian?” Spike continued. “Well,” Ryan stammered, “they can come and visit us anytime they want. You’re gonna love it there, Spike. Just wait and see.”

Zach waited, hoping Ryan would say where he was planning to take Spike, but it was obvious from their conversation that Ryan wasn’t divulging that information. He just kept telling Spike it was going to be a great big adventure. Zach had heard enough.

“Sure, Spike. Ian and I will visit you and Ryan and your mom a lot. Where will that be again, Ryan?” he asked. His tone was casual, but the look in his eyes was murderous. Ryan turned to face him and Zach could see the smug arrogance radiating from him. He couldn’t stop himself from gloating. Zach wanted to laugh in his face. No, he wanted to punch him in the face.

Ryan, typically, ignored the question. “What’s with the security, Zach? Somebody out to get you?” “Not me, no,” Zach said as he walked past Ryan and sat on the couch next to Spike. “Why don’t you run upstairs now, little man? It’s naptime.” Spike started trying to convince both of his fathers that he wasn’t tired, but he couldn’t stop yawning long enough, so he relented. Zach could see that Ryan was angry, but he hid it from Spike.

“Yeah, you go take your nap and I’ll get everything settled with Zach. I’ll be back for you later.” As soon as Spike rounded the corner, the pretenses dropped away.

“My son doesn’t need protection from me, Zach,” Ryan said angrily. “Doesn’t he?” Zach replied vaguely. “I think maybe he does. After all, I never really thought that my wife needed to be protected from you, and look how that turned out. I was wrong, and Kendall paid for it.”

“What the hell are you talking about? I never hurt Kendall. You know how I felt about her. But she’s dead now, and it’s time for me and Spike to move on with our lives … together.” “Like hell,” Zach said, his voice cold and deadly calm. “Do you really think I’m going to let you just take Spike and disappear?” Ryan slammed down the glass he was holding and hissed at Zach. “You can’t do a damn thing about it, Slater. Spike is my son. Mine and Kendall’s. And since Kendall is dead, that just leaves me.”

Zach moved closer to Ryan and studied him for a long moment. He realized that Ryan had no idea that Kendall was back in Pine Valley. Which meant he still thought she was waiting for him in Memphis. Zach weighed his options. He could tell Ryan right now and end his fantasy of taking Spike with him, or he could let Ryan think he was still in the driver’s seat. At least that way Zach could get the answers he was so desperate for. He formed a plan then and there.

“If you think I’m going to let you walk out of here with Kendall’s son … the son we raised together … well, then you’re clearly not thinking at all. I will never let that happen, Lavery. Never.” Zach spit out the words as he stood nose to nose with Ryan. “And you know what? I’m tired of telling you this. Kendall is not dead. She’s out there somewhere and I’m going to find her and bring her home. When I do, both of her sons will be here to greet her. And there’s not a damn thing you can do about that!

“We’ll see, Slater. We’ll see,” Ryan said as he headed for the door. “I’ve got an appointment with my lawyer. After that, I’ll be back for my son. Have his stuff packed, would you? It’ll save me a lot of time.”

Zach watched him leave, then called for Otto. “Follow him, but don’t detain him. I want to know where he goes and who he talks to. Have Johnnie trace his calls and send me the reports. And Otto, no matter what it takes, don’t let him go to Memphis. I’ll take care of everything else.” Otto nodded and left.

Zach took off his jacket and poured himself a drink. Then he picked up the phone and dialed. She answered on the first ring. “Is everything okay? Can I come home now?” Kendall asked all in one breath. Zach smiled, knowing it was killing her to stay away, but she did it anyway, just because he asked her to. It was a nice feeling, but it was short-lived. As soon as he told her she could come home, she reminded him that Bruno was the reason she hadn’t left. After giving Bruno his instructions, Zach hung up and then made one more phone call.

“Hey, it’s Zach. I need two tickets to Los Angeles. As soon as possible. Yep, first class. One for me and one for my wife.”

TBC

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Roseann

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What a great chapter!  Can't wait for the rest...

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Spellbinding, as always Karen.....thank you so much.


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Thanks for the update on this great story! Can't wait for more!

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God, I LOVE this story!  Thanks Karen.


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Chapter 22

 

“How old would she be now?” Zach turned away from the window to see Kendall staring at a little girl sitting across the aisle from them. She was oblivious to the noise of the airplane or the activity of the passengers that surrounded her. She was too busy giving her baby doll a bottle. 

 

Zach took Kendall’s hand and gave it a squeeze. Maybe they should have taken the Cambias jet after all. Zach hadn’t wanted to draw attention to their trip, and he couldn’t be sure he didn’t have other people on staff who were still loyal to Lavery. He’d found the persons responsible for the money transfer and dealt with them. But he couldn’t let his guard down again. Not until he knew who he could trust. So he kept their flight and their destination a closely-guarded secret.

 

When Kendall turned to look at him, he saw the sadness in her eyes. She repeated the question, and he didn’t pretend not to know what she meant. He touched her cheek before answering. “About a year,” he said. “Hard to imagine, huh?”

 

Kendall shook her head. “Not for me. I think about it all the time. I can see her face and hear her voice.” She looked back at the little girl who was now burping her baby. “I can even picture the dresses she would wear and what her room would look like. Silly, isn’t it?”

 

Zach leaned up so he could see Kendall’s face. The smile that didn’t quite reach her eyes broke his heart. He turned her face to his and kissed her. “Not silly at all,” he said softly. “Tell me about her room.” Kendall held Zach’s hand in both of hers as she described every detail of a bedroom fit for a princess. The sadness was gone, replaced by pure, unbridled joy. At least for a moment. But then the description was over and reality was back. Their little girl would never see that room. She would never give her baby doll a bottle. She would never know what it was like to be held in her mother’s arms. Zach knew there was no greater place on earth, and it hurt him that both mother and daughter had been cheated.

 

Kendall saw the faraway look in Zach’s eyes and knew he was imagining what their little girl would be like. No doubt he was envisioning hockey jerseys and skating lessons. But also her first day of school and her first date. Kendall’s eyes filled with tears when she imagined their daughter’s wedding day … her handsome father escorting her down the aisle. He’d hug her and she would feel safe and protected in the arms of her precious daddy. He would give her to a man he was sure wasn’t good enough, then he’d take Kendall’s hand and dry her tears as they watched their little girl become a wife.

 

“Ironic, isn’t it?” she said. “When I was pregnant with Spike, I couldn’t imagine what he would be like and it scared me to death. I thought it made me a bad mother.” Zach  nodded. “I remember. You were a basket case,” he said dryly. She elbowed him. “I was not!” she said, then elbowed him again when he tilted his head and stared at her knowingly. “Okay, maybe I was. But a gentleman would pretend to forget.” He brought her hand to his lips. “I’m not a gentleman,” he said, his voice a husky whisper. “And you don’t want me to be.” The look he gave her sent a shiver through Kendall. She leaned forward and kissed him, but not the way she wanted to. Not on a crowded airplane. In an effort to control her body’s response to her husband’s gaze, she changed the subject.

 

“I wonder what the boys are doing,” she said as she looked at her watch. They were probably still asleep. She and Zach had taken the first flight available that morning. Zach was anxious to get back before Ryan realized they were gone. Not that he was a threat. He wouldn’t be able to find Spike, even if he tried. Both boys were well hidden, and well protected. They each made Zach promise to bring them Dodgers caps, causing him to growl at Kendall. He smiled at the memory. “They’ll be fine, honey,” he said as he turned back to the window.

 

“Tell me again why we’re going to LA,” she asked several minutes later. “What do you hope to accomplish?”  Zach waited for the flight attendant to refill Kendall’s juice glass before answering. When she moved away, his eyes were drawn back to the little girl across the aisle. He waved at her and she smiled bashfully.

 

“That’s why,” he said. “Something happened to you, Kendall. Something that completely changed our lives. And I think it happened in Los Angeles. We can’t get that time back,” he added as he covered her hand with his, “but we can make sure somebody pays for it. We can get justice. For you, for Spike and Ian, and for our little Amy.”

 

“And for you,” Kendall added. “You forget how much you’ve suffered, Zach.” “Oh no,” he corrected, “I haven’t forgotten. I know what was taken from me. I remember every agonizing second of what my life was like without you.” Kendall could feel him getting angry, but she wasn’t afraid. She drew strength from his steely determination. Together they would find the answers they needed to put this whole ordeal behind them.

 

She saw the tears gathering in his eyes, but she didn’t acknowledge them. She knew he wouldn’t want that. Not here. Not like this. So she just smiled at him and raised the armrest that was between them so she could scoot closer to him. Zach cleared his throat and tried to blink the tears away as he pulled his wife up against him. For now, it was enough.

 

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

 

Josh walked into the dimly lit room, pausing at the door while his eyes adjusted to the change in light. He took in his surroundings and had to admit he wasn’t very impressed. “How the mighty have fallen,” he muttered as he made his way to the bar.

 

The place was quiet, probably not unusual for this time of the day. There were a few patrons, but they didn’t appear to be looking for company. But that was okay with Josh. He didn’t come here to make new friends. He was here to see an old one.

 

“Josh!”

 

He turned just in time to be enveloped by the woman he’d come to see. He hugged her, trying to keep his grip on the large envelope he was carrying. While Josh had serious problems with what his father had done, it didn’t erase the lifetime of memories he’d shared with his nurse. Besides, he needed her help.

 

“How have you been, Hazel?” Josh asked as he smiled down at her. “You would know, if you came around more,” she chastised. He tried to look contrite, but she wasn’t buying it. “I know,” she said. “You’ve been busy, right? No, don’t hurt yourself trying to come up with some sad excuse, just tell me why you’re here now.”

 

“You don’t think I came for the ambiance?” he said, looking around at the depressing room. Hazel waved him off and walked back behind the bar, patting one of the stools as she passed. “Have a seat, Josh. I’ll get you something to eat.”

 

Twenty minutes later Josh was finishing off the best cheeseburger he’d ever eaten. He gave Hazel a big smile and pushed the plate away. “Wow! That was great. How come I never knew you could cook like that?” She wiped the counter in front of him and tried to pretend the compliment didn’t affect her. She’d made peace a long time ago with her new situation, but sometimes it hurt to be reminded of how much had changed. While she may not have been responsible for Greg Madden’s sins, she could have done more to stop him. She was blinded by dedication to a man she thought really wanted to help people. By the time she knew the truth, it was too late. He’d sucked her in.

 

“I need your help, Hazel,” Josh said, interrupting her thoughts. She watched as he took a folder out of the envelope he’d been guarding so carefully. He handed her a copy of an ultrasound. “What’s this?” she asked, feeling a pang of regret and longing shoot through her. She hadn’t laid eyes on one of these in a very long time.

 

“It’s my sister’s. She was in a horrible accident when she was just a few weeks pregnant. She was in a coma and the doctors didn’t know she was pregnant until later. They tried to save the baby, but she lost it at 16 weeks. This was taken a couple of days before she miscarried.” Hazel studied the image in silence. She knew what Josh was asking. She’d noticed the same thing.

 

“Tell me I’m reading this wrong, Hazel.” She looked into the eyes of a boy she loved like a son and told him the truth. “You don’t need me to tell you what’s right in front of your eyes, Josh. You’re a brilliant doctor, even if you’d rather be a corporate hotshot.” “Just say it,” Josh pleaded, anxious to have his fears confirmed.

 

“First of all, it’s a girl. And I don’t see any sign of what would have caused this fetus to spontaneously abort,” she began. “And,” Josh prodded. “And there’s no way this baby is only 16 weeks old.”

 

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

 

Zach offered Kendall his arm as they entered the hotel. He purposefully chose the same hotel – even the same room – that Kendall had stayed in on her last trip to Los Angeles. He hoped being back there would jar her memory, but as he watched her take in her surroundings it was obvious she didn’t remember being there before.

 

While Zach was busy with the desk clerk, Kendall took the opportunity to look around the lobby of the hotel. It was huge, and very opulent. She walked over to one of the shops that dotted the perimeter and studied the window display, then wandered on to the next one. As she turned to see if Zach was ready, she was nearly knocked off her feet.

 

“Oh, I’m sorry. Excuse my clumsiness, ma’am.” Kendall looked up to see a man in a uniform standing in front of her. He put his hands on her waist in an effort to help her regain her balance. But Kendall didn’t like it. Something about the man made her skin crawl. “Some security guard,” he said, still holding on to her. “Instead of protecting the guests, here I am injuring one, and a lovely one at that.”

 

“I’m fine,” Kendall said, pushing his hands away. “It was probably my fault. I wasn’t really paying attention to where I was going.” The man smiled at her and took her arm. “May I escort you to your room?” “No!” Kendall said sharply. “I mean, that won’t be necessary.” She was trying to pull her arm from the man’s grasp when she heard a voice behind her.

 

“Is everything okay?” With a sigh of relief she turned to look into the eyes of her rescuer, her hero … her husband. Again she tried to pull away, but the stranger’s grip was too tight. His smile had turned plastic as he regarded Zach. “Everything is fine, sir. Feel free to move along.”

 

“I will, just as soon as you take your hands off my wife,” Zach said. His voice was as smooth as well-aged whiskey, but his eyes were cold and lethal. While the guard was occupied, Kendall pulled herself free and stepped closer to Zach.

 

“It’s okay, honey,” she said, trying to diffuse the situation. “He just bumped into me and was trying to apologize.” “Apology accepted,” Zach said. “Free free to move along.” He watched as the man tipped his hat to Kendall and scurried away, turning back more than once to see if Zach was following him. But Zach’s attention was focused solely on his wife.

 

“What happened?” he asked, resting his hand on her shoulder. “Nothing. It was an accident, I just overreacted,” Kendall answered. She glanced past Zach, but the man was gone. She was embarrassed about the way she’d acted, but also confused by her reaction to him. He’d really creeped her out. Zach, sensing her discomfort, pulled her into his arms and held her tightly.

 

Kendall eased away and smiled up at him. “Thank you,” she said. “For what?” “For not laughing at me, even when I’m being silly. And for making me feel safe.” Zach kissed her before taking her hand and leading her to the elevator.

 

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

 

Josh’s mind was spinning from the implications. Hazel had confirmed his suspicions, but that only brought more questions. Was the ultrasound not really Kendall’s? Or had they lied about how far along she was when she lost it? Why would they do that? And what caused her to lose the baby anyway? There was no sign of distress on that ultrasound. What happened? What went wrong?

 

The most far-fetched possibility loomed unspoken. In fact, he didn’t dare even think about it. But how could he ignore the obvious possibility? What if it was true? What if Kendall’s baby didn’t die when they said it did? What if she didn’t die at all?

 

Josh had lots of questions, but no answers. One thing he did know … he needed to talk to Zach!

 

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

 

Kendall watched the porter as he brought their luggage into the room and pointed out various amenities. Zach watched Kendall. He looked for any sign of recognition, but there was nothing that indicated to him that anything was familiar to her.

 

“You must be starving,” Zach said when they were alone. Even with the time change it was well past lunchtime by the time they got settled into their room. Of course, that was Zach’s fault. As a precaution, he’d changed their direct flight and re-routed them to Vegas. Zach visiting their casino there wouldn’t raise any suspicions. After a quick tour of the facility to establish their presence, he and Kendall boarded a private jet and continued on their journey, but only after Zach promised to bring Kendall back soon.

 

“I could eat,” Kendall agreed. “Maybe after that I’ll be able to convince my handsome husband to take a nap with me. After all, he did have me up pretty early this morning.” Zach smiled as he pulled her into his arms. “I don’t remember any complaints this morning,” he said. “Uh-uh. No complaints at all. In fact, I was hoping that maybe … after we eat …” Kendall stopped talking and started laughing when Zach released her and ran to the phone.

 

Unbeknownst to Kendall, he ordered the exact same meal she had ordered on that fateful night so many months ago. He was trying to retrace her steps, and thanks to a very helpful concierge, he knew exactly how to do that. At least up to a point. According to hotel records, Kendall had ordered a late dinner at 9:30. It was delivered about fifteen minutes later, and Kendall signed for it. But by the time they came to pick up the cart, she was gone.

 

As he had from the beginning, Zach blamed himself. He had wanted Aidan to go with her on that trip, but she didn’t want him there. She was so adamant, Zach relented. He counted on the security staff at the hotel to keep her safe, but they had failed. He had failed. And Kendall paid for it.

 

Her hand on his arm rescued him from the nightmare of guilt and regret that he was trapped in. He took her hand in his and pulled her down beside him on the bed. When she leaned in to kiss him, he met her halfway. After the kiss, he rested his forehead against hers, breathing in her softness – her gentleness.

 

Kendall was just about to ask him what was wrong when they heard a knock at the door. She jumped up to answer it, but froze in the middle of the room. Zach had hoped that the trip would spark her memory, but now he wondered if it was a good idea. He hated the look of fear on her face. When he touched her she jumped, breaking the spell she was under. He quickly dealt with the room service attendant and turned his full attention to Kendall.

 

“Did you remember something?” he asked, joining her at the small table that sat in the corner. Kendall shuddered, rubbing her arms against the chill that came from inside. “Sort of,” she said. She was trying to remember details instead of feelings, but they weren’t coming. All she knew was that she was afraid to answer that door.

 

“I can’t really explain it, Zach,” she said at last. “I don’t know why, but the thought of opening that door terrified me.” She looked up at him helplessly. “I wish I could remember, but then I’m so afraid that I will.”

 

Zach lifted her hand and gently pulled her onto his lap. “You’re safe, Kendall. I won’t let anything happen to you. Nobody’s gonna get anywhere near you without going through me.” Kendall rested her head on his shoulder and brought his arms tighter around her. “I’m so glad you’re here, Zach,” she whispered. “Me too,’ he replied. “I didn’t protect you last time, but I swear I’ll protect you this time … with my life.”

 

As he held Kendall in his arms, he heard his phone ring, but he ignored it. Whoever it was would have to wait. His wife needed him.

 

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

 

Josh was frustrated. He felt like Zach and Kendall needed to know what he’d discovered about the ultrasound, but how could he tell them over the phone? Maybe he should just wait for them to come home. “What do I do?” he shouted to his empty apartment. After a few minutes of loud venting, he picked up the phone and dialed Zach’s number. When nobody answered, it went to voice mail, but Josh sure as hell wasn’t gonna leave that message on voice mail! So he hung up, walked to his closet and started shoving clothes into a duffle bag. There were still too many questions left unanswered for him to stand around his apartment talking to himself. He had a plane to catch.

 

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

 

After a quiet lunch, Zach and Kendall explored the area around the hotel. They went to the site of the cocktail party that had been thrown in her honor, and even visited some of the shops that Kendall felt drawn to. Zach was beginning to think she was taking advantage of his guilt when she pointed out several rather expensive things she was sure she purchased on her first trip. Not that she needed his money, but she was still getting used to the idea that she was a wealthy women. Besides, he was happy to buy her anything she wanted.

 

As the sun set over beautiful Los Angeles, the Slaters retreated back to the safe haven of their hotel room. There had been no more flashes of memory for Kendall, even the emotional kind. In fact, it would have been a perfect day under different circumstances. But they both felt a darkness that they couldn’t explain. So they went to bed early, wrapped in each other’s arms.

 

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

 

On his way to the airport, Josh had called Johnnie and filled him in on what he knew. He asked Johnnie to tell him anything he could about Kendall’s time in Memphis. As the two men compared notes, a couple of names kept coming up. Johnnie vowed to follow up on a couple of the leads Josh provided, leaving him with nothing to do but wait.

 

Now, several hours later, he was finding the wait unbearable. As much as he wanted to get to Kendall, he hated being stuck in an airplane. Something was wrong, he could feel it. He glanced at his watch and turned to stare out the window. It was dark, but he could see the lights of the city in the distance. It wouldn’t be long now.

 

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

Zach awoke to the sound of Kendall’s screaming. He jerked upright and found her pacing around the room, He called her name, but she didn’t answer. She was talking, but he couldn’t make out the words, so he hurried over to her.

 

“Don’t touch me,” she screamed, pushing him away. “Zach! Zach! Help me!” The anguish in her voice ripped his heart out, but she wouldn’t let him get anywhere near her. She was frightened by somebody in the room, but there was nobody there.

 

“Kendall?”

 

“Oh my God, he’s got a knife!” she cried. “Help me, Zach, he’s got a knife. Don’t … don’t hurt me … please don’t … don’t touch me!” Zach watched helplessly, calling her name over and over. But she didn’t hear him. She was trapped in a nightmare and he couldn’t pull her out of it. She calmed for a minute, so he reached for her again.

 

“Don’t touch me! My husband will kill you if you hurt me. I’ll kill you myself before I let you touch me. Do you hear me, Walter? I’ll kill you!” She grabbed the front of her nightgown, holding it tight around her like she was trying to keep herself covered. “Zach! Please, Zach. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry …”

 

“I’m here, Kendall. I’m right here,” Zach said. Trying to keep his voice calm proved to be an impossible task in the face of Kendall’s terror. “”Please let me help you,” he pleaded as he moved closer to her.

 

Kendall suddenly fell to the ground and rolled herself into a ball, shielding herself from the attacker only she could see. Zach heard her cries of pain mixed with his own. He wanted to take her pain into himself, to protect her from the horrible memories. He wanted more than anything to hold her.

 

He knelt down beside her and pulled her into his arms, refusing to let her go no matter how hard she fought. And she did fight, like a tiger, but she was no match for his strength.

 

She finally stopped struggling, but he could still hear her crying. “Don’t do this to me. Oh God, Zach … I’m sorry … Zach … please help me … don’t let him hurt me … don’t let me die ... not here, not like this.” 

 

The whole thing only lasted a couple of minutes, but it seemed to go on forever. Zach rocked Kendall in his arms, telling her how sorry he was and how much he loved her. She didn’t fight him this time; in fact, he soon realized she wasn’t moving at all. She had passed out and he couldn’t revive her.

 

Zach laid her on the bed and ran to the phone, reluctant to leave her for even a second. She was still and lifeless, and pale. So pale. With tears streaming down his face, Zach screamed into the phone.

 

“This is Zach Slater. I need a doctor in room 106 … NOW!”

 

 

TBC

 


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Ann

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O M G !!!!!
You had better not leave me hanging like this for long!
This story is amazing......you are amazing.
Thank you.

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omg, please come back soon! You can feel the emotion in this story ....please update soon!!!

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This story is so awesome, please post soon, I can't wait to see what happens next!!!  You are a great writer!!!  Thank you for doing this for us!!!


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Karen, the suspense is killing me...Great chapter, as they all are...
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My apologies, ladies. It was not my intention to take this long to update. Life happens.

 

 

Chapter 23

 

Josh walked into the lobby on the heels of the paramedics. He followed them, knowing in his gut that they were going to Kendall’s room. He ignored the demands of hotel security and muscled his way through the gathering crowd. “I’m a doctor!” he yelled as he pushed his way into the room.

 

The first thing he saw was his sister lying in her husband’s arms. The paramedics were trying to convince him to move away from her, but he refused. Josh could see that his brother-in-law was clearly in shock, so he intervened.

 

“Zach,” he said, kneeling down beside him. He could see that Zach’s face was all scratched up and his lip was bleeding. “You need to put her down so they can take a look at her. Okay?” he prodded when Zach continued to shake his head. “It’s okay, Zach. They won’t hurt her. We won’t let them. They only want to help her.” Zach turned to look at him, finally recognizing the voice. Josh could see both relief and confusion on his face, but mostly he just saw pain. It tore his heart out, but he couldn’t give in to that. His first priority was to get Kendall the help she needed.

 

“Josh?” Zach said. His voice sounded far away and gruffer than usual. There were tears running down his face, something Josh had never seen before, not even when she disappeared. Seeing this big, strong man so broken was almost more than he could handle. It wasn’t supposed to be like this. Zach was the protector. So who protected him? He instinctively looked at his sister. Kendall. She was the one who protected Zach.

 

“It’s me, man. Come on, let Kendall go. I’ll take care of her, Zach. I promise.” Zach nodded slowly and studied Josh closely before gently laying Kendall on the bed. He refused to move away from her though. He sat at her feet, rubbing her legs and begging her to wake up. He questioned everything the paramedics did, which Josh knew was a good sign. The confusion was clearing. Zach was slowly regaining control.

 

“What happened in here?” Josh asked when the preliminary examination was over. He had watched the paramedics and looked at the notes they’d taken. They didn’t know what was wrong with Kendall. There were no obvious physical injuries and her vitals were all normal. She looked like she was just sleeping.

 

Zach looked up at Josh as if seeing him for the first time. He stood up and wrapped his arms around him. “I’m glad you’re here,” he said. “Wait. Why are you here?” Josh put his hand on Zach’s shoulder when he resumed his place next to his wife. “We’ll talk about that later. Right now I want to know what happened to Kendall.”

 

Zach rubbed his face. “I thought she was dreaming,” he said, staring down into her face. “I woke up to her screaming and found her pacing around the room.  She was fighting something – somebody – that wasn’t there. She was reliving what happened to her last time she was here. Dammit! I did this. Why did I bring her here? Why this hotel, this room? I pushed her into this. It’s all my fault.”

 

“You didn’t do this, Zach. Some animal did. You just wanted to help her. Don’t you remember what Dr. Gregory told you? She said it would be rough when Kendall remembered. Thank God you were here with her when she did. You can’t blame yourself for this, Zach. Blame the man who hurt her. Save your anger for him.”

 

“Walter,” Zach growled. “That’s what she called him.” He looked up at Josh with murder in his eyes. “We need to find Walter … and God help him when I do.” Both men returned their attention to Kendall when the paramedics brought a gurney closer to the bed. One of them was carefully putting a neck brace on Kendall.

 

“What are you doing?” Zach demanded as he jumped to his feet. “It’s standard procedure,” Josh answered. “They don’t know what’s wrong with her Zach, so they’re gonna take her in for some tests. CAT scans, x-rays … stuff like that. You want me to ride with her?” Zach shook his head. “I won’t leave her, Josh. I’m not letting her out of my sight.” “Of course,” Josh agreed. “I’ll follow you. I know the timing is lousy, but we’ve got a lot to talk about.”

 

Zach watched helplessly as they strapped Kendall onto the gurney and rolled her out of the room. He turned to Josh, who was right behind him, and asked him to call Johnnie. As they walked outside, he gave Josh instructions. “I want two men here as soon as possible,” he said as the ambulance doors closed.

 

Turning to go back inside, Josh’s attention was caught by a man standing in the shadows. He was smoking a cigarette right next to a “No Smoking” sign and barking into a cell phone, gesturing wildly. Josh noticed the security guard’s uniform and decided he must have had a run-in with a hotel guest. He shrugged it off and went back inside to make the phone calls for Zach. He wanted to get to the hospital as soon as possible.

 

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

 

“How is she?” Josh asked as soon as he spotted Zach. He was pacing outside a closed door, giving grief to every doctor or nurse that passed. “Somebody tell me something!” he demanded, flinching when Josh reached out to him.

 

“I don’t know how she is,” Zach said, answering the question Josh wasn’t sure he’d heard. “They won’t let me in the room, and nobody will tell me a damn thing.” He stopped pacing and looked at Josh. “You’re a doctor. Get in there and see what they’re doing to my wife.”

 

Josh walked into the room unnoticed. He stood back and listened to the doctors as they discussed the results of Kendall’s tests. It was obvious that they still didn’t know why she was unconscious. When he heard somebody suggest a psych evaluation, he stepped forward.

 

“Doctor Josh Madden,” he said, extending his hand to the two men standing by the bed. “This is my sister. Are you saying she has no physical injuries? No brain abnormalities, no head injury, no trauma of any kind?” Both men nodded. “We believe her condition to be psychological. It’s like she doesn’t want to wake up.”

 

Josh walked over and brushed a curl from Kendall’s forehead. He called her name, but there was no response. He took her hand and told her that Zach was waiting outside, but he wasn’t very good at waiting. He’d hoped Zach’s name would elicit a reaction, but it didn’t. He turned back to the doctors.

 

“Can we move her?” he asked. “You mean to another room, or another hospital?” “I mean to another state,” Josh said. “Will she be at risk if we move her to another facility?” The doctors looked at each other, then back at Josh. “No. I don’t think she’s in any danger at all. She is perfectly healthy, except for the fact that she’s in a coma. Are you planning to carry her back to Pennsylvania?” the elder doctor asked. Josh ignored the question.

 

“Thank you, gentlemen,” he said, once again shaking their hands. “Now I think you’d better let her husband in here before he causes a real scene. He’s a man used to getting what he wants, and right now all he wants is to see his wife.” “Of course,” one of the men said. “Send him in.” Josh walked over to the door, only to have Zach burst through it. He ignored the doctors and pulled a chair next to the bed, taking Kendall’s hand in his. He leaned in close to her and started talking to her. None of the men could hear what he was saying, but the tone was unmistakable. He was begging her to wake up.

 

Josh waited while the doctors explained their findings to Zach, then he escorted them out of the room. When he returned, Zach was once again talking to Kendall. As much as he wanted to leave them alone, he couldn’t. There was still too much Zach didn’t know. And Josh had a plan.

 

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

 

“Memphis? I don’t want Kendall to go back there.” Zach seemed adamant, but Josh needed to change his mind. “Think about it, Zach. Kendall’s condition won’t be affected either way. But if we move her to Memphis, we can lure Ryan into a trap. Didn’t you tell me he thinks she’s still there? We can put an end to this once and for all. It’s the perfect plan.”

 

“Except for the part where we use my wife as bait,” Zach grumbled. “Besides, Lavery isn’t my primary concern right now. I’m a hell of a lot more interested in finding out who this Walter guy is.” “But Zach, there’s something I haven’t told you." Josh waited for Zach to meet his gaze. "It’s the reason I came to LA in the first place. It’s about the ultrasound.”

 

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

 

Zach was beside himself. He was torn between grief and hope, anger and joy, fear and excitement. If what Josh said was true … did he dare even consider the possibilities? And what would any of it matter if Kendall didn’t wake up? How could he go to Memphis when there was still a Walter to be dealt with here? For the first time in his life he felt impotent and useless. He couldn’t control this and he hated it.

 

He looked down at Kendall. He was searching for something to hold on to, some glimmer of hope. But what he found was strength. He felt like he was coming apart, but she was calm and serene and peaceful. And beautiful. This was his wife, the woman he vowed to love and protect until the day he died. And that was exactly what he was going to do.

 

After making peace with his decision, Zach picked up the phone and called Johnnie. “Pick up Lavery,” he said as soon as the man answered. “We’re moving Kendall to Memphis and as soon as we get everything in place, we’ll let him go and wait for him to come crawling back to his fantasy life. I’ll be in touch.”

 

Zach hung up the phone and reached for Kendall’s hand again. He brought it to his lips and then rested it against his cheek. “We have to go back,” he said. “But you won’t be alone this time. I’ll be there. And when we’re done with Lavery, I’ll come back for Walter. I promise you that.”

 

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

 

“Hey honey. Just wanted to remind you that the game starts at eight. Don’t be late. It’s no fun watching the playoffs all by myself. And don’t forget the ice cream.”

 

Tears formed in Zach’s eyes as he listened to the message over and over again. It was a voice mail Kendall had left a couple of weeks earlier. He smiled at the memory. He’d thought she was confused because the hockey season had barely begun. Playoffs didn’t start until April. At least she was excited about watching the game together. That was more than enough for him. But the joke was on him in the end. She was right about the playoffs going on … in baseball.

 

He looked at her and promised that he would watch baseball with her every single night if she would just come back to him. He waited for the nurse to excuse herself before climbing into the bed beside Kendall. They were on the Cambias jet, headed for Memphis. Josh was on board as well, currently making small talk with the pretty nurse he’d hired for the trip. Zach was grateful for the time alone with his wife.

 

“Don’t do this to me, Kendall,” he whispered. “Not again. Please wake up, honey. I need to see those beautiful diamond eyes. I need you to kiss me or yell at me. Anything, just wake up. Please wake up. We all need you. Me, Spike, Ian, and maybe even …” He stopped. He couldn’t bring himself to say it out loud. He felt like it would ruin their chances if he talked about it. He needed to be sure first. He wouldn’t let Kendall be hurt again.

 

He laid his head next to hers on the pillow and closed his eyes. When he opened them only a few seconds later, it was to find her looking back at him. “Kendall?” he said, only there was no sound. “Kendall?” he repeated, afraid to move in case he was dreaming. She blinked and licked her lips. “Zach,” she rasped. “What’s wrong?” Before Zach could answer, she became agitated.

 

“We’re in Los Angeles, aren’t we?” she said, trying to get up. “No honey, you need to lie still. Let me get the nurse,” Zach said as he jumped from the bed. Kendall grabbed his hand, begging him to stay with her. “I remember, Zach. I remember what that awful man did to me. He said he was a fan, but then he broke into my room. He wanted to rape me, but I fought him. I fought as hard as I could, Zach. But he was too strong. I made it to my purse and found the pepper spray. I got away from him and ran to the door, but there was somebody waiting outside. A security guard. He said he was waiting for his turn and told Walter that he’d go first if he didn’t hurry up. He knew how to handle a woman like me.”

 

Kendall looked up at Zach with tears in her eyes. He could see that she was still in shock, once again reliving the nightmare. “It’s okay, Kendall. I’m here and Walter is long gone. He can’t hurt you anymore.” She nodded, but she seemed to be looking right through him. “Ryan showed up. He scared the men off. I was so happy to see him, Zach. I begged him to help me. I wanted him to call you and tell you to come and get me, but he didn’t. He just kept telling me everything would be okay. He’d take care of everything.”

 

Zach pulled her into his arms when she began to sob. “I told him I was pregnant. I hated it because I wanted to tell you first. I wanted to see your face when I gave you the news. But I didn’t know if I’d ever see you again. I was in so much pain. And I was scared about the baby. I begged Ryan, Zach. I begged him.”

 

Zach called for Josh, who came rushing into the room. But it was too late. Kendall went limp in Zach’s arms. He laid her back against the pillow and gently brushed the hair away from her face. He waited while the nurse made sure everything was okay, then he tore the room apart.

 

“That son of a bitch! I’ll kill that bastard with my bare hands,” he raged. Josh stood back and watched while Zach got it all out of his system. Then he waited for an explanation.

 

“It was her, Josh. Kendall. Not Amy, Kendall. And she remembered what happened to her in LA. She also remembered that Lavery found her and swore he’d help her. She begged him for help, but all he could think about was himself. He was supposed to call me,” he said, his voice breaking. He shrugged Josh’s hand from his shoulder and turned on him, his voice filled with rage.

 

“He knew about the baby, Josh. The bastard knew she was pregnant and he didn’t tell anybody. She begged him to protect her baby and he didn’t tell a soul. Not even the doctors. What kind of person does something like that? God,” he cried as he dropped into a seat and buried his face in his hands, “why wasn’t I there? Why didn’t I protect her myself?”

 

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

 

By the time the plane landed in Memphis, Zach’s anger was spent, but not his rage. It simmered below the surface, barely contained. He’d spent the last hour apologizing to Kendall and blaming himself for everything that happened to her. But that didn’t mean he blamed Ryan any less. He was determined to see justice – his brand of justice – done in both Los Angeles and Memphis. He’d see to it personally.

 

Thanks to Josh, all the arrangements had been made before the Slaters arrived in Memphis. Kendall was quickly settled into the same room she’d been in before at Baptist Memorial Hospital. Zach was greeted by Johnnie as soon as he entered the hospital.

 

“I’ve got the information you wanted,” he said as he fell into step beside his boss. “I think you’re going to be very pleased.” Zach grunted. “What about Lavery?” “Mr. Lavery is being detained, just like you said. Otto is waiting for your call.”  Zach nodded. “One more thing we need to take care of first,” he said. “So tell me what you found out.”

 

After a brief meeting with Johnnie and a long goodbye to a comatose Kendall, Zach found himself standing in front of a small house in rural Mississippi. “You sure this is the right place,” he said. The place looked deserted. The front yard was overgrown and there was no sign that anybody lived there. “This is the address Johnnie gave us,” Josh said. “You ready?” Zach didn’t answer. He walked up to the front door and knocked … loudly.

He raised his arm to knock again when the door opened. There was a young woman in her late twenties standing in front of them wearing a REO Speedwagon tour t-shirt. Zach could hear Journey blaring in the background.

 

“My name is Zach Slater. I’m Amy’s husband. I think you know why I’m here.”

 

 

TBC


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Jamie

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I love this story!!!   Come back soon with an update.  

Ann

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Karen!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  OMG!!!!
I knew that son of a bitch Lavery was involved somehow, but I never quite imagined this way.
This is just too good.
Thank you.

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Thank you Karen!!! I love this story and you are breaking my heart right along with Zach's. 

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My apologies, ladies. It was not my intention to take this long to update.

No need to apologize, but please don't take so long on the next update  

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Wow thanks Karen for another great chapter, Dam that Ryan, I knew he was more involved then we first thought too, he knew about the attack and the baby and still left Zach and the family in the dark all that time what a slime ball, can't hardly wait for Zach to get his hands on him... More soon please I so love this story...
 
Dana  : ) 

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Karen, I also love this story !!! Please come back soon with an update!

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Karen!  DAMN you're good!!!!!!!  Waiting impatiently - thank you.


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Love It!! Love It!! Love It!!!  Can't wait for the next chapter!!!  Thanks again for all your hard work!!!


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What a great chapter, Karen...Thanks...

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Thanks for the chapter, Karen. BTW, are you from Memphis? It's my home town and I am especially enjoying the references.
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Thanks for hanging in there with me ladies. We're finally getting some answers. (BTW, [b]rwigand, I am not from Memphis, but I do live in Mississippi, so we're neighbors!)[/I]



Chapter 24

After looking the two men over, the young woman turned and walked inside, assuming they would follow her. She went to the radio and lowered the volume before giving them her attention once again.

“I’m Tina,” she said as she dropped into a chair, gesturing for them to take the sofa. “But I guess you already know that.” Josh nodded and took a seat, but Zach remained standing. He was anxious to get back to Kendall and didn’t want to slow things down with too much chit chat.

He looked around the room and was surprised to find it so clean, considering the shape of things outside. The house was small, but neat. When his eyes landed on a small stuffed animal peeking out from underneath one of the pillows on the sofa, he glanced up at Tina and found her watching him. He ignored the toy and walked over to the window. His attention was immediately drawn to the larger toys scattered around the surprisingly pristine fenced-in backyard.

“So you’re Amy’s husband?” Tina said, trying to get Zach’s attention. She was nervous. This wasn’t part of the plan. She’d been expecting Amy or Eric, maybe even the police, but not some man she’d never seen before. What was she supposed to do now?

While she concentrated on Zach, Josh studied her. She was younger than he expected. And she was tiny, probably not much taller than five feet. Her light brown hair was pulled into a ponytail, making her look even younger. She could have passed for a teenager. He ended his scrutiny when he heard Zach’s voice beside him.

“I am,” Zach said. He joined Josh on the couch and pulled the stuffed animal from behind the pillow, smiling when he saw that it was a bunny. Erica had given Spike one just like it when they still lived in the condo. God that seemed like a lifetime ago. He held up the bunny to Tina. “Care to tell me about this?”

Tina pulled her bare feet underneath her and stared at Zach. He could tell she was trying to make her mind up about him. After a minute of silence, she let out the breath she’d been holding and left the room. Zach watched her leave, then turned to Josh, who just shrugged. Before they could decide what to do, Tina was back. Only this time she wasn’t alone.

Both men jumped to their feet when she came towards them with a baby in her arms. Tears immediately filled Zach’s eyes when he looked at the little girl and saw the beautiful green eyes of her mother staring back at him. He heard Josh gasp beside him and knew he was seeing the same thing.

The child rested her head on Tina’s shoulder as she looked back and forth between the two men. Finally her gaze rested on Zach. She smiled at him, but hid her face when he smiled back. When he reached out and touched her hair, she turned back to him, popping her thumb into her mouth.

“Buh-nee!” she said when she saw what Zach was holding. He handed it to her, smiling at the way she held it by one ear. Spike had done the same thing. Zach tried unsuccessfully to swallow around the lump in his throat. He had a million questions, but he couldn’t get any of them out of his mouth. He waited for Tina to sit down before once again taking a seat on the couch next to Josh.

“How did you …?” he began, stopping to clear his throat. “How did I know she was yours?” Tina jumped in. “Do I need to get a mirror? It’s pretty obvious.” Zach nodded. “Besides, I’ve been expecting you. Well, not you exactly. I wasn’t sure you existed. But I have been waiting for Amy to come and pick up her daughter. I guess Dr. Matthews finally found you?”

Zach shook his head. “Dr. Matthews? Clayton Matthews?” he said. “You know him?” Tina shifted the child in her arms before answering. She wanted to put her on her shoulder and see if she would go back to sleep, but the baby wouldn’t cooperate. She wouldn’t take her eyes off of Zach.

“Of course. Clayton Matthews is my father. He’s the reason I was at Baptist Memorial in the first place. He wanted to monitor my recovery. He’s been looking for you for months.” She put the little girl down when she continued to squirm and waited to see what Zach would do. She could see that he wanted to scoop her up, but was hesitant.

Zach watched the child, waiting to see if she would come closer. When she saw him looking at her, she immediately started walking to him on wobbly legs, but gave up and started crawling before she’d made it halfway. As soon as she reached him, she stood up again. Zach opened his arms and she walked right into them, laughing when he lifted her high into the air.

“Buh-nee!” she said, demanding that he give her friend the same treatment. Zach pulled her close so she wouldn’t see the tears in his eyes. The last thing he wanted to do was frighten her, but after all he’d been through, he was having difficulty controlling his emotions. After several lifts for her and the bunny, she sat on his lap and put her thumb back into her mouth. Zach squeezed her gently before turning his attention back to Tina.

“And why was Dr. Matthews looking for me?” he asked, surprising Tina. Josh could tell that she didn’t think he’d been paying attention to her at all. But that’s because she didn’t know Zach Slater. Even though he appeared calm, he knew his brother-in-law was very anxious to hear what Tina had to say.

“It’s a long story,” Tina said as she continued to eye the men warily. “Make it a short one, we have to get back,” Zach said evenly. He then contradicted the order by settling back on the couch as if he had all the time in the world.

“Who’s he?” Amy asked, indicating Josh. “He is a man with sound hearing who can answer for himself,” Josh replied. He stood up and extended his hand. “Josh Madden, Amy’s brother.” Tina shook his hand politely and offered them something to drink. Both men declined and waited for her to continue.

“You were going to explain why your father pretended my daughter died, only to give her away,” Zach prodded when she remained silent. He was trying to keep the anger from his voice for the sake of the child sitting on his lap, but he was quickly losing his patience. Tina smiled at the way he stroked the girl’s hair. She didn’t know why, but she trusted this man. She knew that all of Amy’s premonitions were true and her Prince Charming had finally found her. But what about Eric?

“My father didn’t give your baby away,” she corrected. “Not really,” she added when Zach’s eyebrow shot up. “He did it to protect her.” “Protect her from who?” Josh asked loudly, drawing the child’s attention. He softened his tone and touched her cheek. “Sorry,” he said. He looked at Zach, who was silently waiting for Tina to finish the story.

“From you,” Tina explained, turning to look at Zach. She expected a reaction, but she didn’t get one. He just continued to stare at her. “Look, all of this happened before I ever got to Memphis. I’m just telling you what my dad told me. Amy came into the hospital as a Jane Doe. Nobody knew who she was, what happened to her, or even where she came from. Then one day this guy shows up and says he’s her husband, Eric. He says her name is Lisa Shepherd.”

“Go on,” Zach prodded. “Well, this Eric guy apparently charmed everybody on staff, including my father. He was in and out for several months, claiming he had business dealings to take care of. Anyway, one day he shows up all upset because of the baby. She’s only a couple of weeks from her due date and he’s in a panic. Tells my dad that Lisa’s ex-husband is the one who beat her up and that he’s convinced the baby is his. If they record this birth, he’ll track them down and take the baby. Maybe even finish the job on Lisa.”

Zach’s jaw was clenched but his voice was calm. “You mean kill her?” he said. Tina nodded. “That’s what they all believed. So Eric talked my father into faking the miscarriage and doctoring her medical file. I found out later that he also paid him a lot of money, but I don’t know exactly how much.”

“So how did you get her?” Zach asked, shifting the girl on his lap. “Where do you fit into all of this, Tina. I know you were my wife’s roommate for quite a while, so who watched the baby while you were in the hospital?”

“That I don’t know. Eric took care of it. All I know is that everything changed when ‘Lisa’ woke up,” she said, using air quotes around her name. “She didn’t remember who she was and she didn’t recognize Eric. She never mentioned the baby, so we all figured she forgot about that too. She told everybody her name was Amy Alexander. I expected Eric to be devastated, but he wasn’t. He seemed happy about her amnesia. He told me about their life together and the son they had waiting for them at home. He told me all about it, but he didn’t tell her anything. When I asked him why, he said it would be better if her memories returned on their own. It made sense, but I still didn’t think it was the right thing to do. And you know what else?” She looked over her shoulder as if she didn’t want to be overheard.

“What else?” Zach asked, looking behind her. He motioned to Josh, who went to investigate the other rooms, just to be sure they were alone. Tina watched Josh go then leaned forward in her chair. “Amy didn’t like him, and she didn’t trust him either. She didn’t believe him. She told me that she did feel like there was somebody out there waiting for her, but she didn’t think Eric was the guy. I guess you’re the guy, huh?”

“I am,” Zach said. He put his daughter on the floor and watched her toddle off in search of Josh. She turned around to be sure Zach was still there, then disappeared into the room she’d come out of earlier. “So what did Eric do then?” Zach asked. His demeanor had completely changed. His voice was still quiet, but no longer soft and casual. Now he sounded like a man to be afraid of.

“Nothing. He was gone a lot. One day, when I told him I was about to be released, he asked me to do him and Amy a favor. He wanted me to take care of the baby until Amy was ready to go home. He said he didn’t care if she ever remembered being Lisa Shepherd. They could start a new life. It didn’t matter to him. He just wanted to be with her.” Zach growled low in his throat. He could feel his anger rising. Encouraged by his reaction, Tina continued.

“I thought it was romantic, you know? Two people falling in love all over again. That any man could love a woman that much … well, now I know it doesn’t exist, but then …” “It does exist,” Zach interjected. Tina stared at him, realizing the huge mistake she’d made in believing Eric. There was no way this man could have done what he was accused of. She instinctively knew he would do anything to protect his family, and he would never harm them.

Zach stared through Tina, clearly lost in thought. She noticed the way his jaw was clenched. Otherwise he looked totally calm, but she was beginning to know better. Again she was flooded with guilt, but also relief. It looked like her little charge and her mom were finally going home, where they belonged. She didn’t have to be afraid for them anymore.

Josh chose that moment to come bouncing back into the room with his niece in his arms. He indicated to Zach that the house was empty, then read the scene and slipped quietly into the backyard.

“So your father faked a miscarriage just to appease Ry- … Eric?” Zach said at last. Tina nodded emphatically. “Exactly!” she said. “He wanted to protect both mother and child from someone that wanted to hurt them. He believed the smooth lies that Eric was telling. Lots of people did.”

Tina moved to sit next to Zach on the couch, desperate to make him understand. She touched his arm and continued. “You have to understand, my father was trying to do what was best for everybody. He thought you were a monster.” Zach took a deep breath, letting it out slowly.

“Look Mr. …” “Slater,” Zach said. “Zach Slater.” “Look Mr. Slater,” she continued, “I know it sounds crazy now, but he was trying to do the right thing. In retrospect, he obviously should have gone to the police. But he was afraid. Eric painted you as a very powerful, dangerous man.”

“He has no idea,” Zach muttered. “So how did you end up here?” Zach asked. He wanted to be angry for all the mistakes these people had made, but he also had to appreciate their motives. And he blamed himself not only for not finding Kendall sooner, but for not realizing just how much of a threat Lavery was. It was a mistake he would never make again.

“Eric set me up here. When I asked him why he wanted to be so far away from the hospital, he got really angry with me and told me to mind my own business. I’ll be honest, I’m scared of him. He’s never laid a hand on me, but there’s just something about him. I don’t trust him. That’s why I’m so relieved that you got here first. I don’t know what I would have done if he would have come for the baby.”

“My dad and I talked about it, but we never reached a final decision. He didn’t trust Eric anymore either. But because of the money he’d taken, he couldn’t go to the police. He tried to handle it on his own. He wanted to find out who Amy’s ex-husband really was, but he couldn’t find anything. And without a name, what could he do? It ended up costing him everything.”

Zach glared at her. She could see in his eyes that he didn’t agree with the choices they had made, but he seemed to understand. “What happened?” Zach asked, dreading the answer. Was there nothing that bastard wouldn’t do to steal his wife? He shook his head and looked back at Tina. There were tears in her eyes.

“He disappeared,” she said. “For the longest time I didn’t know where he was and I was scared to death. I didn’t think Eric was capable of anything so horrible, but I couldn’t be sure. And I sure couldn’t go to the police.” She brushed the tears from her face and walked over to the same window Zach had been looking out of earlier. “A couple of weeks ago I got a letter from him. He’s in Mexico, working at a free clinic. He said he needed to find the good in himself again.”

Now it was Zach’s turn to be relieved. He knew Lavery was capable of a lot of things, but not cold-blooded murder. He had the whole thing figured out. When Kendall woke up with amnesia, Ryan thought he’d hit the jackpot. Tell Kendall she is whoever you want her to be and whisk her away to the life you design. What could be simpler? But Ryan hadn’t counted on the strength of the bond between Zach and Kendall, proving once again that he didn’t know a damn thing about real love.

Tina smiled when she saw Amy’s brother going down the sliding board. There was only about six inches between his feet and the ground when he was sitting at the top. But the little girl in his arms didn’t know the difference. She giggled and begged him to “go ‘gain.”

“What’s her name?” Tina turned to find Zach standing right beside her watching the same scene unfold. “Amy,” she said evenly. When he looked shocked, she tried to defend the choice. “When I asked Eric her name, he gave me a blank look and told me to pick something. By then, I knew her mother’s name wasn’t really Amy, so I gave it to her daughter, just in case it had any significance. Does it?” she asked, studying Zach’s face.

He nodded, but didn’t say anything for a long time. “My mother,” he whispered hoarsely when he was able to speak. Tina felt her own tears returning. She had worried so much about what to call her, and yet she had made the perfect choice.
       
“It’s time for us to go,” Zach said after looking at his watch and cursing under his breath. He tapped on the window and motioned for Josh to come in. “Are you coming?” Tina looked at little Amy and then back at Zach before shaking her head. “No. I think it’s best if I don’t. She’s finally where she belongs. Tell her mother I’m sorry it took so long.”

Josh laughed when he looked at his niece and found her staring at Zach, her head tilted to one side in a move he’d seen his brother-in-law make dozens of times. Zach saw it too and beamed with pride. He reached for Amy and she jumped willingly into his arms.

“What is Amy’s name?” Tina said as they neared the front door. “I mean your wife,” she clarified unnecessarily. “Kendall,” Zach said, loving the feel of the word on his lips. “Such a pretty name. It suits her.” Tina looked up at Zach expectantly. “Yes, it does,” he said. “She’s co-founder of Fusion Cosmetics and she has two little boys waiting for her to come home.” Just talking about her made him desperate to get back to Memphis. “I’m sure she’ll be in touch as soon as she’s feeling better,” he added.

“Here you go, Uncle Josh,” Zach said as he handed his daughter off. Then he pulled Tina into his arms and hugged her. “Thank you,” he whispered into her ear. “And don’t worry about Eric. I’ll take care of him.” After exchanging addresses and phone numbers, Zach climbed into the car and drove away, leaving the young woman standing in the yard waving and swiping at tears.

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

Zach knocked on the door of the hospital administrator’s office, but didn’t wait for a response. He went in uninvited and stood in front of the desk. He was furious, and he was in no mood to be ignored or placated.

“What can I do for you, Mr. Slater?” the man asked cautiously. “You can explain to me how a man could claim to be a woman’s husband when she’s admitted, pay the damn bill when she’s released, and all under two different assumed names. Tell me how the hell that happens? Doesn’t anybody in this place talk to each other?”

“Now Mr. Slater,” he began as he rose from his chair. “Don’t do that,” Zach snapped, his voice low and furious. “Don’t try to handle me. It’s way too late for that. Just answer the damn question.”

”Well, I don’t know really. I mean, your wife came in as a Jane Doe. Then her husband … I mean the man who claimed to be her husband,” he amended when Zach’s fists clenched, “he said her name was Lisa Shepherd. And when she woke up, she took the name Amy Alexander. So you see how there could be a mix-up.”

“No. Hell no! I don’t see. It’s the same woman in the same room of the same hospital for month after month after month. How could you possibly mess that up? And how do you let some man come in here and make medical decisions for her without ever asking for identification. Ever think of calling the cops? A woman comes into your hospital beat to hell with no explanation from the ‘husband’ who brought her in, and you don’t ask questions?”

The administrator was pulling on his collar trying to find answers that would satisfy the rather large angry man standing close enough to grab him when an even larger man burst into the room

“Boss, he’s here.”


TBC

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Purdue0612

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Reply with quote  #128 

Awww!!! Thanks Karen, this story is great ...you are really talented and I really love this story! Please don't keep us waiting too long...

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Amazing Karen, simply amazing.  You had me totally in the dark about little Amy.  I never expected her to be alive, so good job Karen!
You write Zach, Kendall, Josh and Ryan so realistically that I can picture them all delivering the lines that you write.
Keep the updates coming.......I am on the edge of my seat!

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Reply with quote  #130 

Another great chapter, Karen...as they all are.  Thanks....looking forward to the next and the next and the next.....

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Thank you for the latest chapter, Karen.  Awesome story!  Wouldn't it be great if we could see this story playing out on AMC?  The whole world would be tuned in!!!


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I don't usually have an update so quickly, but this chapter just wrote itself!



Chapter 25

“Boss, he’s here.”

Zach turned to the door, but looked back in time to see relief flood the administrator’s face. “We’re not finished” he said, slamming the door behind him. Then he followed Bruno to Kendall’s room. “Are you gonna kill him?” Bruno asked, knowing he was crossing the line but unable to control his curiosity. “Probably not. But before I’m finished, he’ll be begging me to. Then I’ll give him to you,” Zach promised. He ordered the bodyguard to make sure nobody else entered, then he walked quietly into the room and found Ryan Lavery standing over Kendall’s bed.

He resisted the urge to wrap his fingers around Ryan’s throat. Instead he stood in the shadows only a few feet behind him and waited to see what he would do. It was the hardest thing he’d ever done. He hated the thought of that son of a bitch being anywhere near Kendall. He prayed she wouldn’t wake up. Not yet. Not until he’d taken care of Lavery once and for all.

“Sweetheart? Are you awake?” Ryan loudly whispered as he pulled the chair closer and sat down next to the bed. Zach gritted his teeth when he saw Ryan take her hand, but still he waited. “I didn’t mean to be gone so long,” Ryan continued. He pushed her hair away from her face and continued to apologize for not getting back to her sooner. “I’ve got everything ready for us. Well, almost. I still have to get Spike, but I’ll get him soon. I promise. Then we can be a family, just like we should have been all along. Can you hear me Kendall?”

“Don’t you mean Lisa? Or is it Amy? I get confused.”

Ryan jumped at the sound. He knew that voice, but he never expected to hear it here. He looked up to find Zach standing right behind him. Zach reached into his pocket and handed Ryan a pink bubblegum cigar, but he didn’t bother to explain it.

“What’s this supposed to mean?” Ryan asked. “It means it’s a girl,” Zach answered sarcastically. “I bet you forgot to pick some up, didn’t you? Too busy? I guess so, considering you couldn’t even find time to pick out a name.” Ryan continued to stare at him like he was seeing a ghost. “Slater, what the hell?”

“What the hell am I doing here?” Zach supplied. “I’m here to see my wife. The question is what are you doing here? And how long have you been doing it?” Zach stepped forward and pulled Kendall’s hand from Ryan’s, then he pushed the chair he was sitting in backward. “Get away from her,” he said viciously. He looked into his sleeping wife’s face. She looked so peaceful, so beautiful. He leaned down and kissed her, whispering something that Ryan couldn’t here, then sat down on the edge of the bed.

“Anything you want to say to me?” he said to Ryan, who had covered his face with his hands. “Unbelievable,” Ryan muttered. He pulled his hands away and looked at Zach. “I mean, come on. You have to admit this is a real run of bad luck for me.” He smiled, and Zach smiled back. “Yeah, tough break. Here you are trying to steal my family. Damn me for showing up! Well Lavery,” he said as he poured himself a glass of water, “brace yourself. Because it’s about to get a lot worse. Boy have I got a story for you. No wait, you first.”

“No, Zach,” Ryan replied smoothly, “I think I’d rather hear your story first. Why don’t you tell me what I missed, since you obviously know everything and I obviously know nothing.” He leaned back smugly and smirked at Zach, who did a double take, and then took the challenge.

“Okay, let’s see. Where do I start? I know, why don’t we start in Los Angeles. Remember Los Angeles, Ryan? Kendall was on a book tour and I told you not to go anywhere near her. Remember that?” He waited for Ryan to acknowledge him, but he just sat in the chair and stared at Zach, trying to look bored. But Zach could see beyond that. He could see the fear building in those cold, vacant eyes.

“Then what?” Zach continued. “Oh yeah, then a couple of guys tried to rape Kendall. Beat her up badly. Guys you hired maybe? Only things got out of hand?” Ryan immediately took the bait and charged at Zach. “I had nothing to do with that! I would never…” he sputtered, only to realize that he’d fallen into a trap. He sat back down calmly and resumed his staring.

“Did I hit a nerve?” Zach asked. “No? Well, you know what? I believe you. I don’t think you had anything to do with what happened to Kendall in that hotel room. You were just in the wrong place at the right time. Thank God for that. But you see, Ryan, that’s where you made your biggest mistake. You thought only of yourself, and you did the wrong thing. You should have called me, but you didn’t. And you’re gonna pay for that.”

“She wanted you, man,” Ryan said suddenly. “She called for you over and over. I hated it. Then she told me she was pregnant. She begged me not to let anything happen to her baby. God I hated you at that moment. Here was my chance – finally - and she was knocked up with your evil spawn!” He braced himself, expecting Zach to hit him, but the man never moved a muscle. He just sat there, holding Kendall’s hand, while Ryan squirmed under his knowing gaze.

“Do you want to tell the rest, or shall I?” Zach said evenly. “Do what you want, Slater,” Ryan shouted. He had the nerve to be angry, as if he was the victim. Zach looked at him with contempt. “You’re a real ass, Lavery. You know that? No, of course you don’t. You think you’re a hero, right? Forget it. I’m done. You aren’t worth the strain on my beautiful voice. Don’t laugh, my wife loves it. Bruno!”

Ryan stood up to wait for Zach’s hired goon. “I only wanted to help Kendall.” He moved toward the bed, causing Zach to stand up and take a step forward, shaking his head. “You aren’t going anywhere near her,” he said. “What did I do that was so terrible, Zach?” Ryan asked. Zach’s look was incredulous.

“What did you do? You put my wife in an ambulance and carried her across the country, just to keep her away from me?” Zach shouted. “She could have died!” “She didn’t,” Ryan defended. “Is that your answer?” Zach said, moving closer to Ryan. “Everything you did is okay because she didn’t die? Can you really be that stupid? That selfish?”

”It’s not selfish. I love Kendall, and she loves me.”

“No, Ryan. She loves me. She doesn’t even remember you.”

“I was there for Kendall. I was a friend to her. I protected her. Where were you?”

“Protected her? Lavery, you are the one she needs protection from. You hurt her more than the bastard who beat her up. You took everything from her. Her life, her family, the husband who loves her … her kids. No, a friend would have brought her home.”

“You were just somewhere you had no business being,” Zach continued. “But I still would have thanked you. You could have been the hero. Instead, you did what you always do. You thought of Ryan. What he wants. Nobody else. And who suffered? Me? Sure. But you don’t care about me. How about Kendall? Spike? Do you care about them? And for what? Kendall is here – with me – where she belongs."

“You don’t deserve her,” Ryan snapped. He knew it was all over, but he couldn’t let go of the fantasy.

“No, I don’t. That’s the first thing you’ve gotten right all day. But you know what, man? Neither do you. But I do deserve this,” Zach said, pulling a picture of him, Kendall, Spike and Ian out of his wallet. “I deserve to be happy with my wife and our children because I earned it … we earned it, together. You walked away. She didn’t. You picked the wrong girl. You blew it. And the truth is, you hate me because I didn’t. But that’s your problem. Not mine. And not Kendall’s.”

“Did you ever consider that she just might pick me?” Ryan asked.

“No.”

“Why not, Zach? You think too much of yourself.”

“Not really. I just don’t think much of you.”

“Why, because I’ve made mistakes. Because I’ve hurt people. You took my son, Zach.” Ryan said, ripping the picture from Zach’s hand. “Do you think that didn’t hurt? Or did you think you were the only one who could love Kendall enough to raise another man’s child? You stole my family right out from under me. I was simply returning the favor.”

“Well, now it’s my turn to return the favor,” Zach said as he pulled a gun from his jacket. Ryan took a step back, causing Zach to laugh. “Relax. I’m not gonna shoot you.” He handed the gun to Bruno and told him to return to the hallway. Then he turned back to Ryan. “Guns are so loud. They’re also pretty messy.”

“So what?” Ryan said. “You beat me up. Then what? It’s over, Zach. You’ve won. You always win. Just let me go and you’ll never see me again.” Zach glared at him. “I don’t know who you think you are, or who you think I am, but there’s no way in hell I’m letting you walk out of here after what you’ve done. But I’ll tell you what I will do. I’ll do what you didn’t. I’ll call anybody you want and tell them exactly where you are. But there’s nobody to call, is there? The only person on earth who cares about you is a three-year-old boy who barely remembers what you look like. You had Kendall in your corner, but you blew it again. Believe me man, this time she’s gone for good.”

Ryan looked over at Kendall as he moved away from Zach. “I was so close,” he muttered. “She was almost mine. If it hadn’t been for that damn baby!” The next thing he knew, he was pinned against the wall by a very calm, very angry man. “You know Lavery, sometimes you make it too easy.”

Bruno stood in the hallway, denying entrance to everybody who tried. The hallway was filled with people who were drawn by the noise, but the bodyguard sent everybody on their way with cool efficiency. He had his orders, and he wasn’t about to let his boss down. He finally gave up and allowed himself to smile. That jackass was taking a real beating. At one point, Bruno dialed the secret number and let Otto listen in. Both of them had been loyal to Zach for a long time and they knew what Ryan Lavery had put him through. They knew he was getting exactly what he deserved. Bruno only hoped Zach would leave something for him.

After several long, loud minutes had passed, Zach opened the door and motioned Bruno inside. A short while later, a stretcher was hauled from the room by Bruno and another of Zach’s men and taken directly to a waiting ambulance. Zach went to the bathroom and washed his hands before retrieving his discarded coat.

“Wow, that was some beating.”

Zach turned to find Kendall watching him. He froze for a moment, then dropped his coat and ran to the bed. “Here I expected to wake up and find you keeping vigil at my beside, holding my hand and stroking my hair, and instead I find you beating the crap out of Ryan.”

“Disappointed?”

“Not on your life! Get over here.” Zach buried his face in the side of her neck while her arms wrapped around his shoulders. She giggled when he started nibbling on her ear. “Don’t I get a wake up kiss?” she said as she moved her head to give him better access. Zach raised his head and stared into her eyes. “Welcome back,” he said as lowered his head. He growled deep in his throat as his lips brushed gently against hers. But when she pulled on his hair to bring him closer, he gave in to what they both wanted and kissed her deeply. He pulled away, only to be lured back by the softness of her lips and the love in her eyes.

“Tell me what I missed, Zach,” Kendall said when he ended the kiss and sat back on the bed. “I want to know everything. Not about Los Angeles or being in the hospital. I remember all of that and I don't want to talk about it right now. I want to talk about happy things. God, I was a waitress, wasn’t I?” she asked, switching topics rapidly. Zach nodded and took her hand. “You were. The uniform was sexy.” “As I recall, you were a big tipper,” she said suggestively. “As I recall, you were worth every penny.” He leaned forward and gave her another kiss.

“I want to hear about Spike and Ian,” she said, switching topics again. Zach tried to look disgruntled, but he couldn’t pull it off. After all, Spike and Ian were two of his favorite subjects.

“Well, Spike is in college now. Only one more semester until graduation. He’s plays left wing for the Michigan Wolverines. I know, we thought goalie, but it turns out the kid’s a natural wing man. Ian decided to put off college for awhile. He opted for a stint with the merchant marines. The judge thought it was for the best,” he added with a rueful smile. Then he sat up and put his hand on his chest. “I look pretty good, huh?” Kendall laughed. “You look fantastic!” she said, prompting him to kiss her again.

She gently ran her fingers across his battered knuckles. “Did you kill him?” she asked. He shook his head. “Why?” Zach looked at her for a long time. “I couldn’t. Not after he saved your life. Besides, how could I ever look Spike in the eye again, knowing I’d killed his father?” Kendall reached up and touched his face. “You are Spike’s father, Zach. In every way that matters. Ryan is a lousy son of a bitch. I begged him to call you. Why didn’t he just do it? He cost us so much time.”

Zach could feel her getting angry and it warmed his heart. It meant she remembered it all. And while he hated for her to be plagued with bad memories, it would keep her from ever falling under Lavery’s spell again. He was right, she was gone for good.

“We’ve still got plenty of time, Kendall. We’ve got forever. Ryan Lavery can’t change that.” She smiled at him and kissed his bruised hand. “Forever. I like the sound of that.” She settled back onto the pillows and closed her eyes. In that moment, Zach wondered if he would worry every time she went to sleep. He’d spent so many nights watching her, but now the sight of her with her eyes closed made him feel panicked. As if reading his thoughts, she opened them.

“I don’t think forever will be long enough,” she said. “I want more.” Zach leaned across her body and placed his hand on the other side of the bed. “More what?” he asked, his voice soft and intimate. Kendall licked her lips, smiling at the reaction it brought from her husband.

“More of that!” she laughed. “Definitely more of that.” Zach looked down as her hands moved across his chest, groaning when they dropped back to her side. “And more laughter and more fun and more fighting …” she stopped when he looked shocked. “So we can have more making up,” she explained. “Ah … what else?” Zach said as he studied her beautiful face. “I want more of everything with you, Zach.”

He bolted upright. “Hold that thought,” he said as he retrieved his cell phone. “Zach? What are you grinning about?” Kendall asked. His smile was contagious, even if she didn’t know what had caused it. Zach paced around the room, still grinning, but refused to tell her who he’d called or why he was acting to strangely. Luckily she didn’t have to wait long.

Within minutes the door opened and Josh came in carrying a little girl with brown curly hair, green eyes and a dimple in her chin. Kendall gasped and looked at Zach, who already had tears in his eyes.

“I’m fighting off a lot of doctors and nurses out there,” Josh said as he handed the baby to Zach. “But I told them this had to be done first.” He leaned over and gave Kendall a kiss on the cheek. “Good to have you back, Kendall,” he said, then turned to go, slapping Zach on the back as he passed.

Kendall watched him leave, then turned her attention back to the miracle in her husband’s arms. “Is that …?” she asked, afraid to say it out loud. When he nodded, she released the breath she’d been holding. “How, Zach?” she said, fighting back her own tears. “It’s a long story. I’ll tell you all about it later. But right now, I want you to meet your daughter … Amy.” Zach sat on the side of the bed with their daughter on his lap. Kendall reached for her, and the child went into her arms, snuggling against her.

Kendall wrapped her arms around her and sobbed openly while Zach held them both. Amy reached up and patted Kendall’s face, inadvertently starting a new wave of sobbing. When the child started to squirm, Zach eased away from them and raised Kendall’s bed so she could sit up. She ran her fingers through her daughter’s hair and kissed her dimpled chin.

“She looks just like you,” she said, looking up at her glowing husband. “No, she’s much prettier than that. She looks like her beautiful mom.” For the first time, Kendall noticed what the child was wearing. “Is that a Lynyrd Skynyrd t-shirt?” she asked incredulously. Zach nodded. “Like I said, it’s a long story.”

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

Kendall woke up hours later to find Zach asleep in the chair with Amy asleep on his chest. She watched them for a long time, silently thanking God for restoring her family. She smiled at the way Josh handled Amy so carefully. He acted like girl babies were somehow more fragile than boys. He’d called Erica before he went back to the hotel and let Amy hear her first words of advice from her grandmother. Of course, he warned her never to call her that, but Amy just yawned and laid her head on his shoulder.

Even though she was enjoying watching them sleep, Kendall decided to put the baby to bed so she’d be more comfortable. She stopped herself when she realized that there was no more comfortable place than in Zach’s arms. Her sigh of contentment woke him up. “Stay there,” he whispered, as he laid their sleeping daughter in the crib the hospital provided.

“We’re gonna need another nanny,” Zach said as he stretched out on the bed beside Kendall. She placed her arm around his waist and her head on his chest and sighed again when he started rubbing her back. Zach smiled at the way his touch raised goosebumps on her skin.

“Rachel and I can handle it,” Kendall said, interrupting his thoughts. “What about Fusion?” He felt her tense and squeezed her gently. “Fusion can survive without me,” she said, soothed by his touch. “It has for almost two years. Besides, I’ve had enough of the corporate world. I want to concentrate on being a wife, mother … lobster slayer?” Zach laughed. “You can slay my lobsters anytime, Mrs. Slater.”

They lay in peaceful silence for several minutes before Kendall spoke. “What if I’d had amnesia when I woke up?” she asked, turning to look up at him. “What would you have done if I didn’t remember you or our kids or our life together? Not even the Amy Alexander part.” She frowned when Zach hesitated, then smiled when he kissed the frown away.

“I’d get to fall in love with you all over again,” he said. “The question is, what would you do? Would you fall in love with me for the third time, Kendall?” She brought her hand to his face and slid it into his hair as she reached up to kiss him. She pulled away and looked into his eyes. “No, Zach. For the millionth.”


TBC

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Reply with quote  #133 
Wow Karen, what an amazing story this is!  I was catching up on the whole thread, anxious to get through to find out what happens next.  And just then the latest chapter popped up.  I love the way you keep the characters "in character", I laughed when I read "Ryan loudly whispered"!  This story has had everything (like your stories always do), romance, mystery, ACTION, smiles and tears, and unlike AMC, the good guys get the happy ending!  I wish I could get to see this kind of story being played out on screen   Keep up the good work

p.s.  I would love to find out exactly how many broken bones the loser got when Otto and Bruno got through with him!

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Reply with quote  #134 
Wow, such an amazing story! Great chapter, I can't wait for more...
Please update soon!
Ann

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WOW Karen, just WOW!
Thank you.

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Thanks, Karen...and to quote Ann, "Wow".....

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You could be getting PAID to write this!!  Thank you!!


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Well, here we are. The end of our journey. Thanks for going on the ride with me. I hope y'all has as much fun as I did.



Chapter 26

“Are you ready?” Zach asked, shifting his gaze from his wife to their front door. Home. They were finally home. All of them, safe and sound under one roof, including the daughter they didn’t even know they had. He glanced in the rear view mirror at the sleeping child and did what he always did - he smiled. Then he leaned over and kissed Kendall. It had become a ritual for him over the last few days. He didn’t have the words to express it, but Kendall didn’t mind. She welcomed the kiss every time.

She wiped her favorite Fusion lip gloss from his lips and took a deep breath. “Oh yes, Zach. I’m ready. I’ve waited a long time for this moment. Let’s go see our boys.” Before either of them could move, the front door of the house flew open and two small blurs came running toward them with their Uncle Josh on their heels.

“I’m getting a sister!” Spike cried as he threw himself at Zach, who also caught a lunging Ian and stood up with both boys in his arms. Kendall kissed her sons before reaching into the back seat to get the newest member of Team Slater. “Spike, Ian,” she began, glancing up at Zach with a smile so bright it made his heart stop, “meet your sister, Amy.”

“She looks like me,” Ian said. “Her chin is like Daddy’s!” Spike added. Both of them were clamoring to see the little girl asleep in her mother’s arms. Of course, with twenty tiny fingers poking her, she didn’t stay asleep long. She opened her eyes to find herself the center of attention. She stuck her thumb in her mouth and laid her head back on Kendall’s shoulder, but the boys weren’t deterred.

“I’m gonna show her how to draw dinosaurs,” Spike said. “That’s what big brothers do.” “No fair! Spike is my big brother. I get to be Amy’s,” Ian pouted, turning his attention back to his parents. Zach was in the middle of explaining that they were both Amy’s big brothers when Amy spotted a familiar face. She reached out to Josh, who had been standing quietly nearby. Kendall relinquished Amy to her brother, then took Ian from Zach.

“How did you beat us here?” she asked as they moved toward the door. “I didn’t stop to make out in the airport parking lot,” Josh grinned. “Come on boys, time for the big surprise!” Zach and Kendall released their squirming sons and watched them run into the house after their uncle.

Kendall looked at Zach. “We weren’t making out!” she exclaimed. “Were we?” she added sheepishly. “Maybe just a little. Well, so what if we were? I was in a coma for crying out loud! Haven’t I earned a little -” Zach interrupted her defense with another kiss. “You want some more?” he asked. “We can make out right here in the front yard.”

Kendall laughed, but didn’t pull away. “What will the neighbors say?” she asked. “They’ll say Zach Slater has a beautiful wife and he knows what to do with her. Come on, keep smiling honey.” Kendall did smile, until he threw her over his shoulder. She squealed until he put her down in the foyer. “What? I was just carrying you over the threshhold,” he said when she looked disgruntled. “Like a sack of potatoes? You’re supposed to carry me in your arms.” Zach grinned and moved in to kiss her. “Next time,” he said as his lips met hers.

“Enough of that already!” Josh said as he rounded the corner. “If you two can come up for air, there’s a surprise waiting upstairs. The boys are about to bust a gasket, so try to make it quick.” Then he turned and walked towards the stairs shaking his head. “Jealous,” Zach whispered as he kissed her one last time. “Let’s get up there before somebody busts something. I’m not sure what a gasket is, but it sounds messy.”

Kendall followed her husband upstairs, basking in the feeling of finally being home. She remembered her time here as Amy, and she’d been happy. But nothing could compare to the joy of truly being home. Sure, all of the memories she’d recovered weren’t happy ones, but she wouldn’t trade one thing. A thousand days as Amy Alexander couldn’t hold a candle to just one day as Kendall Hart Slater. She squeezed Zach’s hand as she fought back tears.

Then she walked into what would be Amy’s room and gave up the fight. Kendall burst into tears when she saw her mother, with Amy in her arms, standing in the middle of the room she had described to Zach on the airplane. It was perfect down to every detail. She glanced up at Zach before running into Erica’s arms. Zach eased Amy from Erica’s grasp as the two women cried all over each other.

“I’ve missed you so much, Mom. Thank you for taking care of my boys while I was away. Zach told me all that you did, especially in the beginning. You kept my family together.” Erica stroked Kendall’s hair and refused her thanks. “I did what any mother would do, sweetheart. Zach was so broken … we all were. He just needed a gentle reminder and a good kick in the pants. And that is what mothers-in-law are for!” she said with a laugh.

“Are you surprised?” “Do you like it?” “It’s so pink!” The boys were chattering away as they walked around the room, pointing out everything they had done to help. “Me and Granny picked out this,” Spike said, causing Kendall to gasp. But Erica didn’t even flinch. “Yes, we did,” she said, praising the boys for all of their help.

“She’s over that,” Zach said from behind Kendall. “We broke her down about a year ago.” Kendall wrapped her arms around her husband. “Thank you, Zach. It’s perfect. But how did you pull it off so quickly?” He smiled over her head at Erica. “I had a lot of help. Haven’t you been listening?” Kendall laughed. “Then thank you all,” she said, hugging Spike, Ian, Erica, Josh and Zach before taking her daughter on a tour of her new room.

“What did you bring us?” Zach looked down to find his eldest son standing right in front of him with his head tilted all the way back so he could see his father’s face. “You didn’t forget did you?” “Of course not. Come with me.” Both boys followed him back down the stairs and out to the car where the suitcases were still locked in the trunk.

Zach found something for each of them to carry and together they brought everything in. He could feel their excitement mounting as he reached into a bag and brought out two tiny Los Angeles Dodgers caps with their names embroidered on the back. They jumped up and down, then ran upstairs to show off their prize to their Uncle Josh.

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

“You forgot something,” Kendall said as she joined Zach on the sofa. Erica was upstairs watching Amy sleep and Josh was outside playing ball with Spike and Ian. It was the first time Zach and Kendall had been completely alone all day. She pulled her feet underneath her and snuggled against her husband.

“Uh-uh,” Zach began. “No way am I wearing that in front of people.” Kendall pouted. “Then why did you buy it?” Zach dropped his arm around her shoulder and pulled her closer. “For private. You wear the jersey for me, and I’ll wear that for you.” “But I want you to wear it right now,” she said seductively. “Here? Right now? With your family around?” Kendall nodded and leaned up to kiss his neck. “But what about the jersey?” he asked, lowering his head to kiss her. “Later,” she replied as she snaked her arm past him and reached into the bag that was sitting on the couch beside him.

“Kendall” he warned, but it was too late. Before he could stop her, she’d put the Dodgers cap on his head and was sitting back admiring the way it looked. “Dodger blue is your color,” she teased. She watched as he adjusted it on his head, then moved in for another kiss. “I thought baseball was an Amy thing,” he said. “It was. And now it’s a Kendall thing. That will be the part of Amy that we keep.” Zach pulled her onto his lap and wrapped his arms around her. “Oh no, I’m keeping all of her.”

“Well, I see you two are getting comfortable. Maybe it’s time for me to go,” Erica said from the doorway. Unbeknownst to them, she had been standing there for several minutes, enjoying their happiness. All the agony they had been through as a family was worth it for the joy she could see on Kendall’s face. And Zach’s. Erica didn’t know when it had happened, but somewhere along the line, she’d come to care a great deal for a man she once despised. She loved Zach Slater. And, more importantly, she loved the way Zach Slater loved her daughter.

“Wait, Mom,” Kendall said as she stood to face her mother. “You don’t have to leave so soon. Why don’t I fix us a late lunch?” Erica looked at Kendall, then at Zach. Kendall laughed. “Don’t panic you two. I meant I’d order take out.” With a sigh of relief, Erica dropped her purse on the coffee table and went to the phone. “Lunch is on me this time,” she said.

“None for me,” Zach said as he stood up and walked to the door, pulling Kendall along with him. “Where do you think you’re going?” she asked, her agitation obvious. “I have to take care of something at the casino,” he said as he brought his hands to rest on her hips. “Can’t it wait?” “No. But I won’t be gone long.”

Zach smiled at the way Kendall’s lip protruded. He’d missed that pout very much these last two years. It was good to know it still had the same effect on him … he wanted to kiss it away. “I promise,” he added when she didn’t return the kiss. “And when I get back, I want you all to myself. Until then, you can hold onto this.” He pulled the cap off and handed it to her, then he kissed her again, growling when she returned it enthusiastically. “I’ll be back soon.”

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

“Hello gentlemen.” Zach walked into the tiny room off of his office. It was one of the few rooms in the casino that wasn’t under video surveillance. In fact, only a handful of people even knew of the room’s existence. And now two more people had been added to that exclusive list. Walter and his old high school buddy Charles, who happened to be a security guard at a certain five-star hotel in Los Angeles.

Both men were tied to straight back chairs. They were facing each other, but the tape across their mouths prevented them from speaking. Walter looked warily from Zach to Otto, who was standing just inside the door, where he’d been for the last several hours. But Charles was more brazen, and more stupid. He glared at Zach with unveiled hatred.

“You don’t look very happy. Haven’t you enjoyed the hospitality of the Season’s East?” Zach taunted as he circled around them. He had already removed his coat and was now rolling up his sleeves. “Well, as the owner, I feel responsible. What can I do? For starters,” he said as he reached for the knife Otto was offering, “why don’t we get rid of these ropes?”

Zach walked slowly over to Walter and ran the blade along his cheek. Then he suddenly moved behind him and jerked his head back, pressing the knife into his throat. He heard the man’s whimpering, but instead of feeling satisfaction, it only fueled his anger. He wondered if Kendall had made the same sound when she’d been under attack.

As quickly as Zach grabbed Walter, he let him go. Then he moved over to Charles, who continued to glare at him. “You got something to say?” Zach growled as he ripped the tape from his face, smiling at the sound of his scream. Charles quickly recovered. “Yeah, I got something to say. Why didn’t you bring the lady. I never did get my turn. I could do a lot with a piece of –“ His vile thoughts were cut off by Zach’s fist. One blow and he was out cold.

“How about you?” Zach asked as he turned from Charles to Walter. “You got anything to say?” Walter winced when the tape was ripped off, then stammered out an apology. “It’s too late for that Walter. Sorry won’t undo what you did to my wife. You do remember, don’t you?” Walter dropped his head and said nothing.

“Okay,” Zach said. “Otto, get the file.” While Otto was gone, Zach pulled Charles to the other side of the room and cut the ropes that had bound Walter. Then he pulled up a chair and sat across from him. After handing Zach the file, Otto went to stand behind Walter’s chair. Zach opened the file and pulled out a stack of pictures before dropping the rest of it on the floor beside him.

”Where should I begin, Walter?” He held up the first picture, which showed Kendall’s broken arm. “Is this what you did first? Or maybe you started with this,” he added as he held up the picture of his beautiful wife’s bloodied face, with her eye swollen shut and her lip cut and bleeding. “Doesn’t matter I guess. I’m gonna do them all anyway. You are going to know exactly what you put her through. But don’t worry, I promise to show you as much mercy as you showed her. Now get up.”

Walter starting mewling again as he slowly rose to his feet. A sudden movement behind Zach drew their attention. Charles was awake and he was howling about a broken nose. Zach grinned as the blood poured down the man’s face. “Don’t worry, you’ll get your turn … unless you want to go first. Maybe you know how to handle a man like me,” he said, echoing the words he’d said about Kendall on that fateful night.

Charles was forced to watch as Zach methodically repaid Walter for everything he’d done to Kendall. Everything except the bite marks. Zach had to improvise, but he thought the taser was a suitable substitute. Then he moved to the security guard. In an odd way, Zach was angrier with him. He was supposed to be at that hotel to protect vulnerable women from bastards like Walter, not victimize them. So, in the end, he paid the greater price. Because Zach refused to let him pass out. Every time Charles fainted, Zach shoved smelling salts under his nose to revive him. He wanted this man to be awake for every agonizing second. Just like Kendall had been.

When he was through meting out his punishment, Zach stood heaving over the two men lying in heaps on the floor. Both men had screamed until their voices were gone, but to no avail. There was nobody to come to their rescue, same as with Kendall. Zach was surprised to find that his anger wasn’t spent. He’d expected to feel better after avenging Kendall, but he only felt guiltier. He was her husband. He was supposed to protect her from scum like this. But he’d failed her, and the pain of it would stay with him forever.

He rolled down his sleeves and picked up the file. With one last look at the men who had changed his life forever, he turned to leave. “You know what to do," he said coldly. He looked up at Otto, who nodded, then he walked through the door without ever looking back. He locked the file in the safe, washed the blood from his hands and put his coat back on. After two hits of scotch, he left his office and returned to his family, vowing to leave all the ugliness of that day in the past, where it belonged. Now all that mattered was Kendall and the life they’d built together. All that mattered was their future.

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

Zach stood in the shower, motionless, letting the hot water melt the stress of the day away. Only it wasn’t working. No matter how he tried to reconcile it, he couldn’t find peace. Even watching the blood that circled the drain from the two men who had hurt Kendall didn’t bring him the closure he’d been expecting.

They’d been punished, he’d made sure of it. But it didn’t change what Kendall had been forced to suffer through. It didn’t change the fact that he’d left her alone and unprotected. And it didn’t give them back the two years that had been stolen, including the first year of their daughter’s life. He wanted to put it in that place he kept all his hurts and frustrations, but it wouldn’t stay buried. The anger kept rising to the surface when he let down his guard. Only Kendall could keep the demons at bay, and he couldn’t burden her with this. He couldn’t expect her to comfort him for failing her.

He looked up when he felt a breeze blow across his heated skin and found her standing there. His dragon slayer. She looked more like a goddess than a warrior, but he knew that there was a layer of steel underneath that soft, silky skin. She stepped into the shower and wrapped her arms around his waist, pulling him to her.

“I thought you might need some help, considering how long you’ve been in here,” she teased, trying to lighten his mood. She knew something was bothering him. He’d been gone all afternoon, and when he did return he went straight to their bedroom and jumped into the shower. That had been nearly an hour ago. She looked into his eyes and saw a drowning man.

“Zach, tell me what’s wrong,” she said as she reached up to touch his face. He looked at her for a long time, and she knew he was trying to decide whether or not to burden her with whatever had him so upset. “You can tell me. I won’t break.” He broke his silence at last. “I know you won’t. You’re the strongest woman I’ve ever met. I don’t think you realize how much I count on that, Kendall.”

“Is this about the men at the casino?” Kendall smiled when Zach returned to staring at her. “I’m not stupid either, Zach.” “You talked to Otto,” he said evenly. “I talked to Otto. Now I want to talk to you.” She leaned forward and placed a soft kiss over his heart, pleased at the way he sucked in his breath in reaction. “I can’t, Kendall. I won’t. You’ve been through enough. I just need some time.”

“We’ve both been through a lot, honey. But apparently you haven’t made your way to the end yet. Until you do, it will never be over,” she softened her rebuke with another kiss, this one at the base of his throat. “Let me help you the way you helped me.” He grabbed her arms and roughly pushed her away from him.

“That’s just it. I didn’t help you. I left you alone to be abused by two strangers. Oh God, Kendall, what if they’d …” He stopped, unwilling to say it out loud. “They didn’t,” she said. “And even if they had, it wouldn’t make it your fault.” He didn’t look convinced.

“I wasn’t there. I’m supposed to keep you safe, but I failed you. How can you say it’s not my fault? It’s okay to be angry with me.” She shook her head and touched his hand, causing him to immediately loosen his grip. “I’m not going to let you do that, Zach. It’s not your fault. It was Walter. Not you. And if I had to guess, I’d say Walter got what was coming to him,” she said as she brushed her fingers across his red, swollen knuckles.

“You want to talk about it?” he asked, his voice barely above a whisper. He rubbed her arms absentmindedly while he watched her closely. Even though it was fleeting, he saw the shadow of fear in her eyes. He felt her shudder and pulled her into his arms. She wrapped her arms around him as tightly as she could and rested her head on his chest.

“Tighter, Zach. Hold me tighter.” He tightened his hold on her and waited. “I was so scared,” she began after a few minutes of silence. For a moment she’d been lost in the sound of the water and the feel of Zach’s strong arms around her. She would have been content to leave this conversation for another time. But she needed to do this … for both of them.

“I’d met Walter earlier that day in the hallway, when I was checking in. He said he was a fan of the book and he seemed nice. I didn’t really give him a second thought. When I got back from the cocktail party, the first thing I did was take a shower. I remember arguing with myself about calling you first, but I was so tired. I just wanted a hot shower and a soft bed. I wanted your voice to be the last thing I heard before I fell asleep. But he was waiting in my room when I came out of the bathroom.” Zach felt her tense as she relived the nightmare. His jaw clenched as he imagined how frightened she must have been … how vulnerable.

“I tried to run past him and get to the door, but he grabbed me. We fought. God, it seemed to go on for hours, but I’m sure it was only a few minutes. I fought him as hard as I could and I screamed until the sound wouldn’t come, but nobody came to help me. When I finally got to the door, I realized why. There was another man waiting there … waiting for his turn he said. I couldn’t fight them both off. They were too strong and I was in so much pain. I couldn’t walk anymore because of my knee and there was blood everywhere. I knew they wouldn’t want me anymore. Not for sex. So I just curled up and waited to die.”

Kendall looked up at Zach and was saddened by the tears that ran down his face. “I remember praying that God would let me see my family again. I tried to crawl to my purse so I could get my phone. I wanted to hear your voice so badly, Zach. I knew if I could just get to that phone everything would be okay. But I never made it. One of the men rolled me onto my back and ripped open my tattered robe. That’s when he bit me, but I don’t know which one it was. I passed out before I could see his face. When I woke up, Ryan was there.”

“And you thought you were rescued,” Zach said, his voice low and angry. Kendall nodded. “I guess I was, in a way. He saved me from the two men, but he kept me from you and my boys. I would rather have endured the rape and come home to you than to be spared it and lost for so long. Why didn’t Ryan know that?”

“He did know it. He just didn’t care,” he said. He lifted her chin and gently kissed her. “I’m sorry, Kendall. I wish I’d been there.” Kendall stood on her tiptoes and stared into his eyes. “You’re here now. That’s all that matters. You can still rescue me, Zach,” she added as she ran her fingers through the hair at the nape of his neck. “Make me forget.”

Kendall pressed her body against his as he lowered his head to kiss her. She met him halfway. Kendall could feel the tension leaving Zach’s body, replaced by a different kind of urgency. For the moment, the demons were gone and she had her husband to herself … all of him. She’d fight for him everyday if she had to, until the day he realized he was her savior.

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

“You were so smooth, Zach. You had to be floored, but you never let on. You must have died inside when I said my name was Amy,” Kendall moved away from her husband so she could see his face. It was the middle of the night and they were lying in bed with Kendall’s favorite cd playing softly in the background. “I bet you thought I’d lost my mind,” she giggled. “Or I’d lost mine,” he corrected, pulling her back to his side.

“I remember seeing you at the diner,” she began, as she drew circles on his chest with her fingers. “Of course, I didn’t know who you were, I just thought you were hot!” She felt more than heard Zach’s laughter. “I never told you this, but I went back to the diner that same day. I waited for hours for you to come back. That’s how I got the job waiting tables.” This time Zach moved away from her. When she looked at him, she could see that she’d shocked him. “I went back, too,” he said. “How did we miss each other?” Kendall shrugged and resumed her circles.

“I remember the way you described Kendall to Amy, too. It was so beautiful. It broke my heart, you know?” She nodded when he grunted. “It did! But at the same time, it made me sad for the woman who had lost you. Then,” she said as she sat up and slapped his shoulder, “you took me to the ocean and flirted shamelessly with that tacky waitress!”

“I did not,” Zach said, grinning broadly. “She flirted shamelessly with me. I was waiting for you to protect my honor, but you never said a word.” Kendall laughed. “I told her off eventually,” she said. “Uh-huh, something about a two in bad lighting, or …” Zach’s voice trailed off when Kendall’s eyes softened.

“Then you bought me that beautiful dress and we made love for the first time.” She leaned down to kiss him and he wouldn’t let her back up. He held her on top of him. “Every time with you is like the first time,” he said, the look in his eyes warm and intimate.

This time, This place
Misused, Mistakes
Too long, Too late
Who was I to make you wait
Just one chance
Just one breath
Just in case there's just one left
'Cause you know,
you know, you know


“You must have been scared out of your mind when I didn’t come home,” she said quietly. Zach took a deep breath and began rubbing her back. “I was.” He lowered his head and breathed in the scent of her hair. “I was lost for a long time. But I never stopped looking for you. In the end, you found me.”

Kendall tilted her face up and waited for him to kiss her, which he did immediately. “I’ll always return to you, Zach, and you’ll always return to me. It’s our destiny.” Zach growled as he deepened the kiss. “God, Kendall, I’ve missed you. I need you so much. Don’t ever leave me again.”

That I love you
I have loved you all along
And I miss you
Been far away for far too long
I keep dreaming you'll be with me
and you'll never go
Stop breathing if
I don't see you anymore


“Closer, Zach. I need to get closer.” There was already nothing between them but a thin layer of perspiration, but still he pulled her closer. He rolled them both over until he was partially covering her, then he smoothed the hair from her face and looked into her eyes.

“Welcome home, Mrs. Slater,” he whispered as he lowered his lips to hers.



EPILOGUE

The bride was radiant as she stood at the end of the aisle, flowers in hand, waiting to catch the eye of her handsome groom. Her brown curls were piled on top of her head, held in place by the baby’s breath expertly woven through them. She turned to look at the precious man on her right, her green eyes sparkling like diamonds, and gave him a slight nod just as the music started. It was time.

As she got closer to the front, she saw the tears in her mother’s eyes and turned to grin at her brother. They had made a bet that their mother wouldn’t be able to get through the ceremony without crying. All too soon, the walk was over. Now she was standing in front of the minister, who was asking who gave her away in marriage.

She heard his voice beside her and turned to look into his face. Time had certainly not done him any harm. He was still the most handsome man she’d ever seen, except maybe for her groom. She warmed at the low, gravelly voice and walked into his outstretched arms. She smiled at him, kissed him on the cheek, then watched him join his own bride of 28 years.

The love was still so obvious between them, it brought tears to Amy’s eyes. She exchanged another look with Spike before watching her father take her mother’s hand and dry her tears. Then all eyes were on the couple getting married. Kendall’s tears were forgotten as she and Zach watched their little girl become a wife.

After the wedding, Zach sat at a table in the corner and took in the events going on around him. Amy had just left on her honeymoon. Spike was chasing his two-year-old daughter across the lawn while his wife gave their five-month-old son a bottle. Ian was on the dance floor again. Zach had lost count of the number of different girls he’d seen him with. His youngest son was a real heartbreaker, at least that’s what Kendall always told him. Zach told her he just hadn’t found the right girl yet, and when he did, he wouldn’t stand a chance.

“Here you are,” Kendall said as she wrapped her arms around Zach’s neck from behind. “You’re not trying to ditch me, are you Mr. Slater?” she said, her lips so close to his ear he could feel her breath. “Ditch you? I’ve been waiting for you to give me some attention,” he teased. “Oh really, well how’s this?” Kendall asked, leaning around to kiss him. “Better,” he replied as he pulled her onto his lap. “And this?” she said as she snaked her arms under his jacket. “That’s good too.”

“Get a room!”

They looked up to see Spike and Ian staring at them from across the large tent. Zach groaned when Kendall gave him one chaste kiss before slipping into her own chair. He resisted the urge to wrap a loose curl around his finger. He still loved to watch the wind play through her hair.

“You won’t believe what I just heard,” Kendall said as she helped herself to some of Zach’s champagne. “I won’t?” he said, eyeing the now-empty glass. “One of Ian’s college buddies has an older brother that used to date Emma Lavery. He just told me the strangest story. Apparently Ryan was arrested in Costa Rica on drug charges nearly 25 years ago. Somebody called in an anonymous tip and after a thorough strip search they found enough cocaine to get him a double life sentence. He’s been there all this time. Imagine that.” She watched him closely, trying to gauge his reaction.

“Lavery got caught up in the war on drugs? Imagine that.”

“Zach, did you …?”

“Let’s get something to eat.”

“Oh, are you hungry? Let me fix you a plate.” Kendall stood up to go, but Zach stopped her. “I was thinking of something a little more … private,” he said, lowering his voice. “Private, huh? What did you have in mind?” Zach once again pulled Kendall onto his lap and rested his chin on her shoulder. She could feel his breath tickling the side of her face. “I thought we’d take the kids' advice and visit the Slater Suite at a certain motel I know about not too far from here.”

“Can we stop across the street and get a hot fudge sundae first? We haven’t been to the Marigold Sky in over a year.” Her eyes lit up at the memories that came flooding back. “You’d rather have a hot fudge sundae than a naked husband? Ouch! I guess the honeymoon is finally over,” Zach said. He grabbed a champagne flute from a passing tray and drank it in one long gulp. “I guess it was bound to happen sooner or later,” he mumbled as he checked his reflection in the silverware.

“Are you crazy?” Kendall asked. She jumped from his lap and tried to pull him to his feet, groaning when he wouldn’t budge. “We’ll get the sundae ‘to go,’” she said, raising her eyebrows for effect. “Well, why didn’t you say so?” Zach said as he let Kendall pull him up. “Let’s go.”

“Alone at last,” Kendall said as Zach slid into the car next to her. It was a cool crisp day in the Pennsylvania countryside, but still they chose to ride with the top down.


THE END



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searose

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Reply with quote  #139 

Wow!  Thank you for an amazingly wonderful story.  I enjoyed every chapter.  I can't wait to read more stories from you.  Your talent is very appreciated


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theotherDi

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Reply with quote  #140 

Karen, thank you for such a wonderful ride. Sorry to see it end.  I love Team Slater - Zach, Kendall, Spike, Ian and Amy!  Granny Kane and Uncle Josh were pretty awesome too


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Thanks Mon
Purdue0612

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Reply with quote  #141 

Thanks Karen for a wonderful story from start to finish. You are extremely talented and I look forward to more of your stories......

Roseann

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Reply with quote  #142 
Thanks, Karen...a beautiful ending...which I knew had to come sooner or later....Enjoyed every chapter.   

Look forward to reading your next one.

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Reply with quote  #143 
Thank you, Karen. I really enjoy your stories and this one was especially good.  Everybody acted just the way I would expect them to in the circumstances.
I like a happy ending, too.
Lorene

P.S. What's your next project?

Ann

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Reply with quote  #144 

Karen, thank you for taking us on another incredible journey!  I am always a little sad when it is time for one of our journeys to end, and I always look forward to the next one.  You never disappoint.


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Reply with quote  #145 
Thanks for another great story... so sad to see it end. I am so looking forward to your next one. Thanks again...
 
Dana  : )

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Reply with quote  #146 

Thank you Karen for the amazing journey you took us on.  I knew it had to end some time, good things always do.  Looking forward to the next journey.


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Reply with quote  #147 

   Karen, I just joined this group yesterday  (after lurking for a loooong time)so this "thank you" is very late in coming, but I want you to know how much I enjoyed "Return to Me". You understand Zach so well, his way of moving, his speech patterns, his humor, etc etc etc. As I read I could hear and see him.....like watching a movie. Thank you for hours of feeling like I was WITH the MAHN.

Ann

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Reply with quote  #148 
Quote:
Originally Posted by pah

   Karen, I just joined this group yesterday  (after lurking for a loooong time)so this "thank you" is very late in coming, but I want you to know how much I enjoyed "Return to Me". You understand Zach so well, his way of moving, his speech patterns, his humor, etc etc etc. As I read I could hear and see him.....like watching a movie. Thank you for hours of feeling like I was WITH the MAHN.

pah, may I suggest that you dig through this forum and read every story Karen has written?  I guarantee that it will be well worth your time.
BTW........Welcome aboard.

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Reply with quote  #149 

Thanks, Ann...   I just may do that.

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Reply with quote  #150 

this story is amazing you should so be a amc writer. do you think you can make a sequel .and what happen to Zack little hockey team how many kids would that be? do you you can write a story for Lena and Bianca

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