The surprised looks on her daughters’ faces didn’t surprise Eve. Surprise
was the very least she expected from them. Grace hadn’t said much more
than ‘I can’t believe this’ since Eve joined her in the limo and explained
what was about to happen. After explaining the details of the past weeks
to Grace and the few details she had on the impending ceremony, Eve used
the remaining time on the ride to the estate to debate the different ways
she could break the news to the girls. When she entered the guesthouse
and saw the beautiful gown, her how had been decided. The elegant A-line
ivory English lace creation had a V-neck halter style bodice, with pearl
embroidery, and a short sweep train. She knew the diamond tiara would look
even better with the shoulder-length veil attached.
Julian insisted he hadn’t seen the gown yet, but that he did give the designers ideas and left the final choice to his sister. He definitely knew what she liked, because the gown was absolutely gorgeous. Sheridan definitely made a good choice, but clearly there was no way she couldn’t. Eve couldn’t have made a better choice than the beautiful form-fitting gown. She was the picture of a blushing bride. And to her daughters, that was the exact image she wanted to project.
Whitney took a tentative step forward. Her eyes stayed glued on Eve. “What’s going on?” she asked, her voice barely above a whisper.
“Yeah,” Simone piped in. “Why are you dressed like that?”
“I think you both have some idea,” Eve answered.
Grace cleared her throat. “Uh, I think I’m going to go in the other room and slip into my matron of honor dress, while you all have some time alone,” she said making a quick exit.
“Matron of honor?” the girls repeated in unison once Grace left the room.
“Please,” Eve said, her hands still extended to them, “come sit down with me.”
Neither girl took her hand as they moved around her and to the couch in the center of the room. Their eyes stayed on her as they sat. Eve readied herself for their thoughts on the situation.
“You can’t be the woman Mr. Crane is marrying,” Simone said, breaking the loud silence that filled the room. She closed her eyes and shook her head. “No. Julian said he’s been in love with this woman since his early twenties. That they had a deep and abiding love and he wanted to marry her, but --”
“But his father stepped in and coerced him into leaving her with threats of financial hardship among other things. Afraid he couldn’t live without the Crane money and status, he left this woman and regretted it ever since.” Eve nodded. “Yeah, I know. I was that woman.”
Whitney’s eyes narrowed, her shocked expression hardened to outrage. “Have you been cheating on Daddy all this time?”
“No, I have never cheated on your father, and that is the truth. Whether you choose to believe it or not is up to you.”
“Well, I don’t believe it!” she snapped. “My God, Mom, the ink is barely dry on your divorce papers and you’re marrying someone else? Julian Crane no less! A man Daddy hates with every fiber of his being. How? Why?”
“I love him, Whitney,” Eve replied. “It’s that simple. I fell in love with Julian when I was younger than you and Simone are now. I loved him with all my heart and soul, and when he left me it destroyed me. I hated him for what he did to me. I hated the action, and for a lot of years I convinced myself I hated him, too, but I didn’t. I could never really hate him, because I loved him too much. Amazingly, I love him now more than ever.” She sighed. “I didn’t even think that was possible.”
“Mom, this is Julian Crane you’re talking about. Granted, he’s been a lot nicer lately, but he’s Julian Crane,” Simone said.
“I’m well aware of who Julian is. I know him better than anyone, as he does me. There’s so much you girls need to know, that I don’t have time to share in detail right now, but what I do want you to know and understand is that I love Julian, and I’m going to marry him today.”
“Do you care what we think?”
“Yes, Simone, I do, but--”
“But it doesn’t matter, because you’re still going to marry him,” Whitney interjected.
Eve nodded. “Yes, I am. I would like for you both to stay, but I’m not going to force you.” She closed her eyes for several moments. “When I married your father, I expected I’d stay married to him forever. I never for one moment thought I’d rediscover my feelings for Julian.”
“Rediscover?” Whitney scooted forward on the couch. “How did that happen, Mom? I didn’t imagine the happiness you and Daddy shared for all these years. When did you stop loving Daddy and fall back in love with Julian?”
“I didn’t fall back in love with Julian, I realized I never stopped being in love with him.”
“Okay, fine, but what made you realize that?” Simone asked. “You just woke up one morning and remembered you were still in love with Julian Crane?”
Eve shook her head. “No, the realization was gradual.” She stopped speaking and sat in the chair next to the couch. Eve released a long breath. “As I said, there’s so much you girls don’t know, and that’s my own fault, but I promise to explain everything later. For now, there is something else you need to know. When I was with Julian all those years ago, I got pregnant.”
Simone gasped. “You had a baby with Julian?”
“Yes, we had a son.”
“He left you pregnant?” Whitney jeered, her tone acid.
Eve refused to acknowledge her daughter’s forked tongue. She could be just as vicious as T.C. when she got angry. “He didn’t know about the baby,” she explained. “Alistair had no desire to have a black daughter-in-law, and even less in having the heir to his vast empire with a drop of black blood. He discovered I was pregnant and without mentioning my impending motherhood, convinced Julian it would be in his best interest to leave me. Alistair Crane is a monster. I was told my baby died soon after he was born, but the truth was Alistair had him kidnapped from the hospital.”
“So, that day on the wharf when you said you had a son, that was the son you were talking about?”
“But you told Daddy you miscarried his baby.”
“No, T.C. said that, and I was too afraid to tell him he was wrong.”
“What’s this about the wharf and a miscarried baby?” Simone groaned and sprang to her feet, eyeing both Eve and Whitney. “Why is it that I never have any idea of what’s going on in my own family?”
Eve held up her hands. “Simone, please, let me finish.”
Tears spilled from Whitney’s eyes. “That day, I thought-- Oh, God.” Shaky hands covered her mouth. “I thought Chad…”
“Chad what?” Simone questioned, returning to her seat on the couch.
Eve shook her head. “No, no, Whitney, it’s not what you think. It wasn’t then, and it’s not now.” She blinked back the tears stinging her eyes. “Julian and I found out a few weeks ago that our son, his wife, and their little girl were killed in a car accident. We missed getting to know him by a few weeks.” Eve sniffled. “It was the search for our son that brought us back together. I’ll always care about T.C., but I couldn’t keep pretending I was in love with him when I wasn’t, and things between us weren’t getting better. Time is so precious. One moment should not be wasted. Now, I’ve lost a lot of years with Julian and a lifetime with the son we never got to know, and I refuse to lose a moment more.”
“What about Daddy?” Whitney asked. “Does he know about your reconnection with Julian?”
“I told your father about everything a few weeks ago.”
“Humph! No wonder he was so angry in L.A. and in a hurry to end this marriage. He probably felt like a fool, knowing you’ve been lusting after his worst enemy for decades.”
“T.C. and I had been having problems for a long time, but those problems had nothing to do with Julian.”
“Maybe, but your involvement with Julian certainly didn’t help matters, did it?” Whitney leapt from the couch. “I hope you’re satisfied, Mom, but I’m not staying for this!”
Eve stood. “Fine, I’m not going to force you to stay. I just wanted to explain as best I could. I hope you don’t shut me out completely. I do love you, Whitney.”
“You just love Julian more, at least today.” Whitney held up her hands and backed away. “I’m sorry. I need time to—I need time.” With tears streaming down her face, she turned and raced out the door.
Eve considered running after her oldest daughter but didn’t. She would give her the time she needed. At least Simone was still there—for now. “Are you going to leave, too?” she managed to ask through the knot in her throat.
Simone’s hand slid into hers. “No, Mom, I’m not going to leave.”
Eve hated to ask, but she had to know. “Do you mean that, or are you just staying to spite your sister?”
“Believe it or not, everything I do is not about Whitney. I want to be here for you.” Eve sobbed softly. Simone staying meant the world to her. “Hey, don’t cry,” Simone said, brushing her thumbs against Eve’s cheeks, “you’re going to ruin your gorgeous makeup.”
“You’re not angry with me?”
“Angry?” Simone shook her head. “No, I’m not angry. I’m surprised, confused, and strangely, I’m relieved.”
“Yeah. You’re not perfect, and that’s okay. Somehow, I feel validated because—because I’m not perfect either. And now, that’s okay, too.”
Eve’s heart broke at her daughter’s words. “Simone.” She pulled her into an embrace. “You are perfect. You are my perfect baby girl, and you should never think otherwise. Yes, I am far from perfect and I have made tons and tons of mistakes, but you will never be anything less than that to me. No matter what.”
Simone sniffled. “But I’m not Whitney.”
“No, you’re you, and I love you with all my heart. Never doubt that.” Eve cupped Simone’s face and pressed a kiss to her forehead.
“Alright, enough of this sappy stuff,” Simone said brushing the tears from her eyes. She stepped away and retrieved her purse from the couch. “I have something to give you.” She shook her head, sighing. “I can’t believe you’re marrying Julian Crane.”
“Are you okay with this?”
“Honestly, Mom, I don’t know. I’m not thrilled, but I’m not disgusted. I’m sorry you and Daddy aren’t together anymore and I think you’re getting remarried way too soon.” Simone released a heavy sigh. “People are definitely going to talk. But I spent most of the day with Julian and I just can’t help being happy for him and this woman he loves so much that he planned a surprise wedding for her. What’s amazing is this woman turned out to be my mother. I really can’t wait to hear all the details of this story of your past.”
“I think once you hear it you might otherwise.” Eve shook her head. “It’s not pretty, Simone.”
“Maybe not, but look how it turned out.” She reached into her purse and handed over a rectangular, black velvet box. “Julian wanted me to give this to his bride.”
Eve opened the box to find a short string of pearls. “These are gorgeous.”
“They are, aren’t they?” Simone moved around Eve to help put them on. “He said they belonged to his maternal great grandmother, and they’ve been passed down through the generations. You can’t get too attached, though, their Sheridan’s, but she agreed to allow his bride to borrow them for the day. Thus completing the old, new, borrowed, and blue wedding tradition.”
“Yeah,” Eve said with a nod, “that would do it. The dress and ring are new, I’m wearing a blue garter, and the pearls are old and borrowed. Julian definitely thought of everything.”
Finished with the necklace, Simone came to stand in front of Eve.
“He loves you so much.”
“I know. I lo—”
“You love him, too. I know. You look so beautiful, Mom. You know, it’s a good thing Daddy stayed in the Dominican Republic a while longer.” Simone shuttered. “I can only imagine how he would turn this wedding out if he was in Harmony.”
The same idea had crossed Eve’s mind, but with Liz showing up the morning they signed divorced papers, she was certain her ex-husband had his hands full. Her little sister was bad news, but if T.C. found happiness with her, she wouldn’t begrudge him that. She definitely had hers.
Grace made her way out the other room in a simple but elegant spaghetti strapped chiffon gown in a rich plum color. A matching wrap hung about her wrists. The color suited her wonderfully and brought out the highlights the stylists added to her hair. “It’s almost show time, is everything okay out here?” She looked around the room. “Where’s Whitney?”
“She decided not to stay.” Eve walked over to her friend. “You look beautiful, Grace.”
“I look nice, you look beautiful. Are you really as happy as you seem, Eve? Is this what you want—to be the next Mrs. Julian Crane?”
“Undoubtedly,” she shared with a big smile. It hurt that Whitney decided
to leave, but she had Simone, and Julian was about to become her husband
after so many years of not daring to hope. Eve held out a hand to Simone
and Grace. “Come, it’s time for me to get married.”
Julian smiled to himself as images of Eve in a skipper’s cap and nothing
else flashed in his mind. The waters may be still this evening, but his
yacht would certainly be rocking. He and Eve, and two glorious weeks alone
in his luxurious cabin cruiser. Little Julian stirred with anticipation.
It won’t be long now.
In need of a diversion from his lascivious thoughts, Julian scanned the small crowd assembled on the plush, green lawn. Sam Bennett and his girls. Of course Ivy would never be far from the chief of police’s side. Little did she know her gig as the misplaced houseguest was almost over. He continued his perusal. David Hastings and his strange son, the even stranger Tabitha Lenox, and the entire Lopez-Fitzgerald clan. He also spotted some doctors and the hospital board members. He smiled. All the people Eve cared about were there. He just hoped they wouldn’t try to talk her out this marriage when they realized what was going on.
Closer inspection found the girl from the Book Café. He didn’t invite her. And her mother and that ape. Julian groaned. Well, at least outside there was no chance of the old woman destroying his antique furniture with her incontinence problem. He shrugged off the thought. It didn’t even matter. Today that house could burn to the ground with everything he owned in it, and he wouldn’t care. In a few of minutes his beloved Eve would become his wife and they would spend the next fourteen days in each other’s arms. His heart swelled. Nothing could keep this day from being the happiest day of his life.
A steady tap on his shoulder turned Julian around. “Sheridan.” He studied his sister closely. “What’s wrong? You seem troubled.”
She took his hand and led him to the far side of the beautifully decorated gazebo where he stood in wait for his bride. “There’s a problem, Julian. I haven’t seen Gwen all day, and there are no signs of Rebecca anywhere. Your wedding is about to start and there’s no bride.” He laughed. Sheridan frowned. “Julian, did you hear me?”
“Yes, you said there’s no signs of Rebecca and Gwen.”
“Why do you seem happy about that?”
Julian shrugged. “Maybe because I am. I know where Rebecca is, and Gwen, wherever she is, is safe with Ethan. Neither of them will be required to make this day complete.”
Sheridan pressed her hand to his forehead. “Are you feeling well?”
He gently pushed her hand away. “I’m fine, Sheridan. I guess it’s okay for me to let you in on a little secret. My bride is close by, but she’s not Rebecca.” A broad smiled stretched the limits of his lips. “I’m going to marry Eve.”
Confusion invaded her bright eyes. “Eve? Eve who?”
Julian scoffed. “Eve who? Eve Russell.” He couldn’t wait till her last name got changed. “How many Eves do you know?”
She took his hand and attempted to lead him away. “Okay, you’re definitely not feeling well, so I’m going—”
He pulled her hand. “Sheridan, stop. I know what I said and I know it’s confusing but… Here’s the condensed version of the story. I met Eve years and years ago and I fell madly in love with her. I wanted to marry her but Father had other ideas. Eve wasn’t exactly his idea of Crane wife material.”
“Oh, Julian,” she murmured. “I’m sorry. I know firsthand what that’s like.”
“I know. The difference is you were strong, and I was weak. The fear of being cut off financially seemed scarier than not having Eve in my life, so when Father demanded I stop seeing her and marry Ivy or else, I did. I ended all communication with her because I thought I needed his money and approval more than I did Eve’s love. That was the biggest mistake I ever made in my life, and I have regretted it every day since. What makes it worse is I didn’t know Eve was pregnant when I left her, but Father did, and he chose not to tell me.”
Her jaw dropped and eyes widened. “You have a child with Eve?”
“I had a child with Eve. A son. My first born son. Father had him kidnapped from the hospital soon after he was born and led Eve to believe he died. I only found out about his existence a few years ago, and sadly, a few weeks ago, Eve and I learned he and his young family were killed in a car accident.”
Sheridan brushed away the tears that filled her eyes. ‘Julian, how could you not tell me about this?”
“Lots of reasons. Many of which I’m sure you can figure out for yourself.” He clasped his hands together. “But none of that matters now. Eve and I have found our way back to each other and are more in love than ever. She didn’t know about this wedding until an hour ago, but she agreed to it.”
She shook her head and smiled. “You and Eve?”
He nodded. “Yeah. I hope you don’t mind it’s her using your pearls.”
“Are you kidding me? I love Eve. She can keep them!” Sheridan pulled him into a fierce hug, or as much of one as her distended abdomen would allow. “You’ve been so happy. I should have known Rebecca couldn’t have done that. The wedding dresses should have been a dead giveaway. I don’t know how you managed to make a fantastic woman like Eve fall in love with you, but I’m not going to question it. I’m so happy for you, Julian. I just—I can’t tell you.”
“Think you could show me instead?”
“You want another hug?”
Julian laughed. “Maybe later,” he said rubbing her rounded midsection. “No, I need a favor.”
“Sure, what is it?”
“I don’t have many friends. There was little Timmy but he’s gone now, and there’s Eve, but since I’m marrying her, she can’t help me. I don’t have a brother, that I know of, and Father is out of the question, so that leaves you.” He cleared his throat. “I know it’s short notice and a little unconventional, but will you consider being my best person?”
She beamed. “I will absolutely be honored.”
“Thank you, Sheridan.” He kissed her cheek. “Will you be okay to stand up for a few minutes?”
“I’m sure I’ll be fine, but f I feel myself faltering, I’ll lean on my big brother. He’s proving himself to be somebody I can count on.” She wrapped her arm around his. “Come on, Julian. Let’s get you married—to Eve!” she practically squealed.
He grinned and nodded. “Yeah, let’s.”