Eve’s frantic cry shook Simone to her very core. She watched in stunned silence as her
and new stepfather raced to the collapsed Whitney.
She wanted to follow, but her feet refused to
budge. Alistair’s implication…his
Sheridan, Grace, and Luis extended apologies for Julian and Eve on the sudden end to festivities as they went about escorting the guest out the garden via the front entrances. Alistair lit another cigar, turned a chair toward the action in back of the garden and sat down to take it all in. As he puffed on his fresh cigar, a bright smile graced his lips. Simone’s temples throbbed. She heard rumors on the evil of Alistair Crane, but the pure enjoyment he got in the pain that surrounded him showed her he had absolutely no soul.
Anxious to get far way from the horrible man, and his stink cigar, Simone willed her legs to move and ambled down the aisle toward the others.
Fox gathered Whitney into his arms and settled her slumped form into a chair. He sat beside her, his arm draped about her shoulders. Giving Whitney gentle shakes, he urged her to wake up. His eyes shined with worry and concern. Simone stepped closer, pondering the meaning behind Fox’s alarm.
Eve kneeled before her semi-conscious daughter. She applied tiny slaps to Whitney’s face. “Whitney, honey, open your eyes.”
Whitney’s eyes fluttered. A low moan passed her lips.
“Is she going to be alright?” Fox asked.
“Yes, she’s starting to come to,” Eve said. “Could you go get her a glass of water?”
He nodded. “Absolutely. I’ll be right back.”
When Fox dashed out the garden, Eve slid into his vacated seat.
Julian stepped forward. “Eve is there anything you need? Anything I can do for Whitney?”
“Yes, there is. You can make Alistair’s accusations false. Can you do that for me and Whitney?”
Julian sighed. “My love, you can’t possible believe I’m…”
“You’re what? Responsible for this nightmarish moment? Yes, as a matter of fact, I can and do.”
Simone closed her eyes. Just when she thought this day couldn’t get worse. Her mother and Julian were totally in love, and because of Alistair, they were at odds with each other.
“No, you look!” He grunted and expelled a harsh breath. “Just answer the damn question! What’s going on here? Am I…is Whitney my…”
Julian shot a quick glance at Alistair, wiped his brow, and nodded. “Yes, it would appear so,” he said.
Alistair dropped his cigar to the ground and
burning tip with the heel of her leather loafer.
“Oh, but it can be,” he said, tapping his
beefy fingers together as he made his way down the aisle.
“Damn you, old man!” Julian stormed over to Alistair, snatching him by the lapels.
Alistair gazed at Julian’s hands as they held fast to his collar. “Your propensity for grabbing me is getting out of hand, Julian. It would be wise to let me go.”
“Yes, Julian, it would be wise to let him go,” Eve concurred, taking her eyes off Whitney for just a moment to address her husband. “Your outrage at Alistair now seems a little moot, don’t you think?”
Julian dropped his hands away from Alistair and turned to his embittered spouse. He shook his head, his eyes narrowed with confusion. “Eve, what is wrong with you? Why are you snapping at me? This is not my fault!”
“You don’t think?”
He folded his arms across his chest. “You do?”
“My, my, is the honeymoon over already?” Alistair heckled.
Fox returned with Whitney’s glass of water before any more could be said. “Here you go, Dr. Russell.”
Eve received the glass and turned to the arousing Whitney. “Whitney, sweetie, take a drink of this,” she prompted, placing the rim of the glass at her daughter’s lips.
Whitney took a couple of small sips, and then slowly opened her eyes. “Mom, what—what happened?”
“You fainted,” Eve explained, securing the glass in Whitney’s hand.
Whitney’s words halted when she spotted
A warm teardrop slid down Simone’s cheek. The anger and hate she harbored toward Whitney suddenly felt very hollow. She and her sister shared a twisted…two twisted facts of life. They both fell in love with the same man, and that man was their brother. A brother Whitney had unwittingly been intimate with.
“Tell me this isn’t true,” Whitney pleaded. “Tell me
“Yes, Eve, tell her this isn’t true,” Alistair mocked. “Tell your daughter she hasn’t been spending hours on a couch in a recording studio sexing it up with her brother. Tell, her that…”
Fire burned in Julian’s eyes. “You shut up, old man!” he raged.
“Don’t shoot the messenger, Julian.
You and Eve have found your son, that’s
something to be happy about. And at
least this way, the possibilities of Whitney bearing her brother’s
been considerably decreased.
Unless…Whitney, dear, how close did you and
Simone rolled her eyes. Alistair just had to twist the knife.
Whitney shot up from her chair. The water glass dropped to the ground. “I have to get out of here.”
Eve stood and took hold of her daughter’s forearm. “Whitney, we need to talk. We have to…”
Whitney ripped her arm away. “No, not right now. I can’t deal with this right now. I need to go, I just-- I need to go.” Whitney raced out the garden.
Both Fox and
Fox tapped his chin and sighed. “You know what,
That statement alone made it all the more clear to
that Fox’s interest in Whitney went far beyond the platonic realm. This didn’t surprise her.
She always knew Whitney would grow tired of
“Don’t worry, Eve, I’ll catch up with her. I won’t leave her alone,” Fox promised.
“Thank you, Fox. Please call.”
“I will.” He rubbed her shoulder. “I’m really sorry about all of this.”
“You and me both,” Eve said, glaring at Julian. “You better go.”
“Yeah, I’m gone,” he said, racing out the garden.
Eve reached out to him. “
Julian slipped his arm around Eve’s waist, but she quickly moved away.
“So, I’ve been told.” Alistair cackled like a demented rooster. “Welcome to the family, son.”
“My, I so love weddings,” Alistair quipped.
Simone fought the urge to kick Alistair as she
made her way
to Eve and Julian. “Did you guys really
not know about
“No,” they answered in unison.
“What are you going to do now?”
“Yes, Julian, what are you and your lovely bride going to do?” Alistair asked.
“I don’t care what Julian does, but I know what I’m going to do,” Eve said. She paused for a moment to brush the tears from her eyes. “The happiest day of my life has turned into the absolute worst day of my life. And the sad truth is, it’s your fault, Julian.”
Julian pressed his hand to his chest. “My fault?” he questioned.
“Yes.” Eve nodded. “You see, if you had been stronger and fought Alistair all those years ago when he convinced you to walk away from me, this moment would not have happened. We would have been together and raised our son from birth. “
“You know how sorry I am about that. Eve, you forgave me. Did you forget the words you said and the vows we exchanged just minutes ago?”
“No, I haven’t forgotten, and that’s part of the problem.” Eve sniffled as a continual stream of tears poured from her eyes. “I haven’t forgotten anything. The pain I felt when you left me all those years ago is as strong as the pain I feel right now. Julian, our son wouldn’t hate us, and my daughter wouldn’t have to live the rest of her life with the knowledge that her first sexual experience was with her brother, if you had been a stronger man.”
“I wasn’t there for you then, Eve, but I’m here now.” Julian hesitated for the slightest moment before taking a step forward. “We can deal with this together.” He held up his left hand, displaying the shiny gold band. “We’re married now.”
“Yes, we’re married. And what do I have to commemorate this special day? The pain of knowing my long lost son is in love with and has been sleeping with my oldest daughter.” Eve’s mocking laughter ended in a strangled sob. “Happy Wedding Day to me.”
Julian opened his arms to Eve, but she moved away. “No, Julian, stop!” She walked a few paces and then turned to him. “I’ve come to a realization, Julian. Every special day I’ve had, every day that should be thought of as sacred for a woman, if it involves you, it has turned into a nightmare.”
“Eve, I don’t…” Julian began, shaking his head.
“The day I gave birth to my first child, I was happy,” she said. “You weren’t there, but I had given birth to your son, and I was over the moon. Then, later that same day, I was told my son was dead. Fast forward twenty plus years. It’s our wedding day. Again, I’m floating on Cloud Nine, until Alistair gives us our special present. Julian, I’m not strong enough to handle whatever it is our first anniversary will bring. I love you, but loving you hurts too much. I’m going to end the hurt now. It’s over, Julian. First thing Monday morning, I’m going to file for an annulment.”
The tears pooling Julian’s eyes spilled forward. “An annulment? Eve, you can’t be serious!”
Simone agreed. Her mother couldn’t be serious. She loved Julian. How could she do this? “Mom, I know you’re upset, but you don’t want to do anything rash. I freely admit I wasn’t jumping for joy when you shared your wedding plans, but you and Julian love each other. You can’t annul your marriage. You guys just need to take some time and talk.”
Julian nodded. “Yes, Eve, listen to Simone.” He took her by the arms. “Don’t do this. Don’t end our marriage. This is what Father wants. Don’t let him win.”
Eve jerked her arms away. “Alistair won a long time ago, Julian. He won when you walked away from me. We can never be happy. Alistair is going to see to that. So, I’m closing the book on this painful chapter of my life, and this time for good.”
“Eve, please, don’t do this,” Julian beseeched. The desperation in his eyes broke Simone’s heart. “Don’t walk away from us.”
Alistair frowned at Julian. “My God, man! Where is your Crane pride? You don’t ever beg a woman for anything, especially a woman of her likes.”
“Shut up, old man!”
“This woman was never fit to be a Crane wife. Perhaps, now, you’ll learn to listen to your father. It’s best to end this huge mistake in judgment. I’ve always known what’s best for you, and this woman was never that.”
“Go to hell, Alistair!” Eve railed.
“I’m sure I’ll get there in due time, Eve.”
“Why did you do this?
Why would you allow
“A couple of reasons.
First and foremost, for maximum effect.” He chuckled. “I got that in spades. Lastly,
to show you and Julian who’s in
control here. You and that bastard
produced with my son has been nothing but a dark blot in the fabric of
Crane Empire. A blot I’ve worked
feverishly for years to keep from setting in and becoming a permanent
stain. Now, it seems, my hard work
paid off. You want nothing more to do
with Julian and
“Damn you!” Eve tore out of the garden as Alistair erupted in hearty laughter.
Julian rushed after her. “Eve!”
Alistair finally managed to contain his glee. He flashed Simone a bright smile and tilted his head. “You have a good evening, Simone. I’m certain I will.” Laughing hysterically once again, he swaggered out the garden.
Simone sighed deeply as she plopped into the
chair. A plethora of emotions consumed
her. Her heart ached for her mother,
Julian, and Whitney, and her stomach…
The feelings she harbored for
“Why did this have to happen?” she wondered between sobs. “Why?”
Simone jumped at the feel of a hand on her
shoulder. She turned with a start to
find eyes so blue
they rivaled the
“I know people cry at weddings, but it seems the ceremony is over. Are you okay?”
What a gorgeous guy. Simone managed to stand on her wobbly legs. “Just scared to death,” she answered. “Who are you, and do you always sneak up on unsuspecting women?”<>“Not always. Just the beautiful ones with tears in their eyes,” he said with a smile as sexy as the rest of him. The handsome stranger reached into the breast pocket of his dark suit and extended a perfectly pressed handkerchief. “I’m a friend of Fox’s, Dylan Crestfield. You wouldn’t happen to know where I can find him?”
Julian maneuvered the steps leading to the spacious cabin of his luxury liner as fast as his feet could carry him. “Eve? Eve, are you here?”
The lamp in corner to his right illuminated the room. “Yes, I’m right here,” she answered, rushing to his open arms. “Oh, Julian, it’s even worse than you thought.”
Julian tightened the embrace and sighed. “Yes, my darling, I’m afraid it is.”
“Alistair is such a monster.”
Eve ended the hug and met Julian’s eyes. “
“And he thinks it worked. Except, this time, we’re the ones in control.”
“So, you think our little act worked?”
“Are you kidding? When you said annulment, you really scared me.”
She gave a sweet kiss. “I’m sorry. I just wanted to be convincing.”
“You were, because he definitely bought it. We’ll have to keep playing Father’s game. It’s the only way we’ll get to the truth.” Julian pressed a kiss to Eve’s forehead, and brought her into the circle of his arms. “Our real son is out there somewhere, and we’re going to find him. I promise, we’re going to find him.”