Two and a half weeks later…
Eve sighed. TC was making this flight to LA harder than it had to be. She had been trying unsuccessfully to get him to talk about how they were going to break the news to Whitney, but he was intent on giving her the silent treatment. Simone was supposed to be coming along with them, but she flatly refused to fly out to LA to see Whitney living in sin with her boyfriend. Not having a choice, they met at the house the night before and made an attempt to explain things.
Unshed tears pooled Simone’s eyes. “You and Daddy are getting a divorce?”
“Yes, Simone.” Eve’s confirmation sent the dammed tears trailing down her daughter’s cheeks. Her heart broke for her youngest child. She’s brushed away the streaming tears. “We tried to work things out, but….”
Simone searched her mother’s face for answers. “How can you two let Whitney’s selfishness destroy your marriage?! Isn’t it bad enough she’s destroyed our family and stole away my boyfriend.”
“Sugar Bear, I know you’re upset, but this is not your sister’s fault.” TC’s cold angry gaze burned through Eve. “Your sister had nothing to do with the problems between your mother and me.” His voice stayed calm but anger and disgust was clear in his dark menacing eyes. “Nothing whatsoever.”
Eve shuddered under TC’s hateful glare. She rolled her eyes. Of course everything was her fault. At least he had the good sense not to express his angry feelings toward her directly to Simone.
“You’ve been married for years. You love each other. What about all that? Don’t you guys want to work things out?”
“There’s nothing to work out!” TC snarled.
Simone flinched from her father’s outburst. Eve shook her head. The man had no concept of the word tact. She attempted to make things clearer for her daughter. “Simone, I do love your father. We share two beautiful children, but--but we’re not in love anymore. We decided to end things instead of pretending to be a happy family. So, we’re flying to the Dominican Republic after we talk to Whitney tomorrow.”
“It’s over sweetheart,” TC added. “There is no repairing this problem.”
Simone looked from Eve to TC. Her eyes narrowed. “Why are you rushing this?”
“There’s no rush, Sugar Bear. We’ve been planning this for weeks and the marriage has been dead for months. It’s time for the burial.”
Eve smoothed Simone’s shoulder, trying desperately to offer some comfort. “Simone, sweetheart, I want you to know that whatever goes on between your father and me, it doesn’t in any way change how we feel about you and your sister. We will always love you and be here for you.”
Simone jerked from her mother’s touch. “Yeah, whatever! I’m going back to Tabitha’s. You two do whatever you want. I just don’t care anymore!” She raced out the house, slamming the door behind her.
“Well, I hope you’re happy now,” TC said, his accusatory tone as stinging as the daggers he shot her way. “You and your lust and supposed love for Julian Crane caused this. Now, Sugar Bear is distraught, Whitney will certainly be blaming herself, and Crane has left you high and dry.” He laughed. “Well, I guess there’s a positive in all this.” Rising from the couch, he walked up the stairs. “You know your way out.”
Eve blinked away the memory. TC was wrong. She did have Julian. Thank God she had Julian. Not being able to see him was driving her crazy, but his visiting her at the Bed and Breakfast would raise all kinds of questions. Questions she couldn’t answer. Not until those papers were signed. Hearing his voice during their evening phone conversations helped. Soon, soon she’ll be divorced and she can finally be with him, but there were still things to take care of before that happened.
She tried once again to reason with her almost ex-husband. “TC, I really think we need to discuss how we’re going to deal with Whitney.”
TC closed the magazine that rested on his lap. “What’s to discuss, Eve?” he said through gritted teeth. “We’re getting a divorce. That’s what’s we’ll say. Then, Whitney will know, we’ll fly to Caribbean, and end this marriage. Case closed. I have nothing more to say to you on the matter.” He turned his attention back to the magazine.
Eve closed her eyes and imagined her arms were Julian’s as she closed
them around her shoulders. He promised her the night before that everything
would be fine. She prayed he was right. He had to be right.
“Do you approve, Mr. Crane?”
Julian inspected the sparkling jewel. The eight-carat oval cut diamond surrounded by two half-carat heart shaped diamonds in a yellow gold setting was as perfect as he hoped it would be. He nodded and gave the jeweler, Mr. Bradbury a pleased smile. “Yes, I do approve.”
The man sighed in relief. “Very good, sir. I’ve never had to work on completing a custom design so fast, but I’m glad it meets your specifications.
“It does indeed.” Julian turned his attention back to the ring. Eve was going to love this. “And the wedding bands?”
“They will be in tomorrow afternoon.”
“Thank you, Bradbury. You know where to send the bill.”
Taking the hint, Mr. Bradbury made his way to the door. The man’s greeting to someone entering the room tore Julian’s attention from the beautiful jewel. He concealed the ring in his hand. If that was Rebecca, there was no way he was going to let her get her greedy paws on this ring like she did the last. He was surprised to look up and find the guest wasn’t Rebecca but Sheridan.
After exchanging pleasantries with Mr. Bradbury, Sheridan closed the door and approached the desk. “You know, if I didn’t see this for myself, I wouldn’t believe it.”
Julian shrugged. “What?” he asked, tucking the ring into its velvet box.
“You. Planning a wedding, watching workmen with a guarded eye, meeting with Bradbury?” she said in disbelief.
“He’s a jeweler.”
“I know what and who he is. I just wonder who you are.” Sheridan walked around the room, checking under the couch and the tables as best she could in her six months pregnant state. “What happened to my brother? What did you do to the Julian I know and loathe?”
Julian chuckled. “Love works wonders.” He approached Sheridan and assisted her to the empty chair in front of his desk. She eyed him suspiciously. “Stop doing that, okay?” he remarked with a nervous chuckle, returning to his chair. “You’re making me uncomfortable.”
“I can’t help it. Seeing you this happy is strange, Julian. You’re being so nice. You haven’t even asked what I’m doing here. You obviously care about Rebecca more than I thought. You are truly in love.”
Visions of a smiling Eve filled his head. “I am madly in love with the woman I’m going to marry. My love for her is the purest, most honest thing in the world.” He reached for the jewelry box. “I had Bradbury create something special for her. You want to see it?”
Sheridan nodded and received the opened box. Her jaw dropped. “My God, Julian. This is absolutely exquisite.”
“It is, isn’t it?” he agreed. “But it pales in comparison to my love.” He closed his eyes, sighing.
Sheridan released an incredulous breath. “Wow. I was young when you married Ivy, but I wasn’t so young as to not remember all that was going on. I have to tell you, there was nothing close to the excitement you’re feeling now present in you that day.”
“You’re right. There wasn’t. I never loved Ivy. Hell, to this day, I barely like Ivy. I’m finally marrying the woman I love. A woman I’ve waited what seems like forever to make my wife. I can’t tell you how wonderful this feels.”
“You don’t have to tell me. I know.”
Julian smiled. “You do indeed. You and Luis had to overcome a lot of obstacles to be together. Myself, unfortunately, being one of them. I’m glad everything worked out.”
“Well, it’s not completely worked out.” Sheridan rubbed her distended abdomen. “There’s still a little paternity question, but I believe in my heart that this baby is his.”
“Antonio isn’t giving you any problems?”
“Well, he’s hot happy he was lied to for months. Luis is afraid he’s going to fight the annulment. I’m not overly concerned yet. It’s only been a week since he learned the truth, but Antonio wouldn’t want me to stay with him when he knows I’m in love with another man. He’s just hurt right now, that’s all.”
“They say hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. It appears the same could apply to some men.” TC’s initial reaction to Eve’s confession sprang to mind. He and Eve had to literally resort to theatrics to get TC to do the right thing. “I’m sure everything will work out in the long run.”
“Like they have for you?”
Julian nodded and smiled. “Yeah, exactly like they have for me.” Throwing himself into the planning of his surprise wedding for Eve kept him sane from not being able to see her. Since she had taken a month’s leave of absence from the hospital, dropping by under the guise of board business wasn’t an option. He lived off their all too brief evening phone calls. Snapping his fingers, he remembered their conversation from last night. He glanced at his watch. It was just after 10 AM in LA and Eve’s flight was due to land there in a couple of hours. He wanted to talk to Whitney before she talked to her parents.
“Something you have to do?” Sheridan asked.
“I need to make a phone call.”
“Oh, well, I’ll get out of your hair. Curiosity and the need for some exercise brought me over, but I got a little something extra, too.”
“A peek at the big brother I haven’t seen since I was a child. I hope to see a lot more of him.”
“You will.” He chuckled. “Who knows, maybe we might even become, dare I say it, friends.” After all the pain he caused Sheridan, and the guilt that still plagued him in attempting to follow his father’s bidding to end her life, to forge a close sibling relationship with her would be a wonderful surprise. Julian gave Sheridan some help as she struggled out of the seat. “There we go.”
She gave his hand a gentle pat. “Thank you, Julian.” Her eyebrows drew together as she gave him a pensive look. “You and me, friends?” Sheridan laughed. “Well, I guess stranger things have happened.”
Julian watched as his sister waddled out the door. Knowing most people
would believe that ‘stranger thing’ was the beautiful Dr. Eve Russell had
fallen in love with him years before, and if things went his way this weekend,
was about to become his brand new wife.