Julian ate the last of his tuna sandwich and then made a face. “This stuff they’re feeding us isn’t exactly Harmony’s best cuisine.”
“Good ole Psycho Clown probably didn’t attend one of the world’s leading culinary schools, did she?” Sheridan joked, grateful at being able to laugh for the first time in weeks.
“Good Lord, I don’t even think the lady has been to a McDonald’s,” Julian said, picking up a bottle of water to sip.
“I didn’t think you had ever been to a McDonald’s either, Julian,” Sheridan quipped.
“I haven’t, but I’ve heard stories,” her brother answered, “probably from the help.”
Sheridan slowly drank her milk. She was grateful the kidnappers provided it for her. They did seem to look out for her baby, with the kinds of food they provided, and the fact that they got her some prenatal vitamins. “Julian, what do you think these people want with us?” she asked.
“I don’t know, but you can bet they don’t have our best interests at heart.”
“Most kidnappings have to do with money, right?” Sheridan inquired, setting down her empty carton of milk.
Julian nodded, “That or sex crimes, where they kill the victim immediately. And in this case, I don’t think either one of those is the motive. I’m stumped. All I know is, it is you they were after. I’m not important to them.”
“I’m sorry I got you into this mess,” Sheridan said. “If you hadn’t come looking for me, you wouldn’t be trapped here with me now.”
“Don’t even think that, Sheridan,” Julian said warmly. “There’s no place I would rather be, with you being held down here in this hellhole. The last thing you would need is to be here alone.”
“What did I do to deserve a brother like you?” she asked, smiling at Julian’s selflessness.
“Oh, Sheridan, I’ve probably been the world’s worst brother up until this point,” Julian admitted sadly. “Before I came into this pit, we hadn’t spoken in months. I guess I was trying to avoid you, which for all intensive purposes probably wasn’t a bad thing.”
“What are you talking about, Julian? How could us not speaking to each other, not spending time together, be a good thing?” she asked, startled at his confession.
“I haven’t always had your best interests at heart, Sheridan,” Julian revealed. “You know about some of the terrible things I have done – like hiring the imposter to keep you and Luis apart.”
“That was on Father’s orders,” Sheridan said quietly. “I have forgiven you for that.”
“It was all on Father’s orders,” Julian said, “but that’s beside the point. The man is evil incarnate. I never should have listened to him. Because I did, I’m no better than one of Satan’s hounds. And what was it all about? Money? Protecting the Crane name? You’re my sister, for God’s sake! You are more important than any piece of paper or world standing.”
“Thank you, Julian,” she said, brushing a tear from her face. “I never thought I would hear you say those words.”
“There is so much more I want to say to you, but realize I can’t, not in your condition. I just want you to know that in the past I haven’t stood up for my sister where our father was concerned. I’ve taken part in every sadistic scheme he has come up with – beginning when you were a little girl, and he sent you away to that sanitarium in France. I should have fought to protect you then, but I didn’t. That’s going to change.”
“Why did our father put me in that awful place, Julian? What was behind it all? Were my nightmares really true? Did I kill someone?” Sheridan asked, becoming more alarmed with each question she asked.
“No, you did nothing wrong,” Julian said, trying to soothe her. “Alistair’s motivations behind what he did aren’t important. You just understand that it was nothing you did. You were the innocent victim in all of this.”
Sheridan nodded, feeling better about those terrible childhood events. “I’ve always been afraid that I did something horrible, something that made me unworthy of love. That’s why I always thought fate seemed against me and Luis. I guess I felt I didn’t deserve his love.”
“Don’t think that,” Julian said. “If there’s anyone who doesn’t deserve love, it’s me. I’ve made a mess of my life.”
“You’re talking about the woman you loved, the one you had a child with? I still can’t believe that tragic story. You and I are a lot alike, Julian.”
“How so?” he asked, looking deep into her beautiful, emotional blue eyes.
“We both are capable of incredible love,” she answered simply. “And if we are unable to be with the person we love, it tears us up inside.”
“I’ve felt like that for years,” Julian said, shifting his eyes to the wall of the pit, “until recently…”
“What happened recently?” Sheridan asked.
“She and I have become closer,” he replied, smiling a bit. “I love that too. I told you we are searching for our son. We have bonded over that search, and I have helped her through some tough times lately.”
“You mean she still lives in Harmony?” Sheridan asked, surprised. “Julian, you’ve lived in the same town as this woman, all your life? That must have been hard for you.”
“Very hard,” he said. “But for years, our paths didn’t cross. She led her life – a happy one with a husband and children and a successful career, while I led my sorry existence of a life.”
“So she married then and had a family?” Sheridan asked. “I think that’s wonderful for her – after what she went through.”
“I am glad she was able to have more children,” Julian admitted. “She loved children so much.”
“You said you have helped her through some tough times – is it family trouble?” Sheridan asked, careful not to pry too much.
“It all has to do with our past together,” Julian said, shifting uncomfortably. “There are so many things that could come out – more than the situation with the baby. Any one of these things could destroy her – the life she’s built.”
“And you are trying to be noble and protect her from the secrets coming out?” Sheridan said.
“I owe her that and so much more,” he said, getting a far-away look in his eyes.
“You really love her, don’t you?” she asked, surprised at her own boldness.
“With all my heart,” he admitted. “She’s all I ever seem to think about – night and day. She’s always there, in the back of my mind. Sometimes I don’t know how I’ll make it through the day without hearing her voice. That’s why I play her tapes – she was a singer, and I have copies of her music. I play her tapes, and I’ll be lost in her voice for hours.”
“Forgive me if this is too forward of me,” Sheridan said, “but I was wondering if she still feels the same way about you?”
Julian smiled sadly. “You’re not being forward. It’s good to talk about it, really. And to answer your question – yes, I believe she does – though she hasn’t admitted it.”
“You said she was married – happily I’m guessing?” Sheridan asked.
“As happy as she can be with all the secrets,” he answered. “I don’t want to do anything to take that away from her – her family. It means so much to her.”
“You really do love her, don’t you?”
“More than life. That’s not saying much considering the pathetic life I’ve lived.”
“I hope things can work out for the two of you somehow,” Sheridan said, feeling her brother’s pain.
“I almost thought recently we had a chance,” Julian said, relaying to her the story of their kiss. “I guess I couldn’t be so fortunate. I still have a lot of atonement to do as far as she is concerned, just as I do with you.”
“Julian, if this woman feels the same way about you that you do about her, then she’s going to be devastated when she finds out that your car went over that cliff.”
“I know,” he said. “It’s not something I want to see happen. I know some people might in my situation…They might be glad that their former lover is feeling pain because it shows that they still love them. I wouldn’t wish pain on her, ever.”
Sheridan nodded, realizing at that moment that Julian’s love for this
woman from his past was greater than she had ever imagined.