“And just how are you feeling now?” Eve asked, checking on Julian. He was sitting up, leaning against the wall of the pit. A blanket still covered him. He looked tired and weak, but he was definitely on the mend.
“I think I will make it,” he joked. “I guess I dodged another one…This time it was thanks to my beautiful physician.”
“I don’t think beauty had anything to do with it,” Eve quipped. “It was skill that saved your life, Mr. Crane.”
“Oh yeah?” he said, grabbing onto her arms and pulling her closer. “Maybe so, but it’s your face I was fighting to stay here for.”
“Only my face?” she said. “Wow…and to think I never believed that Helen of Troy stuff in the history books…”
“Oh, the right face can change the course of history - completely alter the future,” Julian declared. “Yours has certainly put me on a different path.”
Eve smiled. “I can tell you are getting better. You are starting to turn up the charm. Remember, I am your doctor here…”
Julian laughed. “It’s going to be awhile before this patient is ready for anything more than pretty faces unfortunately…but I’ll let you know.” He winked and released her arms.
Turning serious, Eve brought up the subject that neither had wanted to face – Sheridan and the baby. She felt he was strong enough for it now.
Sheridan was still sleeping on the cushion. Eve had spent the night and biggest part of the morning going back and forth between her and Julian – making sure they were both OK. She was thrilled that Julian had made a turn for the better, but knew Sheridan was not out of the woods yet emotionally.
“I failed her…” Julian said soberly, looking over at his sister. “I couldn’t protect her child when she needed me to. I had hoped that I could do for her what I hadn’t done for you, but I failed…I guess God is not through with my punishment.”
“Julian, God didn’t take the baby to punish you,” Eve said, kneeling down beside of him. “And he didn’t do it to hurt Sheridan. We don’t know why some things happen – they just do. We have to make it through these situations the best we can.”
“But I could have prevented it, if I had tried harder…” Julian insisted. “Then Sheridan wouldn’t have had to go through any of this.” He hung his head in shame.
“Julian, listen to me,” Eve said, placing her hand under his chin to lift his face up level with hers. “You tried your best. You took a bullet trying to prevent that kidnapping. You did everything you could to protect Sheridan’s baby. She knows that. She won’t blame you.”
“I blame myself,” he said, choking back tears. “I should have been there for you, Eve, when Father had our son kidnapped. You know I could have somehow kept that from happening. I am as guilty as he is in that whole sad affair…”
“Julian, Alistair was, and still is, so powerful. If you had been with me, he may have taken even more drastic steps to keep our family apart.”
“I have thought of that,” Julian said slowly. “I don’t put murder past that evil bastard. I believe if anyone could kill an innocent baby, he could.”
“Then let it go,” Eve said. “Let the guilt go, Julian. If you don’t, it will eat you up inside.”
“I just should have been there for you, Eve,” he continued, “to help you through the pain. You were all alone…I was off married to Ivy, jet setting around the globe…and you were going through the most horrible thing a woman can go through. How you can still look at me…much less love me, is beyond me.”
“It’s because you do feel this way that has allowed me to realize I still love you, Julian. I was able to release my love for you from that place deep inside me where it was locked up. The key to that place in my heart was learning how much you really loved me and our baby. Bit by bit, that key began slowly turning the lock, and there was nothing I could do to stop it.”
Julian put his hand on Eve’s shoulder. “I love you, but I don’t deserve you.”
“It’s not about deserving,” she said. “If only perfect people found love, our world would be a very sad and empty place. We have something great here…” She paused, suddenly realizing the effects that her rekindled relationship with Julian would have on her life.
“I’ve made you sad, brought you more trouble than good,” Julian said. “Even now, look at how I have interfered in your life.”
“Julian, you haven’t interfered. I was, and am, a willing participant in this,” she said, trying to think of the right words. “I don’t regret our time together in the past or present…It has brought me some of the greatest joy in my life.”
“And the greatest sadness…”
“Yes, I’m not denying that. But great sadness can only come as a result of great love. I love you, Julian…right or wrong, I do…It’s something I can’t change, and it’s not something I want to hide anymore.”
He reached out and grasped her hand. “I love you too, Eve. You make me feel – like I’m worth something…Nobody has ever made me feel that way.”
“Oh, honey, you are worth so much to me – and to Sheridan. Don’t think you’re not worthy of our love. You wouldn’t be capable of giving the kind of love you give to me and to your sister, if you were unworthy of love.”
“I do love you so much it aches, Eve,” Julian admitted. “And Sheridan, I just got her back in my life…We had come so far…Then this happened.”
“She won’t blame you, Julian. She’ll know that you did all you could to prevent this from happening,” Eve said, placing her other hand on top of his so that she sandwiched his hand between her two.
“I just feel like I let her down,” he said. “To put her through what you went through – Oh God! I don’t want to think of that.”
“I don’t either,” Eve said. “It will be a nightmare for her. But Sheridan’s strong, and she has us…She’s going to need you, Julian, so much during this time. You have to be strong for her, OK?”
Julian nodded. “I know,” he said. “I’ll help her every way I can…until we get her baby back for her. And we will get her back.”
“Now you’re talking like the Julian I know and love,” Eve said, letting go of his hands so she could balance herself as she leaned in to kiss him on the cheek.
Julian smiled. “I don’t know what I did to deserve your love, but now that I have it, I’m going to cherish it.”
Eve looked into his eyes and matched his smile. “Sometimes I wonder what I did to deserve a man like you…who could love me as I really am.”
“Exquisite is what you are,” he said. Then he sighed. “We are quite a pair, aren’t we? Neither one of us thinking we deserve to be loved…I know this, Eve, I will love you until the day I die.”
“It’s the same with me,” she said, caressing his hand with her fingers. “You’re my man, Julian, and you always will be…my knight, my rock, whatever you want to call it. You’re mine, and I couldn’t be happier.” She leaned in and gave him another kiss, this time on the lips. “Now get some rest, Mr. Crane, or I will have to report you to the hospital administration.”
“Yes, doctor,” he said, smiling. Before he closed his eyes, he murmured, “I could also report you, good doctor, for harassing your patient.”
She smiled good-naturedly and got up, leaving him to rest. It was time to check on her other patient…
Several hours later, Sheridan opened her eyes. She lifted her head and looked around the pit for a moment, dazed. She reached over where the clothesbasket had been and discovered that it had been moved. Sitting up, it suddenly hit her that her baby had been kidnapped. “Nooooo!” she screamed. “No, no, no!”
Eve ran to the cushion and sat down beside her. She put her arms around Sheridan and held her tight to make her feel safe. “My baby!” she cried. “They took her! They took my baby!”
“I know, sweetie,” Eve said softly. “It’s going to be all right. We’ll get her back. You’ll see.”
“She’s gone,” Sheridan sobbed. “My little girl is gone…”
“Sheridan, look at me,” Eve said, pulling away slightly so she could see Sheridan’s face. “They’re not going to hurt your baby, sweetie. I think they just wanted a baby of their own. Maybe it’s someone who couldn’t have a baby. She’s safe for now.”
“They won’t hurt her?” Sheridan asked. “What if they don’t mean to, but they don’t know anything about babies. What if she won’t stop crying and they get angry? Eve, she’s my baby girl…What if something happens to her?” She collapsed into Eve’s arms, sobbing.
“There, there, it’s going to be all right,” Eve said soothingly. “We’re going to get your baby back, dear. You won’t have to go through…” She stopped, feeling her own pain return.
“I won’t have to go through what you did?” Sheridan asked, lifting her head off of Eve’s shoulder and wiping the tears from her eyes.
“I wasn’t sure you knew about that,” Eve said quietly. “I knew you were aware of some things…”
“I kind of put two and two together, here in the pit,” Sheridan revealed, choking back her tears. “Julian told me some things about a woman from his past that he was still in love with. When you came, it was so obvious that that person was you.”
“So you know about our baby,” Eve said softly.
“Yes, Eve, that’s such a tragic story. I’m so sorry you had to go through that.”
“It was the worst time in my life,” Eve admitted. “It’s almost too painful to think about. But Julian has people looking for our son, and with any luck, we’ll find him soon.”
“That’s wonderful,” Sheridan said. “I hope you do.” She hung her head down and began to sob. “I just can’t go through that, Eve. I can’t. I’m not strong like you.” She started crying loudly.
Eve gently put her hands on Sheridan’s shoulders and looked into her eyes. “Sheridan, listen, you are very strong. Look at all you have been through these past few years. You have persevered through things that most people never have to deal with. I don’t know how you managed, but you did. You were completely alone in this pit for two weeks before Julian got here. Most people would have given up long before that, but not you.”
Sheridan nodded. “I just had faith,” she whispered.
“And faith is all that is necessary to get you through this too, Sheridan. Your faith in God is strong. I know that. He got you through your labor safely and allowed you to have a healthy baby. I don’t think He would do that just to take her from you. You’ll get her back – you’ll see.”
“I…hope…so,” Sheridan sobbed, wiping her eyes once more.
“And there’s Luis,” Eve said. “You know how much he loves you, right? And he is such a fighter. He never gives up. Sheridan, he won’t give up here until he finds you and your baby. You know that, don’t you?”
“Luis is terrific,” Sheridan said, smiling. “He sure doesn’t give up. You’re right about that. I don’t know how many times I told him he should give up on me in the last year, but he never did.”
“He loves you too much to give up on you, sweetie…in love and in this.”
“He is tenacious,” Sheridan said fondly. “He’s so persistent. That’s what attracted me to him in the first place – his stubbornness. It got to me, you could say.” She smiled, remembering the tense early days of their relationship.
“You see there? Luis is stubborn,” Eve said. “He’ll never give up until he finds us.”
“I think you’re right,” Sheridan said. “He’ll find our baby and protect her. He would never let anything happen to her.”
“Not in a million years,” Eve said. She and Sheridan hugged.
Sheridan pulled back finally and asked, “Where’s Julian?”
“He’s sleeping over there,” Eve motioned. “Sheridan, do you remember what happened with Julian?”
“I just remember him trying to shield us, to keep us safe,” she said.
“He did,” Eve said. “At one point he tried to step in front of me. The gun went off. We hit the ground. Neither one of us was hurt, but Julian whispered for me not to move. I think he wanted it to look like we were dead. It worked, because one of them came down here to get the baby. That’s when Julian tried to fight her off, and the other one…shot him.”
“Shot him! Julian was shot?!” Sheridan cried. “Is he going to be OK?”
“He’s going to be just fine,” Eve said, reassuring her. “He was hit in the arm and lost some blood, but I got it stopped in time. He’s kind of weak, but he’ll be all right.”
“Did you get the bullet out?” Sheridan asked.
“No, I don’t think it’s a major concern right now. When we get him to the hospital, the bullet can be dealt with. It can wait.”
“I can’t believe my own brother was shot, and I didn’t know anything about it…” Sheridan said.
“Sweetie, there is only so much a mind can take. I think yours tried to block out what it could last night, to help you cope with what had happened.” Eve grasped Sheridan’s hand in hers. “Julian’s going to be all right, and we’re going to get your little girl back.”
Sheridan smiled. “I can’t lose faith when I’m around you, Eve. You’ve been through so much yourself, and if you can keep your faith, so can I.” The two women hugged once more, and then Sheridan got up to check on her brother.
“He’s been such a hero to me down here,” Sheridan said, leaning over Julian and fingering his hair.
“To me too,” Eve said, coming up behind her. “I’ll never forget how Julian saved your life and mine.”
“It’s unbelievable how he has changed,” Sheridan remarked, sitting down beside her sleeping brother. “Or maybe it’s just that I didn’t really know the good side of Julian.”
“There is so much good in him,” Eve said lovingly. “He just doesn’t let a whole lot of people in to see it.”
“I, for one, am glad he let me in,” Sheridan said. “He’s one incredible guy.”
“That he is,” Eve agreed. “One incredible guy…”