G5 Chapter Thirty Five, Part Two – The Worst Day, Part Two

Two Hours Before

“To your room, young lady, and please don’t wake your sister,” Darcey said, pointing to the girls’ bedroom door. “I’ll deal with you in a moment.” Darcey collapsed onto the sofa and huffed a sigh of relief. Rae Kemp sat at the counter reading the paper when the front door opened. She set the paper down and stood, watching down the hall as Elyse slinked off to her bedroom.

“Rough night, Darcey?” Rae asked her. 

“Oh, Rae, you can’t imagine. That kid is in some serious trouble. I’d hate to be her.” 

“How about some tea?”

“You know, tea sounds good. If you don’t mind, I’ll join you when I’m done dealing with Lysie.” 

“I wouldn’t have offered it if I minded. Just care for Elyse, and I’ll care for you.” Rae walked to the kitchen to put the teakettle on the stove, humming a cheerful tune.

Darcey slipped her shoes from her feet and rubbed the soreness out of them. After traipsing around the islands for the equivalent of two ER shifts, they hurt. “I’ll be right out,” she said and limped toward the girls’ bedroom. When she opened the door, Elyse was on her bed, weeping. 

“I’m in big trouble, aren’t I, Aunt Darcey?” she whispered, tears in her eyes. 

Darcey nodded her head. “You should have known better, Lysie. I know you’ve been through more than most kids your age. Being from a famous family takes a toll. I know all about that, sweetheart. But you can’t do as you please and think you’ll get away with it because you lost your brother. Your mama and dad lost a child, and their suffering was on display for the entire country to see. You won’t understand it until you have a child of your own. It’s a terrible pain to endure, and they didn’t deserve it any more than Emmitt deserved to drown.” She sat on the bed next to Elyse and put her arm around her. “If you need someone to talk to, I’m always here for you. And if I can’t help you, I will find someone who can.” 

Elyse wiped tears from her eyes. “You’d do that for me?”

Darcey’s expression softened, and she embraced Elyse in a hug. “Oh sweetheart, of course I will. I love you, you know.” 

“Thank you, Aunt Darcey. I love you, too. And I’m sorry I said I hated you—I don’t. I was just angry.” She looked down at her folded hands and sighed. 

“You’re forgiven, sweet pea.” Darcey kissed Elyse’s forehead. “Why don’t you get ready for bed? If I hear anything about your dad, I’ll come tell you. Deal?” 

She sniffled and wiped her tears. “Thanks, Aunt Darcey.”

“You’re a good girl, Elyse. Please, don’t make trouble for your mama and dad, okay? They do so much for you and your brothers and sister, and your misbehaving? Well, it hurts them. It’s like a slap in the face when you act up.” Darcey noticed Elyse wince and touch her face. “You’re so much better than that.” 

“Okay,” she said, and nodded. “I won’t.” 

“Get some sleep, Lysie. Morning will be here soon. Goodnight.” 

“Goodnight, Aunt Darcey.” Elyse changed into her pajamas and snuggled down into bed, and drifted off to sleep.

Darcey walked back to the living room, where a fresh cup of chamomile waited for her. “I don’t know what you like in your tea, Darcey, so I just brought some honey and lemon for you to choose.” 

Darcey picked up the teacup and breathed in the minty vapor. It was the first time since Danae’s frantic phone call she had allowed herself to relax—her body melted into the sofa cushions with the first sip of tea. 

“Thank you so much, Rae, for coming and watching the kids and Danae. It’s been a tough day for this family. Andy needs to consider how his decisions affect those who love him.” 

Rae took a sip of her tea. “Don’t be too harsh on him, Darcey. Andy is more sensitive than any of us realize. He and Kirby are so much alike, sometimes it’s a little creepy. Kirby would have done the same thing.” 

“Run away from his problems? Kirby doesn’t seem the type.” 

“Not running from his problems, Darcey. Allowing me to be free. Of course, I would never want that. But it’s that mindset—the fear of failing his family. That’s what drove Andy away.” She took a sip of tea and sat forward in her seat. “I have every confidence that Kirby will find him and bring him home. It’s because they’re so alike that I know my Kirby will find him. He has to, for everyone’s sake.”   

Darcey sipped her tea. “Mmhmm. Andy knows how much Nae loves him, and I know he adores her. I can’t imagine how difficult it was for him to walk away from her.” A smile of sudden understanding pulled across her face. “Now that I think about it, it shows his love for her, doesn’t it?” 

Rae nodded and smiled. “You’re catching on. Andy is a good man. Honest, hardworking, decent, loyal. His work ethic is impeccable. Kirby saw all those qualities in him when they met. It’s why he’s working so hard to take care of Andy. He needs his manager to run the team.”

“Just like Danae needs him here.” Darcey set her teacup on the coffee table and tucked her leg under her. “He’s a very important guy. He’s the reason we’re here. Clint is so thankful for that, too. He loves life on the island, and so do I.” 

“I’m happy I included you in the deal Kirby made with Andy. Danae needs you, especially with all that’s going on with your brother. Was he always this wretched?” 

“No,” Darcey said. “We were all very close when we were young. Devin was closer to me than Danae, though. He doesn’t keep in touch, not that I would talk to him anymore. He’s caused too much pain.” 

Rae set her teacup down. “I understand. Would you like another cup, Darcey? The water is still piping hot.” 

She glanced at her watch and pondered the offer. “Oh sure. One more cup might help me mellow out a little more. I’m staying tonight to watch over Nae, just in case she needs me. You’re welcome to go home if you’d like?” 

“I promised Kirby I’d stay and help in any way I can. He should call when he arrives in Dragon Valley. I hope his search is quick and fruitful.” 

Darcey nodded. “Me too. I’ll get the tea, Rae. You sit.” She stood and walked to the kitchen, brought the teakettle in, and filled both cups with hot water. She found two more bags of chamomile and opened them, plopped them into the water, and sat back. “You know, Rae, the suite upstairs is open if you’d like to rest up there.” 

“Oh, I’m okay, Darcey, but thank you. I don’t sleep well when Kirby is away. He is my life, you know.”

Darcey nodded. “I understand. Clint doesn’t travel for business, and I’m thankful. I don’t know how Nae does it with Andy gone so often. They’re inseparable.” 

“Danae is an extraordinary woman. I’ve never met anyone quite like her.” 

“Mmhmm, that she is.” Darcey stirred some honey and squeezed a lemon wedge into her tea. “So, Rae. How did you meet Kirby?” 

Rae blushed. “I was working at a different resort as a housekeeper. I didn’t have education past high school, so cleaning was all I could do. And Kirby saw me one morning while he was walking to the front desk.” She smiled, lost in the memory. “He was on a business trip from Riverview. He told me I was the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen. If you asked him, he’d say it was love at first sight. I took a little more convincing.” 

Darcey smiled. “That’s so sweet, Rae. How long did you date?” 

She sipped her tea and shook her head. “We never dated, per se. He got my phone number. He left the island, and I didn’t think of him again. But he never forgot about me. Riverview is far from here. Kirby never would have asked me to leave my family. So he moved everything, gave up his successful restaurant and sold his investment company. He brought it all here to be with me. When he came back, we saw each other twice before he proposed. We eloped three weeks later.”

“Wow!” Darcey set her teacup down and smiled. “I thought Clint and I had a whirlwind romance!”

“We had Corrie and Cody after our fifth anniversary. He wanted some time to establish his business here first. It astonished me when he told me he was an entrepreneur back in Riverview.”

“You didn’t know?”

Rae cocked her head and looked into Darcey’s eyes. “He never mentioned it, and I never thought to ask. He’s so charming that it didn’t matter. I would have followed him anywhere. I went back to school and completed my degree in education. When he bought the stadium and the team, he gave the academy to me to manage. The Accolades Academy has been my benevolence project since my graduation from college. Each year, we give a four-year scholarship for the academy to two needy families on the island. I used to act as principal, but I’ve stepped into an administrator role instead. Now, I oversee the school’s operations, a superintendent of sorts.” 

“Wow, Rae. That’s an incredible story. You’ve had a beautiful life here.” 

“Oh, it hasn’t always been perfect. When the twins were younger, Kirby had problems with alcohol. I spent too many nights at home caring for our family while he was out drinking with the team. Then one night, he nearly killed himself while driving drunk, and I gave him an ultimatum: me or the liquor. He chose me, sobered up, and he hasn’t had more than a beer with Andy and Aaron on a rare occasion.” 

Darcey sat and looked at Rae, in awe of the strength and poise she displayed. “I admire you, Rae.”

Rae blushed again. “I’m just a wife and mother. Kirby is my hero.” 

“Well, you’re both awesome in my book,” Darcey said, and yawned. “As much as I’d love to sit and chat, I’m fighting to stay awake. I’m so sorry.” 

“Don’t be, Darcey. I’ll let you rest, and I’ll sit by the pool. It’s a lovely evening to watch the stars.” Rae picked up both teacups to place into the dishwasher. “Sweet dreams. You deserve it.” 

Darcey settled on the sofa, a pillow under her head. “Thank you, Rae. Let me know if you hear anything.” 

“I will.” Rae walked outside to sit under the stars, praying that Kirby would find Andy.

*****

Kirby retrieved his cell phone before they accessed the airport terminal. Even though it was early in the morning, he promised Rae an update, and this one would please her. 

“Hi doll,” he greeted her. “I have some fantastic news!”

“Did you find Andy, mi amor?” 

“Yes, I did, Rae. We’ll be on our way home soon.” 

Rae’s face beamed with excitement. “Shall I tell Danae for you? I’m here at the house with her and Darcey.” 

“I think she’ll welcome the news, so the sooner, the better.” Victor stood in the jet’s doorway, awaiting their arrival. “Rae, I need to go. Please tell Danae I accomplished my mission, and we’re both coming home.” 

“I will. Be safe, Kirby. I love you more.” 

He chuckled. “Yes, you probably do. I love you, too.” 

Andy and Kirby settled into seats across from one another. They both knew they wouldn’t sleep on this flight back home. It would be an evening to plot and strategize the biggest, most important game either of them had ever played. Victor stood at the table and acknowledged both of them. “What may I get for you, gentlemen?” 

Kirby thought for a moment. “How about my special reserve champagne? This is a glorious occasion.”

“Very well.” Victor turned on his heel and walked away. 

Andy yawned and rubbed his eyes. “Kirby, you are an incredible sleuth. How did you find me so fast?” 

“Not that difficult, to be honest. I don’t recall you saying anything about having friends up here, so I figured that was a dead end. You weren’t sleeping at the airport. So, I figured I’d find you at the only inn.” Kirby snickered. “You used your real name, so you weren’t trying that hard to hide.” 

Andy laughed. “I didn’t figure anyone would come looking for me. I thought I’d stay under the radar until I could get on my feet.”

“You knew I wouldn’t let you slip away without a fight. I can’t run all the intricacies of that team without you.”

“Yeah, it’s all fine and good until we have an away game, Kirby. I can’t go with you. I can’t be in the stadium with the team.”

“Just leave all that up to Tony. Which reminds me, what kind of evidence do you have against Devin Jones? I know you have a bunch of doctored photos attached to his email address. What else do you have?” 

Andy took his laptop from his briefcase, booted it up, and retrieved his email archives. “This one here, Kirby.” He pointed to the email Devin had sent him after Andy fired him. “This one told both Danae and me to watch our backs. That email scared Danae half to death. Lysie and Eamon were little then.”

Kirby wore a horrified expression. “Now that… That takes some guts. He must have known that would bite him in the rear end someday.”

Andy grinned. “It looks like that someday is soon, thanks to you and Tony. I’m sure he didn’t figure I would hang onto stuff like this. I can’t believe my chance to bury him is here.”

“I told you I had your back, Andy. Never doubt me. I’m only nice to people I love. Everyone else is fair game for my wily ways.” He tried to pull off an evil laugh, but the funny face he made had Andy in stitches. When they both stopped laughing, Kirby patted his hand. “It’s good to see you smiling, son. We’re going to beat this. You have my word, because I’m not stopping until we do.”

Victor returned with two chilled flutes filled with sparkling champagne. “Gentlemen.” 

Kirby lifted his glass for a toast. “To you, Andy. Because you’re a champion.” 

“Cheers!” Andy toasted in return. The men clinked the glasses together and sipped. Andy sat back in his seat and smiled.

*****

In the wee hours of the morning, Rae clicked the “End” button on her cell phone. She was the only one awake in the Murphy home. Darcey slept on the sofa. The kids were asleep in their bedrooms, and Danae still rested in the master bedroom. Kirby’s phone call brought the news for which she’d hoped—he’d found Andy and was bringing him home to his family. 

Rae tiptoed into the house to where Darcey rested and tapped her shoulder. “Darcey?” 

She stirred and opened one eye. She didn’t recognize Rae’s voice under the veil of sleep. “Oh, hi Rae.” 

“I’m sorry,” Rae chuckled. “Did I disappoint you?” 

Darcey eked out a sleepy grin. “No, I forgot I stayed here. How’s Nae? Have you heard from Kirby?”

“I just hung up the phone. Kirby found Andy, and they’re both on their way home.” 

“This is awesome news!” 

Rae nodded. “Perhaps you’d like to tell Danae? I think the news would be best coming from you.”

“Thank you. I’d love to give her some good news for a change. Maybe it will soften the bad news about Elyse.” 

Darcey opened the door to the master suite and tiptoed inside. Danae was restless, but sleeping. Darcey sat on the bed with her and touched her shoulder. “Nae? Sweetie, wake up.” 

Danae saw Darcey’s face and her eyes filled with tears. “Hi sissy. I feel like hell.” 

“You won’t when I tell you my news. Kirby found Andy, Nae. They’re both coming home.” 

Danae sat straight up in bed. “Are you serious?!” 

“Yep. They’ll be home in about eight hours, if they make decent time.” 

“I could kiss you!” Danae hugged her sister, weeping happy tears. “My sweetheart is coming home! I thought I’d never see him again. What changed?”

“Kirby had some good news. I’m not sure what.” Darcey was going to tell her about Elyse, but decided against it. “I’m thrilled for you, Nae.” 

“Have you been here since I called you, Darce?” Darcey nodded and yawned. Danae felt guilty. “Go home and get some rest. Aren’t you working in the morning?”

“I’ve already called in sick for the day. I didn’t know if you’d need me.”

“It’s okay, now that I know Andy is coming home. Go home to Clint and the boys. Get some sleep. I’m going to wait in the living room until the kids wake up.” 

“I promised I’d tell Lysie when I knew something about her dad. But, I need to break some bad news.” Darcey sighed. “You won’t like it.” 

“Uh oh… what happened now?”   

“How much do you remember after I got here yesterday afternoon, Nae?”

Danae shook her head. “Not much. All I could feel was pain.”

“Understandable. Well, you were arguing with Elyse when I walked in. Things got ugly, and she left.”

“That doesn’t surprise me in the least. Where did she go?” 

“Eamon thought she might have gone to Howie’s house, so I went looking for her.” Darcey swallowed hard. “Danae, Chris Collins caught them in bed together, half naked. She claims they fell asleep, but she was only wearing a pair of panties when I got to her.” 

Danae inhaled a slow breath and held it for a moment. “Did I just hear you right? My twelve-year-old daughter was in bed with that Collins kid? Half naked?” 

Darcey shook her head, still in her own disbelief. “It didn’t look good, Nae. Chris was furious. I wasn’t much better.” 

“I was hoping to wait a little longer for her purity pledge, but I see it can’t wait. Andy and I need to discuss this soon.” 

“Clint and I have discussed it—we’re still undecided. I don’t envy you, Nae, with two little girls.” 

“I might appreciate how Mama felt with me asking questions all the time,” Danae snickered. “But Elyse doesn’t ask me anything. We need to approach this with her. I don’t need grandbabies with toddlers in the house.” 

Darcey laughed at the irony. “The generational curse works. I can’t tell you how many times I heard Mama mutter under her breath, ‘I hope Danae has a daughter just like her’.” 

“Are you serious? She said that?” 

“Mmhmm,” Darcey said with a grin. “I see it worked.” She looked at her watch and yawned. “I think I’m going to head out, since you’re okay.” The sisters hugged one last time. “If you need me again, never hesitate.” 

“Of course not. I love you, Darce.” 

“I love you, too, Nae. Enjoy Andy when he comes home, because I know you will.” 

“Bet your butt I will.” They laughed and Darcey waved as she left the bedroom. 

Now Danae had another, bigger problem. But for tonight, the good news about Andy would suffice. The rest could wait until after school. She tiptoed into the girls’ room and tapped Elyse’s shoulder. 

“Mama?” She tried to focus through bleary, tired eyes. “Is that you?” 

“Yes, Lysie. I wanted to let you know Daddy is on his way home.”

With a sigh of relief, Elyse whispered, “Good.” 

Danae planted a kiss on her oldest child’s forehead. “Get some more sleep. It’s still early.” 

“Mmhmm,” she said, before the quiet tug of sleep reclaimed her.

*****

Danae was wide awake when Elyse’s alarm sounded a few hours later. The coffee pot was fresh, and breakfast was on the griddle when Eamon dragged himself from his bedroom. 

“Good morning, Eam,” she said with a smile.

“Good morning,” he said, wearing a sleepy grin. “I’m sorry about yesterday, Mama. I didn’t mean to cause trouble for you.” 

She held her arms open for her oldest son. “You’re forgiven, sweetheart. How about a big bear hug?” He wrapped his arms around her and squeezed her as tight as he could—she planted a kiss on his cheek. “I love you, Eam. Daddy’s on his way home. I thought you’d like to know.”

“I’m glad Daddy’s coming home, more for you than for me.” 

Danae’s eyes welled with happy tears. “Me too, sweetheart. And it means so much to me to hear you say that.”

Elyse’s bedroom door opened, and she trudged into the living room. Morning came way too soon, and she was still tired. “Good morning, Mama,” she said with a yawn.

“Good morning, sweet pea. Come get some breakfast. Cakes are fresh.” She and Eamon sat at the island counter, and Danae served them both a stack of banana pancakes. She couldn’t believe her two oldest were almost teenagers, one of them in desperate need of a purity pledge. 

The house that morning was the polar opposite of the previous morning. The children were in a decent mood. Teddy and Tessa still slept, and Danae sang cheerful love songs while she puttered. Andy was on a private jet bound for the island, and she couldn’t wait to see him. Yes, she thought. I’ll take today over yesterday any time.

The school bus arrived at its usual time. As she did each morning, Danae walked them both to the door. Before she could leave, Danae took Elyse’s arm and looked into her eyes. “Come straight home from school today. No ballet. Do you understand me?” 

Elyse swallowed hard. “Yes, Mama.” 

“I don’t think I need to tell you why. I’m going to speak with your father about what you did, and we will decide how to handle it. Until then, consider yourself grounded from all after-school activities, especially ballet.” 

“Yes, Mama.” 

Danae kissed her forehead. “Have a good day, sweet pea. I love you.” 

“I love you, too.” She said nothing more before she left. 

Two hours later, Darcey knocked on the front door. Danae cocked her head at her sister standing there. “Darce?” 

“I’m getting the twins for a playdate, since I have the day to myself. I need some baby time.” 

Danae knew the real reason her sister was there. She hugged Darcey and whispered in her ear. “Thank you!”

Darcey gave her a knowing look. “Have all the fun, Nae. You deserve it.” 

Twenty minutes later, Darcey’s SUV pulled away from the house, her three-year-old biological children in their car seats. She hadn’t thought of them that way since they were born. To her, Tessa and Teddy were her niece and nephew, but she sure loved to spoil them. 

Danae hopped into the shower, dressed in the skimpiest negligee she owned, and waited on the sofa for Andy’s return home.

*****

Hours later, Andy’s key turned in the front door of the house. Complete silence welcomed him home—no children giggling, no television, no bustle of a busy wife. He set his bag in his office and took off his sport coat. He tiptoed into the living room and found Danae, sound asleep on the sofa, dressed in a sexy outfit, looking like she was expecting him. Andy smiled, but felt the pangs of guilt biting at him. He couldn’t imagine what he’d put her through. 

He sat on the floor by her face and laid his head next to hers. His breath slowed to match hers; the scent of apples perfumed her hair, and he breathed it in. It was something he believed he’d never do again just twenty-four hours ago. The soft sensation of his fingers on her skin awakened her, and when she saw his face, she smiled. Without saying a word, she nuzzled her face into his. 

“Hi sweetheart,” he whispered. “I’m so sorry, Nae. I’m sorry I left, that I put you through hell. All of it was so unnecessary. I feel terrible.” A single tear formed in the corner of his eye and rolled down his cheek. He hated to cause her pain, and he’d done so much more than his share over their fourteen year marriage.

“None of that matters anymore. You’re home.”

“You’re way too forgiving, baby.” He shook his head. No, he wouldn’t let her forgive him this easily. Not this time. He’d hurt her too much, too deep. He was about to speak when he felt her mouth on his in a passionate kiss.

Danae’s hungry kisses consumed him. She savored the taste of him, the sweetness of his kiss. When she pulled away, she looked into his caramel brown eyes, and her heart melted. How she loved that man. 

“You’re all I want, Andy. For the rest of my life. No one else. Do you understand that?” Another soft kiss, then she bit her lip. “I don’t care what the circumstances are, babe. You’re the only one I want.”

Andy looked away from her, ashamed of himself. “I don’t deserve you, Danae. I will never deserve you.” 

“Shh,” she whispered, and kissed him again. “Are you gonna keep talking, or are you gonna take me to bed?” 

Without saying another word, Andy stood, lifted her off the sofa, and carried her into their bedroom.

*****

Elyse carried her backpack to her locker and grabbed a smaller bag with clothes in it. Howie was right behind her.

“Hi beautiful,” was his standard greeting.

Elyse sighed and closed her locker. “Hi, Howie.”

“What? No kiss?” 

“I’m in so much trouble. I’m not in the mood.” 

“Well, I am, too. But that doesn’t stop me from loving you, Lysie.” 

She shook her head. “You don’t get it, do you? I’m grounded from ballet! I have to go right home today after school.” 

He wrapped his arms around her and kissed her. “I’m sure you don’t. Everything will be normal soon.” 

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She pushed away from him. “You really don’t get it. I have to go home with Eam on that bus. If I don’t show up, I’m making it worse for myself. I want to dance again someday, Howie. It’s all I want.” 

“Psh,” Howie said, and rolled his eyes. “Your dad will let you dance. Aren’t you his favorite? Besides, what happened last night was no big deal. We’re best friends first, and boyfriend-girlfriend second. Everyone knows that.” 

“My aunt didn’t see it that way. I got ‘the talk’ last night. My mom told me to come right home after school. My dad will be home later today, and I don’t want to face him. Howie, I’m legit afraid of my dad. I’m even more afraid of disappointing him, and I know I did.” 

Howie rolled his eyes again. “Psh. He’s not gonna hurt you! Sometimes, I wish I had your folks. My dad isn’t the kindest man to live with, you know.”

“I know.” Elyse had witnessed Chris Collins’ brand of discipline firsthand twice, and it frightened her. She was grateful that Andy never made a move to strike her, not one time.

“What will you do without ballet?” 

“I haven’t thought about it yet. I’m still going to practice. There’s a barre in the garage my dad set up for me.”

“Well,” he said, “we have gym class right now. Why don’t we take advantage of it?” 

“Ballet?”

He gave her a sly smile. “What do you think?” 

Elyse nodded and took his hand as they walked to their spot under the bleachers.

*****

In the afterglow of a beautiful afternoon together, Andy laid with Danae wrapped around him. Her head on his chest, her body rose and fell with his breathing. His fingers touched her shoulders—her soft giggles broke the silence. 

“That tickles,” she whispered. 

“I know it does. Why else would I do it?” 

“I’d expect nothing less.” 

He felt her snuggle closer, her leg wrapped around his. “I know I wasn’t away long, but I missed you so much.” 

“I missed you too. Things were rough yesterday after you left. Darcey ran everything here.” Danae clenched her jaw. She dreaded her next words. “Which reminds me, Andy, I have something to discuss with you. I don’t think it can wait much longer.” He felt her draw a breath and hold it. 

“What is it, honey?” He kissed her forehead and brushed a stray lock of hair from her eyes. 

“Elyse and I had a rough day yesterday. It started before she and Eamon left for school, and I guess after she got home, Darcey tried to set her straight, but she ran off.” 

Andy growled, and his body tensed up. He didn’t like getting negative reports about his kids. “Where’d she run off to, Nae?” 

“Howie’s house on the north isle. Darcey went looking for her after Eamon tipped her off.” She looked into his eyes and caressed his cheek, hoping to soften the blow of her next words. “Chris Collins found them in his bedroom, Andy. They were in bed together, half naked.”

Andy clenched his jaw and spoke through his teeth. “How did Collins allow this?! It’s up to him to make sure nothing happens under his roof!”

“Lysie claims they fell asleep together, but Darcey said she was only wearing her underwear when she found her.”

“What should we do, Nae? She is too young for this.”

“Her birthday is coming up in a month. At first, I wasn’t sure about the purity pledge. But I am now. What do you think?” 

Andy nodded in agreement. “Would you come with me? I don’t know how to approach it.”

Danae smiled at him. “You know I will, babe. Expect her to be embarrassed, especially discussing sex in a public setting. I know Darcey and I were when Daddy took us for our date.” 

“What do I tell her? I mean, how do I say this to her?”

She kissed his chest and ran her fingers through the curly hair. “Just present the ring, and tell her you’d like her to promise to wait. That she’ll wear the ring on her left hand until it’s replaced by her wedding ring.” She nuzzled into his side, his hand reaching down to stroke her messy hair. “It’s really that simple.” 

“You know what else is really simple, Nae?” Andy squirmed under her soft touch. 

“Mmm,” she sighed. “What’s really simple?” 

“How much I love you.”

“And how much is that, babe?” She winked at him with expectation.

“Here,” he said with a sexy growl. “Let me show you.”

*****

After school, Elyse opened the front door of the house, Eamon right behind her. “Mama said he’d be home today, Eam. I hope she wasn’t lying.” 

“Mom isn’t a liar, Lysie. If she said it, he’s home.”

“His car isn’t in the garage. How can I be sure?” 

Eamon rolled his eyes. “Don’t believe her, I guess? When has she ever lied to you?” 

Elyse huffed. “She hasn’t. But still…” 

The door to the master suite opened, and Andy stood in it, waiting for the joyful sounds of his children. And as he expected, Eamon and Elyse squealed. “Daddy!”

He opened his arms for them and squeezed them both in a bear hug. “I’m sorry about yesterday, kids. My rough day shouldn’t have affected you like it did. The good news is, I’m home and I’m not leaving again. Ever.” 

Both kids cried happy tears, but Elyse wouldn’t let him go. “I missed you, Daddy,” she cried over and over. 

Eamon pulled away from the hug and stepped back, letting Elyse have Andy all to herself. She wept on his shoulder, and Eamon was sure it was because she knew how much trouble she’d created for herself. “I’m glad you’re home, Dad,” he said. “But I need to start my homework. I have more than usual.”

“Thanks son,” Andy said. “Lysie, I want to talk to you.” He kissed her forehead. “This is not open for debate. Your mama and I have things to discuss with you about yesterday.” 

Elyse cried harder. “No, Daddy. Please?” 

“I’m sorry. Non-negotiable.” He took her by the wrist and hung onto her. “Eam, if you need us, we’re in the bedroom with your sister.” Elyse tried to pull against him, but he tugged her. “Come, Elyse.”

“I don’t want to!” 

“I’m sorry about your luck, young lady. But you can’t pull stuff like you did yesterday with no consequences.” Andy picked her up over his shoulder and held her. Elyse screamed and fought him, slamming her fists into Andy’s back. He carried her into the bedroom and locked the door behind him. “You will not run from me if you know what’s good for you, Elyse.” Danae waited on the bench for them. Andy plopped her down next to her mother and then sat beside her, making a pre-teen sandwich with parental bread. 

“Daddy—” she started, but Andy’s scowl stopped her. 

“Who do you think you are? You will never hit me like that again!” Andy was irate. 

“I’m sorry,” she cried. 

“You’re making things harder for yourself, Elyse,” Danae said. 

“I’m scared!”

“You don’t have to be frightened, but you’re not getting away without punishment, either!” Andy stood and paced the floor. “Don’t even try to get past me. You’re just going to extend your penalty if you do.” 

“I’m sorry, Daddy,” Elyse sobbed. “It wasn’t what it looked like!” 

“Then why don’t you tell me what it was? From what Aunt Darcey said, you were almost naked with Howie Collins in his bed. Is this not true?” 

Elyse huffed a lock of hair from her face. “Well, when you say it like that—”

Andy made a move to strike her, but restrained himself when he saw her flinch. “Now’s not the time to get smart with me, Elyse. Now is your chance to make a case for leniency. So, I’m going to ask you again. Were you half naked in Howie’s bed with him? Yes, or no?”

“Well, yes, but we were only sleeping!” 

“What’s your definition of ‘only sleeping,’ Elyse? Were you touching each other? Kissing?”

Elyse rolled her eyes. “We had our eyes closed, he cuddled up behind me. I was wearing his shirt and my panties, and he had on boxer shorts and a muscle shirt. We. Were. ASLEEP!” she yelled. 

Andy closed his eyes and counted to ten. “You will not take that tone with me, Elyse. You just keep making things harder for yourself.”

“Why doesn’t anyone believe me? We were sleeping!” Danae heard frustration in her daughter’s voice. 

“Lysie, you don’t understand the situation you put yourself in with Howie. You are too young to have this type of relationship with him!” Danae tried to reason with her. She felt more like she was talking to a brick wall instead of a thinking twelve-year-old girl.

“Howie and I are just friends! Why can’t you get that through your thick skulls?” Elyse bit her tongue the second she said it. Andy had heard enough. He reached for her, picked her up to meet his eyes, and looked straight into hers. 

“You’re grounded for a month. No ballet, no Howie. No after-school activities until further notice. You will NOT disrespect me or your mother like this, Elyse! Go to your room. NOW!” The veins in his neck bulged as he spoke to her. He couldn’t recall ever being this angry. He hoped he’d never get there again. 

“I HATE YOU!” she screamed at the top of her lungs, and ran from the bedroom. Andy heard the front door open and close, and he raced after her. Danae wept, still seated on the bench. 

The locked gate stopped Elyse after Danae jammed the code from her cell phone. It gave Andy the chance he needed to catch her. He picked her up and carried her back into the house and to her bedroom, plopped her on the bed, and paced the floor. 

“Elyse, what has gotten into you? Why are you like this?” Andy bent over, trying to catch his breath. He hadn’t needed to run like that in years, and he got winded.

She shrugged her shoulders. “I dunno.” 

“I’m losing my patience with you, little girl. You need to learn who’s in charge. You are much too young to be with a boy Howie’s age. Fifteen-year-old boys only want one thing, Elyse. I’ll be damned if he’s going to get that from MY daughter!”

“That’s not your decision, Daddy—”

“As long as you live under MY roof, and I buy your clothing, food, and everything else you want and need, it’s ALL my decision. Are we clear on this? You will go to school every day. You will come home right after school. Your teachers and the principal will be my eyes and ears at the Academy. Don’t think school is your safe zone. Howie is not to come within five feet of you. Do you understand me, Elyse?” 

Elyse was sobbing, positive her father was bent on ruining her life. “Yes,” she huffed, and cried harder. 

Andy sat down on her bed and patted the spot next to him. Though she didn’t want to, she sat beside him. “Lysie, I don’t enjoy punishing you like this. I’d much rather do pleasant things for you. And sweetheart, I don’t want to see you ruin the rest of your life before you hit thirteen. You’re getting into territory where only grown-ups should go.”

“I don’t understand why it’s such a big deal, Daddy. We were only sleeping.” 

“Well, that’s part of a talk best saved for your first date with me.” He took her hands and rubbed her fingers between his. “I want to teach you things that only I can, sweet pea. From a man’s perspective. Remember, I was a fifteen-year-old boy at one time. I know how they think. Howie has little to lose, but you, sweetheart? You could ruin your future in one careless night. You’re smarter than this, Elyse. Please act like it.” 

“I want to be alone,” she whispered. “Please leave my room?” 

Andy nodded. “Just so you know, your windows don’t open, so don’t attempt an escape. It won’t work.” He chuckled when she growled in frustration. “If you have homework, Lysie, get on it.” 

She didn’t say another word.


Two Weeks Later

With Andy on administrative leave from the team, he had time to find and organize his abundant evidence against Devin Jones. At two in the morning, the light still burned in his office. Danae walked from the bedroom into the living room and discovered Andy at his desk, his nose buried in his laptop. She tapped on the door, and when he saw her, he waved her in. 

“Hi sweetheart,” he said. “What are you doing up so late?” 

“I could ask you the same question.” She sat down in the chair opposite him and yawned. “What are you working on?” 

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He tapped a few keys and turned the screen. “Remember this email?” 

The header still made her skin crawl. “That email gave me nightmares for months.” 

He opened up the email to print. “This is one of many things I have that I’ll use as evidence of your brother’s vendetta against me.” He cringed and opened the email from Wyatt, one that he’d forwarded ten years prior. “And there’s this one, with all those pictures attached to it. I’d be willing to bet your brother doesn’t know I have them, either. If he wasn’t a dead ringer for your dad, I’d wonder if Devin was part of the family.” 

Danae snorted. “Darce and I have said the same thing often.”

The printer behind him on the credenza fired up, printing page after page of emails, photos, and other evidence that Devin had been trying to ruin Andy’s life. Documentation from his knee injury and subsequent surgery. Sworn statements he’d collected from Aaron and Wyatt prior to their transfer to the island. He even found an old email from Smitty, with evidence he had collected. 

“Well, this should be everything that’s easy to collect. The photos, well, I’d rather not share those unless it’s mandatory. Kirby filed his appeal last week, and my hearing with a new mediation team will be soon.” Andy took the stack of over twenty pages of additional evidence from the printer and stuck them inside his briefcase. 

“What’s Tony’s role in all of this, babe?” 

“Kirby says he has originals of the rules and regulations from the league from the past thirty years. He’s an avid fan, and he collects things like that, I guess. His law firm is the oldest on the island, and they’ve been representing the Sharks for decades, even before Kirby owned them.”

“I think I understand,” she said, and nodded. “With his original copies of the older rules, you intend to prove your clause was valid when you wrote it.” 

“That’s right. There were no rules ten years ago that stated my clause was illegal. The personal grudge is a bonus. Maybe this will stop your brother, maybe it won’t. But if I get my job back and I’m reinstated, that’s all I care about. Although it would be nice to get him out of a position of power. Fiona, too. She wields too much power and holds too many personal grievances to be an effective commissioner.” 

“That’s an understatement.” Danae recalled Aaron’s year-long battle with Fiona over ten years of plays. “Kirby does what he promises, though. He stood behind Aaron and fought like a cornered animal for him. I know he won’t quit until you’re restored as manager.”

Andy took a sip of water from a glass on his desk. “Kirby has been a formidable ally through this entire process. I hope, though, this is the end of the investigations. There’s no one left to scrutinize but Kirby himself, and he’s pretty untouchable. I mean, he owns the franchise. He does everything by the book.” 

“He has the best manager in the country by his side, babe. That has to help.” She took his hands and kissed his fingers. 

Andy gave her a sly smile. “Flattery will get you everywhere, you little vixen.” 

“Oh, that wasn’t flattery, babe. I meant every word.” She sucked on the tip of his index finger. She drove him wild when she did that, every time.

“Want to come to bed with me?”

Danae nodded her head. “What do you think, sexy man?”

Andy stood and scooped her out of the chair where she sat—Danae giggled and squealed as he carried her away to their bedroom.


Two Weeks Later

Kirby walked into the courtroom in downtown Isla Paradiso, loaded for bear and ready to defeat Fiona Jones and her insufferable husband. Tony, who was just behind him, met Kirby in front, then set down his briefcase and a box of files. They shook hands before they sat.

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“Are you prepared, Tony? We have to win this appeal.” Kirby was cautious, but optimistic. “You know I have every confidence in you.” 

Tony flashed his winning smile. “Of course we’re ready! I have the books and the files I need to show that Fiona has altered the rules to suit her purpose, and all of Andy’s evidence. And, you have me on your team. Not to be full of myself, but I’m a rather excellent attorney.”

Kirby smiled. “It’s good you insisted on holding the hearing here instead of in a mediation room. This should keep the chicanery to a minimum.”

“Well, be aware she and Jones will try, but I have every contingency planned.” Tony glanced at his watch and then back to Kirby. “Is Andy running late?” 

“He should be here any moment. He’s nervous, so there’s a good chance he won’t feel like his normal, witty self.”

Tony chuckled. “He has nothing to worry about. My defense is so watertight, it squeaks.”

Kirby laughed out loud. “That’s pretty watertight!” They settled down at the table and waited for Andy to arrive, which he did three minutes later.

“Gentlemen,” he greeted them with handshakes and a smile. Andy knew the stakes were higher than they’d ever been, but he also felt confident. Tony had coached him, and together, they spent hours pouring over the evidence he had collected against Devin for the past twelve years. It was time for Jones to burn like the dumpster fire he had become. Andy couldn’t wait.

“How are you feeling, Andy?” Tony asked him. 

“I feel like a winner.” He said it more to convince himself than anything else.

“Good! That’s how you should feel, because you’re leaving here reinstated and employed. You have my word.” Tony gave him a quick hug, and both men sat. 

Fiona and Devin Jones entered the courtroom next, with her team of pre-chosen mediators. Tony was on his feet in an instant, waving his finger at Fiona. 

“Oh no! You’re not pulling your tricks today, Commissioner! We are not using your mediators.” 

“You have zero influence here, sir. This is League business—” Fiona said, but Tony interrupted her.

“I represent Anduin Murphy. An impartial judge will hear this case and decide, not your hand-picked, sympathetic mediation team.”

“That was not the condition set forth by the appeal—”

“On the contrary, Commissioner. The appeal stated where the hearing would take place, which you read. It stated that I would represent the defendant, and that a neutral third party would preside. Did you not read your copy in its entirety?” 

Fiona huffed. “Appeals are standard, so no. But since we’re on your turf, have it your way, Mr…?” 

“Cardona. Antonio Cardona, Esquire.” He offered his hand for Fiona to shake, but she snubbed him.

“Should I be impressed?” she snipped.

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“You can let me know later, Madam Commissioner.” Tony smirked and walked back to the defense table. 

Kirby saw the smile on Tony’s face. “What was that all about?”

“Kirbs, this will be a cakewalk! She never read the details of the appeal. She expects Andy to roll over and accept his fate. Fiona Jones will get the shock of her life here today.” Tony sat down and patted Andy on the back. “Don’t worry, Andy. You’re walking out of here victorious.”

Before the proceedings began, Danae and Rae walked through the door together. From the spectator area, Danae rubbed Andy’s shoulders and kissed the top of his head. 

“Hi, baby,” he said, and swiveled his chair to see her. “I didn’t expect you here. Who has the twins?” 

“Trix is taking care of them, so I could come to support you. Stephanie and Tessa love to play together.” She gave his shoulder a quick but gentle squeeze. “You’re going to win this, you know. Knock ‘em dead, babe.” 

He stood and took her hand to kiss. “It means everything to me you’re here. Thank you.” 

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“Are you kidding? I wouldn’t miss this!” One last quick kiss, and she took her seat next to Rae. 

With the league mediators seated in the jury section, Fiona and Devin took their places. The judge appeared from his chambers moments later and began the hearing that would decide Andy’s fate. The judge swore everyone in and banged his gavel to start the proceedings.

Fiona stood to present her case. “In the matter of the Professional Soccer League versus Anduin Murphy—”

“That’s ‘Football,’ Madam Commissioner,” Tony corrected. “It’s called ‘football’ here on the island.” 

Fiona scowled at him. “The appeal of decision number two-four-nine-three-four, the Professional Football League versus Anduin Murphy.” She glanced at Tony and frowned. “Is that better, Esquire?” she asked in a biting tone.

Tony grinned ear to ear. 

She continued. “In reviewing Mr. Murphy’s past contracts, the League directors and I have discovered multiple additions to documents that are not valid according to league standards. These addenda render void all contracts containing the clause; thus, all players with such contracts are free agents, and violate Section Four, Part Twelve of the league rules. Mr. Murphy is the guarantor of all said contracts and is therefore subject to penalty as set forth by the Commissioner—permanent expulsion from the League without pay or benefits.” Fiona took her chair when she finished. 

Tony stood, a stack of books containing the rules and bylaws of the League, on the table in front of him. “Your Honor,” he began, “I intend to show today that, not only did Mr. Anduin Murphy do nothing wrong with the specified contracts, but that there is a personal animus against Mr. Murphy by the Commissioner and her husband, Devin Jones. I maintain he was within League rules when he signed the original contracts. I intend to prove such.” He walked to where the mediators sat and turned his attention to them. “Mr. Murphy is not guilty of the violations of which the League has accused him, and I will seek reinstatement to his previous position of Team Manager.” He bowed his head and looked at the judge. “Your Honor.” 

Fiona stood again, the copies of Andy’s contracts in her hand. “Your Honor, I wish to submit these as evidence, along with a hard copy of the Rules and Regulations. You will see the obvious violation of standards by Mr. Murphy, highlighted in yellow.” 

The judge took the paperwork from Fiona and perused the contents. “Mr. Cardona? Do you have a rebuttal to this?” 

Tony stood, confident. He held the original copy of the Rules and Regulations book from the stated time period. “Your Honor, I wish to submit this book as evidence. This is the original book of Rules and Regulations from ten years ago. In it, you will find no clause that prohibits a team manager, or anyone else, from paying out benefits to a contract beneficiary. In fact, Your Honor, on the Commissioner’s copy, you will find a revision date. What is that date?” 

The judge compared the two sets of rules. “One was revised six months ago; the other, not since the original vote. The latter is the one you submitted, Mr. Cardona.” 

“When was the original infraction discovered in the contract, Madam Commissioner?” 

Fiona felt the blood drain from her face. To stall him, she shuffled papers around, searching for the answer she already knew. 

“Madam Commissioner? We’re waiting for an answer,” said the judge. 

She stood, her head lowered. “Five months ago, Your Honor.” 

“Isn’t it true, Madam Commissioner, that you revised the rules yourself in order to trap Mr. Murphy in a contract violation? Isn’t it true, Mr. Jones, that YOU’VE had enmity toward Mr. Murphy for the past twelve years? Isn’t it also true that this personal animosity played a large role in the decision to revise said rules and regulations?” 

The accusations, while true, had Fiona flustered. Devin looked at her and motioned her to him. They whispered among themselves for a moment, and Fiona looked at the judge. 

“This is a total fabrication! Outright lies!” Fiona blurted out. 

“Be careful, Madam Commissioner. I don’t tolerate lies in this courtroom,” the judge spoke. “May I remind you, you are under oath.”  

She knew Tony outsmarted her on the rules, but she was positive he could never prove that her husband held a grudge against Andy Murphy. The evidence didn’t exist. Devin had assured her. 

Tony stood, his posture displayed confidence. “I would like to call Anduin Murphy to the witness stand, Your Honor.” 

The judge nodded. “Mr. Murphy, I’d like to remind you that you’re under oath.” Andy returned his nod and sat on the judge’s left side. 

Tony approached the witness stand. “Sir, please state your name for the court?” 

“Anduin Rowan Murphy.”

“And, Mr. Murphy, are you related to the plaintiff?” 

Andy nodded. “Yes. Mr. Jones is my wife’s brother.”

“What is the nature of your relationship with Mr. Jones?” 

Andy clenched his teeth and wished Danae weren’t there. “Tense. Hostile. My wife is afraid of him. I have permanent scarring and injury in my knee from an unprovoked attack during a game in Starlight Shores.” 

The judge looked at Devin. “You attacked him? You are fortunate he didn’t press charges, Mr. Jones.” 

Devin only shrugged. 

Tony paced the floor in front of the witness stand. “So, Mr. Murphy, would you say that Mr. Jones is a danger to you and your family?” 

Andy paused, took a deep breath, and exhaled. “If Danae fears him, then I will do everything in my power to keep him away from her and my children. I won’t take any chances with my family.” He clasped his hands together. “He is brazen enough to attack me in the open. I don’t know what he would do when he thinks no one is watching him.”

The judge nodded in agreement. “I can’t say whereas I blame you, Mr. Murphy. Any further questions, Mr. Cardona?” 

“Just one more, Your Honor. Mr. Murphy, how long has Mr. Jones held this grudge against you?” 

Andy held his breath for a moment to think, sat up in his seat, and shook his head. “When I worked for Mrs. Jones at the Starlight Shores Llamas, Mr. Jones had several conduct violations against him, and I terminated his position on the team. That is when all of this began.” 

“No more questions,” Tony announced. The judge motioned to Andy, and he took his seat next to Kirby.

Fiona stood. “This is ridiculous! You can’t prove any of your allegations, Mr. Cardona!”

Tony spoke once again. A wry smile pulled his face. “Your Honor, I would like to submit these emails sent by Mr. Devin Jones to Sharks’ Center Midfielder Wyatt Searcy. You will find these documents applicable to this case.”

Devin’s jaw dropped open. Fiona glared at him, sat beside him, and yanked on his arm. “What does he have, Devin?! You swore to me there was no evidence!” 

Devin shrugged and lied to her. “I don’t know what he’s talking about, Fi!” 

She grumbled under her breath, stewing over the blatant lies Devin piled on top of her. “Do NOT talk to me!” she growled. 

The judge looked through the papers that Tony had submitted. “There are photos with this email?” he asked, and Tony nodded. “I’d like to see them.” 

Andy’s body stiffened as he gripped the arms of his chair. But Kirby reached and squeezed his arm. “It’s okay,” Kirby whispered. “Tony has the intimate parts censored. The judge only needs to see intent, not the actual photo.” 

“I was hoping we’d be able to save Danae from that humiliation, Kirby. She’s had more than enough.” Andy rubbed his temples with his thumbs, turned around, and saw Danae wipe tears from her eyes. He mouthed the words, “I’m sorry,” to her. All he wanted was to hold and comfort her. 

Tony presented the photos to the judge, and said, “I’d like to call Wyatt Searcy to the witness stand, Your Honor.” 

Tony’s announcement shocked Andy, who spun around to see his best friend smiling at him. Wyatt, who slipped into the courtroom undetected, was a surprise witness for Andy. Fiona’s angry gaze met Tony, and she objected.

“What is HE doing here?” Fiona growled.

Tony walked to the plaintiff’s table. “Mr. Searcy has some pertinent information about this case, and that email in particular. His testimony will apply to the topic at hand.” 

The judge swore Wyatt in, and he took his seat on the judge’s left side. Tony approached him. 

“Sir, please state your name for the court?” 

“Wyatt Eugene Searcy.” 

“And Mr. Searcy, what is your relationship to the defendant?” Tony asked him.

Wyatt smiled and leaned forward to speak into the microphone. “Andy and I go back to Starlight Shores. He was the first real friend I had in the Shores after my transfer from Appaloosa Plains. He recruited me to the Sharks team after he moved here. Andy’s my best friend in the entire world.”

Tony smiled. “Please tell me about the email in question, Mr. Searcy. When did you receive it from the plaintiff, and under what circumstances?”

Wyatt cleared his throat. “When Lionel O’Reilly owned the Llamas and still lived, his locker room policy was simple: No talkin’ garbage about anyone’s family. Period. If they weren’t there to defend themselves, they were off-limits. But Devin, uhm, I mean Mr. Jones, loved to talk about his sisters, both Danae and Darcey, like they were women of ill-repute.” Wyatt blushed. “Well, those were my cousins he’s talkin’ about, and I don’t take too kindly to people pickin’ on innocent womenfolk, either.”

“Anyway, a rumor started around the locker room about the time Andy and Danae moved from the city, that Devin had some naked pictures of Danae cheatin’ on Andy.” Wyatt hung his head, breaking eye contact with Devin Jones. “Well, at first I didn’t believe him, because I know Miss Danae loves her husband. We went back and forth over whether them pictures were real, and I told him I doubted him. So I asked him for the proof.” He paused for a moment. “His email arrived that night. I only ever saw one picture. But it was enough.”

Tony paced the floor in front of the witness stand. “So, you approached Mr. Murphy with the email and photos, Mr. Searcy?” 

Wyatt shook his head. “No, sir. At first, I confronted Danae, because the photo I saw was pretty convincing. I wanted to know if they were real. That was the weekend we were here for negotiations, Aaron and me. Andy was so angry I had ‘em, but when I explained why, he forwarded the mail to his own address to keep.”

“And why did Mr. Murphy want to keep these photos of his wife, Mr. Searcy?”

Wyatt grinned. “Andy knew Devin was spreadin’ lies about his wife, but he could do nothin’ about it. He wanted proof that everything Devin was doin’ was false, made up. Not true. He had a bunch of us watching Devin, collecting evidence for him. The pictures, I reckon, were the most helpful of everything we gathered.”

Tony winked at Wyatt. “Thank you, Mr. Searcy. I have no further questions.” 

The judge dismissed Wyatt from the witness stand and then stood. “I’m taking time to review the emails and photos. The court will take a ten minute recess,” he announced. With the bang of a gavel, he retired to his chambers, Andy’s evidence in his hands. 

Ten minutes later, the judge returned from his chambers, still holding the paperwork both parties had submitted. He sat down, cleared his throat, and spoke. 

“With the evidence I’ve received from both parties, and considering Mr. Searcy’s and Mr. Murphy’s testimonies, I believe it’s obvious there was personal animosity toward the defendant. I believe it’s fair to conclude this conflict was the sole reason the contract violations occurred. On the same note, it’s also fair to conclude the Commissioner revised the rules to trap the defendant in said violations. Do you have any other evidence against Mr. Murphy, Madam Commissioner?” 

Fiona shook her head in utter defeat. “No, Your Honor.” 

“Mr. Cardona, I rule in favor of your client, Mr. Anduin Murphy. I recommend his immediate reinstatement in his former position with the Isla Paradiso Sharks, with full reimbursement of lost wages, paid by the League Commissioner.”

The judge turned to Fiona. “Madam Commissioner, you have committed grievous offenses against the Professional Football League with your biased judgments. I will recommend to the Board of Directors they scrutinize and punish your actions since assuming your role as Commissioner, according to your misconduct, up to and including removal from your position—”

“With all due respect, Your Honor, you have no jurisdiction over League business—” Fiona said, but the judge interrupted her with the bang of his gavel. 

“Madam Commissioner, I am surprised you don’t yet recognize me. I sit on the League’s Board of Directors, and to be frank, I outrank you. I have every right to suggest your reprimand to the Board.” 

Fiona stood and pointed her finger at the judge. “Yours must have been the missing vote! Your Honor, this was no impartial judgment, and I demand a—” 

“Madam Commissioner, you will not disrespect me in my courtroom, or I will hold you in contempt. You’re treading on thin ice.” Fiona sat back in her seat, her arms folded and an angry scowl on her face.

The judge turned his attention to Devin. “Mr. Jones, effective today, you will not come within ten feet of Anduin Murphy. You will not contact Mrs. Murphy or any of her children. Those photos of your sister are shameful, and it’s clear you have psychological issues. Get some professional help. Are we clear on this, Mr. Jones?” 

Devin took a deep breath, glared at Fiona, then at Andy—his gaze shifted back to the judge. “Yes, Your Honor.” 

“If there are no further objections, I adjourn this hearing,” the judge announced.

Andy stood, feeling an enormous weight lifted from his shoulders. Kirby embraced him in a tight hug. “Congratulations, though I never doubted the outcome. Your car is in the parking lot. I drove it here to give it back.” Kirby dangled on his finger the key to the car Andy had returned four weeks earlier—his brand new Bugatti Chiron. “Welcome back home, son.”

“Kirby, thank you for never giving up. The nightmare is over.” Danae stood, waiting to congratulate him. When he saw her, he kissed and hugged her to him and whispered into her ear, “Baby, I’m so sorry about those pictures—”

“Shh, it’s okay,” she whispered back. “They helped you win this case today. Besides, it looks like we’re finished with Devin.”

He brushed a stray lock of hair from her face and kissed her again. “You’re still way too forgiving.” 

She smiled. “Only you, babe. I’ll never forgive my brother. He is a sick man.”

“He is, but it’s over. All of it. Tony has the restraining papers issued by the court for us to sign, and it’s done. No more Devin, baby.” 

Andy felt a strong tap on his shoulder, and when he looked up, Tony stood, waiting for a handshake. “You did it, Andy. Good job.” 

“Thank YOU, Tony. I couldn’t have done any of this without your guidance and coaching. I owe you my life.” 

“It’s my job. Congratulations!” Tony took Andy’s hand and shook it with a firm grip. “Kirby knew something was shady when he called me. I’m glad he brought you home so we could make this right.” 

“Thanks, Tony. Me too.” Danae sidled up to Andy and took his arm. “Are you ready to go, my sweet?” 

Danae smiled and nodded. “Let’s go home and celebrate.” 

In the excitement and commotion, Fiona and Devin slipped from the courtroom unnoticed.

*****

Devin Jones stormed out of the courthouse door, livid that his last chance to give Anduin Murphy a final, metaphorical “bird” had slipped through his fingers. His wife, Fiona, was on his heels, just as angry. 

“What the hell was THAT back there?” Devin screamed at her. “You should have made this foolproof!”

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“YOU ruined everything with those emails, you idiot! What were you thinking?” Fiona growled back.

“Murphy shouldn’t have had that email and the pictures, Fi!” He slammed his fist into his open hand. “I sent those to Searcy in strict confidence!”

“You’re not very sharp, are you?! Searcy and Murphy are best friends! What made you think Wyatt would keep them to himself? And what kind of freak takes naked pictures of his sister, anyway? You’re a sick man, Devin.”

“Hey, I didn’t take those pictures! I just edited them. It was part of a bigger plan.” 

“Yeah? How’d that work out for you? You don’t think past the end of the week! I’m surprised it’s taken you this long to fail.”

“Well, you’ve failed me in every way, you useless bitch.” Devin spat on the ground near her feet.

“What did you just call me?” she snarled at him. 

“You heard me, woman.” His hateful gaze met hers. “You’re a complete waste of my time.” 

“I wasn’t expecting Kemp’s lawyer to be that on top of things. How was I supposed to know he had the originals of those books?!” Fiona paced outside the courthouse in the parking lot. It didn’t matter that the press were everywhere, catching the biggest story in the country. 

“You ask questions, genius!” Devin paced the ground in front of her. “You had one job, Fi, and that was Murphy’s demise! Why do you think I helped you become commissioner?”

Fiona looked at him in shock. “Oh, my goodness! You were just… using me?” The awful realization hung over her head.

“Well, look who figured out the obvious. Congratulations, stupid.”

“You contemptible son-of-a—” She planted her knee into his groin and put him on the ground. “I gave up a happy marriage for you!” 

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Devin fell to his knees, retching from pain. “Yeah, about that. You shouldn’t have left Cael.” 

“How could you, Devin?! I fell in love with you!” 

“There’s no such thing as love, Fi. You used me as much as I used you. We were together for one reason, and love wasn’t it.” Devin struggled to his feet. “You’ll hear from my lawyer. It’s a good thing my pre-nup is solid.” 

“Devin, please…” Fiona fell to her knees. “Please don’t leave me here like this!” 

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“Yeah, don’t call me. Goodbye, Fiona.” Devin straightened up his suit, dug the keys from his pocket, and walked to the car. He backed out from the lot and spun his tires before he drove away, leaving Fiona in a crumpled, sobbing heap in front of the courthouse.

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Up Next: Chapter Thirty-Six, Generation Five


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G5 Chapter Thirty Five – The Worst Day, Part One

Three Years Later

Tessa and Teddy played together before Elyse and Eamon needed to be ready for the school bus. Danae was at her wits’ end with her oldest. 

“Lysie, do you have what you need for ballet after school? I can’t keep running your pointe shoes to the Academy every day!”

Elyse rolled her eyes and sighed. “Yes, Mama. Besides, Howie can come get them for me after school if I forget them—”

“That’s NOT the point, young lady!” Danae crossed her arms and stood behind the island while a fresh batch of pancakes cooked on the griddle. “You are almost thirteen years old! It’s time you started being more responsible!”

Her back turned to Danae, Elyse made a talking motion with her hand and muttered under her breath. “Blah, blah, blah…” She hated nothing more than being treated like a child, something her mother excelled at doing on the regular. “Eamon! Let’s go.” She grabbed her backpack, the ribbons of her pointe shoes dangling at the zipper. “We’re gonna be late!”

“Quit bossing me around, Elyse! You’re not my mother.” 

“Yeah, whatever! Come, don’t come. I don’t care!” She stomped toward the front door, but Danae ran and caught her arm.

“I don’t know what your problem is, but it’s stopping now!” 

“Oh yeah? Make me!”

Danae counted to ten before she laid a hand on her daughter. She loved that girl, but she wanted to beat the snot out of her. “Your father will hear about this, Elyse. You don’t want to be on his bad side today. Trust me.” 

Elyse huffed and jerked her arm away from Danae. “I’m gonna be late.” 

“Then go!” Danae screamed at the slammed front door. Tessa toddled to Danae, who flopped on the sofa in front of the large screen television. 

“Mama?” She held her arms up to Danae to be lifted.

The girl’s soft, curly black hair shined in the early morning sunlight. Danae picked her up and snuggled her close. “It’s okay, Tessy.” She kissed the girl’s sticky cheek about the same time she smelled something burning. “The pancakes!” She placed Tessa back onto the floor and dashed into the kitchen, where smoke was already billowing. A cup full of water went onto the griddle—a puff of steam swelled from the hot pan, along with the sizzle of flash-boiled water. “Aw, crap!”

“Aw, crap!” Teddy’s 3-year-old voice parroted. 

Danae laughed out loud. The little ones always reminded her of better times with Elyse and Eamon, times when they acted like they still loved her. “I guess you didn’t want pancakes for breakfast after all, did you, Teddy Bear?” He shook his head and giggled. 

Ah yes, the giggles of three-year-old twins were always the salve she needed for her aching heart. Her argument with Elyse almost forgotten, she finished preparing breakfast for the twins so she could get them bathed and ready for a nap. 

*****

Andy grumbled as he opened his office door. Commissioner Jones would be at the stadium with her miserable husband in an hour. It was a meeting he dreaded, and it was becoming more and more commonplace as her ridiculous investigation of the Sharks franchise continued. This time, Andy’s managing tactics were under scrutiny after Fiona failed to ban Aaron from the league. She intended to present evidence of unethical recruiting practices. Kirby had gone over every fine detail—he was confident the panel would exonerate Andy as well.

Andy wore a business suit, dressed to impress, for he would sit in front of a committee of league mediators. Every player they acquired since Kirby hired him, including Aaron Hall and Wyatt Searcy, was in question. Kirby knew the charges she would present were bogus. Now, he and Andy stood in solidarity against the shrew married to Andy’s estranged brother-in-law. 

“Are you ready, Kirby? I mean, do we have our defense solidified? I can’t afford to lose my shirt in a legal battle.”

“Relax, son.” Kirby rested his hand on Andy’s shoulder. “You and I both know the charges they’ve fabricated won’t stick to you. They have no case, and they know it.” Andy slouched in his seat, unsure of himself. “This smacks of desperation. We’ve got this.” 

“How are you so certain of everything? Ten years of contracts for them to dissect. Fiona will find just one thing wrong she can exploit. Danae and the kids? They’ll be fine, Kirby. Every action I’ve taken, every part of me, is on the line. Devin will try to destroy me. He’s made it clear I’m on his hit list.” His mind raced back to over ten years of threats and attacks from his estranged brother-in-law.

Kirby sat down across from Andy. “I have your back, no matter what happens. I won’t allow the league to penalize you and your family, especially when you have young children at home. Any monetary damages they levy, I’ll take care of it. Just another cost of doing business.” 

Andy wrung his hands. “You know, at some point, Kirby, I won’t be worth the money you’ve paid me over the years.”

“Nonsense.” Kirby smiled at his manager. “You’re still the best business decision I’ve ever made for this team, bar none.” 

At 10:00 AM on the nose, the two men entered mediation. Fiona and Devin Jones sat at the head of the table—a panel of four mediators hand-picked by the commissioner attended the meeting. 

“You’re late, Kemp,” Fiona snarled. 

Kirby ignored her. “Gentlemen, my team manager of ten years, Anduin Murphy. He has followed league rules and regulations to the letter. I have years’ worth of contracts that he has signed in my stead, everything in complete compliance.” He opened his briefcase and retrieved his laptop, and opened the folder that contained digital copies of every contract Andy had ever signed for every acquisition. “I can provide hard copies of these documents when necessary.” 

“You have no other evidence than this?” An older gentleman on the panel, one who looked to be about Kirby’s age, spoke. “We have already seen the contracts, Mr. Kemp, and the league has reviewed them. This is the reason we’re here today. Commissioner Jones maintains that your acquisition of Avery Tillman violated league protocol. And from what we have seen of his contract, we agree.”

“With all due respect, sir, Mr. Tillman’s contract is flawless,” Kirby countered.

The mediator handed Kirby the copy of Avery’s initial contract. “This clause, Mr. Kemp, is not valid.” He referenced a highlighted area, one which Andy had added to the contract himself with Kirby’s approval. It was the hook that landed Avery for the Sharks—the security system that Andy paid for himself. “Mr. Kemp, you are aware, are you not, that the league permits only franchise owners to pay out benefits to contract beneficiaries? This clause states that Mr. Anduin Murphy tendered payment on the item in question. It nullifies Mr. Tillman’s contract. He’s been playing for your franchise for years without a valid contract, which is an egregious violation of league standards.”

“This is ridiculous! There is no problem with that contract! I approved it myself.” 

“But your name does not appear on it, Mr. Kemp. Anduin Murphy is the guarantor of this contract, not you. He alone is subject to penalty as determined by the Commissioner.”

Andy massaged his temples with his fingers. They expected a different outcome than this. Everything he had worked for was on the line. It didn’t look good. 

Fiona spoke. “We knew there was something fishy about Mr. Murphy’s practices as manager. From Mr. Tillman’s contract forward, we have scrutinized every one written since, and they all contain the same illegal clause. It’s well within my authority to ban you from the league, Mr. Murphy.” Andy noticed Devin’s arrogant smirk and anger swelled within him. “You could appeal the decision, but the final determination is mine. I would start cleaning up my resume if I were you, Mr. Murphy.” 

“I will fight you until the day I die, Jones!” Kirby shouted across the room. “Come on, this isn’t right, gentlemen.” He appealed to the four men who sat in judgment of his team manager, the one he couldn’t do without. 

“Is this your final decision, Commissioner?” a younger man asked Fiona. 

With a tone of finality, she uttered one word. “Yes.” She turned to Kirby. “Mr. Kemp, I am expelling your team manager, Anduin Murphy, from the league effective today, without pay or benefits. You have the right to appeal, and I will hear additional evidence. You have thirty days from today to submit your appeal in writing. You have the right to obtain legal counsel. Questions, gentlemen?”

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Andy, who Kirby had advised to not speak, felt ill. His career, his entire life, would change forever if he lost this appeal, and it seemed likely that he would. Kirby huffed his displeasure and shook his head. “No questions.”

The four men on the mediation team ended the discussions and adjourned the meeting. Andy was quiet on the way back to his office. Kirby was on his heels. 

“Andy, you don’t have to clean out your office. As far as I’m concerned, you’re not going anywhere.” 

“Didn’t you hear her, Kirby? She’s banished me from the league! What am I going to do now? I know nothing else.” Andy folded his arms and buried his face. He didn’t want to cry in front of his boss, though Kirby wouldn’t have blamed him. 

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“This won’t stick, Andy. She has no authority to do this—”

“Come on, Kirby. Stop kidding yourself. You need to face it. I’m finished. I’ll be gone in an hour.” 

“Andy, you don’t need to leave. I’m not firing you.” 

“You don’t have to. The Shrew already has.” He reached for the paper box that sat by his desk, flipped the lid from it, and started packing his desk into it—photos of Danae and the kids, one of him and Danae from their vacation to Sunlit Tides. A plaque that belonged to his father. Kirby stood and watched in disbelief as his star employee took the key to a brand new Bugatti Chiron off his keyring and handed it to him. “I’ll call a cab. The car is in the parking lot.” 

“Andy, wait—” Kirby called to him, but Andy walked out of his office and toward the parking lot, the box of his personal effects in his hands.

*****

“Elyse, why are you being so awful to Mom?” Eamon sat with his older sister at lunch. “You know she doesn’t need your tude. So why do it?” 

She shook her head. “She treats me like I’m Tessa’s age, Eam. Why did we have to have a younger sister and brother, anyway? I miss Emmitt.” 

Eamon patted his sister’s back and rubbed her shoulder. “That’s no reason to give her a hard time, Lysie. She misses him, too.” 

She peeled her orange and tossed the skin toward the garbage can. “Could have fooled me. It’s like Emmitt never even existed. Like they don’t miss him anymore.” 

“You don’t mean that—”

“Don’t I?” She peeled an orange segment off the fruit and handed one to Eamon. “What if Emmitt had never died? Would Tess and Teddy still be here?”

He shook his head. “I dunno.” 

“Hey gorgeous,” Elyse’s boyfriend and ballet partner, Howie, approached them. He grabbed a chair, turned it around, and sat, his elbows resting on the chair’s back. He held a can of cola, which he sat on the table. “How’s my best girl today?” 

She puffed a lock of hair from her eyes. “I’ve been better, Howie.”

“All ready for ballet after school? I have some new dance moves I want to teach you. They’ll be great for the end-of-the-year recital.”

“What kind of moves?” She handed him an orange segment, and he kissed her hand before he ate it right from her fingers.

“You’ll have to wait. I can’t describe them.” 

“They aren’t naughty, are they Howie?”

He frowned at her. “Give me some credit, Elyse. I’m not a typical fifteen-year-old boy, you know.” 

“You’re right, I’m sorry.” She sipped from the can Howie set down next to her. 

“That was mine, you know.”

“Yeah? So what?” 

“It has my cooties on it.” 

She rolled her eyes. “Cooties? How old are you again?” She took another sip. “We make out under the bleachers during gym class. I’m used to your ‘cooties.’”

“Do you have your pointe shoes?” 

Elyse nodded her head and noticed her brother looking at her with an odd expression. “What?”

“Does Dad know you two are dating? You know you can’t date until—”

“I swear, Eamon, if you say anything to Daddy, I’ll beat you myself!”

“What is it worth to you?” 

Anger flared her nostrils. “Don’t. You. Freaking. Dare!”

Howie stepped in between them. “Eamon, just chill, okay? It’s nothing.” 

“It doesn’t look like nothing.” Eamon knew he had valuable information, and he planned to take full advantage of the situation. “I’ll tell you what,” he said. “Give me your dessert tonight, and I’ll keep my mouth shut.” 

“You little weasel—” Elyse clenched her fist and started toward him, but Howie held her back. 

“Lysie, it’s okay. I’ll take care of it.” He kissed her forehead. 

“You don’t understand, Howie. If my Dad even suspects we’re dating, that’s the end of ballet!” 

“I’ve got this, pussycat. Don’t worry.” 

Eamon cracked up, laughing. “Pussycat? Oh, this is too good!” Elyse glared at Howie.

“See what you did?” She stomped her foot in frustration.

Howie leaned forward to whisper in her ear. “It’s part of my plan. I don’t even call you that, so it’s not believable.” She smiled and nodded. 

The bell rang to signal the end of the period, and Eamon stood. “I’ll meet you at the bus after school, ‘Pussycat.’”

Elyse glared at him, but Howie winked at her. “I have ballet, so no, you won’t. But nice try, weasel.” Howie picked up their trays and cleaned up, took Elyse’s hand, and walked her to her next class. 

*****

Danae had just gotten the twins to sleep when Andy walked through the front door five hours early from work. She got a sinking feeling in the pit of her gut as he walked into his office and shut the door. She tiptoed toward Andy’s office and listened just outside for a clue. 

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Was he angry? Upset? Sad? She couldn’t discern it, so she knocked on the door.

Danae expected to hear a greeting, but none came. She peeked in to find Andy behind his desk, a blank stare on his face and a glass of straight whiskey in his hand. It was only 11:30 AM. 

“Babe?” 

Minutes passed before he even acknowledged she was there. He swirled the liquor in his glass, lifted it to his nose, and inhaled the fumes before he drank the contents in one gulp. He set the glass back down on his desk. The day’s events replayed in his head. He wanted to throw up.

“How did your meeting go?” she asked him. 

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His gaze shifted to her, and when he saw her, his eyes welled with tears. “Not good.” 

She sat in the chair in front of his desk and took his hand. “What do you mean, not good? What happened?”

Andy poured another shot of whiskey and downed it. He took a deep breath and held it in. Maybe if I pass out, I won’t have to tell her, he reasoned with himself. But he released the air in his lungs in a slow, steady stream. “Remember how we talked about worst-case scenarios, Nae?”

She nodded and swallowed hard. “Yes, babe.” 

“Welcome to my nightmare. Fiona banned me from the league. I can appeal, but the final decision is hers. I’m unemployable in my chosen field of work.” A huge teardrop fell from his eyes and splattered onto his desk. “I can’t support you or the kids anymore, and I can’t seek work from another team.” He reached for the whiskey again, poured another shot, and drank it. Danae grabbed the bottle from him and set it down out of his reach. “Kirby is beside himself,” he muttered. 

“Banned? Are you serious?!” 

He nodded. “I’m dead serious. Danae, what am I going to do? I’ve lost everything I’ve worked for all these years. I’m useless to you and the kids…” His hands trembled—the emotion, the awful reality of the day, sank in. Heavy sobs reverberated through his office. “I have failed you in every way. I don’t know what to do…”

Danae had never seen him so distraught, and it frightened her. The confident, unflappable, poised man she loved was in anguish over something out of his control. Her instinct was to comfort him, but she wasn’t sure how or what he needed. It was uncharted territory for her. Nothing ever rattled him. 

“Andy, you’re not useless—”

“Aren’t I? You don’t understand, Danae!” He stood and raised his voice. The alcohol made him feel lightheaded, so he flopped down in his chair. “I can’t work for the football league anymore. Period! Not for Kirby, not for anyone! Devin finally ruined my life, that bastard…” He let his head fall to his desk with a loud ‘thunk.’ 

“I-I don’t know what to say…”

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“I’m leaving soon.” It took all of his strength to lift his head to look at his beloved wife. “If I can’t support you, then I don’t need to tie you down. You need a real man—”

Danae stood up, angry but terrified. “Don’t you dare leave me!” she growled. “I still need you! We have four kids to raise, and I can’t do it alone…” Her anger turned to grief, and then frustration. “You’re better than this, Andy. The man I married would face this—”

“The man you married is dead, Danae. I’m just an empty shell, a shade of my former self.”

“No! I refuse to believe that. Andy please, don’t do anything hasty, not while your emotions are this raw.”

“I’ve already decided, Danae. I’m going back to Dragon Valley tonight.”

Her fury returned with a vengeance. “So, that’s it? You’re not giving me a say in the outcome of OUR marriage?”

“What marriage, Danae? I’m doing you a favor!”

“This? This is no favor! Andy, I love you! Does that mean nothing to you?”

He shook his head and walked toward his office door. “I’m sorry, Danae. You deserve better than a failure.” He walked toward their bedroom while Danae fell to the floor, sobbing.

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*****

Back at his office, Kirby was muddled. He never expected the morning’s outcome, and it shook him to his core. He picked up his phone and dialed the first number that came to mind. Rae’s brother, Tony, was a prominent attorney in town. If anyone could give him much-needed advice, it was Tony.

“Antonio Cardona, attorney at law.”

“Tony, it’s Kirby. I sure could use your advice, brother.”

“Hey Kirbs!” Tony greeted him. “How can I help you out?” 

“How much do you know about laws pertaining to the football league?” 

“A bit, actually. Why? What’s going on?” 

Kirby sighed. “Commissioner Jones just banned Andy from the league without pay or benefits. I want to know what recourse I have.” 

“On what grounds? That sounds fishy, Kirby.” 

“Oh, something about it being illegal for anyone but the franchise owner to pay out contract benefits. Andy, as a hook to catch Tillman years ago, paid for the security upgrade on their home. Fiona claims it’s illegal, and the clause in the contract rendered it null. So he’s been playing without a valid contract since we signed him.”

Kirby heard papers being shuffled, and then Tony’s reassuring voice. “I have original copies of football regulations dating back thirty years. If it was legal when you signed Tillman ten years ago, she has no case.”

Kirby laughed. “You’re such a nerd, Tony. But I’m so thankful that you’re a nerd.”

Tony, who had been called everything but a nerd, chuckled. “Don’t worry. I have your back. Let Andy know I’m taking his case, and I’ll work pro bono. If there’s anything we can present as additional evidence, now’s the time. Any grievance he has with the commish or her husband, anything we can use to show a personal vendetta, I’ll take it. I know Andy has bad blood with that Jones punk. Now’s the time to nail him.”

“I’ll let Andy know right away. Thank you, brother. You don’t have to work pro bono. Send me the bill. If we win this, I’ll owe you more than just money.”

Tony laughed. “Yes, yes, you will. I’ll get back to you, Kirby. Get me everything you can on Jones. That will be a brilliant start.”

“Will do. Thanks again, brother.” 

“That’s what family is for. We’ve got this.” When he ended the call, Kirby felt better. His next call would be to his manager. But Andy’s phone went right to voicemail, so Kirby left a message:

Andy, it’s Kirby. Rae’s brother is an attorney, and he’s taking your case. We’re going to fight that bitch until we win. I’m not giving up. Don’t you give up, either. I’ll be in touch.

For the first time since the whole sham investigation began, Kirby felt good.

*****

Andy’s only bag sat next to him as he rode in the taxi that would take him to the airport. Despite her pleas, he decided on his own that his family was better off without him. With just casual clothing in a suitcase, he left his devastated wife crying on the front porch, bound for his hometown. He hated to leave her, and watching her weep tore him to shreds, but he knew in his heart that giving her freedom to move on with her life was the right play to make. For her sake. Because he loved her that much.

At the house, Andy’s phone chimed with a voice message. Danae still sat in a heap on the front porch of their home, clutching his smartphone in her hand when she felt it vibrate. His last words still echoed in her head. “Don’t look for me. I’ll call you. This is for your own good, Danae. I’m sorry.” She glanced at the message and couldn’t make out the sender. 

She couldn’t unlock his phone without his fingerprint, so she set it on the hallway table when she walked back inside. This isn’t happening! She cried. It was only 1:15 PM—Eamon would be home soon, and Elyse after ballet. Danae hoped Lysie’s attitude had improved, because it was the very last thing she needed. 

Danae woke the twins before Eamon arrived home on the bus and settled them down to watch television with a snack. She tried to hold it together, but telling Eamon that his father left would open a can of worms she’d rather keep shut. 

Ten minutes later, the house phone rang. Kirby’s name came up on the Caller ID. Danae answered it, trying to hide her obvious upset. 

“Hi Kirby.” 

“Danae? Where’s Andy? I need to talk to him.” 

Danae broke down crying, despite her best efforts not to. “He’s… gone.” 

“What do you mean, ‘gone’, Danae? Where is he?” 

“He’s on his way back to Dragon Valley. He said not to look for him…” 

Kirby almost dropped his phone. “Oh my goodness. I guess that leaves me with no alternative. I have to find him. Dragon Valley can’t be so big that he would be hard to find.” 

“If you’re serious about going to find him, Kirby, please bring him home to me? I can’t survive without him…” 

“Don’t worry, sweetheart. He’ll be coming home with me. Trust me.” 

Danae was still sobbing when Eamon walked through the front door. Teddy and Tessa were playing together. “Mom? What’s going on? Why are you crying so hard?” 

She sniffled and tried to gather her thoughts. She didn’t want to sound over-dramatic. “Daddy went on a trip.” 

Eamon looked at her and tried to understand. “Then why cry? He’s coming home, right?” 

Danae cried harder, almost not able to breathe. “I don’t know about that, Eamon. He sounded like he’d left for good.” 

“What did you do?!” Eamon yelled. “Why did Dad leave?”

“Please, son. Don’t…” 

Both Eamon and Elyse preferred their dad, and Eamon assumed she was the reason he’d left. “I hate you!” he screamed at Danae and slammed his bedroom door. 

Danae couldn’t stand any more heartache. On her hands and knees, she crawled to the house phone, picked up the receiver, and dialed it. Her sister answered the phone. 

“Nae?” 

“Darce,” Danae squeaked out. “I need you…” 

“I’m on my way, sweetie.”

*****

Kirby arrived at the airport at 3:00 PM, an overnight case in his hands, and Rae at his side. She kissed him before he boarded their private jet.

“When will you be home, Kirby?” she asked. She sensed his desperation to find Andy—she knew the stakes were high.

“When I find Andy, however long that takes.” He handed his case to Victor, who took it to place on board. “I’m sorry I have to leave you, but it’s of utmost importance that I find him. Danae is counting on me. The team is counting on me, too. Rae, I can’t manage the team without him.”

“I know, mi amor. Find him. Bring him home to his family. Kirby, I have a bad feeling about this. Find him alive.” 

Kirby nodded. “I wish this plane flew a little faster. I need to get there yesterday.” He kissed Rae one last time. “When I have updates, I’ll call you. I love you.” 

“I love you more,” she said. “Hurry. The pilot waits for you.” 

Kirby waved one last time as he walked up the steps into the airplane. Rae watched as the jet taxied to the runway and took off, headed north.

*****

Darcey pulled up and parked outside the Murphy home. Her code opened the gate, and she ran toward the house, her key at the ready. She walked into utter chaos—Teddy and Tessa were screaming, Eamon locked himself in his bedroom, and Elyse was fighting with her mother over their father’s sudden disappearance. “Nae!” Darcey shouted into the pandemonium and then whistled to catch everyone’s attention. The silence that followed was stark, however short.

“Aunt Darcey!” Elyse exclaimed. “What’s going on?” Seconds later, Eamon peeked out from his bedroom with a smile on his face. 

“I don’t know, Lysie. Give me a minute to figure this out.” She sat on the floor with her sister, who laid in a fetal position, sobbing. She brushed a wet lock of hair from Danae’s eyes. “What happened, Nae?” 

“Andy…” was all she could say between sobs. 

“What did he do this time?” 

Danae shook her head. “Devin’s wife banned him from the league, Darce…” She took a labored breath and exhaled. “He left all of us…”

“Oh no,” Darcey said. “What?! Why?” 

“I’m not sure. He didn’t go into details. He went home to Dragon Valley. Kirby is on his way there to bring him back.” 

Eamon charged out of his room. “It’s her fault, Lysie. She chased Dad away!” He pointed at Danae, pure anger in his eyes. 

Darcey stood. Without warning, she grabbed both Eamon and Elyse by the shoulders and pulled them outside. “Eamon, I don’t know where you got your ideas from, but it is nowhere near the truth! Your father is a child sometimes, and he runs away from trouble rather than face it. I don’t want to hear either of you talk to your mother like this again. Do you understand me?” She had his face between her very strong fingers, and she put Eamon on his knees in one swift motion. 

“You don’t know what you’re talking about, Aunt Darcey—” Elyse said, but a slap across the face interrupted her. 

“Don’t you make me do that again, young lady. I know you’ve developed an attitude, but your crap doesn’t fly with me. Are we clear?” Elyse and Eamon both nodded. “You both get back into the house and apologize to your mother!” 

Elyse bit her tongue. She didn’t want worse than what Darcey had already doled out, but she was angry. Instead, she walked into the house, grabbed her backpack and cell phone, and walked out of the front door. “I hate you, and I hate her,” she growled to Darcey on the way out, and pointed at her mother. “I’m outta here.” Darcey tried to run after her, but Elyse, being younger and faster, slipped away from her. 

“What about you, wise guy?” Darcey spat at Eamon. She was out of breath from chasing Elyse, and not in a good mood. “Are you leaving too?” Eamon didn’t know what to say, so he shrugged his shoulders. “If you’re staying, then get some water for the twins. Make yourself useful!” She sat cross-legged on the floor with her sister and rubbed her shoulders while she cried. Eamon, wishing for no more of Darcey’s wrath, did as she asked. 

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Danae cried in Darcey’s arms until she fell asleep on the floor. She covered her sister with a blanket and left her while she bathed the twins, fed and read to them, and put them to bed. She had just finished tucking Teddy into bed when Eamon crept into the bedroom. “Is your homework done?” she asked him, and he nodded. “Can I talk to you? Heart to heart.” 

“Yes,” he whispered. They both left the bedroom and walked onto the patio.

She sat on a lounge chair and patted the spot next to her. “Come sit. I won’t bite you, I promise.” When he settled down next to her, she turned to him and put her arm around his shoulder. “Eam, your dad… Well, I don’t know if he’s coming back. If he doesn’t, that makes you the man of the house. Your mama will need you and Lysie to help her out.”

“Why did he leave? I don’t understand, Aunt Darcey.” 

“Well, I don’t know the complete story, but you know of your uncle Devin, right?” Eamon nodded his head and Darcey continued. “His wife is the football commissioner, and I know you don’t remember living in Starlight Shores, but your dad used to manage the Llamas before we all moved here. Your aunt, Fiona, owns the Llamas, and by extension, so does your uncle Devin. They both have it out for your dad. Uncle Devin has been trying to ruin him for years. It looks like he accomplished that today, Eam. Your dad left, I’m guessing, because he feels worthless. He could have handled everything better, but it is what it is.”

“That’s why Mama is so sad?” 

Darcey nodded. “That’s a big part of the reason, yes. She loves your dad so much, Eamon. Without him, it will be difficult for her to maintain the house and care for Tess and Ted. That’s why she’s going to need your help. Would you do that for her? Do you still love her, Eamon?” 

He wiped tears of regret from his eyes and nodded. “Yes, I love her. I need to tell her I’m sorry.” 

“Good boy,” she said in praise, and patted her nephew on the back. “I need to deal with Elyse and figure out where she’s gone. Are you okay to watch the twins until I come back?” 

“Mmhmm,” he said. “I’ll just read until you come home.” He leaned closer to whisper. “By the way, the first place I’d check is her boyfriend’s house. Howie Collins. They live on the northern island in that brick house on the cul-de-sac.” 

Darcey hugged him to her. “You’re a good kid. Thank you. You’ve saved me hours of hunting for her.” She stood up and stretched. “Don’t let anyone into the gate unless it’s Rae, Aaron, Trix or Wyatt. Kirby went to find your dad. You have my cell number, or if you can’t reach me, call Uncle Clint, okay?” 

Eamon nodded and stood. Together, they walked back into the house.

*****

Elyse called Howie’s cell phone as soon as she cleared the property line. He answered it in two rings. “Hey gorgeous!”

“Not now, Howie. I need a place to crash tonight. My dad left, my mom is a quivering mess, and my aunt is the tyrant of the isle. I need something normal.” She sniffled. “Come get me?” 

“Where are you?” 

“I’m walking down the street toward the city center. I’m almost in front of Trixie’s house now.” 

“Stay on that street, and when it changes, stay there. I’ll get you.” Howie took the keys for his father’s Tesla and snuck out of the house. He was only fifteen years old and not legally allowed to drive. Christopher Collins parked in a lot on the main island, so he wouldn’t even notice Howie borrowed it. The water taxi shuttled him to the main island, a block away from the commuter lot where Chris parked. Howie climbed into the driver’s seat, started the car, and pulled out of the lot, headed toward the Murphy home. 

Howie found Elyse standing at the corner of the dead-end street and the one that led into town, waiting for him. It was obvious she’d been crying, and when he got out of his car, she ran to him.

“Hey, what’s the matter?” he said, rocking her in his arms.

“My life is so beyond screwed up, Howie. My dad left, my mom is a mess…” She sniffled and wiped her nose on her sleeve. “Aunt Darcey is a first-class bitch. She slapped me across the face, Howie. I did nothing wrong!”

“Yeah, what happened to your family? Wasn’t everything good this morning?” 

Elyse nodded. “Other than the fight I had with my mom, everything was normal. I knew my dad had a stressful day, but I don’t know why. They don’t tell me anything! My mom treats me like a child.”

“It’s okay now, Lysie. Come on, and I’ll take you to my house.” He kissed her and helped her into the car. 

When they got to Howie’s house, it was almost dark, and she left two hours prior. “Are you going to call your mom, Lysie? She must be worried sick.” 

She shook her head. “Nope. She’s a basket case, and she’s only worried about herself. My aunt is taking care of everything, but I doubt she’ll care enough to worry. I feel like an outcast in my family.” 

He took her hand and led her to his bedroom. “You can sleep in my bed tonight. I’ll take the sofa in the den.” 

“I can’t take your bed, Howie. You need to rest—”

“You do, too. Baby, you’ve had a tough day. Please? It would make me happy.” 

She felt emotions overwhelm her, and she sniffled. “Would you stay with me until I fall asleep?”

I thought you’d never ask, Howie thought to himself. “Of course I will.” He turned her face to him and kissed her. “I love you, Lysie. I hope you know that.” 

“I do. I love you, too.” She yawned and slid her backpack off her shoulder. “I don’t have any clothes with me.” 

Howie laughed. Oh, this is perfect, he thought. “I’ll just give you a shirt to sleep in. It smells like me, so I’ll be with you all night long.” He opened the door to his bedroom and let her in first. “Are you tired, Lysie?” 

“Mmhmm,” she answered. He handed her a shirt he knew would be snug on her, for his own benefit. “Thank you.” 

“You’re welcome, beautiful. Do you want me to hide my eyes while you change?” 

She giggled. “You’ve seen it all before, Howie. It doesn’t matter.” She slipped her shirt off, put Howie’s shirt on over her head, and slipped her blue jeans off. Dressed in only his shirt and her underwear, she climbed into his bed. “Come cuddle with me, Howie. I need you close.” 

“I won’t say no to that!” He changed into a muscle shirt, removed his pants, and climbed into his bed with her, wrapped around her. He kissed her shoulders and played with her hair, whispering words of love into her ears. They settled down together and dozed off.

*****

Darcey hailed a water taxi that would bring her to the northern island. The trip itself was only ten minutes, but finding a ride to the cul-de-sac would prove trickier. Few cars were on the smaller islands, and taxis were non-existent. So she navigated on foot to the street where Eamon had told her, in search of the white home where Howie Collins lived. 

An hour later, she found the white house, right where Eamon had said. Before the showdown with Elyse, she called Clint. The phone only rang once before he answered it. 

“Kitten, where are you? The boys have been asking for you,” Clint asked. 

“Oh, Clint, what a mess. Devin’s wife banned Andy from the league today, and he left Danae and the kids. Right now, I’m tracking down Elyse after she ran out on me. Eamon is home monitoring the twins and Danae. You can’t believe what’s been going on.”

“Shoot, sweetheart, it sounds like you have your hands full. The boys will understand. Everything is calm here. I thought you should know that.” 

“Thanks, Boo. It helps to know something is normal. I will be home tonight, I just don’t know when.” 

“I’ll miss you, Darce. But your sister needs you more right now. I love you. Call me if you need help, okay?” 

“I will, but we should be fine. Elyse is going to wish she’d never left home today when I’m finished with her. Danae might be loosey-goosey with her, but I won’t be.” 

Clint chuckled. “She won’t know what hit her.” 

“Damn straight! I love you, Boo. Thanks for holding down the fort.” 

“Any time, my sweet love.” 

One more call, Darcey thought. She dialed her sister’s phone. Eamon answered the call. “Hello?”

“Hey kiddo, it’s Aunt Darce. How’s your mama?” 

“She’s still asleep right on the floor where you left her. The twins are asleep, and Rae called once to see how she’s doing. I think she’s coming over.” 

“That’s good. I just got to Howie’s house, and I wanted to check in before I start World War Three with your sister. Remember, just Rae, Aaron, Trix or Wyatt can come in, okay?” 

“Mmhmm, I got it, Aunt Darcey. Good luck!”

Darcey laughed out loud. “Thanks. I’m going to need a miracle.”

She slipped her phone into her back pocket, wiped her sweaty forehead with her hoodie sleeve, and walked up the sidewalk to the Collins home. The coffee shop must be doing well, she figured. The house was in an upscale neighborhood, landscaped with native flowers and plants, with fancy lighting on the outside. A security badge sat on the front lawn as a crime deterrent. She stepped onto the stoop and rang the doorbell.

A moment later, Christopher Collins stood before her at the door. He was a man Darcey had only seen at the coffee shop when she’d gone with Danae. She didn’t know him, and he didn’t know her. But he wore an odd expression when he saw her at the door. 

“Danae?” he asked.

Darcey chuckled. “No, I’m her twin sister, Darcey. But I’ve seen you at the coffee shop.”

“Ah, okay. Danae never mentioned she had a twin, but that’s okay. What can I do for you tonight?” 

Darcey fiddled with the car keys in her pocket. “I am looking for Elyse. Eamon thought she might be here. Have you seen her?” 

Chris shook his head. “Howie’s been home all night, but come inside. I’ll ask him if he has any idea where she could be.” He opened the door and let Darcey inside. “Please, make yourself comfortable. I’ll get Howie.” 

“Thank you,” Darcey said. With wide eyes, she gawked at the interior of their home. Expensive furniture, luxury linens, and lavish throw rugs decorated the house. Either Chris’ wife was a designer, or a professional did the decor. It was exquisite. 

A few minutes later, Darcey heard a commotion coming from a hallway, a shriek that sounded like Elyse, and Chris’ angry footsteps pounding toward where Darcey sat. “Well, I found your niece, but she needs to get decent before I send her home with you.” Howie appeared right behind his father, his pleas falling on deaf ears. 

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“But Dad, we weren’t doing anything but sleeping!”

“Howard, she is twelve! You don’t sleep with a girl in your bed at your age, and especially NOT when she’s only wearing a shirt and her panties!” 

Darcey stood and clenched her fists. “She is WHAT?” 

Chris was livid. “These two knuckleheads decided it would be a good idea to sleep together in the same bed, wearing next to nothing!” He paced around the formal living room, infuriated. “What were you THINKING, son?!”

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“Where is she?” Darcey demanded. Chris pointed the way toward the bedroom, and she stomped in to find Elyse with her shirt off, sobbing and trying to fasten her bra. Her hands were shaking, and it was obvious she was upset. “ELYSE CHARLOTTE!” Darcey screamed at her. “What do you think you’re doing?!”

“I’m sorry, Aunt Darcey. We just fell asleep—”

“What will I tell your mother? Get dressed. I’m taking you home, right now!” 

Elyse never stopped to ponder what they had done might be wrong. She never considered anyone would catch them sleeping half naked together in Howie’s bed. It seemed so innocent to her, but seeing their reaction, she realized she was in deep trouble. 

“I’m trying. I can’t fix this stupid bra!” Her hands quaked in fear; Darcey scared her, and she was even more afraid of her father. She didn’t want to see her ballet career end before it even started. 

Darcey helped her to get dressed, and then took her wrist with an iron grip, dragged her to the foyer of the fancy house, and thanked Chris for his help. She didn’t speak to Elyse the whole way to the water taxi, not until they waited for the next shuttle to the mainland. Elyse wept the entire walk, ashamed of herself. 

“Elyse, what were you thinking? I’m so disappointed in you.” 

“I’m sorry, Aunt Darcey. We didn’t think it was bad. Howie and I are best friends.” 

“You’re not even thirteen yet, Lysie. You’re in way over your head with that boy. What if he took advantage of you?” 

Elyse blushed a deep red. “He isn’t that kind of boy—”

Darcey stopped walking and looked into her niece’s eyes. “Honey, every boy is that kind of boy at that age. Especially the ones who say they aren’t.” 

“What about Shan and Noel? Are they that kind of boy, too?” 

Darcey got flustered. “This isn’t about them, Elyse. This is about you and Howie.” The taxi arrived, and they climbed aboard. “I need to tell your mother about this, but she’ll decide if she tells your dad. Be ready to make amends if you want to dance with Howie again, Lysie. Think about that.” 

They didn’t speak another word until they docked on the main island. The only noise heard was Elyse’s quiet weeping, and the wake of the waves lapping upon the shoreline. Darcey paid the fare for both of them and they walked in silence to her car. 

“Please don’t tell Mama,” Elyse begged. “With Daddy gone, she doesn’t need the extra stress.” 

Darcey chuckled. “Oh, you’re not getting out of this. Maybe not tonight, Elyse, but I need to tell her.” 

She crossed her arms and pouted. “Thanks.” 

“You did this to yourself, young lady. Remember that.” 

*****

Andy’s plane touched down in the small municipal airport on the east side of the river in Dragon Valley. He rented a car and drove to the only inn in the village—the one where they stayed when Danae brought him to the Valley. It was no longer a bed-and-breakfast, but an inn with detached buildings. Andy gave his name and checked in, exhausted from the day’s events. 

He’d never felt so empty inside, so defeated. He’d planned to settle in town, to start anew, away from the memories. For a moment, he considered calling Danae, but decided against it. If she is starting over, she’ll be better off, he thought. 

He slid the key card into the door’s lock and he swung it open. The room was basic; there was a queen sized bed and a dresser, a small fireplace with a single prefab log, an attached bathroom with a tub/shower combination, and a tiny dining table with one chair. He walked to the window and pulled the drapes closed. Andy yawned and tugged the blankets back on the bed, stripped naked, climbed between the sheets, and cried until he fell asleep. 

Four hours later, a loud rap at the door awakened him. He rolled over and peeked at the time on his phone. 2:41 AM. What the hell? he thought, grabbed the slacks he’d traveled in, and walked toward the door. The person outside the door rapped on it again, and Andy grumbled as he opened it. 

“Kirby? What the hell are you doing here?” It stunned Andy to see his former boss standing there. Kirby didn’t give him time to close it. Instead, he pushed his way in, past Andy, and sat in the chair by the table. 

“Andy, you need to come back home with me, where you belong.” Kirby looked around for a light. Andy flipped the light switch at the door before he closed and locked it. 

“I told that woman not to contact me, but she sent you on a fool’s errand, I’m afraid. Kirby, I’m sorry you came all this way for nothing, but I’m not—”

“Oh, yes you are, son.” Kirby stood and placed his hands on Andy’s shoulders. “I have something big to tell you. Believe me, you’ll want to come back with me.” 

“Fiona’s word is final, Kirby. You heard her with your own two ears.” 

“Andy, I’ve hired an attorney to fight this. Rae’s brother, Tony, is a prominent lawyer back on the Isle. He’s taking your case because he thinks you have a shot to get this ruling overturned.” 

Andy sighed. “What can he do? I mean, we’re fighting against someone who changes the rules as she goes.” 

Kirby’s face lit up. “That’s how we’re going to nail her! He owns originals of the rules and regulations from the football league for the past thirty years. If that clause was legal when you wrote it, Andy, she has no case. I know for a fact you did nothing illegal.” 

“See, that’s what I thought. But their case today seemed so rock solid, I figured it was over.”

“That isn’t quite all, Andy.” A huge grin pulled Kirby’s face. “This is your chance to stop Devin Jones in his tracks. Tony asked me for evidence against him, and buddy, I know you have a ton. All we have to do is show the personal vendetta against you from Devin alone and demand an impartial mediation team. We’re golden!” 

For the first time since he kissed Danae before work that morning, Andy smiled. “We’re going to beat this, aren’t we?” 

“You bet your sweet bippy we will!” Kirby clapped him on the shoulder. “My private jet is waiting to take us back to the isle. What do you say, champ?” 

Andy nodded. “Let’s do this.”

To be continued…

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Up Next: Chapter Thirty Five, Part Two, Generation Five. 


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G1 Chapter Sixteen – Reconciliation

Fran drove Charlie’s truck home with him riding shotgun, still in shock as her husband sat beside her. The silence was awkward, and though she was grateful he was home, Fran had another problem named Jason. Charlie reached for her hand and stroked her fingers while she kept her left hand on the wheel of his pickup. 

She parked the truck, and they sat together in uncomfortable silence before she turned the engine off. Fran searched for words, but none came. The situation overwhelmed Charlie—doubt invaded his thoughts, and he couldn’t speak. 

He took a deep breath and opened the door. “I’m going to shave my head and beard before I come inside,” he finally said. “I shouldn’t be long.” 

“Do you need some help?” she asked. 

“I’d love it, thank you.” 

Together, they walked from the truck to the garage. Fran reached for the clipper above the washer while Charlie held his head over a trash can. She was meticulous, taking care to avoid nicking him while she trimmed the matted hair away from his head. Section by section, she worked until Charlie’s hair was down to the scalp. When she finished, he smiled in appreciation. 

“I’ll get the beard, darling. Thank you for the haircut.” 

“You’re welcome, Charlie. Destiny will be home from school soon. Seeing you will confuse her. I don’t know how to approach her with this.” She fiddled with her hair, a nervous tic that Charlie recognized. You’re not worried about Destiny, he thought. You aren’t sure about yourself! The doubt within him continued to fester. 

“I’ll clean up, and I’ll be ready before she’s home.” He took her hand and squeezed it. 

She only nodded her head. 

Charlie hadn’t taken a warm shower in at least a month, and as the water poured over his worn, achy body, he sighed relief. He scrubbed off the filth and stench of neglect, and washed every inch of his body at least twice. When he finished, he stepped from the shower and wrapped a towel around his waist. He opened the bathroom cabinet to retrieve his old straight razor, but it wasn’t there. Instead, he found blades and razors that did not belong to him. Left with no alternative, he used one he found and completed the shave he began downstairs. When he finished, he stepped back to look. The reflection in the mirror better resembled him, but older and more cynical. 

He walked from the bathroom to the bedroom, and when he sat on the bed, he noticed a photo of Fran and Jason together, with Destiny on his shoulders. My family looks so happy without me. I should have stayed gone, he thought to himself. Charlie heard Fran’s soft footsteps padding up the stairs, and she tapped on the door before she entered. 

“Are you decent?” she asked. 

“Yeah. I’m just cooling off.” When she opened the door, he patted the spot on the bed next to him. “Come here and sit, darling.” 

She sat, but kept some distance between them. “We have little time before Destiny comes home, Charlie. I still don’t know what I’m going to tell her.” 

“What we will tell her,” Charlie corrected her. “Please don’t treat me as though I’m still not here.” 

She nodded. “Of course. You’re right.” This will take some getting used to. I thought you were dead! What do I do now? Seeing him alive, in their home, unsettled her. “The clothes I kept are upstairs in the cedar chest. I’m sorry.” 

Charlie shrugged. “It’s not your fault. I was dead.” One more gaping blister of doubt burst open. He stood to hang his towel in the bathroom, wearing only a pair of boxers he found in the dresser drawer. They didn’t quite fit him, and he was certain they belonged to the new guy. “So, what’s his name?” 

Fran stared at him. “I can’t believe you’re asking me this.” 

“I have a right to know who my competition is. How long have you two been together?”

“I don’t want to talk about this right now.” She stood and crossed her arms in annoyance. 

“It’s important, Fran. I need to know.” 

She sighed. “His name is Jason. We’ve been together just over a year.” 

“So, how long did you wait after I ‘died’ to date him? I hope you at least waited a month out of respect—” 

A sharp pain hit him square in the face, courtesy of Fran’s right hand. It was a knee-jerk reaction, one she never meant to take that far. “Oh, Charlie, I’m so sorry. I didn’t think.” 

He rubbed his cheek and shook his head in stunned disbelief. “I guess I deserved it.” Charlie’s heart ached at the memory of the young man at the diner. “Were you intimate with him?” 

Fran’s ire reignited fast and hot. “That is NONE of your business!”

“Actually, it is. You’re my legal wife—”

“What about that hooker you kissed in the strip club? You don’t get to play an innocent, jilted lover in this!” 

“That was NOT my fault! Jim paid her to do that!”

“Don’t blame your mistakes on someone else. It didn’t look like you were fighting to get away from her, Charles! I’m not the only one who screwed up in this marriage!” She walked to the door. “I have to wait for Destiny’s bus. This conversation is over!” Her angry footsteps stomped down the stairs.

No, it isn’t. “Whatever you say, Fran,” he muttered under his breath.

He walked up the stairs to the attic. The chill of the air made him shiver. His soft footsteps made their way to the chest, and he kneeled down in front of it. The chest lid creaked when he opened it—the sharp, pungent odor of cedarwood assaulted his nose. 

On top of his clothing were Destiny’s toy kangaroo—why is Angaloo in here?—and the photograph Fran had damaged with the heel of her boot. He picked up the photo and gazed upon it—he remembered the day Caleb took it like yesterday. What he didn’t expect was the scar from broken glass. The blemish on the photo took his breath from him. Was she that angry that she destroyed my pictures? His fingers traced the defect as a tear fell onto the photograph. Charlie put the frame back face down into the chest, kept Angaloo to bring downstairs, and retrieved the items he needed before he closed the lid. 

His shirt felt good when he pulled it over his head; the fit was almost perfect. The jeans, however, were too big for him, so he cinched his belt around his waist to keep them up. His boots slid onto his feet and he grinned. Oh, how I’ve missed these old boots. The mirror that once stood in their bedroom was nearby. He strode over to it and admired the reflection. “Welcome home, Charlie,” he said in a sarcastic tone. Step by step, he descended the stairs to the living room, where Fran waited for him. 

“Have you decided what we should tell her?” he asked. 

She shook her head. “No, but I think I should meet her bus, and you stay inside. It will be difficult enough for her—”

“Without me messing things up?”

“I didn’t say that, Charlie.” Her answer was abrupt—her tone, bitter.

“I’m sorry. That wasn’t necessary.” He reached for her hand to hold, but she snubbed him and walked toward the door. 

“The bus is coming any minute. I need to be outside.” 

Even more doubt. “Okay, sweetheart.”

The school bus arrived a few minutes early. Fran waited with her arms crossed until she saw Destiny’s red ponytail in the door. The girl smiled at her mother and ran toward her. Fran greeted her with a bear hug. “How was school today, sweet pea?” 

“It was fun! I’m learning to play a new instrument in music class!” Destiny giggled and covered her mother’s face in kisses. Fran hated to ruin her good mood, and she still wasn’t sure how to break the news. 

Fran kneeled in front of her and stopped her. “Destiny, I need to talk to you.” She looked into the child’s violet eyes and held her hands. 

“What, Mama? Is Jason here?” Destiny peered around her mother and struggled to get away. Her energy was exhausting, and sometimes Fran had a hard time keeping up. Jason did the running and roughhousing when she couldn’t. 

Fran blinked back tears. “No, he isn’t. Destiny, do you remember your daddy? Remember how he had died? We had the service for him. Remember the big wooden box?”

The young girl nodded her head. “Yes, Mama. I asked if he was in it.” 

She nodded. “That’s right. The reason your daddy wasn’t in the box was because he… I mean, he didn’t…” Fran became flustered. How do I make this plain for you, baby girl? “Destiny, your daddy isn’t dead.” Yeah, that’ll clear things right up for her, Fran. Way to go.

“I don’t understand.” 

Fran wrung her hands. I don’t either, sweet pea. “What I’m saying is that Daddy’s home and inside the house. Do you want to see him?”  

“I don’t understand, Mama.”

“I know, sweetheart. Your daddy loves you and missed you so much. You remember him, don’t you?” Destiny shook her head, much to Fran’s chagrin. She grew desperate to hear affirmation from their daughter. “You remember the picture on the mantle, right? Remember how we used to sit and listen to his voice? Please, Desi, tell me you remember him!” Fran’s heart ached. She promised Charlie their daughter wouldn’t forget him. It was a huge promise, and she broke it. When Jason entered their lives, he took over every role for both of them. It would be difficult for them to stop loving him, to forget him.

Destiny’s bottom lip quivered, and she cried. She remembered Charlie only in photos, and she couldn’t recall his voice. It had been over three years since she’d seen him. “I don’t remember Daddy.”

“Oh Desi, of course you do. He gave you Angaloo, sweetheart! You’ll remember him when you see him, baby girl.” 

“Mama, where’s Jason?”

One problem at a time, Destiny. “Jason isn’t here. Your daddy is waiting to see you inside the house. Aren’t you happy he’s home?”

She shook her head as tears ran down her cheeks. “When is Jason coming back home?” 

Fran attempted to suppress her tears by clenching her teeth so hard, she gave herself a headache. “Destiny, you can’t talk about Jason around Daddy, okay? Please, honey… for Mama. Okay?” Fran wiped tears from Destiny’s face and kissed her forehead. She stood and took their little girl’s hand, and together, they walked into the house.

Charlie expected little from his reunion with their daughter. He’d been absent more than half of her life. She was five years old, but it surprised him how much she’d grown. He wouldn’t have recognized his own daughter if Fran hadn’t been with her. Tears filled his eyes when he saw her—a smile on his face, and her favorite stuffed toy in his hand. 

Destiny saw him and recognized him as the man in the photographs her mother had shown her. “Daddy?” She approached him with apprehension, hanging onto Fran’s hand as though her life depended on it. 

“Hi Destiny,” Charlie said. “Do you remember me?” He held her toy kangaroo to her, but she only looked at it.

Destiny backed away, stood behind Fran, and looked at him. She knew his voice, his face, but it made no sense to her. The girl shook her head, tears in her eyes. “Nuh uh.” 

Charlie’s heart broke in two. First, the chilly reception and fight with Fran, and now his daughter didn’t recognize him. The joyful reunion he envisioned was instead a dismal failure, so he decided to stay at the mission, at least until he could get on his feet. Maybe Fran would call Jason back home for one last fling before she had to settle. Maybe he would give his family the choice—him or Jason. He feared their decision. 

“That’s okay, sweet pea. I know it will take time. But, maybe someday, you’ll love me like you love Jason.” He sat back on his heels and wept. 

Fran stood with Destiny wrapped around her, tears in her eyes. “Oh, Charlie, I’m so sorry I broke my promise to you.” 

“I need to go, Frannie. I shouldn’t have come back—”

“No, Charlie, please stay? I haven’t handled this well. But you have to understand how difficult it is to—”

“Love two of us? No… no, I get it. I should go. You have a choice to make, Frannie. My being here will only cloud your judgment. You need clarity, and I don’t want to confuse the two of you.” He got up from his knees. “I’ll stay at the mission until I get my own place.” 

“Please don’t go…” she whispered. “I love you.” 

“I’m happy to hear that, honey. Do you love him more? Can he provide a better life for you and our daughter? That’s your decision.” He looked around the living room at the brand new furniture, decorations and wallpaper. Jason and Fran had redecorated each room in the house. It was obvious he had money, because he sunk a small fortune into the farmhouse. It was also clear Jason was living here part time already, or was planning on it soon. “I think Jason can provide you everything you want and need. I’m just holding you back, Frannie.” He turned to leave, but she grabbed at him, desperate for him to stay.

“Charlie, wait!” she cried out. “It devastated me when I thought you had died. I couldn’t stand to lose you again.” She pried herself away from Destiny’s grip and walked toward him. “Please, don’t go. I need you so much I can’t think straight.” She wrapped herself around him and wept. “Please, don’t leave me again.” 

He pulled away from her and took his keys from the bowl. “I have to go, Fran. I’m sorry.” He took the coat that hung on the newel post. “Just so you know, I love you. I hope we can work through this, but I’m prepared to start over without you if we can’t.” He patted Destiny on the head and opened the front door. It broke his heart to see Fran cry—he needed to go. “You know where I’ll be.” 

“No, Charlie… please…” Fran collapsed on the floor in tears as she watched him walk down the front sidewalk and away from the house.

*****

Charlie’s quick strides carried him away from the house at a good clip. At this pace, he’d be at the mission before they served the evening meal. So, this is what it feels like to be homeless in your own hometown. The day’s events played in his head on a constant loop. He had so many questions, ones he wasn’t sure he wanted her to answer. 

A cold, thirty-minute walk later found him in the downtown area of Appaloosa Plains, on the same corner where, just twenty-four hours earlier, he lay splayed out on the ground. Now that he knew the full story, the young man’s attempt to shoo him out of town made perfect sense. He wondered if Fran would call this Jason guy back home, or if she was as distraught as she appeared when he left. 

The same young girl greeted him when he opened the door to the mission, but he looked and smelled much different from how he did just 24 hours prior. Charlie waved when he approached and asked about accommodation for the evening. She looked at him with a confused expression on her face.

“You seem like you know me, sir. I am sure I’ve not seen you here.” The tag on her blouse read ‘Jessica.’

“I was here last night. You were very polite. The only difference is that I’ve gotten rid of the long hair and beard, and I’ve cleaned up a bit.” He smiled and removed his hat. “This is how I wear it.” 

“I didn’t recognize you! Welcome back! I’m guessing you didn’t find your wife?” 

Charlie sighed and swallowed the lump in his throat. “No, I found her. It just wasn’t what I’d hoped for. It’s okay. She believed I was dead for over a year and a half. I don’t blame her for moving on.” That doesn’t make it easier.

The young girl frowned. “I’m sorry to hear that, mister. Perhaps, you can work through everything together?”

It would take a miracle. “I hope so, Jessica. Do you have a bunk for me tonight?” 

She nodded. “It’s a semi-private room—check out time is the same as usual. Seven in the morning. Is that okay?”

“Perfect. Thank you.” He let her lead him to the sleeping area, where he slipped out of his coat and placed it on the bed. 

“You’re welcome. Supper is in thirty minutes. You may join us if you’d like.” 

He thought for a moment. He hadn’t eaten since the diner that morning, and it wasn’t much at that. “I think I will. I’m pretty hungry.” 

After supper, Charlie returned to his room, laid down and closed his eyes. His mind raced, wondering what he could have done to avoid this outcome. But every scenario that involved Jason and Fran ended with him at the mission. Maybe it’s for the best. She was happy until I showed my face. So that’s my plan, he thought. He drifted to sleep with Fran on his mind, tears in his eyes, and a broken heart that beat in the hollow of his chest.

*****

With shaky hands, Fran dialed Jason’s cell number. Voice mail. Instead of leaving a message, she hung up. The pain of losing Charlie again was worse than she could have imagined. But she had no way to contact him, no phone number to call. She knew she had messed things up, that she was responsible for the current dilemma, and she felt terrible about it.

Her fingers dialed the phone again, but this time, her best friend answered it. Her shaky voice cracked when she heard Sunny’s voice.

“Fran? Honey, what’s wrong?” 

“I’m having a terrible day. Would you mind taking Destiny for a few days? I need to screw my head on straight. I need time to think.” 

“Are you and Jason having problems?” Sunny hated to think they might be. She hadn’t seen Fran as happy in a long time. 

“You could say that. I have a lot to consider.” 

“You take care of yourself, Frannie. I’ll walk down and get her.” 

“Thank you, Sunny. I appreciate it.” 

Ten minutes later, Sunny and Destiny walked out of the front door together, skipping and laughing as they walked toward the Bradford home. What Fran desired, she knew she shouldn’t do. All she wanted was to numb the intense pain. She walked to the kitchen and opened the wine Jason bought for them to share, uncorked it, and took a swig right from the bottle. The red liquid was semi-sweet—the first mouthful burned all the way down, but it radiated a warmth inside her she found to be pleasant. Another sip, and more warmth. She carried the bottle into the sitting room, plopped herself on the sofa and turned the television on, taking larger and larger mouthfuls of the wine until she was numb.

Hours later, a key turned in the front door of the house, her name on Jason’s lips. He’d seen her missed call on his cell, and his attempts to return it went unanswered. Worried, he drove to the farmhouse to check on her. He found her passed out in the sitting room, an empty bottle of wine on the coffee table. He’d never seen her drunk before. “Fran? Baby?” He walked to touch her and tried to wake her. “Fran?”

Her eyes opened, and at first she had problems focusing on his face. “Chason? Jarlie?” She cocked her head to one side and made herself nauseated. “Oh, I’m gonna barf—”

She didn’t have the words out of her mouth before she threw up on the wooden floor. Jason picked her up and carried her to the upstairs bathroom, ran a warm bath, undressed her and set her into the water. “Baby, what happened?”

“Charlie…” she spoke with slurred speech. “He went downtown to the mission… he left me.”

He sat on the edge of the tub with her, helping her to clean up. Vomit had splashed all over her hair and body. “You don’t need a man who won’t stick with you, baby. Stay with me. I will never leave you.” 

“I might not have a choice, Jason. Charlie’s gone for good this time.” The numb had subsided, and the pain returned with an abundance of tears. “I screwed up.” 

Jason ignored the first comment. He hated to think of himself as a choice instead of the only one. “Don’t worry about him, baby. I’m here, and I’ll take care of you.” He helped her up and hung onto her while she got out of the tub and walked to the bed. Once she was sitting down, he retrieved her nightgown from the dresser and pulled it over her head. 

“Thank you,” she slurred and fell back onto the bed. “Please don’t leave me tonight, Jason? I need you.” 

“I wasn’t planning on leaving you, my sweet baby.” He kissed her forehead. “I need to clean the mess downstairs, and I’m going to go lock the doors and I’ll be right back.” She nodded, her eyes heavy with sleep. He hurried down the steps, checked and locked all the doors, then back upstairs to Fran. Staying wasn’t what he intended, though he kept clothes in the dresser for such an occasion. He slipped into a pair of pajama pants, curled around her body, and kissed her cheek. “Sweet dreams, Fran.”


The next morning, Jason awakened first. Fran slept next to him, her familiar, light snores comforted him. I’ll surprise her with a cup of coffee, he decided. So he slipped into Charlie’s old robe and padded down the steps. Jason never heard the key open the front door, or the footsteps enter the living room. Charlie heard noise in the kitchen and assumed it was Fran getting Destiny ready for school. 

“What are YOU doing here?” Charlie snarled. 

“You must be the dead man who broke Fran’s heart last night. At least you don’t reek anymore.” 

“You can leave now, boy. I’m here to care for her, now.” 

Jason laughed. “How cute. You think you can just waltz back into her life and pick up right where you left off? Do you know the hell you put her through with your little stunt? I found her passed out on the couch, drunk. It’s a damned good thing I was here to pick up the pieces after you broke her heart!”

Jason’s words hit Charlie like a ton of bricks. “She got drunk? Frannie never used to drink. You’ve been a terrible influence on her! Get out of my house!”

“Make me!” Jason taunted him.

Charlie looked at Jason. He knew Jason outweighed and overpowered him, and it was a fight he knew he couldn’t win. But he would fight Jason to the death for her if he needed to, and though he was not prepared to fight him, he was ready.

Charlie drew his arm back to throw a punch and start the fight that could end his life. A scream broke his concentration and took his attention off Jason. Charlie turned to look behind him just as a powerful hit caught his left jaw and flattened him. Jason knocked him out cold. 

“Jason! What are you doing?!” Fran ran to Charlie’s side, fell to her knees and cradled his head, a trickle of blood flowed from the corner of his mouth. 

“I’m protecting you—” 

“I don’t need you to protect me from my husband! Get out of my house!” She growled through her teeth. 

“Baby, don’t be hasty—”

“OUT, Jason! I’m dead serious.” She wiped the blood from Charlie’s face. “Get out of my sight!” 

“This is how you thank me for saving you last night? You’re throwing ME out?” 

“NO!” She screamed. “You attacked my husband! I don’t care what he did, you don’t touch him!” She wept while she tended to Charlie. “Please, Jason. Don’t make me call the police.” 

Fran heard Jason’s heavy steps on the staircase, muttered curses and banging doors, and moments later the same footsteps trudged down the stairs and through the front door. 

Fran sat cross-legged on the dining room floor, cradling Charlie’s head in her lap. She stroked his cheek and cried, praying that he would wake up on his own, that the damage wasn’t severe or permanent. Ten minutes later, his eyes opened. He tried to focus, and for a moment he forgot where he was.

“Ugh…” A flash of bright red hair in his blurry vision brought him back to reality.

“I’m here, Charlie. I’m so sorry.” Tears flooded her eyes—a warm, salty drop splattered on his forehead. “Are you okay?” 

“What happened?” 

“Jason sucker-punched you. I’m so sorry! Babe, I never meant to chase you away yesterday. I was just so overwhelmed…” 

The feel of wet tears on his forehead woke him a little more. “That boyfriend of yours packs a hell of a punch, darling. I wasn’t expecting that.” He reached to rub the soreness out of his jaw. A quick check revealed that his teeth were in place, and none were loose. Finally, something is right for a change.

“It’s my fault he hit you, Charlie. My fault you walked in on him in our kitchen, that you spent the night downtown.” She buried her face in her hands and cried. “This is all on me, and I’m sorry.”

He sat up and put his arm around her shoulder. “No, Frannie. I think we both share some responsibility in this. But let’s not keep score anymore.” He kissed her forehead. “I missed you so much, and it shocked me to see you so happy with him. Destiny loves him, it’s obvious. My coming home felt like a mistake. And then when we fought…” 

“Shh.” She kissed his cheek and wiped the tear from his forehead. “I thought I had everything figured out until you left last night. You turned my world upside down, and I knew I couldn’t lose you again. I could never survive it, Charlie. I did it once, and it nearly killed me.”

He held her close to him. “If you’re sure you want me, sweetheart, I will never leave you again.”

“I am positive. You are the answer to my most fervent prayers. In the days that followed the mission, Charlie, I never stopped praying for you to come home to me. I believed that if you were alive, you would find your way home.”

“Many times you encouraged me to keep going, whether or not you knew it. You never left me, you never left my thoughts. I had to believe we had something to salvage. Do you think we do, Frannie? Because I do.”

Fran nodded her head. “I know we do, Charlie.” She held his face between her hands, and though she saw him wince in pain, she kissed him. “I need you. Take me to bed?” 

“You don’t need to ask me twice, sweetheart.” Fran stood and helped Charlie to his feet, took his hand and together, they walked up the stairs to their bedroom.


The Next Morning

Charlie knew he needed to face the consequences that loomed over him. Before he returned to base, he needed to come clean with Fran.

They sat at the dining room table, enjoying their coffee. He didn’t know how much she knew about the court-martial. 

“Frannie, I need to talk to you before I head to the base. It’s important, and I’m not sure I’ll be coming back home.” 

“Why do you say that?” 

“Before the mission, Lorne and I got into it over the plan of attack. We exchanged some punches—he told me I would be court-martialed. The second he sees me, honey, those charges will still stand…”

Fran realized Charlie didn’t know about Lorne. She took his hand into hers. “Charlie, Lorne isn’t in charge there anymore. He was court-martialed after the mission. There was a tremendous scandal.” 

The irony, Charlie thought. “Well, they could still hold me accountable for disobeying a direct order, honey. I just want you to prepare yourself.” Don’t let Jason go, he thought. “It doesn’t matter who’s in charge. The court-martial recommendation will still be on my military record.” They embraced before he took the keys for his truck and kissed one last time before he left. 

The drive to the base was surreal, and when he parked his truck in guest parking, it was odd for him. The first person he bumped into was Lorne, who acted as though he’d seen a ghost. 

“Charlie? How in the hell—” 

“Yep, it’s me, Lorne,” Charlie said. “It’s good to see you, old friend.” 

“I don’t understand. How? Where?” 

“Let’s catch up later. I have some business here, I reckon.” 

They chatted as they walked inside the main corridor that led to the offices. The secretary outside the CO’s office, his former one, went sheet white when she saw him. 

“Colonel Farmer!” she said. “You… you’re alive!” 

Well, that answers one question I have, he thought. “Maddy! Wow, this is quite the promotion for you, isn’t it?” Madelyn, which was her proper name, bounded from her desk to hug him, but his spindly body shocked her. 

“Charlie, you’re so thin! What happened?” 

“It’s a good thing I didn’t join the Navy. Open sea sailing does not agree with me.” They both laughed. “Is the CO in?”

“Yeah, let me ring him. He won’t believe this, either.” Maddy sat back at her desk and announced a visitor. She didn’t tell him who. 

Brigadier General Dan Rhoades stepped from his office moments later, looked at Charlie and held his breath. “Colonel Farmer.” I’ve been expecting you. “Colonel Charles Farmer.” 

Charlie stood and snapped his posture to attention. “Yes sir, General Rhoades, sir.” 

“We have much to discuss, Colonel. Please step into my office.” Charlie swallowed hard, but nodded in acknowledgment. General Rhoades was not unknown to him. A leader for the Allied Forces stationed out of Midnight Hollow, Dan Rhoades was as hard-nosed as they came. He did everything by the book, and many men under his charge feared him. Charlie’s confidence slithered away as a snake in the grass. I’m glad I got one last kiss with Frannie before we begin proceedings on my court-martial, he thought.

The two men entered the office, and Dan ordered Charlie at ease. They sat and stared at each other—Dan looked at Charlie in disbelief. “Well, Charlie, I need to bring you up to speed on what has transpired during your absence. Let’s start with the last mission. Why didn’t you return to base or wait for recon to find you?”

Charlie’s hands turned clammy. “When my fighter went down, my first instinct was to find safety, as I crashed behind enemy lines. But the impact broke my leg, sir. I couldn’t have made it back to base. They told me I shouldn’t have lived. I had burns on my hands, chest, and legs from the sand and jet fuel, and though I can walk on it, my leg is pretty messed up. The crash damaged it far beyond what their infirmary could handle.” 

Who told you, Charlie? Who took care of you?” 

“The village the Allied Forces bombed in error, full of peaceful civilians. The medic there healed my leg, nursed me back to health. What happened to that village was criminal, sir.” He bowed his head, Nahla on his mind.

Dan looked at Charlie. “Well, I can understand your hesitancy to return to base. You had some pretty substantial charges against you. Let me tell you what happened after the mission. Can I get you some water? Coffee? Are you comfortable? This is quite a story, Charlie.”

Charlie cleared his throat. “Maybe coffee? I don’t know when I’ll have another…” 

“Don’t be so certain.” Dan requested coffee for both of them from Maddy, and he turned his attention back to Charlie. “Lorne turned himself in following the mission, and he confessed everything. He told the court that you pointed out the flaws in Gentry’s plan, that it would fail, and that he stayed with the plan as written to avoid consequences for himself.” 

“What? Why? I thought our spat was between the two of us?” 

“Both of the MPs outside of Lorne’s tent that day overheard your fight and testified on your behalf. He couldn’t deny the allegations because we had depositions that backed your claims. He confessed he demoted you without good cause and promoted Gentry in your place as a favor. Lorne made poor choices, Charlie. He paid an enormous price for his lack of judgment, his failure to lead, and for putting his own interest ahead of the welfare of the men under his command.”

Charlie sat back in his chair, dumbfounded. Lorne betrayed him and then blamed him for everything. Son of a… 

“The military wouldn’t pay out on your life insurance policy because of the disciplinary actions on your record. Mr. Turek requested the court absolve you of all wrongdoing and restore your rank to Colonel, in exchange for his testimony. He told the court during his trial that with every decision you made that day, you were selfless and courageous, the mark of a genuine leader. The court had no issue with dropping the charges and expunging your record. Your wife was the primary beneficiary, but they cleared you, Charlie. You’re a free man with an exemplary military record.”

“How long ago was this? Frannie still hasn’t seen a dime.” 

“Lorne’s court case settled only weeks ago. Your reappearance will halt the process on her claim.”   

Charlie never expected exoneration with the charges against him, but he heaved a sigh of relief. “So, what happens now?”

Dan continued. “I can offer you two choices, Colonel. Riverview’s base of operation needs a leader, Charlie. You are the perfect man for that job—a position commensurate with your superior leadership skills. Of course, you realize that would be a sizable promotion and raise for you.”

Dan leaned back in his chair. “The second is what you were eligible for during your last deployment—retirement with full benefits at your current rank. It’s your decision, and I don’t need one today. Remember, however, you would be so valuable that when the next conflict arises, you will deploy. The next war is yours to win, Charlie.” 

“I’ll talk to Frannie, but I already know her answer. I promised her I wouldn’t leave her again—I mean to keep it.” He knew they intended to coax him to stay in with the promotion, and he had to admit, it was an enormous temptation. He had sacrificed an increase in rank and raise in pay once before. The army higher-ups didn’t believe Charlie would give up a second opportunity.

“Fair enough, Colonel. There is no hurry—the sooner we confirm the transfer, the better.” 

“Wait, I didn’t say that the transfer was a done deal, General. I said I would discuss it with my wife.” 

“We know you’ll treat this opportunity with the seriousness it deserves, Colonel. The army will make it well worth your while to stay in. Don’t make a hasty decision, Farmer. The Allied Forces are counting on you.” Dan stood to shake Charlie’s hand. 

Charlie stood, but declined a handshake, fearing Dan would misinterpret it. “I’ll be in touch, General. Thank you.” 

Dan measured him up. “You’ll need some muscle back on that body, Farmer, if you’re going to lead your own squadron. Work on it.” 

Charlie shook his head and huffed. “Yes, sir!” A final salute and Dan dismissed him. 

Charlie left Dan’s office and saw Lorne sitting, waiting for him. Armed with the truth, he was not happy to see his old friend. “I’ll be in touch, Maddy,” Charlie said. He walked past Lorne and scowled. 

Lorne pursued him and caught him ten paces from the door that led to the parking lot. “Charlie, wait—”

“There’s NO reason we should speak, Turek.”

“Let me explain?” 

“Why should I? You damn near got me killed, and we lost how many others in that bone-headed mission?” 

Lorne lowered his voice. “Four others. McCoy, Johnson, Byers, and Hound Dawg…” 

“Was it worth it, jackass?”

Lorne shook his head. “No.”

“What happened to Gentry? Moore?” 

Lorne couldn’t look Charlie in the eye. “Jim’s plane went down after yours, and though he ejected, he landed hard and broke his back. He’s in a wheelchair. Moore broke his hip and had severe nerve damage from the injury. I ruined their lives, Charlie.”

“Yeah, well, I fared no better.” Charlie exposed his arms and stomach to show burn scars on his forearms and torso. “I broke my leg, Lorne. I suffered burns, but I didn’t have the best hospitals to heal my injuries. Instead, your recklessness destroyed the village I called home for five months!”

My recklessness? I was in the stocks long before they planned that mission. That was Rhoades’s idea, not mine!” 

No wonder Rhoades wants me out of here. He knows I know about the error. “Sorry, Lorne. When I’m wrong, I’ll admit it. But don’t mistake my humility for weakness. I know you back-stabbed me, and with zero remorse. How could you? I thought we were friends!”

“I know sorry won’t cut it—”

“Damn straight, it won’t! Get out of my face, Turek. If you see me coming your way, you’d be wise to walk away. Once I’m retired, once I’m a civilian, if I see you on the street, I will pound you into the pavement. Do I make myself clear?” 

Lorne sighed. “I understand.” Charlie turned to walk away, but Lorne couldn’t help himself. “Watch Jason Matthews around Fran, Charlie. He’s ex-military, and he’s very savvy. You might have a fight on your hands if he comes back.” 

Charlie spat on the ground. “Tell Jason Matthews to bring it. He will take Fran from me over my dead body.”


Three days later

Fran was making supper when they heard a knock. She expected Sunny with Destiny in tow, so Charlie volunteered to answer the door. The man at the front door, however, shocked him. 

“Hello, Jason.” 

“Hello, dead man. Where’s Fran?” 

Screenshot-162

“You have some nerve to show up here and say that to my face!” Charlie stood his ground in full defense, his voice raised in anger.

“Save me the sanctimony, ‘friend’. Where is Fran?” Jason’s tone was sarcastic and impatient. He knew what was at stake.

Fran heard shouting and walked from the kitchen. “Jason! What are you doing here?”

He advanced toward her and grabbed her wrists. “Come with me. We’re leaving now!” 

“Ouch, Jason! No!” Fran cried out as she tried to escape his grasp.

Charlie broke Jason’s grip on his wife, gave her a quick once over, and scowled at him. “You touch her again, boy, and I will hurt you.” 

“Funny old man, I said similar when you came sniffing around. If you think I will give her up without a fight, you’re mistaken.” Jason rolled up his sleeves and displayed his rippling muscles. 

“I have the law on my side, too bad for you,” Charlie growled. “She’s still MY wife!” Jason made another move for Fran, but she dodged him. “Get upstairs and call Caleb, Frannie!” She nodded and ran toward the staircase, but Jason pushed Charlie to the floor and stopped her.

“Please, Fran, I need to talk to you.” He held her hands in his. Charlie was back on his feet, bent over and panting. She rushed to Charlie and glared at Jason.

“Are you okay, Charlie?” When he nodded and squeezed her hand, she turned her ire toward her ex-boyfriend. “Jason, you can’t be here!” Fran said, her voice raised in indignation.

Tears filled Jason’s eyes. “Please, baby. I just need a few minutes. Please?” 

“I swear if you touch my husband again, I’ll deck you myself!” She looked at Charlie. “I just need a minute or two. Do you mind?” Charlie, who struggled to catch his breath, only shook his head. 

Jason and Fran went outside on the front porch together. He embraced her as tears rolled down his cheeks. “Fran, I have something I want to ask you. It might change things for us.” 

She broke away from him and paced the floor. “Jason, there can’t be an ‘us’ anymore. I’m married to Charlie, and I love him.” 

Screenshot-160

Jason fell to his knees and wrapped his arms around her waist. “Tell me you’re not serious, Fran. What about me? Don’t you love me? Baby, I’ve devoted everything to you. I adore your little girl. I am in love with you. Fran, you belong to me, now.”

You aren’t making this easy. “Yes, Jason, of course I love you, but I made my choice. Charlie is my hus—”

Screenshot-161

“Marry me.” Jason blurted it out. He dug into his pocket and pulled out the ring he had bought. It was his ‘Hail Mary’ pass—his last chance to keep the woman he loved more than his own life. “Please say yes, baby. I’m begging you.” He slipped the ring onto her finger and closed her hand around his own. “Please?” 

“Jason!” Destiny squealed, squirmed out of Sunny’s arms, and ran toward him. Dang it! Sunny couldn’t have had worse timing, and Fran’s mouth dropped open when she saw Jason pick Destiny up and cuddle her in his arms.

“Hey munchkin!” Jason said as he scooped her up. “I missed you!” 

Screenshot-152

“Oh, Fran, I’m sorry. Is this a bad time?” Sunny asked.

“I just asked her to marry me, Sunny,” Jason said with a bright smile. “Your timing was fantastic!” He covered a giggly little girl in kisses as Charlie watched from the living room window. “She hasn’t said she will yet. Maybe she could use some persuasion.” 

The front door opened, and Charlie stood in it. Sunny’s jaw dropped agape. “Charlie?!” 

Charlie grinned. “In the flesh, Sunny. Thank you for watching our daughter while Frannie and I got reacquainted.”

Sunny squeezed him and kissed his cheek. “When? How? I don’t believe this!” 

“A few days ago.” He noticed Fran stood there trembling, looking as though she’d pass out. “Darling, we should take our daughter and go inside.” He took her hand, slipped the ring from her finger and handed it back to Jason. “She won’t be needing this, boy.” He turned to Destiny. “Come on, sweet pea.” 

Destiny cried. “No! I want Jason!” The girl clung to his neck. 

Sunny reached for Destiny. “Come, Desi. Your mama missed you.” 

Jason kissed Destiny’s cheek and made her giggle. “She wants to be with me, don’t you, Desi?” Destiny nodded her head and giggled harder. The braggadocio irked Charlie, and it wore on Sunny, too. 

“Jason, you are not her father. Don’t make me call Cale.” The oldest Bradford child, Caleb Jr, was strong and agile and could trounce Jason in a fight. “You know he’d have no issue coming here and defending this little girl and her family.”

He huffed and handed Destiny to Sunny. “I thought you were on my side.” 

“You see this man standing here, Jason? He’s been Fran’s foundation for twenty-five years. You need to leave. Now.” Sunny stood and pointed toward the street. 

Jason turned to go. “Call me, Fran. Please?” She nodded but moved toward the door, Charlie at her side. 

The unexpected visit shook Fran to her core, and she sobbed in Charlie’s arms. Her emotions overwhelmed her. Jason was the last person she expected at her door. She also needed closure, the end of a relationship she once wanted. Despite her powerful love and attachment to her husband, she realized she still loved Jason, too. 

Charlie led her to the brand new sofa in the sitting room, and they sat together. When Fran looked around, the entire house smacked of Jason. How would she ever forget him if the house reminded her of him? Sunny followed them inside, Destiny still in her arms. 

“Do you still need some time alone?” Sunny asked. “It’s no problem for me to bring her back home with me.” 

Charlie shook his head. “No, Sun, we’ll be fine. Besides, I need to build my relationship with my baby girl. It’s clear I have a long way to go.” 

Fran’s sobs subsided. “I’m sorry, Charlie. I didn’t expect Jason here.” 

He held her close and kissed her forehead. “It’s okay, Frannie. We’ll deal with him together. Whatever you need, I’m here for you.” 

Sunny smiled as she let Destiny onto her feet. “Go play, sweet pea. Let Aunt Sunny talk to your mama and daddy, okay?” The girl nodded and ran up the steps to her bedroom. “I can’t believe you’re sitting here, Charlie. Caleb will be so excited to hear this news!” 

“I owe your family a debt I can never repay. Thank you so much for taking care of my girls while I was away.” Charlie stood to hug Sunny.

“It was our pleasure. Now Fran needs to concentrate on getting some meat back on those bones. You’re so skinny!”

Charlie nodded. “Yeah, the trip home wasn’t first class, that’s for sure! I walked a lot of miles and spent a lot of time hungry. But all that was worth this homecoming. I feel like I belong here again.” 

Fran stood beside him and wrapped her arms around his waist. “You were always welcome here, Charlie. You’re the head of this family. This is your home.” 

“My first day back, darling, sure didn’t feel like it. We’re better now. I’m committed to making sure you are happy with me, so Jason becomes nothing more than a memory in this house.”

She held him tighter and nuzzled her face into his chest. “I want that, too.”

“Well,” Sunny said, “I suppose I should get home.” She hugged Charlie again and patted Fran’s shoulder. “Everything will work out for you two. I believe it. Welcome home, Charlie.”

“Thanks, Sunny. Please tell Caleb I said hello, and we’ll all get together soon for supper. My treat.” 

Sunny smiled. “I’ll do that, Charlie.” 

After Sunny left, Charlie took Angaloo from his recliner, where the toy sat since his first day home. “I’m going to go talk to Destiny. I know I have a tough road to travel. It’s time I started building my relationship with her.” 

Fran nodded. “I’ll finish supper. It’s almost done, but I’ll call you when it’s ready, babe.” 

Charlie walked up the steps with Destiny’s toy in his hand. The door was ajar, and she was playing with the doll Sunny gave her when he knocked. “Destiny? May I come in?” 

She didn’t answer, but only gave a grunt. Destiny didn’t look up from her play, and she didn’t acknowledge Charlie stood there. He sat down on her bed and set the toy on it. 

“Hi Destiny.” 

She didn’t look up at him. 

“What are you doing, sweet pea?” 

She shrugged her shoulders. “Nothin’.”

“I don’t recognize that doll. Where did you get her?” 

“Aunt Sunny gave her to me on my last birthday.” 

“She’s a very nice doll.” He leaned forward and planted his elbows on his knees. “How’s school?” 

She shrugged again. “It’s okay.” 

Charlie fumbled for words. “I brought Angaloo upstairs for you—”

“Why isn’t Jason coming back?” Her eyes met his—she wore an angry scowl on her face.

Charlie wasn’t sure how to answer her. “I-I…” 

She stood and looked straight into his eyes. “I HATE YOU!” she screamed at him, and she burst into tears. “I want Mama!” Destiny grabbed Angaloo and threw it across the room.

Charlie swallowed the lump of emotion in his throat. “I’ll send her up. I love you, Destiny. Someday, maybe you’ll love me, too.” 

Fran was already on her way up when Charlie appeared in the stairwell. “She wants you, darling.” 

“What happened? I heard her scream at you.”

Charlie shrugged. “I have a lot of ground to cover with her. Or I might never get there. I’m just not sure.” He grabbed his coat. “I’m going to go for a walk, sweetheart. I’ll be home soon.”


A Week Later

Fran woke to an empty spot beside her, a common occurrence before Charlie’s return home. She needed to wake Destiny for school, so she got up and walked to Desi’s room. She looked so peaceful sleeping in her bed, her red hair messy from sleep. Fran padded to her bedside and kissed her cheek. 

“Rise and shine, little sweet pea.” She brushed hair away from Destiny’s face and kissed her forehead. “Daddy’s up. Why don’t you go say good morning to him? He’d love that, you know.” 

“I don’t wanna,” came her simple answer. “I want Jason, Mama.” 

Fran sat on the bed next to Destiny. “Baby girl, Jason isn’t coming around anymore. I know it’s hard to understand. I love your daddy, and he’s not going anywhere.” 

The sad expression on her daughter’s face broke her heart. “But I love Jason.” 

“Someday, you’ll love your daddy just as much. He loves you so much more than you know.” Fran hugged her. “Come on, Desi. Time to get up for school.” 

Destiny got dressed and walked downstairs to find Charlie sitting at the dining room table. He held a mug between his hands, deep in thought, and her greeting startled him. 

“Hi, Daddy.” 

Charlie smiled. “There’s my princess.” She eked out a weak smile and sat at the table. 

“What are you doing?” 

He shrugged his shoulders. “I’m just sitting here, Destiny. I’m happy you said hi.”  

Fran walked into the dining room with a plate of breakfast for Destiny. “You don’t have time to dilly-dally, sweetheart. The bus will be here soon.”

“Yes, Mama.” She picked at her food and held her stomach. “I don’t feel good.” 

Fran walked to where she sat and felt her forehead. “Charlie, she’s burning up, and I need to be at work soon. Can you take care of her today?”

“Of course. I have nowhere to go.” 

“I’m gonna—” Destiny didn’t finish the sentence before she threw up all over the dining room table. 

“Can you take her upstairs and get her cleaned up?” Fran said. “I’ll call in sick and help you. This will take both of us.” 

“Don’t be silly, Frannie, I can care for her. Leave the mess, and I’ll get it.” He scooped Destiny into his arms and started up the steps with her. 

An hour later, Destiny was clean and tucked into bed, and Charlie had the downstairs mess cleaned up. He looked through the bookshelf and found the book he read to her countless times—her favorite one. She was curled up in bed, almost asleep. 

“How are you feeling, sweet pea?” 

“I don’t feel good, Daddy.” 

He sat on a chair by her bed. “Would you like me to read a story?” 

“Which one?” When he showed her the book, she shook her head. “That’s a baby book, Daddy.” 

He smiled at her and brushed the hair from her face. “I used to read this one to you all the time. It was your favorite.” 

She sighed and rolled over to face him. “Alright.” 

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Halfway through the book, Destiny began reciting the story with him, a smile on her face. Charlie looked at her, astonished. “Destiny, do you remember this story?” 

She giggled and nodded her head. “I remember reading it with you, Daddy.” 

A breakthrough! Charlie felt as though he could walk on a cloud. “Oh, sweet pea, you’ve made me so happy!” He kissed her forehead and looked into her amethyst-colored eyes. “I love you, Destiny.” 

“I love you, Daddy.” She scooted closer to him and wrapped her arms around him. “I remember you now.” 

Charlie waited so long to hear those words. Angaloo, her favorite toy, sat on the floor in the same spot it landed when she threw it the week before. Charlie stood to retrieve it and presented it to her. “Here, sweet pea. Keep Anga with you and never forget how much I love you. Promise?” 

She nodded her head. “I promise, Daddy.” With the toy in her arms, she scooted back into bed. “Tuck me in?”

Charlie smiled. “Snug as a bug in a rug!” He kissed her forehead and turned out the light. “I’ll be downstairs if you need me, sweet pea. Get some rest.” 

With a renewed spring in his step, Charlie descended the stairs and picked up the phone. The first call would be to Maddy. Tomorrow, he’d meet with Dan. Charlie couldn’t wait to tell Fran his good news. On his cell, he opened the messaging app and typed a quick message:

I have glorious news, but I’ll save it for later, because you always enjoyed surprises. I love you.

At the diner, Fran was having a terrible day. Nothing had gone right. She worried about Destiny, and she couldn’t wait for her shift to be over. When her phone chimed, she glanced at it, saw the message, and smiled. Finally! She thought. Something good. 

A few hours later, Fran came home to find Charlie and Destiny in his recliner, cuddled up and asleep. She tiptoed into the kitchen and pulled out ingredients to make a chicken soup for supper, and when she did, the rustling sounds in the kitchen awakened Charlie. Somehow, he got up from his recliner without waking Destiny, and he tiptoed into the kitchen. He appeared in the doorway wearing a Cheshire cat grin. 

“How was work, love?” 

Fran smiled. “It was awful, but getting your text message made my day. So, what’s your news, though I think I can guess.” 

“Destiny remembers me, honey. I read her that book she loved when she was a baby, and she remembered me reading it to her. Halfway through, she started reciting it from memory. She’s an amazing kid.” 

Fran wiped her hands on a towel and walked to the refrigerator. “Desi remembered that story by heart? I haven’t read that to her in years, not since you left.” 

Charlie beamed with pride. “She did. Every word.” He walked to the counter and helped her bring vegetables from the crisper. “Do you need some help to chop veggies, honey?” 

She smiled. “I’ll never say no to help. I’ll get the second cutting board.” 

They worked together as they had done for so many meals, when it was just them. It was then that Charlie noticed something odd. 

“The kitchen.” 

“What about it, Charlie?” 

“It looks the same as it used to. That same peeling paint over the stove. The chipped paneling by the sunroom door. The floor has worn and needs a refinish. But why? You’ve redecorated every other room in the house.”

Fran shrugged. “We always put it off. I couldn’t tell you why. I think…” She took a breath and looked around. “It wouldn’t feel like home if this room was different. The kitchen is the heartbeat of our home, Charlie. It’s where I cook our meals. Where I wash produce when I pick it. Where I’ve made pound after pound of cheese.” She stopped cutting vegetables and walked toward the sunroom door. “I was standing right here when you told me about your deployment to Dragon Valley. I still see the look on your face.” She walked back to the cabinet by the fridge. “I used to prepare Mama’s tray on this counter. See this cut? I made it when my knife slipped while cutting an orange to make juice.” Her fingers traced the gouge in the wood top. “I guess I couldn’t bear to redecorate it. It reminded me of you and Mama.” 

He wrapped his arms around her waist and kissed the back of her neck. “Do you know what makes this house a home, Frannie?” 

She shook her head. “No, but I’m guessing it’s not the kitchen.” 

“You do. Everything you do makes this place our home. Without you, it’s just a house.”

She turned around in his arms and held him close to her. “I’ve missed you, and I’m so glad you’re back home. I am whole again. Thank you, Charlie, for never giving up.”

“You’re all I ever wanted, Frannie. I couldn’t love you more.”


The next morning Charlie drove to the base. He was excited about going to work, for today, he would announce his decision to retire and walk away from a thirty-year career. 

He parked the pickup and walked toward the building. I need a new cane, he thought. The cold weather made his old injuries hurt like crazy—his shoulder, his leg pained him. He grabbed his paperwork and made his way toward the building when he felt a firm hand on his shoulder.  

“Charlie, you will want to hear this before you decide.” He spun to see a familiar face.

“What the hell are YOU doing here?” Charlie stared at his former roommate, the man who helped when he needed it. The man he deserted. Tex. 

“Let’s talk, but not here—it’s not safe. Too many ears, if you catch my drift.” Tex pulled him back to his van, but Charlie stopped just outside the door.

“How do I know you won’t kill me right here?” 

Tex looked at him. “For one, there are too many witnesses.” Charlie returned a deadpan glare, and then Tex laughed. “Come on, Charlie,” he nudged his old friend. “We were buds once, remember? I won’t hurt you, even though you skipped out on me in the middle of the night. Guess I couldn’t blame you. I wouldn’t have stuck around, either, if I had military intel sniffing around me.” 

“What’s your real name?”

“Vince Landis. I worked in intelligence for years, but I left. I knew who you were the second I found you in the park, Charlie. We’ve had our eye on you since the village attack. The profound difference is, I’m here to protect you, while Rhoades has more nefarious plans for you.” 

Charlie scratched his chin. “What do you mean by ‘nefarious,’ Vince?” 

“I don’t know your intentions, but if you plan to transfer, you will be in danger. Be aware, Rhoades knows your involvement with the village he bombed in error, and he has incentive to ensure you don’t survive another deployment.” 

Charlie’s blood ran cold. “What was Rhoades’ target that day?” 

“There was a weapons depot close to the village. They were off by two miles, but when they realized their mistake, Rhoades destroyed the documentation that would have implicated him. You, Charlie, are the only evidence of his mistake. You could end his long and distinguished career with what you know. This, my friend, makes you enemy number one if you stay.”

“Well, Vince, I’m planning to retire. I promised my wife I wouldn’t leave her again, and I’m keeping that promise. I’ve missed too much of my daughter’s childhood. I want to see her grow up and become successful. Frannie and I are going to grow old together. She won’t be my widow a second time.” Charlie grimaced—it was an odd thing to say.

Vince nodded. “Good… good, Charlie. My unit will continue to watch over your family, but your retirement should end this, unless you choose to pursue it.”

Charlie shook his head. “I don’t see a benefit to pursuing it. It changes nothing. My friends are still dead. I can’t believe Rhoades did this.”

Vince nodded and patted him on the shoulder. “Yeah, I know, buddy. The outcry was enormous, the demand for justice was very real. I don’t know how you survived it.”

“I wasn’t there during the first strike. It’s likely the only thing that saved my life.” Charlie swallowed back a lump. Over a year later, the pain was still real.

“I can’t stay here, or Rhoades will know I’ve warned you. I don’t need a price on my head.” Vince reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a business card. “If you need anything, call me. Don’t hesitate.”

Charlie didn’t look at the card before he slipped it into his own pocket. “Thanks Tex… I mean, Vince.” They shook hands and parted ways.

The building was empty when Charlie made his way to Dan’s office. Maddy sat at her desk out front and smiled when she saw him.

“I’ll call General Rhoades for you, Colonel.”

“Thank you, Maddy.”

Charlie waited almost ten minutes before Dan appeared. He stood and snapped to attention for one of the last times. “General.”

Dan nodded. “Colonel. I understand you’ve decided. Let’s step inside my office.” Charlie entered first, Rhoades on his heels.

Dan ordered Charlie at ease, and both men sat. Tex’s words repeated in his head. Rhoades has more nefarious plans for you. The whole thing made him ill. 

“Well, Charlie, I have your new four-year contract ready. All it needs is your signature, and we can begin the transfer to—”

“With all due respect, General, I won’t be going to Riverview. I am opting for retirement. My wife and I considered everything, and we’ve decided that retirement is best for our family.” 

Dan sat back in his chair with an odd look on his face. Charlie couldn’t tell if he was angry, upset, or fearful. “Well, this is a disappointment, Farmer. You have such great potential. Are you certain this is your final decision?” 

Charlie nodded. “Non-negotiable, Dan. I’m sorry. My promise to that woman at home means more to me than winning the next war. I’m sure you can do it without me.”

“Charlie, you understand what a promotion like this means for your family, right? Financial security, a whole new adventure, getting away from this stale, old town—”

“You know, I won’t ask Frannie to sell her family farm. It’s out of the question. This is my final decision.” 

“How can I make this more attractive?” 

What Vince told me must be true, Charlie thought. “You can’t. In fact, I have the paperwork completed. Let’s call this my last day. Deal?” 

Dan huffed under his breath. “If you say so, Farmer.” His tone changed from friendly and warm to cold. “I’ll have Maddy process you out of here and set up an appointment for your exit debriefing.” 

“Thanks, Dan,” Charlie stood to shake his hand, but Dan did not offer it in return.

“I assume you know your way out.” Dan’s gaze did not meet Charlie’s.

“I do. I’ll see myself to Maddy’s desk.” 

A few moments later, Charlie walked from the administration building a cheerful man. On his way home, he stopped at the grocery store for just two items. He whistled along with the music on the radio, tapping his fingers on the steering wheel as he drove. Charlie parked the truck in the garage, grabbed his parcel, and walked toward the house. 

Fran was just finished with vacuuming when Charlie walked through the door, a bouquet of her favorite flowers in his hand and a bottle of her favorite wine tucked into his jacket. She smiled when she saw his joyful expression. 

Her heart melted when he presented the flowers to her and dug the wine bottle from his coat. “I’m retired, darling. And tonight, we will celebrate!” She wrapped her arms around him as he sat the bottle on the end table next to his recliner, and he lifted her into the air. “Frannie, I will never leave you again. I promise.” 

Destiny was already at school, so she laid the flowers down next to the wine. “I love you, Charlie. Let’s celebrate right now.”

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Up Next: Chapter Seventeen, Part One, Generation One


Pose Credits:

Echo-Sims
Standing Poses

ModTheSims
Reading Pose Pack by Kurineko
Daddy’s Babysitting by Spladoum

Poses By Bee
Child Sleep Poses
Couples Poses 1
Emotions
Engagement Poses
That’s My Girl!

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Couple Pose Pack 1 (Remade) by Fyachii (Cover Photo)

********

Custom Content:

ModTheSims
Book by Kurineko

SimCredible Designs
Arcadia Bedroom Set

The Sims Resource
Engagement Ring by mensure
Sweet Pea Wall Decor by Lulu265

Sugar Legacy Stables
Horse Trailer

Custom content and poses are not my property and used in compliance with the TOUs.

See Dedication & Acknowledgments for my special, ongoing “thank you.”

G5 Chapter Thirty Four – Andy’s Surprise

“I hate this!” Andy exclaimed. He gazed into the mirror and did not recognize the man that stared back at him. Around his feet laid locks of what used to be his collar-length hair. “Tell me again why I had to cut it, Kirby?” 

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Kirby shook his head. “Something about updated standards for team management from the new league commissioner. If it was up to me, Andy, well you know I don’t care what your hair looks like. I’m so used to you with it long.” 

“Danae is going to flip when she sees this. She loved my hair. This is a nightmare.” 

“I don’t mean to downplay this for you, but it’s just hair, Andy. It will grow back—” Kirby spoke, but Andy interrupted him.

“Only for them to tell me I have to cut it again.” Andy huffed in frustration. 

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“Did you love Danae any less when you saw her with red hair?” 

“Of course not. She was a sexy redhead. I wouldn’t mind if she recolored it again someday.” All their tenth-anniversary photos showed her flaming red locks, and Andy loved it.

“Keep that in mind. I’m sure she loves more than your hair.” 

“I know you’re right, Kirby. I just don’t like being told I have to do it. But I get it. Long hair isn’t professional.” 

“Well, you’re right, it’s not. But yours was always nicely groomed and you wore it well.” Kirby shrugged. 

“I haven’t had short hair since before high school. I don’t remember it ever being this short.” Andy bent over and picked up a handful of his silky, black hair from the floor. “I guess I’ll take a lock of it home to remember it.

*****

Andy dreaded his return from work that afternoon, faced with uncertainty. Danae had no idea his sudden haircut would take place, so his news would blindside her. 

He walked into the front door and heard the chaos of children playing and infants crying. Danae walked from their bedroom with Tessa in her arms. From the back, Danae had no idea it was Andy, and seeing a strange man in her house kicked her into protective Mama mode. She hurried to the kitchen and grabbed the first thing she saw.

“I have a weapon and I’m not afraid to use it!” she threatened him, their infant daughter clutched in her grasp.

Andy spun around to see Danae walking toward him brandishing a kitchen knife in her hand. “Don’t hurt me, baby!” he exclaimed loudly. 

She stopped in her tracks and studied the face of the man she loved. She recognized his voice, but she barely discerned it was him. “Andy?”

He sighed. “Yes, it’s me. This was my surprise this morning. The new football commissioner implemented a bunch of dress code policies today. My hair had to go.”

“Who is the new commissioner?” Danae asked. “He has too much power if he can tell you how you have to wear your hair.”

He sat down at the island and held his arms open for their baby girl. “It’s not just me. The ruling is league-wide and it affects everyone.” He ran his hands through his shorter hair and made a fist in frustration. “I know long hair isn’t professional, but mine was always neat and groomed. I haven’t had hair this short since middle school, Nae. I don’t like it.” He kissed Tessa’s forehead and smiled at her sweet little face. 

All Danae could think about was how it would affect her. She loved his long hair, and now he didn’t even resemble the man with whom she shared her life and her bed. “It will take some getting used to, my Andy,” she said, a crooked smile on her face. “I’m not sure I like it, either, but I suppose it will grow on me.” 

He shook his head. “I’m not surprised to hear you say you don’t like it, baby. I know I sure don’t.” 

Elyse heard the commotion in the living room and walked from her room. “Mama? What’s going on?” She saw Andy only from the back and she stepped backward toward her room. “Who is that?!”

“It’s Daddy, Lysie. Come see his new haircut.” Danae smiled at her. 

She shook her head. “No no, I’m good right here,” she said cautiously. 

“Sweet pea,” Andy spoke. “I’m not going to hurt you.” He chuckled a bit and turned around.

“What happened, Daddy? Why did you cut your hair?” 

“New rules at work, sweetie. I had no choice.” Danae took the baby from him to nurse her while Teddy still slept. “Come here and give me a hug. I need some love from you and Eamon.” He kneeled down on the floor and she sat on his leg. Carefully, she reached to touch his hair.

“I don’t like it,” Elyse said. “You don’t look like you anymore.” 

Andy laughed. “That makes three of us, honey.” He hugged her and kissed her cheek. “Do you want to swim with me today?” 

Elyse shook her head. “No thank you, Daddy. I have homework to do.” Since Emmitt’s death, neither child had gone back into the pool.

Andy sighed. “Let me know when you’re ready, sweet pea. It’s safe when I’m with you, you know.” 

She nodded sadly. “I know, Daddy.” 

*****

That evening, after the twins were fed and rocked to sleep, Andy and Danae sat on the patio in the yard, a glass of wine for each of them. They were cuddled up on the same chair, snuggled together. He reached to kiss her and her gaze went to his face, that of a man she barely recognized. She shifted uncomfortably and sighed. 

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“What’s wrong, Nae?” Andy asked her. 

She shook her head. “It’s nothing, babe,” she replied. “I just need to get used to your new look.” 

“You hate it, don’t you?” Andy sighed in frustration. 

“Hate is a strong word.” 

“But it’s true, isn’t it baby?” 

Danae sniffled back tears that she didn’t want to cry. “I don’t hate it, Andy. It’s just not you. I feel like I’m married to a stranger.” The instant the words left her lips, she regretted it. She cringed and whispered, “I’m sorry, babe.”

“It isn’t like I had a choice, Danae,” Andy huffed. 

“I know. I still love you, no matter what.” She wiped tears away and settled back into Andy’s arms. But he stiffened his body and pushed her away.

“Was your love ever in question, Danae? I mean, did you ever look at me and think that you don’t?” 

Her mouth dropped open in shock. “Andy! Of course not! And I can’t believe you even went there.”

“Then why say ‘still’?” Andy growled, on the defensive.

“I didn’t know the word ‘still’ was so offensive to you!” Danae raised her voice, so uncharacteristic for her. She took her glass of wine and dumped the contents into the grass. “I’ll be upstairs when you come to your senses!” she spat and stomped into the house. 

“Danae, wait—” he called to her, but she slammed the door behind her. He drank the contents of his wine glass and went in for another full one. He plopped back onto the lounge and drank half of his new glass in one gulp. “This isn’t strong enough,” he said aloud to himself and dumped the rest. 

He picked up the phone and dialed Aaron’s cell number. “Murph?” came Aaron’s shocked greeting. 

“Let’s go out for a drink, Aaron. I’m buying.” Andy had the keys to his Aston Martin in his hand. “I will be by to get you.”

Aaron looked at Trixie and sighed. “Buddy, I can’t tonight. It’s the first night Trixie and I have had to ourselves since Steph was born.”

Mad at the world, Andy only huffed. “Thanks. Good to know I can count on you when I need my best friend.” He pressed End on the cell and walked outside to the garage. He started the engine on the car and revved it once he cleared the garage door, opened the gate, and spun his tires. He was going somewhere, and it didn’t matter where as long as his destination had copious amounts of alcohol inside. 

Andy walked into the bar in downtown Isla Paradiso and ordered two shots of whiskey and a beer. The first shot burned all the way down and he grimaced at the sensation. The second shot still tasted terrible but it didn’t burn. He twisted the top off the longneck the bartender handed him, took the bottle and sat at a small table close to the stage. 

He never intended to drink more than what he had purchased, but one of the guys on the team was there with a friend, spotted Andy and waved him over. He walked to the table where the guys sat and plopped down with them. “Hey, boss!” a player named Ted welcomed him.

“Hey guys,” Andy greeted them. “What brings you out this way?” 

“Just throwing back a few. I never see you out here, man. What’s shakin’, Murph?” 

“A spat with the wife,” he said through gritted teeth. He ran his fingers through his shorter hair and shook his head. “She hates it, and I can’t deal with her right now.” 

Ted was truly taken by surprise. He’d never heard Andy refer to Danae as anything other than her name. “The wife, huh? She really must have pissed you off.” 

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Andy took a swig from the bottle he had in his hand. “I’m not even sure what end is up right now.” He swirled the bottle and swished the liquid within. “Any word on who the new commish is?” 

“What are you asking me for?” Ted laughed. “You should know all of that before any of us peons know.” Andy took the last swig from the bottle he clutched and set it on the table. “Can I get you another, Murph?”

He shook his head and pushed away from the table slightly. “Nah, I gotta get going here soon.” But the guys’ insistence convinced him to have another. He twisted the top from the new bottle and the three of them clinked their bottles together in a silent, drunken toast. 

Three hours later, Andy was drunk and he was nauseated. He stumbled to his car and vomited on the tire, opened the door, and sat in the driver’s seat. His head swam from the alcohol and though he knew he shouldn’t drive he started his car anyway. Andy didn’t drive more than ten yards when he stopped the car, opened the door, and threw up outside on the gravel in the parking lot. He dug his phone from his pocket and dialed Danae’s cell phone.

The phone ringing woke her from a deep sleep and for a moment she forgot where she was. And when she saw Andy’s number on the display, her heart sank. “Andy?” she asked, sleep heavy in her voice.

“Baby,” he slurred. “I can’t drive home. Come get me?” 

She sat up in bed and turned the light on next to her. “Where are you, Andy? I thought you were downstairs in our bed?”

“I’m at the bar across from the museum, baby. I…” he hated to say it. He had promised her years ago he wouldn’t drink outside their home anymore and she would be angry. “I had too much to drink and I don’t want to wreck my car.” He covered the phone with his hand as he retched, but nothing more came up.

“Andy, I can’t just leave the kids to come to get you. Find another way home. And we’ll talk about your drinking when you sober up in the morning!”

“Baby, would you call my limo for me at least? I can’t drive.” 

She wanted to hang up on him, but she also recognized he knew he was impaired. She sighed and put the call on speaker. “Let me find the number and I’ll call for you. Whatever you do, Andy, do not drink any more liquor!” She picked up the house phone and dialed his limo service, requested the ride and confirmed it. “They’ll be there to pick you up in ten minutes.” She waited, but there was no answer on the other end of the line. “Andy?” She checked to make sure the call was still connected and listened for breathing, any sign of life on the other end of the phone. “Andy?!” she half-screamed into her handset.  

Fifteen minutes later, the limousine driver arrived to retrieve Andy from the bar and bring him home. He was slumped over in the driver’s side seat, the door half open and his foot stuck out from it. The driver approached him and tapped his shoulder. 

“Mr. Anduin?” the driver said. 

Andy roused when he felt the driver’s hand touch him. “Hey Jorge,” he slurred. “Please do me a huge favor and lock the car for me?” He held the keys out for the driver to take.

“My pleasure, Mr. Anduin,” Jorge replied. He locked the doors of the fancy red Aston Martin and gave the keys back to Andy. 

“Thank you,” Andy said. “Home, please.”

Jorge took the winding roads to the dead-end street where the Murphy house sat. All the main lights were on inside the house, but Andy didn’t care. He only wanted to sleep off his night of alcohol and frivolity. Consequences were best saved for morning sobriety. 

Jorge stopped the limousine outside the gate and opened the door for Andy, who tipped handsomely and dismissed the driver once he was safely within the gate. Andy stumbled across the yard until he got to the porch, pulled himself up to the front door, and opened it. Danae stood on the other side, her arms crossed and an angry scowl on her face.

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Andy put his hand up before she could say a word. “Save it, Danae,” he mumbled. “I just want to sleep this off.”

Screenshot-708“Andy, either you are done drinking, or I’m done,” Danae spat. “I won’t tolerate this any longer, not after you promised me you wouldn’t drink like this.” 

Andy huffed at her and made his way to the bedroom. “Morning,” he grumbled and closed the door behind him.


Andy’s rude awakening the next morning included bright sunlight through a thrown-open drape and the sullen scowl of his wife. He covered his head with his pillow but Danae grabbed it from his hands and threw it on the floor.

“What the hell, Danae?” Andy growled, the light hurt his eyes and his head pounded. 

Screenshot-721“You told me morning, and it’s morning,” she snarled. “It’s now or it’s never, Andy. You choose right now what you love more: me or that booze on your breath. Choose wisely, because I will not offer it again.”

He squinted his eyes and rubbed his temples. “You?” came his one-word answer. 

“Are you asking me or telling me?” she spat. 

“Telling you,” he muttered. 

Danae threw her hands in the air. “I don’t want to even look at you. We will talk about this later. But you’re going to be late for work if you don’t get up.” She spun on her heel and walked from the room.

Screenshot-722Andy groaned and pulled himself out of bed, shambled to the shower and turned the water on. The warmth felt good and he stood there under the spray until he felt better. The water was nearly chilly when he turned the shower off and stepped out. 

“…but Mama!” Andy was getting dressed when he heard a whiny protest from Eamon, who had taken a cold shower. “I feel gross.”

“You’re going to have to deal with it son!” Danae snapped. And when she saw the tears in his eyes, she immediately felt terrible. She was upset with Andy but was taking it out on the kids. She kneeled down and opened her arms for him. He went to her embrace and cried. 

“I’m sorry, Mama,” Eamon wept. But Danae put her finger to his lips and hugged him close to her.

“No, sweetheart, you did nothing wrong, and I’m sorry.” She kissed his face and dried his tears. “Can you forgive me?”

His tear-stained face looked at her and he nodded. “Yes, I forgive you.” Danae wiped a tear from her own eyes and she rocked him in her arms. 

“What’s going on here?” Andy asked.

Danae glared at him. “Eamon took a cold shower this morning because someone used all the hot water.” Andy shrugged and walked to the coffee pot, filled his travel mug, and grabbed his keys. Danae pointed at him before he walked to the door. “This isn’t over.”

“Yeah, I can’t wait,” Andy replied. “I’m late.”

Danae followed him to the door. “I love you, Andy, but I don’t like you very well right now. Please consider how your decisions affect our family. You have four children who need their daddy.”

“What about their mother?” he asked.

“I will always need you, babe. But we have some things to discuss before this is irreparable.” She kissed him and caressed his cheek. “Have a good day at work.”

*****

Andy stomped through the corridor to his office, jammed the key into the door and turned it. A stack of faxes awaited him, and as he took the papers from the printer a soft knock came at his door. “What?” he snapped.

Kirby opened the door and stuck his head inside. “Andy, the new commissioner will be at the stadium at noon, and we need to go…” Kirby stopped speaking and cocked his head. “What is bothering you, son?”

Andy’s expression softened and for the first time since his surprise haircut the previous day, he was off the defensive. “It’s nothing,” he tried to lie, but Kirby knew better. 

“I know it is something because you have never taken that tone with me before. I am willing to let it slide because I know it’s not who you are.” Kirby looked Andy up and down. He recognized the signs of a hangover and he frowned at his manager.

Andy broke contact with Kirby’s gaze and looked at his feet, ashamed. “I am sorry, Kirby. When I got home yesterday, things were so different. Danae thought I was an intruder and nearly stabbed me with a kitchen knife. She told me she feels like she is married to a stranger. Even Lysie was afraid of me. How can I cope with this drastic change when everyone I love is against me?”

Kirby motioned to the desk. “May I?” Andy nodded and sat across from his boss. “Andy,” Kirby began, “I want to recognize that you suffered a bit of a trauma yesterday with your haircut. But you need to hear this, and you need to hear it good because I love you and Danae like my own family.” He sat up, folded his hands on Andy’s desk, and looked straight into his eyes. “Grow up.”

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Andy sat back in his office chair in stunned silence. All of the advice Kirby could have doled out and two words summed it up. And he never felt more betrayed. “Excuse me?” he finally squeaked out.

“You heard me, Andy. You need to learn to pick your battles with Danae. This is such a small, trivial matter. Yes, she will need time to adjust and so will the kids. But don’t throw your marriage away over something as meaningless as a haircut. And for the love of everything good, stop drinking. If you need help then get it, but don’t make alcohol more important than your wife. Please, Andy, learn from my mistake. I nearly lost Rae because the booze took over my life. Don’t do that with Danae.”

Andy’s thoughts went to Danae and all he could see was her angry face. It was all so unnecessary, and he felt terrible. He rubbed his temples with his fingers and looked at Kirby. “You’re right,” Andy finally said. “I broke a promise last night and Danae was angry. She had every right to be angry, too. I acted like a child.”

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Kirby reached for Andy’s hand and patted it. “Make it right with her before it’s too late. And you might want to brace yourself for our noon meeting with the commissioner. You’re not going to like it.”

Andy shook his head. The last thing he needed was another unpleasant surprise. “I’ll be ready,” he assured Kirby. He waved as the boss left his office and picked up his cell phone. On his messaging app, he typed in a quick message:

Baby, I’m sorry about last night and this morning. Be ready for dinner tonight at six. I will pick you up. Wear something amazing. I crazy love you!

Andy logged into his computer and reserved his table for the evening at By The Sea. It would be a night of begging her for forgiveness and making their relationship whole. It was the most important item on his agenda for the day, and he needed to make sure it was perfect. 

At 11:30, Kirby knocked on Andy’s door, Aaron in tow. “Andy, it’s time. We need to be early for this.”

Andy locked his computer and stood. “I’m good to go,” he announced. “Hey, Aaron! How was your date with Trix last night?” 

Aaron blushed. “Perfect.”

Andy smiled and clapped his best friend on the shoulder. “Good to hear it, buddy.” He pulled his office door closed and locked it behind him. “Let’s do this.”

The three men walked to the stadium and into the PR room. Though the press was not there, the meeting was somewhat casual and Kirby thought it best handled in their media section. Precisely at noon, a knock came at the door, and Andy’s face went sheet white when he saw the new commissioner. 

“Gentlemen,” Fiona McDonald said as she entered the room. Beside her was Devin Jones. She smiled at Andy’s obvious upset. “Murphy, you haven’t changed a bit. Please be seated.” She took command of the room and opened her briefcase. “You all know my husband, Devin.” 

Andy’s shocked gaze met Kirby’s, who promptly returned a shrug. Aaron patted Andy on the shoulder, his own distress was evident. When Kirby announced the commissioner that morning, Andy never expected the two people in his media room. 

“W-What happened to Cael?” Andy stuttered. He had so many questions, none of them relating to the business at hand. 

“That is none of your concern,” Fiona snapped at him. Devin sat at her side, a Cheshire cat grin on his face. “My personal life is not subject to discussion today, Mr. Murphy, so I suggest you keep on topic.”

Kirby’s expression changed, and for the first time since Andy had worked for him, he saw anger on his boss’ face. “With all due respect, Commissioner Jones, this is my stadium and I will not tolerate your tone with my staff. This meeting will be respectful or it is done. Have I made myself clear?” 

Fiona opened her mouth to protest but Kirby shut her down. “You brought your husband to this meeting today to cause problems with Mr. Murphy and Mr. Hall, but I am telling you he is not welcome in this stadium in this capacity. As a player, I have no control over his presence here but Mr. Jones is not to accompany you to meetings such as this.” 

Devin sneered at his estranged brother-in-law. “Likewise, that man is no longer allowed at Jones Stadium in Starlight Shores.” He pointed at Andy. “Mr. Kemp, you will be required to accompany the team to the Shores for all games instead.” 

Kirby was furious. “You cannot ban my team manager from any facility! It’s in the regulations—”

“Don’t you know, Mr. Kemp, that whoever holds the position of Commissioner makes the rules?” Fiona’s tone was condescending and crude. “You have no control over who I ban from what stadium. In fact, I could shut down your whole franchise and have Mr. Hall investigated for cheating. There is no way this team could have won all those championships without doing so.”

Screenshot-728Kirby stood and pointed at the door. “Get out. You cannot do this, and the meeting is over.” Fiona and Devin stood where they were and Kirby pounded his fist on the table. “GET OUT!” he shouted, his angry voice echoed in the room. Andy had never seen his boss so irate. 

“This isn’t over,” Devin growled on their way out. “Oh, by the way, Murphy, nice haircut.” Andy stood to confront him, but Aaron and Kirby both held him back. Fiona and Devin left the media room and slammed the door behind them. 

The three of them sat, all of them speechless in the wake of such a threat. Finally, Aaron spoke. “She can’t do that, can she, Kirby? I mean, my plays have been reviewed by the league for years and there hasn’t been a problem.” He slumped in his chair. “I have a family now. I can’t afford scandal and legal fees.” 

Kirby patted Aaron’s shoulder. “Don’t worry, Aaron, I have your back. We have recourse should she decide to pull this little stunt. Neither of you should be concerned about it. I will always cover you.” 

“Did you know they were together, Kirby? When did this happen? This should have been big news and yet…” Andy buried his face in his hands. “That man needs to be stopped.”

“Well, the committee that appointed Fiona to the commissioner position can be petitioned with a grievance. Her threat won’t stick, so please don’t fret about this.” Kirby spoke softly and placed his hand on Aaron’s shoulder. “You’ve done nothing wrong, Aaron. This team is strong and skilled, and they don’t like it. If we are investigated, they will find nothing.”

The meeting adjourned and the three men walked to their respective offices. When Andy returned to his, a message was on his phone. He picked it up and read what Danae had written:

My Andy, I have a sitter arranged for tonight. I can’t wait to spend some quality time with you. I love you with all I have. 

For the first time that day, Andy was truly happy. 

*****

Andy showered at the stadium and washed off the funk of a terrible day. He couldn’t wait to pick Danae up at the house, and he couldn’t wait to see what she would wear. He dressed in the tuxedo he kept in his office for impromptu meetings and slicked his hair back. In just twenty minutes he needed to be home to pick Danae up for dinner.

Andy locked his office door behind him, his briefcase in his hand. Aaron was on his way out just ahead of him. When he heard Andy, he stopped and turned. 

“Crazy day,” he said casually.

Andy stopped and hugged Aaron’s shoulder. “Buddy, we have nothing to worry about.” 

“Easy for you to say, Andy. You weren’t mentioned by name in this mess. You don’t have anything at stake—”

“Aaron, relax,” Andy interrupted him. “Kirby is going to take care of his staff. I promise you.” He stood in front of his best friend, his hands on Aaron’s arms. “Look, go home, kiss Trixie and Steph and enjoy your family. Have a glass of wine together and take it easy. And tomorrow, when we’re back here at this stadium, we hit this problem head-on. Deal?” 

Aaron breathed a heavy sigh. “I guess you’re right.” He twirled the keys to his shiny black Aston Martin on his finger. “See you tomorrow.” 

Andy nodded. “See you tomorrow. Give Trix a hug from all of us?” 

“Of course,” Aaron smiled. “Have fun on your date.”

Andy got into his car and started it, put it in gear, and started home. His mind was on Danae. The past twenty-four hours replayed in his head, and he hoped she had enough forgiveness in her heart for him. He turned onto the dead-end street that led to the Murphy home and his stomach fluttered and he was nervous. He opened the gate and pulled into the driveway. Two minutes later, Danae appeared on the front porch dressed in an evening gown he hadn’t seen her wear. His mouth dropped open as she approached him, and he blushed when she kissed his cheek. 

“Shall we?” he asked and held his arm for her to take. 

“Of course, my Andy,” she almost whispered. He walked her to the car and held the door for her.

Screenshot-729

“You look stunning, sweetheart,” he said quietly. 

Danae blushed slightly. “Thank you, babe.” 

Their ride to By The Sea was quiet, both of them were nervous. Much depended upon the outcome of this date, of their pending discussion. Either there would be healing or a grievous wound left on their relationship. Danae dreaded to think of what her mind entertained over the past twenty-four hours. 

Andy valet parked his car and together they walked into the restaurant. Maître D’ recognized them immediately and led them to Andy’s reserved table. Before they were seated, Andy embraced his beloved wife, the woman who he loved more than life itself. He kissed her forehead gently and held her to him tightly. 

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“Danae,” he began, “I am so sorry about how I acted. I’d be devastated if I lost you—”

“Shh,” she said softly. “I’m not going anywhere. But we do have to talk.” 

He nodded. “I know, baby. That’s why we are here.” He took her hand and led her to the table. 

The waiter brought them each a glass of their usual champagne and left the bottle near the table. Andy took Danae’s hand and kissed it, and they sat looking at each other, their hands clasped together. There was not a force that could have separated them. 

Screenshot-731

“Andy,” Danae said, “I’m sorry. I was angry and—”

Andy interrupted her. “No, honey. You have absolutely nothing to be sorry about. I took something meaningless and made it into an ordeal. I was childish and immature. I am sorry.” He kissed her hand tenderly. “I want to ask your forgiveness. Can you forgive me, Danae?” 

She stared into his caramel brown eyes as a single tear left hers. “Oh, Andy, of course I can forgive you. I was angry and I overreacted, too. And I’m sorry.” 

Andy shook his head gently. “Danae, you had every right to be angry. I broke my promise to you, an important promise. I never want to let you down like this again, and I swear to you right here, right now I won’t do this to you, not one more time for the rest of my life.” He rubbed her fingers between his and squeezed her hand gently. “I guarantee it.”  

She smiled at him, his eyes begged her for one more blessing of her forgiveness. She reached to caress his cheek and he nuzzled his face into her hand. “I believe you.”

Andy stood and walked to where she sat. “Would you do me the honor of this dance, my love?” he asked her.

Screenshot-733

“I would love to,” she whispered back, lost in the moment. 

He held her close as they danced to the music, his whispered confessions of love in her ears. And Danae realized the man she loved was still there and had never left, nor would he for the rest of his life. At that moment, she never felt more secure or more loved. 

“Andy,” she whispered, “hold me like this for the rest of our lives.” 

“Forever and always, my sweet, darling princess,” he whispered back. 

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Up Next: Chapter Thirty Five, Part One, Generation Five


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G1 Chapter Twelve – A Prayer Is Answered

Ten years later

“Farmer!” the intercom on his phone called out. “My office, please.” 

Charlie stood and straightened his jacket. He took his cap from the rack in the corner of his office and placed it upon his head. Satisfied with his appearance, Charlie stepped out into the hallway and walked toward the office of his commanding officer. He readied himself at the doorway and knocked. 

“Come in, Colonel Farmer,” the voice beckoned him.

Charlie opened the door and walked inside, turned, and closed the door behind him. He snapped his posture to attention and saluted the Major General, who stood before him. “Colonel Charles Farmer,” he announced. 

“At ease, Colonel,” General Turek said. “Take a seat.” He shuffled some papers on his desk and looked up at Charlie. It was a dreaded conversation, for he feared the Colonel would take the opportunity and run with it. Lorne Turek did not want Charlie to separate from the armed forces, but as his commanding officer, he needed to offer retirement.

“Farmer, I think you know why I called you here today.” Lorne bowed his head. “You’re eligible for retirement, and I need to—”

“Before you go further, Lorne, I will not retire. Not this year, anyway. Frannie and I discussed it at length, and she wants me to stay. We’re in a place where we are getting ahead. We’ve been saving money for a medical procedure for the past twenty years, Lorne. She and I are almost there, and I’m afraid if I leave a guaranteed income now…” Charlie lowered his eyes. “Neither of us is getting any younger, and that door is closing on us. I promised her a baby.” 

Lorne scratched his chin. “How old is Frannie?” 

“She will be forty this year. We’re almost at a point where the doctor won’t consider in vitro anymore. But Frannie has waited through every setback, every hardship, my two deployments. She hasn’t complained once. Lorne, I owe her this. I need this post.” 

Lorne nodded his head and smiled. “Four more years? Or should we have this conversation again next year?” 

Charlie laughed. “Let’s go four more. If I don’t have a wiggly, pink babe to put into her arms by then, I’ll consider retirement, and we’ll ride off into the sunset together on her palomino horse.”

“Charlie, you should have said something earlier about in vitro. Our insurance might cover some expenses. It’s not experimental these days.” 

“Well, remember the plague in Dragon Valley? The treatments they gave me damaged me. The procedure was experimental because they had to pick the undamaged cells and manually fertilize them. That’s where we ran into some money issues, to the tune of twenty-five thousand.”

Lorne almost dropped his cup of coffee. “Twenty-five grand? Damn, Charlie, that’s a lot of money.” He jotted a phone number down. “Give these folks a call. See if they cover that procedure now. I’d bet my boxers they will.” 

Charlie laughed. “I don’t want to see you without your boxers, so I’m not taking that bet. But thank you.” The men finished the meeting and Charlie left Lorne’s office with a renewed spring in his step and hope in his heart. Maybe this would be the year their dreams came true.

*****

Marne had given birth the previous year to a purebred Arabian palomino. Fran was caring for the yearling filly when Charlie returned from work. They would take Sweetie to train as a racehorse soon. In the meantime, Fran doted on her and loved her the same way she loved Marne.

Charlie walked into the yard, and Marne heard him coming, so she pranced to greet him. She nickered at Charlie in the hope he had a cube of sugar in his pocket. He chuckled at her and rubbed her nose. “How’s our baby today, Marne?” he asked. 

“Charlie?” Fran called. “Is that you?” 

“It’s me,” he answered and continued toward the barn. He peeked inside to see Fran with a towel. She rubbed the excess water from Sweetie’s coat and patted her back. 

“Don’t you look pretty?” he exclaimed at the filly and walked to where Fran stood. He patted Sweetie’s nose and kissed his wife. “Hi, love.” 

“I just bathed her. Isn’t she beautiful?” Fran stood back and admired her work. Sweetie was the spitting image of her mother. But she had two stockings on her legs—the front two like the sire.

“She is, and so are you, baby,” he flirted. “I have some good news, Frannie. You’ll want to hear this.” He took her hand and led her to the house. They sat together at the dining room table. Charlie smiled ear to ear. He couldn’t remember being this happy since their wedding, and he couldn’t wait to tell her.

“Goodness, Charlie, what is it?” Fran sat with her hands folded on the table, a part of her a little afraid. 

“Well, I had my meeting about retirement today, and as we talked about, I signed on for another four years. But I got the most remarkable news, darling.” 

“Well, what are you waiting for, Charlie? Tell me!” His excitement was contagious.

“Lorne and I were talking, and I mentioned our procedure we’ve been saving for all these years. I guess my insurance covers a part of it, honey. We can do it now. We have enough.” 

Fran shook her head. “Wait, the procedure? What changed?” 

“Twenty years ago, it was new technology, but honey, it’s not new anymore. Insurance will cover eighty percent of the cost. I verified everything with the office manager at the fertility practice. Dr. Prisco might not do the procedure. She is retiring herself soon, so another doctor in her practice will take care of you. Do you know what this means, Frannie?” 

“Our baby,” she said and smiled. 

“We will have enough to try several times if we need to. Honey, we will have our baby.” Charlie held her tight to him and kissed her. “Finally,” he said, “I can give you what your heart desires most.”


Two weeks later, Fran and Charlie drove to the doctor’s office for a new patient appointment, armed with the hope of good news and the intention to schedule their procedure. They sat in the waiting room holding hands, waiting for the receptionist to call their name. 

“I can’t believe we are here,” Fran said. “Maybe we’ll get some good news today.” 

“I have been in prayer since I found out about this, my love. Today is the day our lives change for the good.” Just as he lifted her hand to kiss it, the nurse called their names and led them back to the doctor’s office. To their surprise, Dr. Prisco sat behind her desk, still in practice, and very interested in the outcome of their case. 

“Mr. and Mrs. Farmer,” she greeted them. “It sure has been a long time.” She extended her hand to both of them and motioned for them to sit. “I understand you are ready to proceed with your in vitro procedure, is that correct?” 

Charlie looked at Fran, and together they nodded. “That’s right,” Charlie answered. “My insurance will cover the procedure at eighty percent. Had we known this, we could have tried it earlier.” 

“Earlier might have been better. Since this is what we’re working with, I’m do my best to ensure you have a baby. We’ll do some prep work, then discuss IVF. Charlie, you will need to show up on the morning of her procedure. And Fran, I’ll do a thorough exam and bloodwork to make sure it looks good.”  

Fran agreed, and they scheduled appointments to begin the process. Dr. Prisco ordered fertility medications, prenatal vitamins, and a full blood panel for Fran. Charlie provided a new sample to ensure success. Dr. Prisco knew they had limited funds, so efficiency was crucial.

After their appointment, Charlie took Fran for supper at the bistro downtown to celebrate. He felt good, and it showed. His smile was contagious. “What’s on your mind, Charlie?” she asked him as they sipped on a glass of wine together.

“After all this time, we’re moving forward with our dreams. Do you know that in as little as three months, we could expect our miracle baby, Fran?” He kissed her hand. 

“If I’m still healthy enough, Charlie. I’m not a young girl anymore. I want to be happy, but I’m afraid to hope.” 

“He hasn’t disappointed us yet, Frannie. We need to keep praying. And someday soon, he will answer our most desired prayer. So, what is this procedure?”

“Well, from what I remember, I’ll take drugs that help with my fertility, and when they’re ready, they harvest about ten eggs. Then they fertilize the best of them using the special technique, and about a week afterward, I have a couple of them transferred. Then we pray at least one of them turns into a pregnancy.”

Charlie felt guilty. “Wow, my job will be much easier. I guess we need to pray my little swimmers are still good.” Fran almost spat the mouthful of wine she had just sipped and laughed. 

“Swimmers?” 

Charlie chuckled. “Yes. Swimmers.”

“Well, that paints a funny image in my head,” she continued to laugh. “I’ve never heard that term before.” 

“Well, in all honesty, you’ve never been a teenage boy before either. Guys have all kinds of names for that stuff. That was the least offensive of the ones I can remember.” 

After the bistro, Charlie drove them home. He gathered the horses and stabled them for the evening while Fran went upstairs to wait for him. She wore the outfit her maid of honor gave her for their wedding night, the outfit that Charlie loved, and she laid there in quiet expectation for him to return. 

Fran heard his footsteps ascend the staircase, and when he reached the top step and opened the bedroom door, he saw her. She was as lovely to him as she was on their wedding night. He went to her, overwhelmed by her beauty.

“You look amazing, honey.” 

“Well, I know you love this, and tonight is a special night.” 

“Special, you say?” he growled. 

“Mmhmm. Come. Love me, Charlie.” 

“You bet I will.”


Four months later

An ultrasound was all that stood between Fran and a baby. It would determine if the embryo transfer procedure four weeks prior resulted in a pregnancy. Charlie paced the floor as they waited for the sonographer. Fran was ready to go. 

“What’s taking the doctor so long?” he asked. “Don’t they know how nerve-racking this is?” 

Fran chuckled. “Charlie, relax. All of our tests came back good. I’ve had some symptoms, and that’s a good sign, love.”

He took a seat next to her and held her hand. “I don’t know how you’re so calm. I’m a mess.” 

“It’s just intuition, love. I have a positive feeling about this ultrasound.” She rubbed his fingers between hers and smiled. “Are you excited, Charlie?” 

Her calm demeanor put him at ease, and he squeezed her hand. “I am, baby.”

Ten minutes later, the technician entered the room with a smile. “My name is Magda, and I’m going to do your ultrasound today. I understand you had in vitro four weeks ago, is that correct?”

Fran nodded. “We’ve waited twenty years for this.” All their saving, all their sacrifice came down to this one moment.

“Well!” Magda exclaimed. “Let’s look for your little one.” She squeezed a glob of warm gel on Fran’s tummy and placed the wand on top of it. She referenced the doctor’s notes and verified them. “You had three embryos implanted, correct?” Fran nodded and smiled. Magda continued the exam, and after a few minutes, spoke. “Well, I have what I need here. The doctor will be in soon.” She stood and left. 

Charlie looked at Fran, his nervousness returned. “I don’t have a good feeling about this anymore, baby.” 

Fran eked out a smile. She had the same feeling. “Well, let’s see what the doctor says when she comes in.” 

Moments later, Dr. Prisco walked into the exam room, Fran’s chart in her hands. “Well, I have the results of your ultrasound.” She took a breath. “Magda wasn’t able to detect an implanted embryo. But don’t despair. Your preliminary blood tests showed an increase in hormones, so we might need to do a more invasive test to see it. Do you mind, Fran?” 

Fran shook her head. “No, by all means. We need to know. It is such an emotional issue for both of us.” 

“I understand. I’ll send Magda back in for the other test.” She took Fran’s hand and patted it. “Have faith.” 

Ten minutes later, Magda returned and performed the new ultrasound test, and when she had gathered her information, she told Fran she could get dressed and left the room.

“I feel no better about this.” Charlie wiped his sweaty palms on his jeans. 

Fran slipped back into her jeans and shirt and sat on the exam table. “I hope we have enough for another attempt.” Her sniffles of sorrow broke Charlie’s heart. “We knew this was a long shot. I’m too old.” 

He walked to her, held her close to him, and let her weep in his arms. “Baby, I’m so sorry. It is my fault.” 

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Fran was just about to speak when Dr. Prisco entered the exam room with Fran’s chart in her hands. “What’s going on here? Didn’t Magda tell you her findings?”

Fran shook her head. “She said nothing, except that I could get dressed. We figured she’d mention it if there was good news.” 

“I’m so sorry,” Dr. Prisco said. “She should have shown you this.” The doctor handed the image to Fran and Charlie to observe. “This is what we wanted to see.” The doctor pointed to a tiny blip on the image. “This is your baby, Fran, and it’s four and a half weeks’ gestation. There was only one.” 

“Wait,” she said, stunned. “My baby? I’m pregnant?”

The doctor nodded. “Congratulations, Fran, and Charlie. I’m so happy this came to pass before I retired.”

Tears filled Fran’s eyes, and she cried. “Charlie! We’re pregnant!” He kissed her and embraced her. “We’re pregnant.”

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“Finally…” he said, his voice faded in tears. 

“Make an appointment with Dr. Engle before you leave. She will want to see you as soon as possible. Again, congratulations.” Dr. Prisco nodded and left the exam room.


It had been five weeks since Fran and Charlie had seen Dr. Prisco and her first appointment with Dr. Engle was here. He sat with a bucket in his hands while they waited.

“You don’t look so good, love,” he said. 

Fran held her belly, nauseated beyond words. “I can’t even drink ginger tea. The smell of it makes me gag.” She opened a peppermint candy and handed the wrapper to Charlie. “I can’t exist on peppermints. Maybe the doctor will suggest something else.” 

He squeezed her hand. “I’m sure she will, honey. In the meantime, I have a bucket.” 

She tried to chuckle, but it just made her feel ill. “Keep it handy.” 

Her friend, Dr. Starla Engle, entered the room a few minutes later with a smile on her face. “Fran, it’s so good to see you again. Charlie, how have you been?” She shook hands with both of them. 

“Better than last time, if having morning sickness makes me better.” 

Dr. Engle laughed. “I understand. Your blood work so far looks perfect. The hormone levels are on target; your other numbers look great. Other than nausea, how are you feeling, Fran?” 

“Not bad,” she replied. “According to the pregnancy book I’ve been reading, all my symptoms are normal.” A wave of nausea struck her, and she nearly vomited, but the feeling passed. “I could do without this morning sickness, however.” 

“Well, the nausea is a good sign. Another three to four weeks of feeling ill, and you’re into your second trimester already.” The doctor referenced Fran’s chart. “According to this, you’re ten weeks. I’ll do an ultrasound during your next appointment.”

Fran nodded. They reached the point where their first pregnancy had ended, and the ultrasound made her a little uneasy. “Are we past the point of danger for this baby?” Fran asked.

“I’d say we’re approaching that point. But remember, Fran, the embryo was viable when we transferred it. We’re not dealing with similar circumstances this time. I’m expecting you to sail right through this pregnancy with few problems.” The doctor observed Charlie with the purge bucket in his hand and smiled. “How often are you vomiting, Fran?” 

“Once or twice in the morning. The ginger tea doesn’t even smell good, and I can only tolerate mint. Crackers help, so do bananas. But the prenatal vitamins make me queasy.” Even talking about it made her feel ill.

“Try taking the vitamins after a small meal, say dinner time. Try eating smaller meals and stay away from greasy or spicy things.” The doctor smiled at Fran. “Your weight gain is minimal for now, but I will monitor that once we approach the twelve-week mark, so during your next appointment. Questions for me?” 

Charlie shook his head and so did Fran. “No, I think you’ve answered everything I had to ask. The main issue has been the morning sickness.” 

“The best I can tell you on the nausea is to avoid known triggers and eat foods you know are safe, meaning they don’t cause increased nausea. Do you need a refill on your vitamins?” Fran shook her head as she fought another wave of queasiness. “We’ll follow up in three weeks.” 

“I would take you for lunch, sweetheart, but you don’t look like you’d keep anything down.” Charlie caressed her cheek. “Why don’t we go home and I’ll spoil you rotten?” 

Fran smiled. “Make sure you bring the bucket.” 

*****

Charlie cooked a small, simple supper of grilled cheese and soup while Fran rested in his recliner. She dozed on and off since her appointment earlier in the afternoon, so when the meal was ready he woke her. 

“Baby? Are you hungry?” He kissed her forehead.

Fran groaned when she opened her eyes. “I should try to eat. Is that grilled cheese I smell?” 

“It is. Did you want something else?” 

“No, it’s okay, Charlie. Thank you for cooking. Maybe I’ll only have to endure morning sickness for another three weeks. I’m tired of it.” 

“Oh, sweetie, I know. You’re such a trooper.” He reached to touch her belly and stroked it. “I’m sorry the baby is giving you a hard time.”

Fran smiled. “It can give me all the hard time it wants. I’ve waited so long for this moment, even though I’m sick I’m enjoying every bit.” Her hand touched his, and their fingers intertwined.

“You’re glowing, my sweet Frannie. How I love you.” 

“I love you, Charlie.” They kissed before he held his hand to her. 

“Need some help up, love? Come, eat before it gets cold.” He guided her to the dining table, and they sat together. Charlie took her hand before they ate and he prayed and gave thanks, both of them grateful for their blessings.


Three weeks later…

It was the first morning Fran had awakened in two months that she didn’t feel sick. Charlie had already gone to work for the morning, and she laid in bed and listened to the sounds of the farm outside her window. Marne was in the pasture, her soft whinnies called to her yearling foal. Sometimes, early in the morning, Fran would watch the two horses play in the field. It amazed her how much Sweetie resembled Marne, and she would miss the filly when she left for training.

She stumbled to the bathroom and splashed fresh water on her face. Her hand went to her belly and stroked it. It was a habit to greet the baby with a soft word and a gentle touch. She couldn’t wait to feel it kick, to feel it move around. She stood sideways and admired her growing belly in the mirror. “Let’s go get some breakfast, little one,” she said. 

She had left the box of tea open from the previous evening, so she folded the wax package that surrounded the bags and closed the box. The aroma of a cold cup of ginger tea awakened her nose, but she poured it out and made a face. Her stomach growled in hunger. “I’m hurrying,” she chuckled and patted the baby once more for good measure. 

After a warm breakfast of oatmeal and milk, she walked to the upstairs bedroom to shower. Charlie would pick her up in two hours for her twelve-week checkup, and she needed to be ready for him. Though she would never admit it to him, Fran was nervous about the ultrasound. She was further along now than when she miscarried. Dr. Engle assured her the circumstances were different now, but it wasn’t enough. Not yet, anyway.

She was searching for a suitable outfit when she heard Charlie’s voice. “Are you ready, love?” 

“I’ll be down in a minute, Charlie.” She shimmied the last pair of jeans in her dresser off her legs and reached for her sweatpants. “I guess I’m too fat for my jeans!” she said to herself.

“Come on, honey,” he yelled to her. “We’ll be late.” 

She walked to the steps and held to the railing. “Nothing fits me.” Fran giggled like a schoolgirl. “I never thought I’d be so happy to gain weight!”

He held his hand to her, and she took it. “You look beautiful to me, darling, no matter what.” He kissed her cheek when she got close to him. 

“I’m ready,” she announced. “Let’s go.” 

They drove together in Charlie’s pickup and chatted on the way. They walked into the office together. When Charlie took her hand, he felt her tremble. 

“Are you okay, Frannie?” he asked. 

“Just a little nervous. This is it, Charlie. Either it’s a baby or it’s not.” She squeezed his hand just a little tighter. 

“But sweetie, you’re growing. You’ve been having all the signs and symptoms, haven’t you?” 

She nodded. “But this is when we lost our last baby.”

“The doctor said our circumstances are different now.” He stroked her cheek. “I understand the fear, but I think we’re good, love.” 

In the exam room, the doctor did a quick exam and discussed blood tests. “Fran, everything looks perfect. How are you feeling?” 

“I woke up feeling good today. No vomiting, just a little queasy after breakfast, but nothing I couldn’t handle. I am too fat for my jeans.” Fran grinned. “I never thought I’d be happy about gaining weight.” 

“Your weight gain is healthy, only about five pounds so far. You’ve always been thin, so I don’t imagine you’ll gain very much.” Dr. Engle jotted something into the chart. “Depending on how the baby sits, we could determine the sex today. Do you want to know?” 

They hadn’t discussed the possibility, so they looked at each other. Charlie nodded and cocked his head. “What do you think, love?” 

Fran smiled. “I think I want to know.” 

Dr. Engle nodded. “I will let Katie know, then.” 

Ten minutes later, the sonographer entered the room, and she recognized them. “Hi!” she greeted them. “I’m Katie, and I remember you two. We have a nice, healthy baby, so let’s look.” Charlie held her hand, and they both watched the monitor as Katie did the exam. 

She pointed at a blip on the screen and switched on the Doppler. “This is your baby,” Katie explained. “The sound you hear is the heartbeat, and it’s steady and strong.” She took some measurements and tried different angles, but the position prevented the doctor from determining its sex this time. “Everything looks wonderful, Fran. You two deserve a healthy baby.” She gathered her notes and patted Fran on the shoulder. “Congratulations!”

Minutes later, Dr. Engle returned with the results of the ultrasound exam. “Your baby is on target for twelve weeks gestation as far as development and growth. The heartbeat is strong, and we see evidence of a healthy baby. I know this is welcome news. I saw the fear on your face the moment I walked in. Please relax and know you’re on schedule, Fran.” 

She breathed a sigh of relief and fought the tears that came with it. “I feel so much better, thank you!”

“I’ll see you in a couple of weeks, and we’ll schedule your twenty-week ultrasound today. You’re going to be okay, Fran.” Dr. Engle smiled at her friend. “I promise.” 

Charlie took her hand, and together, they left the office. “What’s on your mind, love?” he asked her.

“It’s real, Charlie. Everything is real, and it’s going to happen.” Her smile was bright. “Now, I hope I have enough energy for a toddler.” Her hands rested on her belly. “I’m the happiest woman in the world, Charlie. Thank you.” 

“No one deserved this more than you, Frannie. You’ve waited for so long. You could have given up on me years ago. No one would have blamed you. But I’m so thankful you didn’t. The baby is my legacy, too. The chance to pass the Farmer name along to a son. I’m the only one who can.” He opened the truck door for her, and she climbed in.

“I would have never left you. You are my mate for life, Charlie. The vows we took, I meant them.”

Charlie took her hand and kissed it. “I couldn’t love you more, darling.”

*****

Later that evening, while they laid in bed, Charlie held her hand in his and played with her wedding ring. “Ten years old.” It came from nowhere.

“What’s ten years old, love?” 

“If I died in the war zone, our baby would be ten years old.” 

She sat up and looked at him like he was crazy. “What are you talking about, Charlie?” 

“Honey, I never mentioned it, because I never had to. I’m surprised Dr. Prisco never said so. But before I went overseas, I had my swimmers frozen for you to use in case I didn’t come home. It was important to me—” 

A sob choked her. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

“I thought if I had, it would have been admitting I wasn’t coming home. I had it in my instructions with the life insurance that my lawyer disclose it to you if I had died. It would have been my last gift to you, Frannie. The baby you long desired. My baby.”

“How did you get the money? I noticed no money missing from our account.” 

“They withheld my first two months’ salary because it was an advance on my pay. They shouldn’t have withheld my salary as long as they did. That misunderstanding almost cost you everything.” He wiped a tear from his eyes. “For years, Frannie, I thought you would have done better if I had died. You would have had a child. You would have been living in comfort instead of struggling. Your life would have been easier—”

“Charlie, no!” she cried, on the verge of anger. “It never would have been better without you. I’m not even sure I would have done the procedure without you.” Her shoulders heaved in grief. “I don’t want to hear you talk this way to me again! It would have destroyed me…” She couldn’t speak another word. Her body shook in sobs. 

He sat up next to her and embraced her. “I’m so sorry, Frannie. Now that we’re expecting our baby, I guess I’ve been more reflective. I should have disclosed it sooner than this.” 

She shook her head. “I don’t care that you said nothing about it. But I can’t tell you how it hurts me to hear you say you wish you’d died overseas, or that I would be better off without you. I sat here and prayed for you to come home, safe and alive!” Her cries broke his heart. “Charlie, I don’t want to fight.”

“Oh honey, I don’t either. And I am so sorry I’ve hurt you.” He gave her a tender kiss. “We have so much to be thankful for, and I’m grateful for your love, Frannie. I’m grateful for your prayers and your faithfulness. I’m sorry.” He wiped the tears from her face and held her close to him. “I’m sorry.” 

“Please hold me,” she wept. “I need you close to me for the rest of my life.”

He held her to him and kissed her. “I love you, honey. Please don’t cry anymore.” 

“I love you, Charlie.”

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Up Next: Chapter Thirteen, Generation One


Pose Credits:

Sims Modeli
Warm Hugs by Sea

Skylar’s Sanctuary
Zutara

*****

Custom Content:

Jamee’s Sims 3
Hospital for Storytelling by Jamee

Custom content and poses are not my property and used in compliance with the TOUs.

G5 Chapter Thirty Three – The Twins Have Twins

One week later…

“Sweet pea, you look so beautiful,” Danae told Elyse as she fixed her hair. She never wore her hair down, not since she was little, but since Danae had changed her hairstyle Elyse had been more willing to change.

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“Thank you, Mama,” she replied. “Why are we going out again?”

“Your daddy and I have something we want to talk to you and Eamon about, and it’s pretty big. We want to make this special for you two.” Danae kissed her daughter’s cheek. “Are you almost ready, honey?”

Elyse nodded her head. “Can I bring Poppy with me?” Poppy was the doll they brought back from Sunlit Tides for her, and she loved it. Especially since Emmitt’s death, she was attached to the doll. Poppy went everywhere with Lysie.

“This is a really fancy restaurant, sweet pea.” She saw the look of disappointment on her daughter’s face. “But if you keep Poppy off the table, I guess so.”

Elyse smiled brightly. “Thank you, Mama!”

“You’re welcome, sweetheart.” Danae smiled at her. She knew she needed to pick her battles with the kids, and a doll wasn’t a dealbreaker for her. “Let’s see if the guys are ready yet, okay?” Elyse smiled and nodded, Poppy grasped in her fingers.

In the next room, Andy was finishing tying Eamon’s shoes and straightening his jacket.

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“You clean up good, sport,” Andy told him. “You’re a handsome little dude.” Eamon giggled madly and Andy hugged him. “You know, you have to be on your best behavior tonight, son. We’re going to a fancy place. Your mama and I have something important to tell you.”

The giggles stopped quickly. “Something important?” Eamon suddenly wore a concerned look on his face. “What is it?”

Andy laughed. “It’s a surprise, sport. Don’t worry, Eamon, it’s a good thing!” Danae’s head peeked into the bedroom door. “Are you ready, my sweet?” he asked her.

“We are. How’s it going in here?”

“You ready, son?” Andy asked him.

“Yes, Daddy.”

“I guess we’re good!” Andy took his hand, and Elyse had Danae’s hand. Together, the family walked to Andy’s car.

They arrived at the restaurant and Andy opened the door for Danae and the kids. Elyse took Andy’s hand and Eamon sidled up to Danae as they walked toward the door. “Remember kids, you need to behave. Make your mama and me proud of you tonight, okay?”

Elyse and Eamon both nodded. The looks on their faces told Andy they were a bit overwhelmed by the atmosphere. The host showed the family to the back room by the kitchen, the one called the Chef’s Table. Andy held the chair for Danae as she sat, and then Elyse beside her. Eamon took his seat beside Andy.

Kirby noticed the family had arrived, and he wiped his hands on his apron, walking toward the table. “Well, look who is here!” he chirped at the children. “Welcome, kids!”

“Hi, Uncle Kirby!” Elyse greeted him. “What are you doing here?”

Kirby chuckled. “This is where I work when I’m not working with your dad. I own this restaurant.” He smiled, observing the kids’ faces as they looked at him in wonder.

“Wow!” Eamon exclaimed. “This is awesome! We have this room all to ourselves?”

Kirby nodded. “Yes, you do! Make yourselves at home. You all are my guests this evening.” He nodded at Andy and brought the usual bottle of wine to the table, with milk in fancy glasses for the children.

Andy ordered dinner for him and Danae, and two orders of macaroni and cheese for the kids. She looked at him and smiled, reached for his hand and squeezed it. “Kids,” he began, “your mama and I have some news for you, and a gift for each of you.”

Danae watched as their eyes widened in excitement. Each of them had a basic, simplistic knowledge of where babies came from. It was a conversation Danae had with them when Trixie was expecting her baby. She never foresaw the need to discuss it with them about their own siblings.

“Remember when we had the talk about babies when Trixie was having her baby?” Both of them nodded their heads. “Well, your daddy and I… We are going to have a baby. Well, we’re having two babies. But they are not coming the usual way.”

Elyse shook her head. “I don’t understand.”

Danae took Elyse’s hands and looked into her eyes. “Sweet pea, when your brother Emmitt was born, something happened to me that made me not be able to have any more babies.” Danae waited for the inevitable questions.

“Now I really don’t understand, Mama. How are you having a baby then?” Eamon looked at her with the cutest expression. He was trying so hard to understand.

“Sweetheart, I’m not going to have them. Aunt Darcey is going to carry them for me and give birth.”

Elyse’s eyes filled with tears. “Why, Mama? What about Emmitt?”

Andy saw Danae’s eyes well up with tears, and he reached for his daughter. “Sweet pea, Emmitt will always be in our hearts, and we will never stop loving him or missing him.” Andy wiped the tears from her face. “We always wanted more than three children, Lysie. You know, your aunt Darcey is a very special lady. She wanted to do this for your mama and me because we love both of you so much. Wouldn’t you like a baby sister, Lysie? Or another baby brother? Maybe even one of each!”

She nodded and sniffled. “I would like a sister. I’ve had brothers my whole life,” she said, a serious expression on her face. Andy could not suppress the laugh. “What’s so funny?” She asked.

“Oh Lysie, this is such a good and happy thing! Your mama and I are very excited about this.” Andy squeezed his daughter’s hand. “We want you and Eamon to be happy about it, too.”

Eamon smiled. “Another brother?”

“There aren’t any guarantees, sport, but there’s a chance you’ll get another brother.” Andy patted his son on the back. “Mama and I have a special gift for both of you.” Andy got Kirby’s attention so he could bring the gifts Andy had left after work.

Elyse smiled when Kirby approached the table, two gifts in his hands. “Your mom and dad wanted me to bring these to you.” He handed the gift with the pink bow to Elyse, and the box with the blue bow to Eamon. “Are you two happy about the babies?”

They both nodded, and Elyse spoke. “I want a sister!” she chirped. Kirby chuckled and patted her head.

“What do you say, kids?” Danae prodded them.

“Thank you, Uncle Kirby!” they said in unison.

“You’re welcome, but your mom and dad are giving you these, not me. I’m just the messenger.” He smiled and went back to the kitchen.

“Can we open them, Mama?” Eamon asked, excited to open the gift.

Danae nodded, and she reached for Andy’s hand. The kids tore into the paper and Elyse had hers open first. It was a shirt that said, I’m Elyse, and I’m the big sister! She squealed with delight when she saw it and giggled. “I love it, Mama!”

Eamon opened his gift, and his shirt said something similar: I’m going to be a big brother! His smile warmed Danae’s heart, and he jumped up, excited. “I love my new shirt, Mama! Thank you!”

“You guys… you’re very welcome.” She hugged each of them. “So, are you okay with all of this? I know we put a lot of information on you.” She looked into Eamon’s eyes. “What do you think, sweetheart? Are you excited about us having twins?”

He nodded his head. “I miss Emmitt. It will be nice to have a little brother again.”

Danae laughed. “We’ll have to talk to Aunt Darcey about the little brother thing.”

Eamon smiled ear to ear. “Well, Aunt Darcey likes me, so I think she’ll do it.” Andy and Danae looked at each other and belly laughed.


Time flew by as Darcey’s pregnancy progressed. Before they realized it, she was twenty weeks, and her ultrasound to determine the sex of the babies was upon them. Andy, Danae, Clint, and Darcey sat in the obstetrician’s waiting room together.

“Darce, you’re huge already,” Danae remarked. “Are you sure it’s only 20 weeks?”

Darcey laughed. “Yep! This is what happens when there are two in there. They’re very active, too. I feel flutters all the time.” She put her hand on her belly. “Come here, Andy. Feel your babies moving around!”

Andy smiled and put his hand on the babies and felt one of them. “Oh, honey, this is incredible! You have to feel this!” He motioned for Danae to join them, and she gently laid her hand on Darcey’s belly. “See? Isn’t this awesome?”

“Darcey, I’m in awe of you,” Danae said and smiled at her sister.

“Darcey?” the assistant called her. “The doctor is ready for you.” The four of them stood and went back into the exam room. Darcey took her place on the table, Clint seated next to her, Andy and Danae nearby.

The sonographer entered the room, somewhat surprised to see four of them. Darcey smiled. “This is my husband,” she said and pointed to Clint. “My sister Danae and her husband, Andy. They will be the babies’ parents after they are born.”

“Oh, so you’re the ones! How exciting for you!” She shook Danae’s and Andy’s hand and sat by Darcey. “So, today we’re going to see if the babies are positioned so that we can tell their sex. What are you hoping for?”

Andy smiled. “It doesn’t matter as long as they are healthy.”

“He really wants a baby girl,” Danae piped up. “If we have a girl, she will be Theresa or Tessa for short.”

“What an adorable name!”

“It was my mother’s name,” Andy beamed. “Our son was named for my dad, but we lost him last year.”

“Andy… Murphy?” she asked.

“Yes.”

“That’s where I know your name from then! My husband and I are huge football fans.”

Andy smiled. That wasn’t unusual on the island.

She turned her attention back to the task at hand. “Let’s see what’s going on in here!” She squeezed some gel onto Darcey’s belly and placed the wand on her skin. “Here’s twin A,” she pointed out on the screen. “And here is twin B.” She pointed out each of them. “It looks like twin A is a boy!” She moved the wand toward the other baby. Danae took Andy’s hand, praying the other baby was a girl. “Twin B is a girl. Congratulations, Mom and Dad!”

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Danae’s eyes filled with tears. It was exactly what they had hoped for. “How about that?” Andy beamed. “One of each!” He kissed Danae tenderly and wiped her tears away. “Are you happy, honey?”

“So happy! Are they healthy?” Danae asked.

The tech continued the exam, taking measurements and making notes. “They look very healthy. The girl looks a bit small, but they are on target for development. You’re feeling well, Darcey?”

“Yes, very much so. They’ve been much easier than either of my two boys.”

“Well, I have what I need here. The doctor will be in shortly.” She turned to Danae and Andy. “Congratulations again!” With that, she turned and left the room.

Clint and Darcey kissed, and he whispered into her ear, “I’m proud of you, kitten, and I love you.” She only smiled.

The room was quiet, only the occasional sniffle was heard from Danae. As happy as she was, the thought of two babies was still a bit overwhelming for her. But her own preparations were going well and would be moving forward within the next month. The results of the ultrasound and the doctor’s impressions would dictate what Danae’s doctor would do next.

Ten minutes later, Darcey’s doctor entered the exam room and shook hands with all of them. He set the chart on the counter and gently examined Darcey’s belly. “Well, I have some great news for all of you. The babies are on target as far as development, and we see two very healthy babies. The girl is just a tad smaller than her brother, but that’s normal. Do you have any questions for me?”

“I need to talk to my own doctor about my nursing prep schedule. Are you thinking she will go to term or deliver early?” Danae asked.

“There’s a possibility she will deliver early. We won’t induce her unless a problem arises, but I don’t foresee that happening. So you can tell your doctor she’s on target for at term. I am not a lactation specialist, but I think that means you’ll be pumping soon?”

Danae nodded. “At about 3 months until birth, yes.”

“Well, you can tell her we’re shooting for a 40-week birth. But I can send that report to her if you’d like.”

“Sounds good.” Andy put his arms around her and hugged her to him.

“I’ll see you in two weeks, Darcey.

The four of them walked to the parking lot. The sisters hugged and the brothers-in-law shook hands. “Come on, kitten. Let’s go home,” Clint said. “We’ll see you guys later!”

Danae was quiet on the way home. “What’s cooking in that pretty little head of yours, Nae?” Andy asked.

“Just thinking about Emmitt. I miss him, Andy. I ache for him. No baby is ever going to take his place.”

“And they shouldn’t. I miss him every day. It’s not getting easier, the pain is not getting better. But honey, we have four good reasons to be happy, to continue on. Danae, I love you. I promise it will get better, though I can’t promise you a timeframe. Just trust me. We will find a way to get through it.” He took her hand and kissed it.

“Just be here with me and our children. That is all I will ever need.”

“Forever and always, my love.”

*****

Andy and Danae were both waiting for the kids to get home from school. They were excited to tell them the news and they hoped the kids would share their enthusiasm. It meant a brother and sister for each of them.

At 3:30, they waited out by the gate for the bus, and when it arrived and the kids saw them, they ran to them with hugs and kisses. “Hey sport,” Andy greeted Eamon. “How was school?”

“Okay I guess,” he replied.

“We have some news for both of you,” Danae said. “Come inside and let’s sit and talk.” She took Eamon’s hand, and Elyse grabbed Andy’s hand. All four of them walked into the house together.

The kids joined them as they sat on the sofa. “So, we went to Aunt Darcey’s doctor appointment this morning. Do you want to know if you’re going to have brothers or sisters?” Danae’s eyes sparkled with excitement.

Elyse’s face lit up. “You know already?”

“Yes, we do!” Andy put her into his lap, and Danae wrapped Eamon into her arms. “What do you want, Eamon? A brother or sister?” Andy asked his son.

“A brother,” he said without hesitation.

“How about you, Lysie?” Danae asked her.

“A sister. I already have a brother.”

Danae smiled and nodded at Andy. It was his good news to tell. “You are both getting what you want. We’re having a boy and a girl!”

Elyse squealed with delight, and Eamon wore his signature ear-to-ear grin. Their happiness was apparent. Danae and Andy were joyful to see their children so happy. They had also lived the worst year of their lives when their brother died.

“What are their names, Daddy?” Eamon asked. “Can we help pick out names?”

“Well, son, your baby sister’s name will be Tessa. Did you know that was my mama’s name?” He pointed to the portrait of his parents that hung in the stairwell. “Your Papa’s name was Emmitt, and your Grammy’s name was Tessa. That’s where your sister will get her name, and that’s where Emmitt got his name, too.”

Elyse had seen the picture as far back as she could remember, and she knew who they were, though she had no memory of her Papa. “What about the boy? What’s his name, Daddy?”

Andy looked at Danae. “I don’t think we have a name picked out for him yet, sweet pea.” He had an idea but he thought maybe Danae wanted a different name.

“Not yet,” Danae concurred. “We have some time to think about it.” If Eamon’s middle name hadn’t been Travis, it was a name she really loved for the baby. But in her opinion, it was Andy’s choice and she would be happy with whatever he wanted.

“I have an idea,” Andy said with a smile. “Why don’t we go out for dinner tonight? Nothing fancy, just to celebrate our family and the twins. What do you say, kids?”

Eamon and Elyse looked at one another and nodded. “As long as Poppy can come, too!” Elyse chirped.

Danae chuckled at them. “Of course Poppy can come, too!”

Andy slipped his hand into hers, lifted it to his face and kissed it. “Thank you, Nae,” he whispered to her.

“What for?”

“Everything. You, the kids, this house, my job. Baby, you’ve made every dream come true for me, and I couldn’t thank you enough.”

She kissed him tenderly. “I will love you forever. And you’re welcome.”


Darcey technically still had six weeks until her due date, but she walked around the house, miserable. Her back was aching, her feet swollen, and she was grumpy. “I feel awful, boo,” she told Clint. “If I don’t have these babies soon, I’m going to scream.”

He chuckled at her. “I was going to remind you that this was your idea, kitten. But that look on your face tells me I should keep my trap shut.”

She sighed deeply and sat on the bed. “I know. And I’ve been fine up until last week. One of them is sitting on my bladder and if he kicks me again, I will wet myself.”

“How do you know it’s the boy kicking you? It could be Tessy.”

“Well, if this is Tess kicking me, she’s going to be a football player someday, mark my words. Oof!” She got back on her feet. “It hurts to sit, it hurts to stand. But you know, the way my back aches makes me think I haven’t got much longer.”

“I hope not for your sake, kitten. Would you like a foot rub?”

“Oh, would I ever!” she exclaimed.

Darcey fell asleep on the couch, her feet in Clint’s lap when she was jolted awake. “Ouch!” She doubled over, holding her belly.

“Are you okay, Darce?”

“I think that was a contraction. Call Nae and Andy. They need to be on standby.”

“You got it, honey.” Clint walked into the bedroom to grab his cell phone, dialed Danae’s number and waited for her to answer it.

“Hello?” came the sleepy greeting.

“Nae, it’s Clint. Darce thinks she is having contractions. She wanted me to let you know.”

She sat up straight in bed and slipped her feet into her shoes. “Are you sure, Clint?”

“Well, she said to be on standby, Nae. I’ll let you know if things get real here.”

“Thanks! I’ll wake Andy.” She hung up the call and looked at her watch. It was almost two in the morning.

“Who was that, baby?”

“Clint. Darcey thinks she’s having contractions.”

“Well, that’s not good,” Andy yawned. “Should we stay up, Nae? What did her doctor say about early delivery?”

“Well, six weeks early is technically premature but our babies will be fine. Don’t worry, my love.” She snuggled up to him and kissed him. “I guess I should call Janelle?”

“It wouldn’t be a bad idea if we’re on standby.”

“I’m on it, babe.” She dialed Janelle’s number but got her voice mail.

Janelle, this is Danae Murphy. My sister may be in labor. If you get this message before three o’clock, call me. Thanks.

“She’s not home?”

“I guess not. I hate to call Trixie. But I suppose if we need to, we could drop them off on the way to the hospital if we have no other choice.” Danae tapped her fingers on the dresser. “I wish I knew for sure if she was in labor or not. This is killing me.”

Ten minutes later, Danae’s phone rang. “Nae?”

“Darcey?”

“It’s time. Meet us there.”

“Be safe. We’ll see you soon. Love you, Darce.”

She heard a groan of pain on the other end of the phone. “Love you… Nae…” she barely got out before she hung up the phone.

“Andy, we have a problem. Janelle hasn’t called us, and we have no one to watch the kids.”

“Let me call Aaron. I’m sure they won’t mind, baby. The kids will just sleep anyway. Go ahead and get them ready, my sweet. We’ll drop them off on the way.”

“Andy?” The call woke him from a sound sleep. “What’s up, buddy?”

“Darcey is in labor. Can we drop Elyse and Eamon off? They won’t be a problem, and I’ll get them afterward. I’m going to call them into school today.”

“Of course. Trixie is up with Stephanie. She’s colicky.”

“Thanks, Aaron. We owe you big time.”

He chuckled. “Yes, you do! Let me know how the babies are. I know they’re early.”

“Will do. Thanks again.”

Danae already had the kids up and ready, a small bag packed and their blankets and dolls. “Come on kids, we need to go.”

The family piled into the car and drove the short distance to the Hall home. Danae got out with them and walked them to the door, where Trixie greeted them. “Good luck, Nae! And don’t worry about your babies. Let us know.”

“You bet! Thanks again, Trix.”

When they arrived at the hospital, Darcey was in a room, still dressed as she was when she went in. Her water hadn’t broken, but since she was early they didn’t want to just send her home, either. So she walked around the room just as miserable as she was at home. But now she didn’t have the comforts of home.

“How are you feeling, honey?” Danae asked her. Darcey bent over the exam table as a contraction hit her.

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“Peachy. Remind me again why I let your husband impregnate me?” Darcey scowled. Andy thought it was hilarious, but Danae shot him a look.

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“We’ll get through this together, Darce. Breathe.” She kissed her sister’s forehead and walked to Andy. “Please, no more laughing. She’s in pain, babe.” She caressed his cheek, her eyes begged him.

“I’m sorry, Darce. I didn’t mean anything by it. You know you’re my hero.” Andy crossed the room and hugged her.

“It’s okay. Clint keeps reminding me this was my idea. When it’s over and you’re holding your baby son and daughter, all of this will be worth it.” She kissed Andy’s cheek.

Danae paced with Darcey, hanging onto her for dear life. Andy paced on the other side of the room, and Clint sat, knowing better than to engage his wife in conversation when she was this miserable. Having Danae there calmed her, and he was thankful she and Andy were there with them.

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Two hours later, her water broke. Danae ran to the nurse’s station to inform them, but when she got back, Darcey was crying. “I need drugs, Nae. Please, help me.”

“I’m on it, Darce.” Danae searched for her obstetrician, who was standing at the station getting information on the case.

“Hi, Danae,” he greeted her. “How’s your —”

“She needs help, doc. She’s in a lot of pain. Please, give her something so she can be comfortable?”

The doctor whispered something to the nurse and she nodded. “We’ll get her all taken care of, you have my word.” He patted Danae on the shoulder, so she went back to the room.

Fifteen minutes later, Darcey had an epidural and was feeling better. “How are you feeling, Darcey?” the doctor asked her.

“Better now, thank you so much.”

“It won’t be much longer before they’re ready. You can start pushing as soon as you’re dilated. You’re at nine centimeters right now.”

“Thank you,” Darcey whispered.

Two hours later Theresa Elizabeth Murphy was born.

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Despite being early, she was only a pound underweight. The nurses swaddled her and placed her into Andy’s arms while Danae sat with Darcey, coaching her. Minutes later, her brother Theodore Rowan Murphy entered the world almost at ideal weight. Both were healthy and perfect.

Andy wept, holding his newborn son while Danae cuddled their daughter. “Pinch me, Danae,” Andy cried, deliriously happy. “Am I really holding our brand new baby boy?”

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Danae sniffled. “You are, my Andy.”


The twins were scheduled for discharge a few days out. One of them was a little jaundiced so the doctor kept them an additional day for observation. Danae and Andy were camped out in a hospital room with them. Her hormone therapy had paid off and her milk supply was abundant. The time in the hospital afforded them quality bonding time, and they were thankful for it.

Darcey was discharged from the hospital two days after giving birth, one day before the twins were scheduled to go home. And though she was happy for Danae and Andy, she felt empty inside. Clint never once left her side, and when it was time to go home he tended to her lovingly.

“Did you even get to hold them, Darce?” he asked softly, helping her with her shoes.

“The doctor said it would be better if I didn’t, at least not yet. Nae and Andy need some bonding time with them. And her milk is ready for them…” Her voice trailed off. “Boo, this is harder than I anticipated. I mean, I carried them for nine months. I love those babies.”

“I knew it would be hard for you regardless of who got them, sweetheart. But know I’m always here for you when you need me. And Noel and Shan, too. Honey, we all love you, and I’m so proud of you. You gave your sister and Andy the greatest gift.”

“I’m happy I could do it. But I might need some help with postpartum depression this time around.” Darcey sighed. She longed to hold the babies just once, but she knew she couldn’t. Not yet.

“There’s no shame in admitting you need help, Darce. Never forget you have a family at home who can’t wait for their mama to come home.” Clint kissed her forehead tenderly. “I couldn’t love you more than I do right this minute.”

“I love you so much, Boo. Thank you for letting me do this for them. They deserved this chance to be happy and whole again.”

Clint smiled. “Yes, they did.”

“Then why do I hurt so much?” Darcey wept in his arms.

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“Shh, kitten, you’re okay.” He kissed her tenderly and held her. “You are amazing. And time will heal your heart. Besides, honey, they’re not gone for good. You know Danae is a wonderful mother. You done good, Darcey.”

She snuggled in closer in his embrace. “Thank you for loving me, Clint.”

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“Oh Kitten, you’re so welcome.”

Her homecoming was met with balloons and streamers and two happy little boys, though she supposed Noel wasn’t a little boy anymore. And that realization depressed her more. But she kneeled down and opened her arms for them, and they both ran to her and embraced her. Both of them understood the sacrifice she had made for their Aunt Danae.

“Welcome home, Mama,” Noel greeted her with a kiss and a bouquet of flowers. “We missed you.”

“Oh sweetie pie, I missed you both so much!” She snuggled both boys into her arms and covered them in kisses.

Shan put his hand on her belly. “Aunt Danae and Uncle Andy have them now?” he asked, smiling.

Darcey kissed his forehead and smiled. “Yes, honey, they do. You’ll get to meet your cousins very soon, I promise.”

“Awesome!” he replied and snuggled closer to his mother. Shan was a mama’s boy, and he was quite happy no little brother and sister were taking his place.

“Let your mama rest, boys,” Clint said to them. “Remember, she is just coming home from the hospital.”

“Anything you need, Mama, just ask,” Noel said. “I’ll get it right away.”

“Thank you, baby boy,” she replied. Normally, being called ‘baby boy’ would have made Noel cringe, but today he didn’t mind it so much. He was just happy she was home.

Clint helped her upstairs to their bedroom. “I should call Nae,” she said quietly. “To see how they are.”

“Why don’t you do that tomorrow, when they go home?” Clint suggested. “Get some rest, love.” He helped her into her pajamas and tucked her into bed. “If you need me, I’m downstairs with the boys. I’m proud of you, Darce, and I love you.”

Sleep was coming quickly, and she laid her head on her pillow. “I love you…”


The next morning, the twins were approved to go home with their new parents. So far, Danae was bonding with them well. Andy had the next eight weeks off for paternity leave while she settled into a new routine with the twins. Kirby sent the limousine to pick up the family from the hospital, and waiting at home for them were Lysie and Eamon, with Aaron, Trixie, and Stephanie.

“Welcome home!” Trixie cheered as they walked through the front gate. Elyse ran out first and wrapped herself around Andy, and he chuckled. Eamon sprinted for Danae, chattering about the babies.

“Thanks, Trix!” Danae chirped. “I know these two munchkins want to meet their new brother and sister. Let’s all go inside. I need to nurse one of them.”

Aaron was waiting in the house, Stephanie in his arms. But he found a way to shake Andy’s hand. “Congratulations, man!”

Andy pulled the blanket away from the baby’s face and showed him. “Meet my son, Teddy. It’s a family name.”

“Oh Murph, he’s beautiful,” Aaron said, cooing at the baby. “He looks like you.”

“Thanks, Aaron. That means a lot coming from you.” Andy beamed at the infant in his arms.

“Hey, take the compliment when you can, Murph. I don’t hand them out that often.” Aaron laughed.

Andy laughed with him. “You got that right.”

Danae sat down in the rocking chair with Tessa to let both kids see her better. Elyse walked right up to her and stared. “Mama, she is so tiny!”

“You weren’t much bigger than Tessa when you were born, Lysie. Hard to believe you were ever this little.” Tessa was starting to fuss, so Danae prepared to nurse her.

Eamon was fascinated by the baby in Andy’s arms. He approached them slowly, creeping up to where Andy sat with Teddy. He reached to touch the baby, but just as he did, Teddy cried and Eamon backed away.

“He won’t hurt you, son,” Andy laughed. “Babies cry. It will be a familiar sound soon enough.”

Elyse curled up on the sofa with Andy and Eamon, not taking her eyes from her infant brother. “Can I touch him, Daddy?” she asked.

“Just be gentle, sweet pea.” She reached for his hand, and the baby grasped her finger. She giggled madly, in love with the baby her father held in his arms.

“They’re both so cute,” she said.

“Remember we told you, kids, that babies are a lot of work, and two of them are twice the attention,” Andy told his two oldest. “Also remember we are always here for both of you. Anything you need, don’t be afraid to ask us. We don’t mean to ignore you guys.”

“Lysie, would it be okay for me to ask you to help me once in a while?” Danae sat Tessa over her shoulder to burp her and gently patted her back. “You’re old enough to help me and Daddy. Eamon, you too!” Danae wanted the kids to feel connected to their new siblings, and having them help, she hoped, would accomplish that.

“Can I really, Mama?” Elyse’s eyes lit up. “Whatever you want, Mama, I’ll help!”

“Andy, I need Teddy. Let’s switch, babe.” He stood and reached for Tessa, and handed Teddy to her. She settled him into her arms to nurse. Oh, how she missed having babies in the house, and it felt so good to hold a newborn again. “I’ll let you know when you can help, sweet pea.”

*****

The children were tucked into bed, though getting Elyse to settle down was difficult. The babies were fed, warm and loved, tucked into their cribs and sleeping. And as they did every evening, Danae and Andy sat by the pool cuddled together, Andy sipping a glass of wine and Danae enjoying a glass of sweet nectar. He caressed her cheek gently and she nuzzled her face into his hand.

“A penny for your thoughts, Nae?”

“I’m just thinking about Darcey. We should have them over very soon for dinner. She seemed different when I talked to her earlier today.”

“She never even held them. That surprised me.” He kissed her fingers.

“That was part of the plan to allow us to bond with the babies. But I feel bad, babe. I know that woman better than I know myself. She is hurting.”

“Well, as soon as she’s feeling better let’s have them over for dinner. Besides, the boys should meet their new cousins.”

Danae chuckled. “Technically, they are siblings, just like they are with Lysie and Eamon. Clint and I are the only ones that have no skin in this.”

“Oh honey, you have plenty of skin in the game. You have my skin. And the two shall become one. Remember? Together, we are Mama and Daddy.”

“Let’s have them over for dinner next week after we’ve gotten into a routine with the babies. I don’t want to wait longer than that. She deserves to see them.”

“We will make it happen, my sweet.” Andy was about to speak again when a cry sounded over the monitor. “I guess you have a hungry baby.”

“Just as well, I was going to wake them one at a time to eat before I went to sleep anyway.” She stood up and took his hand. “If you help me, I’ll let you snuggle with me.”

“What an offer!” he purred. “Let’s go.”

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Up Next: Chapter Thirty-Four, Generation Five


If you or someone you know struggles with postpartum depression or other depression issues, please get help. Visit SAMHSA at https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/national-helpline or call 800-662-HELP (4357)

The Suicide Prevention Hotline phone number is 1-800-273-8255 Don’t suffer in silence.


Pose Credits:

Poses By Bee

InkWisteria – Ultrasound Poses
Spladoum – Bundle of Joy
Sea – Warm Hugs
Blams – Young Romance

Custom Content:

ClioSims Hairbrush Accessory
Around The Sims 3 Sims 4 to 3 Conversion Stool and “Poppy”
Elyse’s Dress Altea’s Little Angel
Hekate999’s Hospital Items
Elyse’s Room Decor Nursery Cubes
Severinka Bunny

I know there are items I have left out, but it’s getting almost as long as my story to credit everyone! So my blanket disclaimer: I have produced none (except Murphy family portraits) of the CC used in this chapter. If someone has gone uncredited, it was not intentional, and I am truly sorry! I take no credit for any CC used, except where noted.

G5 Chapter Thirty Two – Darcey Plans A Gift

Four months later…

“Do you need help with that?” Aaron yelled up the stairs of the Murphy home. 

“No, I think I have it,” Trixie yelled back. “This is the last box anyway.” She carried it to the top step, placed it on the stairway and let gravity take care of the moving. 

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Andy chuckled. “I hope there were no family heirlooms in that box, or they are toast.”

Aaron shrugged. “She said it was clothes and a blanket her mother crocheted. I’m assuming it’s pretty impossible to break that.”

Danae was happy for her friend, but she would miss Trixie’s company every morning. Since their engagement three months prior, Danae had unsuccessfully been looking for a new nanny. And now that Aaron and Trixie were expecting their first baby, she was moving to his house. The baby would arrive shortly before Aaron’s 42nd birthday, and three months after Trixie’s 30th.

“Uh oh,” came a distress call followed by quick footsteps and retching. Aaron took the steps two at a time, rushing to her aid.

“Are you alright, Beanie?” he asked.

She looked at him, feeling nauseated. “Not really. But it will pass in a couple of months.” She was barely six weeks pregnant. 

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“I guess we need to plan the wedding we’ve been putting off. And I suppose I should call my mother. Dad would have loved a grandchild.” Aaron’s father died shortly before they found out about the baby. His mother was no younger and in poor health. It was likely she wouldn’t see the baby born. 

“It doesn’t have to be a big wedding. In fact, we can get married at Town Hall if you want. I don’t care, Coach, as long as we are together.”

Andy carried the last of Trixie’s belongings to Aaron’s car while she and Danae tidied up the suite. Wyatt and Raisa’s baby was due in just a month, and now Aaron and Trixie were starting a family. 

The four of them stood in the yard. Danae got emotional, even though Trixie was only moving down the street. “I’m going to miss you!” she wept.

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“I’ll miss you and the kids,” Trixie cried. 

“You’re welcome to come by any time, you know. Don’t be a stranger.” 

“Of course, Nae. You’re my best friend.” Aaron looked at her funny. “Besides you, Coach.” 

Andy hugged Aaron. “Treat her well, or I will hurt you,” he joked. 

“Try it,” Aaron laughed. “I might be older, but I’m in better shape and I’m faster!” 

Andy belly laughed. “I believe you!”

Danae and Andy watched as their friends got into Aaron’s car. They both waved as he drove away, and Danae began to cry.

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“Oh honey, she isn’t that far away,” Andy said softly. 

“I know,” she sniffled. “Everything is changing. Wyatt and Raisa are expecting. Aaron and Trixie are expecting…” her voice trailed off. He knew she was thinking of Emmitt.

“Baby, shh, it’s okay.” Andy held her tightly. “What we have is awesome. Don’t worry, honey. We are alright.” 

Danae sighed. “Change is good, right?”

“It can be, yes.” 

“I love you, Andy. Thank you for being my constant.”

“Always my pleasure, my sweet.” 


Two months later…

Trixie tried to hide the growing bump that was their baby under a simple dress. The wedding took no time to plan and would be held in the little chapel that overlooked the ocean, the only one on the island. It was more for Aaron than it was for her, though it was the first marriage for both of them.

The party only included their closest friends: Wyatt, Danae and Andy, Darcey and Clint, and Kirby and Rae. Wyatt’s wife Raisa, who was caring for their newborn daughter Keely Maria, could not attend the wedding. Andy’s two children would be ring bearer and flower girl, Andy would act as Aaron’s best man, and Danae the matron of honor.

“How is this?” Trixie asked. Her hair was adorable, and she wore a simple veil in it. 

“Trixie, you’re beautiful,” Danae assured her. “Aaron is going to love it.” 

“He’s been so excited about this, Nae. I have been, too. I’m glad we’re doing this before I get much bigger. Pretty dresses are hard to find when you’re sporting a big baby belly.” 

Danae hugged her best friend. “Andy and I are so happy for you two. I don’t know why I never thought to introduce you guys sooner.” 

Trixie smiled. “The timing was never right. We met exactly when we were supposed to. I was single and ready. I needed to date Steve to realize I was ready for a man like Aaron.” Steve was the man she was dating when Danae and Andy left on their anniversary trip. “He was the biggest jerk of them all, and he made me realize I was ready for someone different. In some ways, I’m thankful for him. I might have never given Aaron a second look if not for that wake-up call.”

Andy knocked on the door of the bride’s room. “Baby, Aaron’s ready. It’s go time.” 

“This is it!” Trixie said. “I’m glad we planned a little wedding instead of going to the courthouse. Thank you for all your help.”

“Anything for you, Trix. I love both of you like family.” Danae gave her one last hug before she joined Andy in the vestibule.

The kids were dressed in the same outfits they wore to the vow renewal, Eamon walked down first carrying the pillow with rings tied to it. Elyse followed him carrying a small basket of flowers. Danae and Andy watched their children walking down the aisle and he squeezed her hand. “Are you ready, sweetie?” 

“You bet,” she replied, and together they walked behind Elyse. 

When they were at the front, the music changed, and Trixie appeared at the back of the chapel.

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Aaron’s eyes got wide when he saw her, and he lost it. Andy squeezed his shoulder and whispered into his ear. “Your bride is beautiful, my friend.” 

He shook his head. “How do I deserve her?” Andy smiled at the groom, his best friend. 

“You just do, buddy. Congratulations, man.” 

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Trixie reached the altar, and Aaron took her hands. “Wow, Beanie, you look gorgeous.” 

She smiled bashfully. “You look amazing, Coach.” 

Aaron took her hands in his, looked into her hazel eyes and smiled. “Trixie, when we met, I wasn’t looking for you, and I certainly wasn’t thinking I could ever love you. But you made it easy to fall for you, easy to love you. And I couldn’t imagine loving you more than I do right now.” He placed his hand on her belly and smiled. “Both of you.” He took her hand and slipped a simple gold band onto her finger. “Trixie, I love you.”

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Trixie reached to touch his cheek and smiled. “Aaron, I didn’t know when we met how much I could love you. But I knew there was something special about you from the first moment we touched, and my love for you has only grown.” She placed her hand on the growing baby, and tears pooled in her eyes. “Our love has created this little one, half me, half you, completely loved.” She slipped a diamond and gold band onto his finger. “Aaron, I love you.” 

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After the pastor pronounced them man and wife Aaron kissed her tenderly. “We did it!” 

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“Yes we did, Coach!” He wrapped his arm around her waist and they turned to the small group of friends that witnessed the ceremony. The reception followed immediately after in the adjoining social hall. It wasn’t a big deal, just dancing with music, some nectar for her and champagne for the guests to do a toast, and hors d’oeuvres. 

A few hours later, the party had wound down and friends wished the bride and groom well before they left. When it was just the four of them, Andy, Danae, Trixie, and Aaron, the bride and groom hugged their friends and thanked them. Aaron and Trixie took a limousine to the Grand Tower resort for their wedding night, and Danae and Andy took the kids and went home.


Later that year… 

Snowflake Day… a time for families and friends all over Simville. This particular holiday was no different, though it was the Murphy family’s first holiday without Emmitt. Wyatt and Raisa would be rejoining them, along with Darcey and her family, and Aaron and Trixie, to celebrate together. 

Keely, Wyatt’s daughter, sat in Raisa’s lap and cooed happily. She was born about five months before the holidays, and the new parents wore the telltale signs of a baby. Aaron and Trixie were eight months pregnant. 

Danae looked around at her extended family. Noel was a bit over ten, Shan and Elyse would be nine in the spring, and Eamon just a bit over seven years old. The children were all growing so fast, she had to pinch herself to know it was real. And it wouldn’t be long before Elyse was grown and going to college. Just yesterday, it seemed, she was a toddler learning to say ‘Daddy’. 

The guys all congregated outside where there was room to talk and do so loudly. Darcey’s kids were in the pool, so Andy was on lifeguard duty. Wyatt gushed about fatherhood, and how much he loved it. 

“When’s the next one due, Searce?” Andy teased. 

“Well,” he drawled, “we are havin’ all the fun tryin’ for another young’un.” Wyatt was the second oldest in the bunch of friends, five years older than Andy. “I’m not gettin’ any younger.” 

“When we got pregnant with Eamon, we weren’t planning on him being so close to Elyse. But, I have to admit it has worked out pretty good. They’re very close, especially now.” Andy sipped on a glass of wine. “And our two with Clint’s two, they’re all right around the same age. They know their cousins very well.”

Aaron was now the only one among them who did not have a child, at least not yet. His baby would arrive within the next month. So he listened intently, gleaning advice and wisdom from his two best friends.

Inside, the women sat around and chatted, listening half-heartedly to entertainment news out of Starlight Shores and Bridgeport. And it was all going unnoticed until Darcey heard Devin’s name. 

“Nae, did you hear that? Someone mentioned Devin.” 

She shook her head and took the remote from the coffee table. “I’ll rewind it.” She went backward on the broadcast about a minute, and when the story was rebroadcast, the sisters looked at one another in shock.

Maribeth Woods, former longtime sweetheart of soccer superstar Devin Jones, filed suit yesterday in Starlight Shores for child support. Miss Woods alleges Jones is the biological father of her unborn child. Their relationship ended abruptly seven months ago amid speculation that he was with Shores socialite and heiress Margo Oberly. Could this new revelation be the real reason behind the star couple’s split? Story at eleven.” 

Danae chuckled. “Speculation? There’s not a doubt in my mind he had other women on the side. Poor Maribeth. Daddy always liked her.” 

“Don’t feel too sorry for her, Nae,” Darcey rebutted. “She put up with it willingly. She knew what Devin was.”

“True.” She thought for a moment and realized something. “Darce, this means we are going to be aunts again. But this time, the kids won’t know their cousin.” 

Keely cried in Raisa’s arms as they spoke. “I’m sorry,” she blushed. “The baby, she is hungry.” 

“Make yourself comfortable, Raisa,” Danae said. “Our home is your home. If you’d rather nurse her privately, you can use our bedroom and close the door.” 

Still shy and reserved around the other ladies, Raisa excused herself to the master suite to nurse Keely in seclusion.

“She’s a sweet girl,” Darcey commented. “She’s been very good for Wyatt.” Raisa’s family disapproved of him, saying he was much too old for her. She was in her late 20s, and Wyatt was 40. But he was devoted to her and they loved each other tremendously. The fact that Wyatt was rich didn’t hurt, either. He was able to give her everything she needed and wanted. But she loved him long before she knew about the money. The financial security was a bonus for her and Keely. 

“She truly is a sweet girl. What do you think of her, Trix?” Danae asked.

She blushed. “I know the guys are all best friends, but that hasn’t translated to me and Raisa yet. I don’t know her that well.” 

“None of us do. I’m glad they’re spending the holiday with us this year, so we can get to know her better.” Danae’s attention went back to the television as she heard Maribeth’s familiar voice.

“Daddy told him not to make a child he wasn’t going to love and raise,” Darcey said, returning to their previous topic. “I don’t miss the drama he brought around in the Shores.” 

“Amen to that, sissy,” Danae laughed. “He’s been a thorn in Andy’s side for years. Someday, I’m afraid he will really hurt Andy, left to his own devices. Who is to say he wouldn’t?”

Darcey shook her head. “I don’t know, Nae. Valid question and Andy has reason to fear him.” 

“Oh,” Danae shrugged, “Andy isn’t afraid of him. He is afraid of nothing, and he would do absolutely anything to protect the three of us, even to the point of forfeiting his own life. I would do the same, too.” 

“Dinner smells good, ladies,” Andy quipped as he came inside for another round of beer for the guys. Danae gave him the stink eye as she eyed the bottles in his hand, but he kissed her cheek. “I’m not having one, baby. No worries, okay?” 

Danae nodded. “I have some news for you later. You won’t believe it.” His eyebrow raised as he looked at her. She laughed. “Later. When we’re all inside.” 

“Oh,” he looked disappointed. “So it’s nothing saucy?” She laughed and swatted him as he walked toward the backyard.

Trixie snickered. “It’s good to see some things don’t change. Andy is still fresh.” 

Danae blushed deep red. “Yes, and oh my gosh, Trixie, I’m sorry that you even know that!”

Trixie laughed harder. “I lived here for two years, Nae. I’d have to be living under a rock not to notice it.” 

Darcey rolled her eyes. “She got that from Daddy.” 

“Hush, you!” Danae teased her sister. 

After dinner, they all gathered around the tree and exchanged gifts. Though Andy and Danae stopped exchanging gifts years ago, he had something special for her. When she opened it, she had a confused look on her face. Andy chuckled. 

“You don’t know what that is, do you baby?” 

She shook her head. “Well, it’s a necklace, but… no, I don’t. A… I give up, Andy. What is it?” 

“It’s a phoenix. Baby, you’ve had the worst year of your life, but you’ve managed to make the best of it. Like a phoenix, you’ve risen from the ashes of tragedy and you’ve been strong and steadfast, taking care of our family.” As he explained it, tears filled her eyes. “That’s not all, baby. Look on the back.” 

She turned the pendant over and wept openly as she read aloud the inscription etched on the back:

In loving memory of our son, Emmitt Theodore Murphy. 

“Do you like it, honey?” he asked, smiling.

“Oh babe, it’s… I’m speechless.” She set the box on the sofa where she sat and stood up. Andy met her and embraced her, allowing her to cry in his arms. “I love you so much, Andy,” she whispered into his ear.

“I crazy love you, Danae. You are a fantastic mama, honey.” He kissed her tenderly. When they looked at the faces of their friends and family, there was not a dry eye around the tree. 

*****

That evening…

“Clint, can I talk to you a moment?” Darcey sat on the bench at the end of their bed while Clint finished in the bathroom. 

“Of course, kitten. What’s on your mind?” 

“I want to do something special for Nae and Andy, and I’ve been considering this for a while now. But we need to be on the same page for this to happen. And I just don’t know how you’re going to feel about it, Boo.” 

“Well, tell me what you want to do, and I’ll tell you how I feel about it. Easy, right?” He turned out the light in the bathroom and walked to her.

She shook her head. “This isn’t really that easy. First, I want to say that this is my idea and mine alone. No one asked me to consider it. In fact, she doesn’t know I want to do this for her.”

“It must be big, Darce.” Clint sat down beside her. “What is it?”

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“I want to help them have another baby. Danae has been wanting one since they came back from Dragon Valley a couple of years ago. Emmitt has been gone almost a year, and now would be a good time to do this.”

Clint leaned back on his hands and looked at her like she was on drugs. “How exactly are you going to help them?”

“Well, Andy would donate sperm, and I’d donate a couple of my eggs. We are identical genetically, so there wouldn’t be much difference between mine and hers, if she had them to donate, that is.”

“So… in vitro? Or are you wanting a night of passion with her husband?” He was half-joking with her.

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“Don’t be daft, Clint. Of course in vitro. We would fertilize a couple and implant two or three, see if any of them take. I mean, nothing is a guarantee. But she wants this so badly. It breaks my heart to see her in this much emotional agony when I can help her. So, now that I’ve laid it on the table, what do you think?” 

Clint shook his head. “I don’t know, Darce. This is a huge deal. Do you need a decision right this minute?” 

She snickered at him. “Of course not, silly. I haven’t even told her. But I have a chance to give her this incredible gift, Boo. If the shoe was on the other foot, she wouldn’t hesitate.”

“Would you be able to give a baby away that you carried for nine months?” 

“I wouldn’t be giving it to just anyone, Boo. I’d be giving it to my twin sister and her husband.”

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“Let me sleep on it, Kitten. This is a big decision, and I’m not sure I want my wife to carry someone else’s baby.” 

“Not just someone else, Boobear. My identical twin sister. Remember, she is the one who made us millionaires.” 

“What, so you owe her now?” He started getting defensive.

“No. Of course not. Clint, please, think long and hard about it. It would mean the world to me to do this for them.”

“You’re sure she didn’t put you up to this, Darce?” 

“If you asked her about it, she would have no clue what you’re talking about.” 

“Is it really that important to you, Kitten?” He took her hand and looked into her violet eyes.

“It is, Clint. More than you truly realize.” She caressed his cheek. “She and Andy have given us so much. I mean, aside from the money, they’re the reason we live here, away from the city. They adore our boys. Haven’t you seen the way she looks when the discussion goes to Raisa or Trix? Or the way she hurts when Emmitt enters the conversation? Don’t forget, Clint, Emmitt is the second child they have lost. Her pain is palpable. It doesn’t have to be, Clint. I can help her. We… we can help her.” 

His expression softened. “You’re right. If this is what you want to do, I’m behind you completely.”

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“Thank you, honey.” She kissed him passionately. “Let me show you how thankful I really am.” 


The next morning…

“Hey Darce, what’s cookin’?” Danae answered her cell, in a good mood. 

“Hey sweetie,” Darcey greeted her. “Clint and I would like to take you and Andy to By The Sea tonight, our treat. We have something to tell you.” 

Darcey Danae Phone

Danae was taken aback. “It must be important if you’re doing it up big. You’re not moving away, are you?”

Darcey laughed. “Of course not. I couldn’t get Clint away from here if I tried. I’m not going to give any hints, so don’t try to pull it out of me. You’ll find out tonight.” 

“I’ll call him and tell him. Maybe Trixie and Aaron will watch our kids tonight.” Danae was excited. Darcey and Clint almost never invited them to go anywhere, so whatever she had in mind had to be significant.

After they hung up, Danae called Andy’s cell. 

“This is Murphy.”  

“Babe? Are you busy?” 

“No, but you caught me on my way to Kirby’s office. What’s up, my sweet?” 

“Darcey and Clint want to bring us to Kirby’s place tonight, their treat. She said they have news. I’m almost worried.” 

“What time, baby? I’ll make sure I’m out of here in time.” 

“Six. I need to call Trix and see if they’ll take our kids tonight.”

“Did she give any clue what it’s about?”

“No, she just told me not to try and pull it out of her. I know it’s big, I just hope it’s nothing serious, Andy. They can’t leave here.”

“I’m sure they aren’t going anywhere. Relax, baby. I’ll make this happen. I can’t wait now, sweetie. I love you!”

“I love you, Andy. I’ll see you soon.” 

Danae had one more call to make. “Trix?” 

“Hi Nae!” she chirped. “You sound happy.”

“Kinda. My sister wants to take Andy and me to By The Sea tonight. Would you and Aaron take the kids for a while? I’d call my other sitter, but I still don’t have one.”

“Of course we will. I think Aaron has to work late anyway. I’ll even feed them if you want.” 

“You’re a lifesaver, Trix. I’ll get a new sitter soon, I promise. It’s been tough trying to find one we trust.”

“I’ll watch them whenever I can. I have to give you my key anyway. I forgot it was on my keyring.” 

“Keep it, Trix. Until you have your baby, anyway. I’m not worried about it.” 

“I’ll see you tonight, then! I can’t wait to see the kids. I miss them.” 

“They miss you, too. Thanks again, Trixie. I owe you one.” Danae hung up the phone. 

*****

“Would you zip this, babe?” Danae asked Andy as she wiggled into her dress. “How do I look?” 

“Baby, you look incredible.” He kissed her neck as he zipped the dress. “How about your new necklace? Do you want help with it?” 

“If you’re offering, sure!” she said. Carefully, he fastened the delicate gold chain around her neck.

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“Let me look at you,” he said and spun her around. “My beautiful princess,” he cooed at her. “Are you ready, my sweet?” 

“I am,” she nodded. 

Trixie was in their living room playing a game with both kids. “Thanks again for watching them tonight,” Andy said. “We shouldn’t be late.” 

“Take your time and enjoy your family.”

Andy drove them to the restaurant and valet parked his car. Together they walked inside, Darcey and Clint awaited them. They both stood as Danae and Andy approached them. “Hi, sweetie!” Darcey chirped and hugged her sister. “Andy,” she kissed his cheek and hugged him. Clint shook Andy’s hand and hugged Danae. 

They were all seated and there was an awkward silence. “What is everyone drinking?” Clint asked.

“Danae and I will have white wine, semi-sweet, thank you.” She looked at him funny and he chuckled. 

The waiter appeared and Clint ordered from the bar for the table. The suspense was killing Danae and she shifted uncomfortably in her chair. Darcey smiled at her sister.

“The reason we wanted you here tonight—” Darcey was interrupted by the waiter, who returned very quickly with their order. Clint made their dinner order, doing as Andy had done numerous times when they had dined together, and the waiter left them alone. 

“As I was saying,” Darcey continued, “the reason we wanted you here with us tonight, Clint and I have a proposition for you. And before your knee-jerk reaction says no, please give this some thought.” She took a deep breath and Clint took her hand. “Danae, Andy… we want to help you to expand your family.”

Danae was stunned. “What do you mean, Darce?” 

“Well, I want to carry another child for you. We want this for you.”

Andy shook his head, confused. “How exactly would this happen?” 

“Well, most of the preparation would be mine. I’d have a few eggs harvested, and together with Andy’s sperm, we’d make a baby via in vitro, and implant the embryos. Whatever implants will become a baby that I’d carry for you, and when he or she is born, it is your baby.” 

Danae’s eyes welled up with tears. “Darce… I…” she couldn’t speak. “I couldn’t let you do this for me. It’s too much to ask.” 

“You’re not asking me. I’m offering it. Do you think I don’t see the pain on your face when the conversation turns to Raisa and Trixie? Since you came back from Dragon Valley with Andy, I’ve known how badly you want another baby.” 

Andy was speechless and blinked back tears. “Guys, this is too much.”

“Please,” Darcey pleaded with them, “please let me do this for you guys. Tell me, Danae. Tell me you wouldn’t turn yourself inside out to help me if you had the ability to.” 

“You know I would, Bug,” Danae said softly. 

“You have the biggest heart, the kindest soul I’ve known since Mama, and you’ve caught more than your share of rough breaks. The miscarriage. Your hysterectomy. Emmitt’s death. Nae, you guys didn’t deserve any of that heartbreak, but you accepted it graciously.”

“We didn’t have much choice, Darce. Everything happens for a reason, right?” 

“Sometimes I can’t accept that as the final word, Nae. I have the opportunity to give you your most desired gift. I know you cry over it. I know how badly you want it, Danae. Please let me help you.” 

Andy took a deep breath. “This is certainly a lot to consider. If we do this, Danae and I will cover all your medical expenses, and I’m not taking no for an answer on it. This is non-negotiable.”

Clint nodded. “I’ll agree to that. Darcey?” 

She nodded. “I’d do it without that stipulation, but if it makes you feel better about it, we can do that.” 

“Babe, you’re not really considering this, are you?” Danae asked, shocked.

“Honey, this is the answer to everything we’ve ever wanted. Possibly our second daughter, maybe a third son.” She looked at him oddly. “Just because Emmitt is gone doesn’t make him any less our child.” He squeezed her hand and caressed her cheek. “My Tessa…” His caramel-brown eyes almost begged with hers. 

Hearing him say her name made Danae choke up with emotion. She knew he desired another daughter more than anything else, and for that exact reason. “Darcey, you are absolutely sure about this?”

“Nae, I’ve never been more sure of anything else in my life, except for Clint. This feels right.” Darcey reached for her sister’s hand and squeezed it. “In fact, I have an appointment next week with a fertility specialist so we can go over the particulars. I’d love it if you came with me.” 

She looked at Andy with tears in her eyes, and he returned her gaze, tears pooled in his. “Do you even want to discuss this, or go for it?” She whispered into his ear as she pulled close to him. 

“Let’s do it. I know there are no guarantees, but let’s try for that second baby girl. And if we have another boy, I will adore him, too.” 

She looked at Darcey, then Clint, and back to Andy. “I think we’d love to do this! I can’t believe it! Thank you both so much for this. It is something I will never forget.” 


Six weeks later…

Darcey had gone through treatments, medications, injections, and procedures that led up to this moment as two anxious families sat. “Mrs. Scroggins?” the orderly called her. Andy stood up and swallowed hard. 

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“This is it, baby,” he said nervously. His contribution would be simple. Darcey’s ordeal would be a bit more involved. He kissed Danae and joined his sister-in-law back in the procedure room. 

Clint and Darcey knew the risks. She willingly took the treatments, endured the ultrasounds, until the doctors knew for certain they had what they needed. And when the time was right, this day, she would take the next crucial step toward surrogacy.

Darcey was given a light sedative for the procedure, mostly to calm her. She had a relatively high pain tolerance but the procedure itself was delicate. She wasn’t nervous at all but excited as Andy kissed her cheek before he walked to his room.

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“Good luck, Darce,” he said and waved to her.

“You too, Daddy,” she smiled back. 

About an hour later, both of them had accomplished their objective. Darcey was feeling a little sore, but nothing she hadn’t experienced before. She knew what to expect. Now, they waited to find out how many viable embryos they had. 

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Danae leaned to kiss Darcey’s cheek. “You’re my hero,” she whispered into her ear. Clint stood behind the wheelchair and smiled at the sisters. He was so proud of his wife.

“You’ve always been mine,” Darcey whispered back. 

Clint drove Darcey home to spoil and care for her, while Andy and Danae returned home to their children. They hadn’t said anything to the kids yet, not wanting them to have high hopes for something that wasn’t a guarantee. But at the conclusion, they were optimistic.

As they did every evening after the children were in bed, they sat out by the pool with their glass of wine and talked. “How did it really go in there today, Andy?” 

“My job was easy. Almost too easy, really. All I had to do was think of you.” He blushed slightly. “Darcey seemed to be doing okay when we all left, don’t you think?” 

“Yeah, she’s in good hands. Clint will spoil her, and she deserves it. My sister is my hero, sorry babe. You’ve been dethroned.”

Andy chuckled. “I completely understand, my sweet. She’s mine, too.”

“The specialist mentioned something about maybe being able to breastfeed.” Danae twirled Andy’s hair around her finger.

He sat up a bit and looked at her. “Don’t tease me, Danae.” 

She belly laughed. “I’m not teasing! Apparently, I’d need to do some hormone replacement therapy to trick my body into thinking I’m pregnant. But it’s not only possible, it could be likely this could happen. There have been instances where a sibling carried a baby for her sister, and the sister ended up producing so much milk, she was able to donate.”

Andy smiled impishly. “You’d never have enough to donate, baby. I’m just saying.”

“You’re awful,” she laughed. “But I’m excited about this! I mean, Darcey could give the baby the first milk, and then maybe pump for a few weeks until I get established, but this could happen.” 

“You should have let me keep your milk up, Nae.”

Danae belly laughed. “You do realize how long it’s been. Emmitt would have been five and a half. That’s a long time to lactate, babe.” 

“Oh, but I would have loved it,” Andy smiled. He truly meant it, too. 

“You’re incorrigible, my Andy.” She kissed him tenderly.

“You’re beautiful,” he replied. “You know, I don’t have to worry about saving myself anymore, not that I did anyway.”

“What are you saying, my love?” 

He looked at her, faking exasperation. “If I have to spell it out—”

She kissed him, interrupting him. “I’m picking up what you’re putting down. Let’s go.”


“Babe, Darcey is here. I’m going with her to the doctor today. Are you okay here at home?”

“No worries, honey. Tell her I said good luck!” he called to her. He was elbow deep in homework with the kids.

“I will! I’ll be right home afterward.”

She ran to Darcey’s car and got in the passenger’s seat. “Are you excited, Nae?” Darcey greeted her.

“So excited!” she chirped back. Darcey was going to have the embryos implanted, three of them, in the hopes that one of them would implant and become a pregnancy. It was a simple procedure but she wanted Danae with her. Darcey wanted her sister with her as much as possible, to help her feel connected to the baby she hoped she would carry and birth. 

At the doctor’s office, the sisters walked back to the exam room, where most everything was set up and ready to go. “Mrs. Scroggins, just undress from the waist down and put this drape over you. The doctor will be in shortly.” 

“This is it, Nae,” Darcey said. “In a couple of weeks, we’ll know if we’re going to have a baby.” Danae took her sister’s hand and squeezed it.

About five minutes later, the doctor entered the room with an assistant. With them, they carried the equipment to do the procedure. Darcey smiled. “Doc, this is my twin sister, Danae. She will be the baby’s mother should this materialize.” 

The doctor held his hand to shake. “Pleased to meet you, Danae,” he said respectfully. “That’s an unusual name, but I’ve heard it before.” 

Danae blushed. “My husband is Andy Murphy,” she replied. 

The doctor nodded in recognition. “I’m so sorry about your son. I was shocked to hear of it when it happened.” He smiled and patted her shoulder. The twins were famous, and he was honored. “Well, back to why you’re here, Darcey. We have three embryos that looked great, three that were good, and well, the rest weren’t viable. Out of the ten eggs we harvested, we have enough for another implantation if none of these take. They will be frozen for use at a later time if we need to. But you’re young and you’ve had two other successful pregnancies. I don’t see why this wouldn’t work.” The doctor was optimistic, and it gave the sisters great hope.

“What would happen if all three of them take, doc?” Danae asked. “I mean, what are the odds of that?” 

“Well, we can always terminate one to make it twins, or if you want all three babies, Darcey would likely carry them to 30 weeks and have them prematurely. Triplets seldom to go term without complications.” Danae shook her head, but the doctor spoke. “We will cross that bridge if we get there. Don’t worry.” 

“I would never agree to terminate one,” Darcey said. “I know the risks and I’ve agreed, but you won’t take one of these babies. Danae and Andy have already suffered enough loss.” 

The doctor nodded. “Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, shall we? Are you ready, Darcey? This will only take a moment. We’ll do a follow up in two weeks for preliminary testing and if we get good results there, an ultrasound two weeks after that.” 

“Let’s do this,” Darcey said confidently. She reached for Danae’s hand and squeezed it. “Andy’s going to be a daddy again, Danae, and you’ll be a mama again. Mark my words.” 

“I’ve prayed for this since you proposed it, Darce. Let it be so.” Danae closed her eyes, a smile on her face.

When the procedure was over, the sisters headed home. Darcey had two appointments scheduled, one for two weeks out, and one for four weeks out. By that time, they would know for certain if another Murphy baby was due.


Two weeks later…

Danae and Andy sat in the exam room with Darcey for the results of her blood test, done the day prior. The three of them were nervous but excited. None of them spoke while they waited, but Danae felt good about it. 

The doctor walked into the room with Darcey’s chart and stopped short when he saw Andy sitting with the twins. “Mr. Murphy!” he said, starstruck. “What an honor.” 

Andy blushed. “Thank you.”

“The Sharks haven’t been the same team since you took over, and I mean that in a good way. Huge fan.” He patted Darcey on the knee and smiled. “The preliminary bloodwork shows a possible pregnancy, so we’ll repeat the blood testing and the ultrasound at your follow up.” He turned to Danae and Andy and shook their hands. “The staff is hoping for this to happen for you two.” The anniversary of Emmitt’s death was upon them, and getting this good news would soften the pain.

Danae wiped tears from her eyes and smiled at Andy. “Thank you, Doctor.” 

On their way home, Danae was quiet. “What are you thinking about, honey?” he asked her.

“Emmitt. He’s been on my mind as the day approaches. It’s unreal he’s been gone a year already, Andy.” 

He nodded. “I think of him every day. I wonder how big he would be by now. How he would be doing in school. He was so smart, just like his mama.” 

“Let’s do something special for Emm, babe. Mama and Daddy planted a tree in the yard for my older sibling. Let’s do something just as special for him and our other angel baby. What do you think?” Her eyes sparkled at the thought.

“Here’s a thought. Your folks did a memorial scholarship once. Why don’t we do something like that at the kids’ school? Once a year, we offer a tuition scholarship to one deserving family. Goodness knows there are plenty of disadvantaged kids on the island.”

Danae smiled. “I like where we are going with this. It’s a great tribute to him, and it gives us a chance to give back to the community that has given us so much.”

Andy took her hand and squeezed it. “Baby, you are your mother’s daughter. You have her sweet, giving heart.” 

*****

Now that Darcey’s pregnancy was more likely, Danae had an appointment of her own to consult about preparing for breastfeeding. If it was possible, she wanted to explore it. It was one of her favorite parts of having a baby. Nursing helped her to bond with the kids when they were little, and since she was starting at a disadvantage with this baby, Danae believed it would help considerably. 

They tucked the kids into bed and they retired to the patio to watch the fireflies on the far end of the yard, to listen to the frogs that lived in the creek on the neighboring property, and to talk about their day. Andy handed her a glass of wine, and they snuggled together on the lounge chair.

“So, I guess it looks like we’re going to have another baby,” Andy said. His tone was happy and peaceful. “Your sister is something else, Nae. Never in my wildest dreams did I think she would ever propose such a thing. And yet, she did it selflessly. I wasn’t kidding when I said she is my hero.”

Danae smiled at him and took a sip of wine. “She is so much my hero, Andy. She has wanted me, wanted us, involved in every stage of the process. She wants me to be her birth coach. She wants me to be the first person to hold our baby son or daughter. Well, your son or daughter.”

Andy shook his head. “Ours, baby. Just because she is carrying it doesn’t make the baby any less yours. Besides, you two are nearly identical. Shan looks a lot like you, just like he looks like Darcey. You could easily pass for his mother, baby.”

“I know. But the baby will be biologically yours, not mine.”

“Honey, it doesn’t matter. He or she will still be our child. Your heart wants this. Your heart makes the child yours, not biology, not carrying it.” He kissed her tenderly. “Maybe this will be our Tessa.”

“I hope for your sake we have a girl, babe. I know how badly you want another daughter.” She snuggled into his arms. 

“It truly doesn’t matter what we have, sweetie, as long as the baby is healthy. I will adore another Murphy munchkin just as much as I love the two we have right now. And our two angel babies. And most of all, their mama.”

Danae kissed his chin and nuzzled into his neck. “I love you, Andy. I can’t wait to find out in two weeks for certain. Are you sure this was what you wanted, babe? Another baby?”

“Aren’t you sure? Nae, honey, I know you want to have another baby. I know Stephanie has given you the baby blues, and she’s so darned cute. A little blonde baby girl who looks like Trixie. I know you want that, too.”

“You’re right. This isn’t the time to have cold feet, not when she’s pregnant. I guess I’m worried that all three embryos are implanted. Triplets, Andy. I’m not ready for triplets.” 

“What’s the procedure for that, if all three took?” 

“Darcey has made it clear she will not terminate any of them, so we would have triplets. And I wouldn’t want that, either. They’re your babies if there are three, and I will love them. But be prepared, I will need help with three infants, babe.”

“If we have three, then we prepare for it. And if not, we love the one she gives us.”

“Oh, speaking of which, I see a specialist in two weeks about breastfeeding. I’ll need to get started soon if I’m serious about it. And you know what I think about it.” 

Andy snickered. “You know what I think about it, too.” She swatted him playfully. “Hey! You can’t fault a man for loving his wife.” 

She shook her head and laughed. “So, what I heard was, you want to love your wife. When, exactly?” 

Now Andy was laughing. “You talk about me!” He kissed her neck and caressed her cheek. “How about now?” he whispered.

“Sold, Mr. Murphy,” she flirted.


Two weeks later…

Danae felt queasy as she waited for Darcey’s name to be called. All four of them sat in the waiting room at her four week follow up. This was the day both families discovered how their lives would change, and to what extent. Andy held her close, and Darcey’s foot tapped nervously on the floor. 

“Kitten, you’re making me anxious,” Clint stated. 

“I’m wound up enough for all of us,” Andy laughed, trying to break the tension. “Are you alright, Nae?” 

She nodded and reached for a peppermint candy. “I’m just a little nauseated is all. I’m fine.” 

Darcey laughed. “I’m the pregnant one, and she gets morning sickness.” 

“Darcey?” The nurse called, and all four of them stood. They were led to a small board room and were seated, waiting for the doctor. Much depended upon the results of her blood work. If she was definitely pregnant, she would have an ultrasound immediately following. And if not, two disappointed and two devastated people would leave the office. 

Minutes later, the door opened and the doctor entered the room, Darcey’s chart in his hands and a smile on his face. He greeted all four of them and sat at the head of the table. 

“I am pleased to announce that you are indeed pregnant, Darcey. The levels rose exponentially over the past two weeks. Officially, the baby is five weeks’ gestation, since it was approximately five days old at the time of implant. Today, we will find out how many embryos are implanted, and you can discuss options together as a family. Ladies, follow me, and the guys can wait in the lobby.” 

Danae shook her head. “The baby is Andy’s. He should be allowed to see the ultrasound. I mean, if it’s okay with Darcey.” 

Darcey nodded. “I know the test will be more invasive, but I’m okay with it. She is right. He is the father.”

Andy smiled at her. “Aren’t you going to see, honey? It’s our baby, remember?” 

“If there is room, yes.” 

“I won’t have it any other way,” Darcey stated. “They’re both welcome to be with me.” 

“I guess I’ll show myself to the waiting room,” Clint said. He kissed Darcey and wished her luck. 

During the ultrasound, the sonographer found the baby easily. And nearby, a second one had implanted. “So far, we have two!” she chirped happily. Andy’s face lit up with excitement. At the end of the exam, only the two were discovered, and it was exactly what they had hoped for, what they had dreamed about. Their family would be complete and whole with four children. Both Danae and Andy were ecstatic.

The three of them walked to the waiting room together, and Clint rose to his feet when he saw their smiles. “How did it go?” 

Darcey held up two fingers. “We have twins!” He picked her up and kissed her, and she giggled like a schoolgirl. “Two miracle babies for my sister! Oh Clint, thank you for this. I’m so incredibly happy today.” 

“It looks like my girl needs to be spoiled a bit,” Clint announced. “We’ll do dinner very soon,” he said. “Come on, kitten.”

Danae and Andy were flying on their own cloud, joyful. “Twins, Andy. We’re going to have two beautiful babies!” 

“I guess we need to tell Lysie and Eamon about it now,” he said. “Baby, let’s do this right. Let’s do something special for them. But what?” 

Surrogacy was a complicated topic for children of ten and eight to understand. But Danae had an idea. “By The Sea. Let’s take them to By The Sea, Andy. Let’s do the chef’s table with them, so we’re by ourselves, and surprise them with a special gift for each of them.”

They had never taken the kids anywhere for a meal away from home, nevermind a five-star restaurant. But they were good kids, well behaved and had good table manners. It could work. 

“Let’s do it, baby! We’ll take them when I know Kirby is cooking. Oh, Nae, this is incredible, and I can’t wait to tell them. I crazy love you, Danae,” Andy said and stroked her cheek. 

“I love you with all my heart, Andy,” she replied and kissed him tenderly. For the first time since Emmitt’s passing, both Andy and Danae felt complete. 

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Up Next: Chapter Thirty-Three, Generation Five


Pose Credits:

Poses By Bee

Kiddo’s Dreams

Sea

Spladoum

Clover

Lenina90

Stars

Custom Content:

The Sims Resource

Mod The Sims

Sims By Severinka

BEO Creations

Fresh Prince Creations

Lorandia Sims 3

Around The Sims 3

I know there are items I have left out, but it’s getting almost as long as my story to credit everyone! So my blanket disclaimer: I have produced none (except Murphy/Jones family portraits) of the CC used in this chapter. If someone has gone uncredited, it was not intentional, and I am truly sorry! I take no credit for any CC used, except where noted. 

G5 Chapter Thirty One – The Accident

Author’s note: With the writing of this chapter, my timeline and events that have already occurred in the story will be skewed. This is the price I pay for pre-writing a storyline beyond what I have played in the game. This is the second time in two generations the game has thrown a curveball, and the first time it has happened to an active family. Despite desperate attempts to stop this event from happening in the game, I couldn’t prevent it. Therefore, this chapter was necessary, though heart-wrenching to write. 

Reader discretion is advised.


It was a late winter morning, if you could even call it winter in Isla Paradiso. The kids were still sleeping, and Danae was up before dawn. Andy’s alarm went off earlier than usual for a breakfast meeting with Kirby and Aaron. So she got up and started the coffee pot, eager for the first cup. Andy was in the shower and she thought seriously about joining him, but she knew Emmitt would be up soon on his own. That little boy loved school almost as much as he loved swimming with his daddy every afternoon. 

She tiptoed into the boys’ bedroom to watch them sleep. My little men, she thought. Eamon was growing up way too fast, and Emmitt was right behind him. He must have felt her presence in the doorway because she heard him giggle softly and those two beautiful caramel brown eyes looked at her. They were just like Andy’s eyes, and she adored them. 

“Hi Mama!” he whispered and ran for her. She kneeled down like she did every morning and wrapped him in a mama bear hug.

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“Good morning, baby boy,” she whispered in his ear. “Are you ready for breakfast, Emm?” 

He smiled so big. “Yeah, I am! Pancakes and milk?” 

“Made to order, squirt,” she chirped at him and brushed the hair out of his eyes. She sure loved that little boy.

Emmitt was a mama’s boy through and through, in much the same way that Lysie was a daddy’s girl. Danae loved her children equally. But Emmitt, well, he was her baby. Their miracle. His happy disposition spread warmth and laughter through the Murphy home every morning and every evening. Neither Danae nor Andy could remember a time when he wasn’t part of the family.

Andy walked out of their bedroom looking like a million dollars and he smelled even better. Funny, even after ten years, he still wears the cologne I bought for him for our wedding day, she thought. And like he did every morning, he walked up behind her, wrapped his arms around her and kissed her tenderly. This morning, he added a subtle tease, out of the view of little eyes, and Danae bit her lip. 

“You look so handsome, babe,” she said as he poured his usual cup of morning brew. 

“Oh, my sweet, what I’d give to be able to stay home with you this morning.” But he couldn’t. The championship was upon them, and the morning meeting was a strategy session for the big game. Danae finished up the pancake batter and tested the griddle. It was sizzling hot, so she poured the first two for Andy. He had to leave first. 

“It’s okay, babe. Trixie and I have a house to clean anyway.” She took a sip from her coffee mug and set it on the counter. “Breakfast is almost ready. I know you have to go soon.” 

Elyse walked into the living room from her bedroom, rubbing her eyes. “Mama? Do I have ballet after school today?” 

She gave the calendar a quick check. “Tomorrow, sweet pea. You and Eamon have after school stuff tomorrow. Come home with your brothers on the bus today.” It meant she didn’t have to pick Emmitt up after school.  

She didn’t say anything but a mumble, and Danae chuckled. Elyse’s new alarm clock, which she had to have, had been snoozed at least three times that morning. But it gave Eamon a chance to shower with a little warm water for a change. 

Andy was done with breakfast before she got the next two cakes off the griddle. “In a hurry babe?” 

“Yeah, Kirby wants us at the restaurant this morning by 8:30 and I’m running a little late.” Another set of cakes came off the griddle, and she poured two more. 

Danae walked him to the front door, out of view of the kids. “I love you, Andy,” she whispered in his ear. “And I’ll deal with that tease later, after the munchkins are in bed. You naughty man.” She kissed him passionately.

He gave her his usual impish smile, the one that made her heart flutter. “I love you, baby. I’ll be thinking of you all day.” One last kiss and he was out the door. 

The kids finished breakfast right around the time Trixie appeared in the stairwell. “Good morning, twerp!” she said to Eamon and tousled his hair. He loved that nickname. “Hey, Nae.”

“Hi, Trix!” Danae greeted her happily. There was nothing like having your best friend living in the same house, she thought. If things worked out with Aaron, she would miss her morning company. But they were such a cute couple, Danae was really pulling for them. “I’m still cooking pancakes if you’d like to grab a plate.” 

“Thanks,” Trixie replied. “I have some errands to run in town today if that’s okay with you?” 

Danae nodded. “Not a problem. I only have cleaning on the agenda for the day.” 

The school bus was right on time, and she walked them out to the gate like she did every morning. And like he did every morning since he began school a few weeks back, Emmitt waited for her to kneel down to him. He gave her nose kisses, and he gave them in abundance.

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His happy giggles rang in her ears as all three of them skipped to the bus. “Have a good day, kids!” she yelled to them. Lysie just turned briefly and waved. Eamon grinned ear to ear, but Emmitt, that boy blew her kisses until she couldn’t make out his face in the back window anymore. 

After Trixie left for the morning, Danae settled into her usual cleaning routine, dancing around to her favorite music. By noon, the housework was finished, and she showered and changed her clothes. While she waited for the kids to come home, she relaxed in front of the television.

The bus arrived back home at three-thirty, and she met them like she did every day. Eamon and Elyse ran right past her and into the house, ready to busy themselves with homework, while Emmitt ran to her open arms. “How was school today, squirt?” she asked him as she covered his face in kisses.

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“Real good, Mama! We’re going on a field trip tomorrow. Can I go?” 

“Where are you going, honey?” she asked him. Lysie and Eamon had just been to the theater, and they loved it.

“We’re going to the stadium. I get to see where Daddy works!” He chirped happily as he tried to squirm from her grasp. “Can I go, Mama?” 

“Of course, baby boy.” She planted one last wet kiss on his cheek, which he promptly wiped off and giggled madly as he did. 

“Yuck, Mama. That was juicy.” His giggles made her heart sing.

“I know! That’s why I did it.” She hugged him close. “I love you, Emmitt, my sweet baby boy.” She stood up and took his hand, and together, they walked into the house. “Do you have homework, sweetheart?” 

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“No, Mama. Can I play in the sandbox?” 

She nodded her head. “Just stay away from the pool, okay? I’ll be out in a few minutes.” The front door opened and Trixie walked through it. “Hey, Trix. Did you get your errands finished?” 

“Yep. By the way, there is a storm coming. The sky is black off to the east.”

Danae looked out the back door at the sky. “Hmm, that’s odd. The sun is out brightly here.” Elyse and Eamon were doing their homework together, working on a joint project. “Are you kids okay in here with your work?”

Eamon nodded and smiled. “Yes. If I need help, I’ll let you know.” He said it so matter-of-factly and seriously, she chuckled. 

“I’ll be outside with your brother,” Danae told them. 

She walked out onto the patio, but Emmitt wasn’t outside. “Emm?” she called into the breeze that was starting to pick up. She looked around the yard and stuck her head into the garage. “Emmitt?”

She walked back to the house and peeked her head into the door. “Trix, is Emmitt in here?” 

“I haven’t seen him.” 

“Emmitt!” Danae called him again, with no answer.

She ran back outside and what she saw took her breath away. Emmitt floated at the edge of the pool. “EMMITT!” she screamed and dove in.

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Frantically, she grabbed him and surfaced and dragged him from the water. He wasn’t breathing, and his body was limp. She kneeled on the ground, cradling him, sobbing. Trixie came from the house.

“Did you find—” she began, and her heart sank when she saw Danae, Emmitt’s lifeless body in her arms.

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“Trix, call emergency!” Danae sobbed. She laid him on the ground and tried to perform CPR on him, but he didn’t respond. 

Trixie dialed emergency, and then she dialed Andy’s cell phone. He was surprised to hear her frantic voice.

“Trix?”

“Andy!” she cried. “Come home. Danae needs you now!” 

“What’s wrong?” Her tone startled him.

“Just… come home. Please, Andy. Bring Aaron with you. You’ll need him.” She hung up the phone and waited out front for the ambulance. 

*****

Andy was shaking when he ran to Aaron’s office. “Aaron! Come with me. Something’s happened at home, and I don’t know what.” He quickly ran the fifty or so feet to Kirby’s office and stuck his head in. “Kirby, Aaron and I are leaving. Something’s happened at home, and Danae needs me.” 

Kirby saw the panic on Andy’s face and stood, alarmed. “What’s going on, Andy?” 

“I don’t know. Trixie didn’t tell me. But I have to go.” Andy’s hands shook and his voice trembled. He feared something had happened to Danae. 

“Let me know, Andy.” And he nodded as he joined Aaron in the hallway. 

Aaron drove them back to the Murphy house, and they were greeted by emergency vehicles. Ambulance, deputies, fire department. And when they followed the chaos, Andy was slammed by the awful reality. 

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When Danae saw him, she ran to him. “Andy!” she sobbed. “My baby!” They both watched in horror as paramedics tried to revive him. But it was too late. Emmitt was already gone.

The deputies’ investigation was quick and his death was deemed an accident. Emmitt had been outside by himself for less than five minutes, something that Danae had done many times before. But a couple of bee stings on his arm gave the investigator the impression the boy had panicked trying to get away from them. Emmitt simply got too close to the pool and fell in. Andy had been teaching him to swim, but the water where he fell was much too deep, and he couldn’t reach the ladder a mere two feet from where he fell. 

The lead detective gave Andy the paperwork with the case file number and their preliminary findings. But he kneeled on the ground, not really aware of what was going on around him. “We are very sorry,” he told Andy and Danae as they clung to one another. Emmitt’s body was removed from the property as the investigation wrapped up. Within an hour of the accident, the devastated family was alone, minus one little boy.

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Elyse and Eamon had been watching the circus from inside the house, not realizing what had happened. Danae and Andy had the unhappy task of telling them their little brother had died, drowned in the pool where they played with their dad almost every day. It was the most difficult thing either of them had ever done. All four of them were shattered beyond words, their lives forever changed.


“Punkin,” the voice called her. “Danae…” 

She looked around. No one called her ‘Punkin’ except her daddy. “Who’s there?” 

“It’s me, sweetheart,” he said to her. And she rubbed her eyes. Could it really be him?

“Daddy?” 

“Yes, honey, it’s me. Your mama, Tessa, and Emmitt are here, too.”

She looked beyond where Travis stood and saw her mother and in-laws. Travis and Charlotte looked like they did when she was a child, Emmitt was youthful and slender, and Tessa looked just like she did in the photographs that hung in their bedroom. “Mama? I have to be dreaming this…” 

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Travis nodded. “You are, honey.” A little boy walked out from behind him. Emmitt. “Punkin, I wanted to let you know that your baby boy is here with us, and he’s safe. We all just adore him.” 

“C-can I talk to him a second? I need to tell him something,” she begged Travis. “Please, Daddy.”

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Emmitt approached her, just out of reach. “Hi Mama,” he smiled at her. “I miss you.” 

“Oh my baby boy, I’m so sorry I wasn’t there for you. I’m sorry I couldn’t save you. Daddy and Lysie, and Eamon and I will always love you. And we miss you already.”

“Pop Pop is teaching me to play football, Mama! But he’s silly and calls it something different. And Memaw reads to me all the time.” He held his arms to her, reaching for her. “Mama, I want you, but I can’t reach you…” 

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“I’m trying, Emm… I can’t get to you! Emmitt…” she cried out for him. “I’m sorry I failed you, baby boy… I’m so sorry…”

*****

A sob choked her awake and it shook her. Andy wasn’t really sleeping, but it startled him. “Baby? Are you okay?” It was 1:17 am.

“It was so real… Andy, he was right there, but I couldn’t reach him.” Danae sobbed in his arms. “Daddy had him, and Mama and your mom and dad were there, too.” The pain was crushing, and it felt like it might kill her. 

“Who was there, honey?” He hugged her tightly to him, weeping into her hair.

“Emmitt. I wanted to tell him I was sorry. It’s my fault, Andy. He’s gone because of me.” 

“Oh, sweetie, you can’t do this to yourself. It was an accident, baby.” He rocked her in his arms. 

She shook her head violently. “No, I was careless. I left him alone. It should have been me, Andy. I should be gone, not my baby boy. I should be dead…” her voice trailed off in ragged, heartbroken sobs. 

“I can’t lose you too, honey. Please, don’t talk like that.” Her pain was eating him alive, and he prayed for just a little respite. “Baby, you have two kids that need their mama desperately. You have to hold it together for them.” He kissed her forehead and wiped her tears away. 

“But—”

“No, Danae, you can’t torture yourself like this. The detective said it was an accident. Bees chased him into the water, baby.” Inside, he was numb, almost not recognizing what had happened. But the cruel reality was there. Emmitt had been gone for less than twelve hours, and the pain was raw, and it was real. Andy didn’t have any answers. He was just as broken as Danae, but she needed him. 

Elyse heard them talking and walked into their bedroom, crying. “Daddy, I can’t sleep,” she wept. “I’m too sad to sleep.” He patted the spot on the bed near his knees and she climbed into bed with them. 

“Lysie, give Mama kisses. She needs you and Eamon right now. She needs to know how much you two love her.” 

Elyse crawled over Andy’s legs and snuggled up next to Danae. “I love you, Mama,” she cried. Danae wrapped her daughter in a hug and covered her face in kisses. 

“My sweet little girl,” Danae cried. “I love you so much, Lysie.” Eamon peeked his head inside the door and began to cry.

“Daddy,” he sniffled. “I can’t sleep.” 

Andy held his arms open for Eamon and called to him. “Join the club, sport.” He ran to Andy and jumped into his arms. “There’s plenty of room for all of us tonight.” 

Danae had Elyse, and Andy had Eamon, and the four of them snuggled and cried together until sleep mercifully took them.

*****

Trixie had stayed the night with Aaron in his spare bedroom, wanting to give her friends space and time. But she promised she would be back that morning so Danae and Andy could make arrangements for Emmitt. Instinctively, she checked on the kids before she went to make coffee, but wasn’t surprised to see them not in their beds. Quietly, she opened the master suite door and peeked inside. The family was all wrapped up together, soundly sleeping. Trixie figured it would be the last time today there would be any peace at all.

Eamon shifted and kicked Andy accidentally, and the sharp pain in his knee was not the awakening he needed. He got up anyway, leaving Danae to snuggle with her babies. He shambled into the kitchen and was greeted by the aroma of freshly brewed coffee, Trixie sat at the dining room table staring at the newspaper. 

“What’s the good word, Trix?” Andy greeted her. He looked awful and felt worse. 

“Oh, hi Andy. I wasn’t expecting you up yet.” 

“Eamon kicked my bad knee in his sleep. He has a powerful kick. I’m just glad he didn’t kick higher up if you catch me.” Trixie blushed but nodded.

“That would have been terrible,” she agreed. “The press is about seven deep outside the house this morning. I’m not letting the kids near the front gate today.”

Andy groaned. “Just what Danae needs is press and Paparazzi.” He sat down beside Trixie with a hot cup of coffee. “If I have to, I’ll threaten the whole lot of them with my trusty baseball bat. I’ve never seen a press critter think so much of himself that he’d risk a beatdown with a Louisville Slugger.”

Trixie skimmed the cover story on the front page. “At least they are correctly reporting it was an accident, and that no charges are pending.” 

Andy shook his head. “They don’t want to try me on that angle, either. Danae is very fragile right now, and I will protect her with my life. She doesn’t need any garbage from anyone, especially the press.”

Trixie looked at him. “How are you holding up?” She rubbed his shoulder.

He sighed deeply. “It depends on the moment. I know I have to be strong for Nae. Mostly, I’m just numb. But she had a dream last night that choked me up. She dreamed our parents had Emmitt…” his voice trailed off. “My dad, my mom… her folks.”

She reached for his hand and patted it. “I know it’s going to take a while, but the pain will lessen. It won’t ever go away, but eventually, breathing won’t hurt as bad.”

“Thanks, Trix. This is way worse than the miscarriage, I can tell you that.”

She nodded. “What you and Nae are enduring right now is a pain no parent should ever feel. And I’m so sorry.” Trixie blinked back tears and got up from the table. “I need more caffeine for this nonsense today, and my only job is to take care of Lysie and Eamon.” But Trixie knew there would be nothing ordinary about this day. “Do you want me to call them in sick, or do you want the honor?” 

Andy sighed. Chances were the administration already knew, but it was a formality. “I’ll call. I will do anything so Danae doesn’t have to.” He took his phone from his pocket and dialed the school.

“This is Andy Murphy—” he began when the school secretary cut him off.

“Oh, Mr. Murphy, we are so sorry.” He heard her voice crack with emotion. 

“Thank you. Eamon and Lysie won’t be in until further notice. I’m expecting a week or more. Please have their teachers forward their assignments to my stadium email address.” 

“I’m pretty sure they’ll be excused from schoolwork, Mr. Murphy. But I’ll let you know if there is any change to that.” 

“I appreciate that. Oh, and a quick favor? Please contact me instead of my wife. She is fragile. It’s been a difficult night.” 

“I’ll make a note. Again, please extend our condolences to your family.”

Andy wiped tears from his eyes. Yesterday morning, the house was filled with laughter and joy. What a difference a day makes, he thought. 

“What time are you headed to the funeral home?” asked Trixie. She poured her third cup of coffee and prepared a new pot. 

“Our appointment is at ten. I need to wake Danae, but I want to just let her sleep.” 

He walked into the bedroom and smiled weakly. She was resting, Elyse wrapped around one side, and Eamon around the other. He touched her shoulder gently and kissed her cheek. “Baby, it’s time to get up.” 

She roused and seeing the kids nearby, she smiled. Danae snuggled Eamon into her arms and he stirred. She just held him as he awakened fully. 

“Hi Mama,” he said quietly. “Do we have to go to school today?” 

“No, honey, you don’t. Trixie is going to stay with you this morning. Daddy and I have things to do in town.” She kissed his cheek and sighed. “I love you, Eamon Travis. Please don’t ever forget, okay?” 

He tried to smile at her. “I won’t forget, Mama.” 

She woke Elyse in the same manner, with snuggles and kisses. So far, so good, Andy thought as he watched her with the children. But it was inevitable she would fall apart. The question was when.

*****

At ten o’clock sharp, Andy held the door for his wife as they entered the funeral home in downtown Isla Paradiso. Danae was still holding herself together, though Andy wasn’t sure how long it would last. The director walked to meet them and brought them back to his office. 

“First, let me express my condolences,” he told them. “My name is Gorham. Terrance Gorham.” Andy opened his mouth to speak, but Terrance beat him to the punch. “I certainly know your family, Mr. Murphy.” He folded his hands on the desk and looked at them, the silence awkward and uncomfortable. It had been a long time since he had to arrange a child’s funeral, and this one was high profile. Every detail needed to be perfect.

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“So,” Andy began, “you have our son Emmitt?” Danae reached for his hand, and he felt her tremble. 

“Yes, so here’s what will happen. The medical examiner will perform an autopsy, which is mandatory for this type of accident, and we’ll have him back in a day or two. When are you thinking about having the ceremony?” 

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“Well, as soon as possible. We have two surviving children who need some closure, not to mention family and close friends. Today is Friday, so when is the earliest we can plan this?” Andy was calm on the outside but in reality, he wanted to hide in a closet and cry. Danae needed him to be strong and collected. She had barely spoken since they left the house.

“I think the earliest would be Tuesday next week, Mr. Murphy. Town ordinance prohibits open casket viewing of a minor child, so that solves one issue. Do you wish to have a service at the chapel? Or just a visitation with a graveside service? The details are up to you.” 

Andy hadn’t discussed anything with Danae before their appointment, so he whispered in her ear. “Baby, do you have a preference for this? Or do you want me to just take care of it?”

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He saw tears well in her eyes and she swallowed hard, trying to consume the lump of emotion that resided in her throat. “Just take care of it,” she whispered back. “I trust you.” She reached for a tissue from the box that sat on Terrance’s desk and dabbed her eyes. 

“Let’s do a visitation at the chapel, and then the graveside service,” Andy confirmed. He picked out everything, from flowers to the headstone. Danae sat silently next to him, weeping. Every once in awhile, he would kiss her forehead and squeeze her hand. He was so proud of her for holding herself together because he knew how heart-wrenchingly difficult it was for her.

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Ninety minutes later, Andy stood and shook Terrance’s hand and thanked him, wrapped an arm around Danae and together they left the funeral home. Every detail had been planned. It was the first time he had truly done anything like it. 

He held the car door for Danae, and she got inside. Any minute now, he thought. Andy got into the seat next to hers and leaned to his right to kiss her. “Are you okay, my sweet?”

She shook her head and sighed, a tear rolled down her cheek as she buckled her seatbelt. 

“No, I’m not okay, but I need to be strong for those babies. They need me, and I need them.” 

“It’s okay to cry, honey. You don’t have to be strong for me. I know you’re hurting, because I am, too.” He kissed her hand tenderly.

“Andy, tell me that wasn’t real in there. Tell me our sweet little miracle baby is home safe, and this is only a nightmare. Please, tell me.” Her bottom lip quivered, the grief gnawed at her soul. 

“I want so badly to tell you that, my beautiful princess.” A sob built up in his chest, and it escaped his body loudly, “He’s gone, baby,” Andy cried shamelessly. 

“No… no…” she wept and clung to him. “He can’t be gone, Andy. It’s not fair…” 

They sat in the parking lot of the funeral home for an hour and sobbed in each others’ arms.


Four Days Later…

Danae stood in front of the mirror in their bathroom fussing with her hair. She had a small hat with a flower and black veil that would cover her face, and her usual hairstyle didn’t work with it. She stood back and admired the finished product. “Does this look okay, my Andy?” 

“You look beautiful,” he told her. He finished tying his tie and straightened out his slacks. “I think I’m ready. I’ll check on Eamon.” 

She continued to pin her hair until she was satisfied. “I guess this will have to do,” she said, though Andy had already left the room. She smoothed the fabric of her dress beneath her hands. It was nothing fancy, but she hated this style in black. It looked frumpy, she told Andy when they bought it. But it was appropriate for the occasion. She sincerely hoped she would never have to wear it again.

Andy helped Eamon with his tie and fastened a flower to his lapel. “You look so grown up, sport,” he complimented his son. Andy ran a comb through Eamon’s short hair. “What a handsome little man you are.” 

“Thanks, Daddy. I’m ready.” Together, father and son walked to the living room. Trixie was a nervous wreck, flitting about the house doing nothing of importance. But when she saw Eamon, she smiled.

“You’re looking good, twerp,” she said with a smile. “You need a hug?”

Eamon nodded and walked to her. She kissed his cheek, being careful not to leave a lip print on his skin. “I love you, Trixie,” he said softly. 

She rocked him in her arms and hugged him tightly. “Ooh, I love you too, twerp.”

Danae was helping Elyse with her hair. She looked adorable in a jumper with a white blouse under it. Danae couldn’t believe how grown she was and hoped that this tragedy wouldn’t age her too quickly. “Are you doing okay, sweet pea?” she asked Elyse.

She shook her head, but said, “Yeah, I’m okay Mama. For now.” 

Danae hugged her daughter. “I’m so proud of you, Lysie. You’re acting so grown up and being such a good big sister to Eamon.” She kissed Elyse’s cheek. “I love you Elyse Charlotte.”

Elyse hugged her mother tightly. “I love you, Mama. I’m ready.” Danae took her hand and they walked into the living room together. 

They were going to meet Aaron at the chapel, along with Darcey and Clint and their closest friends. Neither Noel nor Shan wanted to go to the funeral, so Darcey sent them to school for the day, figuring the distraction might be welcomed. 

Andy took Danae’s hand as they climbed the steps that led to the chapel’s front door, Elyse and Eamon right behind them. He held the door and they let the kids walk in first, then Danae and Andy brought up the rear. The last time they were in the chapel it was a happy occasion, and it was less than four months earlier. It all still seemed so unreal to Danae. But the moment of reckoning was upon all four of them.

In the front of the chapel sat a dark wood coffin. On top was Emmitt’s most recent photo and two floral arrangements. The Murphys were the first ones there, and when Andy opened the door to the sanctuary, everything got very real, very quickly. He took a deep breath and held his hand for Danae, and together they walked down to the front of the room. 

Five paces from the coffin, Danae collapsed on the floor of the sanctuary, completely overwhelmed.

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Pain engulfed her as the reality of the situation hit her and she sobbed, her face contorted in emotional agony. Andy kneeled down and wrapped himself around her, comforting her the best he could. 

“I’m sorry, Emm, my baby boy. I’m so sorry,” she sobbed. 

Andy kissed her face repeatedly. “Baby, this wasn’t your fault. Please don’t blame yourself anymore.” 

Elyse and Eamon approached the casket together, hand in hand. She began to cry, and Eamon hugged her. “Don’t cry, Lysie,” he whispered into her ear. “I love you…” 

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“I love you, Eamon,” she replied. He held tightly to her, and they both wept. And when Danae saw her children in their tender embrace, she cried harder. This was something they shouldn’t have to endure, and she hated it for them.

Darcey and Clint were the first ones to the visitation, and her heart broke when she saw Danae crumpled in a heap on the floor. She walked to her sister and placed a hand on her shoulder. Danae looked up to see her, and she wanted to get up, so Andy helped her. 

“Oh Nae,” Darcey said, weeping. “We’re just devastated for you guys.” She took her sister into a hug. “Emmitt was such a little love, every time we watched him, he just laughed all the time.” 

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“I still can’t believe it, Darce. One minute he’s alive and excited about a field trip, and the next…” she couldn’t finish the sentence. “It was my fault…”

“I saw the reports, Nae. It was accidental. Don’t you blame yourself for this, sweetie.” Darcey kissed her cheek. Clint joined her as she approached the casket.

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It was all a little too surreal for her, too. He held her as she cried, wishing she had a magic wand that would bring him back and into her sister’s loving arms. 

Aaron was next into the chapel with Trixie on his arm. Danae was sitting down, still shaky with emotion. Andy approached them. “How is she?” Aaron asked.

“Not good today,” he replied. “You missed the breakdown. I’m sure she isn’t through, either. This is just too horrible to comprehend.” 

“How are you holding up, buddy?” Aaron asked.

“I know I have to hold it together for Danae. But inside, I feel like a part of me died with him. I can’t wait until the ceremony is over and our poor baby boy to be laid to rest. Then there won’t be any more acting, no more pretending that we’re okay. Because Aaron, we are broken.” Andy wiped a tear from his cheek. 

“How are the kids?” 

“Lysie has been a trooper, watching out for Eamon constantly. Neither one of them wants to go back into the pool. Eamon is afraid of the water now, and I suspect Lysie might be, too. And to be honest, I might have it filled in and just put a playground in for the kids instead. I should have done that years ago…” His thoughts drifted off. The kids loved the pool. It was the highlight of their day and precious bonding time with him. 

“Well, I understand the fear. But don’t do anything rash. You and the kids might change your minds on it.” 

“How can I swim there again, Aaron? My baby died in that pool. Danae doesn’t even want to stay in the house. Too many memories of Emmitt there for her.” 

Aaron hugged his best friend. “I’m so sorry Andy. I wish I knew how to make it better. You don’t deserve this agony.” Trixie hugged Andy, and together, she and Aaron approached the casket. Trixie adored the Murphy children, and Emmitt’s sudden, tragic death was affecting her, too. Aaron held her tightly as she wept. 

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Kirby and Rae, Avery and Dina and Wyatt and Raisa all showed up to support their friends. Rae Kemp adored Danae and Andy’s kids, and she was devastated by the tragedy. For almost the entire time the Kemps knew Danae and Andy, Emmitt was a part of the family. Raisa wept bitterly and clung to Wyatt as they both mourned the loss. Dina sat with Danae and hugged her.

At the end of the two-hour visitation, the Murphy family approached the casket together as a family.

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Danae laid her hand on the wood box and gazed at Emmitt’s photograph. Tears ran down her face as she traced the carving on the side of the casket with her fingers.

“Andy, I don’t feel so…” she said before she passed out cold. Andy picked her up and carried her to the car, the children still standing at the casket.

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“Kids, come on. We need to go,” he called to them. They both ran to catch up and followed him closely. One half of the day was done. The hardest part remained.

*****

By the time they arrived at the cemetery, Danae was feeling a little better. Andy was impressed that the children were on their best behavior, but he figured they were too upset to misbehave. As they pulled up at the cemetery, Danae sighed deeply, trying to stay strong for her little ones. 

“It’s almost over, baby,” Andy said softly, reaching to caress her cheek. “We can grieve at our own pace after this is done.” He hugged her and kissed her tenderly. “I love you, Danae.” 

“You and those babies are the only thing making me want to hang on right now. Please don’t leave my side, Andy. I need you so desperately.” She sniffled and dabbed her eyes with a tissue. “I’m not ready for this.”

“None of us are ready, honey. We just have to say goodbye today. We can come back here as often as you want.” 

“I’m sorry I got sick at the chapel. I should be doing better than this.” 

He lifted her face to his and looked into her eyes. “Nae, no one is expecting you to be at your best today. We have suffered a tremendous loss, and everyone understands that. They feel it with us. They love you, honey. They love all of us, and that is why they are here today. Our friends, not just mine.”

She forced a smile and kissed him. “I love you, Andy. If you’re nearby, I will be okay.” 

He smiled and caressed her cheek again. “That’s my girl.” 

The service would begin as soon as the casket was brought and set up under the canopy. There were chairs set up on either side, and the flowers were brought from the chapel and set up around the gravesite.

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A larger photograph of Emmitt was displayed instead of the small portrait that sat in the chapel. Aaron, Wyatt, Kirby, and Avery carried the casket from the hearse as the women followed the family. Everyone was in attendance, and the pastor started with some words of encouragement for the family. 

Eamon sat on Darcey’s lap, and Elyse stood with Trixie and Aaron. Andy held tightly onto Danae as she cried.

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He had ordered two red roses, one for Elyse and one for Eamon, for them to lay on Emmitt’s casket. Elyse approached it first and she gently placed the flower on the casket. With tears in her eyes, she whispered, “I love you, Emmitt.” She walked back to Trixie and got a hug. 

“You’re a good kid, Lysie,” Trixie said to her. “I love you.” Elyse just sniffled and wrapped her arms around Trixie’s waist.

Eamon got up from Darcey’s lap, took his rose and placed it on the casket. “I miss you,” he said and tried hard not to cry. Darcey picked him up and sat him in her lap, snuggled up with him and kissed his head. 

“It’s okay to cry, Eamon,” she whispered into his ear. He wrapped himself around his aunt Darcey and cried in her arms.

The rest of the service was short. Emotions ran high as the pastor blessed the grieving parents. And without much other ceremony, it was over. Danae and Andy watched as Emmitt’s body was laid to rest, and she turned around in his arms, buried her face into his chest and sobbed. One by one, their friends comforted her and Andy, giving them hugs and offers of help whenever they needed it. And one by one, everyone left the cemetery, leaving the family there. Only Aaron and Trixie remained with them. 

“Andy, are you okay to drive home, bud?” Aaron asked him. Andy shook his head. 

“I’m truly not,” he replied. “I hate to ask—”

“Hey, it’s why I’m here.” He held out his hand for Andy’s keys. 

“Kids, Nae, Aaron is going to take us home.” Trixie would drive Aaron’s car and follow them. “Are you ready, my sweet?” 

Danae was sitting graveside just looking at the hole in the ground. Andy touched her shoulder, and she reached for his hand. “I think so,” she said. She took his hand and he helped her up, the four of them walked to Andy’s car for the last time that day. Danae sat in the back with the kids, Andy rode shotgun up in front while Aaron drove the short distance back to the Murphy home, Trixie right behind them. 

Andy held to Danae as they walked to the house together, Eamon and Elyse right behind them. “Are you staying here tonight, Trix?” Aaron asked her. 

She nodded. “I need to be here for them. Danae will need help with the kids for a while.”

Aaron gave her a hug and a kiss. “If you need me, Beanie, you know where I am. I love you.” 

“I love you too, Coach,” she said. “Pray for them, Aaron. I’m worried about Danae.” 

“We all are, my heart,” Aaron answered. “I’ll drop by tomorrow after work.” Aaron gave Trixie one last hug and a tender kiss. “Remember, I’m five minutes away if you guys need me.” 

She nodded her head and walked into the house. 

*****

After the kids were in bed, Danae sat in the backyard, the first time she had been out since the accident. Andy walked to her, their customary glasses of wine in his hands. He handed her one and took the lounge chair beside hers. 

“Do you think he can see us, babe?” she asked out of the blue.

“Who?” 

“Emmitt. There hasn’t been a minute today that I haven’t missed him. That I haven’t thought of him. Andy, he should be here, sleeping in the bottom bunk of Eamon’s bed. Our family doesn’t feel whole anymore.” She sniffled and wiped tears away. 

“I haven’t thought of much else today, my love. But you know, baby, I think of the dream you had the night he died. And in some ways, it brings me comfort.”

“How so?” she asked, sipping her glass of wine. 

“Your dad said Emmitt was there with them, and he’s safe. My dad and mom were with him, too. She finally got to meet one of her grandkids, in the dream anyway.” He sighed and reached for her hand to hold. “Do you think they really are together, Nae? I mean, wherever they are.” 

“I think so,” she sniffled. “If they are, Emmitt will keep them smiling. He was very good at that.” 

“That he was, baby. That he was.” He took her hand and squeezed it gently. 

“Andy, I’m exhausted, and this wine just doesn’t taste very good tonight.”

“I’m tired too, honey. Let’s go snuggle in bed and talk until we fall asleep,” he suggested. 

“Do you mind if we get the kids and put them in our bed tonight? It will make me feel better to know they’re close.” 

Andy smiled. Whatever made her happy, he was willing to do. “I’ll get Eamon.” He kissed her tenderly. “Please never forget, Danae, how much we all love you. We’re going to get through this if we stick together as a family. I promise you that.” 

She snuggled into his embrace. “I love you, Andy, and I need you now more than ever. You and our babies are my lifeline.”

“Let’s go get them and snuggle together,” Andy said as he walked to Eamon’s room and Danae to Elyse’s room. Neither of the kids had fallen asleep. It was inevitable they would both end up in bed with Danae and Andy by morning anyway. The four of them snuggled and cried together, and by the time sleep finally overtook them, they had made it through the worst day of their lives. 

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 Up Next: Chapter Thirty-Two, Generation Five


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A huge thank you to every artist that made this chapter come alive for me and helped to make my screenshots a huge part of it. I know there are items I have left out, but it’s getting almost as long as my story to credit everyone! So my blanket disclaimer: I have produced none (except Emmitt’s portraits) of the CC used in this chapter. If someone has gone uncredited, it was not intentional, and I am truly sorry! I take no credit for any CC used, except where noted. 

G5 Chapter Thirty – Danae’s Other Big Break

A week after the new year, the children returned to classes. Emmitt was excited to go to preschool for the first time. Danae’s attitude was slightly more reserved. Emm was her baby, the last of the “Murphy Munchkins,” and her feelings were mixed.

She stood in the doorway watching her boys sleep just another minute before she woke Eamon. Emmitt had a bath the evening before and even went to bed early all by himself. If only Eamon was that simple, she thought with a smile. Emmitt was already awake, well-rested and ready to get up. 

“Mama,” he said quietly with a huge smile. “Good morning!”

“Oh, my baby boy,” she sighed. “Good morning sweetheart.” She knelt down to hug him, and he ran to her from the bottom bunk. “Let me wake Eamon, and I’ll get you some breakfast. Sound good?” 

“Yeah!” he said happily. 

Elyse had gotten up with the help of her brand new alarm clock, for which she had begged her parents, and Andy was up and making coffee in the kitchen. Emmitt ran from behind her and squealed with excitement, Danae right behind him. “Good morning, beautiful,” Andy greeted her. 

She walked to him and kissed him. “Good morning, my handsome prince. Thank you for starting the coffee. What’s for breakfast this morning? Shall I make pancakes?” 

Emmitt squealed and giggled. “Yes please!” 

Danae busied herself making batter while Andy kept the kids on schedule for school. She would drive them that morning since it was Emmitt’s first day. It wasn’t because he was scared or didn’t want to go. Seeing him off to classes was more for her. She didn’t anticipate it would be without emotion, either.

At 8:30, the kids and Danae piled into her SUV and they drove to the school. In a way, she was ready for them to go back, but at the same time, she would miss Emmitt and all the fun they had together playing and learning. It was a big moment for both of them.

Danae parked out in front of the school and Elyse blew a kiss as she ran for the door, eager to greet her friends. Eamon lagged behind a bit, curious to see what would happen with Emmitt. Danae walked him to the front door, his little hand in hers. 

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“I’m so excited, Mama!” he chirped, Eamon a few steps ahead of them. “I can’t wait!”

Danae knelt down at the bottom of the steps, turned him toward her and looked into his eyes. “You’re going to make all kinds of new friends, and learn a bunch of good stuff here.” She rubbed noses with him. “Lysie and Eamon will come home with you on the school bus, okay?” 

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“Yes, Mama,” he nodded. “I’mma miss you.” 

Danae blinked back tears. “Oh, I’m going to miss you, too, baby boy.” 

She stood and waved as Emmitt walked toward the door, Eamon waiting for him just inside. “Bye Mama!” he waved as she watched him disappear. 

The significance of the morning’s events finally hit her and she walked to a bench near the front door, unable to contain the tears any longer, and she cried. 

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“You were gone a while,” Andy commented when she returned home. “Was everything okay, my sweet?” 

She breathed a heavy sigh. “Yes, I was just not ready to let him go. They all grew up so fast. If I blink, tomorrow they’ll be teenagers. Where did it go, Andy?”

“Aww, baby,” he said and hugged her. “It’s an inevitable fact of life. Kids grow up, we grow older.” A smile of mischief crossed his face. “We do, however, have the house all to ourselves until after three. Hows about you and me take advantage of the sitch?” 

She shook her head, laughing. “You wouldn’t be my Andy if you didn’t suggest it, babe. But I think it’s a great idea.” 

*****

The crowd chanted her name as she stood nervously backstage. The emcee stood front and center, mic in hand. “She’s the hottest name in music. Let’s give an Isla Paradiso welcome to Nae!”

Hearing her intro, she walked on rubbery legs to the stage. Andy was seated at the piano, ready to play, and he smiled at her when she approached him. A wink and a blown kiss was all she needed, and she seated herself in front of Andy’s piano. He began to play a hit made famous by Danae’s great grandmother, and she settled down, ready to sing. 

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The first note that left her lips started the crowd cheering and cameras flashing. No longer nervous, she settled into the song and belted out the notes perfectly…

“Nae?” Andy whispered quietly into her ear as she sang in her sleep. “Nae, baby.” 

“Huh?” She stirred and looked at him, sleep heavy in her eyes. “What?”

Andy chuckled. “You must have been having a good dream, honey. You were singing.” 

“Yeah,” she stretched and rubbed her eyes. “I dreamed I was on stage at this huge venue, playing to a packed house. You were on the piano behind me, and I was singing Nana Destiny’s big hit.” 

That old guilty feeling snuck up on Andy and bit him. “See? I shouldn’t have encouraged you to quit singing.” 

“Babe, it was just a dream.” She snuggled back into his arms. “Don’t read anything into it.” 

“But I still feel guilty for letting you quit. I was so selfish—”

She looked him in the eyes. “Shh. You weren’t selfish at all. Look at my face and tell me I have one regret about staying home to raise our kids.”

“I know, but it kills me when I think of what you could have been, honey. That’s all.” He kissed her nose and pulled her close. 

“I would never trade what could have been for what I have. Ever. Andy, I love you so much. I just want to be your wife and mama to those three babies.”

“Oh honey, I just crazy love you when you say that.” He snuggled her and kissed her. “How much longer until the bus comes, love?” 

“About half an hour. I can’t wait to hear how his first day of school was. I’m glad you were home today. I would have cried all morning without this beautiful distraction.” She kissed him one last time. “I do have to get dressed, however. I think the bus driver would protest me retrieving the kids in the buff.”

Andy belly laughed. “I think the kids would protest that!”

Danae snorted. “That, too.”

Danae and Andy both waited out by the gate for the bus to arrive, and when it did Elyse was the first off. She ran to Andy and wrapped her arms around his waist. Eamon had Emmitt by the hand, and the two boys walked from the bus together until Emm saw Danae. 

“Mama!” he squealed and ran to her. She kneeled down and opened her arms, wrapped him up and covered his face in kisses. And then she saw Eamon looking at both of them from behind the palm tree, hurt that neither of them had attention for him. 

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She gave Emmitt a kiss on the cheek and Andy took his hand, the three of them walked to the house together. Eamon stood staring at Danae, tears in his eyes. “Come here, sweetheart,” she called to him, her arms opened and ready.

Eamon shook his head. “I’m okay, Mama.” 

“I’m not,” she replied. “I need some baby boy lovin’.” She motioned him to her and he finally approached her. She wrapped him in her embrace and covered him in kisses. “Ooh, Eamon, you are my special boy, you know that?” 

He sniffled and wiped a tear from his cheek. “I am?” 

“Of course!” she chirped. “You’re my first son. You have had my heart since I first saw your beautiful eyes. They’re just like mine, you know.” 

“They are?” 

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“Yep! See?” She opened her eyes wide and looked at him, making a funny face. “Yours are just like mine. Not everyone can say they have purple eyes.” She wiggled her fingers, threatening a tickle, and Eamon erupted in a fit of giggles. Andy was standing on the front porch, watching them. 

“You didn’t even have to touch him!” he laughed. “I’ll remember that.” 

Danae looked at the black-haired, violet-eyed little boy in her arms and kissed his cheek. “I love you, Eamon Travis Murphy. Please never forget how much. Okay, sweetheart?”

“Yeah, Mama.” She released him from her grasp, and as he ran toward the house, she swatted his bottom gently. He turned around and smiled at her. 

Andy walked to where she still kneeled and sat beside her. “Baby, you are the best mama to those kids. What happened out here?”

“Eamon saw me giving all the attention to Emm, and Elyse was wrapped around your waist and had your attention. He felt left out.”

He nodded. “It’s a good reminder to me, too, not to dedicate so much time to Lysie. I do have two sons that you so graciously gave me.” 

Danae chuckled. “Well, you helped.”

He looked at her and raised his eyebrow. “Yeah I did,” he laughed. “I can help again later, too, if you catch my drift.” 

She rolled her eyes. “You’re insatiable, my Andy.” 

“Yeah, well, you made me this way, my sweet.” They walked back into the house hand in hand. Trixie was sitting at the table with Elyse helping her with a difficult math problem. 

“Don’t you have a date tonight, Trix?” Danae asked. 

“Oh, no. Aaron had to cancel at the last minute,” she replied. She fiddled with the necklace he had given her for Snowflake Day and smiled. “It’s okay.”

“We have playoffs coming up, Trix. He’s under a lot of pressure.” Andy placed a comforting hand on her shoulder. “He really didn’t want to cancel.”

“Do you mind if I ask you a question about Aaron?” Trixie turned to Andy. 

“Not at all. Shoot.” 

“Has he said anything about me? I’m so insecure after what happened.” 

Andy sat down with her, took her hands and looked her in the eyes. “Trixie, you don’t have to worry about Aaron. That man adores you. I’ve never seen him like this, and I’ve known him for a long time. You’re good.”

“Hey Trix, I have an idea,” Danae suggested. “He’s working late at the stadium. Why don’t you pack a dinner and go to him? I bet he’d appreciate it, and you’ll still get to see him.” 

Andy nodded. “Fantastic idea, my sweet. I know he loves that Spanish place by the resort. Go grab a couple of meals and surprise him. He never eats dinner when he’s alone.” 

Trixie’s smiled brightened. “You don’t need me tonight?” 

Danae shook her head. “No. Go on and be with Aaron. Their homework is almost done, and I just need to get dinner on the table. Have fun.” She hugged her friend and smiled as Trixie left the house, giddy.

*****

The sun was down over the western horizon, and the kids were in bed, though she doubted that Elyse or Eamon were asleep. Trixie was still not home from the stadium. Andy walked to the patio, two glasses of wine in his hand, and sat down beside Danae.

“For you, my sweet.” She took the glass from his hand and just held it for a moment. The stars floated in the early evening sky and they caught her gaze. “Is something wrong, Danae?”

She took a sip of wine and shook her head. “No, babe. I was just remembering my dream. It was so real. The stars reminded me of the flashing lights in the crowd. I couldn’t believe so many people were there just to see me.” 

He reached for her hand. “You’re extremely talented, baby. Why wouldn’t people flock to your concert?” 

“Because no one knows my name. I’m a literal nobody in the music industry. I’m known simply because I’m a Jones and a Murphy. I did nothing to earn that fame except that I was born into the right family and married the right guy. I’ve earned none of it.” 

“Sometimes, I’m glad you’re not known. Most times, I feel guilty.” Andy kissed her fingers.

Danae shrugged. “Sometimes, I feel the itch and I want to sing again. And then something happens like today with Eamon, and I remember why I gave it up in the first place. I love those babies with everything I have, and I love you even more.”

“Do you remember what I told you that night we were walking home from Darcey’s after Noel was born?”

“Which part, babe?” 

“I told you that if you wanted a career, I want that for you. And if you wanted to stay home and raise our family, I want that for you. I still believe that, honey. Whatever you want to do, I want it for you.” 

Danae snuggled up to Andy in his lounge chair and kissed him. “Just when I don’t think I can love you more, you go and say something sweet, and you sweep me off my feet all over again.” 

“It’s my specialty, my love.” He motioned for her to get up, and he stood up behind her. “Let’s go make some beautiful music together, baby.” 


A new coffeehouse opened on one of the minor islands in the county, and the talk around the town was that it would be THE place for live music. The newspaper reviewed it favorably, and the article reported that the owners were looking for fresh talent. Andy read the article with great interest. 

He dialed the phone number listed in the paper and waited for an answer. In the background, the noise of a bustling store echoed as a hard-working barista picked up his call.

“Java Joe’s, how can I help you?” 

“I have a quick question,” Andy said, not identifying himself. “What is the audition process for live music? I am a singer, and I’m curious.” 

“The owner is here every day after four, and he’s available for auditions.” 

“Do I need an appointment, or can I just walk in?” Andy asked, ready to take notes.

“Either works.”

“Thank you. I’ll be in soon,” Andy said and ended the call. His smile was ear to ear as he walked to the media room to set up the upcoming press conference. Aaron was setting up his spot with a bottle of water and his notes and caught Andy deep in thought.

“A penny for your thoughts, Murph. You look preoccupied.” 

“That new coffeehouse on the small island. They’re doing auditions, and I thought I’d arrange one for Nae. She’s been feeling the itch.” 

“Don’t you think you should ask her first?” 

“Well, yeah, of course I would. But she’s been having dreams about it. She gets that starry look in her eyes. I know she misses it. And now that Emm is in school full time, she has the time. Though you’re taking our nanny away from us.”

Aaron laughed. “Sorry, not sorry about Trix. She surprised me last night with dinner. She actually had some good input for me on the plays, and we worked pretty well together. I have it bad with her, Murph. I’m sunk.”

“I’m happy for you,” Andy said and patted his friend on the back. “You deserve it.”

He had about an hour before the press conference was due to air, and he walked quickly to his office to grab his notes. The newspaper was still on his desk, and he folded it into his briefcase. 

*****

Danae was in the kitchen preparing veggies for dinner when Andy opened the front door. “I’m home, baby,” he called into the house.

“In here!” she called back. He dropped his briefcase into his office, but not before taking the newspaper from it. He tucked it under his arm and walked into the kitchen, the paper opened to the review of the coffeehouse. “What’s this?” 

“There’s a new coffeehouse on the small island. They’re looking for talent for their live music venue. I, um, thought maybe you might be interested.” 

She wiped her hands on a towel and took the paper from him. “What kind of talent?”

“I think bands mostly. But I’m sure they’d love a singer/songwriter with the voice of a legend.” 

She poured a glass of wine for him and shook her head. “Oh, I don’t know. It’s a big commitment. Who will care for the kids during a gig? What happens if they actually want me? I have never done my original stuff before. I rode Nana Destiny’s coattails in the Shores.” 

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“Baby, if you really want to sing again, this is your shot. Here, you can do as much or as little as you want. You are in control.” He sat at the island on a stool and fingered the paper. “You know I’ll support you no matter what you want to do.” 

“I know, and I love you for it. I have been wanting to try my hand in it again. Away from the city, maybe it would be better, you know?” Her mind raced, trying to remember where her guitar was, where her music journals were packed. 

“I thought maybe now that the kids are a little older, you might want the chance. Think about it, my sweet. Maybe the kids would even want to see their mama sing? Who knows.” 

“Dang it Andy, now I’m excited about this! When can I audition?” 

“The owner is there after four every day.” He watched as her smile faded.

“I can’t be there after four. The kids need me in the afternoon.” 

“What about Trixie? Can’t she take the kids while you audition, baby?”

“I don’t know how much longer we’re going to have her living here, Andy. If things work out with Aaron, she will move in with him, sooner than later.” 

“She isn’t gone yet. Nae, take this chance. What do you have to lose?”

“Maybe you’re right. I’ll look for my guitar, and my notebooks are in storage, I think. I’ll go there tomorrow and rifle through the boxes.” An uneasy smile settled on her lips. “I’m really going to do this!”

He smiled sweetly at her. “That’s my girl.” 


The next day after the school bus left with all three children aboard, Danae drove to the storage unit to look through the boxes of stuff for which they simply had no room at the house. The books were packed in with her college memories, songs she had written during her lonely, pre-Andy days. She closed up the box and left the building, a renewed sense of purpose building within her.

“Trix, I’m home,” she called as she walked through the back door. Trixie was watching television, her work done for the morning. 

“Did you find what you needed, Nae?” 

“I did. Hey, could you cover me this afternoon? I have an errand to run around three, I might be gone for an hour or ninety minutes. Andy wants me to do something on the small island.” 

Trixie’s curiosity was piqued. “What do you have in mind?” 

“Don’t tell the kids yet, but I’m going to audition at the new coffeehouse. I’ve been getting the itch to sing again, now that Emmitt is in school. Andy is encouraging me.” 

“Oh, Nae!” Trixie squealed. “That would be fantastic!”

Danae smiled. “This time, I’m going to sing my own stuff. I don’t want a free ride with my Nana’s music. If I stay relatively unknown except locally, I’ll still be living my dream. Both of them.” 

Trixie hugged Danae tightly. “I’m so excited for you!”

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The day felt like it was moving in slow motion for Danae as she picked through her notebooks, trying to remember the tunes that went with the lyrics. For the audition, she thought to herself, maybe one Destiny Hill song wouldn’t hurt. Those she knew by heart, and she knew exactly which one she would sing.

At three o’clock, when the bus was getting ready to arrive at the house, Danae pulled out of the driveway headed for the dock. From there, she would ride the water taxi to the small island and then walk to the coffee shop. Though she was sure of her skills, her self-confidence was next to nil, and she wished Andy had come with her for moral support. But he was busy with a home game and couldn’t make it.

She opened the door to the shop and the aroma of roasting coffee tantalized her nose. Considering the hour, the place was dead, save for a few people working on their laptops. Danae figured it was the football game that was affecting business. The owner of the shop stood behind the counter helping the barista with something. He recognized her immediately, but not because of talent. He knew she was Danae Jones, daughter of football legend Travis Jones. 

“Miss Jones,” he greeted her. “Such an honor to have you in our shop today. What can I get for you?” 

Danae blushed fiercely. “I am actually here for an audition. I’d like to sing for you, if I may. And you may call me Danae.” 

“Hmm,” he contemplated. “Well, let’s see what you’ve got.” 

She had a prop microphone she used to practice, and though she felt stupid, just having it in her hand was more natural than having nothing at all. She cleared her throat and sang the first verse of Nana Destiny’s biggest hit, and she did it acapella. Her pitch was flawless and she knew in her heart she was doing her nana proud. 

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When she had finished the chorus, she bowed her head and lowered the mic to her side. The owner stood, leaned against the coffee bar, thunderstruck.

“That’s a pretty impressive set of pipes you have there, Miss Danae,” the owner said. “My name is Christopher.” He led her to a table where they sat. “Your voice is hauntingly like Destiny Hill’s, Miss Danae. I really don’t have room for a singer with no band, but I want to sign you anyway.”

“My husband can play keyboard, and I usually sing with my guitar. But I didn’t want to lug it on the water taxi. It will be different when Andy can pilot our boat. I’m not a natural sailor,” she said, turning a warm tone of pink. 

Christopher nodded. “We can supply some instruments, like a drum set or keyboards. If your husband wants to accompany you on stage, that’s fine. But an acoustic set would be classic coffeehouse music.” He stood to shake her hand and gave her his business card. “Give me a call tomorrow, and I’ll schedule your first show. The weekends are already pretty booked, but maybe we could start you on a Sunday afternoon? If you bring in some business, we’ll look at a better time slot.” 

Danae was shaking with excitement, her hands trembled as she reached for Christopher’s card. “I will call you tomorrow for certain. Thank you so much for the opportunity.” On wobbly legs, she walked to the door and stopped just outside of the shop. I did it! She thought excitedly.

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She ran to the dock to wait for the next taxi, wanting so badly to call Andy. But she wanted to see his face when she told him. It was all because of him. His encouragement, his love, his nudging. And she was so thankful for him.

*****

Trixie had the kids fed and homework done by the time Danae finally walked through the back door. Andy was watching the game day results on the big screen, and as soon as she entered the house, he sensed something good. 

“There’s my songbird,” he said happily. He got up from the couch and walked to her, the grin on her face gave her away. “So? How did it go?” 

“I’m supposed to call the owner tomorrow,” she said, trying to build the suspense. “I’m looking at a possible Sunday show. Maybe even this week!” 

He hugged her tightly and lifted her from the ground. “Oh baby, I’m SO proud of you!” He spun her around once and kissed her tenderly. Into her ear, he whispered, “I knew you could do it!”

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When he put her down, she clung to him, needing his embrace. “Sunday is an away game, isn’t it?” 

She felt him sigh. “It is, my sweet. But don’t you worry! I’m going to see your show, even if it isn’t the first one. Season is almost over, and with our record, we have home-field advantage for the championship. Traveling is almost done, honey.”

“I’m not sure I want to do this until you can be there for me. I need you in that audience the first time. I wouldn’t even mind if you played keyboard for me. It’s allowed.”

Andy cringed. “Baby, you know I’m not made for music. I mean, I can play, but I’m not that good at it.”

“I know,” she replied. “You don’t have to. It was just a suggestion. Besides, Christopher said the acoustic guitar and vocals are just what he needs for that ‘classic coffeehouse’ sound, whatever that means.”

“You’re going to sing your own stuff?” 

Danae nodded. “I’m going to try, if I can remember how to play the songs I wrote all those years ago. Some of them are sappy love songs, but most of them are about being lonely. I wrote all of them before I met you.” 

“Lonely, love songs. That sounds like coffeehouse music to me. Oh, honey, you’re going to be wonderful! I can’t wait to see you on stage again.”

“It will feel weird to stand in front of people and sing again. But I think it will feel awesome, too. I’m very excited!”

“I am so proud of you, Nae. I crazy love you.” 

“Always and forever I love you.”


“This is Collins,” Christopher answered his cell. 

“Christopher?” Danae asked timidly, thinking she had misdialed the number.

“Yes, who is this?” 

“Danae Murphy… I mean Jones. We spoke yesterday about a show, and you wanted me to touch base today.” 

“Oh yes, Miss Danae!” His voice was peppy as he recalled their conversation. “So, this Sunday we have an opening for a two-hour set. If you are interested, it’s yours.”

She cringed. “That sounds fantastic, but—” 

“There is always a but.” He sounded annoyed.

Danae was instantly sorry. “I don’t mean to sound ungrateful. It’s just that my husband will be out of town this weekend, and I would really like for him to be there.”

“You’re rather new at this to be making demands, are you not, Miss Jones?” Christopher asked. 

“I suppose I am. If your kind offer still stands, I’d be honored to play on Sunday, Andy or no Andy.” 

Christopher was silent on the other end of the phone. “Andy… is your husband Andy Murphy?”

She swallowed hard. This could either backfire or be an advantage. “Yes…”

“You should have said so! I’m a huge Sharks fan. When we first met, I never made the connection. I just remembered your maiden name was Jones.”

Danae breathed a huge sigh of relief. “You see, this singing thing was his idea, his encouragement. When we were first married, I had a career in singing that I gave up to raise our family. We lived in Starlight Shores then. He’s always felt guilty for taking me from it, no matter how much I reassured him. It’s really important to me that he’s there for me.”

Danae… Nae… He knew it sounded familiar. “Your stage name was Nae, right?” 

“How did you know? I don’t recall telling you that.” She was amazed. 

“I remember hearing about you. The name stuck out because Nae is so unusual. I should have connected the dots when you sang a Destiny Hill piece yesterday. You, my dear, are a living legend.” 

She blushed red hot. “I’m not sure I’d say legend, Christopher. My nana was, and my daddy was. I’m nowhere near what they were, with all due respect.”

“Well, let’s see what you can do at a gig. When you have a crowd overflowing onto the sidewalk, I’ll decide how legendary you truly are.” 

“I appreciate the kind compliments. I’ll see you on Sunday?” Danae sighed. 

“The following Sunday, Miss Jones. For Andy.” Christopher said. “Four to six. Your show will be well advertised.” 

“I just have one favor to ask, Christopher, if you please. I rode my nana’s reputation in Starlight Shores. If I make it here, I want it to be with my own stuff, my own merit.” 

“Got it. I will leave it all up to your name recognition. Your reach was larger than you perceived it, Nae. I expect great things from you.” 

Danae thanked him and hung up the phone. 

*****

It was a long afternoon waiting for Andy to come from work. The kids were itching to get into the pool with him since it was a warmer day, and if he agreed she knew he’d be occupied with the three of them until dinnertime. Preparing it was a distraction, albeit a poor one. 

At his normal time, Andy opened the front door, his hand full of mail. “Baby, I’m home!” he called into the house as he set his briefcase in his office. He walked to the kitchen and set the mail down, loosened his tie and sat. “Long damned day.” 

“You have no idea,” she sighed. 

“Daddy!” Elyse called from her bedroom, already in her bathing suit. “Would you take us swimming? Please?”

“Oh, sweet pea, not right now,” he called back to her. “I need to just relax for a few minutes.” A disappointed whine came followed by tears. “It’s not going to work today, Lysie. Daddy’s tired.” 

“Fine!” she screamed and slammed her bedroom door.

“Ooh, she’s getting a little attitude,” Andy said. “If she doesn’t drop that, she won’t go swimming until summer. I’m in no mood for that today.” He buried his face in his hands and sighed. “The away game is in the Shores this weekend. I am dreading it.” 

Danae grabbed a wine glass and filled it. Gently, she set it down in front of him. “We’ll get started early on the silliness. I have some news, too.”

“I hope your news is better than mine, baby. I could use a lift.” 

“I have my first show scheduled.” She smiled at him. “It turns out, the owner is a big Sharks fan, and he scheduled me for the Sunday after this one coming. He called me a living legend.” 

“Really? He must have figured out who you are.”

“Well, he knew I’m a Jones, despite the red hair. And then when I mentioned that I had been a singer in Starlight Shores, that was when he remembered me and my stage name. I hardly deserve the legendary status, babe.”

“You’re going to have a great show, honey. I’m so proud of you.” She sat beside him with her own glass of wine. “We should go to celebrate tonight. I could use a dinner at Kirby’s. Just you and me, what do you say, baby?”

“I’m all over it, Andy. Let’s go get ready. Trixie is home.” She stood and walked to the bedroom, Andy on her heels.


A week of practicing songs and getting the music perfect and Danae was ready for her show at the coffeehouse. She planned to do her own original songs and maybe do one Destiny Hill song toward the end of her set. Andy thought all her tunes were fantastic and couldn’t wait to hear them performed. 

Her guitar was in its case and Andy packed it into the boat. He hitched the trailer to Danae’s SUV,  and they were almost ready to go. Trixie was home with the kids, and Aaron would sit with her.

“You’re going to have a great show, Nae,” she said. “Tell me all about it when you get home! Break a leg!”

“Thanks, Trix,” Danae replied. 

They arrived at the coffeehouse and other than the barista, the building was empty. Danae looked at Andy, a worried expression on her face. “I hope it gets busier in here, or it’s going to be a long two hours, babe.” 

“I’m sure you’re going to draw a crowd, honey. There’s no way you couldn’t.” He kissed her forehead tenderly. 

“You must be Nae?” the barista approached Danae. “Chris wanted to be here, but he had a problem at home. I’m supposed to tell you the lights and power are on the side of the stage behind the curtain.”

“Thanks,” Danae replied. She walked to the stage and took her guitar from its case. She flipped the power and tested the mic. When she was satisfied everything was working, she approached the mic and introduced herself to Andy, who was the only person in the audience.

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Danae sang, strummed her guitar and poured her heart and soul into her first song, a ballad about love gone wrong.

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Andy wondered quietly if it was about Dave, but in truth, it didn’t matter. The song was brilliant and he loved it.

For her next song, she sat on a stool and sang acapella. This one was another ballad, a beautifully written melodic song.

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It was obviously touching a memory as she sang it, her voice cracked with emotion as the words left her mouth. Andy stood and cheered for her, wishing the rest of Isla Paradiso could hear her. And they could if only they would stop by the shop. 

An hour into the set, and Andy remained the only person in the coffeehouse, and he felt terrible for her. And she was such a good sport, singing just for him and pouring everything she had into the performance. She picked up her guitar and sang a faster song. She belted out the notes and sounded perfect. 

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At the end of the two hours, with Andy sitting at a table alone, she quietly walked to the curtain, flipped the switches and gathered her guitar. He saw emotion rising up in her, and he knew she would need him. 

Danae stepped off the stage and the tears welled in her eyes. He walked over to her, her face buried into her hands, and she wept.

Screenshot-3400 “This was a disaster,” she cried as he held her.

“Oh honey, I’m so sorry. But you were fabulous.” 

“The show was the worst thing ever. I’m done singing.” 

“Whatever you want to do, baby. You know you’re always more than enough for me, exactly how you are.” He kissed her, took her hand and they sat together on the loveseat.

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“I’m going to get an espresso. Would you like a coffee, honey?” She only nodded her head.

When he returned with their drinks, he set them down on the coffee table and sat beside her. “I just want to go back to being your wife and our babies’ mama, Andy. I’m done with the fantasy. This is proof that I never had it on my own. Any recognition I ever had, it was from Nana, and that’s it.”

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“You know that isn’t true, Danae. You sang everything perfectly. Your pitch, your tone, the inflection of your voice. Honey, it was beautiful. You are so talented. But if you’re truly done, I understand.” 

“I want to go home,” she sighed. They stood, and he embraced her once again. 

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“I want you to know, Nae, that you are beautiful, you are enough for all of us just as you are, and you are still all mine.” He kissed her forehead, wrapped his arm around her and escorted her from the coffeehouse. “Let’s go home, my love.”

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*****

“Hello?” Danae answered her cell as she and Andy sat by the pool and watched the kids as they swam.

“Nae, it’s Christopher. How was your show?”

“It was a trainwreck,” she said, trying to hide her disappointment. “Andy was the only one in the audience for the whole show. I won’t be coming back.” 

He took a few moments to gather his thoughts. “I advertised your show. I don’t understand.” 

“Oh, it’s okay, Christopher. I had my last hurrah, and I’m satisfied I made the right decision all those years ago. I’ll always be a wife and mother first. But I thank you for the opportunity to try my dream one last time.”

“I can’t entice you to come back and give it another chance, Nae?”

“Oh, no, I’m good, but thank you.” 

“If you change your mind, Nae, you know where I am.” Christopher hated to see her show fail, especially when he knew she had great talent. 

“Thank you again,” Danae said quietly and ended the call. 

“You ended it, huh?” Andy whispered to her. He snuggled her close and kissed her. “Remember, whatever you want, I want it for you, too.”

“Yeah…” her voice trailed off. In a way, she was happy there was no more wondering what could have been. No more wondering if she had made the correct decision. No more wondering if she could still make a comeback. The question had been answered, once and for all.

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Up Next: Chapter Thirty-One, Generation Five


Pose Credits:

Singing #3 and Singing #4 by Kiddo at Kiddo’s Dreams
Warm Hugs and Don’t Let Me Down by Sea at Sims Modeli
Best Friends Forever by Clover at Sims3Lover
Are You Sick Kiddo? By Spladoum at Mod The Sims
Comfort Poses, Don’t Die Daddy!, Emotions, First Day of School, Lost – Children, Meeting at the Bar, Meeting At The Park, and That’s My Girl by Bee at Poses By Bee

Custom Content:

Coffee Bean Hipster’s Loft set from the Sims 3 store
Kiddo’s Concert Stage from Kiddo’s Dreams
Grand Piano and Microphone accessory by Severinka
Kitchen clutter and stage props from Around The Sims 3
Drums and stage props from D&M Creations
Guitar accessory by Modern Lover (Comes with Guitar Pose Pack)
Coffee Cup by spacesims at The Sims Resource
Danae’s hair by PeggyZone #66

As usual, if I have missed something, or you have a question about a specific item featured in the screenshots, just ask! I’ll do my best to provide you with a link.

G5 Chapter Twenty Nine – The Courtship of Trixie and Aaron

Author’s Note: This chapter is another Farmer Legacy first in that this chapter focuses on several secondary characters and very little on Danae and Andy. I have been excited to bring this extra to you, so without further ado, I present… The Courtship of Trixie and Aaron!

This chapter contains adult themes and sexual situations. Reader discretion is advised.


Trixie awakened feeling different that morning. The sun still rose in the eastern sky, the children had school that Monday morning, their last week before the Snowflake Day holiday and the new year. Danae had told her to stay in bed, that she would care for the children. But she was bursting with nervous energy and got up anyway. She walked down the steps to the kitchen where Danae sat, already sipping her second cup of coffee.

“Good morning, Trix,” Danae greeted her. “You’re up early for someone who is supposed to be sleeping in.”

“Yeah, here’s a funny thing. I’m so nervous that I can’t sit still. Is this normal? I’m not usually this scattered.”

Danae chuckled a bit. “You remind me a lot of myself when Andy and I got together. I was a wreck for the first week or so. Relax, Trix. Aaron is one of the easiest guys I know. You’ve got this.”

“What if he doesn’t call? What if I dreamed this whole past weekend, and he doesn’t really even know who I am? I mean, it wouldn’t be that weird, would it?”

Danae belly laughed. “You don’t even need coffee today. You’re wound tighter than a drum. Why don’t you go get prettied up at the salon? Maybe it would make you feel better. We can do your dress when you get back home.”

Trixie continued on, completely disregarding Danae. “I’m overthinking this whole thing, Nae. But I know why. I feel different with Aaron than I have with any other guy I’ve dated. I feel like there is more at stake.”

“I know exactly how you feel. Like I’ve said, my life before Andy was a mess. Meeting him was my game changer. Like how you think of Aaron right now.”

“Thanks, Nae. It helps to know what I’m going through is normal. Let me grab some breakfast and we can play dress up.”

“Oh good! This is the fun part!” Danae squealed. “Come on, Emm, get some pancakes, honey.”

“Coming, Mama!”

*****

Andy’s first day back from vacation was rough. His desk was piled high with public relations inquiries, he had pressers to schedule and one last away game to book before the end of the day. Aaron knocked on his door the first chance he had.

“Murph, how’s your first day back?”

“Rough.” Andy pointed to the stack of faxes and mail. “How was your non-date with Trixie last night?”

“I have a good feeling about her. We have… would you call it chemistry? I’m not sure. I do know she’s different than any other woman I’ve dated. She isn’t interested in the money.”

“Can I tell you a secret, Aaron?”

“Please do,” he replied.

“Trixie is a sweet, sensitive woman who has had way too many men dump on her. And I think you are exactly what she needs. And she is what you need, too. I know you miss Wyatt. Shoot, I do too. But this is a chance for you to settle down with someone who doesn’t have four paws and fur. You know what I mean, buddy?”

“Yeah, I don’t know what I was thinking with that stupid puppy. Maybe I’ll give it to a young kid for Snowflake Day. Maybe your young kids.”

“You’d better check with Nae before you saddle her with a dog. I know when the Icky saga happened we were considering a dog, but that time has passed, and Icky is a memory.” Andy wouldn’t actually mind a puppy for the kids. But he knew Danae would need to handle the lion’s share of the work.

“Well, I didn’t come here to talk about the pup. I need Trixie’s cell number. I told her I’d get it from you.” Aaron had a slip of paper at the ready.

“So you must really like her if you’re taking her to Kirby’s tonight. Flashy place like that is meant to impress her. You usually take them to that Spanish place by the resort to start.”

“Yeah, I like her. Do you have her number, or do I have to bother Danae for it?” Aaron had much to do and no time to waste with Andy’s back and forth.

“Just a sec,” Andy opened his phone and jotted her cell number on Aaron’s slip of paper. “I hope your sour attitude goes away before your date.”

“Sorry, man. I’m just busy and quite frankly a bit nervous. I haven’t felt this way about a woman in years.” Aaron took the slip of paper from Andy and tucked it into his pocket.

“Don’t lose that, Hall. I’ll charge you for the second time,” Andy chuckled. “We doing lunch with Searce today?”

“I’m not sure. He said Raisa has been sick. He might not even be here today. He’s been taking care of her since Saturday night. She’s been throwing up almost constantly since the party.”

“Well, that’s too bad. I hope Kirby didn’t poison the poor thing.” Andy picked up another fax off his machine. “You and I will do lunch then. We can grab a burrito off the truck that parks out front every day. I hear it’s killer stuff.”

Aaron gave him a thumbs up and walked out of Andy’s office. He had one task he needed to do before he did one other thing. He took the piece of paper from his pocket and entered it into his phone as a contact. And then he sat and stared at his phone, too nervous to call her. So instead, he opened his texting app and wrote a brief message.

Hey beautiful. I’m off work today at four, and I’ll pick you up at five-thirty for a six o’clock reservation. I’m sorry for the text. I’m a little nervous, but I can’t wait to see you tonight.

The next thing Aaron did was to reserve a table for just the two of them. As he hung up the phone, he considered Andy’s observation. You must really like her if you’re taking her to Kirby’s. “Yeah, I guess I really do like her,” he said out loud to himself.

An hour later, Aaron’s phone buzzed. A message from Trixie.

I will be ready when you arrive tonight. I’m looking forward to spending time with you. PS… I’m nervous, too!

Aaron simply smiled and went about his day. With the last away game of the year looming, he had some plays to develop and teach to his team, a long day by anyone’s standard. But his mind was elsewhere.

At lunchtime, Andy appeared at Aaron’s door. “I have some news from Wyatt. Let’s go grab a burrito and make it a working lunch.”

“I have gotten next to nothing done, Murph. I can’t concentrate. What’s Wyatt’s news?”

“Nope, you have to come eat before I spill the beans. I don’t have much time, either, so it won’t be a full hour. Come on, Hall. My treat.”

Reluctantly, Aaron got up and grabbed his keys. “This had better be good.”

They stood in line at the food truck and Andy bought each of them a burrito and chips. They sat down, and Aaron unwrapped his, took a bite and settled down. It was the first thing he had eaten since before the game yesterday.

“Okay, what’s Searcy’s news?”

“I’m glad you’re sitting down. Wyatt is going to be a father. Raisa is pregnant!”

“Wow. I was not expecting that. I’ll have to call him later.” Now Wyatt will really be scarce, Aaron thought to himself.

“Oh, he’ll be here now that he knows she’s okay.”

They finished up lunch and walked back into the stadium together. “If I don’t see you beforehand, Aaron, good luck on your date with Trix. She’s very excited.”

“Thanks, Murph. I’ll talk to you later.”

At one o’clock, Kirby rang Aaron’s phone. “Can I see you a moment, Aaron?”

Aaron’s heart sank. This can’t be good, was his first thought. But when he got to Kirby’s office, he sat behind the desk, an ear to ear grin on the boss’ face.

“What can I do for you, Kirby?” Aaron asked meekly.

“Aaron, have a seat. Last night’s game clinched our fifth division title and the playoffs.” Kirby’s hand was closed around a small object. “As a token of my deep appreciation, Aaron, Rae and I would like you to accept this.” He handed Aaron the object he held.

“A key, Kirby?”

“Aaron, your new car sits in the parking lot. It’s a brand new Aston Vanquish. Your amazing work on this team has helped boost us to the top of the league. This is just my way of saying ‘Thank you’.”

“I-I don’t know what to say. I’m stunned.”

“Well, you deserve it. I’ve been upgrading those who truly deserve recognition. I know your annual review is coming after the season ends. Your new contract will also reflect your worth to the team. If you ever have an issue, Aaron, I’d hope you would come to me before you go looking elsewhere. You are extremely valuable to me, to the team. There is little I wouldn’t do to keep you on staff.”

“Thank you, Kirby. I don’t anticipate wanting to move. My family is here. My friends are here. But I have to tell you, I’m overwhelmed by the car. I was content with the old one.”

“Like I said, just my way of saying ‘Thank you.’ And that I appreciate you.” Kirby stood and shook Aaron’s hand. “Congratulations on another winning season, Mr. Hall.”

“Likewise, Mr. Kemp.” Aaron smiled and left the office, nearly running to the parking lot. It was black, shiny and beautiful. He ran his hand down the back fender and shook his head. It was his dream car, and in his hand, he held the key. It was easily the highlight of his adult life, and he couldn’t wait to tell Trixie.

Four o’clock came before Aaron was truly ready for the workday to end, and if he didn’t have plans, he would have pulled some overtime. But he walked to the parking lot and got into his brand new car and drove home. The puppy, named Dusty, was waiting for him at the front door.

“Hey Dusty,” he said. “I suppose you need to go for a walk. Make it quick.”

A quick shower, shave and a half hour later, Aaron was ready for his date with Trixie. Butterflies swarmed in his stomach as he waited for the time to pass…

*****

“How do I look?” Trixie asked Danae. She wore a gold cocktail dress, a gift from her dad before he passed away years ago. “I mean, is it too trashy looking for a five-star place?”

“Oh Trixie, that is gorgeous!” Danae chirped. With her platinum blonde hair and her suntan, it looked fabulous on her. “You don’t need anything from my closet after all. If Aaron doesn’t fall for you in that outfit, there is something wrong with him.”

Trixie blushed a deep red. “I am still having a hard time believing I am going on a date with Aaron Hall.”

“Well, you are. Andy tells me he’s pretty excited about it, too.” Danae admired her friend. She was truly beautiful in the gold dress. “Here, let me do your makeup for you. He’s going to flip out when he sees you, Trix.”

Danae put the finishing touches on her blush and handed a warm-toned lipstick to her. “Use this brush. It’s clean and much more precise than just applying it.” Gingerly, Trixie painted her lips with the coral colored lip tint. “It’s such a beautiful color.”

“Ooh, I love this!” she exclaimed. Trixie looked at her watch. It was almost five-thirty. “I just need my heels and I’m ready.” Downstairs, Andy and Aaron chatted, a look of horror crossed her face. “When did he get here, Nae? I didn’t even hear him!”

“Just a minute or two ago. Relax, Trix. Breathe!” Danae gave her a hug. “Are you ready?”

Trixie took a deep breath and nodded. “I think so.”

Danae went downstairs first, carrying her makeup box, waving to Aaron on her way by. “She’ll be down very soon.”

Aaron straightened his bowtie. “Is this okay, Murph? I mean, I only wore it days ago.”

“You’re fine,” Andy chuckled. They both turned their heads when they heard Trixie’s soft footsteps padding downstairs. Aaron’s jaw dropped open, and Trixie blushed.

“You look stunning,” Aaron finally choked out.

“Thank you, Aaron. You look so handsome in your tux.” She smiled sweetly at him.

“Shall we?”

Trixie nodded. “Yes.”

Danae and Andy waved as Aaron escorted her from the house.

*****

“Is this new?” Trixie asked Aaron as they approached his car.

Aaron nodded. “Yes, I got it this afternoon. I guess the boss thinks I’m worth a new car.” He shrugged.

“I’m proud of you,” she smiled as he held the door for her. Aaron looked a little embarrassed.

“Thanks. I don’t hear that from anyone. Ever.”

“That’s too bad. I’ll always tell you when I’m proud of you.” Her sweet smile melted his heart.

“I believe you.”

The drive to the restaurant was quiet and awkward. When they arrived, Aaron valet parked the car and escorted her inside. “Hall for six o’clock,” he announced.

“Yes, Mr. Hall. This way.” The host led them to a small table near the water, set for two. An antique jukebox played soft jazz music, setting the mood for romance. Aaron held the chair for Trixie to sit, and he seated himself across from her.

In all his 41 years, he had never met anyone quite like Trixie. She was beautiful but modest, spunky but shy, independent but didn’t mind being spoiled, either. He couldn’t wait to find out more about her.

The waiter introduced himself and offered a menu to Aaron. “Can I get you something from the bar?”

“I’ll have a glass of wine. Trix? What would you like?”

“The same, please, what he’s having.” She reached for his hand, and he took it.

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“A penny for your thoughts?” he said softly.

“I can’t believe I’m here with Aaron Hall. I’m still a little starstruck, you know.” She broke eye contact with him.

Aaron chuckled. “I’m really not that big of a deal. It isn’t like I’m a star player.”

“You’re a champion, Aaron. That makes you someone special.”

He caressed her cheek softly. “You are being too sweet.”

“I’m just being me,” she replied.

“What would you like for dinner?” he asked. “I haven’t even shown you the menu.”

“Choose something you like. We can share it together.”

“What if you don’t like what I choose?”

“I will. I’m not that difficult to please,” she smiled.

When the waiter returned with their wine, Aaron ordered two different entrees. It was a stab in the dark. He knew nothing of her tastes, what she liked. This could be a winner or a complete disaster. He wiped his sweaty palms on his pants leg, hoping she wouldn’t notice.

“Would you like to dance?” he asked. The jukebox was closeby, but since Kirby’s huge remodel, dancing space severely lacked.

“Sure,” she smiled at him. He held her close, breathing in her sweet, musky perfume.

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“Trixie, you’re so beautiful,” he complimented her.

She blushed fiercely. “You’re not too bad yourself, Coach.” Kiss me, she thought.

They danced closely, swaying to the music together. When the song ended, he spun her into a dip and kissed her tenderly.

“Where have you been all my life?” Aaron whispered into her ear.

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“I mean, all I want to do is kiss you. I’ve never felt this before. Am I crazy, Trix?”

She was melting into his arms. “No,” she whispered back. “You’re not crazy. I feel it, too.” She nuzzled her face into his neck. No, she thought. It’s way too soon to feel like this, Trixie.

He pulled away from her. “Here, let’s sit awhile.” He pulled her chair out for her again, and she sat. She took a sip of wine and ran her finger around the rim.

“Tell me about yourself, Aaron. I know you’re a coach. What do you like to do for fun?”

“Like I told you before, I’m married to my job, not necessarily because I want to be, either. It takes a lot of my time and energy. The fun I used to have included Andy and Wyatt, going for a beer or two after work. But Andy promised Nae he wouldn’t drink anymore, and Wyatt is married and going to be a dad in a bit. Now, it’s just me and Dusty.” Aaron sighed. He didn’t realize how pathetic his life sounded until he spoke it, and it depressed him. “What about you, Trixiebean? What makes you, you?”

She took his hand in hers. “Well, I’m an only child, raised in Twinbrook, I came here when I was eighteen. I actually followed a guy here. He abandoned me here and he went back to Twinbrook. Not long afterward, I joined a temp agency. That’s how I met Andy and Nae. I started off just watching their kids once in a while, and then over time, it turned into a live-in position. I love to dance, though I’m not good at it. I like it here, but I miss the snow. And someday, I want a family of my own to raise. I won’t say I’m tired of my job, but the Murphy kids will grow up, and I won’t be needed anymore. That wouldn’t happen with my own kids. You know what I mean?”

“I do know what you mean. I never thought I’d still be single in my early 40s, no kids. Are your parents still living?” Aaron took a sip of wine.

Trixie shook her head. “My folks are gone. They were older when I was born. They died when I was only nineteen. After I left home, I never saw them again.”

“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that,” Aaron said. “I’ll probably not see mine again, either. To be honest, we aren’t that close. They thought I could do better with my life than a degree in physical education. I think my dad wanted me to be an engineer like him. I just don’t think like an engineer. The buzz around the league seems to suggest I’m on target for the hall of fame someday.” Aaron shrugged. “I don’t see it.”

“I’m proud of you,” she said softly. “I mean that, too. I saw you in action yesterday. There is still a lot I don’t understand, but even I could tell the other team was lost. Andy was right. It’s fun to watch in person.”

Aaron blushed. “Thank you. That’s twice in one night. I’m going to get all conceited.”

Trixie belly laughed. “From what I see, there is absolutely no danger of that!”

Their dinner arrived minutes later, and they spent time discussing their backgrounds, hopes, and dreams for the future that didn’t actually revolve around their careers. “What are you doing for the holiday, Aaron?”

“I usually spend it with Danae and Andy. They are really my only family these days. She has Darcey and her family over. Sometimes, I bring my photography stuff over and do family photos. It’s a fun hobby, but I don’t do it much anymore. How about you?”

“This year, I have no plans. I usually have a boyfriend to visit or spend time with on the holiday. But this year, I don’t.”

“What if I were to change that for you? What if I was your boyfriend? Would you be interested in exclusivity?” Aaron asked, hopeful.

“Really?” She nearly squealed. “I’d love that! I want to tell you something, but I’m afraid I’ll scare you away.”

“Well, I promise not to run away screaming,” he chuckled.

“Okay. Here goes nothing,” Trixie said and took a deep breath. “You are the only man I’ve been out with that I’ve ever felt this way about, Aaron. There is something special about you.”

“When we kissed for the first time, I felt this chemistry. And I’ve never felt this way before, either. But I didn’t want to be too forward, I don’t want you to feel threatened or pressured.”

“I’m not usually the one who feels pressured,” she snickered. “I’m usually the one who falls too fast, gets in too deep. I’m the one who gets broken, heartsick, while he can’t get away fast enough.” She shook her head. “I’m saying too much.”

“No, you’re not at all. This is the stuff I want to know about you. This is what has made you who you are, Trixiebean.”

“All I know is that I don’t want to mess this up. I don’t want this to be over before we have a chance to start.” As long as she had her heart on her sleeve, she tucked one more confession into it. “I really, really like you, Aaron. I could easily fall for you.” She bit her tongue as soon as it left her lips.

“It has been a long time, years really, since I have felt anything close to love. And yes, I think I could easily fall for you, too. I won’t say I am there yet. But who knows? Unless I find out you’re secretly a mass murderer,” he teased.

She nudged him and laughed.

*****

After dinner, neither of them wanted the evening to end, so Aaron invited her to his place for a drink and to talk for a while. He pulled into the driveway and opened her door for her. She stepped out of the car and stared at the house.

You live in this beautiful home? I always wondered.”

He kicked a pebble and smiled. “Yeah, it’s a bit extravagant for my needs, but when Dusty gets bigger, maybe it will suit me better. Come on in, I’ll pour us a glass of wine and light the fireplace.”

He opened the door and she stepped inside. The front door opened up into a huge great room, a theater room to the left, the kitchen and attached formal dining room, and two huge bedrooms. The fireplace was gas and lit with the touch of a button, and Aaron went into the kitchen to pour two glasses of wine.

“Make yourself at home,” he told her. A small black and white puppy came running from the kitchen and greeted Trixie.

“Thanks. This must be Dusty? He’s really cute!” The puppy slathered her in licks and affection and she giggled.

Aaron walked from the kitchen, two glasses of wine in his hand. He settled himself next to her on the sofa and set the wine on the coffee table. “Dusty, go lay down somewhere,” he told the puppy. “I should take him out, but he’s already made a mess in the kitchen I had to clean. I’m too late once again.” Aaron bent over to pet Dusty. “I really have no business owning a dog.”

“I get why you do,” she said softly. “Loneliness is consuming…”

Aaron leaned to her and kissed her tenderly. “You taste amazing, Trix,” he groaned, breathless.

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“Don’t stop, Aaron,” she whispered. “This feels so right.”

They continued to kiss, and when they pulled away, Aaron stood. He held his hand to her and lifted her, carrying her to his bedroom.

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He set her down on the floor and they kissed again. “Trixie…”

“Shh,” she said, snuggled into his arms. “Aaron, I need you.”

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He pulled away from her, conflicted. “Trixiebean, I’m not sure about this.” He walked to his bed and sat on the edge.

She walked to him and embraced him. “Don’t you like me?”

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“Of course I do. And yes, it feels right. But I—”

She interrupted him with a kiss. “Please, Aaron. I need you.”

She coaxed him to lay down on his bed, and she snuggled up to him. She wrapped herself around him, kissing him.

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He was almost ready to give in to her, but he couldn’t.

“Trix, I-I can’t.” He sat up and pushed her away gently. “I want you so bad, but I can’t… not now, not like this.”

Her eyes filled with tears. “I’m sorry, Aaron,” she cried. She walked out to the living room and grabbed her evening bag. “I have to go.” And she ran from the house, Aaron watched her as she fled, intensely sorry he let himself get into that position with her to begin with.

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“I’m sorry, Trixiebean,” Aaron whispered to himself, his face pressed against the door, he stared into the night. He turned the fireplace off, blew out the candles and dialed the phone of his best friend.

*****

Once Trixie cleared the house, her pace slowed and she sobbed on the side of the road. “I’ve never been more humiliated in my life,” she said aloud. A few minutes later, she collected herself and finished the walk home. Somehow, this rejection hurt more than anything else she had ever experienced.

She opened the gate and saw a light on in the house. Uh oh, she thought. Danae is up waiting. Slowly, she walked to the front door and swallowed a huge lump in her throat. But Danae saw the heartbreak on her face.

“Oh Trixie, what happened?” Danae stood to hug her, and Trixie sobbed in her arms.

“It was my fault. I humiliated myself. Now it’s perfectly clear why I’m alone. I’m a total slut, Nae. I give myself too fast. Except Aaron was too much of a gentleman, and he rejected my advances. I can’t face him. I’m so ashamed.”

“Oh honey, I’m sorry. And you’re absolutely not a slut, Trix.” In the bedroom, Andy was on the phone. Aaron’s call woke them and Danae knew Trixie would need her. “Let’s go outside and sit. I’ll get a glass of wine for us. Let’s chat awhile.”

In the bedroom, Andy consoled a very distraught Aaron. “Andy, I blew it with Trixie. I thought I was being a gentleman, but it turns out I’m just a killjoy. A prude. She left my house in tears. I guess it wasn’t meant to be.” Andy heard Aaron’s overly sad sigh. “I guess I’m doomed to live my life with this damned dog after all.”

“Aaron, do you like her?” Andy asked.

“It’s worse, Murph. I think I might be falling in love with her. She’s amazing, but I failed her. I’m done. I can’t handle any more heartbreak. I’d rather be alone than have this pain.” Aaron choked back his emotion.

“Don’t let her get away, Aaron. You don’t realize it, but you’re perfect for one another. Trust me on this.”

“I’d be willing to bet she won’t even talk to me. I’ll never forget the look on her face, Andy. She was broken. I’m so stupid, just the latest guy to dump on her and break her heart.”

“Aaron, you’re anything but stupid. Nae is outside with her. Do you want to see if she’ll talk to you?”

Aaron was going to say no, but against his better judgment, he said, “Yeah. What do I have to lose?”

Andy walked to the patio where Trixie still sobbed in Danae’s arms. “Trix, this call is for you.”

She looked at her friend, tears stained her face. “I-I can’t face him. I’m an awful person.”

“Trix, don’t waste this chance. I’m here for you if it all goes south, but take the call.” Danae encouraged her. She sniffled and took the phone from Andy.

“Hello?”

“Trixiebean, I’m so sorry,” Aaron said to her. “I never meant for our evening to end like this. Would you be willing to talk, face to face? Please, Trix.”

She sighed deeply. “Aaron, I’m so humiliated. I’m sorry I acted like a cat in heat. I had no regard for you. I had no respect for myself.”

“Sweetheart, please don’t feel that way. Trixie, I don’t want to talk on the phone. Please, let me pick you up and come back here with me. Let’s sit and talk through this.”

She looked at Danae. “Should I go?” she whispered. Danae nodded and smiled. “Yeah, I’ll be outside at the gate. But I need to change clothes. Give me a few minutes, okay?”

“I’ll be there in five minutes. Is that okay?”

She nodded. “Yes. I’ll see you in a few.” They disconnected the call, and Trixie looked at Danae. “We’re going to work this out.”

Danae hugged her. “Go get changed. Don’t keep him waiting, Trix.”

Five minutes later, Trixie waited by the gate for Aaron and was surprised to see him on foot. “I thought it would give us more time to chat if we walked,” he said quietly. “Thanks for talking with me. This was the last thing I wanted to do. Trixie, I never intended to hurt you.”

“No, Aaron, it’s my fault. I need to learn some restraint. It’s no wonder men don’t bother with me. I give too much of myself too soon, and there’s nothing left. No mystery. No surprises.” She sighed deeply.

He took her hand as they walked. “I want to tell you something, but you don’t have to respond. You don’t even have to acknowledge it if you don’t want to. But Trixie, I’m falling for you, and I’m falling hard. You’re making it so easy. But I don’t want to be one of those guys who is only after one thing. You deserve so much more than that.”

Trixie smiled. The moonlight reflected off his blue eyes, and she melted. “I really do respect you, Aaron, which makes my behavior even worse. Since our first kiss, I’ve felt love stirring in my heart. I can never wait for our next kiss. When we’re together, I feel amazing, like I never have before.” She stopped and stroked his face. “And I know when the time is right, we’ll have our first time together. Thank you for not giving up on me.”

He led her to a small grassy area just off the Murphy property. They sat cuddled together and looked out over the water.

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The sun was on the edge of the eastern sky, nearly ready to signal the beginning of the day. “You’re still beautiful, you know that. Right?”

She blushed. “You’re still handsome, Mr. Hall. I’m so very sor—”

“Shh, don’t,” Aaron interrupted her. “You have nothing to be sorry for. You don’t know what kind of restraint it took to say no, Trixiebean.” He kissed the top of her head and caressed her cheek. “I never should have let it get where we took it. I’m just as guilty.”

“It’s okay,” she whispered. “Aaron? Please kiss me.”

He knew it was dangerous, but they were in public. “It would be my pleasure.” She got on all fours and kissed him.

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“The pleasure is all mine,” she whispered into his ear.


Four months later…

Trixie wore a brand new red dress and fiddled with her hair. “I feel like this is too much, Nae. What if I’m overdressed?”

“Trix, you look gorgeous,” Danae said. “That shade of red is so pretty on you. Aaron is going to love this. Are you ready?”

“I’m more than ready.” Love Day was coming, and Aaron invited her for a weekend of romance at the resort Kirby owned. “I know he loves me, but what if I screw this up, Nae? I’ll be worse than broken if he leaves me now…”

“You know that won’t happen, but I understand the fear. I had the same insecurities before Andy and I were married. I was convinced he would leave me for someone else, even after our wedding. Relax, Trix. Let him spoil you, and enjoy each other. We’ll be here when you come home on Sunday.”

“I’m nervous about his expectations. What if he wants to get intimate? We haven’t yet. What do I do? Do I say yes? I mean, I’m ready, but I remember what happened the last time, and it wasn’t pretty.”

“Things are different now, Trix. You have a relationship now. You have love between you. Sex is a natural next step. Let him initiate it, that way you know he wants you, too. You will be okay.”

“I don’t know what I’d do without you, Danae. You’re my best friend.” Trixie hugged her.

“He will be here in a few minutes. Let’s head downstairs.”

Aaron let himself into the gate and knocked on the front door. Danae answered it. “She is gorgeous, Aaron. Spoil her rotten. She deserves it.” She kissed him on the cheek.

Trixie hit the bottom step just as Aaron opened his eyes, and she took his breath away. “Oh my,” he exclaimed. “Trixiebean, you are delightful.”

Trixie blushed a deep, hot red. “Is that a new tux, Aaron?” Her heart skipped a beat when she saw him.

He nodded. “Our reservations await us. Are you ready, Beanie?”

She smiled sweetly at him. “I’m ready, Coach.”

He walked her to his Aston Martin and opened the door. She got in, and he walked to the driver’s side, got in and kissed her. “I’ve been waiting all day for some sugar,” he cooed at her. “No overnight bag?” he asked, noticing she only carried an evening bag.

It wasn’t until his question that she felt self-conscious. “Danae is going to leave it for me. Is that a problem?”

“Not at all.”

They drove to the Grand Tower resort and the concierge greeted them. Aaron was recognized immediately. “Mr. Aaron!” Marcela greeted him. “Welcome! Is this your lovely wife?”

Not yet. “No, we are having dinner tonight and spending some time together for the holiday. If Miss Danae stops by, please allow her access to our suite. She is bringing a bag for my sweetheart.”

“Not a problem, Mr. Aaron. Enjoy your dinner and weekend together.”

Hand in hand, they walked to the restaurant, and Aaron checked them in. “Hall, six o’clock.”

“Your table is ready, Mr. Hall. Please, follow me.” Arm in arm, they followed the Maître D’ to their table, tucked into a corner. The dining room had recently been redecorated, but it was not an especially eye-pleasing color. Everything was in gold tones, reminiscent of a bygone era. Even so, the ambiance was elegant and refined, much different than By The Sea.

Aaron ordered a bottle of champagne and the waiter poured two glasses almost on the spot. “Can I recommend anything for you, Monsieur?” he asked Aaron.

“Not yet. If I have any questions, I’ll ask when you return.” Aaron was not entirely comfortable in such a fancy place. A millionaire in his own right, he lived modestly and dined out infrequently, except at lunch with Andy and Wyatt. It was truly the only decent meal he would eat in a day. He set the menu down and took Trixie’s hands in his. “You are stunning in that dress. Simply sophisticated and beautiful.”

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“You are being sweet again,” she smiled at him.

“Any requests for dinner tonight, my heart?”

“You choose, Aaron. You haven’t disappointed me yet.”

He nodded and placed the menu face down. He saw what he wanted, and he knew she liked it, too. After the waiter took their order, Aaron topped off their glasses of champagne.

“How was work today, Coach?”

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“Slow. The off-season is more Andy’s thing. He’s trying to negotiate for new players. I’m still working through some new plays for next season. I hope they’ll be as effective as I think.”

“I’m sure they will be.”

Aaron looked at her, and couldn’t wait any longer. “Trix, I hope you know how I feel about you. That I adore you. That you have been so good for me. I hope I’ve been as good for you.”

“Oh Aaron, you know you have. I love you.”

“I love you, too. I’m pretty sure I’m going to love you until the day I die. And I can’t bear the thought of you being away from me.” He pulled a small box from his jacket pocket, and on one knee, he opened it. “Trixie, will you marry me?”

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Trixie stood, tears in her eyes and a look of total shock on her face. “Of course I’ll marry you!”

They embraced, and he whispered into her ear, “Thank you for making me so happy, Beanie. I love you.”

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Aaron took the ring from the box and slipped it onto her finger. Her eyes sparkled as she beheld the ring. The stone was huge, almost as big as the diamond Danae wore on her hand.

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“Thank you for my gorgeous ring, Aaron. It’s breathtaking!”

“It’s nowhere near as pretty as the one who wears it,” he purred. “Now we just need to decide if we’re going to elope or do it up big.” Mischief danced in his expression. He knew she would want a big ceremony with her friends.

“I’ll let you know when the shock wears off. I am engaged to Aaron Hall!” Every now and then, she was still starstruck by him.

Aaron chuckled. “Yes, yes you are. And Aaron Hall loves you more than anything.”

*****

After dinner, they walked hand in hand to the VIP section of the resort, past the main part of the property. The suite was the smallest of the three available, but it was all they needed. A bedroom, a small living room, a bathroom with a spa tub and kitchenette, everything decorated with fine linens, expensive fixtures, and furniture. Trixie was in awe of the accommodations, having never seen such a beautiful suite.

Aaron opened his bag, which he had left in the suite earlier, and pulled out more comfortable clothing. “If you’d like to get comfortable feel free, Beanie. I’m going to get out of this tux.”

Trixie nodded. She had two different nighttime outfits with her, and she was unsure of which to wear. She certainly wasn’t going to make the same mistake she made on their first date and make assumptions. So she chose the one that was modest, a pair of boy shorts and a shirt. She excused herself and went into the bathroom to change.

Aaron was taking care of his tux, already dressed in a pair of boxers and a robe, when Trixie emerged from the bathroom, her makeup off. She looked adorable, and Aaron adjusted his robe, covering himself.

He had a bottle of her favorite wine and two glasses from the kitchenette. “Can I interest you in a nightcap?”

She nodded shyly, and she couldn’t help but notice him as he worked the cork from the bottle. Strong, muscular, distinct six-pack abs, light blond hair covered his chest. Aaron did not have an ounce of body fat, and his muscle definition was remarkable.

She took a glass from him and they sat together in the living room area of the suite. “A toast,” he offered. “To you and me. To our new lives together.”

Trixie smiled. “Cheers!” she said and sipped from her glass. She felt awkward and shy, and though she knew what she wanted, she wasn’t willing to put herself forward, to take the chance. No, the next move would be Aaron’s and his alone.

He set his glass on the coffee table and snuggled up to her. “Trixiebean, you are beautiful, and I can’t believe you’re mine.”

“You could have had any woman you wanted—” she began, but he cut her off.

“You are the one I want. Tonight.”

She swallowed hard. “Tonight?”

He nodded. “Is that okay with you?”

“Oh coach, it’s more than okay.” She considered changing to her sexy outfit, but he embraced her in a kiss.

“I’ve never made love with someone before, Trixie.” He kissed her neck, relishing her sighs of pleasure.

She pulled away reluctantly. “Aaron, we don’t have to. I had no idea you were a virgin.”

He chuckled. “I didn’t say I was a virgin. I said I’ve never made love before. There’s a stark difference between sex and making love.”

She considered his words. “You know, this is my first time, too. To make love, I mean.” She realized he knew she had a questionable, almost promiscuous past. She needed him to know one big thing. “For the record, I’ve never had unprotected sex, Aaron.”

“I haven’t either. And it’s been a very long time for me, so I might not be on top of my game. A friendly disclaimer.”

She snickered. “A disclaimer?”

He blushed slightly. “Yeah. I promise, though, we’ll work on compatibility. Whatever doesn’t work now, we’ll improve as we go.”

“I have a few condoms with me in my purse. You can choose whichever—”

He kissed her, interrupting her. “We don’t need it, Beanie. We’re in a committed relationship. We are engaged to be married. And if we make a baby tonight, so be it.”

“But Aaron, are you ready for that?”

“Yes, I am. I know you are. Didn’t you tell me you wanted a family of your own to raise? I wouldn’t mind if we started now. I’m not getting any younger, Beanie. You would be a fantastic mother. And I love you, so very much.”

“I have a different nightie. Let me change into it,” she offered.

“You’re sexy just how you are.” Aaron picked her up and brought her to the bed. “Let me make love to you, Trixie.”

He laid her down on the bed, and they made love with each other into the night, and when sleep finally took them, they were satisfied and spent, very much in love.

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Up Next: Chapter Thirty, Generation Five


Pose Credits:

Aside from my normally used pose artists, the following artists and poses have been utilized in this chapter:

Wedding Pt 3, by Kiddo at Kiddo’s Dreams
Kiss Me (Like A Movie Star) by Vågen at Mod The Sims
Moondance by Lenina90 at The Sims 3 Planet

Custom Content:

Trixie’s adorable hair from The Sims 3 Store
Trixie’s red dress from BEO Creations
Aaron’s Tux 1 from The Sims 3 Store
Aaron’s Tux 2 from Lady Dane The Sims Resource
Kirby’s By The Sea from Aya20 at Mod The Sims
Gold Five Star Restaurant Set from Around The Sims 3
Aaron’s engagement ring from Mensure at The Sims Resource
Christmas/Snowflake Day decor from Severinka at The Sims Resource

If you see an item that I have not included, and you’d like to know where I got it, just contact me and I’ll do my best to provide a working link.