G3 Chapter Twelve – The 20th Anniversary

Rog got up early before his shift at the hospital and worked quickly to place items around the house. Long stem roses on the dining room table. Cards with sappy love poems. And a note left upon his pillow with a single lily. That one, however, was the last one placed before he hurried out of the bedroom, knowing its sweet aroma would wake her.

Six o’clock AM. His shift was beginning in less than an hour and he heard the kids upstairs in the shower. Not much time, he thought. I need to get out of here! He grabbed his car keys and locked the house door behind him.

Upstairs, Bella’s alarm clock was chiming. Sleepily, she pressed a button on the clock and the chiming ceased. In the next room, Chris and Charlotte were chattering but their speech was unintelligible. She noticed Rog had already left, but in his place was a single white lily and a note in an envelope, his familiar handwriting bore her name: “Bella, my love.” She opened the envelope carefully and read the note within:

On this day twenty years ago, you made me the happiest man in the world by marrying me. Our life together has been more than enough. I love you more than I can express.

Happy Anniversary, my darling.

All my love, Rog

“Oh no!” she said out loud to no one at all. “I forgot!” She kicked the covers off and stood straight up. Quickly, she put his comfy robe on and headed downstairs to make breakfast for Chris and Charlotte, who were bickering about who knows what. As she hit the bottom step she noticed the roses on the table. Her heart melted but a wave of guilt swept over her.

“Eggs, flour, milk, vanilla, baking powder, butter, and bananas,” she muttered as she gathered the ingredients to make banana pancakes. By the mixer was a card with her name on it. Wiping her hands on a towel, she opened the card.

Roses are red,
Violets are blue,
Words can never tell you,
How much I love you.

Dreaming of you,

Smiling and feeling even guiltier, she continued mixing the batter. The griddle was hot, and she poured the first cake as Charlotte arrived in the dining room.

“What are the flowers for?” she asked.

“Today is our wedding anniversary, Charli.” Bella wiped the counter nervously. “And I forgot!”

“Oooh!” Charlotte taunted. “You’re in trouble!”

“Well, I have all day to remedy it and I have some ideas myself.” Bella flipped the cakes over. They were a perfect golden brown.

“Mmm, that smells good Mama,” Chris announced as he descended the steps. “Flowers?” he asked as he walked toward the table.

“Mama forgot their anniversary, Chris,” Charlotte teased and they both giggled.

“Okay, you’ve had enough fun at my expense.” Bella laughed and served up the first four cakes. Working quickly she poured another four into the hot griddle. “Come eat, guys.”

After the children had left for school and she had finished cleaning the kitchen, she went upstairs to shower. On the vanity sat another card.

Thoughts of you surround me
You’re the beating of my heart
The love you give defines me
My life is no longer dark.¹

All my affection,

She wiped tears of joy from her eyes as she undressed. As she stepped into the shower she cried openly, still not comprehending the love she had for her husband. When she was done, she wrapped her hair in a towel and made her way to the bedroom to get dressed.

She walked past by the dining room table and noticed the card attached to the flowers. Trembling, she reached for it to open it.

The passion between us is strong
Ferocious to those that see
The feelings that are shared between us
My love for you and yours for me.²

I’m Forever Yours,

She shook her head. “I don’t deserve this man,” she said to the butler, Gilbert, as he appeared in the foyer after retrieving the morning paper.

“I noticed, Mrs. St John,” he said, pointing toward the flowers. “He must love you immensely.” Gilbert set the paper on the counter and began gathering laundry.

“That he does, Gilbert.” She took her keys from their hook. “I’m heading into town for a bit. I’ll be home soon.”

When she reached the garage, she stopped in her tracks. Her car was bursting at the seams with red balloons. Laughing, she opened the car door, and they began escaping, filling the garage. I hope Gilbert doesn’t clean this up, she thought.

Her first stop was the jewelry store. The clerk greeted her. “How can I help you today?”

“I’m looking for a ring for my husband,” Bella told her. “Something with diamonds and sapphires, our birthstones.”

“I think I might have just the ring,” she told Bella. “This way.”

Bella approached the case and saw the ring of which she spoke. It was breathtaking, a diamond solitaire in the middle, surrounded by blue sapphires and smaller diamonds. It sparkled like the sun. “It is beautiful,” she remarked.

The clerk opened the case and handed the ring to her. “Here, you can have a closer look.” Gingerly, Bella took the ring and slid it onto her own finger. It was way too big for her, but she knew that Rog’s ring finger was just a bit bigger than her thumb.

“This is how I can tell if it will fit him,” she explained, sliding the ring onto her thumb. It fit her exactly how his wedding band did. “This will be perfect! I’ll take it!”

The clerk looked surprised. Bella never even asked the price. “Are you sure, Ma’am? It’s over §3,000.”

“That isn’t a problem,” she replied. Bella happily paid the clerk and took the ring. “Thank you so much!” She said as she pushed the door open.

“Thank you! Come again!” the clerk waved.

As she got into her car, her phone chimed. It was Rog’s message tone. Smiling, she retrieved the phone from her bag and read the message:

Bella my love, I have a surprise for you. Meet me tonight at The Tower for dinner at 6 pm. A car will pick you up at 5:30. Waiting for you, Rog

The Tower, she thought. That place is exclusive! There was no way either of them had the connections to get a table there. She knew he had to have pulled some strings to manage the reservation. The guilty feeling crept in again. The ring, though it was beautiful, could never compete with all he had done to prepare for this night. She tapped her phone and the keyboard appeared.

My sweet Rogelio, I would be honored to meet you. However, I have a confession to make. I forgot about our anniversary. I hope you can forgive me. You have my heart, Bella

She sighed deeply. As she set the phone down it chimed again. Rog.

Darling Bella, There is nothing to forgive. I cannot wait to see you tonight. Wear something irresistible. Desiring you, Rog

Instead of shopping for any more gifts for him, she decided to go to the salon instead. She got a makeover, her hair trimmed, makeup done, and a brand new, slinky black dress with stiletto-heeled shoes. The boutique owner lavished compliments on Bella as she emerged from the dressing room wearing it. “Your husband won’t be able to keep his hands off you in that,” she said.

“He already can’t!” Bella laughed. “But that is exactly the reaction I am going for.”

She looked at her watch. Three-thirty. The kids would be home from school and it wasn’t like her to be gone when they got home. She didn’t worry, though. They were old enough to care for themselves and responsible enough to do homework without being told.

She walked into the house, bags in her hands and Charlotte giggled. “Did you get guilty presents for Daddy?”

“Just one,” Bella replied. “Come here and see.” She opened her bag and showed the ring. Their eyes widened and Chris touched the stones.

“Holy cow Mom,” he exclaimed. “How much did this set you back?”

“Your college fund,” Bella teased. Both kids laughed. “Your dad is sending a car for me at 5:30, so I need to be ready. Please don’t make me late.”

“We’ll stay out of your way, Mama,” Charlotte told her. “But if you want some help, I’ll be here.”

“Well, that’s kind of you, honey,” Bella said.

“You look beautiful, Mama,” Chris said to her. “Your hair looks amazing.”

Bella blushed. “Thank you, son.”

She lugged her packages upstairs and plopped them on the bed. She took the black dress and hung it on the door on a clothes hanger and placed the shoes on the bed. She took her time getting dressed and touching up her hair and makeup. She went back downstairs at 5 o’clock, her dressed unzipped. She needed Charlotte to help her.

“Sweetheart, could you get this zipper for me?” Chris’s mouth dropped open.

“Wow, Mama,” he exclaimed. “Daddy is going to freak when he sees you.” Bella blushed.

“Here, I’ve got it,” Charlotte answered, zipping the form-fitting dress. “You look so beautiful, Mama.”

“Thank you, sweetie.” Bella gave one last look in the mirror, checking her makeup. “Is it chilly outside?”

“Yeah, a bit,” said Chris.

Outside, the honk of a horn sounded. The car had arrived to pick Bella up. She grabbed a shawl and her bag. “I don’t know what time we’ll be home. You have my number, and Gilbert is here if you need him. Be good!” The kids waved to her as she walked to the limousine.

The limo arrived at The Tower a few minutes before six. The driver assisted her out of the car and accompanied her into the restaurant, past the crowds that lined up hoping for the chance to be seated.

“Mrs. St John, sir.” he announced to the Maître D’.

“Right this way, Miss.” He led Bella to where Rog was sitting.  He stood when he saw her approach and his eyes lit up.

“Thank you,” Rog told the Maître D’. He looked at Bella as though it was the first time. “Wow, darling,” he told her. “That dress, your hair…” he swallowed hard. “You certainly met the ‘irresistible’ requirement.”

“That’s what I was going for,” she replied.

He held the chair for her as she sat and helped her move closer to the table. The waiter brought a bottle of champagne and a platter of strawberries. Two candles illuminated the table and a vase of lilies scented the air. Nearby, a roaming violinist went table to table serenading and taking requests. Figuring she’d never get another chance to be there, Bella sat and soaked in the atmosphere, enjoying every second. Rog could not take his eyes from her.

“Is everything okay, Rog?” she asked, noticing his admiration. “You’re quiet.”

“Your beauty has rendered me speechless,” he answered. “I never expected this.”

She smiled and took his hand. “I have a surprise for you, but it’s nothing like what you’ve done today.”

“Oh, not true,” he replied. “You win today hands down.”

“Well, this has been killing me so I want to give you your gift.” She reached into her bag and pulled out a small box tied with a bow. She offered it to him, and he accepted it.

“I have a gift for you, too,” he said, as he reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a similar-looking box. He offered the box to her, and she accepted it.

“Open yours first, Rog,” she suggested excitedly. He agreed, so he untied the bow and opened the box.

“Oh Bella,” he stammered. “This is exquisite.” He took the ring from its box and put it on his finger. A perfect fit. “How did you know this would fit?”

She smiled slyly. “I have my ways.”

He admired the ring. “This is just incredible! Our birthstones! So perfect, I love it, darling. Thank you so much!” He took her hand and squeezed it. “Now, it’s your turn!”

She picked up the box and opened it. Inside was a diamond anniversary band, two diamonds in the middle and 20 more set in a channel, 10 on each side. She set the box on the table and covered her face, trying to hide her emotion.

“Bella?” he asked. “Is everything okay?”

She dabbed her eyes with a tissue and took a deep breath. “Rog, that ring, it is so extravagant! Oh my goodness,” she was fumbling for words trying to find the right ones, but every thought escaped her mind. “I’m speechless!” She stood up, and he did, too. They met in the middle in a tender embrace and they kissed. She laid her head on his shoulder as they remained close. “Thank you,” she whispered. He kissed her again.

“You’re welcome, my darling!”

They sat down together, and he reached for the box he had given her and removed the ring. Holding her hand, he slid the ring onto her finger in front of her wedding band. “Bella, I would absolutely marry you all over again. I couldn’t live without you.”

Her heart was filled to overflowing. The note that morning, the flowers, the cards, the ring, and the man she loved more than life itself. She felt a tear trickle down her cheek and she grinned. “Oh baby,” she wept, “I would marry you every day for the rest of our lives.”

They took their time dining, enjoying the meal and feeding morsels to each other. They reminisced about everything, laughing about the now-infamous Estevan debacle, rejoicing in the birth of their children, and remembering both of their overseas vacations. “What’s your favorite memory?” he asked her as they gazed into each other’s eyes.

“I’m not sure I could pick a favorite,” she answered. “Every moment with you is a contender.” Still, she thought for a moment and finally picked one. “Remember the time at the Park? You were still a proprietor. We’d only been on one date, and I never called you back afterward. You were so mad at me and rightfully so. I had the worst show, and I had just found out Estevan was stalking me.” He nodded his head. “You brought me home and made sure I was safe. Remember? You stayed that night on the couch in the bungalow.”

He scratched his chin. He remembered the night but not as fondly as she apparently did. “Yes, I remember.”

“The next morning you made pancakes, banana ones. You stayed with me and never left my side, knowing I had a crazy ex-boyfriend who would complicate things. You stayed with me. That was the day I discovered I loved you, Rog. I’m still amazed, after all this time that you stuck around when you didn’t have to. That is my favorite memory.”

“I couldn’t just abandon you when I didn’t know if you would be safe.” Rog reached for her and stroked her cheek. “I’ll tell you my favorite moment.” He took her hand, playing with her fingers. “It was my first day at Verde Park as a proprietor, green as could be and not really knowing how I got the job in the first place. And here comes a fiery redhead wearing a magician outfit asking for an audition. You were so beautiful, even with that silly hat and the tuxedo bodysuit they had you wearing. Your hand touched mine ever so slightly and I got goosebumps. I never believed in love at first sight until I saw you. I was hooked, Bella,” he smiled softly at her. “You were my first and only love. That is my favorite memory. I couldn’t function after that. And when I went looking for you the Grind was the last place I’d been that night. I went everywhere looking for you hoping to find you, somewhere, anywhere.”

“You’ve never told me that before,” she said sweetly. “I thought you knew I was moonlighting at the Grind.”

“I had no idea,” he replied. “I was almost ready to give up, too. But I had to find you. Had to.” He took a sip of champagne. “It was almost as though if I didn’t find you that night, I’d lose you forever.”

“But I had that steady gig at the Park, Rog.”

“I was already on thin ice there. I was not meant for show business and I was running out of second chances.” He shook his head at the memory. “Everything in my life depended on finding you. I couldn’t stand the thought of not at least trying to win your heart.”

“That is the sweetest thing! Funny how our favorite memories are the ones where we fell in love with the other.”

“Meeting you was life-changing,” he said, very matter-of-factly. “I was blessed to have such a moment. Most guys never get to experience it.”

“I’ll confess when you came looking for me at the club that night, I really wasn’t sure what to think of it.” She giggled. “I mean, I liked you professionally but never thought of you that way.”

“It must have been my raw appeal,” he said sarcastically, striking a pose.

“No, it was something greater, deeper. I saw in you a man who was loyal, respectful, and honorable.” She sipped her champagne. “You were exactly the man I needed.”

The waiter returned with the check, and Rog paid it. “Are you ready for the rest of the night?” he asked.

“There’s more?” she replied, dumbfounded.

“Oh darling, I’m just getting started,” he purred.

Morning came late for the two lovebirds, but it was thankfully Saturday. Nobody had to be anywhere, the kids had gone off to friends’ houses for the night. It was past noon when she woke, feeling like she had worked out for 8 hours straight. Every muscle in her body ached but she had to move. She peeled herself away from Rog. They had slept together how they had fallen asleep, neither of them moving. Their bedroom was still locked, so she didn’t worry about the butler coming in to clean or make the beds. She stumbled to the bathroom and sat down. Then she heard a groan of pain from the bedroom. She ran to see Rog trying to stand but to no avail.

“Oh, baby,” she said to him. “You can’t move, can you?” He shook his head. That was the only movement that seemed to not hurt. 

“I’m too old for that kind of night, I suppose.” He managed to sit up on the side of the bed. 

“Here, let me help you.” She grabbed his arm and steadied him as he stood, wobbly on his feet. One step, one step, moving slowly, Rog made his way to the bathroom. Bella held tight to him until he was finished. They both washed their hands in side by side sinks. She hugged him close.

“Sorry, darling,” Rog lamented. “I think I’m good for a few days.” 

They showered together and found the warm water actually helped loosen up their muscles a bit. By the time they were done, they were both walking normally, but still a bit sore. 

Though she never took advantage of his cooking skills, Gilbert was actually an accomplished chef. On this day, however, she asked him to make something, anything, so she didn’t have to stand. He prepared stir fry, Rog’s favorite dish, and brought two servings to the dining room table. Rog had already opened a bottle of wine they had brought home from France, and they sipped it as they watched the first unseasonably early snow beginning to fall.

After dinner, they took the wine bottle and their glasses and sat by the fireplace, snuggled together. She was laying on his belly with her arms wrapped around him, her head on his chest, his legs wrapped around her and his hand on her back. They were nearly inseparable and almost indistinguishable from one another. They were asleep on the sofa when the kids came home and Charlotte covered them both with blankets and tiptoed upstairs with Chris.

“Night night, Mama and Daddy,” she whispered as she climbed the stairs, blowing them each a kiss.


Up Next: Chapter Thirteen, Generation Three

¹ https://www.luvze.com/love-poems-for-her/
² https://www.luvze.com/love-poems-for-her/

Pose Credit (Featured Image)

Poses By Bee – Engagement Portraits

Generation Four Almost Ready!

Hello simmers! I know we are still in high gear with stories from generation three, but Charlotte will be graduating from high school soon, and we know what that means… Generation four will kick off shortly! I am going to introduce the children officially like I did with the three girls in generation three, and then continue on the with obvious heir. Be prepared for some reading, though. Charlotte’s story isn’t finished, and I’m already 12 pages into it so far (for reference, Bree’s story, which was the longest for 3, went only 9 pages!) I am leaning towards one over the other, but you won’t know until you read for yourselves! (Don’t you love a good mystery with some suspense?!?) This will also be different because Bella and Rog’s story will run concurrently with the opening of generation four.

Each generation becomes more and more of a surprise, and I get more and more attached to them as I plod along. I am so excited to share these two wonderful kids with you, barring any more oopses from Bella and Rog!

Also, if you haven’t heard, we have a new Facebook page, where there are albums of screenshots from each generation, so you can put faces with the names. I haven’t dedicated much of the game and story to screenshots, BUT!!! There is a video posted on our Facebook page that I did, starring Destiny and Arthur, to a song by a great Swedish band called Smash Into Pieces. Give it a watch and I’d love your feedback!! Dont forget to like our page to get every update and new chapter!!

Stay tuned!

G3 Chapter Eleven – The Best of Birthdays

Bella put the finishing touch on the cake and swirled it around on the pedestal. “Perfect!” she congratulated herself dabbing on one last decoration. They were having a huge birthday party for Charlotte’s thirteenth birthday and for Christopher’s tenth. Carefully she covered the cake with a dome and set it on the counter. Her phone rang.


“Mrs. St John? This is Lauren from the balloon shop. You ordered some balloons for a party?”

“Yes, I did. Are they ready?”

“Yes ma’am, they are. Danny will be by later to deliver them.” Lauren confirmed the St John residence address and delivery time and they hung up the phone.

Meanwhile, at the park, Rog was entertaining the children at the Fall Festival. They both picked a pumpkin from the patch to carve for Spooky Day. Rog wanted to bring the kids into the haunted house. Charlotte was excited to go in. Chris, on the other hand, needed a little more convincing. Rog assured him that nothing in the house was real. So with Charlotte leading the way, Chris in the middle and Rog bringing up the rear, the three of them braved the haunted house. Chris loved it and wanted to go in again and again. Rog sat out while Charlotte went with him trying to scare him.

By five o’clock, the balloons had arrived and the house was decorated for a birthday party. Chris and Charlotte’s friends were waiting for the guests of honor to arrive and all of them were excited to jump out and yell “Surprise” for them. Bella unveiled the cake and set it on the island to display. She heard the gate open and knew that Rog was home. Bella had everyone hide behind furniture as she dimmed the lights. In the distance, she heard Chris talking about the haunted house, and Charlotte discussing the art of carving pumpkins, their voices grew louder as they approached the door. Rog saw that the lights were out in the house, so he stuck his key in the door pretending to unlock it and flipped the light switch. Bella and a room full of kids yelled “Surprise!” She loved to see the kids’ faces as they noticed all their friends, but the kids loved to see the stack of birthday presents waiting for them.

The party went on into the evening hours until parents arrived to bring their partygoers home for the night. The favorite gifts, however, were bicycles Rog and Bella bought for them. Full of cake, ice cream, and punch, neither of the two kids was ready to settle down for the night. All four of them sat and watched a movie on their large-screen television. Charlotte snuggled up with her father and Christopher with Bella. By the time the movie was over, the kids were sound asleep. Not wanting to disturb either of them, they covered the kids with a blanket and kissed them good night.

The next morning, the big gift was revealed. Rog and Bella sat them down after breakfast and told them the good news. “We have a surprise for you two,” Bella said, beaming with excitement.

Rog took an envelope from his briefcase and handed it to Charlotte. “What’s this?” she asked.

“Open it, silly!” Chris said, eager to find out what was contained in the envelope.

She stuck her tongue out at her brother and gingerly opened the gift. Inside were four first-class round trip tickets to France, and a hotel suite for 7 days. “Oh, Daddy!” Charlotte exclaimed. “Thank you guys so much!”

“What is it?” Chris asked. Charlotte handed him the envelope. As he read, his face lit up. “France?” he exclaimed. “How awesome is this?” He hugged Bella. “When are we going?”

“We’re leaving tomorrow morning,” she told them. “So we need to pack one bag each, okay Charli?”

“Yes, Mama!” Charlotte was so excited. “I can’t believe we get to go with you!”

Bella followed the kids upstairs to help them choose clothing for the trip. Passports had been completed months prior, so everything was ready. Rog was rather pleased with himself. He wanted to make sure they made good memories with their children.

The next morning they woke the kids early for the hour-long drive to the airport. Chris had his doll Buster with him, and Charlotte brought her laptop computer for the plane ride. Rog had given Bella a new camera and she couldn’t wait to take pictures of the family having fun together. Ironically, the in-flight movie was the one they had all seen together the evening of their birthday party so the kids slept through it. Rog and Bella talked through the seven-hour flight making plans and deciding the itinerary based upon the region they would be visiting.  To Bella’s surprise, they would be in the city where the family had visited when she was Charlotte’s age and she was looking forward to seeing how everything had changed over the past 25 years.

The flight attendant woke Rog and Bella as the plane began its final approach and Bella woke the kids. Chris and Charlotte watched out the window of the airplane as it touched down and taxied into the terminal.  A shuttle was waiting to bring the family to the hotel and they piled in. It was already late when they arrived and they were tired so they settled into bed and slept, wanting to start fresh the next morning.

Bella stirred, feeling Rog behind her. His light breath was on her neck and she felt his arm around her waist. She was about to snuggle up closer when Christopher came bounding into their room. “Wake up! Wake up!” he yelled loudly, bouncing on the bed.

“Okay, Chris,” Bella said. “We’re up.”

Sleepily, Rog peered through half-open eyes and observed a little light peeking through the window. “What time is it, darling?” he asked Bella, and then yawned.

She looked at her watch. “It’s 6:30, baby.”

Rog sighed. “Go back to sleep, Chris. It’s too early.”

“But Daddy!” he protested.

“I said no, Chris. Not yet.” Rog scooted his other arm around Bella and pulled her close. Her hair smelled like green apples.

“Ohhh-kayyy.” Chris turned around and closed the bedroom door padding softly back to the kids’ room. The suite was a 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom with a small kitchenette area and a balcony with a small bistro table with 4 chairs. Rog chuckled when he heard Chris waking his sister in a similar fashion in the next bedroom.

“Now, where were we?” Rog cooed as he kissed Bella’s neck.

“Oooh, right there,” Bella purred.

Two hours later, Rog and Bella appeared in the kitchen. Charlotte helped Chris get breakfast and had more than enough leftovers. Chris had spotted a chess table in the lobby of the hotel, and he challenged Charlotte to a game. So with Bella’s permission, the two young ones headed downstairs to play.

“What do you want to do today, darling?” Rog walked up behind Bella and wrapped his arms around her.

“Don’t you think we should have breakfast first, love?” She teased.

“Mmm,” he replied. “I’ve already had dessert.” She turned around and swatted him.

“Be good, Rog! The kids are with us this time.” She finished fixing plates of croissants and preserves with two steaming cups of coffee and brought them outside to the balcony.  “I think this is prettier than the last time I was here.” She breathed in the vapors of steam from her mug and exhaled. The land was flat with just a few small rolling hills way off in the distance. The area was rural with vineyards as far as the eye could see. On the top of a small mesa to the west sat a mansion that had been converted to an art museum. Behind that, tucked into a sea of unending grapevines was the nectary. She and Bree hadn’t gotten the chance to visit it last time and it was definitely a place of interest for her on this trip.

“So, back to my first question,” Rog said, smiling at her. “What would you like to do today?”

“I think Charli expressed an interest in exploring a couple of old catacombs. I know you love that sort of thing.” Rog nodded, taking a bite of croissant.

“Sounds good, but I’m not sure Chris has the spine for the catacombs,” Rog remembered the mummy that nearly fell out of its coffin on the trip to China. Chris was a smart young man, but what he had in smarts he lacked in courage. An event like that would likely scare Chris badly.

“How about I stay behind and be with Chris today. Take Charlotte and have some time with her, just the two of you.”

“Are you sure? This is supposed to be a family vacation.” Rog looked disappointed.

“Yes, I’m sure. Chris and I will have fun at the pool.”

Rog bit his lip. “Bikini?”

“You know it.”

“Aww, man!” Rog picked up his breakfast dishes and set them in the kitchen sink. “Shower time, make mine cold.” Bella chuckled and rolled her eyes. After all this time together, he was still insatiable.

Rog dressed and met up with Charlotte. Bella packed some granola bars, wet wipes, bug spray and water for them in his day pack. “Come on, kiddo,” he told Charlotte. “It’s just you and me today.”

Her blue eyes widened. “Where are we going?”

“To the catacombs, if that’s okay with you.” Rog clipped his day pack around his waist and handed Charlotte a bottle of water.

She beamed with excitement. “Oh Daddy!” she cried. “I can’t wait!”

Rog and Charlotte had a lot of fun exploring the catacombs but didn’t find anything remarkable on that trip. A few old coins here and there but nothing like the ivory cat Bella had found in China. Bella and Chris spent most of the day at the pool and by the time Rog and Charlotte returned to the hotel Chris was shriveled like a raisin. Everyone got cleaned up and went to the hotel restaurant for dinner that night.

“What’s on the agenda for tomorrow, my loves?” asked Bella during dessert.

“How about the nectary?” Rog suggested. “I know you’ve been wanting to go and get some good nectar right from the source.”

Chris wrinkled his nose. “Boring,” he stated and went back to coloring his placemat.

“What would you like to do, then?” Rog asked him.

“I wanted to go to the catacombs today with you and Charli.” Rog felt bad immediately.

“We didn’t think you’d like that, honey,” Bella replied. “It can get scary in those dark hallways.”

“Mama, I’m not a coward,” he said. “Can I still go, Daddy? Please?”

“Okay, Chris,” Rog answered. “If we have time for another day of exploring you and your Mama can come with us.” That made the young boy smile. Bella, on the other hand, not so much.

The next morning, they awoke to a rooster crowing on the neighboring farm. Chris had never heard such a thing, and Charlotte had only seen pictures of roosters in books. So the children had to go check out the odd-looking bird with the built-in alarm clock.

Bella made crepes for breakfast and dished out two servings, one for her, and one for Rog. He made a fresh pot of coffee and poured them each a mug and together they retreated to the balcony. The air was refreshing and cool and dew covered the grass.

“I don’t know why these taste better than usual,” Bella remarked. “I made them the same way I do at home.”

“It’s France, darling,” Rog replied. “Everything tastes better here.” He winked at her and blew a kiss.

Bella blushed. The kids came through the door seconds later putting the halt on their suggestive exchange.

“Smells great, Mama!” quipped Chris, who grabbed a plate and joined them on the balcony.

“Wait until you taste them,” Rog said winking once more at Bella. Looking around he asked Chris, “Where is Charli?”

“In the shower,” Chris answered, stuffing his face with crepes. “You’re right Dad, these are awesome!”

Charlotte appeared in the kitchen, her hair wrapped in a towel. She grabbed breakfast and joined Bella, Chris, and Rog at the table. “What are we doing today?”

“Your Mama wants to see the nectary today, but tomorrow we will visit a different catacomb since your brother wants to go.” Rog finished the last sip of coffee and gathered dirty dishes.

Charlotte nodded. Chris took a break from eating and gave Rog two thumbs up. Bella and Rog both cleaned the kitchenette, not wanting to leave their mess for housekeeping to do, then got dressed. Chris cleaned his own dishes and played with Buster, the doll Jen had given him as an infant.

The family walked together to the transportation hub where they would catch a bus to the nectary. Bella couldn’t wait as she had developed a taste for fine French nectar. This would be the one place on their trip she wouldn’t forget. Nestled into a small hilly parcel of land surrounded by green pastureland and grapevines, the nectary sat well off the beaten path. Upon exiting the bus, the sounds of nature filled the air. Frogs croaked from the creek that ran behind the property. Native birds chirped happily as they fluttered around looking for their morning meal.

The first thing Bella did was head to the cellar where they had nectar samples. Rog, on the other hand, was more interested in the process and brought the children through a guided tour of the vineyard and production center of the nectary. Chris was fascinated with the grape stomping part of the demonstration and wanted to volunteer. Even though she was 13, Charlotte got to sample a bit of nectar but wrinkled her nose in disgust and spat it out. After the tour, the family joined Bella in the cellar.

That evening, the family dined at a five-star restaurant just on the outskirts of the village where they stayed. They made plans to visit the catacombs the next day as a family. On their way back to the hotel Bella stopped in and restocked her exploring supplies, grabbing granola bars, water, and bandages just in case. Chris, while a brilliant child, tended to be a bit clumsy. He was a walking, talking accident waiting to happen.

Much to their surprise, Chris loved exploring the catacombs and actually was brave enough to stick his hand into a hole to look for a trigger, despite the bugs and creepy crawlies in the tunnels. His bravery was rewarded with the discovery of a statue hiding in the hole. Though the statue was small, it was intricately detailed and in decent condition. Bella stashed it into her pack and kept it safe. The statue was the only significant find in the tunnels, and Chris was especially proud of himself.

The next day was rainy and the weather sidelined their plans to fish and camp, so they spent the day inside playing games and telling stories by the fireplace. The rain made the temperature a bit chilly, so the fireplace was kept stocked and burning for most of the day into the evening. After dinner, Rog and Bella opened up a bottle of nectar she had purchased at the nectary and curled up by the fire. The children were sleepy and went to bed early.

“Are you having fun, darling?” Rog asked, sipping his glass of nectar. They were sitting on the floor on a plush rug, her feet on his lap.

“I am, baby.” She moved her feet and shifted position so that her head was in his lap. Rog stroked her hair and they sat like that for a long time just enjoying each other.

“Hey, you still have that bikini?” Rog asked as he rubbed her back.

“You know I do, silly man.” Bella snickered. “Want to go swimming?”

“It’s too cold for that,” he replied.

“Oh, but I know how to warm you up,” she said, flirting wildly with him.

“How about we just skip the cold and go right to the warm?” He suggested.

“Do I still have to wear the bikini?”

“Nope!” She stood up and he got behind her. Gently offering his arm for her, she took it, and he led her up to their suite.

The last day of vacation was quickly upon them and they had planned to spend the day at the hotel’s pool. Bella woke early and decided to go for a jog. She hadn’t been out running in a long time so she didn’t expect to be out for long. But she covered some distance and watched the sunrise to the east. Taking a sip from her water bottle, she stretched and headed back to the hotel.

No one was awake when she came back into the room so she slipped into the shower and freshened up. She never felt more alive than she did after a run and she was surprised at how long she was able to jog. The shower only helped her to feel more invigorated and she was exceedingly joyful as she prepared their last breakfast in France. The aroma of coffee woke Rog and when he reached for Bella, her spot was bare. Sleepily, he donned his robe and stumbled out into the kitchen. He gazed at Bella, puttering in the kitchen, and smiled at her. The love he felt for the woman making breakfast was immeasurable.

“Good morning, sweetheart,” Bella said, spotting Rog standing in the doorway.

“How is the most beautiful woman alive?” Rog walked to her and kissed her.

“I don’t know, you’d have to find her and ask!” Bella teased. She ran her fingers through his hair and kissed his nose. “You’re no slouch yourself, you know.”

“Nah,” he replied. “I’m just me.” He kissed her hand. “And just me loves all of you.”

She melted at the sweet compliments, and her heart was full. “I love you too, so very much.” She hugged him. “Thank you, baby, for this wonderful trip. I only wish we didn’t have to leave tomorrow morning.”

“Me too.” The door creaked and Chris walked through the bedroom door and into the kitchen.

“Really?” he said, catching them in a hug. Making a gagging noise, he added, “It’s too early Dad, have some decency!” Bella burst out laughing.

“It’s never too early to tell your mother how much I love her.” He shuffled off to where Chris was standing and picked him up. “It’s never too early to hang you upside down, either!” Chris began to giggle. Bella decided to get in on the fun and tickled his belly while he was helpless.

“Uncle! Uncle!” Chris squealed, laughing.

“Oh, okay,” Rog pouted. “It was just getting fun!”

The bedroom door opened again and this time a very sleepy Charlotte walked through it. “What are you DOING out here?” she asked, clearly annoyed.

“Oh, we were just tickle torturing your brother,” Bella replied. “Do you want to be next?”

“Oh no, no no no no!” Charlotte answered, backing away as she tried to escape Rog’s grasp. But he was too quick for her. He held her hands behind her back and offered the young girl for Bella to tickle.

“Nah, I think I’ll spare this one,” Bella said, carefully perusing the situation. “You can let her go… for now!” She winked at Rog, who released his grasp on Charlotte’s hands. By this time, she was giggling, and fully awake.

“It works better than coffee every time it’s tried,” Rog mused. Bella nodded, both children were laughing and happy.

“Who is ready for breakfast?” Bella asked, and all three hands shot up in the air. She served homemade crepes again as she had done on their second morning and once again they tasted better than they had at home.

After breakfast, they all got into their swimsuits, grabbed towels from the room and headed to the pool. It was their last chance to relax before their long flight the following day. Though the morning air was chilly it took no time at all to warm up to a comfortable swimming temperature. Bella jumped in first with Chris and Charlotte right behind her. They splashed around, did hold-your-breath contests, and goofed around in the pool together. Rog, who had picked up a few more books at the store in town sat in a lounge chair reading. It was the first chance he’d had to read in days, and he was loving the downtime.

When everyone was done at the pool, they walked to the village center which turned out to be just a few blocks from the hotel and got dinner at the little café. Chris and Charlotte were each allowed to pick out one item from the shops to bring home as a souvenir and Rog got a book to read on the plane. With their goodies in hand, they strolled back to the hotel, discussing the trip, reliving memories, but looking forward to returning home and sleeping in their own beds.

The next morning, Bella woke the children early and helped them pack the rest of their bags. Each of them showered and gathered their belongings to bring home. After the kids were settled and having croissants, she woke Rog.

“I know it’s early, baby, but we have a flight to catch.” She kissed his cheek and set a cup of coffee on the nightstand.

“You know, you are way too perky for this hour of the morning.” He reached up, grabbed her wrist and gently pulled her on top of him.

“You have time for a shower,” she mused. “Lucky for you, the kids used all the hot water.”

Rog chuckled, “That’s not a bad thing.”

“It’s a long flight, baby. There will be time for us when we get home.”

“But there’s something about the atmosphere here, though. You just look crazy beautiful, and you know I can’t—”

She laughed. “Oh, I know, believe me!” She blew a kiss and left the room.

Rog finished his shower, pulled their suitcase from the bedroom and set it outside their door for the bellhop to retrieve. Charlotte and Chris did the same and Bella called for the bags to be picked up. They had 15 minutes before the shuttle arrived to bring them to the airport, so Bella gathered everyone on the balcony, set up her camera on a timer and took a family picture of them with the green countryside in the background. The phone rang in the room and it was the front desk.

“Your shuttle has arrived, Mr. St John,” the voice on the other end announced.

“Thank you, we will be right down,” Rog answered and hung up the phone.

Everyone got into the shuttle and settled down for the ride to the airport. The mood was somber and though they were looking forward to going home, none of them wished to actually leave.

“Mama, Daddy, thank you so much for this,” Charlotte said. “I’ll never forget this week. Ever.”

“Me too,” Chris chimed in. “This was the most awesome week of my life!”

Rog, who was sitting in the middle of the two kids hugged them both close. “You are most welcome. We both love you so much.”

Not much more was said on the rest of the ride to the airport, or on the plane. The kids entertained themselves with their phones and Bella and Rog sat together, holding hands and just being in love. Although they had the children with them, it was a fabulous vacation for them.

Hours later, the plane was on its final descent into the airport in Starlight Shores. The city looked so small from the air and Bella could hardly believe they were home so quickly. As the plane taxied into the terminal Rog and Bella gathered items from the kids and put them away. In the baggage claim area, a driver had already retrieved their bags and waited to take them back home.

“Thank you, baby,” Bella whispered to Rog as the limo pulled up in front of their home.

“No, thank you,” Rog answered. “For everything.”


Up Next: Chapter Twelve, Generation Three

Pose Credit (Featured Image)

Poses By Bee – Family Pose Set Six

G3 Chapter Ten – Shana’s Deception

Charlotte was in the dining room working on her homework when Bella opened the door. “Mama!” she yelled and dropped her pencil, running for her mother.

“Oh, sweetheart I missed you!” Bella exclaimed hugging her daughter tightly.

“What’d you bring me?” she asked, confident in the promise of goodies.

Rog, who was carrying the bags from the limo walked through the door in time to hear Charlotte’s request. “No love for your Daddy, huh?”

“Of course, Daddy!” Charlotte ran to Rog and into his waiting arms as he knelt down to receive her. She covered his face with wet kisses and giggled madly. She missed her parents desperately.

“Let Mama and Daddy unpack and we’ll give you and Chris your presents, okay?” Rog said to her, pulling the last bag through the door.

“Aww,” she replied and pouted. Bella smiled at her. She remembered the excitement of Destiny’s return from a tour and it didn’t seem that long ago, either. She grabbed a suitcase and helped Rog tug them up the stairs to their room.

She unzipped the suitcase and filled the laundry hamper with three-quarters of the contents. Carefully she unwrapped the ivory cat statue she had found in the tomb and set it on their dresser. It was very detailed and beautifully carved. They found the toys they had bought for the kids and set them aside, then Bella carried the laundry to the garage to wash. Rog finished putting the rest of the clothes away and carried the bags to the attic to store them.

Downstairs, Shana was feeding Chris in the high chair after he woke up from a nap. He spotted Bella and started chattering, bouncing up and down in the chair excitedly. She walked to her baby boy and kissed his forehead. “Hello, Punkin! Have you been a good boy for Shana?”

“He was indeed, Miss Bella.” Shana finished wiping up the counter as she tidied the kitchen. “It’s good to have you and Mr. Rog home.”

“Thank you, Shana. It’s good to be home with my family,” Bella answered and truly meant it.

Rog was in the living room sorting through the pile of mail and found a letter for Bella from a publisher. “Hey darling, you have some mail here!” he called to her.

Bella strolled to the living room and took the envelope from Rog. The letter inside was from a large publishing company and they were interested in Bella’s book! A check for the first installment of royalties and a contract for additional books in the “Charlotte and Chris” series was enclosed. This was great news and certainly what she had hoped for in the aftermath of Estevan’s tornado of personal destruction.

She sat at the desk, typing on her laptop. The trip overseas gave Bella many ideas for new episodes in the Charlotte and Chris children’s book series. This book, Charlotte and Chris Go Camping! was the third book in the series. Now that she had the framework for the book in outlines, she could work on the illustrations, which she did herself. Suddenly, she felt a tug at the hem of her shirt.

“Hey little man,” she said warmly and picked him up. He planted a wet hand on her cheek and giggled. “Yuck, Christopher!” she exclaimed laughing with him. “Let’s go get you some lunch.”

She carried him down the stairs and placed him in his high chair. “Appow sauce” he blurted.

“Eat your lunch first and you can have some apple sauce,” she told him. Bella placed a half peanut butter and jelly on a plate in front of him, the crusts cut off. Excitedly, he took a bite of the sandwich and giggled. He was such a happy boy.

Bella decided it was a good time for lunch for herself as well and grabbed the other half of Chris’s sandwich. Shana, who had been folding laundry, appeared at the back door.

“Do you need me, Miss Bella? I’m not feeling well.”

“By all means Shana. Please take the rest of the day off.” Shana nodded and climbed the stairs, sneezing all the way up.

Chris was finished with his sandwich and got his applesauce as promised. Shana made it fresh with apples from the trees in the greenhouse and both kids loved it. Bella wiped his face and set him on the floor so Chris could play. She rummaged in the fridge for veggies and pulled out a whole chicken to make chicken soup for Shana.

Rog walked through the door after work, his first day back after vacation, looking tired and pale. “Not you too,” Bella said, observing his body language.

“Not me too what?” he asked, slumped into his easy chair and heaved a rough cough.

“Sick,” Bella replied. “Shana just went upstairs to lay down, she’s not feeling well either.”

“I’m afraid so, darling.” Rog took a breath and coughed heavily. Bella went to their downstairs bathroom and drew a warm bath for him.

“I have chicken soup on the stove.” She helped him out of his clothes and settled him into the tub. “Call me when you’re ready to get out, love.”

“Achoo!” came a petite sneeze through the front door. Bella’s heart sank.

“Charli? Is that you sweetheart?” She called out.

A weak reply accompanied by a sneeze rang out in the foyer. “Yes, Mama.”

“Oh honey, you don’t sound good.” She took Charlotte’s backpack and walked the child straight upstairs to bed. She was burning up with fever and shaking with chills. Bella tucked the sick girl into bed and turned out the bedroom light. Downstairs, the pot of chicken soup was cooking, and it was beginning to smell good. Where did this come from? She wondered. It was early spring and unseasonal for flu of this intensity.

“Darlin…” Rog called from the bathroom.

“On my way,” Bella answered, walking briskly toward the bathroom. She opened the door and saw Rog trying to get up from the tub unable to move. “Oh love,” she said. “I can’t lift you. I need your help, baby.” Grasping the side of the tub, he exerted all his strength and managed to stand under his own power but she knew there was no way he was going to make it upstairs to bed. She helped him get dressed in a robe and walked him to the sofa, where a fire was roaring. He, too, was burning up with fever. We’re all in trouble if I get this, she thought.

Bella went to the kitchen and finished making the soup then scooped out three bowls of it to serve the sick members of the family. Shana’s door was closed and she knocked. “Shana?”

“Come in,” she said weakly.

“I made you some soup, honey,” Bella said, setting the tray down on her nightstand.

“You didn’t have to do that, Miss Bella.” Shana coughed, a shiver ran through her body.

“You’re not the only one sick. Charli and Rog have it, too.”

“I’m so sorry,” Shana lamented.

“It’s not your fault. Charli probably brought it home from school.” Bella turned to leave. “Do you need anything, Shan?”

“No, thank you, Miss Bella.” She smiled faintly. “You’ve already done so much.”

“No problem, Shana. It’s just soup.” Bella smiled warmly at her. “Now rest.” Shana nodded as she took the soup.

She went to the kids’ room, but Charlotte was asleep. Setting the tray down, she pulled Chris’s crib from the bedroom to her room, where she was certain she’d be alone for the next few nights. No sense in exposing Chris to the germs if she could avoid it. She picked up the tray and padded lightly down the steps. In the living room, she heard a soft groan.

“I’m coming, love,” she said to Rog.

“Don’t get too close, darling,” he muttered. “You don’t need to be sick, too.” He looked at the soup and almost gagged. “None for me, but thank you. Maybe later?”

“Whenever you want it, baby just let me know.” She took the two full bowls back to the kitchen and cleaned up dinner dishes. She flopped down in the chair and once again she felt Chris tugging on her shirt hem.

“Appow sauce.”

Bella laughed. “Well, at least you’re not sick, Christopher.” She picked him up and snuggled him close.

It was six weeks before the household was free of the flu. Bella eventually caught it, but luckily Rog was on the mend and was able to take care of her. They missed most of the spring activities being home and sick but with everyone feeling better, they were ready for the summer to arrive.

Bella’s third book was finished and the illustrations completed while she was sick. Shana helped her gather the manuscript and drawings and compile them for the publisher and took the envelope to the post to mail. Bella was still not completely better and she shuffled off to rest dressed in Rog’s bathrobe. Shana took Chris from his crib and brought him downstairs to read to him. It was her favorite activity and the young boy enjoyed the stories.

Every month Bella received regular royalty checks from the children’s books she was writing. She absolutely loved writing and illustrating them, and it had become her new passion. As a surprise to celebrate her newfound success, Rog bought an all-day spa package for her. Giddy with excitement, she chose the services on the spa’s website and made the appointment, making sure that Rog would be home with the kids on the day she chose. She pulled him close and kissed him before she got into Arthur’s old speedster and drove to the spa.

Rog sat with Chris playing blocks with him when Shana appeared in the doorway. “Mr. Rog, can I talk to you?” she asked quietly, hating to disturb Chris’s playtime.

“Sure, Shana,” he replied as he got up from the floor. Without another word, she turned and headed for her room and led him inside.

Once they were in her bedroom, Rog sat at the desk, straddling the chair. “What’s bothering you, Shan?” He could see the concern on her face and hoped that she wasn’t going to tell him she had another assignment.

She walked to the door and pulled it closed, then walked to where he sat. Taking his hands in hers, she pulled him to a standing position and gave him a hug. But this was no friendly hug. She pressed herself against him and caressed his neck. Then she pulled his face to hers and kissed him.

Rog broke the embrace and forcefully pushed her back away from him. “Shana! What are you doing?!” he yelled.

“I just thought you needed some attention. Bella has been so wrapped up in her books, she hasn’t had much time for you.” Shana looked at him seductively.

“No!” Rog rebuked her. “I don’t want this and you are WAY out of line here!” He looked at her, totally disgusted. “What made you think this was okay?”

“Well, I’ve seen things, Rog. Things that she doesn’t want you to know.” Shana said. “Bella hasn’t been faithful to you. I could be your payback.”

“So, now you’re lying to me, too?” Rog paced the floor and ran his fingers through his hair. “Get out.”

“But Rog—” she protested,  but Rog interrupted her.

“NOW, Shana,” he yelled pointing toward the door. “Get out of my house!”

Shana stood her ground and covered her face with her hands. “I’m so sorry, Mr. Rog. I don’t know what came over me.” She slumped against the bedpost, catching herself on the corner of the mattress. Hot crocodile tears rolled down her cheeks. “It’s just that, I know Miss Bella hasn’t been happy for a long time.” She pulled a tissue from the box that sat by her bedside and dabbed her eyes, hoping a show of emotion would help sway him. “I thought maybe—”

Rog interrupted her. “You thought wrong. Shana, I can’t, no, I won’t have this conversation with you!” He paced around the small room wringing his hands. “I don’t like to make these decisions without Bella’s input but you’re fired!” Her obvious manipulation wasn’t working on him.

Shana began to sob. “I’m so sorry, Mr. Rog. I’ll be out in less than an hour.”

“I’m sorry, too, Shana. Bella loves you like a sister and this is how you repay her?” He shook his head in frustration. Bella was not going to be happy about this. “I want you out in 15 minutes and I mean it.” Rog walked out of her room shaking and desperately wanting to cry himself. He knew he had to tell Bella, but he wasn’t sure how.

Shana was already gone when Bella returned from the spa and Rog had some time to think about how he would tell her. They had a two day wait for the new butler to arrive and he would need to help her pick up the slack that Shana’s sudden departure would create. The children were already bathed and fed, Chris was asleep and Charlotte was playing with Riley in her room. Bella was very relaxed and in a fantastic mood upon her return and he hated to ruin it.

“Darling, I have to tell you something.” They sat together on the sofa in the living room and he put his arm around her. His face was serious and worry weighed heavily upon his shoulders.

“Is everything okay? The children?” she asked. “Rog, you’re scaring me,” she finally said, noticing tears in his eyes. She never expected what came next.

“I had to let Shana go this afternoon, darling.” His voice quivered and he felt sick.

“What? Why?” she asked, not believing her own ears.

“Well, that’s the complicated part.” Rog swallowed hard, a lump in his throat nearly choking him. “It seems she has had feelings for me for quite some time. She tried to force herself on me.” He watched as her eyes widened and pain contorted her face. “She also had some colorful things to say about you which I hope are blatant lies.”

“What did she say?” Bella almost didn’t believe the words he spoke.

“She told me that she has seen you do things, that she had information that you were cheating…” His voice trailed off, the pain on her face was slowly killing him.

Bella sat, her anger building steadily. “So she lied about me and you just believed her and did what, exactly?”

“I pushed her away, Bella. And you don’t get sole rights to be angry here! Why would she say that about you? What are you hiding?”

“Whatever she said it’s not true, Rogelio!” He hated it when she used his full name during a fight. “I’m not hiding anything from you! How could you even think that?”

“So you’re denying everything she told me? You’ve done nothing? Why would she lie?” Rog was just as angry as she was now.

“I don’t know, Rog. Maybe because she wanted you? Maybe she thought lying would make it easier for you to cheat on me with her?” Bella was the one feeling sick now.

“Well darling, I told her to leave. I don’t want her—”

“Don’t call me ‘darling’!” she spat as she turned to run from him. He caught her arm and spun her to face him.

“Bella, don’t you see? I promised you I would never betray you or dishonor you, and I never have.” He hugged her close but she flailed in his arms and struck him repeatedly.

“Let me go!” she yelled, fighting him harder.

“No!” He answered and held her tightly. “Not like this.” He held her until she collapsed in his arms, crying uncontrollably. They both sat on the sofa together, and he held her and gently rocked her until she settled down. With tears rolling down his own cheeks, he softly wiped hers away. “I didn’t want to have to tell you this, Bell. It was killing me, but I knew I had to.” He kissed her cheek softly and held her face in his hands. “Believe me, I fired her as soon as it happened. I really didn’t want to fire her without your input—”

“Oh, I would have definitely fired her,” Bella said, raw emotion choking her words. “I don’t want to see that woman again near this house or around our family.”

“Me neither,” Rog concurred. “Darling, I’m so sorry. I knew I couldn’t trust her or anything she said after…” He paused to collect himself. “I knew she had to be lying about you.”

“I’m sorry, too, baby.” Bella hugged him close. “It just makes me crazy to think of her wanting you like that. How stupid could I be?”

“It’s not your fault, and it’s not my fault, Bell. Neither of us saw this coming. She was a smooth operator.” Rog kissed her.

“You’re right,” she replied. Yawning, she wrapped her arms around his neck. “I’m tired.”

They both stood and walked hand in hand up the stairs to bed. At the bedroom door, he swooped her up and carried her to the bed as she gently closed the door behind them.

Up Next: Chapter Eleven, Generation Three

G3 Chapter Nine – The Vacation of a Lifetime

Rog hung up the phone and smiled. “I’ll be right back,” he told his co-worker as he grabbed his car keys and walked toward the door. He drove to the travel agency and picked up the itinerary and plane tickets for the vacation of a lifetime. He was so excited to surprise Bella with the trip they so desperately needed together. They would be spending a week in China on a second honeymoon without the children.

He made arrangements for Shana to care for the kids and for the regular sitter to come when Shana needed a break. Charlotte could have gone with them but he didn’t want to take her from school on a trip that she would probably not even enjoy. Besides, he thought, we really need this time alone. When he returned to work a trauma had just come in and he would be home late from work. Knowing Bella would worry he asked his assistant to call her so she would know he would be late.

Several hours later Rog left work worn out and dirty. The tickets for the trip sat in his briefcase and he was itching to surprise Bella with them. They would leave in just a month which gave them plenty of time to prepare. The gate opened as he arrived home and he pulled the car into the garage. The house was busy with the bustle of homework and dinner and he stopped before he opened the door. He smoothed his hair out, slipped off his dirty coat, and casually strolled through the back door.

“Honey, I’m home!” he yelled. Inside the aroma of fresh spaghetti sauce permeated the air and the sound of happy children surrounded him. Bella, who had been putting laundry away, padded softly down the steps carrying an empty basket. She saw him, dropped the basket and ran to him.

“Hey baby,” she said as she threw her arms around his neck. “I missed you.” She gave him a peck on the cheek. “How was work? Jeff said you had an emergency come in at the end of your shift.”

“It was rough darling, I won’t lie.” He slid his shoes off and set them by the back door. He leaned close to her and whispered in her ear, “I have a big surprise for you!”

She backed away for a second to read his face. “Wait, again?  We just—”

Rog laughed and stopped her. “No, it’s not that. Something bigger. Better.”

“Well, when do I get to see it?” Bella’s curiosity was piqued.

“Soon. Maybe after dinner.” He wasn’t sure he could really wait that much longer to tell her. The suspense was killing him.

She raised an eyebrow at him. “Okay.  Are you sure it’s not that?” She winked at him.


The family sat down for a meal together as they did every night when Rog returned home from work. Charlotte excitedly chattered about school and asked Rog for help with her homework after dinner. Chris just sat in his high chair, babbling about nothing and making a mess with his food, as he did every night. Bella couldn’t help but wonder what Rog had in mind for her but she was eagerly waiting for the surprise to come.

After dinner, Rog helped Charlotte with her homework and Bella helped Shana clean up the kitchen. Shana was more family than just an employee and often shared the evening meal with them. She took the baby upstairs for a bath and Rog tucked him in and read him a story. Bella helped Charlotte with a bath and tucked her into bed. Rog had managed to slip out of the kids’ room unnoticed and Bella felt a flutter of excitement.

“Charli, Chris, time for night-night,” Bella told them. “I love you both.” She blew them kisses and turned out the light, closing the door behind her. She tiptoed downstairs where she heard Rog and Shana talking about his trauma case. When he saw her his smile brightened.

“Shana, would you excuse us?” He asked her politely.

“Of course, Mr. Rog.” Shana bowed before him and said goodnight to Bella.

Without saying a word he got up from the sofa and went to the kitchen. He got the oldest bottle of nectar in their collection and popped it open. The fire was already roaring in the hearth and she settled down in her usual spot, almost breathless in anticipation. Rog returned with two glasses of wine, a platter of strawberries, and an envelope in his breast pocket.

“I’m sorry to tease you with this, darling. It’s been killing me all day,” Rog began. “But first I want to toast to us.” He took his glass and raised it up. Bella did the same and they clinked softly together. “To the love of my life. The woman I couldn’t imagine doing life without.” Bella smiled, her violet eyes sparkled in the firelight.

Gently, Rog pulled the envelope from his pocket. “Bella, my love, I know how difficult life has been for you since we’ve been together and we’ve had rough patches of our own.” He took a sip of wine. “I don’t want to open old hurts but to heal them once and for all time.” He handed her the envelope.

Tilting her head to one side, she glanced at him. His excitement was contagious and she giggled like a schoolgirl in love for the first time. She slid her finger under the flap of the envelope and it opened easily. Inside were two first-class airline tickets and a 7-day luxury hotel stay in China. At first, she couldn’t believe it and sat holding the papers in her hand, her mouth hanging agape.

“Rog, are we really?” She couldn’t finish the sentence. She had always wanted to travel abroad to see some of the world outside of Starlight Shores. And now she held the documents that would make her dreams come true.

“We are!” He set his wine glass down and reached for her hand. “We’re going to China! Just the two of us. It will be our second honeymoon.”

Bella hadn’t been this deliriously happy in a long time. All of the drama of the past ten years and every moment of it saw Rog at her side, supporting her. And now he surprised her with a gift so amazing, she could barely speak. Staring at the papers she began to think of all that needed to be arranged when he interrupted her thought.

“I know what you’re thinking,” he said, “and I have it totally covered.” He caressed her cheek tenderly. “Shana will watch the kids, and Corrie is on call when she needs a break. I have more vacation days than this will use so that is covered.”

Wow, she thought. He took care of it all.  Once more she stared at the papers she held in her hand and wept tears of joy. “When do we leave?”

“In a month so we have time for passports and to prepare the kids.” Rog gently wiped the tears from her face. “I want to make you as happy as you have made me.”

“Oh, baby, you have done that but I don’t tell you enough how much I appreciate you!” Suddenly she stood and took his hand. “Let’s go,” she said.

“And where are we going?” Rog teased.

“You’re taking me to China, so tonight I’m taking you to heaven.” She turned and walked, still holding his hand. He followed her closely up the stairs into their bedroom and closed the door behind him.

It was a long flight but they were on the final approach to the Chinese airport. Rog had been napping. Bella took the window seat and watched the lights in the city and the sun as it rose on a brand new day. She gently nudged him and he roused in time to watch the breach of the sun on the horizon. The plane touched down as if it had been flying on a cloud and they taxied into the terminal fairly quickly.

A limousine brought them from the airport to their hotel. Bella and Rog exited the limo and smelled the air, fresh and clean. The hotel was in a rural area about a mile or two from the bustling city. But it fit Rog’s requirements for a hotel. It had to be romantic, quiet, and luxurious. The travel agent certainly chose the right place when she made the reservations. The village was breathtakingly beautiful. The driver retrieved their bags from the trunk and brought them to the lobby.

Bella couldn’t help but gawk at the rolling hills of the countryside where green was all she could see. Off in the distance to the east was the martial arts academy, for which this area was famous. She couldn’t wait to visit and learn the basics from the master. To the south was an old tomb the locals called the Dragon’s Maw. Many tourists loved to visit and explore it and that was on Rog’s list of things to do. And all around were lakes and rivers that held an abundance of local fish and wildlife and the hills were dotted with campgrounds. In the village square was a small market with a bookstore, cafe, general store, and a small but substantial art museum.

It was nine o’clock local time when they checked into their hotel room, which was ready surprisingly early. The room was comfortable and well-appointed with expensive furniture, fixtures, and rich linens. The bathroom had a spa tub with massage jets, and a self-flushing, self-cleaning toilet. They were supplied with every toiletry they would ever need with complimentary replenishment on demand if needed. The hotel even supplied thick, soft bathrobes and in-room spa services should they desire them. It was much nicer than the resort at which they spent their short honeymoon. Bella allowed herself to fall backward onto the bed and sunk into it as though it was made of marshmallow. A memory foam mattress! She relaxed and let the bed conform to her body and nearly fell asleep.

“This is heavenly,” she remarked to Rog. “You have to try this bed!” She patted the space next to her and he gently laid down.

“Oh, wow,” he replied. “It feels like nothing underneath me at all!”

Suddenly feeling the effects of jet lag but not wanting to waste a moment of time, she stood up and shook off the sleepy feeling. “If I don’t move, I’ll sleep all day.” She thought for a moment and spoke. “Since we’ve traveled for the past day, why don’t we just spend the day at the pool? I brought your favorite bikini.” She winked at him and grinned.

Rog’s eyes widened at the thought. “Bikini, eh?” He got up and opened his suitcase. “Here’s my swim trunks. The pool is a fantastic idea.” They both changed and grabbed two fluffy towels from the room and went to the pool.

The water was maintained at a comfortable but refreshing temperature. Bella jumped in to get wet then set her towel down on the pool deck to sunbathe. Rog set his towel beside hers and pulled out a book to read that he’d borrowed from the bookcase in the room. The sun was warm and the breeze kept the air temperature just perfect for swimming and sunning. After an hour a waitress came around taking orders for drinks from the bar. Bella ordered the house special drink and Rog ordered a glass of wine.

At one o’clock, the waitress came around again to bring food, complimentary snacks, egg rolls, dumplings, and other finger foods from the on-site restaurant. They realized they hadn’t eaten since the flight and Bella was hungry. Rog took a small sample of everything they offered, as did Bella, and they grabbed a table with an umbrella. Everything they ate was amazingly delicious. Chinese food at home was never this good.

“What would you like to do tomorrow, my darling?” Rog asked her in between bites of egg roll and sips of wine.

“Well, we could do what you want to do first.” She took a bite of shrimp dumpling, which almost melted in her mouth. “How about that Dragon’s Maw tomb you want to see?”

Rog smiled. “That is on my bucket list. I’ve heard the tombs here have been abandoned for thousands of years and I know that one is popular. Let’s do it!”

The sun set quickly and the air got chilly but not cold. Bella grabbed a sweater and they sat out by the pool watching the stars. It seemed there were billions of them out in the country, something they could never see in the city with all the lights. An hour later, Bella was fighting sleep. After all, they had come several time zones and slept poorly on the flight. So she and Rog headed for their room and slept until the morning sunlight poked through the window.

Bella woke first, and she showered and got dressed. By the time she was done in the shower, Rog was awake and had ordered breakfast from room service. They sat on the patio of their room and listened to the birds chirping, and watched squirrels playing, the grass glistening with dew. She poured them both a cup of coffee, and they ate like they hadn’t eaten in a month. The flowers that arrived on the cart were placed on the patio table. Bella cleaned up dishes and left the trays back on the cart for housekeeping. Rog laid a $20 tip on the cart as they cleaned up.

“Are you ready to go exploring, baby?” Bella asked as she placed the necessary items into her day pack. She had her wallet, phone and a few personal items like bug spray, wet wipes, and some candy bars.

“You bet!” Rog took her hand and they began walking to the transportation line that would take them to the tomb.

The Dragon’s Maw was full of rooms and places to explore, but Bella found a secret door that no one had found before. Searching for a way to open it, Rog found a trigger that magically caused the door to swing open. He grabbed a torch from the ground and lit it. They both cautiously entered the room. Inside coffins stood on end against the wall. The room had obviously been closed for centuries as the dust was thick on every surface. As she held her torch to the first coffin she noticed a small pile of debris that needed to be removed. Rog found sconces on the wall and lit one near the first coffin so he could see to begin the clearing process. Bella was really unsure about actually opening it, but Rog wanted to see what was inside. Against her better judgment, she helped him clear around the coffin.

As he moved the last boulder that blocked the door, Rog sat down, obviously winded. “Whew,” he said. “Either that was hard work, or I’m getting older.”

Bella smiled impishly at him. “Yes on both counts!” she replied and stuck her tongue out at him. This was the woman he fell in love with almost 9 years ago.

“Okay, you’re right… again,” Rog laughed as he got up from the floor. “Time to see what’s inside this thing.” He approached the coffin and with his bare hands pried the door open. His shoulders slumped and he sighed, the chamber was empty. “Well, that was a waste of time and effort.”

Bella got up the nerve to look inside and waved the torch to get a better look. “What about this?” she asked as she picked up a small artifact. It looked like a carved ivory cat sculpture small enough to hold in one hand.

“How did I miss that?” Rog asked. “It’s magnificent!” He took the cat from Bella, who held it out for him, and inspected it. “I don’t think anyone will miss it if we bring it home,” he said as he slipped it into his pack.

“No, I don’t suppose they will,” Bella agreed. The coffin to the right was not blocked by any debris at all. “How about this one, Rog?”

He studied the coffin carefully. The fact that it was not blocked was unsettling, yet his curiosity was quickly winning out. “I’m not so sure about this one.”

“Do you think it’s a trap?” Bella backed away cautiously.

“Nah, I don’t think there’s anything like that here.” Rog moved closer to it. “It just makes me wonder why the other three are hindered but this one stands free.” Grabbing the door of the coffin, he gave it a tug. The door swung wide open and a mummified body fell forward. His reaction was swift as Rog closed the door, trapping the corpse inside. His heart pounding, he said, “Well, that answers that question.”

“The others must have the treasures in them. That’s why they are blocked” Bella observed.

Bella’s instinct was correct. The other coffins held treasure and small artifacts. Rog found some ancient coins in one of the coffins and slid them into his pocket. Maybe someone in town would be willing to trade them, he thought. Most of the items they found, however, were broken. Rog was satisfied with the progress he made and he was proud of Bella. When they were finished, they were both sticky and sweaty and ready to leave. A warm bath and dinner awaited them.

The next day, Bella chose the martial arts academy as their destination. The academy sat back off the beaten path in the hills and it was a hike to get there. They both signed up for the basic beginner classes and learned enough to continue studying when they returned home. Bella purchased a training dummy from the academy to be shipped back home and the books for Rog since he loved to read.

When they were tired from training, they went to the hot springs that were on the property.

“What do you think, darling?” Rog asked her.

“I don’t have my bikini with me,” she laughed. But Rog looked around.

“There is no one here but us,” he said and smiled slyly at her. “You wanna skinny dip?”

Bella giggled madly. “Oh, why not!”

After soaking for awhile, they got dressed and went back into town for a light dinner and relaxing by the pool, gazing at the skies filled to overflowing with stars.

The next morning they had planned on going to a campsite and spending the night there, giving up their fancy, posh room in favor of reconnecting with nature. Bella packed a smaller bag with a change of clothes and their bathing suits, and what they didn’t have on hand, they got at the village center before they set out for the campgrounds.

The camp was in the foothills of a long, tall mountain range, with a choice of three different lakes. The grounds themselves were basic, furnished with just a two-man tent, a fire pit, a few chairs and a small restroom that sat in the woods about 100 yards away from the tent site. Bella placed her supplies in the tent and found fishing poles stashed behind the building in a small closet. Rog carried the poles and Bella carried a small blanket. They set out for a day of fishing, and she sincerely hoped they would catch something, or it would be a hungry night!

Rog was not really a fisherman but he did find some plants with edible fruit that grew wild around the lake. He spent a good amount of time gathering what he thought they would need in case Bella couldn’t catch enough for dinner. However, she was catching more than they could probably eat in 3 days. She cleaned her catch and prepped them for dinner, and together with the vegetables Rog had found, they had a feast.

After dinner they sat around the fire, staying warm on a cool night. Bella and Rog moved to the grass and stared at the stars which seemed even more numerous with none of the village lights around them. With just the two of them and a campfire, they chatted about their dreams for both them and their children. They cuddled for a long time, pointing at stars and laughing like kids.

Rog woke up first, and went through the fruits he had gathered the day before, and prepared what he could for a quick, light breakfast. Bella emerged from the tent, her hair sticking up, sleep in her eyes, but smiling. She watched as he sliced the fruit and arranged it on skewers that she had purchased in town. “Good morning, sunshine!” she said and startled him.

“I thought you were still asleep!” he said as he bent over to retrieve a skewer he had dropped. “Good morning, darling.”

“What a lovely breakfast!” she told him. “Did you gather all that yesterday?”

He nodded. “I thought fruit would be better than fish.”

They both laughed as they sat and ate. “I miss my coffee,” Bella stated. “I don’t feel right without my morning cuppa.”

“Well, we’ll be back at the hotel in a little while,” Rog answered. “I’ll make you a cup when we get there.”

“How can I say no to that?” Bella smiled. As much as she enjoyed being in nature, she missed the comforts of civilization.

They tidied the campsite, returned everything they used back to its rightful place, and left it cleaner than they found it. Bella packed up their personal items into her day pack, and they walked to the transportation line hand in hand. The day was going to be a rest day at the pool and Bella was excited to just lounge and work on her tan. Rog had purchased a few new books in town and couldn’t wait to start them.

The day before they were due to return home, Bella was melancholy. Though she loved being on vacation, and though they were enjoying their time together, she missed the children. Rog noticed that she didn’t seem herself and decided to surprise her. She was just coming from the shower as Rog finished up a phone call.

“Who was that on the phone, love?” Bella inquired.

“Oh, just asking for a few more towels.” Rog was beaming.

“Okay, what are you up to?” She put her hands on her hips, feigning annoyance. Rog chuckled at her.

“You’ll see soon enough.”

Twenty minutes later came a knock on the door. “Are you going to get that?” he asked.

She smiled. “What did you do, Rogelio?” She seldom used his whole name, but she couldn’t help herself. She walked to the door and opened it.

“Massage service for a…” the masseur was reading the note from the order, “Miss Bella?”

Bella’s smile widened. “Oh Rog, thank you!” She hugged him and planted a kiss on his cheek.

“I’ll be down by the pool, darling. Enjoy your massage!” Rog grabbed a book and a towel and left her to be pampered.

Finally, it was departure day and they sat in a cafe having breakfast while reflecting on their vacation and their time together. Since they had some time before their flight they spent some time in the village shopping and picking up some things for the kids. To her surprise, she found a Destiny Hill CD at one of the shops. She even considered buying it to have as a souvenir of the trip but thought the better of it. Rog spent some time perusing the bookstore one last time and picked up two last novels to read, one he was sure he’d finish on the way home. They had a long, tiring flight ahead of them.

A limousine picked them up at the hotel and delivered them to the airport with plenty of time to spare. The flight back to Starlight Shores was relatively empty so they had most of the first-class section to themselves. Bella once again had the window seat and she wiped away a tear as the plane took off away from the sun that was setting. It sure was the adventure of a lifetime, she thought as she watched the lights below her getting smaller and smaller. After they were in flight she and Rog snuggled together and slept most of the way home.

Up Next: Chapter Ten, Generation Three

G3 Chapter Eight – Trouble In Paradise

Bella sat up in bed covered in sweat. She tapped Rog on the shoulder. “Wake up, Rog!” The baby was coming!

Rog opened his eyes and saw her sitting up. “What’s wrong?”

“It’s go time. Quickly!” Bella was already putting her shoes on and making her way downstairs.

“I’m right behind you.” He knocked on the butler’s door, and let her know they were headed to the hospital. “Charli is sleeping, but I wanted you to know we’re on our way out.” The clock read 3:30am.

They piled into the car and drove to the hospital. There were no cars on the road and the snow was falling at a blizzard rate. It was the quietest Bella had ever seen the city. Rog took his time in the storm but they made it with much time to spare. Their son, Christopher Arthur St John was born on Snowflake Day. Because Bella had such a rough pregnancy the doctor wanted to keep her overnight just to be on the safe side. Rog was thankful for having the butler back at the house to care for Charlotte.

The next morning Bella and Chris were discharged. She and Rog were shocked to see a shiny black limo and the driver holding a card with their names as they left the hospital. He looked at her and she shrugged her shoulders. Once they were inside, however, the gift was clear. Jen Crawford had sent the limo with flowers for Bella and another doll for the baby. She smiled and dialed Jen’s number.

“Jen Crawford Agency, this is Jen!” Bella missed hearing her perky voice every week.

“Hi, Jen! This is Bella—” She no sooner got the words out of her mouth when Jen interrupted her.

“Did you get the limo ride from the hospital? I wanted to make sure they were there on time.” Jen’s voice was bubbly, giddy with excitement.

“We did and thank you! You didn’t have to do that you know. I don’t work for your agency anymore.” The car hit a bump and woke the baby, who began crying into Bella’s ear.

“Aww, is that the little one crying? Did you have a boy or a girl?” Jen was totally oblivious to anything Bella had said once she heard the baby.

“We had a boy. Christopher Arthur St. John.” Bella put her pinky finger into the baby’s mouth for him to suckle on while she talked on the phone.

“Aww! I can’t wait to see him! I bet he looks just like his daddy.”

“A little too soon to tell but he’s the first boy born in my family in over four generations!” The car drove up in front of the house, and the limo driver opened her door. Rog was the first out and took the baby while Bella exited the car.  “We’re home Jen, and I want to get Chris settled in before he wakes up again. Can I call you back?”

“Nah, you don’t have to until you’re ready. But I want to see that strapping little boy!” Jen said. “We’ll get together soon, okay?”

“You bet!” Bella said as she hung up the phone. It was cold, and she didn’t want the baby to get chilled. Holding him close, she walked briskly to the front door. Charlotte and Shana were waiting for them to come home.

“Mama mama mama!” Charlotte babbled upon seeing her mother then stopped in her tracks when she saw Bella carrying a bundle wrapped in a blue blanket. “Wat dat?”

Bella knelt down with Chris and uncovered his face for her to see him. “This is your baby brother, sweetheart.” Rog opened the door and shook the snow from his boots before coming inside. The cold blast made the baby awaken but he didn’t cry.

“Me see!” Charlotte demanded as she grabbed the blanket from him. He opened his eyes and looked at her, then yawned sleepily. “Why?” asked Charlotte.

“Don’t you like your brother, Charli?” Bella asked sweetly. Rog gently took the baby and went upstairs to put him in his crib.

“No!” she said, “No like bruddah.” Charlotte sat down on the floor, her little arms crossed in front of her, looking like she was about to cry.

Bella picked her up and snuggled with her. “You’ll be okay, Charli. I promise you.” Rog was descending the staircase and signaled that the baby was asleep. “How about I read you a story?”

“Story! Story!” Charlotte clapped her hands and waited for Bella to get a book from the shelves. She carried the toddler upstairs, tucked her into bed and read until she fell asleep.

Rog was already downstairs by the fire curled up with a book of his own when Bella reappeared an hour later.  “Feeling better, darling?” he asked.

“Yes and no. I don’t hurt everywhere anymore but I’m tired.” Bella curled up on the sofa with him, her head on his chest and his arms wrapped around her snugly. He ran his fingers through her ponytail and tickled her cheek with the tips of her hair.

“Are you ready for bed? We should probably sleep while the baby sleeps.” Rog kissed her forehead.

“I think so.” They both got up and to her surprise, he picked her up in one motion and carried her up the steps to their bedroom. She clung to his neck and rested her head on his shoulder. She was so tired and thankful for the help upstairs. Rog helped her get undressed, got her bed clothes on and tucked her into bed. She was asleep before he had the words “sweet dreams” out of his mouth. Rog went into the next room to check on the children and Shana was already rocking Chris back to sleep.

“You go ahead and take care of Miss Bella. I’ll take baby duty tonight, Mr. Rogelio.” Shana gently patted Chris on the back as she cuddled him.

“Thanks, Shana, you’re a peach!” Rog turned and headed back to their bedroom, climbed into bed next to the mother of his children and snuggled up with her.

The next morning Rog woke to the sensation of kisses on his shoulder and neck. Bella had gotten a good night’s rest and had been watching him sleep. He turned over and planted a kiss on her nose. “Good morning, love of my life.”

“Good morning, Daddy,” she replied. With Rog lying on his back, she snuggled up to him, her ear to his chest. His heartbeat was strong and steady. He brushed the hair back from her face.

“I love mornings like this. Snow is falling, I don’t have to work and you in that nightie.” He squirmed needing to get up but not wanting to. Bella snickered.

“This is the first time it has fit me in well over 8 months.” She draped her leg over his and wrapped her arm around his shoulder. “You know I’m going to wear it if I can get into it.”

“I wish you wouldn’t.” Rog half teased. “You know I can’t resist you.”

She wagged her finger at him. “Nuh-uh,” she said teasing him back. “Not for 8 weeks.”

With that, he wriggled away from her and sat on the edge of the bed. “Okay, time for a cold shower.”

Bella wrapped up in his robe and went in to check on Charlotte and Chris.  The baby was still sleeping, but Charlotte was ready for breakfast. Plucking the child from the crib, Bella carried her down to the kitchen. Shana was already cooking French toast and it smelled delightful. “Good morning, Miss Bella!” Shana greeted them when she saw them. “Breakfast is almost ready.”

“Thank you, Shana.” Bella sat Charlotte in her high chair and got her a cup of milk. While Shana got breakfast on the serving platter Bella poured coffee for herself and Rog. His light footsteps were descending the steps.

“Good morning, Mr. Rog,” Shana greeted. “Breakfast is ready.” She turned to go check on the baby as Bella fixed a plate of French toast for Charlotte.

“How was your shower?” Bella teased as she poured a little syrup on her daughter’s breakfast.

“A bit chilly, thanks a lot.” Rog stuck his tongue out at her as she handed him a cup of coffee. “Thank you, love.”

“Any time, on both counts.” Bella kissed him then sat next to him with her plate of breakfast.

Bella had been honing her writing skills since she left the talent agency the previous year. She was working on a children’s book she hoped to have published once it was finished. She sat at the dining room table and worked during the day while Chris napped and Charlotte played with her doll, Riley. For now, it was a hobby but she hoped it would turn into something better. Rather than use her real name she was using a pen name. Even her stage name had a stigma attached to it. If she was going to get started as an author then the publisher and public must not know her real name.

Rog was at work and Shana had the children in the nursery while Bella sat at her laptop. She was amazed at how easily writing came to her and she was full of ideas for even more stories. The book was only 20 pages long but once she finished doing the artwork, it was ready to send to publishers. I wish I would have discovered this when I was younger, she thought to herself, instead of wasting time playing magic.

Shana came downstairs at two-thirty to get a bottle for Christopher. “How is the writing coming along, Miss Bella?”

“So far, so good Shana.” Bella sketched out her ideas for illustrations on Destiny’s old sketchbook. “I’m just working on this drawing for the book now.” She turned the pad around so Shana could see it.  It was a rough drawing of a kitten sleeping in the arms of its new owner. “The book is called The Softest Kitten. I thought this would be cute for the ending.”

Shana looked at the drawing and nodded her head. “You have such a talent, Miss Bella.” Bella’s ears perked up when she heard the gate outside. It meant Rog was home from work. He had recently gotten a big promotion and it meant the end of Bella’s money worries. He was now making enough to replace her stipend and money from her magician jobs and his own income on top. She saw him dodging the raindrops as he ran from the garage.

She opened the door for him and he ducked inside. “I’m so glad to see you,” he said to her. “I’ve had a rough day, and it’s not over. I’m on call tonight.”

She took the umbrella from his hands and shook it out, then opened it and placed it in the bathtub to dry. He looked miserable. “I know just how to make you feel better,” she said. She sat him down in the living room on the sofa and told him to wait. She went to the kitchen and made his favorite hot drink: a non-fat banana latte with vanilla whipped cream. She carried the mug to him, and sat beside him, his feet on her lap. With skillful and capable hands, she massaged his feet and sang to him in soft, melodic tones.

“You know, Bella,” Rog said, “You have a beautiful voice.”

She blushed. She hadn’t been told that too many times in her life. It was something she never considered being in her mother’s shadow. There’d never be another Destiny Hill and she wasn’t even going to try. “Well, you DO know who my mother was, right?”

Rog smiled. “How could I ever forget?” He only wished he could have gotten to know Bella’s folks when they were alive. Destiny was a legend in this town.

Bella shook her head. “I can’t even think about doing something like that. Besides the Hill name is ruined.”

“No, it’s not darling. Destiny is still looked upon with great pride and respect in this town.” Rog began, then saw Bella’s nose wrinkled in disapproval.

“Yeah, well,” Bella replied. “I already know what I did to it. Mama would be so ashamed—”

“You did nothing to it,” Rog responded. “Your idiot ex-boyfriend is the one who lied. And your mother would be so proud of you, not ashamed.”

“But the lies were easier to believe than the truth.” Bella hung her head in defeat. “At least the town knows the truth about my mother. And they believe it.” She got up and walked outside.

Rog looked puzzled. “What did I say?” he asked an empty room.

She licked the seal on the manila envelope, the fifth one that day as she prepared the manuscripts of her new children’s book, Charlotte’s New Brother. Bella had planned, written, and illustrated the whole thing herself and was sending it to as many publishing companies as she could. Her first book was well-received, though the audience was small. So instead of relying on one publisher, she figured she might break into a larger company with a broader audience. Having poured her heart and soul into this particular book, she felt like she was preparing to send her own child away from home. Charlotte loved having the book read to her every night. She knew that the book was about her and she almost knew the text by heart. Bella was sure to keep a copy of the manuscript for home because Charlotte would have been heartbroken otherwise.

As Bella finished the last envelope Shana entered the dining room carrying Chris.

“Do you need me to run those to the mail, Miss Bella?” She set Chris down on the floor and he crawled to the television to watch.

“No, but thank you, Shana.” Bella gathered the envelopes together and took her keys from the hook on which they hung. “I’ll be home soon. Do you mind watching the children?”

“It’s what you pay me to do, Miss Bella.” Shana smiled and went to get Chris a bottle.

The postmaster greeted Bella as she walked in the door. “Hi, Mrs. St John! How’s the family?”

“They’re fine thank you, Grace.” Bella fumbled with the envelopes trying not to drop them.

“Whatcha got there? I’m intrigued!” Grace stepped out from behind the counter to help her.

“Some manuscripts for a book I’ve written. I’m hoping to get an offer or two on them.” She set her bag down on the floor and prepared to pay the postage on each envelope. “I feel like I’m mailing my kids!” Grace chuckled.

“I know what you mean, Mrs. St John.” She tallied up the postage and took payment from Bella. “I wish you every good thing with these!”

“Thank you, Grace. I mean that with all my heart.” Bella retrieved her bag from the floor and waved.

“Tell Rog I said hi!” Grace called as Bella left.

Once she got to her car, something struck her as odd. Why did Grace call her Mrs. St John, but refer to Rog by his first name? Something didn’t sit right with her about it. While she trusted Rog with her life she wasn’t sure about anyone else. Who could she trust after having such issues years before?

Rog was home from work when she returned. She hung her key on the hook and grabbed her laptop to put away when Rog caught her arm. She was taken aback.

“Is something bothering you, Bell?” Rog asked. He couldn’t help but notice the look of worry and concern on his wife’s face.

“Well, now that you mention it, yes.” Bella sat down and Rog sat next to her on the sofa. “While I was at the mail center the girl behind the counter seemed to know you. She asked me to tell you ‘hi’.  Do you know her, Rog?”

He shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t think so. I don’t know as many people as you’d think. What’s her name?”

“Grace. I don’t know her last name. All I’ve ever seen on her name tag is Grace.”

He thought for a moment then said, “No, I don’t remember knowing anyone named Grace.” Then the more important question was raised. “Why does this bother you, Bell?”

“It’s nothing,” Bella answered. “It just struck me as odd. She calls me Mrs. St John but you Rog, and then she told me to tell you hi.” She rubbed her temples with her thumbs and sat back in her seat. “I don’t even want to ask this—”

“I already know what you’re going to ask me and I can’t believe you even think it.” Rog stood up and paced the floor. “I don’t know this woman Bella, I swear. I have no idea who you’re talking about.”

“I’m sorry, Rog. I know in my heart it’s not you. It’s just that I don’t know who or what I can trust anymore.” Bella felt awful she had even brought the topic up but he was the one who had asked.

“I thought you knew you could trust me.” His heart was breaking to think she didn’t feel she could trust him, of all people. “I’ve done nothing but support you even when you never asked me to.”

“Rog, I’m sorry. I know you’re not seeing her. I just thought it was weird, is all.” Bella stood up and went to hug him, but he pushed her away.

“I need some time to think. Please, Bella.” Rog turned and left the room. She wanted so badly to follow him but thought the better of it. Instead, she sat on the sofa and cried.

In the other room, Rog was stunned and blinked back tears of hurt and frustration. Why would she suspect him of seeing someone else? He loved no one but Bella, but she cast a cloud of doubt on him. To think she saw him in this way tore him to pieces.

“Rog?” Bella was standing in the doorway of the spa room, watching him wrestle with the exchange they just had. It broke her heart.

“What is it, Bella?” He wasn’t sure he wanted to see her, let alone talk.

She approached him carefully, choking on sobs that were attempting to escape. “There aren’t enough words to tell you how sorry I am.”

“You found enough words to wound me. That sure came easy enough.” There was no hiding his hurt.

“Baby, please believe me, I never thought for a minute that you—”

He cut her off. “Oh really? That’s why you were not going to ask me but did anyway? What have I done to make you feel this way? Have I done anything at all that would cause you suspicion?” Though he was spitting mad he bit his tongue to keep himself from speaking something he would regret.

“Please, hear me out?” Bella couldn’t contain the tears any longer. “I know I’ve hurt you and I didn’t mean to.” She was barely able to speak. “I just love you so much I’m afraid.”

“Afraid of what?” he spat.

“I’m afraid that someday you’re going to believe all the lies. That someone will turn your head. That I’m not enough for you. I’m terrified you’ll leave me for someone else… ” She was doing her best to keep herself together but it wasn’t working very well.

Rog’s anger faded. “Is that really what you think? That I’m going to believe some whackadoo sitting and rotting in a prison cell hours and hours away from us? Darling, I know all of that wasn’t true.” He understood her insecurity but it bothered him that she was letting it sabotage their relationship. “Bella, you are the one I love, not anyone else. You. Only you.”

Bella couldn’t speak. Her body shook with sobs as she fell to the floor. Rog walked to her and sat on the floor next to her, holding her and trying to comfort her the best he knew how. When she finally settled down she looked at him. Her eyes were almost swollen shut and she felt like death warmed over. “I don’t deserve you,” she finally said and laid her head in his lap while he caressed her face.

“I want you to hear me Bella, and I want you to believe me. I will never leave you. I will never dishonor you. And I will never cheat on you.” Rog gently rubbed her back. “Do you remember that first night at The Grind?”

Bella sniffled and sat up. “I do.”

“I came looking for you because I knew there was something special about you. I loved you from the moment I saw you but I was afraid someone of your status wouldn’t give me a second look.” Rog wiped tears from his own eyes. “Imagine how I felt when you agreed to have dinner with me! I was on cloud nine and even though I hadn’t slept, I felt alive when you were nearby.”

“Yes, but why? Why don’t you believe what the city thinks is true? Why do you love me so much when I don’t deserve it?” Bella sighed and leaned up against the wall.

“Because none of that garbage is true. I know who and what you are. The city? They can go pound sand because they don’t see you the way I do.” He moved next to her and put his arm around her. “You have given me two beautiful children, Bella. You are more than enough for me.”

“I’m tired, Rog.” Bella scooted over and placed her head on his lap again and closed her eyes. He stood and picked her up and took her upstairs to bed. They fell asleep together, holding each other close.

Up Next: Chapter Nine, Generation Three

G3 Chapter Seven – A New Generation Is Born

Bella was working a children’s show at a private home. Even a year later she was finding it difficult to draw a crowd large enough for a gig at a venue larger than the coffeehouse. In the middle of a card trick, a wave of nausea swept over her and she almost vomited right on the spot. Thinking on her feet, she was able to work a sit-down trick into rotation and sat until the feeling passed. She made it through the rest of the party without incident but on her way home, she had to stop the car to throw up out of the window.

“Oh darling, you do not look good,” Rog stated when she staggered through the back door. “What’s wrong?”

“I’m not sure,” Bella replied. “I was doing a card trick and just felt sick. It passed, or so I thought. I guess it’s not over if you noticed.”

Rog had been with the hospital for well over a year and had worked his way up through promotions rather quickly. He took out his stethoscope and listened to her heart.

“Your heart is racing.” Rog looked for his other tools to test her vital signs.

“Well yeah, I still feel sick.” Bella began to heave and ran for the bathroom.

“Lay down on the sofa and I’ll make some ginger tea.” Rog walked quickly to the kitchen and programmed hot water into their fancy coffee maker. When the water was finished dispensing he grabbed a tea bag and plopped it into the water, grabbed a spoon from the drawer and a saucer from the cabinet. Walking carefully, he set the cup and saucer on the side table near where Bella reclined.

“Did you eat anything at the party?” Rog’s first thought was food poisoning. Not much would make nausea come on that quickly and forcefully, but food poisoning could.

“Nope, not a thing. I didn’t even get anything from the roach coach on the way.”

Another idea occurred to Rog and he dug in his bag for a pregnancy test. “Here, try this. It might not be likely but it is possible.”

Bella took the stick from him and ran for the bathroom, heaving on the way. From the living room, he heard her being sick. Poor girl, he thought to himself. She returned from the bathroom almost a half-hour later, feeling better and smiling. She held the stick in her hands, hugged him and let him see the results.

Two pink lines.

Bella’s pregnancy went smoothly and all too quickly. Rog was able to determine that they were having a girl so Bella went all out to decorate the nursery, the adjoining room. She dug out old stuffed animals from the attic, Destiny’s old antique toys and a rocking horse she had been told was her grandmother’s. As she placed items in the room, it was as though she was transported back in time. She closed her eyes and she could see herself playing tea party with “King Arthur” and her favorite doll. Waxing nostalgic, she took extra special care of every toy, every piece of furniture, and every memory attached to the items.

Rog settled easily into his medical career. He had many days off but was usually on call. He said a doctor never really gets a day off and Bella understood. It was much like the life of a performer, always at the call of another. As her due date grew closer she became more and more uncomfortable. Rog gave her a massage every night before bed and they both talked to the baby. One evening as Bella finished singing to their daughter Rog laid his hand on her belly. Instead of a kick, they both felt her move toward his hand as though she wanted to feel his touch. It was easily the most amazing thing they had ever witnessed.

Bella was at the bookstore about a week later, her due date looming at any time. She was in search of children’s books that she could read to the baby once she was old enough. Just as she opened the car door to go home she felt her water break followed by a good, strong contraction. Frantic, she called Rog, who happened to be home.

“I’m on my way,” he yelled as he ran for his new-to-him minivan. Her contractions were close together and the baby was coming fast. When he arrived, a group of onlookers had gathered and a few people were even trying to help her. Rog hopped out of his car, picked her up and placed her in the back seat of the van.

They drove to the hospital which wasn’t very far away but they were minutes too late. Charlotte Destiny St John was born in the minivan two blocks from the hospital, delivered by her own father. After the baby was cleaned up and swaddled, Rog placed her into Bella’s waiting arms. She was pink and totally perfect, with ten little fingers and ten little toes. And they both had love for this precious baby girl they never dreamed was possible.

The next day, Bella and Charlotte came home from the hospital in a limousine that Jen Crawford sent for them with a beautiful bouquet of white lilies and pink roses waiting inside. For Charlotte was a doll that looked very similar to Boinky and Bella was happy that Charli, as they would call her, would have a special friend to play with and love. On their way home Bella’s cell phone rang, and Jen’s number appeared on the Caller ID.

“Congratulations on your daughter!” Jen sang. “Take your time coming back to work if you even want to come back at all. But that’s not why I’m calling. I wanted to make sure the limo came to get you.”

“Yes, thank you so much, Jen!” Bella was very excited about the gifts and being able to bring her daughter home to the place she grew up. “I’m sure Charli will love the doll. I had one very similar when I was a girl and he was very special to me.”

“Every little girl should have a doll.” Jen was truly happy for the young family. “If you need anything at all just let me know!”

“Thanks again, Jen, for everything!” Bella hung up the phone just as their ride pulled up in front of the house. Rog was waiting with balloons and a banner with Charlotte’s name on it and a bottle of their favorite sparkling juice with glasses.

“Welcome home, baby girl,” Bella whispered to Charlotte and kissed her gently on the head. She and Rog both went upstairs to settle the baby into her crib where she promptly fell asleep. Bella grabbed the baby monitor from the room and they both went back downstairs. Bella hadn’t eaten since breakfast and she was hungry. Luckily, Rog had already made dinner so he pulled two servings from the oven where it had been warming, the sparkling juice, and two wine glasses. There was already a fire in the hearth and they both sat and enjoyed their first night home as a family.

“Come on Charli! Come to Mama!” Bella set Charlotte on the floor and walked a few steps away. Squatting, she held her arms out for the baby to toddle over. Charlotte smiled and cooed as she got up on her feet and took a step. Two more wobbly steps and she was safe in Bella’s arms. She swooped the baby up in her arms and covered her tummy in kisses.

You are such a good girl, Charli!” Bella placed the giggling child on the floor and walked back a few more steps, assuming the same squatting position.

“Hi darling,” Rog said as he walked through the front door. “And what do we have here?”

“Da-da” Charlotte cooed as she stumbled Bella’s direction. “Da-da”

Bella laughed. “She only says Da-da. You know that I’m extremely jealous, Rog!” He bent over and kissed Bella’s head.

“I know because I secretly taught her to say it,” Rog teased. “She’s doing great by the way. Good job, Mama.” He took his white coat off and laid it across the dining room chair. Bella picked up Charlotte and sat her down in front of the television, but she was much more interested in playing with the doll Jen bought for her.

“You know, I haven’t even started dinner yet,” Bella said. “What should I make?”

Rog smiled. “How about reservations?”

“Ooh!” quipped Bella. “That’s my favorite kind of dinner!” She called the sitter and then Rog’s favorite restaurant and requested their table. “I’ll be ready in 10 minutes,” she said as she started up the stairs.

“I’ll watch for the sitter,” Rog answered. They hadn’t been to the restaurant much since Charlotte arrived almost 12 months ago and he was pleased she said yes.

Fifteen minutes later Bella’s footsteps echoed down the stairs. Dressed in her favorite comfy jeans and a white top, she looked beautiful. “I love casual places,” she stated. “No dress code, no snooty waiters.” She picked up her sweater and took her keys from the hook.

Rog’s hand caught hers mid-grab. “Not so fast! I’m driving tonight.”

“If you say so,” she smiled. The sitter had been at the house for a few minutes, and she was already playing with the baby. “You have my number, Corrie. Call if you have a problem. We won’t be gone more than a couple of hours.”

The sitter smiled and picked up Charlotte. “We’ll be fine, Mrs. St John.”

Rog held out his arm for her to take. “Shall we, darling?”

“We shall,” answered Bella.

“What am I doing, Rog? I mean, why am I trying so hard to make this work?” Bella wiped tears from her eyes. She was just home from another show with no audience. “It seems clear to me what I need to do.”

“But you’ve wanted this since you were a little girl, Bell,” Rog said.

“I haven’t had a sold-out show in years. At this point in her career, my mother was filling stadiums.” She sighed deeply. “All of the mudslinging Estevan did took its toll whether it should have or not, Rog. I can’t go on like this. I’ve already lost the coffeehouse and Mick’s gave up on me long ago.”

“You can’t compare your career to your mother’s, darling,” Rog said. “Apples and oranges.” He took her hand and led her to the living room. Together, they sat on the sofa, her feet in his lap.

“What do you think I should do?” Bella’s voice was quiet.

“I think you need to do what makes you happiest,” Rog replied, rubbing her sore, swollen feet.

“Even if that means walking away?” Bella cried. “I feel like a failure.”

“Oh darling, look at you,” he encouraged. “You are the mother of a precious baby girl, with another baby on the way. If you never did another magic trick, if you never did another illusion, would you feel like any less of a person?”

“No, I wouldn’t.” She buried her face in her hands and started to cry. “I’ll call Jen in the morning.”

“Hey, it’s not all that bad.” He put her feet down onto the floor and scooted over next to her. He slipped his arm around her and pulled her close. “Whatever you decide I will support you. No matter what.” He touched her face gently and kissed her.

Bella didn’t feel any better, but it was inevitable. And four years later she had still not seen a penny from the Best estate. Hal had been trying in vain to get the estate to honor the court order. But the family had already squandered the fortune and in Strangeville, Estevan and Maria Best were serving 20-year sentences each. Nevertheless, the damage was done here at home. Mission accomplished, Maria, Bella thought. My career is ruined.

The next morning, Bella dialed Jen Crawford’s number. She stared at the phone but couldn’t bring herself to press Send. Suddenly, the baby kicked and she placed her hand on the child growing inside her. I have to do this for the baby, she thought. For me.

Reluctantly, she re-entered Jen’s number into the keypad and pressed Send. In seconds, Jen’s voice was on the other end.

“Jen Crawford Agency, this is Jen.” Her voice was warm and friendly as it always was.

“Hi, Jen, it’s Bella.”

“I half expected a phone call from you today.” Jen was not surprised to hear from her. Things hadn’t been going well for their most famous client lately.

“Rog and I talked about it again last night and I can’t do this anymore.” Bella sniffled. She hated hearing the words escaping her lips, but she said them. “I am resigning.”

“Well, you know I’m sorry to hear this, Bella, and it isn’t because you’re our most famous client. I feel like we’ve gotten pretty close over the years. I’m going to miss you and your sweet little family.” Jen was usually good at hiding her feelings but she and Bella had been through so much together that emotion came quickly.

“I’ll finish my show at Verde Park on Sunday and I’ll let Madison know I won’t be back.” Madison was the proprietor who took Rog’s place at Verde Park nearly 5 years ago. She suspected that she might not even be welcome there either. Her last performance at the park was an abysmal failure with no one in attendance. There were too many good acts coming up to keep a mediocre magician with a reputation problem on the payroll.

“Would you like me to call over to Maddy and check her status on this?” Jen was loath to see Bella’s career end like this when she had such potential. “I’d hate to see you waste a trip when I know you haven’t been feeling well.”

“That would be perfect thank you, Jen.” This pregnancy wasn’t going as smoothly as her first and Rog wanted her to rest as often as she could.

“No problem, sweetie. Let me know if I can help you guys out. I’d love to watch that little munchkin if you need to get away for a few hours.” Jen adored Charlotte, having never had children of her own.

“Thanks for the offer, Jen. We might just take you up on that! Hey,” Bella added. “Thank you, for everything.” Bella couldn’t hold back the flood of tears welling up in her soul. She hung up the phone and the flood gate opened as she cried.

“Mama sad.” Charlotte toddled over to where Bella sat and laid her head on her lap. Bella stroked the child’s hair.

“Mama’s okay, little love,” Bella said sweetly to Charlotte. “Now that you’re here.”

Up Next: Chapter Eight, Generation Three

G3 Chapter Six – The Wedding

The wedding took eight months to plan. Everything had to be perfect because Bella figured she was going to be married just once. She tried every gown in Starlight Shores when she found the dress. It was hidden in the back of the rack in a small boutique just off the strip. She and Rog would be married in the little chapel on Foothill Drive near the family home. Rog had already left Verde Park and began looking for a new career in medicine. He knew in his heart that show business was never meant for him.

The wedding was planned for the last weekend in summer before the weather turned cold and snow started to fall. A new resort had opened in the eastern hills that was highly anticipated as the place to vacation within the city. Bella had booked a honeymoon suite for two nights after the wedding.

Rog’s “prop friends” around town threw a huge bachelor party for him at the Brotherhood Hall. His best man, Darren Lott, had been a proprietor for years before he retired.

He began to move his belongings from the house he shared with his long-time roommate, Kristen, two weeks before the wedding. It didn’t take long for the one-bedroom bungalow to fill up with boxes. Bella had planned on taking a few days off before the wedding to move furniture between the two houses. She had enlisted the help of a friend to do most of the heavy lifting for her.

The night before the wedding, Rog slept at the bungalow in his usual stay-over spot. He was the first to wake and he cleaned up the sheets, blanket, and pillow from the sofa before Bella was up. After getting the laundry into the washer, he started a pot of coffee and a batch of banana pancakes since he knew she loved them. The aroma of coffee roused her from sleep and she stumbled out into the living room from the bedroom.

“Good morning, Bride To Be!” Rog was truly happier than he could remember.

“Ugh, Rog,” Bella grumbled. “You’re way too perky even if it is our wedding day.”

He poured a cup of coffee for her and guided her to the table on the patio. Before she sat down he pulled her close for a kiss and said to her, “Today is the first day of the rest of our lives.” Bella wrinkled her nose.

“That is so trite!” she snickered.

“But it’s so true!” He went back inside to grab his coffee and breakfast for both of them. Even the birds sounded happier to him that morning. They ate breakfast without much chatter, just enjoying the cool morning and the fresh air.

The wedding was supposed to start at noon so Bella left home for the chapel at nine o’clock. Her wedding clothes were already at the church but she needed to get some last-minute decorations finished and get the buffet tables ready. Rog finished cleaning up after breakfast and made his way to the church at around eleven o’clock.

Bella stayed inside the bride room until 11:30 and when she looked out into the crowd of people she saw two familiar faces she thought she would never see again. Bree and Bianca drove three days from Appaloosa Plains for the wedding. She was so excited that she couldn’t contain her joy, and peeked her head out from the room. They spotted her and ran to her for hugs and kisses.

“I can’t believe you made it!” Bella hugged each of them repeatedly.

“Well, you did invite us,” Bianca stated. Bella and Bree looked at each other and laughed.

“It’s so good to see you, Bella,” Bree said. “You look beautiful, just like Mama.”

“There is so much I want to tell you guys!  How long are you in town?”

“Unfortunately, we have to leave in the morning. Bianca has an exhibition at the museum starting on Wednesday, and she really needs to be home for it.” Bree couldn’t stop staring at Bella. She looked hauntingly like Destiny.

Suddenly, she noticed Rog standing at the front of the chapel looking back toward the bride’s room. Oh, shoot! She thought. He’s waiting for me!  He looked so handsome in his black tux. She picked up her small bouquet of flowers as her sisters made their way to sit down. The music began, and she began her walk down the aisle. Rog was floored at how beautiful she looked. Her red hair was pulled up, and a veil was attached just under the ponytail. Her lavender eyes sparkled in the candlelight, and the diamonds in her necklace shimmered.

Under the arch, they exchanged vows and rings and when the pastor pronounced them husband and wife, she turned around and threw her bouquet of flowers. One of her colleagues caught it. Next, it was time to cut the cake and feed each other a piece.  Rog was surprisingly disciplined and resisted every urge to smoosh cake in her face. Bella, on the other hand, did not, but then took time to kiss away every bit of frosting. Rog was pretty sure he didn’t mind.

The music changed from classical to rock after dinner was finished. The couple danced together until well after every guest had left the party, oblivious to everyone except each other. They had a room reserved at the resort so they left in their rented limousine. Rog popped open a bottle of sparkling wine on the long ride to the resort. It was late when they checked in and he carried her across the threshold of the suite. She laughed like a little girl as he dropped her on the bed still dressed in her gown. The room had just a bed and television, a small bathroom and a patio but it felt like paradise.

After they settled down into bed for the evening, Bella noticed that Rog looked a bit worried. “Is something bothering you, my love?”

“Bella, I need to confess something.”

Her heart sank. “Okay. Whatever it is, it will be fine. I promise.”

“Darling,” he said, blushing. “Never have I ever.”

“Never have you ever, what?” she replied. Rog blushed again. “Oh…” she said, understanding what he meant. “Well, I guess we’re not going to be able to say that after tonight,” Bella said as she turned off the light.

She woke the following morning with Rog by her side for the first time and smiled. It was chilly outside and she didn’t want to disturb him so she snuggled up to him instead of getting up. She lay in bed for a while and watched him sleep. She occasionally ran her fingers through his curly black hair, she never thought she could love someone so deeply and completely as she did Rog. About an hour later Rog stirred but couldn’t move with her wrapped around him. Sleepily he shifted and saw Bella smiling at him.

“Good morning, wifey,” he said and yawned. “Did you sleep well?”

“I did, hubby.” Bella loved being his wife. She snuggled up close to him again and kissed his shoulder. “How did you sleep?”

“Like a baby.” Rog wiggled away from her and sat up. “As much as I hate to move, darling, I need to pee.”

Bella chuckled. “I know the feeling.”

They both showered and got dressed and went to an all-you-can-eat buffet at the resort. The day was beginning to warm a little so they both grabbed their bathing suits and lounged at the big, beautiful pool. Rog brought a book to read but Bella was catching the last of summer’s rays. After a while she got a bit warm, so she folded her towel over a chair and jumped into the pool feet first. Rog looked up from reading and saw her floating in the pool and decided to join her. Together they swam up to the in-pool bar and ordered the daily special cocktail.

“I wish this could be our everyday lives, Bella,” Rog said as he finished the last sip of drink. “No worries, no work. Just lazy by the pool so I can watch you in that bikini.”

Bella smiled. “Well, the bikini you can see every day. But my inheritance will only go so far. Eventually, we have to work.”

“That reminds me,” Rog said. “Have you gotten any of the settlement from the Bests yet?”

“Nope, not a penny.”

“Have you mentioned it to Hal?” Rog frowned. It wasn’t that they needed the money. But it was court-ordered and still no action.

“I have been meaning to call him but I have a feeling he’s on it.” Bella jumped out of the pool and dried her hair with the towel. “I don’t want to see them ruined.”

“It was their own choice, Bell. Remember that.” Rog’s arms were covered in chill bumps, and he started to shiver.

“Let’s get you inside.” Bella took his hand and led him back to their suite.

After dinner at the resort, they decided to go dancing at The Grind until the place closed at four in the morning. While waiting for the taxi to pick them up they sat on the lawn near the club and gazed at what was left of the early morning stars.

When they awakened they checked out of the resort and headed to the bungalow. Bella already had boxes mostly filled with things she had brought from the other house. She wasn’t planning on selling the bungalow just yet so she wasn’t too careful about picking things up for this trip. Rog had never seen the family house.

“This is where you grew up?” he asked, his jaw agape.

“Yes, sir!” Bella gathered a box of photos and Rog took a few of Destiny’s paintings. “I couldn’t bear to sell it.”

“I can see why!” Rog gazed at the furniture covered in plastic, a thin layer of dust covered the counters and dining room table. “It doesn’t look lived in, though.”

“Well, we’re going to change that!” Bella set her box down and grabbed the plastic from a loveseat. She took a seat and patted the cushion next to her. “Check out the view from here.”

Outside was the pool, which had a walkway that spanned the middle. On the other side were lounge chairs, a grill and a table with chairs. Beyond the fence were the foothills of the mountain range that ran from Starlight Shores to Riverview to the south, and up to Dragon Valley to the north. The hills were dotted with deciduous trees that were just beginning to turn color. Wildflowers painted the ground in vivid hues of blues, yellows, and purples. She took his hand and led him to the roof and from the balcony, he was able to see every square foot of Starlight Shores. The strip, the Binder Clips Center, the Hoi Polloi, and even the high school were visible from the house.

“I had no idea this was so idyllic, Bella. What a treasure of a home.” Rog walked around the balcony taking in the scenery. He was an almost lifetime resident of the Shores, and he’d never seen it like this.

She walked up behind him and hugged him. “And now, it’s your home, too.”

Up Next: Chapter Seven, Generation Three

Pose Credit (Featured Image)

Poses By Bee – Engagement Poses

G3 Chapter Five – May The “Best” Man Win

Things were proceeding with the lawsuit when Hal was notified of a hearing date. They had a few months to prepare their case. In the meantime, the Bests weren’t frightened out of going public with their lies. Estevan was much too invested in making sure Bella’s life was ruined to back out, according to Hal’s friend. The motive behind the attack was revealed and it would make a much easier case to bring against them. Jen was willing to testify on Bella’s behalf during the hearing and so was Rog.

“I have to warn you, Bella, that Maria will have witnesses on their side as well. Estevan’s accusations will come up, and you will have to defend yourself.” Hal tried to prepare her for the court appearance.

“I know, but I have no proof, except…” Bella fiddled with the ring on her hand, the one that Arthur had given her so many years ago.

Hal noticed the ring. “I’m afraid a promise made to your father ten plus years ago won’t hold up in court.”

Bella sighed. This would be the most difficult thing to prove. “I know. All I have is personal testimony on that. Rog might be willing to help, but we are barely a couple. He doesn’t know my past.”

“We will try to nail them on the other allegations. Nothing is true, so it can’t hold up at a trial. No jury would convict you.” Hal tried to reassure her, but confidence was fleeting.

Six months after signing with the Crawford Talent Agency Bella’s photo appeared on billboards advertising the company. As she had suspected Bella was the big name and she was still only doing small venues. Nevertheless, she was happy to help out. When they succeeded, so would she. Luckily for Bella, Jen didn’t believe a word of the allegations about her and neither did most of the city. But the bad publicity was affecting crowd turnout at her shows and she lost her steady gig at Mick’s because of it.

Bella was at the park performing for tips when Rog asked if she wanted to take a break. She’d been working in the sun for hours and she welcomed a cool drink. They walked to the vendors where he bought lemonade for both of them. As they sat down at the table Rog noticed the ring on Bella’s hand. He had seen it before but never thought much about it until the Estevan incident.

“Darling, can I ask you a question?”

“Sure, you can ask me almost anything,” Bella teased.

“Why are you wearing that ring,” Rog asked, pointing to the purity ring that she wore on her finger. “Do you have someone else?”

“No, it’s nothing like that at all,” Bella answered. “My father gave this to me when I was a teenager. He told me it was meant to be worn on my finger until it is replaced by my wedding ring.” She spun the ring around on her finger and smiled at the memory.

Rog looked at her slyly. “Oh, really? A wedding ring, eh?” He reached into his pocket and pulled out a box. “Will an engagement ring suffice?”

Bella was stunned. Rog looked so darned handsome in his vest and shirt and she couldn’t have looked worse. Overly warm and sweaty, her magician uniform on, her hair was messy and she felt worn out. “Are you—”

“Asking you to marry me? Yes, yes I am!” Rog smiled and slid the ring on her finger. “I’m sorry this isn’t more romantic but the timing just seemed right. Bella, darling, I love you.”

“Rog, oh my goodness, of COURSE I’ll marry you!” Bella looked at the ring on her finger, which sparkled in the sunlight. After all he had gone through and would continue to go through with her and he was still around, she guessed he was in it for the long haul. “I love you, Rog.”

The hearing was a month after their engagement. Hal was truly amazed that he hadn’t been able to spook the Bests out of continuing the charade. Bella looked professional in a skirt suit and Rog took the day from work to support her. She was so grateful to him for all his help and moral support. He could have walked away at any time, and she was impressed he was sticking around.

She and Rog entered the courtroom and sat waiting for Hal and his associate to arrive. Maria and Estevan walked into the courtroom and sat at the defendant’s table. Rog recognized Estevan immediately. The Best family was one of the richest and best-known families in Starlight Shores. After Calvin and Isabella passed away, their children were doing their best to tarnish the family name and squander the wealth. Rog shot Estevan a look that could have killed him, and Estevan sneered at Bella. Maria, who sat beside her brother, looked defeated. Perhaps she’s just a pawn in this, too, Bella thought.

Hal was the next to enter the courtroom, followed by Jen Crawford and her attorney. She came fully prepared to do battle with the Bests. The hearing time came, and the Best’s lawyer wasn’t there yet. The judge entered and asked Estevan if they had an attorney.

“No, your Honor. No lawyer here.” Estevan spat, and turned his eyes on Bella and glared.

Hal leaned over and whispered to Bella, “They don’t have a lawyer! This is a suicide mission for them.” Bella pondered it and smiled at Rog.

Over the next two hours, everything about Bella’s personal life was called into question. Although the Bests did not have an attorney, Estevan was as ruthless a prosecutor as Hal had ever faced. Luckily, objections that Hal brought were mostly sustained, except for one where he tried to save Bella from having to answer a particularly personal question.

“Isn’t it true, Ms. Atwood, that you are using Mr. St John here as a way to promote yourself in show business?  Isn’t it true that you are using the so-called casting couch to get ahead? Isn’t it true that you have slept with half of Starlight Shores to get where you are now?” Estevan’s eyes bore right into Bella’s soul and it was disturbing to watch.

“I object, your Honor,” Hal stated.

“Overruled,” said the judge. “Answer the question, Miss Atwood.”

“No, your Honor. This is absolutely not true. Not a word of it.” Bella was angry, but she tried to remain calm.

“What is your proof?” Estevan shouted at her. “Can you prove you’re not lying right now to save your reputation?”

“I object, your Honor,” Hal stated again.

“Overruled.” The judge looked at Bella. “Please answer the question, Miss Atwood.”

“I have no proof. It is my word against yours, Estevan. You know that.” She clenched her teeth so hard she gave herself a headache.

“I have no other questions for the witness.” Estevan folded his arms and sat down in his seat, looking quite pleased with himself.

Estevan called Rog to the witness stand. He knew that Estevan was going to ask him some personal questions about his relationship with Bella, but he had to answer them, regardless of how uncomfortable it was.

“How long have you been dating Miss Atwood, Mr. St John?” Estevan began.

“A little over a year,” Rog replied calmly.

“And have you had sex with Miss Atwood at any time in that year, Mr. St. John?”

Rog hung his head, embarrassed for Bella. “No, sir.”

“Oh, come on now,” Estevan taunted. “You mean to tell me the whore of Starlight Shores isn’t putting out for you, her own fiancé?”

“I object, your Honor,” Hal said a third time.

“Sustained. That last question will be stricken from the record.” The judge leered at Estevan. “I will not have another outburst like that, Mr. Best. Do we have an understanding?”

Estevan waved him away as if the judge was a mosquito. Hal looked at Bella, a frown on his face. She had forgotten to tell him they were engaged. She shrugged and mouthed the words “I’m sorry” to him.

“So,” Estevan continued, annoyed the judge had dismissed his last question. “You claim you have not had intimate relations with this woman. Can you prove your statement, Mr. St John?”

Rog, throughout the two-hour hearing, had heard his fiancée accused of many terrible things, and no one was turning it around on Estevan. But that was going to end, now. “Let me ask you a question, Mr. Best. Where is YOUR proof that Bella has done all the things you claim? Isn’t the burden of proof on you, the accuser?” Rog was ticked off, and Hal let him continue to cross-examine the cocky young man.

Estevan’s temper flared up. “I am the one doing the questioning here, Mr. St John! NOT YOU!”

The judge banged his gavel. “I am going to allow this line of questioning. Please answer the question, Mr. Best.”

Estevan couldn’t answer the question and he had no corroborating witness or evidence. Maria wanted to crawl under the table. After listening to Estevan throw the equivalent of an adult tantrum, the judge had heard enough and declared a 10-minute recess.

“This is unusual,” said Hal while they waited for the judge to return. “He must be preparing a ruling on this mess.” He nudged Rog and gave him the thumbs up. “You were brilliant up there turning it around on him like that. If you’d like a job at my law firm, the invite is open!”

The recess was over and everyone involved went back into the courtroom. The judge entered and read a statement he had written.

“Before I read my decision I want to speak directly to Mr. Best. Sir, you have done your best today to destroy your family’s good name. Your father must be rolling in his grave today, son. Shame on you for subjecting this young woman to your lies because she rejected you well over 11 years ago. After this court adjourns Mr. Best, you are not to come within 20 feet of Miss Atwood under any circumstance. I am signing her request for restraint and I see that her request is warranted.”

“I am finding for the plaintiff in this hearing. You have put this young woman and her fiancé through a living hell over the past 12 months and she is entitled to every penny I am awarding. This judgment will be enforced to the fullest extent of the law and non-compliance will land you in prison in Strangeville. And Miss Best, I don’t know where your relationship with Miss Atwood went south, but the fact that you were complicit in this with your brother makes you liable as well. As for damages I am awarding $100,000 in compensatory damages and $250,000 in punitive damages. I believe that will wipe out what remains of your father’s estate. I am also awarding ownership of the Gonzales Agency to Miss Atwood for her to do with as she sees fit.” With the bang of his gavel, the judge pronounced the hearing over.

“Not one penny, you hear me whore? Not one PENNY!” Estevan shouted at Bella as he and Maria left the courtroom.

“Este, it’s over.” Maria sobbed. “Let it go.”

Bella ran to Rog and hugged him. Hal shook Rog’s hand and thanked him for a job well done on the stand. Then Hal hugged Bella.

“I’ll be in touch so we can go over fees.” Bella gave him her card.

“Fees? Nonsense!” Hal announced. “Consider it a favor to your father. It was my pleasure.”

“I feel terrible about Maria,” Bella said. “She looked totally defeated and for what?”

“Don’t feel bad Bella,” Hal reassured. “She could have ended this without any expenses. Now they will pay the price.”

After they left the courthouse, Rog hugged Bella and kissed her cheek. “It’s my turn to treat.” They got into his truck and drove to his favorite restaurant, and celebrated the victory.

Up Next: Chapter Six, Generation Three

G3 Chapter Four – Not The “Best” Situation

Bella woke the next morning to the smell of pancakes being cooked on the stove and she nearly forgot where she was. She hadn’t cooked banana pancakes since Destiny’s death and it smelled good. She walked out to the living room to see the sofa with sheets, blankets, and a pillow on it and remembered that Rog had stayed overnight.

“Good morning, Bella!” Rog beamed as he finished cooking breakfast. “I hope you’re hungry.”

“Mmm, it smells good, Rog.” She smiled and took a plate and sat down at the counter. Rog sat on the stool next to her with his own plate.

“It’s the only thing I know how to cook!” He laughed and Bella joined in. “I hope you don’t mind. I found some beautiful bananas in the fridge.”

“Not at all. My mama used to make banana pancakes when she was home. It was a good memory this morning.” Bella took a mouthful and gave him a thumbs up.

Rog got up and poured a cup of coffee. “Coffee, Miss Hill?”

“Yes please, Mr. St John,” Bella replied. “Just cream, thank you.”

Rog handed her the steamy cup of brew and sat back beside her. “I took the liberty of looking for some talent agencies this morning on your computer. I will help you get out of that horrible situation. Then I’ll take you to the police department so you can file a restraining order against your ex.” He took a sip of coffee. “That is if you want my help. I don’t want to step on toes.”

“I’d appreciate your help, Rog. I don’t know where to start.” Bella took another bite of pancake.

“It’s settled then. There is a fairly new agency across from Verde Park you can look into, here.” He pointed to a map of the city on his phone. “I can see who is running it, and get some feedback from my fellow props.”

“Do it, please.” Bella finished her breakfast and took the plates to clean up.

An hour later Rog walked in from the yard. “It looks like you’re good to go at this agency, Bella. They know who you are and want to meet you!” It didn’t hurt that he knew the owner. They had gone to school together, though he hadn’t’ seen her since graduation.

“Thank you so much! I’ll go jump in the shower, and I’ll be ready in a few minutes.” Bella made her way toward the bathroom.

Rog drove Bella to the agency, which had taken the place of a tattoo shop. The office wasn’t very big but the receptionist recognized Rog and Bella and showed them into a waiting room in the back. The waiting area was decorated beautifully and was warm and inviting. On the wall were pictures of current clients, most of whom were relatively unknown. Bella guessed that she might be the biggest name they were considering. Even so, it would be miles better than where she was now.

A professionally dressed woman appeared from an office and approached Rog. He stood to shake her hand and introduced her to Bella. “A pleasure to meet you, Miss Hill. I have heard nothing but great things about you!” She extended her hand for Bella to shake. “My name is Jen Crawford.”

“The pleasure is all mine, Ms. Crawford.” Bella smiled and shook her hand.

“Please, call me Jen.” She led Bella and Rog to her office and motioned for them to sit.

“Before we begin I need to disclose a matter,” Bella confessed. She glanced at Rog, who nodded his approval.

“Sure thing, Miss Hill.”

“I am currently with the Gonzales agency which is being managed by Maria Best. There is a significant conflict of interest between Ms. Best and myself though we have never had an issue until recently.” Bella carefully thought about her next words, then continued. “In short, without going into my personal background, she has spies within her office that are stalking me and reporting back to her.”

Jen’s face froze in horror. She knew the Best family and could not imagine Calvin and Isabella being okay with this sort of thing. “Oh, Bella. I am so sorry this is happening!  I will guarantee that sort of nonsense will not happen here!”

Rog piped up, “I also need to disclose something Jen, about Bella. We are dating, but I am the proprietor at Verde Park. However, I don’t anticipate being the latter for much longer.”

“I don’t see a problem with that, Rog.” She turned to Bella and whispered loudly to her. “You are one lucky lady! Rog is quite a catch.” Jen winked at Rog and he smiled.

Bella signed the contract with Jen that afternoon. On the way home, she called Maria.

“Maria Best.”

“Hello Maria, It’s Bella Hill.” Bella’s voice was cold.

“What can I do for you this afternoon, Miss Hill?”

“You’re fired,” Bella announced. “You and your brother Estevan are fired.”

“I’m afraid I don’t understand.” Maria tried to act as though she knew nothing.

“Can it, Maria. I know all about you and Estevan and I’m done.”

“You can’t leave the agency, Bella. You are under contract.” Maria gloated. “If you fire me, you will never work in this town again. I will see to it personally.”

“Bring it!” Bella shouted into the phone. “Expect to hear from my lawyer.”

Bella hung up the phone, relieved to be with a new agency but dreading the certain legal fight that loomed over her. She had known Ernesto and knew he would not have approved how his replacement was ruining all of his hard work and reputation. Her stomach rumbled and she glanced at her watch. “Wow, it’s seven o’clock. No wonder I’m hungry!”

Rog admitted to himself that he was wrong about Bella. He found her fire and spunk extremely attractive, and he was ready for wherever this situation would take them. “I’ve got this,” Rog replied. He drove them to his favorite little hangout, where they celebrated her new job. It was then that Bella realized that she might be falling in love with him.

The next day Bella called her father’s lawyer for some advice on how to proceed with the old contract situation. She figured she might be in for some rough sailing since she was technically in breach of contract by firing her old agent.

“This is Hal Fournier, how may I help you?” Mr. Fournier’s voice was friendly on the other end of the phone.

“Hi, Mr. Fournier. My name is Bella Atwood, and—”

He didn’t wait for her to finish the introduction. “Are you Arthur’s daughter?”

“Yes, I am.” Bella was slightly embarrassed but thankful for her father’s name recognition. She was also happy to know people who remembered her parents were still around. “As I was saying I have a legal problem. I need your advice—”

Hal cut her off again. “Whatever it is, Miss Atwood, consider me on your side.” He cleared his throat on the other end of the phone. “Your father was a great friend. I miss him dearly.”

Bella smiled at the gesture and thanked him. They arranged to meet later that day. Bella gathered all the evidence she had compiled with Rog’s help, and she drove to Hal’s office.

The office building was downtown, and Hal’s office was on the top floor. She rode the elevator to the penthouse and when she exited, the receptionist was right at the door.

“I’m here to see Mr. Fournier,” Bella informed the lady sitting at the desk.

She picked up the phone and dialed a number. “Mr. Fournier, your four o’clock is here.”

“But I didn’t even tell you who I was.” Bella was puzzled.

“Miss, even I can see you’re Arthur’s daughter. You’re his spitting image.” She stood up and walked with Bella to the office door and opened it for her. Bella had never heard that she looked so much like her dad before. Destiny, yes. Arthur, never.

“Thank you.” Bella walked into the office cautiously. Mr. Fournier was seated in a huge leather swivel chair facing away from the door. When he heard her he spun around to see her standing there.

“Wow, you really do take after your father. Please, Miss Atwood, have a seat.”

“Please call me Bella.”

“Well, alright Bella. How can I help you out today?”

Bella went into the details of her relationship with the Gonzales agency. She told him of the threats Maria made against her, what Estevan said to her at the park and her concerns about canceling her old contract. Hal pondered the information and scratched his chin.

“So all of this started after you began seeing Mr. St John?”

“Yes, sir.”

“And before that, you had no problems with Miss Best?”

“No, sir,” Bella replied. “In fact, after my mother passed away she was right there for me, helping me plan every detail. I couldn’t have done it without her.”

“Curious.” Hal consulted a thick, bound book for some specific information. “Would you excuse me for a moment, Bella?” She nodded her head, and he exited the room for a few minutes. When he returned, he was smiling ear to ear. “Bella, my dear, I have some news for you.”

“Oh?” She was intrigued by Hal’s sudden leave and his return wearing a smile.

“A friend of mine who used to counsel Ernesto Gonzales gave up the client after the Best family took it over. As it turns out, you aren’t the only one with a grievance against Estevan Best. He has a long history of doing this with former girlfriends. There is a bit of bad news tucked in here but not to worry! I can fix this, too.”

“What is the bad news, Mr. Fournier?” Bella shifted uneasily in her chair, uncertain she wanted to know.

“It seems the Best family has already begun their smear campaign to make good on Maria’s promise. My friend has it on good authority they plan on going public tomorrow during a live news exclusive.”

Bella’s face went pale, and she felt faint. “But none of what he is saying is true.”

“I understand that. I am hoping to scare them out of going public with knowingly false information. Maybe we can get them to develop some common sense and settle before it gets out of hand. And if that doesn’t work, a slander lawsuit will make you a very wealthy woman indeed!” Hal rubbed his hands together. “I also know they currently do not have a lawyer on retainer so they are relying on you capitulating.”

Bella felt betrayed all over again. “They don’t know me very well if they think I’m just going to accept this.”

Hal laughed. “That’s my girl!”

They finished up the meeting and she called Rog on the way home.

“Hey, Bella!” Rog was very happy to see her name on Caller ID.

“Hi, Rog. Listen, I just got back from seeing my dad’s attorney.” Bella was hesitant about discussing the details with him but if he was involved with this, he needed to know.

“Oh? How did that go?”

“Not as great as I would have hoped. I mean I have a good case, but Maria is already spreading lies about me. And about you, Rog.” Bella sighed. “You’re in this just as much as I am.”

“I figured as much, Bella. But I’ll protect you from that sleazeball ex-boyfriend of yours.”

“Well, Mr. Fournier is going to attempt to scare them out of their smears. And if that doesn’t work, he will immediately file a lawsuit on my behalf. He will also take care of the restraining order.” Bella felt herself losing her cool. “Rog, I am so sorry I got you involved in this… mess.”

“Nonsense!” Rog reassured her. “Besides, I think you’re worth the trouble.” He began to laugh, which made Bella smile.

“Oh, so I’m trouble now, huh?”

“Yes ma’am, you are.” Rog paused, then said, “Hey, I’m off work in 10 minutes. Can I swing by and get you for dinner? Your treat.”

Now Bella was belly laughing. “Yes, my treat. I’ll be ready when you get here, sir.”

Up Next: Chapter Five, Generation Three