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The Posse Library

                   THE WAY IT SHOULD BE 

                    written by M


                  Chapter One: Setting the Stage

Two weeks have passed since Jack and Erica had planned to rush into the courthouse, putting the brakes on their so-called New Divorce.

Since that time, Kendall delivered Ian, who is still growing and developing under the watchful eye of Pine Valley Hospital’s NIC unit. Kendall spends all her time there or with Spike, leaving Annie, Babe, Di, and Amanda to deal with Fusion’s Concept Launch. Spike is coping well with his hearing loss. Kendall, Ryan and their respective families are learning sign language, and Spike is in speech and hearing therapy daily, since Kendall wants him to adapt to his new situation as quickly as possible.

      Meanwhile, after begging everyone’s apology, Greenlee left town for a few months to seek counseling at the Mountainside Spa and Resort. Ryan and Kendall agreed not to charge Greenlee with kidnapping, believing she truly regretted her actions and understood the hurt she caused their son.  Finally, Ava, Lily and Sean continue to deal with their various problems.

Unfortunately, Jack and Erica have barely spoken since their night of passion, both still devastated by the ending of their marriage. When their paths cross, Jack’s and Erica’s stolen glances are still smoldering with love. Sadly, their words are filled with pain, regret and anger. Jack’s angry with Erica for asking him to choose between his child and hers, something he never has, nor ever would, ask of her. Erica’s angry with Greenlee for causing an accident that put both of her grandchildren in peril. One still might not survive, (although Ian is steadily improving), and the other, Spike, will never again hear his sweet mother’s voice.

Fresh off vows of never allowing their adult children’s lives, choices, etc. to come between them, Jack and Erica are now divorced and are continuing to allow their adult children’s choices to keep them apart.


Chapter Two: The Truth


Jack sat alone in the guest bedroom again tonight, as he had since Erica first left. The first night she was in the hotel, Jack did it just because he couldn’t bear the thought of sleeping in their bed without her. He missed her so much. Gradually over time, Jack moved all of his belongings out of the master suite. At Christmas when Erica returned home briefly and then left again, Jack made the firm decision that he would not sleep in that bed again until Erica was home for good.

Putting down the latest case he had been reviewing to see if it would help his client, Jack pulled the final divorce decree out of the nightstand, as he had done every night since receiving it. He read over the words on the page, dissolution of the marriage of Andrew Jackson Montgomery and Erica Kane Montgomery. The pain hit him again. He placed the document back in the drawer, turns out the lamp, and sinks slowly down into his lonely bed. Wishing he could turn back time and make it not real, he missed her so very much, her smell, her touch, her infectious smile.


Across town at the yacht club, Erica remained in the suite that had been their secret place. She didn’t dare move back in to the Valley Inn, nor did she desire to find a house of her own. There was no need, she thought, since it is just her now. Kendall and Zach had their home. Bianca and Miranda live an entire ocean away in Paris. And Josh seemed happy to have Jack’s old loft all to himself. No, her children didn’t need her anymore.

  Erica looked longingly at the picture from Jack and her wedding of all their kids. She ran her fingers along Reggie and Lily’s faces. Sean flashed to mind. Erica chuckled at the thought of them under her roof again. And then, as always, Jack’s face, etched with love popped into her head once more. Just as Jack did, Erica pulled out their divorce papers.

With tears rolling down her cheeks, Erica looked over the papers once more. Flipping to the last page, Erica noticed that the state seal is missing. She then looked at the judge’s signature and inspected it more closely. Sitting upright, Erica came to a firm realization. The papers were phony. She jumped out of bed and grabbed her cell phone, like a woman with a mission.

"Pam, you need to get your butt to my room five minutes ago."

  "Yes, ma’am. I’ll bring you the latest research we have for the deaf children...."

Erica slammed the phone down on the desk before Pam could finish her statement. She wrapped her robe tightly around herself and began to pace while she waited.


Thirty-six hours later, Jack had just wrapped up the drug bust, and thankfully all went off without a hitch. Now Sean’s record was going to be expunged, and his community service hours had been reduced to time served. Although the judge did lecture Sean about the company he keeps, Judge Keeling saw that Sean was just a kid at the wrong place at the wrong time and agreed to seal the records, giving Sean a free pass this time.

Jack and Sean were walking out of the courthouse as Erica was headed in. Holding the door open, Jack was in awe of her beauty once again. She always has this affect on me, he thought. Has she always been that gorgeous? Gosh, I miss that smile.

"Jack, Sean, what are you doing here?" Erica was clearly flustered by their presence. Jack assumed it was because of her anger at him with the Greenlee/Kendall situation. Truth be told, Erica was worried he had found out her secret before she was ready. She was on a mission and didn’t want Jack to know anything about it yet!

"Isn’t it great, Aunt Erica? Uncle Jack got my record cleared, and I don’t even have to finish my community service!" Sean was so thrilled about outcome from the court proceedings that he hadn’t even noticed the awkwardness between the pair.

"Sean, that’s wonderful." Erica placed her hand on his arm. "I’m not surprised that your Uncle Jack was able to charm the judge." She smiled gently in Jack’s direction. The love in her eyes was obvious, but Jack couldn't look at her in the eyes. He missed her deep chocolate eyes and the glint in them when she smiled. He just concentrated on her smile. It truly was infectious. He found himself smiling, despite his sadness.

"What are you doing here, Erica? The courthouse isn’t one of your usual spots," Jack asked with genuine concern. "New Beginnings isn’t in trouble, is it?"

"No; just a small personal matter, nothing to worry about, Jack." Her voice softened, as she spoke his name. Erica gave Sean a quick hug, telling him again how happy she was for him. She told Jack goodbye, lightly running her hand along his arm and went past with that same focus she had before running into the pair.


"Livia, thank you so much for what you have done for Jack and I."

"Happy to do it--I knew neither one of you really wanted this, although I am surprised Jack isn’t here with us. I figured you two would be off celebrating this afternoon." Livia pushed some files back into her briefcase, as they left the judge’s chambers.

"Actually Jack doesn’t know that I have withdrawn the divorce petition." Erica’s eyes held a scheming gleam that anyone could see. "But he’ll know tonight."

"Good, you two belong together."

"Yes, we do. Thank you again Livia for losing the paperwork. I appreciate it. When I found out what Pam had done, I was livid. I am so grateful those papers were a fake. Now, Jack and I can move forward with our lives together."

Livia and Erica parted company, and Erica called Lily to see if she would like to have dinner, hoping she would not be available. She assumed that Jack was taking them all out to celebrate Sean's court results. He would never let an opportunity like this pass him by. Jack loved to celebrate the smallest of occasions. She fondly remembered all the times he had surprised her by making a huge deal out of little things, like landing a new contact with Lacey's or the anniversary of that plane crash and pool table incident!

"I’m sorry, Erica. Dad and Sean and I are going to The Comeback to celebrate. Ava and Colby are coming too. Would you like to come?" Lily asked with the innocence that only she possessed.

"No, Lily, some other time. Maybe we could have dinner together next week?" Erica had gotten the answer she wanted. Now was the time for action.


Pam and some of her crew arrived at the house promptly at six, as instructed by Erica. They unloaded all of Erica’s belongings back into the master suite. When Erica noticed that Jack had moved out of their bedroom, she made Pam move all of his stuff back in as well. After all Pam had caused this whole mess. Jack and Erica would have reconciled had it not been for those damn fake divorce papers.

After they left, Erica spent the next hour getting the suite ready. Then after everything was perfect, she decided to take some time to relax before Jack got home. She luxuriated in the whirlpool tub for two with her favorite bubble bath and salts. Oh gosh, I have missed this house, this home, this man, and these kids, she thought as she laid there with her eyes covered in cucumbers. She dreamed of how wonderful it will be to be back in Jack's arms, in their bed. She imagined how shocked he would be, how pissed at Pam, but how relieved too.

She knew he would have so many questions, but her focus was on showing him much she still loved him. She focused her thoughts on the joy she would soon be experiencing. Erica thought about the feel of his lips on her neck and the thrill of being together again.


"What the hell?" Jack muttered to himself, as he walked into the room he now claimed as his. The bed was stripped of all its sheets. All the personal items that had been on his nightstand and dresser were removed. Jack checked the closet; his clothes were gone. The bathroom was the same story.

Jack wandered down the hall. Sean and Lily all seemed to have settled in for the night; obviously nothing was wrong with their rooms. Erica, it suddenly dawned on him that there was only one person that could be behind the disappearance of his personal belongings. Jack went back into the now naked room and grabbed his cell phone off the dresser. He quickly dialed her number, mumbling to himself, this is not funny Erica. Why the hell would she mess with my stuff? Where would she take it?

As the phone began to ring in his ear, he heard ringing from another area of the house. Jack hurried down the hall, following the sound. As Erica’s voicemail picked up, Jack reached the master suite’s door. The smell of lavender and vanilla, two of Erica’s favorite scents, enveloped him as Jack pushed the door open gently.

The room was dark except for the light of several strategically placed candles. The sheets were changed to Erica’s favorite honeysuckle set and the bed was pulled down, as if waiting for someone. There was dim light coming from the bathroom, and as Jack crossed the room, he noticed all of his items from the other room were in their proper place in this room, mixed and intermingled with hers. It was as if she had never left.

Jack felt an overwhelming sense of love wash over him, as he knew who must be in the bathroom. As he quietly pushed the door open, Jack took in the most amazing sight, one that he had been scared he might never see again. There she was, lying in their tub surrounded by bubbles, humming along to the soft jazz she had playing and totally oblivious to his presence. Jack stood in the doorway for quite some time, just taking in the view. So happy to have her here; it looked like she moved back home. But he was scared; scared that it wouldn’t last. There was nothing to keep her here. They weren’t married. Hell, even when we were she didn’t stay, he thought.

Jack silently slid back out of the bathroom, determined that she wouldn’t leaving their bedroom until all was settled. He crossed to the master suite entrance, shut and locked the door. For good measure, Jack thought, as he shoved a nearby chair under the handle. Jack then went back to the bathroom, sat on a stool beside the tub, as silently as possible.

"Well hello there," he said in a voice loud enough for her to hear over the music.

Chapter Three: The Confession


Startled by his voice, Erica jumped. Cucumbers fell into the bath and bubbles splashed out of the tub. "Jackson, you scared me."

"Sorry about that, but imagine how scared I was, when I noticed someone was in my house."

"Our house," Erica corrected him. "This is our house and our room and our tub."

"They were until you divorced me. What are you doing here, Erica?" Jack’s voice had the same hint of pain and anger it had, since the divorce had been finalized.

"I’m taking a bath," she said, stating the obvious and laughing at the bewildered look on his face. "Listen, I will explain everything, but I’m at a slight disadvantage here." Erica motioned to her lack of clothing and position in the tub, and Jack’s full attire.

Not wanting to leave her side for any instant, Jack slid off the stool onto the floor beside the tub, and then he turned his back to her and leaned up against the tub. "Better?"

"I guess. If you aren't going to join me, it will do." Her voice was full of mischief and desire. Recognizing that he wasn’t going to take the bait that quickly, Erica rested back against the tub again. "I can’t stand this distance between us. We were on the right path and then Kendall, Greenlee and the babies; well it derailed us."

"Yes, the ultimatum of Greenlee or you was really hard to deal with, Erica." Jack said honestly. If they were going to do this, they were going to do it right and leave nothing outstanding.

       "I know. And Jack, I am sorry. That was very awful of me. You would never ask me to pick between you and Bianca or Kendall, but I did and that was wrong. I'm sorry. I could try to explain, but there is no need. The bottom line is that I should have never done that. I hope that you will forgive me for that and for the thing with Jeff. I don’t know why I always ruin my marriages. It feels like I do better when I’m not married, but if the truth were told, I usually ruin those relationships too. At least with you, I always have." Erica ran her hand along his shoulders. Jack’s expression was one of tenderness and surprise. Erica Kane rarely admitted when she was wrong. Jack honestly didn't know quite what to make of this.

       "Jack, I’ve been thinking a lot lately, and I know that I was scared to marry you. We got through that with your kidnapping me. Thank you again for that."

       They both laughed, Jack’s eyes twinkling at the memories of their first day on that yacht, his voice didn't mask his delight in the memories. "You, my dear, are very welcome. I wish I would have done that again when you moved out. I was scared; scared that if I pushed you, you would run further. I thought if I gave you the space you wanted, you would come back on your own because our love was that strong."

       "It is Jack. It is. I just took a detour and took longer than either of us anticipated." Erica sat up. "Can you get my robe, Jack? I want to be able to look you in the eyes, as we continue to talk."

       Jack sat the robe on the stool he had previously been sitting on and headed into the master suite, scared that if he helped her with her robe, their conversation would not get finished. While he was absolutely over the moon at what she had said so far and with how she seemed to be home for good. His head just would not allow his heart to get too excited. Erica dried off as quickly as possible, eager to tell Jackson the good news.

       Joining him on the loveseat, Erica made sure to maintain a little distance so they could talk, but was close enough to feel his presence. Just his presence made her strong enough to admit her fault in their mess, which was sizable. She reached over, took his hand, and regained eye contact. His eyes locked in a way no one’s ever had with Erica. It was like he could see deep into her heart, just by looking into her eyes.

       "You said in there that it took you longer than expected. Does that mean what I think it does? I mean, it looks like you have moved back home. All of your stuff is back where it is suppose to be. You changed the sheets. Heck, you even moved all my stuff back in here. What does this all mean, Erica?"

       Erica laughed softly. Jack loved how her eyes danced when she laughed. "I'll answer you in a minute, but first can you answer me one question? I noticed you moved out of our bedroom. Why, Jackson?"

"I couldn’t stay in this room without you, Erica. It was too painful. When you left again at Christmas, I moved into the other room permanently."

"I assumed that was why, so yes I moved you back in. Because yes, if you will let me; I would like to move home. This is where I should be. This is where I belong--with you and our children; with Lily, Sean--and Reggie when he’s home. Our children need both of us, but I can’t go back to the way it was before I moved to the Valley Inn. We have to put ourselves and our marriage before even our younger children."

"Are you saying you want to get married again, Erica?" Jack was thrilled, but shocked at this sudden turn of events. He never expected her to show up like this in the first place, let alone want to get remarried.

"No, Jackson, I am not."

Instantly, Jack’s countenance noticeably fell. Feeling the rug had just been pulled out from under him, Jack pulled his hand back from hers. He ran his hands through his hair and then let his head rest in his hands. Then why are you even here, Jack wondered.

Erica put her hand on his cheek. "It’s okay," she whispered. "I have something for you." She rose and went to the bedside table, pulling the court papers out of the drawer. She handed them to him upon her return. "Read it" she urged.

Jack’s voice was soft, but steadily grew stronger as he read.

Erica Kane Montgomery requests the immediate withdrawal of her petition for dissolution of marriage to Andrew Jackson Montgomery. The court grants this request. The marriage of Andrew Jackson Montgomery and Erica Kane Montgomery remains fully and completely intact.

"How? When?" Jack looked up in total shock at Erica who stood before him.

"Today. When you saw me headed into the court house, this is what I was doing. A couple of nights ago just as I was going to bed, I discovered that the divorce papers were fake. So I called Livia first thing the next morning. She worked her magic and viola!" Erica threw her hand up in the air.

Jack laughed and pulled her down onto his lap. His lips touched hers softly, tentatively at first, but then their passion and love for each other took over. Tongues dueling, hands roaming, Erica and Jack were savoring every second. Pulling back breathless, Jack held her close and breathed into her ear. "Fake, huh? Who pulled that over on us?"

"I give you one guess, and no, I didn’t fire her yet, although I still may. But first, I had her pack me up and move us back in here where we both belong."

Jack looked incredulous, "Pam."

"Yes, but let’s not talk about that now. I will do whatever you want with regards to Pam tomorrow." Erica wound her hand back into Jack’s hair. "Bottom line: I am home. I missed you, and I am still your wife. So kiss me, Jackson."

Chapter Four: Reconnecting

With no desire to waste any more time, Jack's lips immediately captured hers in a passionate kiss. Scrapping her fingernails along the nape of his neck, Erica's tongue begged for entry. The hunger in her request was undeniable. She thirst for him a way she never had.

Jack's mind kept racing, she's here. She is really here. She is really back. He couldn't believe it. What did this really mean? As Erica broke the kiss and began her magic on his neck, Jack was still floored. He was enjoying this and prayed it was real and that he wouldn't wake up in the morning and realize this had all been a dream. Noticing his lack of connection, Erica pulled back.

"Jack," she questioned. Her eyes betrayed her and showed the pain she felt. She had never imagined he wouldn't still want her, but here they were and he wasn't here, he wasn't returning her passion. Oh, God, what if I am too late? All of Erica's insecurities were rushing to the surface.

He tilted her face to his, looking deep into her eyes. "I see that look. Don't go there Erica. I love you. I want you. I am just struggling to get my mind around all of this." Kissing her lips gently, "I am scared that this is just a dream; that I will wake up alone and in the guest room by myself in the morning."

"This is not a dream. And I'll prove it to you." Erica stood in front of him, slowly untying her robe. She slid it off her shoulders. It fell to the floor, around her feet. Reaching her hand out to him, "Make love to me, Jackson." She stood before him, without any clothing, unashamed.

"Now, I know I'm dreaming, but what a dream!" The distance between them was closed in mere seconds. Jack's lips were on hers with a passion that had been building for months. All the love and desire they had been pushing aside due to their pain from the divorce took over. Jack's hands roamed the length of her naked body as he lowered her onto the bed.

The thoughts and fears running through his head were quickly stifled by the sweet, tender reconnection of his whole heart. Hushed I love you's echoed in the room, as they released each other's lips. Jack's lips descended to feast on her neck. Erica's hands roamed his arms, the incredible tan, muscles that lead their way to his shoulders, up the back of his neck. He fingers winding their way into his thick mane of gorgeous blond hair. Jack's clothes were quickly discarded, as their lovemaking took them to new heights.

Lying spent in each other's arms with most of the bed sheets in a twisted mess on the floor, Jack kissed her hand gently, "Promise me this real. Promise me that this time, you won't run away."

"Never again, Jack. This is the way it should be. The way it will be; the way it will always be."



The Ring
by Donna
The room was filled with candles and the fireplace flickered, casting shadows on the walls, as Jack set the stage for his evening alone with Erica. It seemed like forever since they found themselves in this room, and he could not help but remember the last time they had made love on this very sofa. He reached down and picked up one of the cushions and held it close to his heart, allowing his mind to travel back to that afternoon when they found each other again.
Neither of them had anticipated finding themselves in each other’s arms, but there they were where they had always longed to be, and where they always seemed to land. At the time, Erica was engaged to Chris Stamp and, to everyone’s knowledge, she seemed very much
in love with him. Jack had written Erica off romantically after the Mike Roy fiasco-- at least that is what he told his heart every night he climbed into bed without her.
Jack and Erica were longtime lovers who never seemed to get it right. They were runners up in the game of love and chose friendship as the consolation prize. For years, they danced in and out of each other's lives, settling at last for a life apart. Each seemed comfortable with the other's decisions. They had both apparently found some measure of happiness in being "just friends". But, the day had come when they found themselves alone and in need of each other. Without warning, the old feelings surfaced and they began to kiss.
The kiss had been gentle at first. Their initial nervousness quickly gave way to a familiar passion. As the kiss intensified so did their need to be close to each other. There was no where to hide, and no where to run, except to each other. The image of that day flashed through Jack’s mind and there he was back in Erica’s arms again. He moved his hands down her shoulders and around to the front of her jacket slowly and cautiously, taking his cues from her, waiting for her to stop the inevitable, but Erica did not resist. Instead, her eyes begged him to make love to her.
Jack was caught up the memory of Erica, the smell of her skin, the sound of her laughter, the way her hands seemed to capture every feeling he had within. There was nothing about this woman that he could not remember.
The sound of the key in the door bolted Jack back to reality as he scurried around the room to find a place to hide his special gift for Erica. As the door opened, Jackson’s eyes gleamed with anticipation of the night’s events. He could hardly catch his breath as he waited for her to come through the door. She was a little surprised by his presence in her penthouse, but she did not seem to question why he was there. Instead, she ran over and pulled him in for a passionate kiss. Caught up in the moment, Erica did not notice all the candles burning around her, nor did she notice the picnic style dinner that Jackson had laid out by the fireplace. As he pulled away, he turned her around to face the room so she could marvel at his efforts. In one corner was a white candle burning brightly, and beside it was a rose of the same color. As he slowly moved her around the room she could see that in each empty corner a candle was burning and a rose of the same color was strategically placed beside it. When her eyes came full circle, there was a red pillar candle with what seemed to be a million red roses staring back at her. She tried to catch her breath as the tears streamed down her face, but no matter how hard she tried she could not stop herself from crying.
He turned her around so that she was now facing him and kissed her softly on the cheek wiping away her tears with his lips. He placed his hands on her face and brought her in for a kiss that took her breath away. He pulled away suddenly trying to stop himself from getting lost in the moment. She walked towards the red roses and reached out to bring one closer, but was stopped by Jack who took her hand and walked her to the center of the room so that she was now facing the white candle again. He gently kissed one hand and place the white rose in the other and said,"white represents the purity of my love for you, no matter where our lives took us, my soul has always remained true to you."
He stopped at every candle and placed each color rose in her hand like it was a testimony of his love for her. Each color rose represented a different period of their lives together. When he reached the yellow candle, he picked up the rose and placed it against his lips and than
gave it to Erica and said,"yellow is for the friendship that always seems to hold us together. No matter how far we go away from each other, our mutual respect and friendship always pulls us back into arms reach."
Jackson’s gesture evoked a flood of emotions in Erica’s heart. Her tears seemed to warm his soul. Finally, he turned her petite frame to the red candle which was surrounded by 16 dozen red roses. Before he began to speak again he reached around and brought out the gift that he had hidden earlier. As he held the gift in his hand, he softly said, "red is for the passion that I always feel when I am around you." He stopped to catch his breath and to take in her reaction. He always seemed to marvel in taking Erica off guard and tonight was no different. He began to speak again, "the 16 dozen roses are for every year that I have loved you………And tonight I give them all to you, with this gift. If you accept it, I promise I will always be the light that will keep you out of the dark and the love that will keep you warm at night. I love you Erica, not just because of who you are, but because of who I am when I am allowed to love you freely."
Jackson took her hand and guided her to the sofa, where he motioned for her to sit. At first, Erica was not sure where this evening was going, but when Jackson kneeled in front of her and held the gift out it all seemed much clearer. Her hands were shaking nervously as she tried to open the gift that Jack placed in the palm of her hands. "It’s not my birthday," Erica said jokingly, "and it’s not Christmas, so---
-" Before she could finish, Jack placed his hand on top of her hand and opened the top of the box.
Although Erica had an idea what was inside the box, she could not believe her eyes. The ring sparkled in the candlelight and reflected back in her eyes the love that came from Jack’s heart. He looked at her hoping for an answer, but no words fell from her lips. He smiled at her and said, "Erica, I think you know what the question is, now will you please say something, please say yes." She did not respond. Instead, she sat silently staring at the magnificent ring that Jack had just given her. He reached over and looked her directly in the eyes, searching her soul for an answer to his question. And there it was, hidden in her tears. She spoke softly, but her words were crystal clear.
She held Jack's gaze and replied, "I have spent half my life running towards you and the other half running away, and tonight for the rest of my life I just want to be with you. Yes, Yes, Yes…Jackson Montgomery I will marry you."
No other words were necessary. Jackson lifted Erica into his arms and carried her towards the bedroom. Piece by piece, their clothes fell to the floor as they allowed the passion to overtake their minds and souls. Jack lay Erica gently on the bed, his hands traveling the familiar terrain of her body, caressing every curve and exploring every spot he knew would drive her wild. His mouth followed the same path that his hands had taken earlier, leaving a breathless Erica begging for more. He knew the effect his touch had on her and he enjoyed every moment of her surrender. When he reached her
mouth, she could not stop herself from running her fingers through his beautiful blonde hair and pulling him in for a deep passionate kiss.
Now it was Jack's turn to surrender.
It was not until Erica began planting soft, sensuous kisses down his chest that Jackson lost his resolve. Desire consumed his body and love fueled the flames of passion causing a flushed Jack to pull Erica’s warm body up on top of him so that she was now looking directly into his eyes. He took her face in his hands and captured her tongue with his mouth. He slowly moved his head back and forth in disbelief over the effect that she had on him. When their eyes met again, the playfulness was gone, and in it’s place was a look of vulnerability that Erica had never seen from Jack before. He reached in for a kiss and softly whispered in her ear. "No more games! I need you to be as close as you get to me now and forever. Show me Erica. Show me that you love me."
For hours they made love until their bodies fell back on the bed in exhaustion. In this moment, they felt invincible. Erica lay quietly in Jack's arms wondering how she had ever lived without him. As he gently moved his fingers up and down her arm, he whispered, "Happy?" There was no question in Jack’s mind how she felt, and she knew this, but Erica could not resist an opportunity to flash him one of her famous smiles. "Happier than I have ever been in my life," she beamed.
As he moved in to his kiss her lips, he caught a glimpse of what seemed to be a person standing in the doorway to Erica’s bedroom. Quickly picking up on Jack's confusion, Erica turned to look towards the entrance. At that moment, the shadowy figure emerged from the doorway startling both Jack and Erica. Before either them had a chance to speak, move or react, they were stopped by the deafening sound of gunfire ringing out in the bedroom air.
Paradise Interrupted
by Joy
Erica screamed as the lamp by the bed shattered from the bullet. Jack’s instincts kicked in, as he managed to quickly grab Erica and roll off the bed as 5 more gunshots rang out in quick succession before the sound of running footsteps and a door slamming signaled the intruder’s exit. Jack and Erica continued to lay on the floor still tangled in the bed sheets, their hearts thudding madly, though this time for a far different reason than the usual passion. "Are they gone?" Erica finally found the strength to speak. "Yeah," Jack said numbly as he began easing himself into a sitting position, peering over the side of the bed to be sure. Surveying the dark holes located on the pillows and the mattress where they had been lying just moments before. They looked at each other, eyes wide with fear as sirens began sounding in the distance. "We’d better put on some clothes", Jack broke the stare as he reached for his silk boxers. They had just gotten robes on when the pounding on the door began. They opened it to see Derek and a couple of officers standing there.
"There was a report of gunshots from the penthouse? Any trouble here?" Derek asked, his eyes quickly scanning the penthouse for any threats.
"Just a little target practice." Jack stood back opening the door for them to enter. "Problem is, we were the targets." He finished his sentence as he led Derek to the bedroom.
"I want a crime lab here now." Derek spoke into his walkie-talkie as he surveyed the damage in the bedroom.
After he did a quick walk through of the rest of the penthouse, they proceeded to sit in the living room while the crime lab did their work,
as Derek asked questions about what had happened. They told him all they knew, which unfortunately was not much. They had seen the dark figure aiming the gun, but the person had been dressed all in black and was wearing a mask, so they couldn’t even tell if it was male or female from their brief glimpse.
After all the questions had been answered and the scene thoroughly investigated, it was nearly 4 a.m. and everyone was exhausted. "Do you have any idea who would want to kill you?" Derek asked one final time, as he was putting up his notepad. "Come on Derek, I’m the
D.A., there could be several people out to get me." Jack said in tired frustration.
"I guess we can put you both in protective custody, since it’s a fair assumption this person might very well strike again, or we could offer police protection if you’d rather stay in your own homes." Derek sighed as he rose from the sofa. "I’ll give you two a moment to discuss it," he said as he walked over to the officers.
"What do you think? Do you want to go to a safe house?" Jack turned to Erica, pulling her into his arms as he asked the question.
"I don’t know, it’s so much to think about." Erica shivered despite the warmth of the room.
"Whatever you decide is fine by me sweetheart," Jack said as he pressed his lips to her forehead.
"As long as I’m with you," Erica sighed. "Though I think I’d feel more secure in a familiar environment than a foreign one."
"I agree. So we could stay here, or my apartment, or back at your house, or… anywhere you like." Jack’s voice trailed.
"The house is too big; I’d like to stay somewhere small where there are not so many entrances and less dark corners," Erica decided.
"Ok. So here or my apartment then?" Jack agreed. "My apartment is only 2 rooms, so it’s smaller."
"Not to mention the mattress here is ruined. And we’re definitely going to need a working mattress." Erica smiled seductively, the decision made. They informed Derek of their decision, and he arranged a police escort for them to Jack’s apartment. He also arranged for them to have a uniformed officer to stand outside the door, and an unmarked car for the street.
"I’d like for you two to make a list of people who might want to harm you, either separately or together," Derek asked as he left them, now secure at Jack’s apartment. "And make sure you don’t go anywhere without police protection. I’ll come back later this evening to collect your lists."
"Thank you Derek, officer." Jack nodded to the young man who had taken guard by their door.
"Oh Jack, I’m so tired." Erica stretched.
"Let’s go to bed then," Jack agreed, yawning as he led her to his bed. They curled up tightly in each other’s arms, soon falling asleep after the stress of their ordeal.
A figure approached in the dark, viewing the sleeping couple as it raised the gun, determined not to miss this time as the trigger was squeezed twice in quick succession, then an evil chuckle at the picture of the two lifeless bodies lying on the bed. Blood was trickling down Jack’s forehead, staining his blond hair a dark red as his eyes stared lifelessly at the ceiling. Erica was still lying against him, her sightless eyes still showing shock from the quickness of the attack.
"Noooooooo!" Erica screamed, cold sweat streaming down her body. "No, no, no" She thrashed about, still in the grip of her nightmare. "Shhh… honey, it’s OK." Jack shook her, bringing her back to consciousness, and holding her close as the sobs and shaking began to quiet.
"It was horrible Jack, I saw us laying there, both dead," Erica finally said, her voice quavering as she began to recount her nightmare. "I saw that awful person again also, shooting us and then laughing." She squeezed her eyes shut as she pulled herself closer to Jack’s comforting body. "I know, honey, it’s alright," he soothed, gently rocking her as if she were a child as he kept planting tender kisses to her forehead, while massaging her back.
"Just hold me close, I feel so safe with you," she whispered, enjoying the comfort of his arms. They finally drifted back into a light sleep, hoping to get a few more hours before the day began.
It was late that morning, almost noon, when they finally woke. Both were stiff and sore, yet grateful to be alive. "Some evening of
romance that turned out to be," Jack said with a slight grin as he put a pot of coffee on to brew. "I certainly have no complaints, well up until the end." Erica smiled back, love shining in her eyes. "Good," Jack said huskily as he pulled her close to him, their lips meeting in a smoldering kiss that continued to deepen, until Erica pulled away.
"Something wrong with my breath?" Jack teased as he started to pull her back to him. "No, I just realized that I’m in desperate need of a shower." She smiled coyly as she began walking towards the bathroom, leaving an obviously disappointed fiancé in her wake. Jack stood in the kitchen muttering to himself about people ruining romantic moods as he poured another cup of coffee. His mutterings where interrupted when her voice came down the hall. "Well aren’t you going to come help me?" It only took a second to register what she said as he eagerly went to join her.
They slowly helped each other undress and then stepped under the spray of hot water. Gently washing each other and resuming where the morning kiss had left off, breaking apart several minutes later, laughing when the water ran cold and quickly moving to the bedroom. Some time later, they had re-dressed and were in the kitchen again, brewing another pot of coffee when the phone rang.
"Montgomery," he said into the receiver. Erica noticed his face pale slightly as a moment later he hung it up. "Jack, who was it?" She asked finally. "I assume our mysterious visitor last night, they said they knew where we were, and then laughed and hung up." He looked slightly shaken. "I guess it’s back to reality," he said as he sat down and picked up a legal pad to begin making the lists Derek had requested.
"It’s just not fair!" Erica yelled. "We finally get our lives back together and something ELSE happens. Are we ever going to get to be happy together? Are we ever going to be at a place in our lives where our biggest worry is what time to get out of bed in the morning?"
"I know honey," Jack sighed, "maybe after getting rid of this crazy person our lives will get back to normal."
"I hope so. I want to be making wedding plans right now, not a list of
people who might want to kill us." Erica continued to pout as she too picked up a legal pad to write. It was over an hour of silence later when they both put down their pads, amazed at how many names they had come up with. They put stars by the ones they felt were more probable than the others to go to such extremes. "You know what I’m also wondering?" Erica said, breaking the silence. "I’m quite sure I locked the door last night. So who would have had a key?"
"You’re right," Jack agreed, "that would definitely narrow down the list of possible suspects. Maybe you should mark everyone on the list who might have had a key. We’ll have to remember to mention that to Derek." As if on cue there was a knock at the door, signaling Derek’s arrival.
"Derek, hey, did you find anything out?" Jack was eager to know as they let him in.
"Nothing yet, we’ve questioned everyone in the hotel, and looked at the evidence, but no leads so far. Have you been able to think of any new clues?" Derek said grimly, not liking it when there was such a lack of evidence when his friends' lives were threatened.
"I did think of one thing." Erica proudly said, telling him of her theory about the person having a key since they had locked the door. Her happiness faded though at the look on Derek’s face.
"The lock was tampered with; actually there was a piece of tape over it so that it never really locked. Whoever did this was planning well ahead. But we’ve still got the lists to go over right?" Derek picked up the two legal pads and glanced over them.
"They also called this morning," Jack added, "so maybe a tap and a tracer on the phone." He told Derek about the brief message. Stopping in the middle of it with a look of surprise, "Jack, what is it? Did you remember something?" Derek and Erica spoke almost in unison.
"Yeah, the callback feature, I didn’t think to use it." Jack rushed to the phone quickly hitting *69 before putting it on speaker phone.
"Valley Inn dining room, how may I direct your call?" The voice of the hostess came on.
"Sorry, wrong number." Jack quickly said as he hung up.
"So whomever, it was could have been eating at the Valley Inn, or could live there." Derek began thinking. "I’m going to go question that hostess, and we’ll start looking over your lists. I’ll be back in touch
this evening," he promised as he began to leave. "Oh Derek, I wanted to ask about protection tomorrow, when we have to go to work." Erica caught him before he went out the door.
"That’s already taken care of," he promised as he smiled and left. Jack and Erica locked the door behind him, holding each other and feeling safe for the moment, completely oblivious to the dark figure in the alley watching their window for signs of movement.
Duck and Cover
by Christie
Jackson knew how afraid Erica was and, for that matter, he was too. "Well, here we are locked in and alone for the whole night. What can we do Jack?" Erica was smiling up at him now. "Oh honey I can think of a few things that may take us all night." With that, she felt herself being lifted into Jackson's arms. Jack carried her to his bed and lay down beside her. "Don’t be afraid tonight Erica, not here not in my arms. Nothing will ever harm you here." Jack began his mission of calming her fears -----just for a while.
It was still early when Erica awoke a few hours later. Erica felt safe and warm in Jackson’s arms and she loved watching him as he slept, but tonight Erica could sense that something wasn’t right... only she didn’t know what. Erica eased herself from the bed, trying not to wake Jackson. He was putting up a strong brave front for her but she could read the fear in his eyes. It wasn’t a fear for himself. It was a fear for her safety that scared him to the depths of his soul.
The phone rang and Erica hurried to answer it before it woke Jack. "Hello. Oh, Opal. Hi." Erica told Opal about the events just past but Opal already knew something was up and was heading over. Erica hung up and tiptoed down the hall, not wanting to disturb Jack.
Pulling his door shut, she turned towards Reggie’s room. Erica smiled
to herself at the thought of this boy she had come to love as her own son. He had so much of Jackson in him that were he Jack's biological son, her feelings would be no different. She truly loved him. Erica walked into his room and gave a silent thanks that Reggie had gone to spend a few days with Lily. The thought of him in danger was more than she could bear. Reggie and Lily had also become pretty close lately. Lily seemed to adore him as much as Erica did, but then that really didn’t surprise her. Reggie was just plain great.
Erica stuck her head out of the door to speak to the uniformed officer that was stationed there. "Ms. Kane. Can I...can I get you something?" he stammered. Erica laughed to herself, but smiled graciously at the young police officer. "Thank you for asking Officer but I just wanted to let you know that my friend Opal Courtland is on her way over. So please let her right in, O.K.?" "Sure Ms. Kane," he managed to stammer and then added, "you are really beautiful. It is an honor to be guarding you." Erica smiled again, "Thank you,"she replied, giving him a wink and before ducking back into the loft. A few minutes later the door opened and Opal arrived.
"Hey girlfriend, I knew something was up with you and it isn’t good either." Opal said hugging Erica. "Shhh. Jack’s sleeping. He needs it, so I am trying to be quiet," Erica whispered to her. Erica and Opal sat together, going over Erica's list of potential suspects. They shot down person after person, arriving at the same dead end every time. "Who could want to hurt me? I just don’t understand this Opal" after racking her brain, she was still at the same place...nowhere.
Erica and Opal where finishing up when Jack came into the room "I thought that was you I heard. Hi Opal" Jack said giving her a kiss on the cheek. "Oh Jack!" Opal said turning to face him. She had a bad feeling of doom coming over them all. Jack walked Opal to the door and quietly told her not to scare Erica any more than she already was. He promised to protect her with his life, and Opal was afraid it might just come to that.
They ate a very late dinner. They talked about the kids, even Greenlee. Then they had a long hot shower together, and they were now lying on the floor together, both wearing one of his bathrobes and staring into the fire Jack had made. Erica was lying against Jack’s chest, watching the fire. "It seems hard to believe that we are in any danger right now, Jackson. I always feel so safe in your arms," she said to him.
"Well I plan on making you feel a lot safer by the end of this night," he said turning her to face him. Slowly his lips came down on hers, just brushing his lips over hers in a soft caress.
"Oh Jack, take me to bed," Erica whispered to him, her words exciting him even further. He loved it when she said those words to him. He stood and pulled her up tightly against him and kissed her, letting her feel what her words had done to him. Jack carried her to the bedroom and placed her on the bed, hovering over her and looking into her eyes. He kept his promise and made her forget her fears as they lost themselves in their passion for each other and made love through the night.
They woke early the next morning, made love slowly and were now having a quick bite before leaving for their day of work. They left together, taking the elevator to the garage while making plans for Jack to meet her at Enchantment. "I will come up and get you so please stay put until 2:00," he joked, trying to lighten her worry. They kissed again, lingering for a moment.
Erica was almost at her car when she saw the same shadowy figure from the penthouse just a few feet from her. The person was hiding in the shadows behind the front of some big Sports Utility Vehicle. He was watching Jack watch her. She could make that much out.
Looking back to Jack, who was still watching her, she smiled and winked at him. "Don’t forget me," she said, "I'll see you at noon."
Jackson knew something was off, he had just told her that he would be there at 2:00. Then he saw the look of cold hard fear in her eyes. Jack started to run towards her but the sound of gun shots screamed through the garage.
A Family in Peril
By Angie
Erica fell to the ground hard. The sound of gunfire and Jack's voice ringing in her ears. Before she could react to the sound, it ebbed away.
Her breath caught as Jack moved toward her. Her eyes took in the sight of him, glorious from head to toe. No other man could come close to looking so sexy in a tux as Jackson did. And the smile he wore as he approached her set her heart aflutter. As he came closer, she could not help thinking of how she wanted to enjoy helping him out of his tux later on. Sliding the white jacket off his broad shoulders, slipping her slender fingers underneath the suspenders, slowly unbuttoning the crisp white shirt. But for now she wanted to be in his arms, to feel those strong arms encircling her body, to lay her head against his chest as their bodies swayed together, fit perfectly together. There was just something about listening to his heartbeat, it made her feel so alive, so connected to him. He took her hand now, tugging on her fingers as he pulled her into his arms. Erica happily snuggled into his embrace, knowing she was where she was meant to be.
She was startled when he pulled back. Erica looked up at him, her astonishment fading to contentment, as Jack looked down at her with eyes full of love. Drowning in her eyes, Jack brought his hands up to capture her face, his warm breath feathering her cheeks. "You are my life," he whispered tenderly, "I love you so much." Kissing her lightly on the forehead, he once again enveloped her in his arms. Erica's eyes stung with tears, overcome with emotion at the depth of their love for each other. No other man had ever touched her so deeply or loved her so fully. She had never let anyone get that close. Only Jackson could caress her soul.
Even as his head towered over hers, their bodies fit perfectly together, moved as one in perfect symmetry. Their dance was slow, as they luxuriated in holding each other close. Jack lightly caressed Erica’s back, anticipating helping her out of that dress later on, unveiling her soft skin. To touch her, to feel her respond to him, was everything he could ever want. His touch induced a small shudder from Erica. His touch was gentle, but it ignited something so powerful deep inside her. No longer content to continue at the same easy, leisurely pace, she wound her arms around his neck, threading her fingers through his blonde hair. She could see his lips moving, but never heard the words. Her eyes were hypnotized by his lips. All she knew was that she wanted to feel those lips on her own. A breath away from her objective, Erica froze as the strident sounds of attack surrounded them. She reached wildly for Jack, but he was gone. And Erica tumbled into blackness.
Struggling to move, she panicked when she found she could not. She had to get to Jack! Her heart thundered in her chest as her mind contemplated what had happened to him. She squeezed her eyes shut, unable to wrap her mind around the images. If anything had happened to him... she could not bear it. He was her lifeline, the only person who kept her from spinning out of control. She was completely lost without him. Twisting her body around in an attempt to see what was sprawled across her, hindering her escape, Erica nearly squealed in delight. And then in fear. "Jack!" she cried, as she realized it was his body covering hers. Her voice was enough to bring him around, as he opened his eyes, calling her name. They fell into each other’s arms, clinging to one another, relieved that they were both unharmed. Their embrace tightened as they heard footsteps approaching, each inwardly vowing to protect the other.
"You two got some ‘splainin’ to do," the voice insisted. Jack and Erica looked up and burst into uncontrollable laughter.
"Fine," Tad complained, "I save your sorry butts and run after that crazy person. Did I mention run? And now you’re laughing at me?"
"Did you get him?" Jack asked, suddenly serious.
Tad shook his head, "But I winged him....or her," extending his arm as Erica and Jack spied the gun in his hand for the first time. Pointing across the parking lot, he added "And they left quite a trail of blood. Maybe the police will be able to find a match."
"Will you please put that gun down," Jack requested uneasily.
"Sure thing, Dad," Tad mugged, putting the gun away. "Speaking of the police, where is your trusty guard?"
"That’s a good question," Erica said, serious now as well.
"Well, in any case, you two need to get out of here," Tad instructed. "I know a place outside of town. It’s not the Ritz, but it will do." Jack listened as Tad gave him directions and he and Erica started across the parking lot, only to be stopped by Tad.
"Two gorgeous people, but not so smart," Tad sighed. "You won’t be wanting to take either of your cars," tossing Jack his keys. Thanking him, they started off again, only once more to be called back.
"Sorry," Jack apologized, tossing his own keys to Tad
Pushing open the door, Jack burst into laughter.
"Oh come on, Jack, " Erica proclaimed, from behind him, "It can’t be that bad."
"Wait till you see this," Jack told her, stepping aside so she could enter. "Bring back any memories, sweetheart?"
"It sure does," Erica purred seductively. Giving him a playful shove, she asked, "Did you have anything to do with this?"
Jack gave her a "how could I have known?" shrug and went off in search of food. After eating, they began to sift through the stacks and unearthed an old record player. "I wonder if it still works," Jack said as music filled the room. Holding his hand out in invitation, Erica giggled as he spun her into his arms. They swayed together, their bodies melting into each other, moving seamlessly, until the rhythm of the music gave way to a rhythm all their own. "For a while there,"
Erica whispered, "I nearly forgot everything that’s been going on." She whimpered when Jack’s body broke contact with hers, until she caught the hunger in his gaze that matched her own, and sighed as his hands found their way to her hips.
"Let’s see if we can’t do some more forgetting," Jack suggested, gently lifting her on top of the pool table. Erica immediately pulled him to her, wrapping her legs behind his back and her arms around his neck. Their lips met in a soft kiss, clothes falling away, as they gave into their raging desire and lost themselves in making love.
"So this is what it’s like to make love on a pool table," Erica finally uttered much later, her warm breath floating across Jack’s bare chest where her head lay.
"Is that a complaint?" Jack teased, wrapping his arms even tighter around her body.
Shaking her head back and forth, as much as their closeness would allow, Erica breathed, "I always wished we had."
"As much as I hate to break this up..." Jack said, sitting up, "As much as I really hate to break this up," he reiterated as Erica gave him her best sultry pout, "I need to check in with Reggie and Lily." Erica nodded, as he pulled on his pants and rifled through their discarded clothing for his cellphone, giving her one last remorseful glance. Jack didn’t turn back to face Erica for a moment, trying to compose himself. When he turned around, Erica was already frightened, hearing from his side of the conversation that things were not well.
"What’s happened?" she asked, her voice quavering.
"I don’t really know," Jack said honestly, sounding a bit lost. "There was no answer in Lily’s room and they said that she and Reggie are both gone."
"Gone?" Erica repeated incredulously, "Gone where?"
"I don’t know," Jack said again, sitting down wearily on the pool table. Erica wrapped Jack’s shirt around herself and slipped onto his lap, stroking his hair.
"They will be okay," she tried to assure him. "They WILL be okay," she said again, a bit more defiantly, with a bit more confidence. "Reggie will make sure of it." Neither one was saying it, they didn’t dare. But still it hung in the air. "If they hurt my little girl...." Jack thundered emotionally, caught between anger and fear. Erica embraced him tightly, offering him her strength and her comfort.
It struck them both at the same time. "Bianca," they breathed. Erica tried to remain calm and not to frighten Maggie when she answered the phone. But fear surged through her when Maggie told her that Bianca was not there.
"But don’t worry Erica, I’m sure she is fine," Maggie assured her, "Reggie called and she and Kendall left together." Erica thanked Maggie and hung up.
Turning to Jack, she said, "They’re together, our kids are together."
"Maybe not all of them," Jack said, dialing Greenlee’s number. After trying several numbers, he punched yet one more and was relieved when Tad picked up the phone. "I need a favor," Jack said, explaining that the children could be in danger as well, and that they believed Bianca and Kendall were with Reggie and Lily But Greenlee was still unaccounted for. "I need you to find her and keep her safe," Jack requested.
"Sure thing," Tad agreed.
"It may not be that easy," Jack warned him, "But please promise me you’ll do it." Tad promised he would and told Jack just to sit tight.
Tad came off the elevator at Fusion and spotted Greenlee coming his way. "Piece of cake," he muttered. Walking right up to her, he proclaimed, "You have to come with me."
"I do not," she refused, spinning in the opposite direction and stomping off.
"Well maybe not," Tad muttered grumpily. Chasing after her, he looped his arm around her waist, easily hoisting her off the ground. He yelped as her fists pummeled his chest and she kicked him fiercely. Lugging her into the elevator, he had to maneuver around her to hit the button, as she had twisted herself around so that her legs were wrapped around his waist and her arms around his neck. "Do you want to hug me to death?" Tad smirked.
Inches from his face, Greenlee hissed, "I want... to strangle you!"
Tad finally got his door open, with Greenlee slung over his shoulder.
She was kicking him in the stomach and beating on his back. "I thought," he seethed, depositing her on the couch, "I told you to stop that!" Greenlee’s only answer was a well-practiced glare. "Would it help matters any if I explained why you are here?" Tad asked.
Greenlee was silent for a moment before answering with a measured, "Maybe."
Tad told her how Jack and Erica, as well as their children, may be in
danger. And how Lily and Reggie had disappeared. The concern etched on her face was a surprise to Tad. This was a new side of Greenlee. In an attempt to assuage her fears, he told her that Kendall and Bianca were believed to be with Lily and Reggie. He reassured her, "So they are together, they will all be fine." She did not look reassured. In fact, she looked sad.
"They are together," she said unhappily, "but I’m not with them. Why can’t I ever fit in?"
"You will, one day you will," Tad promised.
"I only fit with one person, and now he’s gone," Greenlee admitted sadly. "What do you do when the biggest part of you is gone forever?"
She knew that he knew it like no one else. Tad began to put his arm around her. "You’re not going to hit me again are you?" he hesitated. Shaking her head, Greenlee smiled before laying her head on his shoulder.
Jack and Erica huddled together. "What are we going to do?" Erica cried, "This crazy person is trying to destroy us, and now our children may be in danger. And we don’t even know who it is!" Jack had no answers for her, the same questions were haunting him. They could only hold onto each other, and pray their family would be safe.
The assailant held a towel against the wound. The towel was already soaked with blood. "I’ll get you too, Tad Martin," he growled. Turning to the picture, centered on the table in its usual place of honor, he promised, "I will not let you down this time...."
Erica's Decision
By Sallye
Jack and Erica had fallen asleep in each others arms in front of the fireplace. Jack woke up later and saw that the fire was dying down.
Since there was no more firewood, he knew he needed to go to the wood shed to get more logs. Jack got up, trying not to awaken Erica, and started dressing. Erica's eyes fluttered open. "Jack, where are you going?" asked a sleepy Erica.
"Sweetheart, I'm just going outside to get more firewood," Jack said as he bent down to kiss her soft lips. "Go back to sleep and I'll be right back."
"I can't sleep when you're not with me. Besides, I'm awake now. I'll get up and see if I can find any food in here and fix us something to eat."
"Oh, I can hardly wait," Jack said under his breath.
"I heard that Jackson Montgomery. Jack, I'm so worried about our kids. I feel so helpless just sitting here," Erica cried.
"Shh, everything is going to be ok. I called Tad and he's checking on Greenlee and is working on finding out where the others are," Jack said as he kissed away her tears. "Now for the firewood. I promise I'll be right back."
Erica dressed and started searching the cupboards to see what she could find for them. It seemed like Jack had been gone longer than he should have. Just as she was about to go outside to look for him, her phone rang. Thinking that it might be Bianca, she quickly answered. "Bianca, sweetheart, is that you?" asked an anxious Erica.
"No Erica, its Tad." "I just tried to call Jack on his phone but didn't get an answer. I wanted to tell him that Greenlee is fine and that she is with me. I also wanted to talk to him about a lead that I got from Derek. Is everything ok?"
"Tad, I don't know," replied a worried Erica. "He went out to the woodshed to get some more firewood, but he has been gone an awful long time. I was just going out to see if I can find him."
"No, Erica! Stay inside and do not open the door to anyone except
Jack or me," Tad exclaimed.
"Tad, I hear something at the door. It may be Jack needing help getting in."
"No, don't open the door Erica! I'm on my way!!" screamed Tad.
But Erica had already laid the phone down and was running to the door. "Jackson, what took you so long?" she cried as she opened the door. Erica screamed. Standing before her was the stranger who had been after her family. Lying before her was Jack's limp body. "What have you done to him?!! Jack, darling, are you ok? Wakeup! Please Wakeup!"
The stranger was dressed in black and wearing a ski mask. "Erica, you are still as beautiful as ever," he laughed.
"Who are you and what have you done to Jack and my family?" asked a terrified Erica.
"I will reveal myself to you when the time is right. As for your fiancé,
he 'bumped' his head on the end of my gun. Your children are safe---- for now. The state of their health and that of Montgomery is all up to
you," sneered the stranger. "What you decide in the next few minutes
will be the most important decision you have ever made in your life." "What do you mean 'up to me'? What decision?!" yelled Erica.
"The proposition is simple, my dear," sneered the intruder. "You
come away with me and your family will live long, healthy lives. But, if you don't do as I ask, your family will die right before your eyes,
starting with the DA," he said as he pointed his gun at Jack's head.
"No, I'll do anything, but please don't hurt Jack or my children," Erica begged. As she said this she grabbed the stranger's arm causing him to yell out in pain. She jumped in surprise. "So Tad did hit you," Erica said nervously.
"Yes, and he will pay dearly for this," growled the intruder. "If it hadn't been for David Hayward, I probably would have bled to death."
"David," inquired Erica. "How do you know David?"
"Hayward and I go back a long way. He owes me big time so I decided to start collecting what is due me. Enough questions. What is your decision?"
"You don't leave me any choice. But first I want two things from you." answered Erica.
"If I can grant them I will," replied the stranger.
"First, I want you to take me to my children so that I can tell them goodbye and tell them how much I love them. Second, tell me who you are and why you are terrorizing me and my family."
"I will take you to your children before we leave Pine Valley forever. And as far as who I am, I'll let you figure that one out. Who was it that you and your friends, Janet and Skye, tried to do in and bury in the garden? Who did you three bitches aid the police in capturing? And, here's the bonus question: who, thanks to you, did the DA send to prison for life?" sneered the stranger.
"No it can't be! He's in prison", yelled Erica.
"Oh no, my dear Erica, I'm here!" the stranger replied as he pulled the ski mask off. Erica screamed. "Now, Erica, it's time for us to leave."
As they were leaving the cabin Erica turned and ran to Jackson. "I
love you, my darling, for always." She kissed him as her captor grabbed her and left the cabin.
Tad was running to the car with Greenlee on his heels. "You stay put!" Tad yelled at Greenlee.
"No way! Jackson's my father and I'm going to him whether I go with you or take my own car!" screamed Greenlee.
"Ok, Ok. Jump in," Tad said, as the two drove off to where Jack and
Erica were hiding.
You Get What You Pay For
 by Claudine
"Get your hands off of me!" Erica commanded as Jonathan Kinder dragged her to David’s secluded cabin. "David won’t let you get away with this, you monster."
"Too bad for you, Erica. David left right after he fixed my arm. He’s got his hands full overseas." He shoved her into a vacant chair in the mad cow themed room. Jonathan looked around while putting away the key David had given him. "I see Davey’s taste in decorating hasn’t improved since Medical School."
"Medical school? You and David? I don’t believe it."
"Too much of a coincidence for you? That’s because it wasn’t, my darling. He was doing me a favor, babysitting, if you will. After everything I taught him as an upperclassman, after every test I manipulated so he’d do well, after all the money Vanessa gave me? It’s the least he could do. But he’s such an egomaniacal cretin he couldn’t leave well enough alone. Criss-cross. You want sex drugs and cures for ailments you don’t even have, you go to David…when you need to keep someone in a coma, I’m you’re man."
He reached out to caress her face, but Erica slapped his hand away. "Let me go, Jonathan," she looked at him with pent up hatred. "I hate you!"
"After all we’ve been through? I’ve thought about you day and night, pussycat," he sneered. "Dreamt of what I’d do to you and the D.A., and imagine the fit of the giggles I had in cellblock C when I read that you two got engaged… again… and again. Good old…"
"Don’t you even say his name. You’re not worthy."
"How noble. I guess Count "Bats in the Belfry" finally saw your claws or counted one too many men in your bed."
"Oh, you really are a pathetic excuse for a man. You always were." She tossed her hair insolently. He grabbed her arm and pulled her out of the chair to face him. Erica could taste his breath but she held his gaze in defiance despite her fear of what he could do to her. She flashed back to the time she woke up with him in her bed. She had been drugged. What was he planning this time?
"You wound me, Erica. I have a lovely night planned for us," he whispered as he pushed Erica down, back in the chair. He reached for his waistband, and Erica broke his gaze for the first time in disgust. That’s when she heard the noise, a cocked pistol. "What are you going to do? Shoot me?"
"Now, I know you have more creativity than that, Erica. No, I’m going keep you a… captive audience." Jonathan instructed Erica to tie her own feet together with a computer cable he yanked out of one of David’s computers. He rifled through a desk drawer and snorted when he found what he was looking for. Handcuffs. He shook them at Erica. "David is just so predictable." He threw them at her and made her put them on at gunpoint.
"You animal. You said you’d take me to my children!"
Jonathan turned her chair toward the bedroom. "But Erica, I have." He left her side and opened the bedroom door revealing Kendall, Reggie, Lily and Bianca’s bodies all lying across the bed… lifeless.
"Nooooooooooooooo!" screamed Erica, as tears poured forth.
"I love you, my darling, for always," Erica said very slowly. Jackson saw her through a haze. Everything was bathed in a blinding light. "I’ll never tire of hearing that. Come here, you." He pulled her close to him, leaning down to make a connection between their lips. Slowly he teased her, before finally bringing them into contact. They breathed each other in and the kiss deepened. Erica moved her hands up his chest and around the back of his head as he picked her up against his straining length, deepening the kiss. He pulled back to look at her because every now and then Jackson still couldn’t believe how he ever managed to have this woman for his own. Then everything went dim and Jackson heard a faint voice…
"Get off of me, you pathetic has been!" …Erica?
"You could use a muzzle." Jackson knew that second voice was a man’s voice, not Erica’s. He slowly began to regain consciousness…
"Muzzle? You Martin men all sound alike! Neanderthal, troglodytic, misogynists!" Greenlee quipped at Tad.
"And you’re just Christmas morning and a brand new puppy all rolled into one?" Tad laughed as he made his way to the cabin. "Now, please shut up. Or are you trying to get us both killed?" "You’re half right," she threw back.
"You get that from your mother’s side, don’t you?" Greenlee punched Tad in the stomach. "Oooof!" Tad bent over holding his stomach as Greenlee nursed her wrist.
"You hurt me!" she whined.
"I hurt you? What about…" Tad stopped mid-sentence as he heard a rustling near the cabin they were approaching. It could be the gunman. He grabbed the oblivious Greenlee and pulled her against him, covering her mouth with his hand to keep from giving away their location. That’s when she bit him. "Aiiie!"
"I swear, if you weren’t Jackson’s daughter, I’d just dump you in the middle of nowhere... somewhere." Again there was the sound of movement and a low moan. Tad took out his gun and followed the line of the house until he reached the front where the noise was coming from. Greenlee followed a few footsteps behind, afraid to be left alone and also afraid of what they’d find. Tad saw him first. Jackson was still on the floor, slowly regaining consciousness. Tad dropped down and patted Jack’s shoulder. "Jack, can you hear me? Are you alright, old buddy, o’ pal-o-mine?" Tad looked around and aside from some traces of blood on Jack’s forehead there didn’t appear to be any further damage.
"Daddy?" Greenlee said meekly, almost afraid to fully come into view for fear of what she might see.
With Tad’s help Jack slowly sat up, rubbing his temple. "Call 911…" Tad started. Greenlee whipped out her cell phone.
"Don’t," said Jack. "I want to catch that S.O.B. myself. And God help him if I do."
"Jack, I don’t think that’s a good idea. You’re bleeding and need to be checked out." Tad motioned to Greenlee to continue the call.
"Where’s Erica?" Jack looked around trying to remember what happened. He had gone out to the woodshed and someone came up behind him and then it all went black. "Erica!" There was no answer. He got up and went into the cabin, Tad and Greenlee followed.
"Jack, take it easy. My father’d shoot me a withering look if he knew I
let you go running around with a head injury."
"Erica!!!" Jack’s deep voice reverberated throughout the cabin. There was no answer. "He’s got her. Tad, he’s got her and I have to find her. I can’t lose her now. I won’t."
"Jack, I think you better sit down. Derek got a major lead earlier, and you need to know about it."
Jack was pacing, frantic. "I don’t have time to sit down! Someone is trying to kill us and for all I know… Tad, tell me who has her or I swear I’ll…"
"I know." Tad looked down not knowing how to phrase this. "I know." "Just tell him, already!" Greenlee barked.
"Okay!" Tad squinted at Greenlee. "Jack, Jonathan Kinder is loose. He broke out of prison a few weeks ago. The prison guard was found unconscious. Drugged."
Outside the sounds of an ambulance and the police invaded the cabin. "Chances are, he’s got Erica."
"We need a list," Jackson started, springing into action. "A list of people Kinder was associated with. Janet, Skye, Marian, we have to contact them."
"Derek said that he was pulling the records of prison visitors and would meet us here."
The EMT’s arrived, along with a few officers. After Jack was checked out and bandaged up. Jack spent most of the time on his cell phone calling in favors and chasing leads. Tad was doing the same on his phone, until Derek arrived.
"You’re not going to believe this one," Derek said as he threw a file on the table in the kitchen, their makeshift base of operations. Jack picked it up and flipped through the pages, the logs of all the visitors
that Kinder had at prison. Scanning the list, he stopped short at one of the names.
"Ho… why am I not surprised." Jack said, disgusted. He threw the papers on the floor, and shook his head while a snarl formed on his mouth. He rubbed his jaw."We are losing time here. Each minute that passes she’s farther from me. Issue an APB, for Pete’s sake!"
"We put out an APB already, Jack. You’re not going to like what we found on his credit card records."
Tad rejoined the other two after hanging up. "No luck on my end. What’s in the file?"
"You want to tell him or should I?" Derek asked.
"Hayward, Tad. Hayward used to visit Kinder in prison. Now, what about those credit card records?" Jack asked.
"Left for Zurich last night."
"Good," said Tad. "That means we can check out his cabin without any difficulty."
"You don’t think he’s with Kinder, do you?" "I wouldn’t put anything past him."
Greenlee had been sitting in the corner wrapped in a blanket since the EMT’s had arrived. "David wouldn’t do that," she stated. "There has to be something more. Maybe there’s some other reason he fled the country. There are loads of reasons to go to Switzerland."
"Sweetheart, I know you feel protective of David because of Leo, but right now he’s our only lead."
"Fine. I’ll just call him and ask," she took out her cell phone. "In Zurich?"
"Please. I have an international plan."
"Well," said Jack. "While Greenlee tries the direct approach, I say we get over to the cabin and do a little digging." He picked up his cell phone, his car keys, and tucked a gun into the back of his pants.
"What do you think you’re doing, Montgomery?" Derek asked. "This is a police investigation and I won’t have you playing vigilante … or you, Tad, riding off to play detective."
"I have a license and everything." Tad quipped.
"And if you think I’m sitting here counting ceiling tiles with Erica kidnapped, while you let another criminal run free, you’re dead wrong, Derek!" Jack was visibly upset now. "I’m not going to stop until I have Erica back in my arms and this whole thing is nothing but a bad dream!"
Derek tried to stop the two men, but it was Greenlee who was successful. "David knew nothing about Erica’s kidnapping. I told you so. He said that he owed Kinder a favor and that’s all. He also said that he patched up a wound on him last night before leaving town on an emergency."
"An emergency in Zurich? Smells fishy to me, Greensleeves. At least we know that it was Kinder I clipped last night when I fired that shot. He’s wounded, that’s in our favor."
"That’s progress, I suppose. Let’s get going."
"Not without me, you’re not!" countered Greenlee.
Jack pulled her aside. "Sweetheart, you have to stay here with the police. I don’t want you in danger too. Don’t argue with me."
She paused for a moment and then replied, "Fine, just be careful. I’ve already lost one father and I was just getting used to the "New and Improved" model." He gave her a kiss on the forehead as he joined Tad and Derek heading out the door. Once they’d left, Greenlee shrugged off the blanket she was wearing. "Like hell I’m going to lose another man I love." She grabbed her purse and the keys to Tad’s car. "Besides, Erica’d have to acknowledge my existence if I saved her sorry butt." She opened the back door and left, her stiletto heels
clicking out the door and into the night.
Up In Flames
By Mary
Erica sobbed hysterically as she saw the bodies on the bed. Bianca, Kendall, Reggie and Lily - none of them moving. "How could you do this?" she screamed at Jonathan Kinder. "They’ve done nothing to you!"
"Calm down, drama queen," Jonathan said with a laugh. "They’re not dead. Just taking a little nap. You can always count on David to have some interesting concoctions lying around here."
Erica closed her eyes in relief as her breathing slowly returned to normal. As long as the children and Jack were safe, she could handle anything. "What do you want, Jonathan?" she asked.
"Exactly what I told you. You’re leaving with me. If you go quietly and don’t give me any trouble, the children and your precious fiancé will be fine. If not, well, let’s just say I can’t make any promises."
"Where are we going?" Erica asked him.
"Someplace far, far away," Jonathan sneered. "Our flight is leaving shortly. And it’s a one-way trip, my dear," he laughed. "Now stay put while I make sure we’re still alone." He turned and walked out the front door with the gun in his hand.
Erica looked around the cabin desperately. She had to find a way to get help. Her thoughts raced to the last time she had seen Jack lying helplessly on the ground. He had to be OK - he just had to be. She had to let him know where she was or she would never see him again. Her gaze fell on the phone on David’s desk. It was all the way across the room but maybe she could move the chair she was tied to and get to it. With a quick look at the door, she started toward the desk.
The headlights on Jack’s car cut through the darkness as Jack, Tad and Derek drove to David’s cabin. "I can’t believe David doesn’t have something to do with this," said Jack. "It’s just too much of a coincidence."
"Well, you know my feelings about Hayward," Tad said, "but helping
Kinder kidnap Erica seems like a little much - even for him. Maybe he
didn’t know what Kinder was planning."
"I’ll feel a lot better once we check out the cabin," said Jack grimly. "Derek, how the hell did this happen? Jonathan Kinder escapes from prison and no one thinks to warn us?"
"I guess they were trying to find him without starting a panic," said
Derek. "They thought they had him at one point but he disappeared."
"Great job they’re doing," muttered Jack. "This is Erica’s life we’re talking about - and my children’s. I suppose still no word on them?"
"No. Sorry, Jack," replied Derek. His voice was drowned out by a deafening sound as the car went over a rocky patch on the unpaved road. The steering wheel jerked in Jack’s hands. He swore, stopped the car, and opened the door. Derek and Tad quickly followed him out of the car. Jack didn’t even stop to look at the flat tire. He reached back into the car and grabbed a flashlight before he started walking up the hillside. Tad caught up with him.
"Don’t even expect me to wait, Tad," Jack told him.
"I didn’t," replied Tad. "I’m just not letting you go alone."
Greenlee sped up the hill toward the cabin. She knew that taking this shortcut would get her to the cabin well before Jack, Tad and Derek. She was sure that there was no way David could be involved in this but maybe she could find something at the cabin that would help Jackson find Erica. She was worried too about Bianca, Kendall, Reggie and Lily.
"Just my luck," she thought. "I find out a great guy like Jackson is my father and I have to deal with him being madly in love with my worst enemy."
She was thinking that she wouldn’t put it past Erica to stage her own kidnapping to get Jack’s attention when she approached the cabin. To her surprise there was a pickup truck she didn’t recognize parked outside. She quickly stopped the car and got out. No one would expect her to be coming from this direction. Hardly anyone knew about the shortcut. She quietly circled the cabin.
"I’ll just go up and look in the window," she thought, "and then, if I have to, I’ll call for help." She reached the front of the cabin and slowly approached the window.
Erica was making painstakingly slow progress toward the phone.
With her feet tied and hands handcuffed, she could barely move. She wasn’t even sure if she would be able to use her hands to pick up the
phone and dial a number, but she had to try.
She finally reached the desk. Taking a deep breath, she managed to knock the cordless phone off the cradle. She quickly realized she couldn’t pick it up but she was able to use her fingers well enough to turn it on and dial the number for Jack’s cell phone. "Please God, please let him answer," she prayed as she listened to the ringing.
"Jack Montgomery," his voice in her ear made her breath catch in her throat. She could barely speak through her tears. At least he was all right. "Jack---"
"ERICA?" relief mixed with the fear in his voice. "Sweetheart, where are you?"
"Jack, I’m----" she stopped as she suddenly heard noises from outside. Footsteps approached the door. "Jack, I love you," she said with a sob and quickly placed the phone back on it’s cradle. She managed to get halfway back across the room before the door opened. Her heart sank as Jonathan entered the room. With him was a terrified Greenlee, the gun pointed at her head.
"Looks like we have some company," Jonathan announced, pushing
Greenlee into the room. "You had better be alone."
"I already told you I was," Greenlee replied nervously. "What’s going on here? Who are you?"
"So you just happened to be looking in the window, Ms. Du Pres? Yes, I know who you are," he said at her surprised look. "In fact, if I hadn’t run out of time, you’d be in the other room with the rest of your twisted family."
"I was just coming to visit my brother-in-law," said Greenlee. "I have no idea what you’re talking about."
Erica could see that Greenlee was terrified but she wasn’t sure if she was telling the truth. Was it possible that Greenlee had just been coming to see David? Still, Tad had said Greenlee was with him so she must be aware of what was going on. But where was Tad?
"Well, I’m not taking any chances," said Jonathan, pushing Greenlee into a chair behind the desk. Erica’s heart sank when he suddenly noticed the phone and threw it at the wall. Keeping the gun trained on them, he rummaged through the drawers of the desk.
"Once again, David never disappoints," he laughed, taking out a length of rope. He tied Greenlee’s hands and feet to the chair and then tied the chair to one of the heavy legs of the desk. "Sit tight, my lovely guests. I’ll be back after I check for more company. You had better hope no one else is coming - for their sakes," he turned and left the cabin, once again brandishing the gun.
"Erica!" Jack screamed into the phone. "Erica- damn it!" he slammed the phone back into his pocket.
"What did she say?" asked Tad. "Where is she?"
"She didn’t say. Just - just that she loved me," his voice broke. "We have to find her, Tad. I’m not losing her - not after all we’ve been through."
"I know, Jack. Believe me, I know," Tad said, thinking of Dixie. "I know you do," said Jack, putting his hand on Tad's shoulder.
"Thanks for coming with me, buddy." They both quickened their pace
up the hillside, neither daring to think of what they might find at the top.
"Are you OK?" Greenlee whispered loudly to Erica from across the room. "Yes, I'm OK and so is everyone else," Erica quickly filled Greenlee in on the condition of the others. "I thought you were with Tad." "I was," replied Greenlee. "It's a long story." She told Erica everything that had happened up until she arrived at the cabin. "They should be here any minute. In fact, they should have been here by now." She sounded worried. They stopped talking as Jonathan came back in. "Time for us to leave," he announced. "A man and a plane are waiting for us. Sorry we don't have room for three," he said to Greenlee. "So you’ll just leave her here with the others," Erica stated it as a fact. "Oh, I'll be leaving her here, all right," laughed Jonathan. He went into the bedroom and came out carrying Bianca. It filled Erica with terror to see her so motionless. "What are you doing?" she demanded. "Keeping her safe, of course," Jonathan replied. "You wouldn't want her to get too close to the flames, would you?"
"Flames? Jonathan, no, there's no need for any of this!" Erica cried. "I
said I would go with you."
Greenlee and Erica stared at each other in horror as Jonathan carried each of the girls’ bodies out of the cabin. When he came back in for Reggie, he stopped and said to Erica, "The fire won't get anywhere near the shed before it's discovered and put out. Your children will all be safe." "But what about Greenlee? She's Jack's daughter, too,"
Erica said. "I need to leave a little reminder that I mean business," said Jonathan. "I don't want to be followed. And seeing that she
caused me grief and worry by barging in here, she's going to be an
example of what happens when you cross Dr. Jonathan Kinder." He disappeared into the bedroom for the last time. Greenlee looked at Erica with tears running down her face. "I can't believe it. I came up here to look for a clue, maybe even to find you and impress Jackson, and I'm going to die here!" The end of her words came out in a terrified sob. Erica looked around the cabin desperately. There had to
be something she could do. As relieved as she was about Bianca and the others, she couldn't leave Greenlee here to die. She suddenly spied something on the table near the fireplace. Jonathan came out with Reggie and crossed the room. As soon as he left the cabin, Erica moved her chair across the room toward her purse. Greenlee snorted in disbelief. "Only you could get kidnapped and manage to bring your purse," she said, "but I don't think the latest shade of Enchantment lip gloss is going to get us out of this." "Just be quiet so I can hear him coming," snapped Erica. "Jonathan said I needed my passport when he kidnapped me so he let me take my purse." She managed to open her purse and shake out the contents. Finding what she was looking for, she grabbed it and quickly returned to where she had been. "Listen to me, Greenlee. You need to find a way to pick these up," Erica dropped the manicure scissors on the floor and kicked them under the desk to which Greenlee was tied.
"Are you crazy? I can't pick those up!" Greenlee protested. "Yes, you can. I don't care how you do it but pick them up, cut those ropes and get out of here as soon as we leave," Erica instructed her. Jonathan came back in carrying a can of gasoline. He started spreading the gasoline around the cabin with an evil grin on his face. Satisfied, he stepped back. He came over to Erica, untied her feet, and pulled her with him toward the door. He grabbed her purse as they passed the table.
"Wouldn’t want to be without your passport," he said. He grabbed the matches from the fireplace mantle and took one out as they reached the door.
"Erica, if - I mean - when you see Jackson again, please tell him that I was really happy to find out that he was my father," choked out Greenlee.
"You can tell him yourself, Greenlee, when you see him," Erica said as their eyes met across the room. Greenlee nodded her head in understanding and tried to smile.
Jonathan struck the match and dropped it. The flames raced across the room and he pulled Erica outside. The cool air hit her like a knife. She couldn’t bear to think that Greenlee wouldn’t escape but she realized that she had to try to leave something for Jack to find in case Greenlee couldn’t tell him what had happened. Something to let him know that she was alive. As they rounded the corner of the cabin, she knew what she had to do.
They both smelled the smoke at the same time. Up ahead there was an orange hue to the night sky. Jack and Tad broke into a run as they reached the clearing where the cabin was. The flames were already shooting from the windows.
"No, Erica, NO!!!!" Jack shouted as he ran toward the cabin.
Tad grabbed him and held him back. "Jack, we don’t know if anyone was even in there. You can’t help Erica if you’re dead. Let’s check for vehicles or signs that someone was here."
Jack was beyond reasoning as he and Tad split up to circle the cabin.
"She can’t be dead, she just can’t be," he told himself. Even the thought was unbearable. As he rounded the corner of the cabin, he shone his flashlight in the dense brush. Something caught his attention as it glittered on a low-hanging shrub. He stepped closer and slowly, hardly daring that it could be true, reached out his hand to touch Erica’s engagement ring.
"She’s alive," he said out loud, taking it off the branch and closing his fingers over it. "Thank God, she’s alive."
Tad had come to the conclusion that there was a good possibility that there was no one in the cabin. He didn’t even want to think of the alternative. As he approached the back of the cabin, however, he saw a dark shape near a path he hadn’t even known existed. As he got closer, he saw that it was a car. After a few more steps, he realized it was his car. The realization hit him like a ton of bricks. "Damn it, why don’t you ever do what you’re told?"
"GREENLEE!!!" He turned and ran toward the cabin just as it exploded in flames.
The Search Is On
by Sue
Erica's mind was racing. She was trying desperately to keep the tears that were threatening to burst forth from coming. Her thoughts immediately went to her children. When Jonathan had opened the door to reveal the four of them laying on the bed she had felt her
heart break. She had never before felt the despair that she experienced in that one brief moment. And then she had to watch him take each limp body from the cabin, not knowing if the words he had spoken to her were true. Did he actually put them in the shed where they would be safe from the flames or had he secretly killed them? And then there was Greenlee. Erica said a silent prayer hoping against hope that Greenlee had made it out of the cabin alive. She couldn't help the single tear from falling when she thought of her family. She shivered as the fear again made it's presence known.
Kinder turned to Erica and smiled as he saw her shiver. He knew that she was suffering and that knowledge brought him euphoria. He couldn't help but laugh out loud when he saw the tear on her cheek. She tried to turn away from him so that he couldn't see her reaction to his obvious pleasure, but he roughly grabbed her chin, forcing her to look at him directly. "I am in total control of the rest of your life. How does it feel to know that from this moment on you will do whatever I say? I had a lot of time in prison to think about what I wanted from you Erica and believe me, I can't wait to get started on my very long list." He moved his fingers from her chin and grabbed her hair pulling her towards him. Erica cried out from the pain as it felt as if her hair was being pulled from her scalp. She closed her eyes as Jonathan kissed her on her cheek and shuddered as he whispered into her ear. "You are mine."
Jack was thrown backwards by the blast as the cabin seemed to explode. He turned his head and saw the flames shooting high into the sky. He breathed a sigh of relief knowing that the love of his life had not been inside. He saw the flash a few feet from him and realized that he had dropped his one link to Erica. He moved quickly to it, picking it up and holding it close to his heart. It was then that he saw a figure moving in the distance. His heart skipped a beat as he placed the ring in his pocket. "Erica," he whispered as he took off, desperate to get to the woman he loved more than life itself.
Tad awoke and for a few seconds couldn't remember where he was and didn't understand why he was lying on the ground. He rubbed his head, feeling for any sign of injury and, after confirming that he was uninjured, he stood up and turned towards the burning cabin. He looked around and when he saw his car, everything came back to him. "Oh my god, Greenlee!" he said aloud even though there was no one around to hear him. He ran towards the cabin but the heat coming from within pushed him back. He tried once again, but the flames were too strong, the cabin was fully engulfed. "What am I
going to tell Jackson? Erica is in the hands of some madman, four of
his children are missing, and now the daughter he just found out he
had is dead," he thought to himself. He took a deep breath and went to find Jack.
Jack was almost upon her when he saw the figure drop, only it wasn't Erica. Jack gasped as he saw his daughter lying at his feet. "Greenlee?" he questioned out loud, standing shocked for only a moment, before dropping to his knees beside her. "Oh my god Greenlee!" He looked at her disheveled appearance. Her clothes were covered with soot from the fire. He glanced briefly at her chest
to make sure that she was breathing and felt a wave of relief overtake him when he saw the upward and downward movements. Jack
grabbed her shoulders and gently began to shake her. "Greenlee!
Sweetheart come on! Come back to me baby!" He couldn't help the tears that began to fall from his cheeks. He hadn't known about Greenlee being his daughter for very long, but the bond was already a strong one. He couldn't imagine not having her in his life. "Come back to me Greenlee," as panic began to set in.
Kinder let go of Erica's hair and pushed her away from him. "As much as I want to continue our reunion, this will have to wait until I have both hands free. You will remember that I am very good with my hands Erica." He laughed as he saw Erica's obvious discomfort. Deciding that he had tormented her enough for the moment, he turned back and concentrated on the road.
Erica felt as if she were going to throw up. Her stomach was twisted into knots and her lungs felt as if they were closing in on her. She knew that if she let herself give in to the fear she would lose all control. Closing her eyes she tried to take some deep breaths but
found she couldn't. She needed to focus and to do that she thought of the one person who always made her feel safe. She let her mind wander and instantly she was back in Jack's arms dancing to the music from the old record player they had found in the cabin. She remembered the strength of his arms as he lifted her on to the pool table and the warmth of his body as they had made love. She could feel his breath on the top of her head and could hear the beat of his heart against her ear. Erica was jolted back to reality when the car suddenly swerved. She heard Kinder swear under his breath. It was then that Erica knew what she needed to do.
Greenlee's eyes slowly fluttered open. It took her a few moments to focus but when she did, the first thing she saw was Jack staring down at her, his furrowed brow showing his concern. "Daddy?" she whispered.
"Shhhh, honey. I'm here." Jack felt some of the weight lift off his shoulders when he had seen her eyes start to open. But his heart surged when he heard her call him daddy. Greenlee began to cough but was trying desperately to talk. "Sweetheart, don't try to talk, you've inhaled a lot of smoke. Just lie still." Jack tried to assess if Greenlee had suffered any other injuries. He glanced at her wrists and saw the blood. She had obviously been tied up. His heart twisted at the thought of his daughter bound and held against her will.
"Oh thank god she wasn't in the cabin," Tad managed to get out as he bent over trying to catch his breath. "Is she okay Jack?"
"Daddy you don't understand," Greenlee again tried to speak, but was soon coughing, her lungs aching for clean oxygen.
"Jack, there is no sign of Erica here. If Kinder had her here, they have obviously moved on."
"They were here Tad. I know they were here." Jack looked down at his daughter. "Honey, did you see Erica? Is she hurt?"
"She saved my life dad," was the response.
Erica moved slightly closer to Jonathan every chance she had, careful to do so only when he had to focus his attention away from her. She saw the sign on the side of the road announcing the impending curves and knew that this was her opportunity. She couldn't do it halfway. She knew that she was risking her life, but what was her life worth without her children and without the man that she loved more than life itself? She sent her silent prayer up to the heavens, then gathered every ounce of strength she had in her tiny body. Just as the car headed into a sharp curve she threw her body against Kinder's arms, knocking them from the steering wheel. The last thing Erica saw was the tree which seemed to have a life of it's own and was surging forward, preparing to meet their car head on.
Jack closed his eyes in relief. He knew when he found Erica's ring that she was alive but to hear Greenlee's words brought even more comfort. "Was she okay Greenlee? Did he hurt her?" He needed to know that she was alright. The thought of Erica, scared and alone, and possibly hurt, made his whole body ache.
"She was okay when I saw her but everyone else dad, you have to help them." Greenlee's eyes started to close as the exhaustion from her escape started to creep in.
"Everyone else? Greenlee, stay with me, what do you mean everyone else?" Jack began to feel the emotion that had overtaken him the last couple of days. Panic was definitely not his friend.
"Bianca, Reggie, Kendall, Lily...the shed. Help them, " she was struggling to stay awake. "drugged and in the shed," she managed to get out before sleep finally took her.
"Oh my god! Tad stay with Greenlee!" Jack shouted as he was already running towards the smaller building. He stopped suddenly, hearing a faint almost inaudible cry.
"Jackson, help me. Please help me. I need you."
A Prayer for Hope
The trees above seemed to sway and move before her eyes.
By: TJ
Gingerly, she made her way into a sitting position, and slowly began to get her bearings straight. Her head hurt, and her sides felt as though they were on fire. Running a cold hand to her face, she could feel some stickiness there. Looking at her now wet palm, she saw she was bleeding.
Putting the pieces together, she realized her plan had worked.
Looking around, without moving from her current position, she saw the car. The front end had curled up upon impact, and smoke rose from the engine area. Her celebration was short lived though, as the pain in her head grew, and the blackness began to encompass her once more. With her fleeing consciousness, she managed one more prayer to the heavens, knowing he would hear her.
"Jackson, help me. Please help me. I need you."
Glancing around the woods, he could see no one. Yet, he had heard her. Reaching into his pocket, he quickly pulled out the ring he had found and kissed it softly. "I will find you Erica, I will."
Shoving the ring back into his pocket, he continued his trek to the shed. His feet seemed to move slowly across the ground, and it felt like an eternity before he finally reached the small building. The door was slightly ajar, and he flung it open the rest of the way. Peering into the darkness, he could see nothing. Moving slowly around, carefully, he found nothing. As he exited, he heard someone finally.
"Yo, J, over here man."
"Reggie, are you okay? What’s going on? Where is everyone?" "Whoa, man, slow down. We’re aiight, Lily and Bianca managed to
get us outta the shed."
"Good. What about Erica, Reggie. Have you seen her, or know where she might be?"
"No man, when we came to, we were in this shed."
Taking all this in, Jackson stared into the woods, wondering what was going on. The blue and red lights signaled the arrival of the paramedics. Helping the kids get situated and down the slope of the hill, Jackson checked once more on Greenlee, before pulling Tad to the side.
"Okay, detective man, what’s going on here?"
"Jack, I don’t know. The only thing we got are some tire tracks over
off the side of the cabin. Its gonna be hard to pick up a good trail, and
match it to a person tonight."
"If you’re about to suggest I go home and rest Tad, I may not be able to resist the urge to hurt you."
"Jack, relax man, you getting stressed isn’t going to help Erica any. You need to go to Enchantment, see if she’s been there. Find out if anyone knows anything."
"Tad, that’s not----"
"Jack, just do it man. I’ll call you with any news. Check the apartment too. See if she’s taken anything that could be of importance."
‘What about the kids, I need----"
"Jack, the medics are here, Reggie is alright, he’ll help out, and they’ll be fine. We have them here Jack. We don’t have Erica. Go find Erica."
Knowing Tad was right, Jack made his way to the car, looking back only once to see the scene behind him. The paramedics were taking care of everyone, and they would all be fine. He had to focus, figure this thing out. He had to find Erica, because without her, he had no reason to go on.
The world spun, and moved before Erica’s eyes. She tried to focus, but it did no good. Apparently she had hit her head harder then she first realized. The pain became a dull constant thud, but she scarcely noted it. It was the dizziness that worried her. She needed to get away from here, to get to safety.
Standing up finally, she moved closer to the tree line. Looking back, she could see the wreckage of the car. There was something missing though. Among the tangle of tree and car, Jonathon was gone.
Erica began to panic now. Scanning the near area, she couldn’t see him, but she knew he was somewhere nearby. He must have hit his head on the wheel, how far could he get? "Oh Jackson, please help me. I need you."
The Enchantment office held no information for him. The top drawers of her desk yeilded nothing. No clues to where she might be, nothing.
"Dammit Erica, where the hell are you." Jack continued to flip through drawers and notebooks, hoping something would come across to
him, give him any kind of clue. Checking the bottom drawer, he noticed something, or perhaps the lack of something. Her passport
was no longer tucked in the file. Pulling his cell phone out, the numbers were quickly dialed.
"Tad, its Jack, we’ve got a problem. Her passport is missing. Whoever got her, they might be on a plane already."
"I don’t think so Jack. Get back out here. The police just found a car off the highway leading away from Haywards cabin. Looks like it veered off the road and into the woods."
"Is it Erica, is she there?"
"Haven’t seen her. There’s some blood out here, but no bodies. Just get out here Jack. We're on the Northbound side of Highway 111, at the Pine Valley/ Center City border. Listen, I'll head over to the hospital, check on the rest of your brood and see if I can turn up any more clues. We'll compare notes later." The other side clicked off, but Jack remained there, phone to ear, too stunned to move. A car, in the woods. Blood. Cabin. It had to be Erica.
Slightly recovered, he slammed the file door shut, and made his way out of the building. It was quiet here, he thanked the sky, he wasn’t sure he could handle dealing with anyone tonight. The front door opened, and he made his way into the parking lot. Scanning around, there was nothing out of place here.
Looking to the sky once more, he sent a prayer. "Please let her be okay. Mona, I know you are looking down, let me find her, help me find her. I can’t go on without her. Please."
With that, he ducked and got in his truck The drive was a short one, yet he felt hours had passed before he’d even gotten to the highway leading back to the woods. Then he saw it, the blur of red and blue lights. A sick feeling set in his stomach, and he clutched the wheel as he drove closer. "Please, don’t let this be it. Please."
The Connection
By: Courtney
The closer he got to the scene the more twisted his stomach became. When he arrived the police tried to stop him, but when he explained the situation to them they waved him through and as he pulled up he lost his breath and felt like he might faint at the sight of it. He knew that she wouldn’t have gone anywhere willingly and was just hoping that if this was part of her plan to escape that she hadn’t sacrificed herself in the process. He got out of his car and slowly walked toward the twisted steel and smoke that was left of the car that was now surrounded by police and investigators.
He tapped an officer on the shoulder and said, "My name is Jackson Montgomery, I'm the D.A. of Pine Valley, and I believe that my fiancé may have been involved in this accident. Who is in charge of the investigation?" The pain and desperation in his voice didn’t go unnoticed by the young officer and she smiled at him, took his arm and led him to the Center City police chief.
"Sir, this is Jackson Montgomery. He has some questions regarding the people who may have been involved in the accident."
Jack turned back and thanked the young girl who had helped him. When he turned back to speak with the chief the fear in his eyes was obvious and the terror he felt looking at the accident was beginning to manifest in anger. "Do you have any leads yet? My fiancé was taken against her will and after an extensive search I believe she may have been involved in this accident."
The officer shook Jack’s hand and led him over to a few folding chairs they had set up earlier. "Mr. Montgomery, my name is Chief Taylor, I am so sorry to hear of your situation. Tad Martin filled us in. We don’t really have any leads as of yet, but we just arrived here ourselves not an hour ago so it’s really too soon to tell."
Jack nodded his head that he understood and stood up. "Would it be
ok with you if I looked around myself? I might be able to spot something you wouldn’t know to look for." The chief led him over to the car and told the officers to allow Jack full access to anything he wanted. All he could do was stare at the wreckage for a moment. It wasn’t until he shook his head out of the fog he had slipped into that he heard a faint cry in the distance.
Erica had floated in and out of consciousness as she continued to try to walk toward the break in the forest. She could hear the sirens now and hoped that they would notice somehow that she had been there. All she could see was Jack’s face and all she could hear was his voice telling her to stay calm and that he would find her. She thought she was running toward something, but in reality she was barely walking in circles. She was using all of her strength just to stand but she knew if she had any hope of being discovered before Jonathan found her she would have to call out for help. Each cry she let out took everything in her but somehow she managed to get out a few good screams and with each one she felt weaker and weaker. She knew that she would eventually have to choose between trying to walk toward help or calling out for it and staying put, her body just wouldn’t allow her to do both much longer. Once she had found a tree that had fallen across her path she decided it must have been fate telling her to stop and sit down and just focus all of her attention on calling for help. She sat down and took several deep breaths before she began again. This time the screams were more focused and more survival driven. She knew that her only chance to live through this was to get someone to notice her anyway she could. She couldn’t
really tell how far away the police lights were, but she knew they
couldn’t be that far if she could make them out clearly. As if she could sense he was near her somewhere, Erica began to call for Jack. It was almost as it she was in a trance as she called out his name like a mantra. Everything in her could feel his presence and if it was the last thing she did she would will him to her.
The officers looked at Jack like he was crazy as he told them to be quiet and listen. All anyone else could hear were the sirens and the commotion from the crowd that had formed, but Jack could hear
something else. It was like an injured animal crying out to be helped. At first he didn’t allow himself to believe it could actually be her until another one of the officers said he could hear it too. "I can’t believe I am saying this, but I think Mr. Montgomery is right. I can hear something although I am not exactly sure what it is."
Jack took off like a bolt of lighting calling back to the group chasing after him. "I know what it is…It’s Erica." He focused solely on the sound of her voice. He pushed through the brush and the trees as he found himself getting closer and closer to the sound. The officers tried in vein to keep up with him, but if any man had ever been on a mission to find the love of his life it was Jack. He cleared the center of the forest and when he arrived at the break between the trees and
the highway he saw her. She was just sitting there calling out for him over and over again staring out into the darkness. At first he didn’t
believe it. He stopped dead in his tracks and shook his head from side to side making sure she wasn’t just a figment of his imagination.
Her back was to him, but he would know her silhouette anywhere and her voice was unmistakable. Jack slowly approached her not wanting
to startle or scare her and when he reached out and put his hand on her shoulder he could feel her body react to him. She knew who it was and she knew she was safe.
She took a deep breath before she turned around to face him. She knew who it was the minute his hand brushed her shoulder, but after everything she had been through she wanted to make sure this was real. When their eyes met, the tears were both spontaneous and involuntary. Neither of them could stop the flood of emotions they were feeling nor did they want to. He kneeled down in front of her so that he could be eye level with her. Reaching up and wiping the tears from her cheek he could hardly believe she was right there in front of him. "I knew you would find me Jack. I could feel you with me all along." With that, he pulled her to him and hugged her tightly. He didn’t want to hurt her, but at the same time he wanted her as close to him as possible. "Are you ok Erica?" He was whispering in her ear now. It was like the next few minutes of their lives would only belong to them and what they said would only be shared between the two of them.
She wrapped herself around him so tightly he could hardly breathe. "I’m fine Jack…battered but not down for the count." He pulled back
smiling as he looked into her eyes. They were so lost in the moment that they didn’t notice the police and EMT crew standing around them.
"Mr. Montgomery, we need to take her now and get her to the ambulance." Erica immediately stiffened up and began to shake at the thought of being taken away from Jack even for a moment. Jack stood up taking Erica into his arms and holding her close knowing that she would never allow anyone to touch her right now. "I understand that you guys need to check her out, but the only way I am putting her down is if you bring the ambulance to us. Now since I know that isn’t possible given that we are in the middle of a forest, why don’t you just let me carry her out of here and I’ll deliver her to you personally."
They could see that she would be worse off if they tried to remove her from Jack’s arms and so they cautiously agreed. Jack leaned in and kissed her as he swept her carefully into his arms and she wrapped her arms around his neck and buried her head into his chest. As they walked into the clearing made by the police, Erica looked up and saw the car still sitting there and began to panic. She knew that there was still one part of the puzzle that needed to be found. Jack could feel
her start to tremble and while he knew that seeing the accident scene would probably trigger something inside of her he never imagined she would react like this. He put her down and once she got her balance she looked up at Jack and with a fear in her eyes that he had never seen before she asked him, "Did they find him yet Jack? Did they find Jonathan?"
By: M
"No, honey, they haven’t found him yet," Jack said very calmly, pulling her to him. Trying desperately to comfort whatever emotions were running through her. Erica’s eyes quickly surveyed the accident scene once more, and then she buried her face in his chest, trying to erase the images of mangled steel.
Erica looked up at him. "Greenlee, is she…?" Jack read her mind. Even after all they had been through with Greenlee, Erica still cared about his daughter. It warmed him inside to see her love for their family, despite her current condition.
"Greenlee is fine. She got out of the cabin. Thanks to you. She is with Tad and all of our other kids at the hospital." Erica’s face was etched with worry at these words. "Stop worrying," He gently brushed her cheek with his hand. "They are all okay, just needed to be checked out. Besides, we are headed to the hospital to join them because
even the great Erica Kane needs to be examined after surviving a wreck like that." Jack’s expression was so soft and warm. Slowly he
pulled back from their embrace and walked her over the ambulance.
Within ten feet of the vehicle, paramedics descended upon them. However, they all quickly realized that Jack was attached to Erica at the hand and wherever she went, he went. After getting her set up on the gurney with an IV for hydration and oxygen to clear her lungs of the fuel fumes, the days’ events caught up with her and Erica drifted off to sleep. Jack hopped in the back of the ambulance, never releasing her hand. His presence had a calming effect on her, even in her sleep, Erica felt at peace knowing she was safe with her one true love again.
Jack’s eyes never left her. If Erica could see herself, she would demand no one look at her. Not that she was vain, but Erica Kane has always been an incredible beauty. The tabloids would love to get just one shot of her like this. Erica’s clothes were torn and her hair was in shambles. With cuts and bruises all over her body, Jack
couldn’t believe how beautiful she was. Her skin, though covered with dirt and blood, was soft to the touch, but tough as iron. Erica had endured so much in the part few days, fearing for her children, for him and then for herself, yet she was so strong. As always, Erica had come out on top. She was safe from her captor. Jack’s eyes suddenly flashed with anger. Kinder. Kinder had done this to his family, to the love of his life. Kinder was the evil that had hurt them all, the entire Montgomery family. Kinder would pay dearly for this, Jack thought, as he focused back in on Erica’s sleeping form.
Erica awoke from her daze. All around her was a dense fog, slowly
things became clearer. She was still in Jonathan’s car. "Oh God, it was just a dream." Erica’s head was pounding, and her whole body was aching. Quickly turning to look at her left side, Jonathan’s body was still there. His head was bleeding against the steering wheel. Although he seemed to still be alive, Erica prayed he was unconscious and would continue to be that way, until she could find help.
"Damn it, where’s Jack? I thought he had saved me." Erica fumbled with her seatbelt. Finally freeing herself of it, she focused on the door. Glass was everywhere, and although the window was gone, she was tried to open the door. When that failed, she carefully slid her body
out of the car window, checking on Jonathan every few minutes to make sure he remained there.
In the distance, she heard a voice, "Erica, Erica." She took off in as fast of a run as she could towards the voice. "Jack," she shouted. "Someone please, help me." Slowly Erica’s body gave out, although she was in great shape, she could not continue to run forever due to the toll the wreck had put her body through. Just as she felt her body was about to completely give out, Jack’s arms wrapped around her waist, holding her up. "Oh, Erica, Thank God you are alright." Erica was peppering his face with kisses, when they heard the clear sound of a revolver cocking.
"You thought you could get away, did you?" a sneering voice asked. Turning suddenly, Jonathan’s cold, cruel face was staring at them. Slowly he raised his hand, pointing his pistol at her, "Time for you to pay for all your past deeds, Ms. Kane." Just then the chamber was emptied, one shot released from the gun.
"NOOOOOOO!" Erica shot up. Monitors were blaring. Jack, having never left her side, grabbed her to him, trying to soothe her. "It’s okay, honey. It’s okay. We are here in the hospital. We are safe. It’s okay, Erica. I’m right here." Jack’s hand rubbed her back soothingly, while his other hand held her head to his chest.
Sobbing heavily, Erica let her body meld into one with Jack’s. As she calmed down, Erica noticed that they were not alone. Greenlee, Kendall, Reggie, Bianca, and Lily were all huddled around her bed.
"Oh, Thank goodness you are all okay. My God, I was so worried."
Erica opened her arms to their children and a huge, mixed family hug ensued.
"We were worried about you too, E. I mean, that psycho sure could have hurt you," Reggie said with his usual flair.
"Naw, Reggie, he couldn’t hurt me. I’m Erica Kane," With her amazing smile, the entire family laughed.
"Yes you are, but you need your rest, Erica," Jack voiced his displeasure over all the activity. "In fact, you all have been put through hell, oh sorry sweetheart," Jack kissed Lily’s forehead at her admonishing look for saying hell. Handing Kendall his keys, "Why don’t you all go back to the penthouse and get some rest? I will stay here with Erica until they release her."
Not willing to argue, plus recognizing the couple probably needed some time alone, the kids traipsed out of the hospital room after hugging them both goodbye. Erica withdrew into herself the minute they were alone. Jack knew she had to be having a hard time with the whole Kinder mess, but she usually clung to him, during situations like this, not pull away.
"Erica, honey, are you okay?" Jack took her hand, looking very concerned. Erica came back to reality from her thoughts.
"Yes, sorry. I was thinking about my dream. Jack, it was so real. I was in the car with Jonathan, after the wreck, and I managed to get out of the car and started running towards your voice. I reached you, right as my body was about to give out and then Jonathan shot me. I was there in your arms, my safe place, but he still shot me." Erica’s body
shook involuntarily with fright. The thought of her safest place in the
whole world, Jack’s loving arms, not being safe, broke both their hearts. Jack moved to sit beside her on the bed, wrapping his arms around her.
"Sweetheart, my arms will always be safe for you. I would never let anyone hurt you. I would die before they would hurt you, you know that."
"Jack, wait a minute. Safe place…safe place…Jack, call Derek I think
I know where Jonathan is heading."
by Pam
"It's all coming back to me," Erica began excitedly, as Derek and Jack listened intently. "Jonathan was in a hurry to leave town. He told me that there was a plane and a man waiting for us. He made me take
 my passport. So, he was clearly heading out of the country. As for who he was going to meet, you're not going to believe this, but I think
"Hayward!" Jack exclaimed, completing her thought.
"Yes! David. But, how did you know?" Erica asked, her moment of clarity giving away to confusion once again.
"Erica, we have discovered that David had been visiting Kinder in prison," Derek explained. "A credit card check revealed that David is in Zurich. But, when Greenlee called and spoke to him, he said he knew nothing about your disappearance or Kinder's possible connection to it."
"I never believed that for a minute!" Jack added irately. "Derek, we need to drag Hayward back into the country for questioning."
"We'll do what we can, Jack. In the meantime, we'll get our people out to all of the nearby airports and we'll have all outgoing flights grounded." With that, Derek left to make some calls and mobilize his officers into action.
Jack continued to question Erica. "Sweetheart, did Kinder say anything that would give us any clues about Hayward's relationship to all of this?"
"No, Jack. Not really. He just said that David 'owed' him. Apparently, they knew each other in medical school. He was mostly vague about the nature of their relationship. But, I think he implied that David's medical degree was purchased and not earned. Oh, and Jonathan went to David for medical attention after Tad shot him. That's about it."
Jack’s mind was racing. He was trying in vain to fit the pieces of the puzzle together. He speculated aloud. "So, we have two medical school cronies with a questionable connection. Hayward visits Kinder in prison. Then Kinder shows up at Hayward’s cabin seeking medical attention. He knew that Kinder was a fugitive from justice. But,
instead of turning him in to the authorities, Hayward decides to help him. Not only does he treat Kinder’s gunshot wound, but he also turns
 over the keys to his cabin and leaves for Zurich. I don’t believe for a
 minute that Hayward did all of that out of the kindness of his heart, or because he was afraid he’d be discovered to be the quack that everyone already knows he is. There has to be more to it than that. It makes no sense" Jack began pacing, asking rhetorically, "Where does Hayward fit in all of this?"
"I’d like to know the answer to that question myself," came Tad’s
voice from the doorway. "Hayward is up to his beady little eyes in this. That much is certain." He joined Jack at Erica’s bedside, greeting Erica with a kiss on the cheek. "You sure are a sight for sore eyes,"
he added, clearly relieved that she was unharmed. Then, turning back to Jack, he added, "I spoke to Kinder’s prison guard. The last
thing that he remembered was accepting a piece of gum from one of
Kinder’s visitors. Wanna guess who the visitor was?" "Hayward?"
"Bingo. The gum was apparently laced with a drug that rendered him unconscious long enough for Kinder and Hayward to get out of there undetected."
Derek Frye reentered to update Jack on the status of the investigation into Kinder’s whereabouts.
"Were you able to find out why Hayward is in Zurich in the first place?" Jack asked Derek, his impatience with the speed and efficiency of the investigation evident in his tone.
"No. Not yet. Look, Jack, we will get to the bottom of this. You have my word on that," Derek stated ruefully, feeling guilt and shame for not following up on the David Hayward connection sooner. "My people are out in force looking for Kinder. All outbound flights have been grounded. If he was headed out of the country, he's in for a big surprise."
Jonathan Kinder was a man on a mission. He was fortunate to have sustained only a few minor abrasions in the accident and, in the hours since he left Erica lying lifelessly in the tangled mess that was his car, he had managed to hitch a ride to the Center City Municipal Airport. He had arranged for a private charter to take him to Canada. From there, he would board another plane to Zurich.
Once he was safely aboard the plane, he placed a call to Zurich. "There has been a change in plans. Ms. Kane will not be accompanying me after all. Never mind the details. Let’s just say that I should have known better than to get into a car with that she-devil again. What? No. Your name never came up. Here’s the deal. I’ll need a new identity and a place to live. Speaking of which, you weren’t really attached to that cabin of yours, were you? Never mind. Anyway, as I was saying.... Hello? David? Hayward! Damn you!" Kinder clutched his cell phone, angrily yelling into the mouthpiece long after he realized that David Hayward had hung up on him.
"What the hell is taking us so long?" Jonathan snapped at the pilot impatiently.
"Sir, there will be a delay. Apparently, all outgoing flights have been temporarily grounded. I haven’t been given any details, but I think we should be on our way soon." Jonathan looked out the small square window of the jet. The ground below was swarming with police cars. With no place to run and nowhere to hide, his great escape had been thwarted.
"David, is everything alright honey?" the pretty blonde asked sweetly. She noticed the dramatic change in his mood following the telephone call.
"Yeah, sweetheart. Everything is fine," he lied. "You know, I was just thinking. Now is the perfect time for a nice long getaway. Let’s get packed," he smiled innocently, his mind racing as he calculated his next step.
Jack was asleep at Erica’s bedside when the call came in. It was Derek Frye. He was calling to tell them that Jonathan Kinder had been taken into custody. "You need to come down to the station, Jack. He’s ready to talk."
Even when the cards were stacked against him, Jonathan Kinder was a sanctimonious son-of-a-bitch. "I want to make a deal," he
announced to Derek and Jack.
"You’ve got to be kidding me!" Jack laughed, barely able to resist the urge to personally rid Kinder’s face of its evil smirk. "Let’s see. We have you on attempted murder, kidnaping, and arson----and that’s just for starters. What makes you think we would want to negotiate with you?"
"Two words: David. Hayward. Sure, you’ve caught me. But, I’m just a guppy. David’s a much bigger fish. If you’d rather let him off the hook, who am I to stop you? Speaking of 'the one that got away', please tell that sexy little vixen of yours that it was so good to see her again," he added with a smirk.
"You smug bastard!" Jack screamed as he leapt towards Kinder. Derek pulled him back as his fist came within an inch of the man’s face.
"Jack! Come on, Jack. You’ve got to calm down," Derek reasoned, pulling Jack away from Kinder and off into a corner of the interrogation room. "You wanted to know Hayward’s connection to this, right? I think we should listen to what he has to say," he whispered.
"Ok. Alright." Jack sighed, returning to face his nemesis.
Jack reluctantly agreed that no further charges would be brought against Kinder. He would simply return to prison to finish the balance of his original sentence. In return, Kinder would supply him with detailed information regarding his dealings with David Hayward. Derek and Jack listened in rapt attention as Kinder told his story.
"David and I have known each other since medical school. His mother, Vanessa, and I entered into a mutually beneficial business arrangement. Cash for grades. So, when I read that the esteemed Dr. David Hayward, world renown cardiologist, had moved to Pine Valley,
I contacted him from prison to talk about old times."
"You mean you tried to blackmail him into helping you escape from prison."
"Now, now Mr. Montgomery. 'Blackmail' is such an ugly word. Let’s just say that I reminded him of the value of my continued silence," he laughed. "But, he didn’t bite, not right away. I knew he’d come around eventually. So, I just bided my time. And, true to form, David came to me a few years later, seeking my help."
"What did he want?"
"He was trying to develop a drug that would significantly impair long term memory. He promised to help me escape from prison in return for my assistance. Foolish me, I believed him."
"Did he develop the drug?"
"He did. But, Davey Boy didn’t keep his end of the bargain. Left me in prison to rot. He knew that no one would believe me, that I would not be able to prove anything."
"What were his plans for the drug?"
"He wouldn’t tell me. But, as I said, I’m a patient man. I knew that if I could find out what his plans were for the drug, I’d be able to‘convince’ him to get me out of prison. So, I did some digging, called in some favors from people who agreed to act as my eyes and ears on the outside, and I finally struck gold."
"What did you find?"
"Shortly after I gave David the formula for the drug, I came across a very interesting piece of news."
"Which was?" Jack was growing tired of the cat and mouse.
" I read the newspaper accounts of Dixie Martin’s car accident in
"What does that have to do with anything?"
"You lawyers need to have everything spelled out for you," Kinder chuckled, rolling his eyes. "David’s fixation with Dixie Martin was the talk of the town. Even you must have known about that," he added sarcastically. "Through my contacts, I discovered that he left for Zurich a few days before Dixie’s car accident. When I heard that Dixie’s body was never found, I put two and two together. I called
some contacts in Zurich and they confirmed that David was seen with a blond woman fitting Dixie’s description. This was after she supposedly died. I confronted David with my suspicions. He couldn’t deny it. He confessed that Dixie Martin is still alive."
Jack and Derek sat in stunned silence. It took a while before Jack could speak again. "He used the memory erasing drug on Dixie Martin?"
"So, you’re not just another pretty face," Kinder responded. "Yes. He used the drug on Dixie. He returned to Pine Valley so noone would become suspicious. He has been leading a dual life. When I found out, he agreed to help me get out of prison and out of the country, in return for my silence."
"But, why involve Erica? You could have gotten away with it if you hadn’t -----"
"Revenge," he interrupted. "Plain and simple. It would have been the sweetest revenge of all. By breaking out of prison and making off with the D.A.’s girlfriend, the woman who was instrumental in putting me behind bars in the first place, I would have thumbed my nose at an entire town. So, after David agreed to help me, I spent over a year carefully planning her abduction. It was flawless. Well, almost."
"What were you planning to do with her?" Jack demanded.
"Live happily ever after, of course," he laughed. "David was to insure our safe passage out of the country. As for the ‘happily ever after’ part, well, I have drugs for that."
Jack rose from his chair, his jaws and fists tightly clenched. He turned to Derek. "Get him out of here." When they left, he dialed the number of his best friend. "Tad. We found Kinder. Buddy, I’ve got some good and bad news for you. You should sit down...."
The next day, Erica was scheduled to be released from the hospital.
Jack had already told her about David’s involvement in her abduction, and in Dixie’s ‘accident’. The news was now slowly making its way through the Pine Valley grapevine. Intent on finding Dixie and bringing her home, Tad had left for Zurich the moment he heard the news.
When Jack arrived to take Erica home, she was lost in thought. "Hey you. A penny for your thoughts."
"I hope he finds her," Erica smiled up at Jack as he pulled her into an embrace.
"He will, sweetheart," Jack replied, kissing her gently on the forehead. "You sound pretty confident."
"I am. I'm confident that true love will always find its way home. I'm confident that two people who were meant to spend eternity together will always find their way back to one another, no matter what. That's the way it is for Tad and Dixie....and for us." He spoke softly, hugging her tightly against his chest, breaking away to kiss her softly on her lips. "So, your place or mine?" he added with a smile.
"Well, while you were off chasing bad guys counselor, I did a little undercover work of my own," Erica grinned playfully.
"Oh, really? And what did you uncover?"
"There's a brand new mattress waiting for us at my penthouse. I say we pick up where we left off before we were so rudely interrupted," she quipped, her voice ripe with seduction.
"Mmmm...I love it when you go undercover. Come here."
They stood holding each other for several minutes. Neither of them spoke because, in this moment, no words were necessary. There was a familiarity to their closeness. Yet, there was a renewed passion in their embrace. They had found their way back to one another again, both physically and emotionally. But, this time would be different. This time there would be no doubts, no turning away, no turning back. This time was forever.



Let the Games Begin

Chapter 1

A New Plan Evolves

It was almost a year since Erica left Pine Valley, after Bianca and Kendall banished her from their lives. At the time, the Kane/Montgomery family was being destroyed from the inside out, breaking the faithful bonds between mother and daughter. If truth were told, no one in either family was left untouched by the evilness of Michael Cambias. The greatest loss of all was the bitter reality that Michael not only raped Bianca, but also stripped something away from each person that had touched her life.
One by one, the Kane women fell, taking with them the men and women that loved them deeply. They had suffered so much, each crying out to the other for comfort, but none could be found. For them, it was hard to imagine a time when laughter came easy, and love was all that was in their hearts. A mother, torn apart by the need to protect her children from the blackness of her own childhood trauma; a daughter, whose love for her unborn child brought comfort in her darkest hour; and Kendall, a daughter, a sister, a friend, who carried the scar of both their nightmares. A pain that was too deep for words. Each of them, a broken soul that even time didn’t seem to mend.

Months passed, and still no sign of Erica. Jackson refused to give up hope on the woman who consumed his life, his heart, and yes, even his soul for what seemed an eternity.

What Erica didn’t know is that Jackson was an empty shell of a man who had no great
purpose without her. Although time served as no friend to Erica, her daughter’s Bianca and Kendall were starting to heal. The anger that they once felt towards their mother was overshadowed by their need to have her close again. Everyone knew why Erica left, but somehow it didn’t seem to matter now. All they could think of was bringing her home. Home to a family that loved her.

As the days passed, it seemed that they were never going to find Erica, until Erica wanted to be found. Each had their own fears, but Jackson was the one that felt her absence the most. Day by day, week by week, Jackson searched everywhere for Erica. Sadly, at the end of each day, he always ended up where he started, without Erica in his arms. It was hard to remain optimistic, but Jackson never gave up hope of finding her. He vowed that he vowed he would spend the rest of his life searching for her. This was his eternal missthe woman he loved.

It was almost evening when Jack and Reggie got home from another day in search of
Erica. They were exhausted and discouraged that another search for Erica had ended in failure. Jack was tired, and it was starting to show. He had spent every moment
searching for her, barely stopping to eat or sleep, and tonight his pain was clear. In every part of Jack, the sadness was there. It was getting late, when Reggie retired to bed and left Jack in the living room with the phone wrapped around him like it was his only lifeline to Erica. It was there that Jack fell fast asleep, dreaming of a time when he would hold her in his arms again. The smell of her skin was real to him, as was every inch of her amazing body. In his dreams, he could feel apart of her and know that she felt safe in his arms.

Suddenly the sound of the phone ringing out in the silent air awoke both Jack and Reggie from sleep. Jack was the first to react, as he fumbled around the sofa to find the phone that had fallen to his side throughout the night. Within what seemed like a lifetime to Jack, he found the phone pressed against the inside pillow. His heart was beating faster than he could ever recall. He searched the call display for answers, but it revealed nothing. Instinctively he called out her name before his mouth even reached the receiver.

“Erica!” His voice was soft and inviting, hoping that it would reflect how much he had missed her and longed to have her close again. When she did not speak, he called out to her again, but this time his voice was trembling. “I love you Erica. I need you. Please come home,” he pleaded to the empty air.

For a moment he held his head down in defeat, praying that God would give him the
wisdom to reach her heart, and he did. As she spoke, he could feel his heart pour over with love for her. Her voice was weaker than he remember almost reflecting her weary state, but to Jack it was like heaven. “Jackson, I left Pine Valley because I thought that I could escape who I am and find some peace in my soul, but all I found is loneliness. I want to come home Jack…you are my home.”
When Jack picked her up at the airport, he swore that he would never let her go and for once they were both on the same page…. They spent almost all their time together,
walking in the park, going out to dinner and enjoying every moment of every day. The
pain was not completely gone for either of them, but they were dealing with it together.
For Erica, Kendall and Bianca, the mother daughter bond was different than before, how could it not be after everything they had gone through, but this time there was a respect and appreciation that had not been there before. It seemed that time was indeed healing a pain that a year ago did not seem to go away. For the most part, they were one big happy family. The only thing missing was for Jack and Erica to become husband and wife.

They both wanted to take this next step, but neither wanted to scare the other off. Jack
had just got Erica back in his life, and everything was going better than he could ever
dream of. Marriage was something he wanted, but it seemed that every time they got to this point, something always tore them apart. For weeks he thought about proposing to her, but fear always seemed to stop him. He wasn’t afraid of his own feelings and he knew that she loved him. They have come so far, and he finally had her back in his life again; if he told her that he wanted to get married, he might scare her off; so he kept his feelings to himself. Erica on the other hand was finally ready to take a leap of faith and make Jackson her husband for once and for all, but she was not going to propose to him.

It was close to 5 PM on Monday evening and Erica was caught up in thoughts of Jackson, as she stared out her window taking in the scene of Pine Valley. Pine Valley was beautiful at the best of times, but there was something about spring that made everything seem possible. The flowers were blooming all over the place and with them was the hope of a new beginning, one that she wanted to start with Jackson Montgomery. As the possibilities ran through her mind, Erica began to think of ways that she could get Jackson to propose to her. Most women would take the direct approach and just tell him how she felt, but she was no ordinary woman, she was Erica Kane.

As her heart held Jackson tight within her arms, her mind traveled back to the last time
she tried to convince him to marry her… “OPERATION SNARE JACKSON,” she said
underneath her breath. Her laughter echoed off the walls and bounced back to her heart, filling it with such joy that she knew that she had to make this happen. She had to convince Jack to propose to her.

Suddenly her office door opened and through it came, the answer she had been struggling to find. “Hi Tad, how did you know that you were just the person I needed to see?” she said in her most winning and seductive Erica Kane smile.

“Well Erica, I told you that I would be coming by with the information you asked me to
look for, REMEMBER,” Tad said in confusion to her statement.
“Oh yes Tad, come in and have a seat,” Erica said trying to use her womanly charms on him.
“OK Erica, you don’t have to do that…. I mean flirt with me and put on the charm,” Tad said as he pulled her down on the sofa next to him. “And secondly, I can see that you are plotting something because those beautiful brown eyes are dancing with mischief. So what is going on, and don’t play coy with me,” he said as he reached out and turned her face towards him. “What are you about to get me involved in and better yet is Jack going to disown me?”

Erica began to fill Tad in on her plan of “OPERATION MARRY JACKSON,” telling
him how much she truly loved him and that she wanted to spend the rest of her life with the man that always owned her heart. She discussed a brief outline of her plan and how she would trick Jack.
“Well Erica, this sounds a little crazy, why don’t you just tell Jack how you feel and than go from there?” He stopped for a moment and than spoke again, “Never mind! You would think that after all this time that you and Jack would be able to do this without anyone’s help, but since I am a romantic at heart and I love the two of you… count me in.”
Erica thanked Tad as she kissed him on the cheek and showed him to the door, “I will be in touch Tad.”
“That is what I am afraid of,” he mumbled under his breath as he walked out the door.
By the time he got to his car, he couldn’t believe that she was actually able to talk him
into helping her. Tad was so lost in his own thoughts that he did not seem to notice that
someone was in the back seat of his car until he heard a man’s voice call out from behind him.
“She can really do a number on you, can’t she?”
Tad was frozen, until he realized that the man’s voice was Jack. “What the hell are you doing, Jack?” Tad said a little confused as to what Jack was doing in the back seat of his car.
“Why Tad, I could ask you the same question. OPERATION MARRY JACKSON…
sound familiar?”

Tad was speechless and could only manage to laugh at Jack’s interpretation of his earlier conversation with Erica. The thought of Jack skulking outside of Erica’s office trying to get the goods on her feelings for him was image that brought Tad to tears.
“Jack…” he tried to say, but he could not get the words out. “Jack, I can explain. Please don’t be angry,” he said trying to talk his way out of the predicament that Erica just got him into.
Jack silenced him before he could say another word. “I know what you and Erica are up to Tad.” He stopped a moment and Tad looked at him in fear, believing that Jack was about to let him have with both barrels, but instead he was calm and surprisingly happy.
“Listen Tad, I love Erica with all my heart, and now I know that she wants the same
thing. If she wants to try to get me to propose to her, then I am all for this little game that Miss Kane has dreamt up, but I want to have a little fun with her before I do the deed. Let’s see how far Erica will go to convince me. Are you in or out?” Jack said as he reached out his hand to seal the deal.

“Jack if she finds out, she will have my head on a platter, but I guess it might teach her a lesson about playing games,” he said as he shook Jack’s hand in agreement.
The two men talked for several more minutes before Jack opened the door to leave. “So we understand what you have to do?” Jack said. “Whatever plan Erica comes up with you will tell me about it, and I will do the opposite of whatever she expects of me…. And Tad, don’t let her know that you are working with me.”
As Jack closed the door behind him, Tad spoke out to Jack, “You can count on me, Jack. Double Agent Tad Martin on the job.”

Chapter 2
Monkey (Business) In the Middle

Erica paced the floor of her penthouse frantically trying to come up with a plan that
would have Jackson proposing within minutes. How hard could it be, she thought. I am
Erica Kane. Doesn’t every man want to marry me? And certainly after all the history
between Jackson and her, it would just come naturally. She’d never known a man that
made her feel as safe and loved as Jackson. Perhaps a romantic dinner would solve this problem?

A short time later, the stage was set. Erica had ordered up a gourmet meal from The
Valley Inn, set the mood with fresh roses, romantic music, a fire in the fireplace, and
candlelight everywhere else. She was now in the midst of deciding what to wear. The
Givenchy? Perhaps the Versace? The room was strewn with couture. Suddenly there was a knock on the door. Erica opened it to reveal Opal, covered from head to toe in electric orange and bright white, with baubles that were large enough to fit on the great Sphynx.

“Girlfriend, what’s got you fired up more than a mangy cat in a room filled with chubby
“Opal! Thank you for coming on such short notice.”
“Well, it’s not like I’ve got anything else on my plate, unfortunately. I brought my bag of tricks; now what’s this all about?”
“I need your help, Opal. Tonight is a very special night, and I want to look spectacular.”
“Honey, you know you don’t need any help in that department. The man upstairs tossed the mold when he made you. Now spill, what’s so special about tonight?”
“Jackson’s going to propose!” she beamed.
Opal looked confused. “Again? Now Erica, you know you’re my bestest girlfriend, but
what in Sam Hill makes you think you’re going to get that delicious ex-DA down on his
knee again?”
“Jackson loves me, and he’s always wanted to marry me. And I’ve been so wrong in the way I’ve treated him lately. I’m just giving him a little push,” she stepped back to reveal the room she’d decorated for the occasion.
“Push? This looks more like a life sentence. Subtle is not your middle name, girlfriend. I wish I had a life preserver.”
“Why?” Erica was puzzled.
“Because you have gone OVERBOARD!” Opal gestured toward the rose strewn carpet
near the fireplace, and the twelve dozen candles that lit the room brighter than the midday sun.
“Well, I think Jackson will appreciate all the effort I’ve put into tonight. You make it
sound like I want to put a noose around his neck.”
“Sweetheart, it’s just that when everyone else in this town gave up on you, he wouldn’t.
Do you know he begged my baby boy to find you, just so he could know you were safe even if you didn’t want to be with him anymore? Love doesn’t get anymore beautiful or selfless than that. And now you’re going to try to force something that should come naturally. You don’t need all this.”
“Well, you tell me. You tell me, Opal. What should I do? Should I just let things
continue as is, without letting Jackson know that I want things back on track for a
wedding? I want to marry this gorgeous, beautiful soul and look into those stunning blue eyes for the rest of my life. I can’t bear being apart anymore. I’ve learned a lot since my father died. What’s important is family. And Opal, Jackson is my family. He’s my heart.”
“Glad to hear it. Now, you know I’m one for flash and sass, but you don’t need all of this. Let’s kill about half the candles, and I can bring some of the excess flora to the hospital on my candy striper rounds. And let’s get you in an upsweep that will have Jackson staring at that lovely neck of yours all night. That’ll speed things along naturally.”

“If Operation Marry Jackson is going to succeed, I have to decide what to wear before
you do my hair. It has to be perfect.”
“Well, I think that fuscia number down there near the fireplace looks like a million bucks. That’s the one I’d wear.”
“Ok, so … I’ll nix the Escada,” Erica teased, a smile playing around her lips.
“Very funny, you are one lucky lady in the friend department, missy. But that must mean you deserve it. Now, let’s get you ready.”
Opal and Erica began collecting the couture and candles in preparation for tonight. When Opal was satisfied with the result, she wished Erica well and left. Erica proceeded to call Jackson and invite him to dinner.
“What do you mean you can’t make it tonight?” Erica said incredulously into the
receiver. Jackson had to cover his cell phone to keep Erica from hearing him start to laugh. He cleared his throat. “Well, it’s not that I don’t want to have dinner with you, Erica. I’d like nothing more.” Jack, fiddled with the buttons making it look like bad reception. “Erica, you’re breaking up. I’ll have to call you back.” He sat down on Tad’s couch. Tad was shaking his head, seated on a chair. He still couldn’t understand why Jackson would want to delay this wedding. After Jack’s pep talk that got him to go in search of Erica, Tad knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that Erica was all there was for Jackson. That would never change. He knew this feeling all too well, himself. And luckily for Jackson, he had a chance to be with the woman he loved beyond reason, so why not jump at the chance? “You shlemeil. Why not just propose? You want to. She wants you to. Why all the double agent subterfuge?”

“Because I’ve been through hell and I want a little fun. I want some reassurance. I want to make sure that when I put another ring on her finger it’s not coming off. I don’t want
to go the merry-go-round route again.” “So tell her that, not me.”
“I intend to. But I really want to see how far she’s willing to go for me. I’m tired of the
games, you know? I could use a little ego boost.”
“You’re stunning.” Tad joked batting his eyes.
“Not from you. Cut that out.” Jack threw back.
“Sorry. I’ve been on hiatus too long, and even you are starting to look good.”
Jackson took a pillow from the couch and hit Tad with it. Just then, Opal barged in as she always did.
“Jackson, well, don’t you look happy. Surprised to see you here, what with your big
dinner tonight and all,” she hinted.
Jack tried to keep his smile hidden. “Big dinner? You know something about SOS’s take out that I don’t, Opal?”
“SOS?” Opal was majorly puzzled. When she left Erica’s, Erica had told her she was
going to call Jackson. She even had the phone in her hand. That was quite a few minutes ago. She sat down on the sofa next to Jack.

“I have to help Livia with some legal work I promised. She wants to get Montgomery &
Associates up and running again. And in six months I’ll be back on my legal feet, as it
“As opposed to on your knees,” Opal muttered to herself.
“What?” Jack asked.
“Er, nothing.”
“Mama, what did you come here for?” asked Tad, knowingly.
“Ooh, never mind that now. You know what you need Jackson, with all that important
stuff coming up? A good card reading.”
“Oh God, no.” Tad put his head in his hands. “Mama, I told you to get rid of that mumbo jumbo stuff around me?”
“Hush now, this could be important. There are unseen forces at work in the cosmos,” she took out her well worn tarot deck.
“I’ll say,” Tad muttered. “I’ll be in the kitchen. I’m famished. Should I go find you a live
chicken while I’m in there, Mama? Jack?” Tad exited.
“Nothing for me,” Jack answered as Opal handed him the deck to cut. “Uh, just what is it you’re doing there, Opal? Keep in mind, I come from a long line of southern folk who
didn’t look too kindly on this stuff, let alone believe it.”

Opal laid out Jackson’s spread, intending to help Erica’s cause by pointing him in the
right direction. But the cards spoke for themselves. “Oh, my stars.”
“What is it, Opal?” Jack asked as Tad returned with what could only be classified as a
Dagwood sandwich. Opal pointed to the spread. “See this, most of your cards are upside down, giving them the opposite meaning as they should have. Makes me wonder if something isn’t right.  This one here, represents the past, and it’s about to repeat. That’s good, I think.”
“I’ve been trying to avoid that, actually.” Jack stated.
“You shouldn’t try anything. Just let it happen. There are good auspices all around.
Happiness. Prosperity. See here, The Empress. Unconditional love, family. I think we all know who that represents.”
“I haven’t the slightest clue,” Jack laughed while Tad rolled his eyes.
“Here… the Page of Swords,” turning over the card, she looked at Tad now. “A spy in
the midst.”
Tad coughed on his sandwich. “Mama, get that stuff out of my house. It gives me the
Opal stopped in her tracks when she turned over the Death card. All color drained from her face.
Jack sat back. “That can’t be good.”
“Well now, it’s not that bad. See here,” she said pointing to the card next to it. “The
Moon. That means all isn’t as it appears to be. So, death may not mean death. Besides, the Death card is really about change. That’s all. Well, if you two gentlemen excuse me, I better be off. Toodles!” she shoved all the cards into her bag and bolted out the door.

“I hate when she does that,” Tad said, finishing off the last bite.
“How often is she right, Tad?” asked Jack.
“A little too man times for my comfort. Are you sure you want to continue this, Jack?”
“I don’t believe in that stuff anyway, besides she said it could be good.”
“Whatever you say, boss. I am your Page of Cups, ‘til the end.”
“Bad choice of words, Tad.” Jack got up to call Erica back.

Outside Opal’s heart was racing. She was sitting in her car still in shock at the reading. The spirit world was trying to tell her something, she just felt it. What worried her most wasn’t the spy, she knew Erica hired Tad to help her with Jackson. It was the fact that the death card was in close proximity to that card, meaning that it would be Tad, not Jack or Erica that the card affected. “Lord, I hope you know what you’re doing.” She said putting her car in gear. “I just got a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach.”

In her penthouse, dressed to the nines and looking utterly ravishing Erica answered her phone. It was Jackson…

Chapter 3
A Little One on One

“Jackson, what’s going on? I thought you were busy?”
“Erica, I’ve taken care of that business. Now what were we discussing earlier?”
Erica began to get excited at the prospect of her plan working out once more. “Well, I
had wanted you to come up to the penthouse and enjoy a nice dinner.”
“Hmm… as much as I would enjoy that, I’ve got a better idea. Meet me at the park in 25 minutes and dress accordingly.”
With that, he clicked the end button, and a grin broke over his face. This was going to be great. On the other side of the line, Erica sat stunned. Surely, he was joking. He couldn’t be serious. Well, if she was to be there that quickly, she’d have to change and speed. And so she did.

The crisp night air sent a tingle through his body. The night was so alive, so open. He
walked the quick path to the basketball court and dropped the ball to rest in the grass. He knew he had a good ten minutes before she would be here. He scanned the area, scouting out any other visitors. Alone, just as he had figured.

Picking up the ball, he dribbled the court, getting a feel for the cool cement. Going
through the motions, he made a few shots and rebounded the misses. As he made his way back to mid-court, the glare of headlights caught his attention. Finally, she arrived.

She made her way through the patchy grass, stopping mere feet away from the court. She was beautiful, wearing a long sleeve fleece pullover, matching track pants, and to finish it off, a pair of tennis shoes. Whistling his appreciation loudly, she smiled softly, where he couldn’t see it.

“Well Jackson, you didn’t expect me to don a Gucci here now, did you?”
“Baby, you always keep me guessing. But, you are missing just one thing.”
He walked to meet her, still smiling at the thought of her picking out this outfit for him
tonight. Standing in front of her, he took his hat off, and placed it backwards on her head.

Grinning, he declared her outfit complete.
“A hat, I knew I had forgotten something.” Pulling it off to read the words, a smile broke across her face. “SIU, Salukies, that sounds cute.”
“I picked it up awhile back. I hadn’t really seen it lately, then found it in the closet. As
you can tell, it matches your outfit better than mine.”
“Well, I am Erica Kane.”
“Yes, yes you are.”

Silence fell over them, but the sounds of the night continued to carry on. Faint sounds of scurrying creatures could be heard from the bushes. Leading her from the grass, to the court, Jackson picked the ball up once more.

“So, my dear, are you ready for the game?”
“Jackson, I don’t play basketball. I don’t…“
“Oh, honey, don’t think of it as basketball. Think of it as, a little game of one-on-one.”
Chapter 4
Two Hearts Collide

“Oh Jack, I really like your idea of one on one.” Erica joked, but her meaning was not
lost on Jack, who pulled her on top of him once again and began smothering her neck
with soft sensual kisses. Since their game of one-on-one would not be permitted at the
park, they had quickly headed to Jack’s apartment.

“Hmmm, hmmm, hmmm,” he whispered in between his kisses. “How does this work
again? Oh yes, I remember now; the first one to get to 21 wins, and I think you are in the lead.” Jack couldn’t help but laugh as Erica’s face turned twelve shades of red. “No need to be embarrassed, sweetheart. I am glad that you enjoy yourself with me.”
Her embarrassment faded quickly, and in its place was all the passion Erica had in her heart for this man. Her eyes were dancing with desire as she maneuvered herself on top of Jack and looked him in the eyes. “Well I think you need to get a couple more baskets, if you want to catch up,” she said raising her eyebrows to let him know that she had a double meaning.
“Well I best get busy,” he said. As their lips met the world outside faded, and they once again drifted into their own little paradise. A paradise that only they could understand. Each kiss, each touch, each feel of the others skin was like they were becoming a part of each other for the very first time even though they had explored this world many times before.

The night had faded into morning and Jack woke up to Erica pressed against his chest. He couldn’t help but marvel in the amazement of this beautiful woman who was in his every thought. “How did I ever manage to get you to love me as you do”, he whispered softly not realizing that her eyes were open now. His fingers gently caressed her shoulder causing her to shiver just a little. Jackson did not notice her stirring because he was too lost in own thoughts. “I want to spend the rest of my life with you. I want you to be my wife”.

Erica’s eyes opened wide as a victory smile flashed across her face. Thoughts were
racing through her mind that finally she had reached her goal and got Jack to propose.
“What did you just say, Jack?” she asked, knowing full well what she heard, but wanting him to repeat the question.
“Oh, ah, oh” was all he could manage to say. He searched his head for an answer to her question. “Oh, I, I was just saying that I need to get a life”.
He tried not to laugh, but his response sounded so ridiculous that he couldn’t help but
think that she would not buy his answer.
“Yeah I was just thinking about how much time I spend at work, and how I miss out on
these moments with you.”
When she reached up and kissed him on the lips, he was starting to feel very proud of his quick comeback. On the surface, it seemed that Erica bought his explanation. When she put her head back down on his chest, Jack could not help but breathe a sigh of relief that he had not blown his cover.

“Well you must be hungry sweetheart, so why don’t I go and make you some breakfast”.
Before she could even respond, Jack was out of bed and running towards the door. All he could think of was getting out of this room before he spilled the beans, which is why he didn’t notice Erica’s high heels in front of him until it was too late and he fell to the floor with a crash. When he tried to get up, he began to laugh as Erica’s lace bra was wrapped around his neck.

“What do you think of my new scarf?”
They both laughed, but Jack knew his odd behavior was not going to go unnoticed by
Erica. When he reached the kitchen, he put his hand across his forehead and said, “Good one Jack, you almost played right into her hands”.
“I know what you said Jack, and I know that you want to marry me, so why won’t you
ask me?” she said as she began putting her clothes on from the night before. “You’re not getting off the hook that easy Mr. Montgomery.”

As Erica opened the door to the bedroom, she stopped when she heard Jack talking to someone on the phone. She slid back behind the door and listened to his conversation. She could only hear Jack, but it was clear what they were talking about.
“I almost slipped up this morning and asked Erica to marry me. Not yet, I am not ready to give into her just yet.” Jack abruptly changed the subject when he heard Erica moving up the hallway.
“Yes, exactly Yes. I don’t want to give them a life sentence, but I think it is important to
teach them a lesson. But we will have to discuss this later when I get to the office. Yes,
great, talk to you then.”

Jack put down the phone and pulled Erica into the most amazing good morning kiss,
which only set off alarms in her head. She knew that he was up to something, and she
was pretty sure she knew what.

“So who were you talking to on the phone?” she said, really not sure who is partner in
crime was, but knowing full well that Jack was up to something.
“Oh honey, that was just the… Defense lawyer… Wondering if I would make a plea
bargain with his client, you know work stuff… but enough about that, I have made you
some breakfast…. So while I get a shower, you can have a bite to eat, unless of course you would like to skip breakfast and join me in the shower?”
“That sounds good,” Erica said with a seductive smile, trying not to tip Jack off that she was on to his game. “But you go in and get everything ready and I will be in to join in just a moment after I check my messages.”

As she heard the shower turn on, she rushed over to the phone to check the call display to see who had really called Jack. “Oh I wonder when Tad Martin went to law school…. Well Tad, looks like you have been playing both sides of the fence.”
Several minutes went by and Erica still did not join him in the shower, as she originally
told him she was. “Erica… Where are you honey? I am lonely in here without you. I
have a surprise for you… Erica.” He called out several more times before leaving the
shower and heading back to the kitchen where he had left her moments ago.
“Erica, the shower is getting cold. Are you going to join me in the shower? Hello!
Sweetheart,” but Erica did not respond. She just continued to stare out the window. He
began to walk towards her, when a knock on the door stopped him in his tracks. “Tad,
what are you doing here?”
Tad walked passed Jack and towards Erica hoping that she could give him some
explanation to why she beckoned him here at this early hour.
“Erica, what did you want me here for?” Tad questioned, but not sure he wanted the
answer when Erica turned and gave him one of her disapproving looks.
“Why don’t you tell me Tad all about your little double agent gig?” They both knew they
were busted, and there was no way that Erica was going to buy anything they said at this moment.
“I thought that you just didn’t want to marry me Jack, but here you were trying to teach
me a lesson. Why don’t you tell me what lesson you wanted me to learn?” Her tone was cold and both Tad and Jack knew that this had gone way past a little fun.
“Erica, sweetheart, it is not Tad’s fault, it is mine. I just wanted to know that you were
serious and that you really wanted to marry me.”
“Oh really Jack, well I am sure Tad told you I wanted to marry you. In fact I am sure he told you everything.”
“Yes Erica, I did know the plan from the beginning, and I am sorry that I acted like I
didn’t. But you have to know that I have asked you to marry me more times than David
Hayward has committed crimes, and we just never seem to get there. I just needed to
know that you really wanted this.”
“Why didn’t you just tell me how you were feeling? I heard you on the phone with Tad
when you said that you wanted to teach me a lesson. What lesson did you want me to
learn? WHAT? Did you want me to know that you would not fall at feet whenever I
looked your way; did you want me to know that you were not going to chase after me
anymore; what lesson Jack did you want me know? Just be honest! Did I hear you
correctly on the phone? Were you trying to teach me a lesson Jack? Well were you?”
“YES, YES, Yes I was. I am not proud of what I did, but I never expected you to react
this way. Yeah I think that we are both wrong for playing this stupid game in the first
place, but yes you are right, I was trying to teach you a lesson.”
As the tears fell down her cheek, Jack reached out to wipe them away. “Erica I have
spent my life chasing after you, and I guess… I guess, I just wanted you to come to me.”
As she looked away, both men could see that she was visibly hurt by both their actions. However, her voice was calm, almost too calm. They were both expecting her to yell and scream and storm out the door, but she didn’t.
“I understand what you both did and why.” She kissed Jack on the cheek and walked past Tad and lightly touched his arm. “Well I have some things I need to do Jack, so I will touch base with you later today. And Tad, I guess, I won’t be in need of your services anymore.”

They looked at each other and than back at Erica wondering when the other shoe was
going to fall, but she stood her ground. She headed towards the door without uttering
another word to either man. Jack reached out for Erica’s arm and turned her around so that she was now facing him.
“Sweetheart, are you sure you’re not upset? You do know that I love you, right and that I really do want to marry you? You do know that, right, Erica?”
“It’s okay Jack, I do know all of that, and I am not upset. As I just said, I understand why you did what you did. I’ll talk to you later.”
When she was just about out the door, she turned to Jack and said, “David has one up on you.” Jack was confused, and his face told her so. “Well you said that you asked me to marry you more times than David committed crimes, but that wasn’t true. If you had have asked me one more time, you would of have been even.”

As the door closed behind her, Jack was more confused now than he was earlier. Tad
was the first to speak, “Am I the only one that thinks we are not off the hook here?”
Jack looked back at Tad, who was standing directly behind him and said, “Not by a long shot, my friend. Not by a long shot.”

It was almost noon before Erica arrived at her office. She was busy all morning trying to finalize her plans for the next step of Operation Marry Jackson, but this time she had no intentions of including Tad. There was no question that she was hurt by Jack’s tactics of using Tad as the go between guy, but she also had to take responsibility for her part in all of this. And if the truth was told there was a part of her that admired his ability to outwit her. However, she was wiser now, and she refused to make the same mistake twice. If her plan was going to work than there was only one person, who could be privy to the details. When she stepped off the elevator and headed towards her office, Val greeted her at the door to tell her that Opal had already arrived.
“Hey Opal, I am glad that you came so quickly”.
“Well when you told me to drop everything and get over here ASAP, I didn’t really have a choice. And why are you looking at me like a deer stuck in headlights?”
“Oh nothing, Opal, just wondering where you got those earrings at. Oh and look you
even have the matching necklace and bracelet to go with it. I can’t believe they actually have it in a set.”

“Isn’t it great! I got it at the New Age store that opened up last week. They say it is one
of a kind.”
“Thank goodness! I mean, I think it is great that you got one of a kind. It is certainly a
conversation piece,” Erica said in a sarcastic tone that was lost on Opal.
“Well since you’re my favorite gal pal, and you like it so much, here you go,” Opal said as she placed the bracelet in Erica’s hand.
“OH NO, Opal! I couldn’t take this amazing bracelet from you. REALLY, I wouldn’t
feel right about it. It looks better on you anyways.” Erica turned away so that Opal
couldn’t see the fear on her face and mumbled under her breath, “I would have to be out of my mind.”
“What did you say Erica about your mind?” Opal questioned.
“Oh I said I am running out of time.” Erica looked to Opal hoping that she bought her
explanation, and she did. “I need your help Opal”.
“Well Erica you’re my bestest girlfriend, and I would do anything for you. So what do
you want me to do?”
Erica filled Opal in about her conversation with Jack and Tad and how Jack was trying to teach her a lesson. The two women spent all afternoon discussing what the next move would be and at the end of the day, the plan was set.

“Remember Opal tell no one about this”.
“Erica, I don’t like the sound of this idea. I wasn’t going to say anything about this, but I was talking to Jack and Tad yesterday, and I started to read Jack’s cards to kinda give my galpal a little help in the love department”.
“What! You were reading Jack’s what?”
“It is not important, Erica. The point is that I was reading his cards, and it was spooky. I know something bad is going to happen. I don’t what you do this, please don’t go to
“OPAL, as always your imagination is getting the best of you here. Everything is going
to work, and Jack and I will get married in Paris. But before we do, I want to teach him a lesson about trying to beat ERICA KANE at her own game. NOW, Opal, are you with
me on this?”
“Oh girlfriend, I don’t agree with this, but mums the word. Cross my heart, hope to
die… stick a needle in my eye and all that stuff; I will keep your secret!” Opal took the
bracelet off her wrist and tried to put in on a reluctant Erica. “This bracelet, is not just a fashion yes, it is going to keep you safe. This should protect you from any danger. If you want to keep this secret and go along with this plan, you just wear it and stop making a fuss.”
“Okay, Opal. I will wear the bracelet. Now I have to get to the airport. And Opal, thanks
for everything! You really are my best friend.” When the door closed behind her, Erica turned to her desk and put the bracelet in her top drawer “Oh Opal. You certainly have the flare for the dramatic. And this bracelet, what would people think, if they saw Erica Kane wearing this? I can see the tabloids now… ‘Call the Fashion Police, Erica Kane needs to be Arrested.’” She laughed hysterically as he headed out the door to marry the man she loved more than life itself.

It was almost six that same evening when Opal bolted through Jack’s door without even
knocking. She was frantic, and Jack was not sure what to think of her recent outburst. He had known Opal to be off the wall sometimes, but her behavior tonight seemed odd even for her. She grabbed the remote from Reggie’s hand and began surfing through the channels. They all looked on as she tried to speak, but she couldn’t. It was clear to
everyone that she was upset, but no one had any idea to what magnitude. As Jack moved towards Opal and took the remote from her hand, he caught a glimpse of the news report.

“American Airline flight 1974 to Paris crashes killing 50 people.” Everyone stopped to
listen to the report still not clear on how it affected each of them directly, and why Opal
was upset. But as the words echoed through the apartment it all began clear.
“It is confirmed that Supermodel and Business Tycoon Erica Kane was indeed on this
flight to Paris.”

Chapter 5
The Truth is Revealed

Silence consumed the apartment. It was like a vacuum had sucked all the life, energy, and sound out of Jack’s loft. Reggie’s eyes were welling up in tears as the news media flashed pictures of the crash site.

“Fifty confirmed dead; names are being withheld until families can be notified. So far therescue crews have found more than thirty survivors, their conditions have ranged from critical to minor. From the looks of this crash site, you wouldn’t believe anyone could walk away. Again to recap for those viewers that are just now joining us. American Airlines Flight 1974 crashed upon landing in Paris. It has been confirmed that Supermodel and Business Tycoon Erica Kane was aboard this flight, her condition is unknown at the moment…”

“Shut it off…” Jack said softly, speaking his first words since Opal arrived. “Shut the
damn thing off.” Jack’s voice was growing louder and stronger. Both Opal and Reggie
were paralyzed with fear for Erica’s safety. They had all come so far and now… The
thoughts were too much for Jack, as he kicked the TV and yanked the power cord out of the wall.
“Jackson, do you want me to call Kendall? She can bring Bianca and Miranda over here.”
Opal’s voice was weak. The tears were rolling down her cheeks. “I tried calling the
airline on my way over here, but they wouldn’t tell me anything. I’m not next of kin.
Jackson… Jackson, you need to have Kendall or Bianca call. But they need to hear it
from you, first.”

“The Hell with that… I’m calling, damn it she’s my…” Jack rose in a fury of anger, but
was quickly reduced to tears. “She’s my Erica, but not my wife. DAMN IT!”

Reggie reached out for Jack, as Jack swore again. “She’s okay, J. I feel it. Trust me,
Erica’s not gone. I’ll go get Greenlee. She can call Kendall and just tell them to get over here now. Greenlee will get Kendall and Bianca here.”
With that Jack slumped back on the couch, and Reggie rushed out of the apartment. Opal sat beside the love of her girlfriend’s life. “Jack, you need to be strong. Erica needs you to be strong for her and for her girls. The kids need you now. We don’t know how Erica is, so we just need to find out. I am going to call Myrtle and then Tad to see how they can help.”

Her eyes fluttered slowly at first, but then faster as she began to awaken. “Where am I?” she asked.
“You are at a hospital in Paris. It’s alright, Ms. Kane. You are okay.” The nurse was
monitoring Erica’s vitals and writing down all the latest numbers. “My name is Kristen.
You were very blessed to be in first class. If you had not, you might not be in such good shape.”
“What happened?” Erica tried to sit up. Kristen quickly moved to help her. Although
Erica was in good shape for having survived a plane crash, she was still weak and fairly banged up. There was something familiar about this lady, Erica thought, but her headache was pounding so loudly, she couldn’t be sure of anything.
“Your plane caught fire on the tail end as it made re-entry. It crashed as it was landing, but you will be just fine. Just a minor concussion, two broken ribs, some cuts and bruising. I wish all the passengers were like you.” Kristen handed Erica a cup of ice chipsto suck on to help her dry throat, which Erica did.

“Oh no, my family, they must be worried sick. Has anyone contacted them?” Erica was suddenly alarmed at how Jack and all the kids must have taken the news that her plane crashed. It had to be out that she was on the plane.

“No one at the hospital has, Ms. Kane. The airline told our administration to let them
handle all of the family notifications. We are only to report to the airline. So I don’t know what your family might know.” Kristen was trying to answer her questions as honestly as possible, but still keep her patient calm. She had heard of Erica Kane and had no desire to upset her. Erica looked at Kristen, studying her sweet face. Kristen was probably in her mid 30s. Her blonde wavy hair attractively framed her face. Something about that face just seemed so familiar, but Erica couldn’t place it.

“Is there any way I could use a phone? I need to call my family. I need to let my
daughters and Jack know that I am alive.” Erica’s love for her family was obvious.
“I certainly understand. I wouldn’t be able to keep from calling my Kate to let her know
that her Mommy was alright.” Kristen handed Erica the phone off the bedside table. “I’ll give you some privacy for a few minutes. If your family wants to talk with a doctor, it will have to wait, since all the doctors are swamped with other crash victims, but I will be happy to reassure them that you are okay, if needed.”
“Thank you.” And with that Erica dialed Jack’s loft. Her thoughts lingering on the name

“Hello, where’s my Erica?” Jack answered the phone as he had been for the last hour.
Demanding answers out of everyone that dared to call and tie up the line, while they were awaiting news. The girls, Opal, Myrtle, and Tad had gathered at the apartment with Jack and Reggie. Several others had called and were on their way.

“Jack, it’s me. Don’t worry. I’m okay.” Erica’s voice cracked as she started to cry after hearing the fear in his voice.
“Erica… Honey, is it really you?” Everyone now gathered around Jack. Bianca picked up the other extension. “Mom… mom are you okay?”
“Bianca, honey, I’m fine. Just a little banged up. Don’t worry you guys. I’m okay. I’m in a hospital in Paris. My nurse let me call. I knew you had to be worried after she told me what happened. Jack…”
“Yes, sweetheart.”
“Jack, I am sorry. Please come get me. Please make me feel safe.”
“Of course, honey. We’ll be on the next flight. Don’t you worry. We’ll all be there as
soon as possible…. And Erica…”
“Yes, Jackson…”
“I love you. I want to marry you, just as soon as possible.”
Tears that had been contained started rolling down her cheeks, “I love you too.”
Erica quickly spoke with all of their children and assured them that she was okay. After speaking with Jack one more time, to reassure both of them that she really was alright, Erica hung up the phone.

Kristen came back into the room half an hour later. “Sorry it took me so long. I got tied
up with other patients.”
“That’s okay. I certainly don’t expect to have a nurse in my room fulltime.” Although
Erica was tired, her headache was dying down, and now she was better able to focus.
“Actually, due to your fame, Ms. Kane, they would like me to remain in her with you.
The administration wants to make sure you receive absolutely the best care. Plus there is a hospital guard stationed outside your door to make sure no one but staff and family enters your room.”
“Thank you, Kristen. I really don’t want the press getting pictures of me like this.” Erica motioned to her cut lip and black eye.
“Not to worry.” Kristen went to work taking Erica’s blood pressure and temperature; then changed her IV bag.
“So Kristen, you mentioned your daughter Kate. How old is she?”
“She’ll be four this year.” Kristen finished writing down all of Erica’s latest stats.
“May I ask where you are from? You don’t have a French accent, so I am guessing you are not originally from here.” Erica was getting more and more curious.
“I think I was from American, but to be honest, Ms. Kane, I don’t remember.” Kristen
brushed a strand of hair off her cheek and sat in the chair beside the bed.
“How can you not remember?”
“I was in a very horrible accident before Kate was born. I was lucky to live. They took
Kate by caesarian when she was 7 months along because they were so concerned I would not make it. I did, but I don’t have any memory prior to it. I sadly don’t even remember who I was or who Kate’s father is.” Kristen’s eyes welled up with tears. “Sorry to unload all that on you, Ms. Kane.” Looking down at her watch, “It’s time for shift change. I am going to go inform your new nurse of your status. Take care.”
Kristen quickly retreated before Erica was able to share her thoughts or even ask for apicture of Kate. It couldn’t be, could it? Erica pondered, as she allowed sleep to overtake her.

Chapter 6
Perchance to Dream

As Erica slept her thoughts drifted back to where her heart was, Jackson.
She was standing on the observation deck on the second level of the Eiffel Tower at
sunset. Amazingly, there was no one else around. She heard accordion music playing that familiar Parisian standard, “La Vie En Rose” from below. The elevator doors opened and Jack exited, wearing a tux and carrying a single red rose.
“Jackson,” Erica smiled.
“You better not have said any other name,” Jack teased as he swaggered over to her and took her in his arms. He kissed her passionately and when they finally caught their breath they lost it again gazing out across the city, sparkling in the twilight. Jackson stood behind Erica, holding her shoulders from behind as she held his hands with her own. He turned her around to face him, and Erica knew exactly what he was going to say. Jackson got down on one knee and removed a small box from his lapel pocket revealing a stunning diamond ring. Erica smiled and caressed his face as he asked the magic question …

“Would you like a bedpan?”
Erica opened her eyes and was confused for a moment. Finally, she realized it had been only a dream. She wondered about visitors.
The nurse continued, “Parlez vous Anglais?”
“Oui. Has anyone been to see me? Has anyone asked for me?”
“No madam. But that doesn’t mean anything. You’ve only been asleep for a few hours.”
“Thank you,” Erica paused. It seemed there was something else she had to know. “That nurse that was here earlier, Kristen was her name, is she here now?”
“I don’t know any nurse named Kristen on this floor, Ms. Kane. Do you want me to
check with personnel?”
Erica shook her head, could she have dreamed that too? Kristen looked remarkably like… no, it couldn’t be. What would she be doing in Paris? Erica took a deep breath and settled her nerves. This was really too much. She had to wonder why no one from her family had shown up yet. How long had it been since they left Pine Valley?

When Jackson stepped off the plane in Charles De Gaulle airport he could feel himself getting closer to Erica. Bianca, Opal, and Kendall had gone with Reggie to get the bags at baggage claim while he phoned the hospital to check on Erica.

And My Reason Is You

“Paris, the city of love. The land of forgotten lives, and new awakenings. Paris—“
“Reggie, enough with the brochure reading, drop it and lets meet up with Jack. We’ve got our bags, now move it.”
“Whoa, Kendall, chill. We’re moving, we’ve got this. You need to relax.”
“How about both ya scrappers get a movin’? Your Uncle Jack is here in the city where it all began, and you’re dilly-dallyin around this carousel like two kids at a carnival.”
”C’mon guys, Opal’s right. Uncle Jack needs us, lets go.” Bianca, ever the voice of
reason, led the pack back towards the information desk. Jackson stood silent, phone
pressed rightly to his ear, awaiting word on Erica.
Out of the corner of his eye, he caught site of the group, anxiously waiting to hear what was going on. He was amazed that they had traveled this far, this fast, all for him. Sure, he could have come alone and seen Erica. But somehow having the kids here, and Opal, things just felt so much better.

Clicking the phone off, Jackson turned to everybody. A smile creasing his face, and
everyone breathed a sigh of relief.
“Well, she’s fine, resting comfortably right now, and will be quite ready to see us.”
“That’s great Jack, lets head over there, I know she’s thinking about us right now.”
“Oaps, how’d ya figure that? She’s resting.” Reggie always willing to question her
smiled proudly at his question.
“Don’t you worry about that, just worry bout getting this stuff to the car, we’ve gotta
Walking together, baggage in hand, they made their way to car rental, and then off to the hospital. Jackson secretly couldn’t wait to see her face, and maybe send the others away for some quiet time. Loading up, the trip was quick to the hospital.

The room was basked in sunshine, and Jackson slowly crept the door open. His eyes met hers as she turned away from the window. There was passion, and love in her eyes, beneath the tiredness. He knew his eyes reflected the same, and both smiled at their thoughts.
The door slid the rest of the way, and everyone was soon crowding around Erica,
touching gently, relieved to see her once more. Opal, Kendall and Bianca were all
talking, quickly and smiling happily every minute. Reggie stood a little further away,
allowing her room to breathe, and finally Jackson stood quietly against the window.
Watching his family interact, and trying to control his heartbeat.
He wasn’t sure if he’d ever been this happy before. The last time he was here, in Paris, things had been wonderful. Yet, this reunion seemed to top it. Last time it was finding out if the love would last, if it was possible. This time, it was the fact that the love was true, that he was here, that she was here, that it came back here.

It seemed that this was the only place to be. Of course, this time the family was here,
their family, and they had made it. Glancing at her, he watched her interacting with
everyone, reassuring them of her health, that she was fine. Catching her eyes, he smiled.
This is all that he could have ever wished for, yet had dared not to hope. She was safe, she was okay, and they were all together.
Opal looked away from Erica for a moment, and noticed her previous distraction. Eyeing Jackson, she knew what needed to be done.
“Okay you guys, I think your mom needs some time alone with Uncle Jack here. Why
don’t we go wrestle up some vending machine goodies?”
Reggie caught on quickly, and soon was aiding in the exiting of the room.
“Yo J, we’ll be down the hall, ya know, grubbin’, so ya know, we’ll be back. E, we’ll be
back later. Remember, no strenous activity.”
With a smack from Kendall, they left the room, and a calm quiet fell upon them. Jackson made his way to the bed, pulling a chair along with him. Sitting close to the bed, he took her hand, and brought it to his lips.
“I’ve missed you.”
“And I you, Jackson. I’m so glad you’re here. I needed to feel your hands, see your face. I know I’ll be okay as long as you’re here. I need you.”
“I’m here Erica. Where else could I be?”
Smiling at that thought, she rested her hand against his cheek. Feeling the stubble of a
few days growth. Knowing the worry brought him here, and that made his rest fitful over the last few days.
“I love you Jack, don’t ever think otherwise.”
“I never could, even if I wanted to.”
Smiling, he sealed her lips with his own. A brief kiss that left the desire for so much
more. They’d have time for that later. This was Paris of course. The city of love.
“Jackson, there is a nurse here. She looks familiar. I want you to meet her. I think you’ll recognize her.”
“Erica, are you sure you’re okay? I mean, the last time we were in Paris, I don’t’ recall  leaving our hotel room.”
“Jackson, you’re going to think I’m crazy, but I could swear it’s Dixie.”
“Okay, I talked to your doctor, and my French may not be the best, but he didn’t say
anything about head trauma.”
“Jackson, believe me, I have my doubts. She usually makes rounds in the evenings.
Tonight, when she comes, you’ll see her. I really think it’s her.”
“Okay, Erica, its okay. I’ll be here. Why don’t you get some rest, I’ll sit here with you.”
“Mmm… that sounds nice. Why don’t you tell me a story, help ease me into sleep.”
“Mmm… hmm… okay. Once there was a Marshall, and he rode his horse through the
lands, protecting a special lady of his. Miss Kitty was a pretty woman…”
With Jackson’s story fading her into sleep, her thoughts went the nurse. What if she was Dixie? What if, what if, what if.

Chapter 8
A Miracle

“Opal, what’s wrong? You look like you’ve seen a ghost.” Jack and Erica had been
discussing Paris with the kids, since only Greenlee had been to Paris previously, when Opal walked back in the room.
Gingerly Opal sat on the edge of Erica’s bed, “I think I may have.” Opal’s face was much paler than normal. “I could have sworn I saw Dixie as I was coming back from the waiting room.”
“There’s no way you saw Dixie,” Jack reassured her. Bianca had taken Opal’s hand,
trying to soothe her nerves. “You had just been talking to Tad, right?”
“Yes, maybe that’s it. Maybe I just wanted it to be her.” Opal started to look a little
“Ms. Kane, it’s time for me to check your vitals.” Kristen walked in. “Oh, it looks like
your entire family got here. That’s wonderful.”
“Good evening Kristen. This is my fiancée, Jackson Montgomery, and almost all of our
children, Greenlee, Kendall, Bianca, and Reggie.” Erica’s voice was as calm as ever,
while she introduced the clan. All of their faces were ashen, watching Kristen.
“This is my good friend Opal.” Erica introduced Opal, who went weak at the knee as she stood. Reggie held her up.
“E, I think we’ll wait outside.” Reggie guided all the ladies out, while Jackson remained
by her side.
Jack’s eyes studied Kristen’s face. If she wasn’t Dixie Martin, she had to be related to her somehow. When his eyes settled on her neck, Jack noticed a cross necklace that he recognized. Tad and he had gone shopping, Jack for the latest engagement ring for Erica and Tad for that necklace.
Jack suddenly gasped as he realized the truth. Erica leaned over to him as Kristen took her blood pressure. “See, it is her, isn’t it?”
Jack nodded. “Kristen, thank you for being so kind to Erica. You don’t know how much I appreciate knowing that you were caring for her when I could not be here.”
“Certainly, Mr. Montgomery. I know just how Ms. Kane felt waking up in a strange
place, unsure of what happened.” Kristen finished the paper work. “Do you need
anything, Ms. Kane?”
“You were going to show me a picture of Kate, your daughter, remember?” Erica knew this would solidify things one way or another. If this little girl had any of Tad in her, Jack and Erica would be able to tell and would then know how to proceed.
“Oh yeah.” Kristen pulled a small wallet sized picture out of her pocket. “Here is my
little angel. I only wish I could remember my past, so I could find her father for her.”
Erica took the picture. After examining it closely, she handed it to Jack, “Isn’t she
beautiful, Jack? Those gorgeous eyes, don’t they remind you of someone?”
“Oh my God, she’s adorable,” Jack said quickly recovering, handing the photo back to
Kristen. “Do you mind if I ask you some questions? I might be able to help you piece
things together.” Jack was sincere in his offer. He wanted her to remember who she really is herself, not anyone telling her.
“I don’t mind, Mr. Montgomery, but I can’t right now. I have way too many patients to
take care of. Maybe another time. I have tried hypnosis and everything. The police here don’t have my finger prints on file, but they were great about helping me get on my feet when I woke up.”
“I have some connections back in the states, maybe they could help you figure out yourpast, either with finger prints or DNA.” Jack desperately wanted to get physical proof.

Kristen pulled one strand of hair out of her head and handing it to Jackson. “If you thinkyou could help me find out who my daughter’s father is, I’ll do anything. Now I really must go check on my other patients. Have a nice evening. You should be released soon, Ms. Kane.”

Jack and Erica huddled tight most of the night, trying to figure out the next step. They
didn’t want to get anyone’s hopes up, but were fairly positive that Kristen was really
Dixie. If only she remembered Tad, if only they had some hope she would eventually
remember him. Neither one of them wanted to hurt Tad. Knowing they would not be able to come to any firm decisions until morning, Jack curled up in the small hospital bed with Erica, and they both drifted off.

“Jack, Erica, was that really who I thought I saw last night?” Opal, in her normal flare,
was bouncing around the room like a yo-yo.
“We don’t know for sure, but it may be her,” Jack said in a very cautious tone. “I have
Aidan looking into it.”
“Opal calm down. Your pacing is giving me a headache.” Erica reached out and grabbed her friend’s hand. Opal sat on the edge of the bed.
“What if it is her, girlfriend? What if her daughter is my grandchild? What are we going to do?” Opal was searching for answers they didn’t yet know.
“Opal, let’s just take things one step at a time. First let’s get me out of this stupid hospital bed and out of this drab gown and then we can tackle this Kristen/Dixie issue.” Erica was definitely better. Most of the bruising was starting to heal, and although she would have to take it easy, the doctors had told her she would be released by ten. As that time drew nearer and nearer, her patience with everything was starting to wane.
“I’ll go check on your release papers. Opal, will you help Erica get dressed? There is a suitcase in the closet of clothes that Kendall brought with us.” Jack quickly kissed Erica’s forehead and left.

By the time he returned with the paperwork, the two women were both pacing. Erica
quickly signed the papers, and they all headed for the door. Greenlee was showing
Kendall, Bianca, and Reggie some of Paris, while Jack, Erica and Opal figured out their next step.
Kristen had been given Jack’s card with the number of their hotel, but they had no way to contact her. So they had left word at the hospital for her to call them. Just as the three were entering Jack and Erica’s hotel room, his cell phone rang.
“Montgomery… Yes… Thank you, that’s great news. Would you fax the report to the
hotel… Thank you, great work… Yes, not a word to anyone for now. We will handle that on our end. Thanks again!”
Erica and Opal were clutching each other’s hands, waiting with baited breath for Jackson to tell them the great news. Although both were sure of the results, they needed to hear it. Jack turned to face them, beaming.
“So now how do we reunite Tad with the love of his life and his daughter?”

Chapter 9
Déjà vu

Once they were back in the hotel Erica and Opal hatched a plan.
“Girlfriend, this sure is one humdinger of a plan. I just hope my Tad comes through. I
called him from the hospital and told him to get his baby blues to Paris tout suit. Do you think this will work?”
“It has to, Opal.”
First and foremost, Erica wanted to get married as quickly as possible. She and Jack had waited far too long for their wedding. Phone calls were made, and after Erica threw around her considerable celebrity weight, they had secured a time at St. Germain church, the oldest in Paris, in Saint Germain des Pres, and the reception would be at the Jules Verne, one of Paris’ most prestigious restaurants 125 meters up the Eiffel Tower. Erica made sure this wedding would be spectacular since it would be her last.

“You and Opal have been busy, I see,” he said, noticing the organizer and appointment book with multiple entries and erasures. Jackson came up behind her and kissed her on her cheek, holding her from behind.
“I told you I could pull this wedding together with my eyes closed and my hands tied
behind my back.”
“Isn’t that a pretty picture?”
Erica playfully batted Jack’s arm at the comment and Jack laughed. “Jack, we’ve waited so long for this, and I’ve planned it in my head so many times. Once we were here, I knew in my heart how I wanted everything to be. It was simply a matter of convincing the managers of the places that it was the only thing to do.”

He turned her around to face him and caressed her cheek. His voice low and full of
emotion he started, “All that matters to me is that you’re there. We could get married in a pig sty with a fat sow as witness and I’d be happy.”
Erica smiled even though she was mildly repulsed by the thought. “That better be a blue ribbon prize winning sow. After all, I am Erica Kane… soon to be, Montgomery.” Her eyes twinkled with delight and mischief. “I deserve the best.”
“And I intend to see that you get it, every single day, for the rest of my life,” he pulled
her into a long, slow, meandering kiss that would have gone much further but Erica
didn’t want anything spoiled.
“Jack,” she said breathlessly, “I love you so much, despite the past, despite my issues, you’re the only man who has ever fully understood and appreciated me. And you’ve always been there for me even when I pushed you away. I may not say it enough, but I hope you know that I always think it – you’re my heart and always have been.”
Jack looked deep into her dark chocolate eyes, they were filled with emotion and Jack felt his heart filled to bursting. “I’ve told you before – You took root in my heart the day I met you and you will live there until the day I die. Nothing has changed and nothing ever will. You’ve been the only woman for me since I met you, and even before that. I was always searching for something and restless with myself before I met you. You were what I was searching for and my soul wasn’t complete until I found you. I’ll always be there when you need me, and even when you don’t.”

Erica instinctively cradled his head in her hands and kissed him passionately on the
mouth. A long, luxurious kiss. Her hands roamed all over Jackson’s taught body. Jack
responded in kind. Soon they were by the fireplace, Jack’s jacket and shirt strewn on thefloor along with Erica’s jacket. Passion overtook them and as Jack picked Erica up tocarry her to the bedroom, someone else in the room cleared their throat. Erica and Jack spun around in shock.
“Sorry guys. Mama called me and told me to get here immediately, so I hopped the first flight.” Tad stood in the doorway, sheepishly wanting to crawl back out the door.
Jack put Erica down and grabbed his shirt from the floor. “Remind me to return the favor one day soon, Tad,” Jack grimaced, being in a state that wasn’t too comfortable at the moment. He sat on the couch while Erica tried to explain.
Erica checked her state of dress and fixed her hair. “Tad, come in. What did Opal tell
“I really am sorry about this. I had no idea. The bellman just brought me straight here
when I checked in.”
“Don’t worry about it, Tad,” said Erica. “I asked the manager to send you directly here.”
“Mama mentioned something about a ‘cosmic emergency’ and told me that my chakras were about to be unkinked in a major way. She also mentioned that everything happens for a reason. Now, if you can figure out what that means, enlighten me.” Tad rolled his eyes. “I just figured it had to do with the plane crash.”
“It does have to do with an accident, but not mine. Call it serendipity. I guess it’s true,
and everything does happen for a reason. Jack and I just needed a final push to stop
playing games and my accident put things into perspective. We’re getting married here.”
“Well, congratulations, you two. Mazel tov. I couldn’t be happier.”
“Oh, yes you could,” Jack muttered, under his breath.
“Tad, would you do me a favor?” Erica asked, hoping her and Opal’s plan would work a miracle. It was pretty risky.
“When I was in the accident, I met a woman named Kristen in the hospital. She works
there. Anyway, I’d like her to be in the wedding tomorrow, but for some reason she’s not on file at the hospital. One nurse that I spoke to said that she really wasn’t a nurse, but a nurses’ aid. I need you to find out where she lives, so we can invite her.” Erica’s eyes were full of hope for him.
“Well, my connections here aren’t as good as in the states, but I’ll give it my best shot.” Jack piped in, “Would it help if I said ‘she’s gorgeous and just your type’?” He smiled at his friend, not wanting to spoil the surprise.
Tad smiled wistfully. “Is this a set up? I’m not sure I’m up to it, guys.” After trying to
fool himself with Simone, Liza, and Krytsal, Tad came to the realization that after Dixie, he just wouldn’t ever be as complete with anyone else. Everyone else came up short.
“It’s really just a favor, for me.” Erica replied. “I really want to do something for Kristen, since she really made me feel at home in Paris. So, she simply has to be at the wedding.”
“How can I deny you that on your wedding, Erica? I’m on the job. Kristen will be there.”
Little did Tad know that he was about to get the biggest and most beautiful shock of his
Tad left, on his mission. “Do you think we should have told him?” Erica queried.
“Let him find her on his own. Tad’s been through some rough times, and I’m not sure
he’d believe us if we told him. Dixie’s death is still an open wound for him. I hope you
know how overjoyed and relieved I am that you’re safe and sound after what happened. I couldn’t go on without you, Erica.”
Erica smiled. “I’d hope not!”
“Now, where were we?” Jack asked playfully, picking her up in his arms once more.
Erica giggled. “We were uh… about here.” She kissed him again, but stopped herself. “I hate to say this Jack, but I’m glad Tad interrupted us. I don’t want to jinx the wedding. Opal said it’s best if we don’t see each other tonight.”
“I’m going to kill Tad.” Jack muttered, putting Erica back down on her own two feet.
“Monsieur, Corrine promises to make it up to you demain soir, nes pas?” Her eyes
twinkled with passion and playfulness, wondering where she could get a French maid
costume on such short notice.
“Oh, yes! I promise to be a good boy, ma’am! Vive le France!” Jack laughed anticipating the wedding night.

Tad used his contacts and managed to track Kristen down to a small flat on the outskirts of town. Opal had been on the phone with him numerous times asking if he’d found her yet. Tad didn’t understand what the commotion was about. He verified the address before he knocked on the door to Kristen’s apartment.
“Hello?” he asked. “Kristen? Erica Kane asked me to find you.” He waited a few
moments, hearing movement inside the apartment.
Kristen had just put Kate down for her nap, she had an anxious feeling all day. Last night, after talking with those people who visited Erica Kane, she began to have memory flashes. But that couldn’t be right? Could it? “One minute!” she called out to the man at the door. Kristen undid the lock and opened the door.
Tad dropped the paper with the address on it. He had to be seeing things. It couldn’t be. His eyes began to water, and he knew he had to be in shock because he was unable to speak. His mouth opened and closed repeatedly. He swallowed hard and a smile burst across his face. “Dixie…”

Kristen was inundated with images in her mind. Her knees started to give way under her. The man standing before her was the same man she saw last night in her dream. Things were happening too fast for her. Scared about what she was feeling she promptly slammed the door shut and leaned against it, catching her breath.
“Dixie!!! Not again! It’s me… Tad!” He was frantic on the other side of the door,
pounding it with his fists. She looked different but the same. How was this possible? If
she were in Paris, why wasn’t she with Lanie and David?
Tad? Somewhere in her heart, Kristen knew this man. She was petrified, but some part of her wanted to fling the door open and run into his arms. But she had to protect Kate. She didn’t know this man, did she? Was it safe?
“Dixie, please open the door. How did you get here? We all thought you died in Zurich. At least you could have told me you were alive, even if you didn’t want to see me again.”

Kristen had flashes of a car accident. Was that how she lost her memory? She had been in a coma for a few weeks, the doctors had told her. “Tad?” she asked, not sure of the name.
“Yes! Tad! The man you left because of the baby, our baby. Dixie at least tell me you’re alright. I need to know you’re safe and happy even if you never want to see me again.”
Kristen looked toward the bedroom where little Kate was sleeping. She hoped he
wouldn’t wake her. She had a splitting headache all of a sudden. Another memory flash hit her, dancing in white robes, a wedding, children. “JR!” she screamed. How on earth could she forget her son?
“That’s right, you abandoned him too. Did you really hate me that much to fake your own death?”
Dixie pulled herself up, memories coming in faster and faster. Kate was up now, and
walking toward her mother. “Mommy, who is the man at the door? Is he a bad man?”
Tad couldn’t believe what he was hearing. It was a child’s voice… could it be? “Dixie,
for the love of God, is that Kate? Please open the door.” Tad was emotionally spent a
mere feet between him and his life.
Dixie picked up Kate, “Katie, I think that’s your daddy on the other side.” She had tears streaming down her face as she unlocked the door, hysterically sobbing.

Tad stood there not knowing what to do. He saw his daughter for the first time, she
looked a little like Jenny and a little like Dixie. He was paralyzed until Dixie smiled and
reached her free arm towards him. In an instant he was through the door, kissing her,
kissing Kate.
”Tad! I love you. I remember you.” Dixie was laughing and crying at the same time.
“Amnesia? I should have known. I should have looked for you. I shouldn’t have given up like Brooke said. I didn’t want to leave your apartment in Zurich, but the boys…”
“JR and Jamie,” she sniffled. “How are they? They must be big by now.”
“You have no idea,” he said, kissing her once more.
“Tad, stop… this…” she handed him their daughter. “This is Kate, our Kate.” She
beamed as she looked at him holding her. She had his eyes. Dixie was about to squeek she was so happy.
Tad’s tears finally burst the dam, and he was holding his daughter at long last. “I love
you, Dixie, I always have.”
“We’ve lost so much time. I have so much to tell you. I love you so much it hurts. If
you’ll fill me in I’ll do the same?”
“Always.” Tad smiled. Finally feeling content and whole once more… he held up two
fingers to Dixie. She smiled and held hers up touching his. “Together forever,” she said.
“Me too!” piped in Kate, and they laughed.

Chapter 10
A Second Chance To Love

It was getting late in the evening when Erica finally convinced Jack to retire to his room. Erica had explained to Jack that it was bad luck to see the bride before the wedding and with their luck, she didn't want to take any unnecessary chances. Jackson reached for the door, opened it and kissed Erica all in the same sweeping movement. He kissed her passionately hoping she would change her mind and let him stay the night. She was caught off guard by his kiss. Trying hard not to give in to her desire, she pulled away from him, but he was not willing to give in so easily. Jackson was an extraordinary man by anyone standards but for Erica, he had a passion for her that would light up Paris. So to resist his advance was difficult especially when he knew what he wanted and he wanted it now. He kissed her like it was their first and last kiss, which Erica returned with the same passion. Jackson had won in the game finally bringing Erica at his mercy.

Just as he was about to close the door and show Erica how much he desired her, Tad
came waltzing through the half open door.
“Hi guys! Am I interrupting something?” he smiled.
Under any other circumstances Jack would be upset with Tad for his unwelcomed
interruption, but tonight he was more concerned with Tad's latest adventure to be upset
with his friend.
“Someone seems in good spirits tonight! Any particular reason why?” Jack questioned.
“Well if seeing my two favorite people getting ready for there big day tomorrow isn't
enough, Jamie just got accepted to Law school,” Tad said.
“Wow that is great Tad, but is there any other reason?” Erica questioned.
“Well isn't that enough reason to be happy, Erica? Why is there another reason I should be?” he said trying not to reveal his latest discovery of Dixie and Kate.
“Well we, Jack and I, were just wondering if you found Kristen… and if you have invited her to the wedding.”
“For two people who are getting married tomorrow, you sure are spending a lot of time
focusing on this nurse. And yes I was able to locate her.”
“AND,” they both said.
“And I left her a message. I told her how much you appreciate how kind she was to you, and that you both would very much like for her to attend your wedding tomorrow.”
“But… But you didn’t see her Tad? I mean you didn't invite her in person,” Erica said in a demanding voice.
“Well I did leave a message for her, but I knew that wouldn't be enough for you. So I
took it upon myself to visit her,” Tad said trying to keep himself from screaming out that he had seen Dixie.
“AND,” they both screamed out again like two teenagers waiting for their friend to share the latest gossip with them.
“Relax you two. I met her, and I invited her on behalf of the two of you… Okay?” Tad
said to a very confused Jack and Erica. “Now I will let the happy couple get back to
“Tad… Wait,” Erica said as she dragged him towards her. “When you met with Kristen, didn't you notice anything about her?”
“Kristen,” Tad yelled, “I thought you said Tristan, no wonder she looked so surprised
when I told her that you insisted she be at your wedding. She was surprised that the
Great Erica Kane would want her at the wedding.” Tad laughed more at the expressions on their faces than the obvious mistake they both thought he made.
“Oh my God,” Erica yelled at him.
“Are you ok, Erica?” Don't you think you are making more of this Kristen thing than you need to? It was just a mistake, but I will find her. Here give me the number to the
hospital and I will try to catch up with her there! … Kristen is her name, right?” Tad
questioned knowing full well the answer.
Tad began dialing the number to the hospital as Jack and Erica looked on. Tad stood
there with the phone to his ear, calling out one ringy dingy, two ringy dingy, until finally the nurse’s station picked up after the third ring.
“Hi this is Tad Martin, Yes the American! Yes the tall dark hair man who was visiting
Miss Kane,” he said as he began to sit comfortably on the sofa.
“Why thank you, you have a nice phone voice as well. Pamela; Pamela is a beautiful
name. Well I am not sure how long I am going to be in Paris, but you never know.”
“I don't believe this; he is making a date while we are trying to find the love of his life.”
Erica said quietly to Jack so that Tad could not hear her.
“Tad, Tad,” Erica said as she moved closer to him. “Do you think that you could stop
flirting long enough to find out about Kristen?”
“Oh yeah, sorry,” Tad said as he looked towards Jack and Erica. “Pamela sorry to cut this conversation short, but I was wondering if you can tell me, if Kristen Long is working this evening. Oh REALLY! WHEN! Well thanks for the information Pamela. Yeah, you never know, I just might like to play doctor. Ok! Yes, I got that number. Thanks again, bye.”

Jack and Erica looked at Tad without uttering a word, waiting for him to tell them about
Kristen, but he didn't speak. Instead he rolled up the piece of paper he was writing on
during his phone conversation and put it in his pocket. They did not look away from him. In fact, they continued staring wide-eyed at him each sharing the same expression of frustration and disbelief.
“WHAT?” Tad spoke.
“Are you going to tell us what you found out?” Erica said in a very impatient tone.
“Oh that, yeah! It seems that your nurse Kristen has left town and hasn't left a forwarding address.” Tad said.
“What do you mean left town?” Jack shouted back at Tad.
“What about that phone number you just put in your pocket?” Erica snapped back.
“Oh that was Pamela the nurse at the front desk. It was her phone number, she thought I was hot,” Tad said trying not to burst into laughter.
Jack and Erica walked over to the sofa and sat down simultaneous, placing their hands on their head in defeat. It was clear that their plan of reuniting Tad with Dixie was failing miserably. They were running out of opinions. They couldn't tell him directly because he wouldn't believe them and if by chance he did, they also had to consider the possibility that Kristen/Dixie might not want to be found. How could they set Tad up for that kind of hurt? Although neither spoke a word, both knew of the others pain and fear. They sat there in silence just looking back and forth at each other and than Tad, until finally Tad spoke.
“Listen guys, I know that you are disappointed about not having Kristen at the wedding, but don't you think you are both overreacting just a little. You make it seem that not having her here is going to ruin your wedding. She is not going to be at your wedding, but all the people that love you are going to be there. You two are my best friends and I love you guys, which is why I need to put a stop to this obsession that you both have with finding this mystery lady. You’re getting married tomorrow! Do you have any idea how long we have all waited for this day to finally get here? You are worse than that Soap Opera that Opal is always watching! The point is, this moment only comes around once, ok, maybe a couple of times for you two... but it is really going to happy this time… So stop obsessing and start focusing on each other.”
Jack turned to Erica and kissed her gently on the cheek, “Tad's right sweetheart, we need to give this thing a rest. Besides I have to figure out a way to make sure the wedding goes off without a hitch… I don't want you getting away again.”

For the first time this evening Erica smiled, as she slapped Jack on the arm for his
comment. “I am going to Mrs. Jackson Montgomery! COME HELL OR HIGH
WATER, I am going to be your wife!”
“My work here is done,” Tad said as he headed towards the door.
As the door closed behind him, Erica turned to Jack and softly whispered, "I just wanted Tad to be as happy as we are."
"I know sweetheart, but…. It is not going to happen just yet. When we get back from our honeymoon, I promise I will find Dixie and bring her back to Tad," Jack said as he
wrapped his strong arms around Erica's waist.
The mood was changing now, and Jack was moving into seductive mode, as he allowed his hot breath to gently caress Erica's bare shoulder. Her breathing slowly began to increase with each stroke of Jack's tongue along her neck. He moved his hands along her waist and back up the curve of her back until he reached the zipper on her dress. She could hardly manage to speak but found the words to ask,
"Honeymoon, where are we going on our honeymoon?"
"Hmmm, Hmmm," he said in between kisses. "Honeymoon, it is a surprise, but I can
(hmmmm) tell you (hmmmm) what we will be doing. Better yet… oh… let me show
you." he said as he picked Erica up into his arms and carried her towards the bed.
The world outside was fading away as Jack and Erica drifted into their own little
paradise. He gently laid her on the bed and began licking her fingers. He moved his
hands down her leg and back up again making sure he did not miss a spot on her petite but beautiful frame. When there eyes met, they both knew that all the years of being together and apart came down to this moment in time. Maybe a test of their love or just timing… Whatever it was, their love was stronger for it. They looked at each other for several minutes until the sound of knocking at door broke their stare.

(Knock Knock Knock) "Miss Kane, it is Kristen, are you there?" (KNOCK KNOCK
KNOCK) "Erica," she screamed from the other side of the door.
Jack and Erica jumped off the bed and scurried around the floor to find their clothes that had fallen a few minutes earlier. "Jack, I can't believe it; it is DIXIE." She turned away from Jack who was fixing up his shirt and headed towards the door.
"Kristen, I am so glad to see you," Erica said almost dragging her inside the room.
"Miss Kane I am sorry to bother you at such a late hour, but I wanted to say goodbye and to thank you for listening to me when you were in the hospital."
"Oh Kristen you don't have to thank me. I am the one who should thank you for taking
such good care of me." Erica reached her hand out to Kristen and offered for her to have a seat.
"Will you excuse me for a moment?" Erica said as she headed towards the bedroom
where Jackson was getting dressed.

"Jack," she said in a whispering tone so that Kristen would not hear her. "Jack, you need to call Tad and get him over here ASAP."
"Well what am I going to say? I have your dead wife here, but guess what, she is not
dead. What am I going to say, Erica?"
"Jack just get him over here NOW. If you can sweet talk me into doing anything you
want, you can sweet talk Tad into coming over," Erica said.
"Really, I can sweet-talk you into doing anything… hmmm… I like this", he said as he
reached over and pulled her towards him. "ANYTHING?"
"Jack, stop it. Is that all you can think of?" Erica said as she tried to maneuver herself out of Jack's strong arms.
"Well actually Erica, I can think of other things as well, want me to show you?" he said
as he unhooked the strap of her dress.
"Jack, NOT NOW."
"Sorry sweetheart, I went too far, didn't I? Ok... I will call Tad and get him over here, bu I would like to discuss this power I have over you… at a later date," Jack said as he pulled her in for another kiss. "Hmmmm, Hmmmm. You better get going Miss Kane won't be held responsible for my actions."

"Sorry about that Kristen. I just had to take care of something," Erica said trying not to
give any more information than she had to.
"That is okay. I understand, but I will be going and let you get back to whatever you were doing before I came," Kristen said a little embarrassed as she notice that Erica's dress was inside out.
"Oh… I wasn't doing anything. Please stay and chat," Erica said not realizing that she
was already busted.
The two women chatted back and forth for about 20 minutes until Jackson came out of
the bedroom acting as if he had just woken up. He greeted Kristen with a smile and than moved and sat next to Erica on the sofa and kissed her gently on the cheek. It wasn't until he moved his hand up Erica's back and felt the tag of her dress on the outside that he realized that she had her dress on inside out. The look of panic on his face didn't go unnoticed by Kristen who began to laugh. It seemed that Erica was the only one who didn't know what the joke was. When Kristen got up to leave, Jack tried to motion to Erica about her dress, but Erica was too busy trying to stop Kristen from leaving to notice Jack.

"Wait Kristen… Please don't go yet. I have a favor to ask," Erica said as she wrapped her arm around Jack's waist. "Jack and I are getting married tomorrow, and I was wondering if you would be my guest."
"Oh Miss Kane, I mean Erica… I am honored by your request, but unfortunately I can't. My plane is leaving tonight," Kristen said as she reached her hand out to Erica. "But thank you so much. Goodbye."

Erica couldn't speak as the door slammed closed, and Kristen was gone. Gone forever!She stood frozen; they both did, as the possibility of reuniting Tad and Dixie was fading away. Jack reached down and turned Erica's face towards him and kissed her gently on the forehead.
"I don't believe it Jack. Every time it seems that we are close to getting them together,
something happens. I finally know how the Posse feels."
"Yeah and we have only be trying to get Tad and Dixie together for a few days, imagine after 16 years. They obvious have more patience than us," Jack said laughing.
"Well now the wait is over," she laughed.
"Oh Erica, I have been meaning to tell you… your dress," Jack started to say, but was
interrupted by the sound of Tad at the door.
"Ok Jack, what is the big emergency?" Tad said as he rushed through the door like the room was on fire.
"I almost got in an accident trying to get here… so tell me what is so important that you rushed me over here," Tad questioned.
"I'm sorry," Erica piped up. "It is my fault. I insisted Jack call you and come over…” She struggled trying to figure out what she should say next. “And take Jack out of here for me. It is bad luck for the groom to see the bride before the wedding."
"Oh… okay…. I can do that, but it sounded so important that I thought it was something else," Tad said knowing it was time to give up the game and tell Jack and Erica the truth.
"What else could it be my friend?" Jack said as he picked up his coat and headed towards the door.
"Well I thought maybe you two had a secret, and you were trying to share it with me,
which would explain why you have be acting like Nancy Drew and one of the Hardy
boys," Tad said trying to contain his laughter.
"No secret here,” Erica said as he held her head down in defeat.
"Well I think that you do have a secret… and I think…” Tad moved towards the door and opened it. “This is the secret you have been trying so hard for me to uncover."
As the door opened there she stood, the woman that they had tried so hard to make Tad find, but it all seemed so surreal. Was this really happening? Was it possible that Kristen knew she was Dixie Martin, and that finally Tad and her had reunited? They stood there looking at her, neither making a movement towards or away from the door. They didn’t look at each other or Tad; they just stared at Dixie…

"Well aren't you going to invite me in?" the woman's voice echoed through the room.
"I am not sure what is going on here, but I have a feeling we've been HAD sweetheart," Jack said still looking at Dixie.
"So you know, you both know about the other." Erica was still confused on what was
going on.
"Well if you invite me in, Tad and I will explain the entire story," she said with a smile
that could only be given by Dixie Martin.
Tad and Dixie spent several hours explaining to Jack and Erica how this all came to be. By the end of the story, everyone was laughing at what had transpired in the last several hours and how each had played a role. Tad commented on how Erica had topped the list as the funniest attempt at matchmaking he had ever seen, but he had to say that it was the sweetest thing anyone had ever done for him. From the outside Erica could seem uncaring and often untouchable, but the people close to her always marveled at her loyalty and love of her friends and family. Today was no different, but yet it stood as a reminder to all of them how fortunate they were to have her on their side. He moved towards Erica and grabbed her tight and said, "Thank you Erica… thank you. Thank you for bringing the light back into my life."
She smiled at him and said, "I just what you to be as happy as I am with Jack. Jack
completes me and I him. He is my soul mate, and I couldn't imagine living without him.
I can't imagine how you must have felt living without Dixie, but now you don't have too.
Don't thank me Tad… just always remember that we have been given a second chance to get it right. Let's make the most of it."
"Here here, well said my beautiful friend. I just have one more question and than I am on my way," Tad said uncertain about the answer. Leaning closer to her, "Erica, why is your dress inside out?"
"WHAT?" she said looking down at her dress and than back at Tad.
"Oh," was all she could manage to say before her face turned 12 shades of red.
"Maybe I should take Jack out of here before you two get into any more trouble," Tad
"Yes I best get going my love, but the next time I see you I will be making an honest
woman out of you," he said leaning in to kiss her quickly. "Seriously sweetheart, I love
you and I will spend everyday of the rest of my life showing you how much."
"Ok you two love birds, time to break this party up and let the bride get her rest," Tad
said as he motioned for Jack to exit.

The moment was here, and Erica was ready to take her journey towards her destiny and the man that had filled her soul for so many years. As the door opened revealing the stunning vision of Erica before him, Jack mouthed to her 'I love you". As she slowly walked towards him, Jack felt like she would never get to the Alter. He held his breath waiting for her to arrive and be by his side. Within seconds she was there ready and willing to become his wife. This moment was more than Jack could ever imagined his mind; a moment that had taken a lifetime to get to, was finally here. Although the church was filled with their friends and family, for Jack and Erica it was as if they were the only two people in the room. The only time they looked away from each other was when the minister asked if there was anyone here who had any reason why they should not be married. They searched the room waiting and praying that nothing would interrupt this moment, and this time, nothing did. Before they had finished Jack stopped the Minister and asked if he could say a few words to his bride.

"Erica, I am a man who stands before you with complete love in my soul. I would risk a lifetime of pain to have one moment with you. That is how much I love you Miss Kane. From the first time I saw you, I knew my search was over and that finally I had found my purpose in life. We have had many obstacles over the years, which many people never survive, but here we are where we always find ourselves in love with each other. As I put this ring on your finger I want you to know that I will never leave you, and I will always be your best friend, your lover, your companion, your critic, your champion, YOUR HEART. With this ring, I thee wed."

"Jack, I am a woman who stands before you naked. One by one you have stripped me of my walls of fear, insecurity and loneliness. It is because of you that I not only understand the power of love, but I feel worthy to be a part of it. When I first saw you, I knew that my soul belong to you. It has taken me many years to come to you freely, but today I stand here before you knowing that you are my friend, my lover, my champion, and MY HEART. And for the rest of my life, I want you to know that I will be all of those things for you. That is how much I love you Mr. Montgomery! With is this ring, I thee wed."

The church was filled with screams of joy and tears as the excitement of this moment
finally hit home, but to Jack and Erica it was journey that was just beginning. They were half way down the isle when Jackson stopped and lifted Erica into his arms and carried her out of the church. "Your chariot awaits my Princess," he said as he put her in the horse and buggy. As Jackson wrapped his arms around his new bribe, everyone else was busy dialing their perspective people to inform them of Jack and Erica nuptials.

“I can't believe it, they finally did it," Opal yelled out to Palmer on the other end of the
phone. It was hard for Opal to hear what Palmer was saying because of the noise on both ends of the phone, but she could hear Palmer saying, “Pass it on… ERICA AND JACK TIED THE KNOT!" And in the background there were screams of joy.
"Myrtle, they did it. They finally made it legal," Bianca yelled.
"I know, I am so happy right now,” Kendall cried out to Mia and Simon who had her on
speaker phone at Fusion.
Everyone at the wedding called different people to inform them of the ceremony. A lot
of people had a great deal invested in this couple. As Reggie look at his list, he could see a name he didn't recognize.
"The Posse, who are they? Well Big J wanted me to call them, so I guess I should let
them know," Reggie said to Bianca.
"Yes, the Posse, wait I have heard that before. Yes mom has that on her list as well,"
Bianca said.
"Do you think Big J and E belong to some kind of cult?" Reggie questioned.
"CULT! The Posse Cult," Bianca laughed.
"What are you laughing at Bianca? Stranger things have happened," Reggie insisted.
"Reggie it is probably some kind of self help group that Mom and Uncle Jack are doing as charity work."
"Well I better call them and let them know anyway…Ya don't want them coming after
Big J and E on their honeymoon looking for a fix," Reggie laughed.
"Oh Reggie, where do you come up with these ideas? Next you will be saying they are
some kind of crazed fan group that is obsessed with Uncle Jack."
"Big J, got it going on," Reggie laughed.
"Ok Mr. Imagination, enough about the Posse," Bianca said as her attention drifted
towards the site of her mom and Uncle Jack leaving the street corner.

As the couple pulled away, everyone gathered behind them and watched the site of Jack and Erica fading into the sunset taking with them the promise of tomorrow… The last image that anyone saw was the message from Erica to her new husband.

"Look Jack," she said pointing to the message that was flashing across the sky in front of them.
"Well I think it is EKM now and just for the record. JM loves EK just as much,” Jack
said as he folded his hand in hers.
"And you know what else sweetheart, I really loved your plan."
"What plan?" she questioned.


I Didn’t Know She Was Married

Story One by Mary

Erica awoke to the sound of the waves lapping gently against the side of the yacht.
Opening her eyes, she saw the early morning sun peeking gently through the blinds. She stretched slightly and turned in her husband’s arms. Jack was still sleeping and she took the opportunity to study him as he slept. She still couldn’t believe that they were married. As she traced his familiar features with her eyes, she let her mind wander back to their wedding day. Words couldn’t describe how perfect that day had been as they exchanged vows under the banyan tree with their family looking on. She smiled in remembrance as she reached out to brush a lock of sun-kissed hair off Jack’s forehead. The smile turned to a cry of surprise when her hand was suddenly imprisoned in a powerful grip that pulled her onto Jack’s chest.

“Well, good morning, Mrs. Montgomery,” Jack murmured, smiling at her seductively.
“It is a good morning,” Erica agreed. “And it was a wonderful night.”
“Yes, it was, particularly the part when we got back here to the cabin,” Jack said, stroking her bare arm. “In fact, I’d say it was the highlight.”
“Without a doubt,” she replied. “One of many.”
“Honeymoons should be full of highlights,” Jack told her. His other hand wound into her hair, gently bringing her closer. His breath fanned her cheek as his lips traveled along her jaw to just behind her ear.

“I thought we were going ashore this morning,” Erica said teasingly, pretending to move away.
“We are,” said Jack, “but I don’t remember saying exactly when.” He rolled them over in one smooth movement so that she was now under him, her dark hair a striking contrast against the yellow sheets.
“You said you’d tell me where we are,” she reminded him.
“So I did,” Jack agreed. “And I will. But first-”
“First, I have to tell you how happy - no, happy isn’t the word - how ecstatic I am - that
you are my wife,” he told her softly, looking deeply into her dark eyes.
“Oh, Jack,” she said, reaching up to caress his cheek. “I still can’t believe it. I’m the one who’s ecstatic.”
“Well, I guess that makes two of us,” Jack laughed. “Seriously, sweetheart, I want you to always hold on to this feeling. Promise me that no matter what happens down the line, we will always find our way back to this place.”
“I promise,” Erica whispered, bringing his head down to hers and meeting his lips with her own. Her mouth parted at the first touch of his lips and the kiss quickly deepened
“When did you say we have to be ashore?” Erica asked breathlessly, reluctantly tearing her mouth away from his.
“Whenever we want to be,” Jack answered, bending his head to trail kisses down her neck to her shoulder. He pushed the strap of her nightgown off her shoulder and continued his descent.
“Good,” Erica said, “because I suddenly have no desire to leave the boat this morning.”
She tugged on his hair until his mouth returned to hers. Her open mouth was an invitation for his tongue. She met it with her own as he covered her body with his. The nightgown and his boxers were quickly discarded in their desire to feel one another’s bare skin. The boat continued on its course as they lost themselves once again in their love for each other.
Erica stepped on to the deck of the yacht and joined Jack at the railing. He was casually dressed in cream-colored pants and a white gauze shirt. The first few buttons were open, revealing skin that was deeply tanned from their days in the sun. With his hair even blonder than usual, he literally took her breath away.

“I thought you were never going to be ready,” he said, his eyes twinkling.
“Well, I wanted to look my best,” she said coyly, twirling so that her red sundress spun
around her.
“Mission most definitely accomplished then,” he told her, capturing her hand in his and raising it to his lips. “You look beautiful.”
“So, where are we?” Erica asked.
“A place that I know you’re going to love,” Jack told her. “Last night, as we were, uh,
sleeping, we left the Gulf of Mexico and we are now heading up the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet.”
“Okay,” Erica said somewhat uncertainly. “You know the geography of the southeastern United States is hardly my strong suit, Jack.”
“Yes, sweetheart, I know,” Jack laughed. “But it is my old stomping grounds. And - here’s the catch. I know you’ve been here before but this is our chance to experience it together.”

As Erica stared at him, completely perplexed, the boat left the narrow channel and turned into a huge, bustling harbor. Erica stared at the city before her and then turned back to Jack. “New Orleans?” she exclaimed excitedly. “Oh, Jack, I haven’t been here since my modeling days.”
“I remember you saying that you wished you had been able to see more of the city,” Jack said. “So now is your opportunity. Lucky for you, more than a few days of my misspent youth occurred here.”
“Just how misspent?” Erica asked, suddenly feeling a twinge of jealousy. “We’re not going to run into old girlfriends of yours all over the city, are we?”
“I do believe you’re jealous,” Jack said softly, putting his hands on her shoulders and
drawing her close.
“Don’t be ridiculous!” Erica denied heatedly.
“You’re the one who’s being ridiculous,” Jack said with more than a hint of laughter in his voice. “Not that I’m not enjoying it.” He bent and kissed her lingeringly. “You, as you well know, are the woman that I love - the only woman that I love.”
Erica looked somewhat appeased. “So what are we doing first?”
“Well, since we seem to have missed breakfast, I vote for lunch,” Jack waited for her nod of approval and continued. “While you were getting ready, I made reservations for us at Cafe Gumbolaya. It’s on the river in the French Quarter and we can sit in the courtyard and check out the goings-on in the French Market.”
“That sounds wonderful,” Erica said enthusiastically. “And then?”
“Then I thought we would walk over to Jackson Square,” Jack suggested.
“You certainly did make an impression,” Erica replied teasingly.
“I think we have to credit the other Andrew Jackson for that,” Jack smiled. “And tonight, dinner and dancing at Arnaud’s, which has some of the best jazz music in town.”
“This is going to be an absolutely perfect day,” Erica said as they walked down the ramp to the dock with their hands entwined. “I can just feel it.”

The afternoon sun was hot but there was a slight breeze from the river as Jack and Erica strolled through the cobblestone streets of the French Market. After a long and lazy lunch, they had decided to take their time as they made their way to Jackson Square. The market was a dazzling array of colors, sights and sounds. They had already passed numerous artists, merchants, and shops. There was so much to see that Erica didn’t know where to look.

Jack smiled at the slightly bemused look on her face. “I do believe you’re not sure what you want to do first,” he said, artfully guiding her around a juggler who suddenly appeared in their path.
“I don’t,” Erica said with a laugh, looking up at him. “You decide.”
“When you see something you want to do, we’ll stop,” Jack said obligingly. “How’s that?”
A display of vibrant watercolors lining a wrought-iron fence captured Erica’s attention and she led Jack over to them. A dark-haired young man was putting the finishing touches on a painting propped on his easel. As Erica and Jack got closer, they could see that it was a watercolor of the harbor. The young man looked up as they approached and his smile widened when he noticed Erica.

“Your paintings are beautiful,” Erica said, admiring the picture of the harbor.
“I am honored that such a beautiful woman likes my paintings,” said the young man,
putting down his brush and taking Erica’s hand. He ignored Jack as he led Erica over to the fence, explaining the significance of each watercolor in an animated voice.
Jack sighed inwardly and glanced at his watch. He recognized the look on the young man’s face only too well. If he didn’t put a stop to this, he thought, it would take them all day to make it to Jackson Square. Walking over to Erica and the artist, he took Erica’s elbow in a firm grip and smiled politely at the young man. “Perhaps you could give my wife your card,” Jack suggested. “We could contact you about your paintings once we get home.
We’ll be having a large house to decorate very soon.”

Appearing slightly crestfallen at the revelation of Jack’s relationship to Erica, the young man quickly regained his composure and smiled at them. “Of course,” he said, reaching into his pocket and offering Erica his card. “It would be my pleasure.”
Erica took one last look at the painting of the harbor as she and Jack started walking again.
“I can see I’m the one who’s going to have to watch out for the competition,” Jack
remarked as they lost themselves in the crowd once again.
“Now, you’re being ridiculous” Erica insisted with a laugh. “He was just being polite.”
“Mmmm hmmm,” Jack replied skeptically. “Sure he was, sweetheart.”
They continued on their way until Erica noticed a cloth-covered table placed in the
welcome shade of an overhanging balcony. Jack groaned to himself as he read the words emblazoned on the sign above it. Palms Read ~ Tarot Cards ~ Tea Leaves

“Sweetheart, you’re not serious,” he protested as Erica dragged him closer. “These people are complete charlatans.” His opinion didn’t change when he saw the crystal ball and tarot cards spread out on the table.
“Jack, I’ve always wanted to do this,” Erica pouted. The old woman sitting behind the
table watched them approach. Her face was brown and wrinkled from the sun but her blue eyes were friendly as she looked at the couple before her.
“So, you want me to tell your fortune?” she asked in a lilting accent that was impossible to identify.
“I don’t,” Jack quickly asserted, “but my wife apparently does.”
“Ah, a skeptic,” the old woman said. “Not unexpected from someone with such a logical mind.” Erica and Jack exchanged a quick glance.
“Okay,” Jack gave in. “I need to make a quick phone call, anyway. Stay put and I’ll be
right back.” He gave Erica a kiss on the cheek and, with a dubious look in the fortune
teller’s direction, dug his cell phone out of his pocket and set off down the street. The old woman silently gestured to a chair in front of the table and Erica complied, perching on the edge of the chair. For some reason, she was suddenly nervous.
“I am Madame Louisa,” announced the old woman. “There is no need for you to be
nervous.” Erica smiled slightly. “I’m not,” she protested. “Well, not really.”
Madame Louisa smiled back and Erica felt herself relax. “Do you wish for me to read your palm or the tarot cards?”
Erica cast an uncertain look at the tarot cards. “My palm, I think. I’m not sure how much time I have until my husband returns.”
Madame Louisa took Erica’s left hand in hers and studied it intently. “The left hand
represents your childhood,” she said. She was silent for a few moments and then she
looked back up at Erica. “I see much sadness in your childhood,” she stated. “I see feelings of insecurity and abandonment.” Erica nodded somewhat reluctantly. “I also see a truly horrible experience, something that shaped your life for years to come.”
Madame Louisa continued. “But there was always a strong person beside you, someone to guide you and help you, even when you didn’t think you needed it.”
“My mother,” Erica said quietly.
Madame Louisa nodded. “You miss her.” She put Erica’s left hand on the table and picked up the right one. “You have had an interesting life,” she said. “A most interesting life. Many men, many careers.” She traced a line on Erica’s hand with her finger. “For years, you were unhappy. The old nightmare came back to haunt you. But you fought it and won and now you are happy, happier than you have ever been. This man you are with, your husband,” Madame Louisa added. “He is responsible for most of this. You have been a part of each other’s lives for years and he has always been there for you.”
“That is true,” Erica acknowledged. “And the future?”

Madame Louisa brought Erica’s hand closer. “Ah, the future.” She studied Erica’s palm for a long moment and looked pleased with what she saw. “I see much happiness,” she stated. “With your career and your new family. There is something you have left to share with your husband, something that you thought the time for had passed...” Her voice trailed off and she released Erica’s hand. “That is all I see.”
Erica looked up to see Jack’s familiar blond head coming toward her in the crowd. Even after all these years, her heart still skipped a beat when she first saw him. “Something left to share?” she repeated. “What could that possibly be?”
Madame Louisa shrugged her shoulders. “I’ve told you all that I have seen.”
“So, what does your future hold?” Jack asked, looking amused as he joined them.
“Just as I suspected, a blissfully happy life as Mrs. Jackson Montgomery,” answered Erica.
“Well, I could have told you that,” said Jack teasingly. He waited patiently as Erica
thanked and paid Madame Louisa. A few moments later they once again joined the crowd heading toward Jackson Square.
“Why are we hurrying?” Erica asked as she doubled her pace to keep up with Jack’s long strides.
“I want to get to the square without any further interruptions,” Jack replied, his arm firmly around her shoulders. “Between your fascination with fortune tellers and the local artists’ fascination with you, it will be dark before we get there and there’s something I want to do.”

Shortly after, Jack and Erica rounded a bend and emerged in the square. Erica gasped in delight. Everywhere she looked there was lush green grass and flowering shrubs. Tourists strolled along the intersecting paths, stopping to sit on one of the many benches. Couples on blankets enjoyed picnic lunches while children played nearby. In the center of the square was the famous statue of Andrew Jackson on horseback and behind that the majestic steeples of Saint Louis Cathedral.

“You like?” Jack asked with a grin, leading her down the path to the statue.
“Like? I love! It’s beautiful,” Erica replied.
They passed the statue and headed toward the cathedral. “I think you’ll love this too,” Jack told her. As they rounded the corner of the cathedral, Erica was thrilled to see a line of horse-drawn carriages winding down the street.
“Oh, Jack, this is perfect,” she said excitedly as Jack paid the driver and helped her into one of the carriages. She relaxed in her seat and laid her head against Jack’s shoulder with a sigh. “I can’t believe how tired my feet are.”
“Maybe if you’d worn appropriate shoes, they wouldn’t be so tired,” Jack pointed out,
eyeing her strappy high-heeled sandals with amusement. Erica smiled, knowing that he wouldn’t expect her to wear anything else.

The carriage headed down Decatur Street and into the French Quarter. For the next half hour, Jack pointed out various landmarks as Erica sat enthralled. Finally, with dusk approaching, they headed back toward Jackson Square.
“Thank you, Jack, this was beautiful,” Erica said, lifting her head from Jack’s shoulder to smile at him.
Jack tucked a stray tendril of hair behind her ear. “So are you,” he responded, lowering his head to kiss her. Their lips had barely met when a loud voice interrupted them.

“Miss Kane! Miss Kane!” Erica realized the carriage had stopped and that someone was calling her name. As soon as she turned toward the voice, a flashbulb blinded her. She could barely make out the photographer on the sidewalk before several more flashes went off.

“What the hell?” Jack was out of the carriage before she could stop him. “Do you mind?”he asked in a deceptively measured tone as he approached the photographer. “We happen to be on our honeymoon.”
“Hey, I don’t mind at all,” replied the photographer. “How about some pictures of the
happy couple?”
“How about you leave now while you still can?” Jack suggested. Erica quickly alighted
from the carriage and reached Jack’s side.
“What my husband means,” she said, putting her hand on Jack’s arm, “is that we’d
appreciate some privacy.”
“Oh, come on, Miss Kane,” laughed the photographer. “Privacy is something you gave up when you became a celebrity.”
“I’m going to give you 10 seconds to leave,” Jack said and there was no mistaking the
anger in his voice. “And if you don’t-”
The photographer looked from Jack’s narrowed eyes to the clenched muscles of his arm still in Erica’s grip. “Okay, Okay,” he finally said, “I’m outta here.” He turned and started down the street, muttering a few choice words about celebrities under his breath. Erica ran her hand up and down Jack’s arm. “Jackson, please, calm down,” she said pleadingly. “It’s just something we have to deal with.” After a long moment, Jack slowly let out a deep breath and took Erica’s hand in his.
“That’s it,” he announced, as they started walking back through the square. “I’m done with scenic New Orleans. We’re going back to the yacht to change. Then we’re having a quiet, romantic dinner and I pity the poor fool who tries to bother us.”

Erica watched Jack across the table as he studied the menu. Now that they were seated in the elegant dining room at Arnaud’s, she was determined that they end the day on a positive note. Jack had been fairly quiet back at the yacht and during the cab ride to Arnaud’s. But now, with the melodic sound of jazz music drifting into the dining room from the adjoining bistro and the delicious aromas wafting from the kitchen, he seemed more relaxed.

“So, what are you having?” Jack put down the menu and smiled at Erica.
She smiled back. “I’m not sure but I’m glad to see your mood has improved.”
Jack looked somewhat defensive. “Okay, I know you think I went overboard.” He paused expectantly but Erica didn’t comment. “Look at it this way. I’ve waited 17 years for this. Seventeen years. And as much as I love our family, I have a pretty good idea of what’s waiting for us when we get home. Living in the loft with two teenagers while we look for a house, you busy getting New Beginnings off the ground, me busy at Cambias and God only knows what Kendall and Greenlee will be up to by the time we get back. So you’ll have to humor me if I want you all to myself right now with no interruptions.”
“When you put it like that, I feel incredibly lucky,” Erica said, picking up his hand and
lacing her fingers through his.
“So do I.” Jack lifted her fingers and kissed them before putting her hand back down.
“While you decide what you want, I’m going to go and make sure we have a table waiting for us in the Bistro after dinner. We can’t leave New Orleans without enjoying some jazz music.”

Erica was intently studying her menu when a deep voice with a French accent broke her concentration. “Excuse me.”
Erica looked up into a pair of flashing dark eyes. The gentleman standing in front of her was handsome in a roguish sort of way. The crisp white shirt he wore complimented his dark hair and skin. Tucked under his arm was what appeared to be a saxophone. “I cannot permit such a beautiful woman to sit here alone,” he said smoothly.

“Oh, I’m not -“ Erica started to explain but the gentleman continued. “You must be my
guest in the Bistro.”
“Really - I can’t,” Erica tried again.
“I insist,” said the gentleman. He gestured to the saxophone. “I will play beautiful music
just for you.” Erica’s mind raced as she tried to think of a way to politely get rid of this latest interloper before Jack returned. Knowing full well the mood her husband had been in earlier, she didn’t even want to contemplate his reaction to this situation. Before she could speak, the man had drawn her to her feet. Looking at her admiringly, he bent to kiss her hand. Erica’s heart sank when she heard a familiar voice behind her.

“I’m only going to say this once,” Jack’s voice was calm but Erica wasn’t deceived. “Get your hands off of my wife.”
Erica’s admirer looked over Erica’s head and dropped her hand when he met Jack’s glacial stare. “Your wife?” he stammered. “Please - you must excuse me. This is a
misunderstanding.” He looked at Erica accusingly and then, back at Jack. “I didn’t know she was married.”
“Well, now you do,” Jack said, “So I suggest you be on your way.”

The musician stepped back as Jack moved forward slightly. “Yes, yes, have a good
evening.” He turned and hastily left the dining room without looking back.
Before Erica had a chance to react, she felt her arm taken in a firm grip as she was
propelled toward the door. She heard Jack exchange a few curt words with the maitre’d and then felt the cool evening air hit her when they reached the sidewalk. As they approached one of the cabs lining the street, Erica found herself hoping that her
honeymoon hadn’t just come to an untimely end.
Jack swung open the door to the cabin, crossed the room and dumped Erica
unceremoniously on the bed. He had scooped her up as soon as they exited the cab at the ramp to the At Last. Her attempts at speech had been met with silence. Now as she watched Jack throw off his jacket and loosen his tie, she tried again.
“Jack, really, you’re overreacting,” she said. “There’s no reason that we couldn’t have
finished dinner.”
“I give up,” Jack responded. “I mean it. I admit defeat.” He undid his cufflinks and rolled back his sleeves. “I’m not letting you out of here again.”
“You mean never?” Erica purred. “What if we run out of things to do?”
“I swear our next stop will be a deserted island,” declared Jack.
“Will we have to wear clothes?” Erica asked seductively.
Jack ignored her. “I still can’t believe it.” He ran his hands through his hair in exasperation. “I had this perfect day planned for us -”
“It was perfect,” Erica insisted. She managed to reach out and grab Jack’s hand as he paced in front of her. “Come here,” she said softly. He didn’t resist as she drew him down on the bed beside her. “It was a beautiful day, Jack.” She sat up on her knees behind him and began to massage his shoulders. After a few moments, she felt his muscles begin to relax under her fingers.
“I’m not about to let a few minor interruptions ruin our honeymoon.”
When she was fairly certain that Jack was less tense, she lightened her touch so that her fingers were more of a caress. “Is that better?” she asked softly, her lips close to his ear.

Before he could answer, she suddenly noticed a beautifully wrapped package on the
bureau. She quickly darted off the bed and across the room. “Where on earth did this come from?” she asked, picking up the package and turning to Jack.
Jack smiled at her, looking much more relaxed. “Why don’t you open it and find out for yourself?” he suggested.
Erica tore off the paper and gasped when she saw the watercolor of the harbor. “Jack! When did you-?”
“Let’s just say that when you were having your fortune told, I ran a little errand. Your artist friend was only too happy to have it delivered to you here,” Jack explained. “I thought you deserved a housewarming present. Now we just have to find the house.”
“Oh, Jack, I love it,” Erica said, placing it on the bureau so she could admire it. She walked back over to the bed. “And I love you. Thank you.” She bent to kiss him and he pulled her down on top of him.
“A thank you would be most appropriate,” he agreed, “Especially in light of the day that I’ve had.”
Erica unbuttoned the first few buttons of his shirt and slipped her hands inside. “I’m sorry that we had so many interruptions,” she said, sliding the shirt off his shoulders.
“I guess it’s the price to pay for being married to the most exciting woman in the world,”  Jack said, closing his eyes as she touched her lips to his chest.
Erica undid the last buttons of the shirt and tugged it from the waistband of his trousers.

“Just tell me how I can make it up to you,” she said, starting to kiss her way down his
“Well, you’re heading in the right direction,” Jack told her, his breath quickening as she trailed her tongue across his stomach. He felt her smile and pulled her up and into his arms.
“This may take all night,” he warned her, his hand going to the zipper on the back of her dress.
“I hope that’s a promise,” Erica said softly.
“Most definitely,” Jack responded, his hands brushing against her bare skin as he removed the dress. Erica shivered as he ran his hands down her arms to her waist, then back up to her neck, winding his hands in her hair. She closed her eyes as she felt his lips travel along her neck to her ear. Her senses started to spin with the familiar but always exciting sensation of being close to him. By the time his lips reached hers, her breath was coming in short gasps. Jack took full advantage of her open mouth, exploring it thoroughly until she met his tongue with her own.

Jack groaned as Erica fumbled with his belt. He moved her so that she was under him and quickly shed the remainder of his clothes. Their lips and bodies entwined as he rejoined her on the bed. “I love you, Erica Montgomery,” Jack said, pulling away from her for a moment. “So much.”
“I know,” Erica responded. “And I love you.”
As the yacht left the twinkling lights of New Orleans behind, they gave in to their endless desire, knowing that their love would only grow stronger as they began their new life together.
Author's Footnote: This story will more than likely be read by someone whose life or the lives of people they love have been affected by Hurricane Katrina. Therefore, I gave a great deal of thought to changing the setting of this story. Although I've never had the pleasure of visiting New Orleans, I've always been fascinated by this exciting city and thought it was the perfect location for Jack and Erica's honeymoon story.
The story was more than half done when Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans. For the first few weeks immediately following, it was impossible to concentrate on the story so I took a break from writing while I considered changing the location. Ultimately, the
research I had done on New Orleans convinced me that I should pay tribute to this great city by keeping it as the backdrop to the story. My heart goes out to the people of New  Orleans and people elsewhere who were affected by this tragedy. They continue to be in my prayers.

By Any Means Necessary

They were on a mission and were not to be deterred.
For years, they had patiently waited, convinced that
the natural order in life would prevail. But no longer.
They had swallowed a bellyful of disappointment,
regret and hopelessness their middle names.
It was time to take action. Each of them smeared
black tar beneath the rims of their bloodshot eyes.
Despite the knowledge that they were heading into
serious battle, the night before they lingered at the bar
too long, tossing back shots of tequila. Today, they
paid the price. The remnants of bile coated their
throats, a bitter yet fitting reminder of what led them to
this place.

Seconds ticked by. After a final check was made to
ensure there would be no mistakes, they scattered.
One by one they hit the ground and slowly crawled
into position. As expected, G and Deb were out in
front. Long ago they had made a pact that no sacrifice
was too great and so, despite the risk of capture, they
made their way down the long, dark hallway. Regina
hung back, guarding the small arsenal that lay by her
feet. If the mission was to succeed, they’d need
someone at the end to convert the noble cause into a
righteous happening.

Fifteen feet short of reaching their destination, Deb
and G stopped abruptly. Without so much as a
whisper, G reached into her back pocket and pulled
out a crisp, white napkin and tossed it to the ground.
The signal given, one-by-one, the remaining posse
members dropped to the floor and sidled into place.
Not a sound was uttered despite the group’s natural
propensity toward chattiness.

Satisfied that their plan was unfolding according to the
well-mapped strategy, they stormed the room.
“My goodness, what took you so long?” Susan
exclaimed. “I’ve been waiting here for weeks,
wondering where you were.”
The women looked at each other, confusion etched
on their faces.

“Do you honestly believe I thought it would be a good
idea for my character to parade in those silly getups
for weeks on end, pretending to be a twentysomething
showgirl? For heaven sakes, I have a
married daughter.”

“Then why’d you pitch the stupid idea in the first
place” Kimberly pitched in.

“Nothing personal, Susan, but you’ve been around the
block long enough to know that MMT has a hard
enough time writing romance. The last thing she
needs is this kind of help from you,” Pam ranted.
“Oh, but I disagree. This was precisely the kind of
help Megan needed.”

The posse shook their heads, their confusion and
frustration mounting. “Would you please explain your
logic to us because, for the life of me, I don’t get it.
This Vegas storyline has me thisclose to turning off
my TV forever “ Mary barked.
“Truer words were never spoken” Mel agreed. “What’s
this all about?”

Before Susan had a chance to reply, Regina barged
in, a wagonful of equipment trailing behind her.

“What’s taking you girls so long? You were supposed
to grab her and be gone!” Blank stares were her only
greeting. Something was terribly wrong.
“Ladies, look around. You’re here aren’t you?”
The group nodded wordlessly. Susan shook her head.
Clearly the posse crew was not as swift on the uptake
as she had originally hoped. Either that, or they were
still too shell-shocked by the recent events on AMC.
Taking a moment to consider both options, she
settled on the latter. It was understandable that they
were having difficulty catching on to her machinations.
They saw her as the grand lady, not the scheming
conniver she played on TV.

Thinking back on all that she heard about the group
from Walt and some of the others, she had to chuckle.
“I guess I’ll need to not only lead your horses to water
but help them drink as well!” she informed the motley
bunch. “But, before I do, I insist that you clean
yourselves up. That underliner is on much too heavy.
And, believe me, I would know. I’ve seen clips of me
from the Eighties.”

Ten minutes later the group reassembled in the
actress’s lavish dressing room. “Much better” Susan
replied after careful inspection. “Now, here’s what I
want you to do . . . “

Moments later the mood in the room had changed
dramatically. Bewildered expressions were replaced
with thunderous laughter led by the unholy trio. “This
is even better than we had hoped for. ” crooned
“Ooooooooh, I love this. It’s a great plan” Deb piped
“Dears, all of our hard work has paid off. You should
give yourselves a big pat on the back” Regina
“And hugs” Sandy added. “Let’s not forget those.”
And so, the plan was put into motion.
Walt arrived promptly at the studio for his 10AM call. It
had been more than a week since he last had to
report for work and wanted to make sure he got there
in plenty of time. He had been up late studying his
lines, trying to summon some interest in the lame
script he had received the night before. What the hell
is going on, he thought to himself. And why do they
have me dressed like this. It just didn’t make sense.
But then, not much did in the last several weeks. His
storyline had seemed to go off-track and he got that
funny note last Monday from the writers . . . grow your
hair long and add some highlights. We want it blonder
than it has been . . .? Now, he was all for being
cooperative; after all, he had a good life and was just
given a lucrative contract that would keep him “at the
Kids” for the next four years. What did he really have
to complain about?

Stepping off the elevator, he made his way to his
dressing room. For some inexplicable reason, the
door was locked. Looking around for a moment, he
noticed a note taped to the nearby light switch.
“Locked out again?” it read. “Help is around the

“What the . . .?” Three steps later, he turned and
stopped dead in his tracks. Lying in front of him was a
pale pink towel with an envelope pinned to it “You’ve
got to be kidding me” he muttered bending down to
pick it up. “What kind of game is this” he wondered.
Walt ripped the envelope open. Something was
scrawled on a tiny piece of paper but for the life of him
he couldn’t make out a single word. Turning the note
over, he read two words. “Knight’s Room”.
“Okay, I give up. What does ‘Knight’s Room’ mean?”
he said aloud. Just like on the show, Michael B.
Jordan rode to the rescue. “I uh, I think you’re
supposed to go to Michael E. Knight’s room, Walt.”
“And how do you know that?” Walt inquired. Michael
simply shrugged his shoulders and walked in the
opposite direction.

“Fine, I’ll just let this game play out.” Two seconds
later he was at MEK’s door, poised to knock, when
the door swung open.
“Here, I bought you a present” Michael smirked,
shoving a brown bag into Walt’s hands and closing
the door just as quickly.
Walt was almost afraid to look. Taking a deep breath,
he peeked inside. Nestled at the bottom was a pair of
wire-rimmed glasses. Walt pulled them out and fixed
them carefully on his face. “Okay, I guess this means
that I’ll be able to read whatever was on the note,”
extracting the scrap of paper from the pocket of his
suit trousers.

“Soundstage eleven. Take the route past Eden’s
dressing room.” Shaking his head in utter
bewilderment, he quickly made his way toward the
stage. Unfortunately, there were still a few roadblocks
impeding Walt’s arrival. The first, ironically, appeared
by the air-conditioning unit. Beside it was poised an
aluminum rack holding a single long, black coat and a
sign that simply read “wear me”.

As he slipped the coat on, he felt something in the
right sleeve. Before he even pulled it out, he nodded
to himself, knowing that it could only be one thing.
Sure enough, it was a white, silk scarf.
It was impossible. No way in hell could they get
access to this place. Or could they he wondered. He
knew they were a determined bunch but this was
unbelievable, even for them.

As he turned the final bend before reaching the
soundstage, he heard his disembodied voice over the
loud speaker. “Come here . . . ; come here” it
repeated over and over again. Taking a deep breath,
he pushed through the double doors.
Walt blinked twice in disbelief. Before him stood
Susan, looking prettier than ever in a simple white
sheath. She was flanked by her TV family; Alicia,
Eden and Rebecca on her right; Michael B. on her
left. Peering behind him was a doe-eyed teenager
who he didn’t recognize. “That must be the new Lily,”
he thought to himself.

“Okay, I give up. Would somebody mind explaining
what is going on? Mikey? Susan? Somebody?”
A beleagured McTavish walked toward Walt. “It was
Susan’s idea. She tricked me. The entire Vegas
storyline was just an elaborate setup to enrage your
fan base, throw off viewership, and ultimately force
me to stage this thing to save my job. I stand before
you a broken woman.”

Megan’s speech was met with thunderous applause
along with loud whooping and hollering. Walt turned
to see where all the commotion was coming from.
Toward the back of the soundstage stood a group of
women. Most of the faces were unfamiliar to him but
the red tee shirts they were wearing were

“We couldn’t very well have a wedding without the
posse in attendance, now could we, Walt?” Susan
purred. “And, they were very helpful as well. Ladies,
you did a terrific job laying out the props. I knew I
could depend on all of you to show up and give me a
hand. And, I agree. He looks wonderful in that coat,
that tux, the scarf. But, I think it’s time we got down to
business and shoot this wedding once and for all.
Regina, I trust your camera is ready to roll?” The
woman nodded yes, her face beaming with a sunny

For the second time that day, the posse group stood
motionless, as they saw their couple finally tie the
knot, a mixture of tears and smiles on their happy
faces. And, as a montage played on the editor’s
monitor the group turned their attention to the burlap
sack one of the posse’s finest had been lugging
around all day.

Simultaneously, they reached in and began pelting
one another with marshmallows, chanting “Ride,
posse, ride.”

Dance of Love
by Posse Gal Angie

Written in response to a Posse "challenge" to write Jackson's next
marriage proposal to Erica.

Erica tried to sit back and relax in the limo Jackson had sent for her.
She was not feeling very relaxed. She was not even sure if her dress
was right. Okay it was definitely right, she just was not sure if it was
appropriate for what Jack had planned. Erica smiled, knowing it
would not matter, she could wear an evening gown to a barbecue and
Jack would simply give her an amused smile, and never take his eyes
off her. When she had asked him how to dress, he had been
infuriatingly vague, telling her to "dress for a special moment." Of
course Erica had gone through dozens of outfits before deciding that
this was the one that would really make Jack look at her in the way
that always made her heart do flip-flops. The way that said how
happy he was that she was all his. She had nearly flung THAT dress
off in a fit of temper and refused to go as she stood there muttering
about how Jack was the most infuriating man she had ever known,
and so not worth this. But he was worth this. He was worth anything.
And he may be the most infuriating man on the planet, but he was her
infuriating man.

Erica was slapped with the cold air as she stepped from the limo. She
knew she should have worn her coat, but she wanted Jackson to get
the full effect of her dress
She turned to thank the limo driver when he raised his cap, so she
could make out his face. "Reggie?" she gasped, receiving only his
smile in return. "Do you even have a driver's license?" she queried,
already acting the role of his mother.

"You worry too much, Erica," Reggie finally spoke, "Just doing my
part." As Erica walked away from Reggie, he gave a low whistle.
Flustered, Erica whirled back around, but she could not help the smile
creeping across her face.

"Reggie!" she tried to sound stern, and tried just as unsuccessfully to
stop the blush from filling her cheeks.

"J's gonna love the dress," Reggie grinned.
Erica stood staring for a moment, her eyes widening in surprised, and
then settling lovingly on the dashing figure sprawled on the steps of
the boathouse. There were even more twinkle lights than the last time
they had been here and she could see roses strewn about the dock.
And a single rose in Jack's hand. He did not see her yet. He was
gazing forward expectantly, yet his mind seemed to be somewhere
else, somewhere very pleasant from the faint smile on his lips. He
looked impossibly handsome, perched on the top step, wearing a
white tuxedo, and a long black coat.

"Hi handsome," Erica smiled as she walked toward him. Jack held out
the rose to her, his mind battling over where to look first. He was
enchanted by her dark, sparkling eyes and the beguiling smile that
painted her lips, but his eyes were drawn to the dress that clung to
her body in all the right places. As Erica held the rose in one hand,
and reached for his hand with the other, Jack instead circled her
waist with his hands and gently lifted her until she was staring down
into his eyes. After carrying her up the steps, Jack allowed her to
slide down his body until she was standing in front of him on the
dock. Before her feet were even solidly on the ground, her arms
found their way around Jack's neck and her lips melted into his.
When their lips parted, the pair stared into each other's eyes for a
long moment, their bodies untangled from one another, yet their
hearts and souls so completely connected. As Jack ran his hands up
and down Erica's arms, he became aware she was shivering, and it
was not merely from their close proximity. Shrugging out of his long
coat, he wrapped it around her shoulders. Not ready to move so far
from her yet, he took her hand and led her across the dock to where
the CD player set. But he did not touch it. He released Erica's hand
and stepped back, his eyes gliding over her small frame surrounded
by his coat. Erica could not deny that she loved watching him look at
her this way. Finally, she arched her brow in a silent question. If he
was going to look at her like that, he certainly should not be so far

Jack smiled and admitted, "I love when you wear my clothes. Only
you could make a coat look so sexy."

Erica smiled seductively at him in return, "Oh darling, " she cooed,
"You do a wonderful job of that yourself."

Reflecting, Jack responded, "You were wearing my jacket the day I
came home."

"I did not think you noticed," Erica teased him.

"Lady, I notice everything about you," Jack said, holding her gaze.

"I missed you so much," Erica admitted quietly
"We will never have to miss each other again," Jack promised,
holding out his hand to Erica, as music swelled through the air with a
touch of his other hand. Taking the rose from her hand, he brushed it
along her cheek, before pressing his lips to the very same spot, and
tossing the rose away into the sea of roses that littered the dock.

~*~*~ The music plays so soft and sweet
My hands they shake when our lips meet
All that I ask is that tonight
We have this dance of love ~*~*~

Looking into Erica's eyes with so much love that she thought her
heart would surely burst, unable to contain the over-abundance of
love she felt in return, Jack spoke to her heart. His voice held his own
emotions, telling her, "Erica, we have spent years dancing in and out
of each other's lives. Dance with me now, share this dance with me
forever." Before she could even answer, Jack pulled her into his
arms, needing to hold her close. Erica leaned against him, feeling the
warmth of his body against her cheek, even with the bitter wind filling
the air. His familiar scent already surrounded her, as his coat draped
around her body, and the nearness of him overwhelmed her senses.
Her mind was reeling as he closed his arms around her, bringing her
closer, inhaling her own scent as he buried his lips in her hair. His
earlier words leapt to mind. A special moment. She knew at that
moment that she was standing at the edge of a cliff. And Jack was
going to ask her to jump. She was terrified. She was terrified,
because she knew she was going to take that leap. As Jack's body
began to sway with hers, Erica paused, glancing down at the bed of
roses at their feet.

"Are you sure about this?" she asked, gesturing at the flowers, even
though her eyes held the truth, jokingly lifting up her typical six inch

Nodding with a steadfast certainty, Jack led her back into his arms,
whispering, "If we hold onto each other, we will never fall."

~*~*~ Your eyes, they shine like stars above
This is the night that I've been dreaming of
It's your favorite song
Girl, can we hold on in this dance of love ~*~*~

Relinquishing their embrace, "You are still wearing my ring," Jack
said softly, his eyes gazing at her hand for a long time before finally
raising to look into her eyes.
Erica nodded, almost afraid he was going to ask her to take it off.
"When I put this ring on, I promised to love you completely, for the
rest of my life. That has not changed," she told him, love shining in
her eyes.

"For me either," Jack assured her, knowing the fear that lay in her
heart. "I would ask you to take it off, so I can put it back on again, but
I am not taking any chances this time, lady. It stays right where it is."
~*~*~ Something comes over me when you are near
So close and yet so far
I could die here in your arms
As we hold on in this dance of love ~*~*~

Jack led her across the dock until they were standing in front of the
bench where she had found him not so long ago. "You said we had to
figure out what we can live with and what we cannot live without,"
Jack began, sitting on the bench and pulling a surprised Erica onto
his lap, along with him. "The on-bended-knee thing has not served us
well so far," he explained.

"I can live with your makeup in my bathroom - all of it," Jack began,
waiting until Erica's lips tugged into a smile. "I can live with the stretch
of time it takes you to get ready," not even giving her a chance to
debate. "I can live with the way you are always convinced you are
right, even when you have surpassed the earth's wrongness
threshold. I can live with your impulsiveness and your creative
problem solving. I can live with your temper," Jack continued pulling
Erica back into his lap, not missing a beat as she angrily and
fruitlessly attempted to escape from his grasp. "See?" he grinned.
"That is why you wanted me in your lap!" Erica accused him, her eyes

"I am a smart man," Jack smiled.

"Oh, you think you are so smart?" Erica exploded, infuriated that her
struggle was getting her nowhere.

"Yeah," Jack replied, "Smart enough to get you in my arms." He had
her. He loved it. But she fought dirty.

"Well what are you going to do with me?" she inquired, curling ever
closer to him. She had him, and she loved it.

"Hmm hold that thought sweetheart," Jack managed, very aware of
how close Erica had moved toward him.

~*~*~ The music plays, you're all I see
I feel you breathing so close to me
Take my hand, tonight I'll be your man
In this dance of love ~*~*~

"I cannot live without the fire in your eyes when you know you are
right,” he began again, looking into her eyes, and never once looking
away. “Or watching you wake up in the morning, or feeling your body
curled against mine at night. Watching you walk into my arms. I
cannot live without the way you look right before we kiss. When I hold
you close, the way you smell, the way you feel. I cannot live without
you making me crazy. I cannot live without your heart. I cannot live
without you at all."

“Oh Jack!” Erica uttered emotionally, her voice barely a husky
whisper, his words silencing her last lingering fears, searing her soul.
It had finally happened. Jack filled up all the empty spaces inside. He
gave her so much love that she did not know if her heart could hold it
all. “I cannot live without you either! Not even for a moment,” she
pledged to him.

“We know all the steps, Erica. We know them by heart,” Jack said,
taking her hand in his, gazing at the ring on her finger, the symbol of
their unending love. “This time the dance is forever,” he promised.
“Be my partner, dance with me, let us spend the rest of our lives
loving each other. Finally, once and for all, marry me Erica.”

“I would marry you right now!” Erica cried, flinging her arms around
him, raining kisses down his face, before lowering her lips to his in a
slow, lingering kiss.

~*~*~ Something comes over me I can't explain
Girl, when I'm holding you
The world just slips away
As we hold on in this dance of love ~*~*~

Pulling away to look at her, Jack was flooded with joy. Her smile lit up
her face and her eyes sparkled with happiness. Looking out into the
darkness, lit up by the myriad of twinkling lights, Jack could not help
but smile at the thought. “Do you think you could possibly wait until
tomorrow?” he asked.

Erica nodded vigorously, “But only,” she conceded, “If you take me
home now and find a way to pass the time.”

“You got it,” Jack responded, as he rose, holding Erica in his arms.
They both laughed, jubilant, as Jack spun them around in a circle,
unable to contain his excitement any longer. He nearly stumbled on
the steps when he felt Erica’s lips buried in his neck. “Honey, we
need to get to the car in one piece,” he warned her.
“Hurry,” Erica urged him. And he did.

~*~*~ And all I ask is that we have this dance
The music plays, we close our eyes
So soft, it flows into the night
You're like a prayer
Nothing else compares in this dance of love
You know I want you, take my hand
And I will be your man in this dance of love ~*~*~

**SONG CREDIT: Dance of Love by Dan Hill***


The Journey Home
Chapter One  by Mary

Erica reached for another glass of champagne as the tray passed by. The noise at the party had reached a crescendo level and she had the beginnings of a headache but there were still a few people she needed to talk to before she could make her getaway. She sighed as she realized that even though she had thrown herself into starting Erica Kane Fashions, the enjoyment that she always got when she started a new venture had somehow eluded her this time. She had thought that the excitement of Paris and the fashion industry would make her forget all that she had left behind but as the weeks had turned into more than a month, the last painful days she had spent in Pine Valley were still fresh in her mind.

As Bianca’s due date had approached, all that she had been able to think about was getting away. The night of the baby shower she knew she couldn’t take it anymore. She had thrown some things into a suitcase and ran. The message she had left on Bianca’s answering machine was brief and she knew that it must have hurt her. The note she had left for Jack was briefer still and she had left her engagement ring with it.

She had known that she couldn’t bring herself to make a complete break with Bianca and she had kept in touch with her, as well as with Opal and Myrtle. When Kendall had called last week to tell her that Miranda Mona had arrived, she knew that she still couldn’t go back. She had heard nothing from Jack. Not that she had expected to, not after the way she had left. No one had mentioned him in their calls and she couldn’t bring herself to ask.

She had kept herself busy catching up with old acquaintances from her modeling days and had attended every fashion show she could fit into her schedule. Her sketches had been turned over to the designers and she was expecting to see the first samples within a few days. The days she was able to fill, the nights were another story. Sleep would elude her for hours. She would have a glass or two of wine and then finally fall into a restless sleep.

Some nights she thought the dream might not come but it always did. It was her birthday and there were decorations and a cake. She was so excited and couldn’t wait for her father to come home. Then he would arrive and she was nervous but she didn’t know why. Before she knew it, everything would start to spiral out of control. The dancing, the locked door, the fear and the pain.

Next she would fast forward to Bianca being born. She would do anything to protect this little miracle that had come into her life. Suddenly Bianca was all grown up and standing next to a crib. As Erica watched, horrified, Bianca reached into the crib and picked up a baby. Hearing someone laugh, Erica turned and Michael Cambias was standing there. “It will never be over, Erica,” he said. “Never.”

With his laughter ringing in her ears, Erica would turn and run. She realized that there was someone that she was trying to reach, someone that could save her and protect her. She knew deep inside of her that it was Jack and that if she could just find him she would be all right. But no matter how hard she tried, she could never quite reach him, even though she knew he was there. She would wake up sobbing, her heart pounding and sleep would be impossible after that.

The glass of champagne in her hand was suddenly empty and she signaled for another. As she reached to take it off the tray, her heart stopped when she heard a familiar voice from behind her. She would know his voice anywhere but she couldn’t believe he was there. She turned and their eyes met across the room. Her hand hesitated for a moment on the glass and then she picked it up. Still not believing that it could be true, she watched Jack walk across the room toward her.

Jack’s heart sank as he watched her pick up the glass. For a moment, he had thought that she wasn’t going to take it but if he was honest with himself, he wasn’t surprised that she was still drinking. He studied her as he got closer. She looked as beautiful as ever but if he looked closely, he could see the circles under her eyes and she was thinner than he could ever remember seeing her.

Now that he was actually here, he was unsure what her reaction would be to seeing him. When he had found the note and the ring, he had vowed not to follow her, that he would give her the space she needed. He had decided that when the time was right, he would contact her and let her know that he was never giving up on her - on them - but now circumstances had brought him here for another reason.

“What are you doing here, Jack?” she asked as he reached her. “How did you find me?” Though her tone wasn’t warm, it wasn’t angry either and he took some comfort in that.

“I need to talk to you,” he told her. “It’s important and it couldn’t be done over the phone.”

“What could possibly be so important that you couldn’t tell me over the phone?” she asked. She suddenly looked worried. “Is it Bianca? Is something wrong? Kendall said everything was fine.”

“Bianca is fine,” he quickly reassured her. “Look, let’s go outside.” He motioned toward the terrace. “I can’t talk to you about this in here.”

He was relieved when she put the glass down and preceded him to the terrace. He watched her as she walked over to the railing. It was a beautiful spring night and looking at her outlined against the twinkling lights of the Paris sky made him think of happier times when they had been there together, their love new and untouched by all the heartache and misunderstandings that had happened since then. They had come so far since those days, yet sometimes he felt that they hadn’t come very far at all.

“Bianca is fine,” he repeated, “but there’s a problem with the baby.” He watched the expression on her face as he spoke but it revealed nothing.

“What kind of problem?” she asked slowly.

“They’re not sure yet,” Jack replied. “She has a very high fever and she’s having trouble breathing. They’re trying to rule out several things - all of them serious.”

Erica turned and looked out over the city again. “Thank you for telling me, Jack,” she said, “but you didn’t need to come all this way. A phone call would have been fine. I’ll go call Bianca now.” She started past him and he reached out and grabbed her arm. They stared at each other and he
slowly released her.

“I had a feeling that’s what you would say,” Jack said, “which is why I did come all this way. She doesn’t need a phone call, Erica, she needs her mother.”

“No, she doesn’t,” Erica said bitterly. “She has you, and Kendall and Lena and everyone else that cares about her. She wouldn’t want me there.”

“That’s not true and you know it,” he told her. “Look, we have all been giving you space but just how long do you think you can hide out here? Bianca needs you and I’m afraid if you don’t come back with me now you’ll regret it for the rest of your life.”

He took a deep breath, praying that he could get through to her. “Miranda could die, Erica, and I know that you won’t let Bianca go through that alone. Please, say that you’ll come back with me.”

Chapter Two  by M

“Jack, I don’t see what good I can do.” Erica turned her back to him, looking out across the city. She knew Bianca might want her there, but so much pain had been caused over the past several months. There had been so many lies, all with good intentions, her family had claimed.

Jack just stared at her, unsure of what to say or do. He had tried so hard to reach her before she fled Pine Valley. He had then given her the space she obviously desired. And now standing on this balcony amidst the cool Paris night, all he could think of was wrapping her so tightly in his arms that she could never doubt him or his love for her again.

Placing a gentle hand on her bare shoulder, he felt her shiver at his touch. “Erica, Bianca loves you. Miranda, Bianca, Kendall - they all need you. You could do good by just being present while your daughters - your family - pray for your grandchild’s life. Please just come with me. We can talk on
the plane.”

With tears streaming down her cheeks, Erica turned to face the man she loved more than anything. She merely nodded. Jack placed a welcoming hand on the small of her back and led her out of the party. The limo sped to the hotel, where Jack helped Erica quickly pack and overnight bag. Asking the hotel manager to pack the rest and ship it, they raced to the airport. Jack had already purchased two tickets for the midnight flight, praying she would join him in the journey home, but with or without Erica, Jack was determined to return to their family that needed them both so much.

While Erica was in the ladies room before take-off, Jack had called Greenlee to tell her that they were on the way back. “So she is with you?” Greenlee couldn’t hide the surprise in her voice.

“Yes, I am surprised that she didn’t put up more of a fight, but we are about to board the plane.”

“Wow, that’s great. Do you want me to tell everyone else?”

“No, just in case, Erica decides not to go with me to the hospital. I don’t want to get Bianca or Kendall’s hopes up. Just meet us at the airport. You’ve got the flight number, right?”

“Yes, Dad. Is Erica going to have a problem with me picking you up?” Greenlee had grown so much closer to all of the family while Erica was away. Now was the time to try and show Erica that she has changed and honestly wanted a good relationship with her, especially since Jack would always love Erica.

“I hope not. We will not have to see how it goes. She’s coming back, honey. I’ll see you in Pine Valley. Love you.”

“Love you too, Dad.”

After settling in the seats, waiting for take-off, Erica turned to him. “So who were you talking to in the terminal?”

Jack hesitated briefly. There was no reason to keep it from her. “Greenlee. She is going to take us to the hospital after we land.”

“Okay.” Erica sat back, as the plane taxied to the runway. He came for me. Erica’s thoughts kept coming back to that same fact. Jack had flown all this way to bring her home. Oh God, please let Miranda be alright. Bianca doesn’t need anything else.
“So what’s going on in that beautiful head of yours?” Jack couldn’t take the silence a moment longer. He was going to force her to deal with whatever issues they needed to. He didn’t understand why she had kept in contact with practically everyone but him.

“Nothing. So Jackson, you said that my daughters need me. Did they ask you to come get me, Jackson? Is that why you came - just at Bianca and Kendall's request?”

Erica had pushed him away for quite some time before she left Pine Valley. She had felt so hurt that her family had kept Bianca‘s pregnancy from her, but during her time in Paris, she had longed for Jack. She needed him to help her, she knew it deep down inside, but was not about to admit that she couldn’t handle the dreams, drinking, or reality of the situation without him.

“Yes, Erica, Kendall asked me to drag you home, kicking and screaming, if
I had to. But no, that is not the only reason why I came for you. We all need you. We all miss you. I need you, Erica. I have missed you so badly.” Jack voice was soft and gentle, but still firm and strong with his love. He tenderly took her hand in his. “I want to make you see that your daughters love you and need you. And that I still love you and need you. But the Kane women are not near as strong without you, Erica. You are the strength of the Kane women. There is nothing that you haven’t overcome until now.” Looking deeper into her eyes, “But even this, you can defeat. For you, my dear, are Erica Kane, and there isn’t anything that you can’t do.”

Erica felt his love for her. She yearned to pour out her heart to him, but couldn’t manage to let her walls that she had built up fall. Instead of trying harder or even admitting that to Jack, she simply rested her head on his shoulder and said, “We should sleep, Jack. It’s been a long night, and we have a long flight ahead of us.”
Kissing her forehead, “Okay, but we are going to have this discussion at some point. You can’t avoid telling me how you feel forever Erica. I know you better than that. Eventually, we will have to have it out. For tonight, I will let it stand.”

“Thank you.” Hands still intertwined, Erica and Jack rested for most of the flight, not speaking, just enjoying being in each other’s presence.

Chapter Three  by Mary

Erica’s mind was racing as they approached the hospital. The thought of seeing Bianca and Kendall for the first time in weeks filled her with apprehension. She supposed they were angry with her for leaving instead of staying and being supportive. She hoped that she hadn’t made a mistake by coming back. She remembered what it was like when Bianca was so ill as a little girl and now Bianca was a mother worried about her own daughter. The fact that Miranda was now a reality seemed so odd to Erica. She had not allowed herself to think of how she would feel once the baby was actually born. That she found herself worried about her granddaughter made her think that she had done the right thing in coming back, that maybe there was hope for their family after all. She realized that just being with Jack was making her feel stronger. She had missed him so much and even though she had pushed him away in the weeks before she left, she knew that she couldn’t go through this without him.

“So how was Paris?” Greenlee asked from the back seat. She had been subdued since meeting them at the airport, just telling them that the latest report from the hospital was that Miranda was stable. Erica had picked up on the affection between father and daughter and realized that things had obviously progressed between Greenlee and the family in her absence.

“It was fine,” Erica replied absently. “Very busy at this time of year.” She felt her hand tremble as they pulled into the hospital parking lot. Her anxiety eased when Jack reached over and took her hand. “You’ll be fine,” he said. “You can do this.”

Erica hoped he was right as they stepped off the elevator. Bianca and Kendall were standing in the hall and turned as they heard the elevator door. The look of surprise on Bianca’s face was quickly replaced by joy as she raced across the room into Erica’s arms.

“Mom, I can’t believe that you’re here,” she said disbelievingly. “I’ve missed you so much.”

“Oh, I’ve missed you too honey,” said Erica, holding Bianca close. “How is

“You’re not going to believe this,” Bianca said excitedly, “but she’s better! The doctor said she has an infection and they’ve put her on antibiotics and she’s improving.”

“Thank God,” said Erica, feeling that a huge burden had been lifted off her shoulders. She couldn’t bear to think of Bianca having to deal with any more tragedy. As Bianca excitedly told Jack and Greenlee about the change in Miranda’s condition, Kendall walked over to Erica.

“Thank you for coming,” she said. “I’ve been trying to do my best but
Bianca really needs you. Are you staying?”

Erica could sense that Jack was listening for her response. “I’m not really sure,” she replied evasively. “At least until we’re sure that Miranda is out of danger.”

“You can’t see her right now, Mom,” Bianca said, “but hopefully tomorrow if she keeps getting better.”

“Alright, honey,” Erica said, suddenly feeling awkward. She wasn’t sure
how she would react to seeing her granddaughter for the first time but there was no way to avoid it now that she was back.

“I’ll stay with Bianca until she’s ready to leave,” Kendall said to Erica and Jack. “You two must be exhausted after that long flight. I can call you if there’s any news.”

“That’s a good idea,” said Jack, going over to Erica and taking her arm. “Let’s go back to the loft. Reggie is dying to see you and you look like you could use some food.”

“I’ll stay a little longer,” Greenlee said. “Your car is still here, right Dad?” “Right,” Jack replied, kissing her on the forehead. “Thanks for everything.”

“There’s no need to thank me,” Greenlee said sincerely. “That’s what families are for.” She smiled and went over to Bianca and Kendall. Erica watched the three girls talking together, marveling at how well they were getting along. Maybe this is all going to work out, she thought. Maybe the nightmare is finally over. She tried to ignore the nagging sense of doubt that persisted as she got on the elevator with Jack.

Jack opened the door to the loft and let Erica walk in ahead of him. She had barely said anything on the ride there and he had no idea how she was feeling. It saddened him that after all the years of always knowing what she was thinking, she was such an enigma to him now.

“No Reggie apparently,” he said, picking up a note from the counter. He frowned as he read it. “Gone to rent some movies. I’m sure he’ll be right back. He didn’t know you were definitely coming.” He tried not to sound concerned.

“It’s not a big deal, Jack,” said Erica. “Why are you worried?”

“No reason,” Jack answered. Seeing that she didn’t believe him, he continued, “Reggie’s been hanging out with some of those kids from his old crowd lately. Staying out late, not doing his homework, you know, the
usual teenage stuff.”

“I don’t like the idea of him hanging out with those kids again,” Erica said. “I
hope it doesn’t mean anything else.”

“Yeah, me too,” agreed Jack. “Look, sit down and relax. I’m going to change and make us something to eat.”

“I’m really not hungry, Jack,” said Erica. “I’m very tired. I should have had you just take me home.”

“You didn’t eat anything on the plane and I’m sure there’s nothing to eat at the penthouse. Please, just humor me,” he said. “We don’t have to talk if you don’t feel like it.”

Jack breathed a sigh of relief when she finally sat on the couch. After not having seen her for so long, he was reluctant to let her go. He was almost afraid that she would vanish on him again.

He rushed into the bedroom and changed out of the clothes he had been in since leaving Pine Valley. In spite of what he had said, he was determined to get her to talk. He couldn’t go on with things like this between them any longer. Now that it appeared that Miranda was out of danger, he had to know how she felt - about him, about everything that had happened.

When he came out of the bedroom, he was sure that she had left and his heart sank. Then he saw her curled up asleep on the couch. Thinking how exhausted she must be to fall asleep so quickly, he reached for a blanket and carefully wrapped it around her. He sat down in the chair next to the couch, watching her as she slept, thinking of how much he loved her and wondering how he was going to get through to her.

Erica tried to stop the dream from coming but she couldn’t. As soon as she realized where she was, she tried to escape but it was impossible. She was sobbing and running as always but suddenly it was different. She could hear someone calling her name and all at once she was safe. As she slowly woke up, she realized that someone was holding her, stroking her hair, and telling her that everything would be all right. She opened her eyes and looked into Jack’s crystal blue ones.

“Jack, you’re really here,” she said wonderingly. “I’m not dreaming you, am I?”

“Of course I’m here,” he answered her. “You’re safe, Erica. I would never let anything happen to you.”

Her breathing slowly returned to normal. She couldn’t remember a time when she had felt so safe. It had been weeks since she had been so close to him and as her fear subsided, she became achingly aware of how it felt to be in his arms again. Her head was against his chest and she could feel his heart beating in her ear. When she inhaled she could smell the tangy scent of his aftershave. She shivered as his hand ran up and down her spine. She closed her eyes and then stiffened and moved away.

“I’m sorry,” she said. “I’m fine now, Jack.”

“Sweetheart, you don’t have to apologize,” he told her. “Do you want to talk about it?”

“There’s nothing to talk about,” she moved further away.
“Look, it’s pretty obvious what you were dreaming about,” he said gently. “If you don’t want to talk to me about it, how about talking to -”

Erica jumped up in a rush. “Don’t you even dare bring up therapy again, Jackson Montgomery!” she cried. “I don’t need to talk to anyone. I can handle things on my own. I always have.”

“I know that,” Jack said. “That’s why I think -”

“I don’t care what you think,” she said angrily. She crossed the room and turned to glare at him. “I can’t believe that I thought this could work out. That’s it - I’m done. As soon as we’re sure that Miranda is going to be alright, I’m going back to Paris - for good.”

Chapter 4  by M

Erica fumbled with the door locks. I’ve had it, she thought. I will not sit here and listen to Jack tell me that I need to go to therapy. Obviously Jack doesn’t know what I need. I do not need therapy. Just as she was ready to open the door, Jack’s hand forcefully came to rest on the door right beside her head.

“Erica, damn it, you are not leaving. I am not going to let you run again.” Jack’s voice was low. She could feel his breath on her neck, knowing he was stooped over with his head right behind hers. She turned, ready to square off. His eyes immediately saw the fire within hers, a mix of anger, hurt, and passion. “I am not going to let you run away from all of us again."

Continuing to hold his stare, Erica’s feisty nature was in full swing. Jack saw that she was not ready to back down, but neither was he. So much needed to be said. “You can’t keep me prisoner here, Jack. I will eventually leave your loft.” Erica’s temper was just heating up, waiting for him to make a mistake in his tone, his words, anything.

“So you are going to run again? Run away from your family that loves you? Run away from me? Run away from any problem you may come up against?” Jack had to call her on the carpet for her fear. Although it would not sit well, he had to try and make her see that he was there to help. Still only inches apart, eye to eye, Jack tried to soften the tone of their argument. “Erica, I know you have been hurt, but so have I, so has Bianca, Kendall, Reggie… Heck even Greenlee. We all have to work to get past our hurt.”

“You all seem to have gone on just fine without me. I have been gone for weeks and everyone is doing better than ever. You, Reggie, Kendall, Greenlee, Bianca, and Miranda make a fine family. There is no need for
me. You will all be just fine when I return to Paris.” The smell of him so near was wearing her defenses down. She moved away from the door and away from Jack. Being that close was not helping to keep her walls up.

“Erica, can’t you see how much our children need you? Didn’t you see how much your daughters love you? Bianca practically ran Kendall down, trying to hug you. Don’t you know how much Reggie loves you? He needs you, Erica. I can’t deal with this teenaged boy mess by myself. I need you. I love you.”

Erica kept her back to Jack, but she sensed he was right behind her. Holding back all her emotions for so long, it was easy to keep the tears from falling. His hands came to rest on each of her shoulders. Steadying her voice, Erica spoke, “It’s not enough.”

Jack’s heart broke. Closing his eyes and biting his lip, Jack pulled back from her. “What’s not enough Erica? Your family begging for forgiveness, isn’t enough? Me, dying inside because I love you so much but you won’t let me love you. That isn’t enough? Your family is barely holding it together without you, Erica, but that isn’t enough to make you put all the other garbage aside? What’s it going to take, Erica? Honestly, what is it going to take, one of us to die before you realize how much we love you and need you on a daily basis?” Jack was shouting, but he didn’t care. His love wasn’t enough, he kept repeating those same words over and over again.

“Jack, I have promised not to leave until Miranda is in the clear and I won’t. But I will be on the first flight back to Paris after she is out of the hospital. I am sorry, but that is all I can do.” With tears, streaming down her cheeks, Erica turned to look at him, just long enough to have the look of pain on his face register in her heart, then she fled the loft.

Reggie was standing in the hallway, tear-stained cheeks. It ain’t worth it, he thought. The whole family thing ain’t worth it. They still leave. He heard the door slam behind Erica and Jack mutter Damn it. It just ain’t worth it, he repeated as he headed back to his room.

Erica was at the hospital by six the following morning. Since she hadn’t slept after their awful fight, Erica thought it was best to try and see Miranda before Jack would be at the hospital. The less they ran into each other before she returned the better, she thought.

Bianca had gone home briefly to shower and change the nurse had informed Erica when she asked about Miranda.

“Would you like to go in and hold her while Ms. Montgomery is gone?” the nurse asked.

“Is it alright?” Although Erica was nervous about seeing her grandchild for the first time, she liked the idea of being able to go through the emotion of it alone, without Bianca or Kendall present.

“Yes, Miranda is in the clear. She should actually be released later today, if Dr. Joe approves it.” The nurse led Erica into Miranda’s room. Helping her get settled with the baby in the rocking chair, the nurse placed the infant in the crook of Erica’s arm.

“Thank you,” Erica said, as the nurse left grandmother and child alone. Erica was amazed by the pure emotion of love that washed over her, as she looked into Miranda’s sweet wide eyes. Miranda was taking the whole scene in for a brief moment, then slowly started to drift back to sleep, as Erica rocked her. She has Bianca’s nose, Erica thought. Her jaw line is very clearly Montgomery. Jack has that same… Erica trailed off as her eyes filled with tears.

“Well, Miranda Mona Montgomery, I am your grandmother. I am sorry I wasn’t here sooner, sweetie. I couldn’t cope with it. But here you are, so perfect, so innocent, and sweet.”

Because all of Erica’s attention was focused on Miranda’s flushed, sleeping face, she didn’t notice Jack standing at the doorway, looking through the window at them.
“Did you know that you are named after my mother, Mona Kane Tyler? There is no better woman to be named after.” Erica continued to rock slowly, brushing her hand across Miranda’s cheek. “She wouldn’t have been scared of you, like I have been. She would have been here to welcome you into the world.”

Erica’s tears started to fall, she looked up, just long enough to brush them off her cheek. Jack, still watching his amazing love through the window, saw the love back in Erica’s face for the first time in forever. As she looked back down, Jack heard Bianca and Kendall come off the elevator behind him. Leaving Erica to continue bonding with her grandchild, Jack stopped the girls a few feet away from the door.

“You can’t go in right now, Bianca. Miranda’s fine, don’t worry.” Jack hurriedly said the last statement, as he saw a mother’s fear rush over her face.

“Why not, Jack?” Kendall spoke up, trying to look around him and see in the window.

“Erica is with her. They need some time alone.” Jack’s eyes were filled with tears of joy, feeling like a break-through was occurring in that very room. Only the love of an innocent child could heal the pain Erica still felt from her own rape.

“What? Mom? Really?” Bianca and Kendall both started asking all sorts of questions. “You got through to her last night, didn’t you Uncle Jack?” Bianca was thrilled that her mother seemed to be coming around.

“Well, not exactly.” Jack turned and walked back towards the room, peering in the window at them again. “Last night was a mess, but maybe some of it did get to her.”

Erica was now telling Miranda how beautiful she was, and how much like Bianca. Kendall, Bianca, and Jack continued to watch in silence as Erica began to sing a lullaby to Miranda that she used to sing to Bianca. Jack’s arms wrapped around the shoulders of both of them, as they all watched in amazement with tears filling their eyes.

After several minutes had passed, the nurse came to the trio and informed
Bianca that it was time for Miranda’s bottle. Bianca said thank you and took it. Looking back in at her mother and her child, she smiled. “I think Mom should have the opportunity to feed her grandchild.”

Jack backed away from the door, so not to be seen by Erica, as Kendall and Bianca entered the room. Erica looked at the two of them with a huge smile and tears rolling down her face.

“Hi. Miranda, say hi to your mommy and aunt Kendall.” Miranda was lying contently in Erica’s arms, half awake, half asleep.

“Mom, I am so glad you’re here.” Bianca said as she leaned over to hug
Erica. Kendall quickly followed suit.

Jack was back at the window and quickly noted the three Kane women wrapped in a hug, tears streaming down all their faces with the newest Kane girl caught in the middle.

Pulling back, Bianca offered the bottle to her mother. “Would you like to feed her?”

“Yes, thank you.” Erica took the bottle as the other two women sat down. Erica could sense Jack outside and knew he had been there the whole time now that she was not focused solely on Miranda. She took comfort in his presence, as the ladies began to heal, talking about Miranda and all other things.

Miranda went home that same day, and life returned to normal. Jack hadn’t heard from Erica after seeing her with the girls and several days had passed. Due to this, he assumed Erica had returned to Paris. Having heard all the wonderful details of Erica, Bianca and Kendall’s conversation, Jack had hoped Erica would stay and work things out with him as well, but no such luck.

Hitting the voicemail button, Greenlee’s voice rang out. “Reggie’s been in an accident. Please come to the hospital. He needs you. Hurry.”

Chapter Five  by Mary

Erica stared at the phone in horror. Reggie in an accident? Greenlee had sounded frantic. She glanced at her packed suitcases stacked neatly by the door. She had been ready to leave when she noticed the voice mail light. She looked at her watch. The message was from almost an hour ago. Maybe she should just call the hospital and find out what had happened.

Then she thought about Reggie and how withdrawn he had been the few times she had seen him at the hospital. She knew he was disappointed in her, disappointed that she had left and given Jackson back the ring. She understood his longing for a family and his fear that people would never stay. I can’t disappoint him again, she thought. He does need me. Her heart ached when she thought about Jack. He was always there for all of them, so strong and comforting and supportive. I can’t let him go through this alone, she thought. It’s just too much after everything that’s happened.

Before she could change her mind, she grabbed her purse and headed out the door. Please, God, let Reggie be alright, she prayed.

Jack sat with his head in his hands. When Derek had called, he couldn’t believe it. Reggie and some other kids in a bad car accident. He had knocked on Greenlee’s door on his way down from the loft and they had driven to the hospital together. Joe had said that Reggie was unconscious and was being evaluated. He hadn’t been able to answer any questions.

The waiting was driving Jack crazy. He couldn’t fathom that he was here once again, waiting for word on a loved one. Thinking about Miranda made his thoughts turn to Erica. He knew she must be gone by now. Bianca had said she had booked her flight.

He had already decided that he wouldn’t go after her again. He had tried and failed. Erica couldn’t - or at least wouldn’t - accept his love and he had made a conscious decision to let her go and concentrate on his family. He raised his head as he heard the elevator doors open and by some miracle, Erica stepped into the hallway. She stopped when she saw him and then started toward him.

“Jack, what happened?” she asked frantically. He could see that she was worried. “Greenlee said that Reggie was in an accident. What kind of accident? Is he alright?”

“I don’t know yet,” Jack replied. “He was in a car accident. Derek is supposed to meet me here with the details. Joe said that he was unconscious when they got him here. That’s all I know.” He stood up. “I thought you were gone.”

“I almost was,” Erica said. “In fact, my plane is probably taking off right now.”

Greenlee came round the corner and when she saw Erica, a relieved look came over her face. “I just tried calling you again. I thought for sure I had missed you.”

“No, I got your message,” Erica said. “Thank you for calling me.”

They all turned as Derek stepped off the elevator. He walked over to Jack. “Any word on Reggie?”
Jack shook his head. “Not yet. What do you know about the accident?” “I just came from there,” Derek replied. “From what we gathered from witnesses, the car was traveling at a high rate of speed and just left the road and hit a tree. I hate to tell you this, Jack, but the car was full of beer bottles and assorted drug paraphernalia.”

Jack closed his eyes. “Look, Derek, Reggie has been upset lately but there’s no way he’s stupid enough to be doing that.”

“Well, someone in the car was,” said Derek. “I’m going to have to talk to
Reggie eventually. The other three kids are in pretty bad shape.”

“Derek, do we have to do this now?” Erica questioned sharply. “We don’t even know how Reggie is yet.”

“No, it can wait,” Derek said. “Just let me know when Reggie is stable.” He touched Jack’s arm and walked away.

“What the hell is taking so long?” Jack muttered, turning to look at the doors to the emergency room.
“Now that you’re here, Erica,” Greenlee said. “I’m going to go get us some coffee.”

Jack sat back down again as Greenlee disappeared down the hall. Erica walked over and sat beside him.

“I’m sure that Reggie will be OK, Jack,” she said. “You know what a tough kid he is.”

“Yeah, he is,” said Jack. “But hitting a tree at a high rate of speed….,” his voice trailed off. “We had better be prepared for anything.”

He closed his eyes and put his head back against the chair. He felt his heart lighten ever so slightly when Erica slowly reached over and slipped her hand in his.

Time passed slowly as they waited. Erica hoped that her being there was helping in some small way. Jack hadn’t said much but she was encouraged that he had kept her hand in his. After a while, their fingers had become intertwined and every once in a while he would run his thumb over the back of her hand.

They both sprang to their feet as Joe came out of the emergency room. “Joe, how is he?” Jack asked immediately.

“Well, he’s a very lucky young man,” Joe said. “He does have a concussion but he’s awake now and aside from some cuts and bruises, he checks out fine.”

“Thank God,” Jack and Erica both breathed a huge sigh of relief. “What about the concussion though?” Jack asked.

“We’re going to keep him here under observation for tonight,” Joe said. “But all indications are that it’s a mild one.  Apparently he had the good sense to be wearing his seat belt.”

“Can we see him?” Erica asked.

“Just give us a few more minutes,” Joe said and walked back inside the

“Jack, I knew it!” Erica said joyfully and without thinking, she reached up to kiss him. She felt his sharp intake of breath as their lips met. He hesitated, and when she didn’t move away, he pulled her closer and deepened the kiss. She reached up to touch his face as her lips parted under his.

They broke apart as the sound of Greenlee’s heels reverberated down the corridor. She appeared with three cups of coffee precariously perched on a tray. Taking in Erica’s flushed cheeks and the faint trace of lipstick on Jack’s mouth, she stopped. “Should I come back later?“ she asked with a smile.

“No, no,” said Jack, going over to her. “Joe just told us that Reggie is going to be fine.”

“That’s wonderful!” exclaimed Greenlee, visibly relieved. “Can we see him?”

“Any minute now, according to Joe,” said Erica. “Why don’t you two go in?” she continued. “I should be going now that we know Reggie is OK.” She felt flustered after kissing Jack like that. She knew he was looking at her but she kept her gaze averted.

“No, you and Jack should go in,” Greenlee said immediately. “I’ll go in after you’re done.”

Erica didn’t have time to protest as Joe appeared and beckoned them to come in. Erica walked in first and stopped at the sight of Reggie lying motionless in the hospital bed. His eyes were closed and he appeared to be sleeping. As she got closer, his eyes opened and he looked surprised to see her. His eyes went past her to Jack.

“I guess I messed up pretty bad, huh, J?” he said with a shaky laugh.
“We don’t need to talk about that now,” Jack told him. “I just want you to
know how happy I - how happy we - are that you’re OK.” He went over and
took Reggie’s hand.

“Man, I don’t feel too OK,” Reggie said. “I feel like I crashed my skateboard into the side of a building.”

“Pretty close,” Jack observed. “Joe says he just needs to keep you here overnight for observation and then you can come home.”

Erica stepped closer. “We were so worried, Reggie,” she said. “I’m glad you’re OK.”

“I thought you were gone already,” Reggie said. “I don’t want to mess up your plans. I know you can’t wait to get away from us again.”

Erica felt her heart sink. Ever since she had gotten Greenlee’s message, she hadn’t been able to shake the feeling that she was partly responsible for Reggie’s accident. The behavior that Jack had talked about had only started after she had given Jack back the ring and gone to Europe. The look on Reggie’s face and the tone in his voice only seemed to confirm it.

“That’s not true, Reggie,” she said. “Just because I might be in Europe for a while doesn’t mean that I don’t care about you. It doesn’t change anything.”

“Right, I’m sure a Christmas or birthday card will do just fine,” Reggie said bitterly. “Don’t bother pretending. I heard you two at the loft the other night. You said you were leaving and not coming back. Don’t worry - I’m cool with it now.”

Erica was at a loss for words. She looked at Jack helplessly. “Reggie, you need to rest. We can talk about this later,” she said finally. She walked to the door and Jack followed her.

“Thank you for coming,” he said as he held the door for her. “Look, I -” He stopped. “You can probably catch a later flight,” he finished, watching her closely.

“I’ll send Greenlee in,” Erica said quickly and rushed into the hallway. Greenlee was waiting where they had left her. “You’re not leaving, are you?” she asked as Erica came out.

“Yes, I am,” Erica replied. “Reggie is going to be fine. I’m sure he wants to see you.”

“You know, I just don’t understand you, Erica, “ Greenlee said. “All this family wants is your love and acceptance but you just can’t give it, can you?  I understand how difficult it must be for you with Bianca and Miranda but everyone is willing to help you and you just won’t let them. You won’t even help yourself. Most woman could only dream about having someone love them the way my father loves you and you’re just willing to throw it all away.” She stopped and took a deep breath. “Like I said, I just don’t get you. I never will. Have a great life in Paris.” She turned and walked through the emergency room door.

Erica slowly walked over to the elevator, Greenlee’s words ringing in her ears. She thought of her suitcases, packed and ready to go. Then she thought about Reggie and Jack and the night that they had both just gone through. As she pushed the elevator button, she knew where she had to go.

Chapter Six by M

Jackson knew Erica had left. Greenlee had grown accustomed to her family and was not about to keep anything from them. Although he was not surprised, he still felt the hurt. When Erica had come off the elevator, he thought for sure progress was being made. Then there was the kiss. It had seemed like they were back. She had reflectively kissed him, as they had so many times before when good news came, but this time was different. They were celebrating the joy of their son being okay. Whether Erica realized that, Jack wasn’t sure, but her joy had been about family, which was a first in a long, long time.

The elevator coming to a halt jolted Jackson out of his thoughts. Man, this has been some day, he thought, putting the key in the door of his loft apartment. Thankfully Reggie was going to be fine. He needed to stay in the hospital overnight for observation. Greenlee offered to stay, knowing Jack needed sleep. After all he had been through in the past few weeks with Bianca, Erica and now Reggie, Greenlee had been his saving grace helping to take care of the family.

Pushing the door open, Jack saw her sitting there curled up on the couch with a blanket wrapped around her. Obviously she had been waiting on him. Jack was surprised. After the conversation Erica had with Greenlee, he fully expected her to be on the first plane to Paris. Erica had been watching the door, sitting for a few hours now, thinking about all that had occurred since their almost wedding. A smile came to her face slowly as she saw Jack’s surprise and relief.

“Hey you.” Jack’s voice was soft, but raspy due to his lack of sleep. He closed the door behind him, as she got up.

“Hey, I hope you don’t mind me being here.” Erica sounded so unsure of herself, something neither of them were accustomed to. Meeting halfway between the door and couch, Jackson leaned down and kissed her forehead softly.

“Now why would I mind such a beautiful woman being here?” Jack’s smile was intoxicating and contagious, as Erica found herself now smiling. Taking his hand, she led him to the couch.

“How’s Reggie? How’s our son?” They sat facing one another and still holding hands. Erica knew what she needed to do the minute she left the hospital, so she did. Grabbing some clothes from the penthouse, she headed to the loft to be able to take care of Jackson when he arrived home.

“Our son is sleeping. Greenlee agreed to stay with him, so I could come home.” Jack didn’t miss a beat, although his heart leapt at her words, our son. Reggie was completely their son. He was so much like Erica, it amazed Jack.

“Well, I am glad you did come home. Do you need something to eat before you get to bed? I know you have to be exhausted.” Erica jumped off the couch and headed to the kitchen. “Maybe just some tea, if you’re not hungry. It will help you sleep.”

Erica filled the teapot up, and Jackson rose to join her in the kitchen. “Honey, I don’t need tea or anything.”
Erica continued to hurry around the kitchen trying to take care of Jack, the best way she could. Jack grabbed her by the waist as she headed to the refrigerator.

“Come here,” Jack’s voice was low. “Erica, I don’t need tea or food. I just need to have my arms wrapped around you, sweetheart.”Jack’s eyes were peering into hers, expressing his love. Erica wrapped her arms around his neck, resting her head on his chest. “Oh, Jackson.”

Pulling her even tighter against him, Jack leaned against the kitchen counter and enjoyed the feel of her wrapped in his tight embrace. If it weren’t for the shrill whistle of the teapot on the stove, she would have stayed there forever.

“How about I fix us some tea? You go get ready for bed, and I will meet you in the bedroom.” Erica said as she removed the kettle from the burner.

Unsure of just what Erica intended, Jackson nodded hesitantly, then turned to go.

Jack had changed into his trusty blue pajama pants. The spring night was just too warm for anything more. Sitting on the edge of his bed, Erica saw his tiredness, as he yawned. Pushing the door all the way open with her foot, Erica came in caring two cups of tea. He is just so handsome, so amazing, Erica thought.

“Hey you.” Jack scooted back onto the bed with his back against the headboard, making room for her to sit next to him. Taking his cup of tea, he sipped it. “Thanks.”

“Jack, I am so sorry about Reggie. Maybe tomorrow when he gets home the three of us could have a nice long talk about his choice of friends.”

“That sounds wonderful.” Jack smiled at her, as they drank their tea. Sitting side by side, the conversation lulled as Jack started to get more sleepy. Erica was content to sit with him, her thoughts continuing to occupy her. After a while, Jack knew he would be unable to stay awake much longer.

“Honey, as nice as this is, I need to get some sleep.”

“I am so glad you are going to be able to sleep. Do you mind if I sit here with you for a while?” Erica put both of their cups on the bedside table.

“No, not at all.” Jack slid under the sheet and rested his head on the pillow beside her. Erica stroked his hair. Jack was out within five minutes. It had been so long since Erica had been able to watch the love of her life sleep. And as she sat there, watching his peaceful face, a sense of comfort and love she hadn’t felt in forever rushed over her.

Reaching back to the nightstand to take a final sip of her tea, Erica noticed a ring box sitting right beside the picture of them. He doesn’t really still have this, does he? Erica thought, it can’t be. Opening the box, Erica saw her engagement ring that she left with her note before leaving for Paris. Oh Jack, she looked over at his sleeping form. The love she felt at that very moment welled up inside of her.

That’s what I’ll do, she thought. If I really want to be a part of this family, of Jack and our children’s lives, it is what I need to do. Then we can go back to where we were. With that, Erica removed her engagement ring from the box and placed it back on her finger. Therapy just might be the answer after all, she thought. At least it was worth a try. Erica finally agreed with what her family had been wanting her to do for so long now. While Reggie’s accident and Greenlee’s loving words started the process of breaking down the walls Erica had put up, it was Jack’s amazing love that freed her heart from all the pain. He had kept her ring, waiting for her to come home.

Chapter Seven  by Mary

Erica put the finishing touches on the table and stood back, finally satisfied. The floral arrangement was the perfect addition for Reggie’s homecoming celebration. She looked at the six chairs around the table, a chair for her, one for Jack and one for each of their children. She thought briefly of Lily, and how she should be there too. We’ll have to look into that, she thought, once everything else is settled.

She was surprised at how smoothly things were going. Reggie had recovered without any complications, Miranda was once again a healthy newborn, and Bianca was an excited new mother. Even though she hadn’t seen Jack since the night at the loft, they had spoken on the phone every day, and she realized that they had slipped back into a semblance of their old relationship.

Once she had made the decision, she had phoned a therapist the day after
Reggie’s accident. It hadn’t been anywhere near as difficult as she had feared. Despite the initial awkwardness of talking to a stranger about her feelings, she now felt as if a burden was being lifted from her shoulders. After only two sessions, the future of the Kane/Montgomery family seemed back on track and she was determined to keep it that way. I haven’t had that nightmare in days, Erica thought as she went to answer the door, not since I started the therapy sessions. She opened the door to Bianca, Kendall and Miranda. The two girls were laughing over the face that Miranda was making. Erica couldn’t believe how much Miranda reminded her of Bianca at that age. She smiled as they came in.

“Hi, Mom,” said Bianca. “I’m so glad that we’re having this family dinner. It really means a lot to me that you want to do this.”

"Me too,” said Kendall. “I can’t wait to see Reggie. I could throttle him for giving us such a scare though.”

“Let’s not throttle him until he’s fully recovered,” suggested Erica as she went to answer the bell again.

Greenlee was standing there, looking vaguely uncomfortable.

“I got your message,” she said, “so here I am. Jack and Reggie are on their way.”

“Good,” Erica said. “I want everything to be perfect when Reggie gets here. I want him to realize how much we all care about him.”

Greenlee went over to look at Miranda and was soon deep in conversation with Bianca and Kendall. Erica would never have believed it, if she wasn’t witnessing it herself.

The doorbell rang again and Erica took a deep breath as she swung open the door.

Erica was so beautiful when she opened the door that for a moment Jack couldn’t speak. She always looked beautiful, of course, but she looked happier and more relaxed than he had seen her since she had left for Europe all those weeks ago. The sparkle that made her Erica Kane seemed to be back and he was relieved to see it. She smiled at Reggie and kissed him when he walked in.

Reggie looked sheepish. “Hey, Erica, I want to say I’m sorry for what I said at the hospital,” he said. “You came in to see me, and I practically kicked you out.”

“Reggie, please, it’s forgotten,” Erica said. “I’m the one who should be sorry for leaving the way I did and making you think I didn’t care about you. Friends again?”

As she held her hand out to him, the engagement ring on her finger caught the light and sparkled brightly. Jack could hardly believe his eyes. He hadn’t opened the ring box since putting it on his night stand. It was just too painful. Now he realized that she must have taken it that night at the loft and the fact that she had it on and what that meant overwhelmed him for a moment.

After she was done hugging Reggie, Jack took her hand in his and looked down at the ring. “Well, this is certainly a surprise,” he said softly, caressing her hand.

“A pleasant one, I hope,” she replied somewhat nervously. “You have no idea,” he told her huskily, looking into her eyes.

“OK, break it up over there, you two,” Bianca said. “I only have half an hour before I have to feed Miranda, and I’m starving.”

Dinner was an unqualified success. Reggie kept them all in stitches with his unique observations on life. Jack couldn’t remember the last time he had seen Erica really laugh. He was relieved that her wine glass contained nothing but water, and she had actually eaten her meal.

“I have something to say to everyone,” Reggie said as they were starting dessert. “I just want to say that even though things looked really bad the other night, I‘m not stupid enough to be drinking or doing drugs, and I won’t be getting in a car again with anyone who is.”

“Well, we’re certainly glad to hear that,” Jack said. “I know that I can trust your judgment. We just need to keep the lines of communication open.”

“We are so lucky that things worked out the way they did,” said Bianca, looking at Miranda. “So lucky that we have each other.”

“That we are,” Jack agreed, smiling at Erica across the table.

Erica was tidying up as everyone left. Bianca and Kendall left in a flurry of activity, anxious to get Miranda home and in her crib before she woke up. Jack walked Greenlee to the door, and Reggie trailed along.

“Why don’t you stay?” Greenlee said to Jack with a look in Erica’s direction. “Reggie can ride home with me. I’ll make sure he gets settled in at the loft.”

“Yeah, J, you should stay,” Reggie insisted. “Erica might need some help - uh - cleaning up.”

Jack looked amused. “OK, I’ll be home in a little while,” he said to Reggie. “You need to go home and rest, though. Straight to bed. No TV, no music, got it?”

“Yeah, yeah, straight to bed,” Reggie agreed. “I’m beat anyway.”

Erica watched Greenlee and Reggie leave and turned to finish cleaning up. Jack reached out and stopped her as she walked by. “Why don’t you leave the rest of this for Coral?” he asked. “We need to talk.”

“OK,” she said slowly. “What about?”

“About why you’re wearing this again,” he said, taking her hand in his and looking down at the ring. “And why you even took it off in the first place.”

Erica took a deep breath. “I wasn‘t thinking clearly before I left,” she said. “I couldn’t think about anything except Bianca being pregnant and that you knew. Now, after everything that’s happened, I just want us to try to get back to where we were before, if that’s even possible…” she trailed off uncertainly and waited for his reply. “Don’t you have anything you want to say?” she finally asked.
“Yes, I do,” he answered, drawing her closer. “I want to say that there’s something that I’ve wanted to do ever since I saw you in Paris.”

“What, Jack?” she asked impatiently.

“This,” he said and pulled her into his arms. Before she could even think, his lips were on hers in a passionate kiss. Her lips parted as his tongue explored her mouth. She wound her arms around his neck, running her fingers through his hair to bring him closer. Their breathing was ragged as they broke apart. Jack slid the strap of her dress down her arm as he left a trail of kisses down her neck to her shoulder. Erica unbuttoned the top buttons of his shirt and slipped her hands inside against his bare skin. She hurriedly began to undo the rest of the buttons. His hand hesitated on the zipper on the back of her dress and when she went to tug his shirt out of the waistband of his jeans, he put his hands over hers and looked down at her. “Are you sure?” he asked unevenly.

“Yes, I’m sure,” she whispered. “I want you, Jackson.” She began to kiss her way up his chest. He groaned and picked her up, bending to kiss her as they headed toward the bedroom.
Chapter Eight  by M

Erica’s petite form may have been putty in Jack’s arms, but it was he who was going weak in the knees. Erica continued to kiss all around Jack’s collarbone then up to that spot, just below his ear that drove him mad with anticipation. As they passed through the living area towards the bedroom, the doorbell rang out.

“Ignore it.” Erica’s voice was urgent with passion as Jack stopped all forward movement. It had been so long since Jack and she had been together. Jack, seeing the passion burning deep in Erica’s eyes, started back towards the bedroom again.

“Mom, It’s Bianca.”

“Damn it,” Jack muttered. “Erica, I swear, we need to talk to that girl about her timing. She always ends up disturbing things.” Jack chuckled as he stood Erica upright again.

“Just a second, Bianca,” Erica called. She turned her attention back to Jack again. “I thought anticipation was half the fun, Jackson. Just make sure you button your shirt back up.” Brushing her hand against his bare chest, she slowly headed for the door, fixing all of her clothing along the way. Checking to make sure Jackson was presentable, she opened the door.

“Mom.” Bianca came in and suddenly realized what she must have been interrupting with the look upon her uncle’s face, plus her mother’s smeared lipstick on his lips. “Oh, sorry, Uncle Jack. Look, I just have a quick question, then you two can get back to… Yeah.”

Jack smiled that knowing smile, as Erica laughed softly. “Bianca, what’s your question?” Erica took her daughter’s hand and led her to the couch to sit.

“Well, I was hoping, if it’s not too much trouble… would you baby-sit Miranda for me tomorrow? Kendall, Greenlee and I are doing a girls’ night, and I was thinking it might be nice for you to spend some time with your granddaughter.”

Bianca was obviously nervous. Her speech with very qualified, and her voice was soft. She never lifted her eyes to meet Erica’s as she spoke. Erica thought to herself, Bianca has every right to be nervous after the way I acted. Don’t take it personally.

Lifting Bianca’s chin until their eyes met, Erica said, “Bianca, I would love to take care of Miranda. It would be an honor. Thank you for allowing me the pleasure after all I put you through.”

Bianca threw her arms around her mother, wrapping Erica in one of the tightest hugs. “Oh, thank you, Mom. I am so glad this is okay with you. Thank you.”

Jack was admiring the scene from the chair by the fireplace. Erica and Bianca were both beaming. Mother and daughter seemed to have come full circle. And as Erica brushed Bianca’s hair with her hand, Jack noticed the engagement ring once more.
Bianca pulled back. “Okay, well I better get home before Kendall starts to worry. And so you two can resume whatever it was that you were doing.” Bianca laughed. Jack ran his hand through his hair, trying to ignore her comment. At the door Bianca said, “Thanks again, Mom. I love you.”

“I love you too. Kiss Miranda and Kendall good night for me.”

Closing the door behind Bianca, Erica found Jack staring at her. She had felt so wonderful about Bianca trusting her with Miranda and all the progress that had been made with her daughter that she had almost completely forgotten about what she and Jack had been about to do.

Jack had never seen Erica look this content. He was amazed at how absolutely breathtaking she was, as she lingered by the door. Whatever it was that was happening, however she was getting through all the pain, Jack was thrilled at the progress she had made. That ring caught his eye again. He wanted to know what prompted the change and what did it really mean to her.

“Come here.” Jack’s voice was still husky from earlier. As they sat on the couch together, Jack took her hand in his.

“You’re still wondering about that, aren’t you?” Erica asked, noticing his finger playing with the ring.

“Maybe a little.” Jack looked into her sparkling brown eyes. Trying to convey all of his questions without saying a word, their eyes seemed to be doing a dance of their own. All of the love that Jack and Erica had for each other that had not been spoken for so many months now, was finally pouring out.

“Jack,” Erica started. “I am sorry I ever gave this back to you. Honestly, I am sorry for all of our broken engagements. Although we have tried to make it to the altar so many times, we have never actually become husband and wife.” Erica paused. The pain of the past was still evident on her face, as tears started to well up in her eyes. “Jack, I would like for you to still consider marrying me.” Erica put her hand to Jack’s mouth as he started to speak. “Look, I know we have a long way to go before that, but I would like for you to keep the option open. With your permission, I would like to continue wearing this ring, not necessarily as a sign that we will be wed, but so that everyone knows that my heart is taken, claimed by you, Jackson.”

Erica’s eyes kept shifting between the ring and Jack’s handsome face. She didn’t want to push him for a response, and she certainly wasn’t looking for a proposal. She had just wanted to make her intentions clear.

“Sweetheart, of course I still want to marry you. But yes, we do need to work through some things first. You are my heart, Erica Kane. You always have been and always will be.” Pausing, Jack kissed her hand right below the ring. “I would be honored to have you continue to wear this ring, but it still holds the same promise, Erica. I will marry you.”

“Oh, Jack. I love you.” Erica leaned in, resting her head against Jack’s chest. Letting her sweet tears of happiness fall, Jack wrapped her in his embrace.

“I love you too.”

Pulling back, Jack kissed her lips softly. “It is late, and as much as I would love to continue what we had started earlier…”

“You don’t have to say it, Jack. I agree. We should wait.”

Taking in Erica’s amazing maturity, Jack replied, “Okay, so I’ll be going.” He rose, helped Erica up and headed towards the door.

“So Mr. Montgomery, how are you at changing diapers?” Erica questioned. “Fairly good. Want help tomorrow night?” Jack had opened the door, but turned back to face her. Bending down to be face to face, Jack saw her nod. “Count me in.” His lips grazed her cheek. “Good night beautiful.”

“She really is a happy baby, isn’t she?” Erica was holding a sleepy Miranda. Miranda’s head kept falling down on Erica’s shoulder, then popping back up slightly, as the baby fought her inevitable sleep.

The evening had been a total success. When Jack arrived, Erica was down
on the floor, playing with her grandchild. Both ladies were giggling as Miranda made huge smiles at Erica’s goofy faces. The love between them was evident and so was their similarity. When Erica rose to kiss Jack, Miranda started to fuss. The child had definitely inherited Erica’s desire to be the center of attention.

“Yes, she is. But she also has just enough of her grandmother’s fiery temper to keep things interesting.” Jack enjoyed sitting beside her as she rubbed Miranda’s back.

“Yes, well, it keeps life interesting. Besides, it is one of the things you love about me,” Erica shot back. Jack and Erica had bantered and teased each other all night. When Miranda spit up all over Jack’s shirt, Erica had teased him about having a deal with Miranda in order to tempt her. Erica pulled out one of Jack’s shirts from her closet from before she ran off to Paris. The affection between them was kept at a light level due to their duties to Miranda but rarely was there a moment when their hands weren’t touching.

“Yes it is. I love everything about you.” Jack leaned over, kissing Erica’s cheek. “Well, almost everything.”

Suddenly serious, Erica laid the baby on a pallet on the floor next to the couch. Miranda was sound asleep, so they were able to talk. “What about me do you not love, Jackson?”

Erica’s tone was not angry, as he had expected. It was serious, but sincere, like she was seeking honest constructive criticism. “I don’t love how hard it
is for you to trust me sometimes. To trust in our love. I don’t like how you ran from me.”

Both sitting in jeans and t-shirts, they faced each other on the couch. Erica pulled her legs up Indian-style. “That’s an understandable thing to not like. I don’t even like that about myself. But I am working through that, Jackson. I want to be a better person, before we take this any further.”

“Whoa, what are we talking about here, Erica? How are you working through that?”

“I have been going to therapy, as you suggested. I just didn’t want to make a big deal out of it.” Erica looked down at Miranda. “Gosh, she is beautiful.
She looks so much like Bianca.”

“Erica, you are not about to change the subject.” Jack took her hand. “Therapy, huh? Well, I must say I am very pleasantly surprised.”

“Good, but I am not doing this for you. I am doing it for myself and for all of our family. I would love for us all to go to a session or two a little later on.” Erica looked Jack straight in the eyes. “I love you, and I don’t want to ever doubt us or you again. I promise that from now on we will face everything together. No running.”

“Come here, you,” Jack pulled Erica in to lean against him on the couch. Adjusting slightly, they laid together. “I love you. I am very proud of you.”

Slowly enjoying being in each other’s arms, they drifted off to sleep. When Bianca came in, she found them peacefully sleeping together. She gathered up Miranda and all her things, jotted a quick note of thanks, and left the two just as she found them.

The next several weeks were full of therapy sessions and family activities. Erica spent at least an hour or two everyday with her precious granddaughter. Bianca kept telling Erica to stop spoiling Miranda with too many stuffed animals. Erica met for lunch with Kendall at least twice a week. She had even gone for coffee with Greenlee a few times. As Erica made progress in her therapy, everyone saw it.

One afternoon Reggie, Danielle and Erica sat on Jack’s couch watching the latest American Idol that Erica had taped for them. Reggie and Erica had repaired their relationship and were closer than ever. Jack had received a call from Reggie right after Erica arrived, so that Jack could put his plan
into action.

“Well, well, isn’t this a wonderful surprise?” Jack strolled into the loft. With his tie loosened slightly, Jack looked amazing in his new grey suit.

“Jack, why do I think this is not a surprise?” Erica threw some popcorn at Reggie as she stood to greet him. Placing a light airy kiss on his lips, Erica looked back at Reggie. “So when did you call? While you were in the bathroom?”
“I don’t know what you are talking about, E.” Reggie feigned innocence.

“It doesn’t matter how I knew you were here.” Jack said, taking her hand. “I
have something to show you. Sorry, kids, but I am stealing this lovely lady.”

“That’s cool, J. Have fun, but not more than I would,” Reggie winked at
Jack, as he wrapped an arm around Danielle’s shoulder.

Erica stood, taking the entire scene in, “Jack, where are you taking me?” Jack kissed her cheek and escorted her out the door. “You’ll see.” Chapter Nine by Mary
Erica watched out the window as the houses that dotted the outskirts of town became fewer and farther between. The late afternoon sun was giving way to escalating clouds that cast shadows across the country landscape. They had been driving for over half an hour and Erica was growing increasingly inpatient.

“OK, Jackson, so where are we going?” she asked again, looking over at him.

“We’re almost there,” he said. “Do you trust me?”

Erica knew that he was looking for more than a simple answer to his question. “Always,” she replied, sliding over to rest her head on his shoulder. She felt happier and safer than she had in months. She never
would have believed that going to therapy could make such a difference but it had. Opening her heart to Miranda had somehow managed to set her free of the painful memories of the past. She knew they would always be there but she felt that she had somehow made peace with them.

They approached a circular driveway leading to the most magnificent house that Erica had ever seen. It was large, with an inviting porch framed by wide columns, enormous windows, a tiled roof and gorgeously landscaped grounds. The house appeared empty and Erica couldn’t imagine why they were there.
Jack got out and came around to open her door. “No questions,” he said, placing his fingers over her lips. “I will explain everything once we get inside.”

They walked up to the porch and Erica watched as Jack took a key from under the welcome mat and opened the door. She walked in ahead of him and stopped. A feeling of tranquility overcame her as she looked around. She had been right in that the house was empty but even without furnishings, it was absolutely perfect. The walls, the carpet, the sweeping staircase - everything was in her favorite colors and styles. She felt as if she had designed this house herself or at least someone who knew her very well had.

“It’s beautiful, Jack,” she said, turning to him. “But I still don’t understand what we’re doing here.”

“I think you do,” he said, watching her closely. “Do you like it?”

“I love it,” she answered. “It’s the most breathtaking house I’ve ever been in.” When he didn’t respond, she continued. “Well, there isn’t a For Sale sign outside, so I assume it belongs to someone.”

“You would assume right,” he replied.

Taking a deep breath, not even daring to hope what this meant, she asked softly, “Is it ours, Jack?”

Jack walked over and took both her hands in his. “Yes, it is,” he said, reaching out to touch her face as she started to cry. “Hey, if you don’t like it

“Of course I like it, I love it,” she laughed through her tears. “You know I do. But how, when?”

“After I proposed to you again that day in my office,” he told her. “I thought
it would be a wonderful surprise after the trial, something to look forward to. I envisioned us living here with Reggie and Lily. There’s a nursery for Miranda when Bianca visits and plenty of room for Kendall and Greenlee if they ever need to stay with us for any reason.” He smiled at her teasingly
as he went on. “The builder says that he’s designed entire houses that are
smaller than the measurements I gave him for your closet and let’s just say that the kitchen isn’t the largest room in the house.”

They laughed together for a moment and then she said sadly, “You put so much thought into this and I ran out on you once again and blamed you for things that weren’t your fault.”

“It was a difficult time for all of us,” he said, “and quite honestly, I didn’t handle the Bianca situation the way I should have.”

“Oh, Jack,” Erica walked over to the window seat and sat down. Jack followed her, sitting down beside her and looking at her questioningly. “We both know that everything that’s happened is because of me. Because of the way that I’ve let my feelings about my father rule my life.”

“It’s understandable after everything that you went through,” Jack said softly. “I should have realized that you would consider me not telling you about Bianca to be a betrayal.”

“I understand now why you did what you did, Jack,” said Erica. “I know you were trying to do what was best for everyone - like you always do. I pushed all of you away because I felt that you had abandoned me first by not telling me but I realize now that, in your own way, you were each trying to protect me.”

“It’s important to me that you really believe that,” he said.

“I do,” she assured him. “Do you forgive me for running away the way I

“Sweetheart, there isn’t anything to forgive,” he told her seriously. “You came home with me when Bianca needed you and I can’t tell you how proud I am of you for initiating the therapy. It’s done a world of good for all of us.”

“If I had listened to you in the first place,” Erica said ruefully. “we’d be married and living here by now. Why did you bring me here today, Jack?”

Jack stood up, bringing her with him. He looked down at her with pride and love on his face. All the years of love and passion between them came down to this one moment.

“Because I think that we are both finally ready to recapture that life, Erica,” he said. “The one that we’ve almost had so many times. I never gave up on us, not even when you were gone. When you said you’d come back with me, I knew there was hope and when I saw you in the hospital that day with Miranda, I didn’t think I could love you any more. But I do, more than I ever thought possible. So, I guess the question is, do you still feel the same?”

“Do I still feel the same?” Erica repeated. “Of course I do! How can you even ask me that?” She reached up and put her arms around him, running her hands up his arms to his neck. “I love you so much, Jackson, I really do.” She pulled his mouth down to hers and kissed him, softly at first and then with growing intensity. After a few minutes, he pulled away, his breathing ragged.

“You know I can't concentrate when you do that,” he laughed, putting her slightly away from him. His face turned serious as he picked up the hand that held her engagement ring.

“I love you, Erica Kane,” he said. “You’re my heart - you know that. You’re my whole life.” He took a deep breath. “I swear this is the last time I am going to do this,” he began when she stopped him.

“Jack, wait,” Erica said, “I have something I have to say to you.”
Chapter Ten  by M

Although Jack knew Erica still wanted to marry him, her stopping his obvious proposal had him concerned. That was until their eyes met. Neither one could deny the amazing depth of the love between them. Jack knew in an instant why she had stopped him, and it warmed his heart to think that Erica was willing to be so vulnerable. So much had changed in her since she started therapy, Jack thought, all of her insecurities seemed to have vanished.

Erica knew the words she wanted to say, but she was lost in his eyes. Jack’s love was so evident in his eyes. Her heart began to race as she mentally repeated what she had prepared to say. Jack would be the only man to ever hear what Erica was about to say, not just because he was the one she had prepared it for, but also because he was the only person in her life that she was ever able to be this open, this honest with.

Taking a deep breath, Erica started her well rehearsed speech. “Jackson Montgomery, you have been my rock. You have always been the only man for me, even when I refused to admit it.” They both chuckled, thinking back to their night of passion during her engagement to Chris. “We have had a lot of bumps on this path, but I think we have finally gotten things right.”

“That’s exactly what I wanted to say, Erica. I think that with this house, now is the time to…” Erica quickly pulled his lips to hers in a quick kiss.

“Hush, Jackson. If you haven’t realized it yet, I am trying to keep you from saying what you are trying to say.”

“Oh, I realize it alright. I just enjoy making you work at it. After all, how
many times have I said the same thing to you?” Jack laughed again and his eyes were dancing with mischief.

“Yes, well, cut it out. You don’t want to ruin it, do you?” Erica’s heart was calmer now, knowing he knew and was still there.

“Heavens, no.” Jack chuckled softly. “Sorry, you have my full attention.” Staring right back into her eyes, Jack knew they would be husband and wife very soon.

Kissing his lips gently before continuing, Erica took both his hands in hers. “I guess even the Great Erica Kane should follow tradition.”

Getting down on one knee with both of Jack’s hands in hers, she asked him in a strong, confident voice, “Andrew Jackson Montgomery, will you please do me the honor of marrying me?”

Jack was in awe. He been with Erica through everything, yet here she was being so vulnerable, so open. If he hadn’t known that, he would have been tempted to tease her, to make her think he might say no.

Instead Jack pulled her up and gathered her into himself. Holding her so tightly, he leaned down, lightly kissed right below her ear, sending a chill
down her spine, and whispered.

“I love you, Erica. Yes, I will be your husband.”

Slowly, his lips claimed hers. Their hearts melded together in one solidifying moment. Both of them knew this was it, the last proposal. Soon they would be wed, and soon they would have their forever.

Erica’s hand wound its way to Jack’s hair, raking her nails along his scalp as their kiss deepened. Tongues dueling in their familiar dance, but with a love that had never been matched. Finally in this moment Jack knew Erica was allowing herself to love and be loved completely, for beyond the passion and desire in her kiss was a wholeness of heart that had been missing before.

Erica pulled back slowly. “Jackson…” Jack’s eyes opened slowly, pulling himself back from his emotions. He nodded slightly. “I love you more than I have ever before. Thank you for being patient with me. Thank you for helping me to get to this point.”

Jack knew she had read his mind, another thing Erica Kane was good at. He was never able to hide his emotions or thoughts from her.

“I am grateful you have worked through your pain, Erica. Mainly for your sake. I want you to allow me to love you so completely that you never feel alone in this world again.” Pulling her close again, their lips just inches apart. “And that is exactly what I plan on showing you all afternoon. Love so complete, you will never want to leave my arms.”

With that said, Jack swooped her up into his arms, like so many times before. “My dear bride, I think it is time to start christening our house.” Erica nodded in agreement and giggled, as Jack headed up the stairs.

“So, J, E, what’s the big news? Is the wedding back on?” Reggie quizzed them, as Lily and he waited with Jack and Erica for Greenlee, Kendall and Bianca to show.

“Reggie, you can wait on the rest of the family, can’t you?” Erica teased as she started pouring the sparkling cider into champagne flutes for everyone.
Just then, the loft door opened and the girls came pouring in. Bianca had Miranda’s diaper bag, Greenlee had her carrier, and Kendall had the sweet child in her arms. Before the door was even shut behind them, Reggie said, “Alright, they’re here. Will you tell us now?”

“Dad, what is it that Reggie wants you to tell us?” Lily chimed in, Reggie’s excitement rubbing off on her. The two of them had quickly became close since Jack had brought Lily home.

“Okay, okay you two.” Jack laughed heartily, enjoying the feeling of their now complete family. It was very obvious that everyone knew what the announcement would be, but just the same they were all waiting on pins and needles for the actual pronouncement. The love between Jack and Erica was obvious to each of their children.

After handing out glasses of cider, Jack wrapped one of his arms around Erica’s waist. Looking down into her eyes, shining with such love, “So do you want to tell them, or should I?”

“Somebody please just tell us.” Reggie seemed at the end of his rope. Jack laughed.

“You should, Jack. After all you out number me in children, 3 to 2. Although if you count Miranda, we are tied.” Erica loved teasing their family.

“Fine, fine. Your mother,” motioning to Kendall and Bianca, “did the unthinkable today. Erica Kane asked me to marry her. And I accepted.”

“You what?” “Erica what?” All the kids spoke at once.

“Yes, I asked Jack to marry me. I think it was finally my turn. I mean, after all the times he has proposed and we have never managed to actually get married, I felt like the whole thing needed to be different.” Erica smiled and held her glass up. “To the Montgomery family, may we all end up just where we should be. I know I am.” Erica snuggled in against Jack’s chest.

“Yes, I think the journey home is now complete, but our lifelong journey is just beginning,” Erica whispered to Jack, as his lips came down on hers to seal the great news with a glorious kiss.

Blast from the Past
By M & J

A short story tells of someone from Jack's past intervening in his "happy" life. Will
this mystery woman hurt Jack and Erica's friendship or help them explore new
possibilities? Read and find out!

Chapter 1
Pine Valley Inn Dining Room

"Mmmm.... this veal is delicious" Jack mumbled with his mouth full of

"Jack, it isn't polite to talk with your mouth full, especially in public"
Erica hissed sharply
"I'm not a child Erica, you don't have to talk to me like one" Jack shot
back still chewing

"Ssshhh...... you'll make a scene."

"I'm not the one making a scene, you are" Jack swallowed his food.

"Oh please, you're sitting over there showing chewed meat to the
entire dining room and you say I'm causing a scene" Erica's voice
rose slightly.

"Geez, can't we just have one quiet dinner together" Bianca
interrupted as she drew their attention to the people staring from
close tables. "We try to have one small lunch together and you two
have to turn it into a warzone.

"Well it was your idea to come here Bianca" Erica said defensively

"And my bad luck to be eating here at the same time" Jack sighed
"Well Jack if you want us to leave" Erica started to rise.

"No, no... wait, look, let's just all calm down and act like we're having
a normal family gathering shall we" Jack backed off slightly
"Yeah, just a simple gathering between a famous celebrity, her exlover
who also happened to be her brother in law, and her lesbian
daughter who is the niece of the same ex-lover." Bianca said

"OK, so this isn't a normal family, but we're all we have and we need
to stick together" Jack gave Bianca a sharp look..

"Jack's right Bianca, your uncle and I are about the only family you
have left" Erica chimed in

"Well there's Barbara and Molly and....." Bianca's voice trailed.... "OK,
I apologize, I was out of line with that last jab" she hung her head.

"Out of line perhaps but not off the mark" Jack chuckled to lighten the
mood. "We are a pretty odd combination when you think about it."

The mood lightened again and they were no longer drawing attention
from the other diners when their peaceful chatter was interrupted.

voice rang out across the dining room. Every eye turned to look at
the woman who had just entered. She was fashionably dressed with
shoulder length blonde hair and a wide grin on her face, wildly waving
over in the direction of Jack's table.

"Jack, who is that" Erica whispered as she turned to face Jack. To
her surprise he was as white as a sheet. He barely managed to rise
as the woman approached the table and wrapped her arms around
his neck.

"Oh it's so good to see you again" she squealed rocking back and
forth with her arms around his neck practically choking him in her

Erica and Bianca exchanged amused glances at the display yet
remained silent..
"Scarlett, how nice to see you again." Jack managed to croak out
while unwrapping himself from her embrace.

"Oh I never thought I'd see you again, this is just fate!" she gushed,

"Look I'd love to sit down and meet your friends but let me run
powder my nose real quick after that plane ride and I'll be right back,
don't move a muscle sugar" she cooed as she dashed off to the
ladies room.

"Old friend?" Bianca snickered

"Look, you two can tease me later ok, but I've only got a few seconds
before she gets back and I've got to ask a favor." Jack said speaking
rapidly and looking over his shoulder.

"Well ask away Jack, worse we can do is say no" Erica laughed
amused at his discomfort. "Erica, I'm being serious, look yes this is
an old girlfriend, and no I can't say anymore right now, but this would
be a huge favor" Jack gulped before continuing. "Erica I need you to
pretend that we are seriously involved for the brief time she's in town,
you know, act territorial and all that, just until she leaves"

"Well Jack that's kinda silly, why don't you just tell her you aren't
interested in her"

"No Erica, you don't understand...." Jack panicked as he saw
Scarlett emerge from the ladies room. "If our friendship ever meant
anything to you...." he pleaded under his breath breaking off as
Scarlett approached the table once again.

Chapter 2

"Whew, what a flight" Scarlett sighed, "Now let's find out who our
dining companions are" she boldly reached across the table to shake
Bianca's hand. "Scarlett Hughes, Advertising Executive
extraordinaire and just lovable in general to everyone I meet." She

"Bianca Montgomery, nice to meet you" Bianca remained polite
despite the overwhelming urge to roll her eyes.

"You must be related to Jackson, surely you're not his daughter are
you?" Scarlett's eyes widened slightly and the look of happiness
faded minutely.

"No, I'm his niece" Bianca clarified.

"Oh that's wonderful" Scarlett perked back up and turned her
attention to Erica. "Well you heard my introduction already, and the
legendary Erica Kane needs no introduction" she said while reaching
out her hand. "It's a privilege to meet you Ms. Kane".

"Pleased to meet you as well Ms. Hughes" Erica said cordially
though getting annoyed at the constant gush of words flowing from
this woman's mouth. The constant perky attitude was really starting
to grate on her nerves.

"I hope I didn't interrupt a business meeting or anything?"

"Oh no, we were just having a simple lunch." Jack replied, hoping
that Erica would decide to go along with his earlier plea.

"Still unmarried I hope?" Scarlett said bluntly, seductively turning her
full attention on Jack and effectively excluding Erica and Bianca off
from the conversation.

Jack laughed nervously unsure of how to reply. "Well....."

"Yes he is" Erica interjected. Jack was starting to contemplate
methods of escape when Erica continued. "I still haven't managed to
get him to propose."

Jack's sigh of relief was almost audible as Scarlett straightened up to
re-evaluate the trio. "So you two are......" she raised an eyebrow
critically. "Involved, yes." Jack finished almost gleefully.

"I see" The disappointment was evident as there was a brief pause
while she recomposed herself. "We'll still have to get together to
discuss old times though. I'll be in room 712, and perhaps we can
get together later?"

"You're staying in town for awhile?" Jack asked innocently

"Oh yes, I should be around for a week at least, possibly more" she
grinned, I'm here negotiating an advertising campaign for, how about tonight, you could come up to my
room and we can.... visit" she smiled, her meaning not lost on any of

"Well I would but I've promised Erica a night on the town" Jack
sounded sincerely apologetic
"Couldn't you change your plans considering I'm in town?"
"No, he can't" Erica interrupted. "Tonight isn't just a regular date it's
an anniversary"
"Anniversary of...." Scarlett seemed dubious.
"Why don't you tell her Jack darling" Erica said sweetly, trying to
pass the buck since she didn't have a clue as to what to say next.

"Oh sure, well it's the 10th anniversary of when we first declared our
neverending love for one another" Jack grinned convincingly.
"Ten years? that's quite a lengthy relationship I must say." A definite
tone of suspicion had entered Scarlett's voice.
"Well the path hasn't always been a smooth one" Jack hastily added.
"Right, we hit some rough spots but now we're back together and
happy as can be" Erica beamed while reaching over to hold Jack's
"Right, together forever" Jack said lifting Erica's hand to plant a quick
kiss on it. Erica couldn't refrain from an honest blush at the feel of his
lips brushing against her hand.

"I hate to leave but Mr. Lavery just arrived and we have an
appointment so I must excuse myself. I'll definitely be seeing you
later" Scarlett broke the moment as she rose to leave, a frosty air
apparent which was a startling change to the way she had entered.

"Whew, am I glad that's over?" Jack sighed, "Let's get out of here
and I'll fill you in on some details about my old friend"

Chapter 3

"So is she like psycho or something" Bianca asked as soon as they
entered her Mother's house.
"She seemed a little creepy there at the end, this isn't a fatal
attraction type thing is it?" Erica sounded worried.
"No no, she's not psycho, just a little emotionally high strung when it
comes to love" Jack smiled reassuringly.
"OK, well tell us how it all began than, and why it is you felt that you
needed to use me as a shield instead of being your usual
straightforward self" Erica said as she and Bianca sat back on the
sofa and gazed expectantly at Jack.

Jack took a deep breath as he began to tell the story of himself and
"It began back while I was in high school." He paused for a moment
and sighed.
"Wow, that's a long time ago." Bianca's jaw dropped.
"Look, it wasn't during the dark ages or anything," Jack retorted, "but
yes it was several years ago."
"Anyway I wasn't the most popular kid in school, to tell the truth I was
still a bit gangly and well not very popular with the ladies, if I had it I'd
show you a yearbook picture"
"I don't believe it Jack, you're gorgeous and always have been, I bet
all the ladies found you irresistible" Erica argued.
Jack blushed at her outright compliment and couldn't help but feel a
small pang of joy that she still found him attractive.
"At 17 and a Junior in High School, I hadn't quite finished up the
growth spurt, I had gotten tall but was pretty thin which got me teased
a lot about being a beanpole, etc. I certainly wasn't captain of the
football team or even into the sports teams at all. Anyway Scarlett
was one of the more popular girls and I used to think she was the
most gorgeous girl I'd ever seen." Jack paused a moment staring
dreamily into the space of the past.
"And..." Bianca prompted.
"I asked her to a school banquet and to my surprise she accepted.
We had a pleasant time together and soon became inseparable."
"I bet she discovered the strong caring person beneath that awkward
teen. You've always had a heart of gold" Erica complimented again
causing Jack to blush.
"By the end of our senior year my popularity had really increased. I
don't know whether it was because of her or that my body had started
catching up. But I was starting to catch some admiring looks from
other women on campus. We both went on to the same college and
our relationship continued. I lived in the dorm however due to
finances while she had an off-campus apartment. We even talked
about marriage."
"Sounds like the perfect high school romance, what happened?"
Bianca was curious
"Well when I saw all those pretty young co-eds who were giving me
warm glances I kinda decided that I'd like to play the field a bit so I
told her I thought we should see other people and not be so
exclusive" Jack blushed again at this admission.
"So basically you dropped her so you could play the field. That was a
little cold wasn't it." Erica scolded mildly.
"Well I didn't think I should marry the first person I seriously dated,
plus though I really liked her that special spark was never there."
Jack tried to defend himself.
"Well did you find that special spark with the other girls?" Asked
"Well no, actually I've only found that spark once in my life" Jack
admitted almost nervously, which caused Erica's ears to immediately
"Oh really Jackson, and who would that special someone be, anyone
I know?" she said in more than a suggestive tone.
"Well that doesn't matter at this moment does it?" Jack gulped and
chuckled a little nervously, not wanting to bare his soul and his
feelings at this time to Erica who had correctly assumed that she was
that one special person he had found.
"Scarlett didn't take the news very well. She had already planned our
wedding and subscribed to Bride's Magazine as I found out later. I
really didn't realize how into this relationship she was. So yes things
got a little messy, I got even more nervous about the depth of
commitment she expected and so I decided to break things off
"Typical guy being afraid of commitment" Erica muttered.
"I don't recall him being afraid of commitment with you Mom, how
many times did he propose again?" Bianca teased making her
mother turn slightly red.
"She does have a point doesn't she" Jack gloated for a moment
before continuing. "She worked hard to win me back, insinuating
herself into my life at every turn, ruining my relationships with others
by telling them lies about me. Finally I got tired of it all and went to
her apartment to confront her and tell her to back off. She wasn't
home but I used the key she had given me awhile back to go in and
wait for her. I couldn't believe her apartment, she had pictures of us
together all over the place.
"You know this is beginning to sound psycho to me" Bianca
"Look, I told you she's not psycho, just easily blinded by love and has
a hard time dealing with closure" Jack defended Scarlett.
"She came home and was embarrassed that I had seen all the
pictures, she begged and pleaded for me to come back to her, telling
me how much she loved me and that she couldn't live without me,
and so on and so forth, and well I caved in and got back together with
her" Jack admitted almost sheepishly.
"Geez, some women think their whole lives have to revolve around a
man." Bianca groaned....... "No references to you intended Mom"
she hastily amended as she saw Erica's eyebrows raise in one of
those "You'd better not be talking about me" tone.
"So how did you get out of it again?" Erica asked, feeling the need to
get the topic moving again.
"Well I decided to leave school, I wasn't enjoying the college scene
that much anyway, especially with my reputation being smeared all
over campus in her attempts to keep any other women from wanting
to date me so I told her that I was going to join the army and had to
"And she let you go that easily?" Bianca said incredulously.
"Well she let me go after I had promised to write every day and that
we would be married as soon as I returned from the service"
"And she never heard from you again right?" Erica finished for him.
"Well.......... yeah." Jack hung his head.
"And now you want me to help you because you are trying to keep
her from wanting to rekindle the old flame since she never knew that
you're leaving college was to get away from her, right?"
"I know it sounds silly Erica but she is so persistent, she has always
managed to walk over me and I figured with another strong woman in
the picture who can't be misled by her false tales, and won't back
down then she would have no choice but to give me up."
"This was so long ago Uncle Jack, what makes you think she's still
interested in you that way?"
"That is a good point Jack, she may be all over that now and just
want to catch up as friends"
"Maybe, but I'm not sure" Jack remained unconvinced. "I mean look
at how she was at lunch, she was very warm and friendly until she
got the impression that we were a couple.
"Well that is true? The tone did change pretty quickly." Erica agreed.
"How about we just play this thing by ear and if she's changed then I'll
let you off the hook Erica, but if not then it will only be a week that you
have to pretend that we are together, you can do that can't you?"
Jack entreated once again.
"OK, Jack, I still think it's silly but I'll help you out while she's around"
Erica conceded, "I guess that means I have a date this evening
"Uh yeah, I'll pick you up around 7." Jack said, "Want to join us
"No I need to work on a school project with Laura, plus I can't see it
appearing to be a very romantic date if you are dragging me along.
You two have fun and bring me some takeout OK?" Bianca said as
she picked up her backpack and headed out the door for Laura's.
"OK, so I'll see you around seven." Jack said to Erica as he rose to
"See you then, oh but where are we going? And are you thinking
casual or black tie?"
"How about SOS and casual dress?" Jack replied after thinking for a
"Sounds great! And Jack..... you owe me one" Erica winked with a
smile on her face as Jack made his way to the door.
"And don't think that I will ever doubt you won't let me forget it either"
Jack laughed as he left to start making plans for the evening.

Chapter 4

7:00 PM Erica's house
Erica was ready and sitting in the living room when Jack arrived
promptly. She inhaled sharply at how handsome he was in his black
slacks and turtleneck with a gray suit jacket.
"Well we won't clash will we?" Jack grinned as he appraised her
outfit of a simple yet flattering black dress that clung perfectly to her
curves, with appreciative eyes. "Aside from people asking us where
the funeral is probably not." Erica laughed as she took his extended
arm as he guided her out the door and to the car.
"Coast looks clear to me." Jack said scanning the room after they
had been seated. Since there was no sign of the amorous Scarlett
the two were able to keep the appearance fairly simple, though they
were both aware of a few wondering eyes on them and the
speculations rippling through the customers in SOS.
"Well I think we've done enough, especially considering she didn't
come" Jack said while holding Erica on the dance floor.
"Yes, dinner was fantastic, and we've danced a few dances,
obviously she isn't tracking you down to check your story" Erica
agreed as the dance was ending.
Out of the corner of his eye Jack suddenly saw a harried Scarlett
burst into the room and start anxiously scanning the crowd. Without
warning he grabbed Erica and spun her around into a kiss just as
Scarlett noticed their presence. Erica gasped in surprise as his lips
claimed hers but quickly recovered as she wrapped her arms around
his neck and threaded her fingers into his hair. At the feel of her
fingernails lightly scratching the back of his neck Jack increased the
intensity of the kiss enjoying the sweet familiar taste that was
uniquely Erica. There's no telling how long the kiss would have gone
on if not for Scarlett's interruption. The first thing they noticed when
they broke apart was that they had the attention of pretty much
everyone in the room at such a kiss on the dance floor.
"AHEM!" Scarlett cleared her throat loudly for the second time
causing the couple to reluctantly turn and look at the spectacle before
them. Scarlett was wearing a dress so revealing it was barely legal
and a large white magnolia hair clip.
"Oh, uh Scarlett, how nice to see you again." Jack said, chest still
heaving from the intensity of the kiss he and Erica had just shared.
"Yes, well I've been to every club and restaurant in town looking for
you, I was about to give up."
Erica raised her eyebrows at Scarlett's admission but remained
silent. Partly because she wasn't sure what to say, and also because
she wasn't sure she could find her voice after that amazing kiss.
"Well you found me, what did you want?" Jack asked, trying to be
polite though he was not enjoying the feeling of being hunted down.
He slipped his hand to Erica's back and led her to their table with
Scarlett following close behind.
"I thought we could rehash old times now that your "date" is over."
She said hopefully as they reached the table.
"What makes you think the date is over?" Erica finally found her
"Well you've obviously finished eating, so what's left to prevent us
from conversation?" Scarlett chirped.
"We are through eating but the evenings activities are not yet over, I
was just getting ready to escort Erica home." Jack said trying to
shake Scarlett off
"That's what taxi's are for. Now c'mon Jack darling I'm only going to
be in town for a few days surely you can let her catch another ride so
we can spend a little time together" Scarlett pleaded.
"Let me say this again." Jack's voice deepened and he pulled Erica
possessively into a close embrace. "The evenings activities are not
over, now goodnight Scarlett and I'll get in touch with you tomorrow
regarding a lunch or something, goodnight" he said firmly as he led
Erica out the door and to the car.
"I daresay her intentions are definitely more than just discussing the
good old days" Jack groaned.
"She certainly is relentless isn't she" Erica sighed as they climbed
into the car.
"Not only that she's following us" Jack said incredulously looking into
the rearview mirror.

Chapter 5

"What, are you sure?" Erica sounded alarmed.
"Yup, can't miss that huge white flower perched on her head. I gave
it to her as a birthday present."
"What do we do now, just let her follow us?"
"For now, we can call for help if she appears dangerous but she's
probably just spying on us."
"Spying, why, just to see when you leave?" Erica was trying to
understand this woman's mind.
"I told you, she's very persistent, probably seeing if I leave so she can
follow me back to my apartment, and have a little alone time to try
and work her feminine wiles on me." Jack shook his head as he
drove, still glancing in the rearview mirror occasionally.
Scarlett followed them all the way to Erica's parking her car on the
street, though they could see the white hair bow bobbing through the
bushes as they drove slowly up the drive.
"What do we do now Jack?"
"Pardon me for sounding intrusive but would you mind if I crashed on
the sofa tonight?"
"No not at all, but do you think she'll really camp out all night?"
"I don't know, but I'd rather be safe than sorry and having her show
up on my doorstep."
"OK, well come on in then" Erica smiled as Jack got out and walked
around to open her door. As they reached the porch he pulled her to
the swing and leaned in as if to nuzzle her neck.
"Thought we might see about scaring her off with a little make out
session on the swing if you don't mind" he whispered into her ear
while planting small kisses on her neck.
Erica couldn't believe what Jack was suggesting. Not that she
minded in the least, the hardest part would be not to appear overly
eager. "Sure, I guess I can go along with that" she whispered back,
trying to sound reluctant, although her heart was racing so fast, she
knew Jack wouldn't be fooled.
Jack could barely contain the feeling of elation he felt at her
agreement, almost forgetting Scarlett's presence in the bushes.
He moaned audibly when Erica lightly kissed his neck, almost
forgetting that this display was phony. The added sensations of her
nearness and her fingers on his scalp almost caused him to forget the
reason for this display as he turned his head so their lips would
meet. The kiss was even more than the kiss at SOS as they became
even less inhibited without the surrounding crowd. Jack was enjoying
the kiss fully when to his surprise he felt Erica's tongue probing at his
lips. A small voice in the back of his mind warned him this was going
to far but that was voice was quickly silenced as he couldn't resist the
temptation and relaxed his jaw. Erica on the other hand could not
believe what she just did. Here she was in what was supposed to be
pretending and she had just taken over and initiated a very deep kiss.
Tongues dueled and clashed as Jack laid back on the swing pulling
Erica down with him.
They broke apart gasping for air as they looked deeply into each
others eyes each seeing the desire that lay within. Their lips met
again even more intensely the second time as their hearts raced.
They broke apart abruptly as they realized someone was walking
onto the porch by the clicking of shoes. Expecting Scarlett they were
both surprised to see Bianca standing there with a bemused
expression on her face. They both sat up suddenly and almost
guiltily at what had been happening.
"Well I guess you two had a good evening" she said in a dry tone as
she turned and entered the house. Erica and Jack took a moment to
compose themselves and wipe off the smeared lipstick before
following her in.
"Bianca, we can explain" Erica began
"No need to explain, I'm old enough to see what was going on"
Bianca said almost laughing as she started to climb the stairs.
"Wait, Bianca. Let me tell you the facts before you go off with the
wrong idea". Jack halted her ascension.
Bianca stopped to let Jack continue. "Really honey, it was nothing.
What you walked in on was simply us making a scene for Scarlett,
she was in the bushes"
"Yeah right" Bianca laughed, "you expect me to believe that you had
your tongues down each others throats solely for the benefit of the
ex-girlfriend in the bushes, I didn't see her" She sounded skeptical.
"Honest honey it meant nothing" Jack reiterated still trying to
convince her. Not noticing Erica's expression fall at his statement.
"Go look out of an upstairs window if you don't believe me and you'll
probably be able to see her in the bushes" Jack encouraged.
"I must have misread him, I thought the spark was still there but
obviously he didn't feel a thing" Erica thought mournfully for a second
and then quickly masked her emotions all of this was unnoticed by
Jack and Bianca.
"Ok, I'll go look, but I still think there's a lot more to this" Bianca
agreed reluctantly and went to look as Jack turned to face Erica.
"Well Jack I apologize if I got to carried away out there, I just wanted
so badly to convince that Scarlett person that you were no longer
available" Erica said before Jack had a chance to speak.
"Gee I thought I felt the spark again but I must have been wrong, I'm
glad she said that before I said something I'd regret" Jack thought.
"Yeah, well we gave her a real show didn't we." Jack said weakly as
they saw Bianca coming back down the stairs.
Oh my goodness, I can't believe it, you guys were right!" Bianca was
incredulous. "She is sitting in the bushes staring up into the
windows. Does this woman have no shame?"
"Geez as if she still needs to be convinced after that display" Jack
"Yeah for real, I thought you two were really going at it very
convincingly." Bianca snickered.
"Well I guess I'll be crashing here tonight after all right?" Jack
ignored her comment and went to plop down on the sofa and started
to remove his shoes.
"I'm sorry I jumped to the wrong conclusion guys." Bianca
apologized. "Anyway I'm going to bed now so I'll see ya in the
morning. Going to be here for breakfast right Uncle Jack?"
"Sure thing, night kiddo." Jack smiled at his niece as she went to her

Chapter 6

"Well goodnight Erica." Jack reclined on the sofa expecting Erica to
leave as well.
"Wait Jack, I was just thinking about this Scarlett thing." Erica said
with a scheming tone to her voice.
"I fail to see what else we can do about that tonight." Jack said
unsure of where this was going.
"I was thinking that perhaps we should put on one more small display
to show her what a lost cause pursuing you is before we call it a
night" Erica grinned with a gleam in her eye.
"Oh yeah, well what exactly do you propose" Jack raised his
eyebrow quizzically.
"A little show in front of the window of the bedroom perhaps, that is if
you're game"
"That's a little risky isn't it, I mean you and I in the bedroom, alone...."
Jacks voice trailed off.
"Oh Jack, we're two mature adults I'm sure we'll be able to behave
ourselves" Erica began ascending the staircase. Jack gulped and
followed though he still was not fully convinced of the wisdom of this
They went into Erica's room without turning on the light and peered
out the window. Sure enough Scarlett was still huddled in the bushes
staring repeatedly at the different windows waiting for a light to come
"Her persistance is almost frightening isn't it? This might be a good
idea after all Erica" Jack sighed in exasperation at Scarlett's behavior.
"I still say she's psycho, but ready for the show to begin Jack." Erica
shivered slightly despite the lightness in her tone.
"Sure, so what's the game plan here." Jack whispered back in a
hushed tone. The dark room almost seeming spooky.
"Well I figured we could turn the lights on dim so she'll focus on this
window, then go kiss and stuff in front of the window where she will
be sure to see us and then after a moment move and turn off the light
and she'll assume we've gone to bed." Erica laid out her plan.
Sounds simple enough, what is this "and stuff" though" Jack tried to
better pin down the plan.
"We'll just play it by ear... ready?" Erica walked over to the door to
turn on the light.
"Ready as I'll ever be" Jack walked over behind her and mentally
braced himself for another "pretend love scene".
Erica switched the lights on dim and turned to face Jack as they
slowly walked to the window. Their profiles clearly visible through the
sheer lace curtains. They kissed softly keeping themselves in check
since they had already realized on the porch how easy it was to get
carried away. Jack almost lost his balance though when Erica slid
her hands up to slip his jacket off his shoulders and began pulling his
shirt up, he realized she was doing it as part of the act but it still made
him feel almost weak with desire. He moved back to help her pull the
turtleneck over his head and then took her in his arms again, wishing
even for a moment that this was real and that he wasn't going to have
to take a cold shower later.
Erica had been doing fine with keeping her reactions in check until
she had been pulled back into an embrace with a now shirtless
Jack. The feel of his smooth skin beneath her cheek brought back
so many memories that she almost forgot the reality of their current
"friendship only" agreement as she melted into another mindnumbing
kiss. It was the feel of his fingers pulling down the zipper to
her dress that brought her back to reality as she forced herself to put
up her hand and push him away . leaving them both gasping for air.
"Jack, what's going on here?" She gazed steadily into his eyes.
Jack was speechless for a moment as he tried to clear his head and
think. "I'm sorry, I got carried away, I shouldn't ...."
"No, Jack, wait. I wasn't trying to blame you" she interrupted, "Here
lets move away from the window before we destroy the plan" she
took his hand and led him away from the window and over to the bed
where they sat down putting a good 2 feet of space between them.
"Believe me Jack, you were not forcing yourself on me, we were just
getting much to carried away."
"Yeah, I know" he sighed, "I guess we shouldn't have tried this
considering our history and the number of times we've given in to
"Yeah, poor planning on our part wasn't it?" Erica agreed and the
room was silent for a few moments.
"I wish I could say I was terribly upset" Jack chuckled breaking the
"I know, it was a nice little trip down memory lane wasn't it........ but
why do we keep losing control Jack, is it hormones or...." Erica broke
"Now's a perfect time to tell her how deeply I still feel about her... but
what if she doesn't feel the same way.." Jack was momentarily
frozen about replying
"He's got that deer in the headlights look, oh no I've embarrassed
him, he's probably
panicking thinking I still love him." Erica's mind was racing.
"We've always had unbelievable chemistry, so I guess it only natural
that this would happen when we get this close regardless of our
actual feelings" Erica quickly said to let Jack off the hook.
"Yeah, just the old hormones cranking up again" Jack maintained a
smile of agreement though his heart sank as he tried to forget his
feelings and that she obviously did not return them.
Once again there was almost an awkward silence......
*tap-tap* a small knock on the door interrupted the silence.
"That must be Bianca, we barely explained the porch, forget trying to
explain this. Oh and shoot, the window. Why don't you close the
blinds and then hide in the bathroom, ummmm no the closet" Erica
said as she hastily pulled on a robe as Jack closed the blinds and
headed for the closet. As soon as he was in Erica went to open the
door to Bianca.
"Honey, what are you doing up so late?" Erica tried sounding sleepy.
"I wanted to talk with you about you and Uncle Jack"
"Can't it wait until tomorrow honey" Erica said trying to discourage
Bianca. Not that she wouldn't love to find out Bianca's feelings on the
matter, she just did not want to do so with Jack less than 10 feet
"Please Mom." Bianca put on her most pleading expression
"OK" Erica relented as they went to sit down on the bed, Erica
suddenly became flustered as she noticed Jacks shirt and jacket still
on the floor where they had dropped and she desperately hoped that
Bianca would not notice.
"Mom I just wanted to say something about your relationship with
Uncle Jack and then I'll leave, but hear me out first OK?" Bianca
started talking quickly trying to get it all out before Erica interrupted
"What "relationship", remember honey I told you it was just an act for
that old girlfriend, there's..."
"Mom, I know what I saw, and there was a lot more going on there
than just an act" Bianca rose her voice. Jack of course by this time
had his ear firmly against the closet door listening to every word.
"How do you know honey, you're so young, when you're older you'll
understand but now you'll just have to take my word for it, there is
nothing going on between your Uncle Jack and I"
"Mom, I'm not that young!" Bianca wailed "I saw the way you were
looking at him, and I saw him looking at you the same way, I know
love when I see it!"
"Honey I don't know what you think you saw but...."
"Wait Mom, one thing OK -- I want you to look directly into my eyes
and tell me the truth about how you feel about Uncle Jack" Bianca's
voice took on a very serious tone as she turned to look straight into
Erica's eyes. Erica dropped her gaze for a moment unsure of how to
proceed. "Just tell me the truth Mom and then I'll leave" Bianca
gently pressed on. You could hear a pin drop as everyone including
Jack was holding their breath"
"I don't want to lie to her, but I can't tell her the truth, especially with
Jack here. I'll make an idiot out of myself. Plus if I told her how much
I still cared for him what if she got upset again because of Travis"
Erica pondered her options carefully and with a sinking heart
prepared to lie to her daughter, feeling horrible already but deciding it
was for the best.
"Mom" Bianca prompted again. Erica rose to meet her eyes and put
on her best poker face.
"OK Bianca, I consider Jack a wonderful and dear friend. But the
romance is over honey. There hasn't been anything between us for a
long time and there never will again. We just don't have that love
anymore. We're just friends honey, that's all. I don't love him
anymore like I did many years ago." Erica emphasized those last
words to make a point to Bianca, though she felt even more guilty
knowing she was lying to the nearby Jack as well.
In the closet Jack's shoulders sagged and he was almost blinking
back tears at the sting in Erica's sharp words. "I really thought I saw
that look in her eyes, I can't believe I thought I might still have a
chance...... but she wouldn't lie to Bianca like that......". He bit his lip
as Erica's words kept resounding through his head.
Bianca studied her Mother carefully looking for traces of a lie, but saw
"OK Mom, I'll believe you, so let me just say what I came in here to
say and then I'll leave"
Erica nodded and looked intently at Bianca praying that she wouldn't
be put on the spot and have to lie again.
"When I saw you and Uncle Jack on the porch I honestly thought you
two had realized you still loved each other. Regardless of what you
say Mom I think I still see a lot of sparks between you two. But I'm
not going to push you into each others arms if you are so adamant
about not being in love with him anymore. I just want you to know
that if you do feel those old familiar feelings again. And if you and
Uncle Jack do decide to get back together than I won't stand in your
Erica's head snapped up when she heard this and Jack also was
doing a double take in the dark closet. "Wh... what.." she stammered.
"What happened with you, Daddy, and Uncle Jack was a long time
ago Mom. I used to be resentful then because I hated you and
Daddy getting divorced. But now I see a lot more than just an ugly
divorce. I see how supportive Uncle Jack is, to both of us. How he
can reach you like no other man I've ever seen, even Daddy."
Bianca's voice started to crumble so she paused a moment. "What
you both did to Daddy was wrong..... but it was also a long time ago
and some things you just have to move past. He moved on with
Barbara. And now he's gone.... . If not for you and Uncle Jack I don't
know how I would have made it these past few months. But you've
stood by me Mom, even though we've had our rough times, and
Uncle Jack has been wonderful, like a second father to me. I see
now how well you two work together and I want you both to be
happy. And if that happiness is found in being together then go for it
and I'll cheer you on all they way. But if you find someone else..... I'll
try to understand. Though please don't go back to David, I can't
support that." Bianca stopped feeling as if she had said to much.
Both Erica and Jack had tears glistening in their eyes after hearing
Bianca's heartfelt speech. "Oh honey" was all Erica could say as she
held out her arms for a warm Mother/Daughter hug. "Well it's getting
late, I guess I should go so we can both get our beauty sleep huh?"
Bianca laughed as she hastily started returning to less emotional
"Goodnight Baby, I love you" Erica whispered as Bianca exited.
After a moment had passed and she heard Bianca's door close she
went to open the closet door.
"Wow, is that some kid or what?" he said as exited the closet and
walked over to pick up his clothes off the floor and pulled them back
"Yeah, she's something isn't she" Erica agreed. Once again the
silence was awkward but this time neither of them tried to break it as
they were both still grappling with what they had just heard.
"Well goodnight, we'll talk over breakfast OK" Jack said grabbing
Erica and planting a quick kiss on her forehead as he left the room.
"Goodnight" Erica said though he was already gone as she changed
into a nightgown, turned the lights down and crawled into bed.
Staring at the ceiling deep in thought.
Jack had removed his jacket and shoes and laid down on the sofa
lost in thought. One thought primarily repeating itself in his mind
"She doesn't love me, I'm only a friend.... I've got to come to terms
with that and stifle these feelings I still have for her before any more
pain is caused to any of us..... but how?" As he drifted to sleep.
"I still don't buy this story" Bianca was grinning to herself as she lay
in bed remembering the looks of love she had seen on their faces.
"But if this is how they want to play it then I won't stop them, they
can't avoid this forever" she sighed as she drifted to sleep as well.

Chapter 7

While Jack and Bianca had drifted off to sleep fairly quickly Erica had
lain awake for hours thinking. Thinking about her feelings for Jack,
and what Bianca had said. She had finally fallen into a restless sleep
filled with dreams. She woke up feeling refreshed and slowly
stretched as she turned to look at the clock. When she realized it was
already 10 am and Bianca had wanted them all to have breafast
together she leapt from the bed and hastily started getting ready to go
downstairs. At 10:30 she started down the stairs in a robe with her
hair still damp from the shower.
"Anyone here?" she called out
"Well good morning sleepy head" Jack's voice boomed as he
appeared at the foot of the stairs.
Erica was conscious of his eyes on her as she finished her descent to
meet him at the bottom of the stairs.
"So I guess I missed the family breakfast?"
"Yes, well Bianca and I had breakfast before she left for school. And
we talked..." Jack emphasized.
"About?" Erica said nervously
"Yes, well basically the same thing she told you about last night, you
know about us, and Travis, and well, you know" Jack was almost
"Oh you mean more how she thinks we should be together" Erica
said calmly though her heart was pounding.
"Yes, that too. She spent a good 15 minutes trying to convince me
that you and I are still in love."
"Oh really, so what did you tell her" Erica said calmly, though she felt
as if the temperature in the room had risen 30 degrees since she had
come down the stairs.
"Well I told her basically the same thing you did, you know that we
were just friends and there were no lingering feelings between us"
"I see" Erica had turned to hide the look of disappointment on her
"That is true isn't it Erica" Jack said slowly, his senses were on alert
at her reaction
"Oh no, he's asking me if there's still anything between us. I'm not
going to make an idiot of myself and act like some lovesick puppy"
Erica put on a smile and turned back around. "Well of course that's
the truth Jack, we'd know if there was something there right?"
"Oh yes, of course we would" Jack responded hastily "Great,she
probably thought I was coming on to her"
Jack took a deep breath. "I thought about last night and well I think
we definitely have to be more careful from here on out."
"Oh of course, I agree" Erica said quickly. The awkward silence rose
"So what are your plans for the day Jack?"
"Well in a couple hours I'm meeting Scarlett for lunch. What are your
"I'm not sure yet, I need to go over to the office."
"Well if you wouldn't mind could you keep your schedule somewhat
open in case I need you to help run interference again?"
"Sure Jack, no problem, as far as I'm concerned I'm all yours for the
rest of the week" Erica smiled demurely
"Oh really? Well that's certainly nice to know" Jack said flirting back
as he headed for the door.
Valley Inn Dining Room
Jack was not surprised that Scarlett was already there waiting when
he arrived for their lunch meeting 10 minutes early.
"Jack, how wonderful to see you" she rose to hug him as he
approached. "That woman isn't with you is she?" Scarlett said
scanning the room behind him.
"No, Erica is not with me" Jack sighed assuring her as they went to
the table. She had purposely picked a small table for two in a corner
to try for some privacy.
"Good, I finally have you alone" She grinned widely as she leaned
towards Jack across the table.
Jack not so subtly picked up a menu and leaned backwards. "Let's
order shall we."
After ordering Jack knew it was time to face the music as he faced
Scarlett. "I guess I owe you an explanation and apology for what
"No you don't" she interrupted much to his surprise
"I know what happened. You left and the service kept you to busy to
write, and then by the time you had finished you probably couldn't
find me because I had moved. I'm the one who should be sorry for
moving and not leaving a way for you to contact me" Scarlett said
"She has convinced herself this is all her fault, I can't believe it." Jack
thought. "OK here's my chance to tell her what really happened."
"But now we've found each other again and our love can overcome!"
She said in a happy sing-song voice before Jack had time to say
"But Scarlett, I need to tell you....." Jack once again attempted to tell
the truth.
"Oh I know you THINK you love that Erica woman, but trust me she's
all wrong for you"
"Now that we are together nothing can keep us apart again" she
continued talking right over him as she had always done.
Fed up, Jack could not stand being interrupted again "Look Scarlett, I
have loved Erica ever since we met and nothing -- I repeat NOTHING
can change that. We were meant to be together and nothing can
break us apart this time!" In his frustration he didn't realize he had
said it loud enough to echo over the filled dining room and he noticed
many interested looks pointed in their direction. "Oh no, did I say it it
that loudly" he blushed.
Scarlett was taken aback for a moment. "Well I'm sure she's got you
fooled into believing this but..."
"But nothing Scarlett, I love Erica Kane and nothing you can say is
going to change that, now excuse me" Jack said getting up and
walking out of the dining room. "Wow, I finally said the truth about my
feelings in the open, If only I had the nerve to say it to Erica" he
sighed as he got into his car.
"So he thinks Erica and he are together forever does he?" Scarlett
said scheming. "We'll see about that" she picked up her purse and

Chapter 8

Erica had reread the same contract several times still not being able
to focus on it as her mind kept drifting to Jack. "When did I fall so
deeply in love with him again..... or did I ever stop" she pondered as
she once again made an attempt to scan the paper.
She almost jumped out of her chair when the buzzer rang. "Miss
Kane there is a Miss Hughes here to see you" Her secretary
"Yes, well send her in" Erica was surprised at this development
wondering what she could possibly be doing here. She puzzled as
she composed herself for Scarlett's entrance.
"No need to rise or greet me" Scarlett said as she opened the door
and charged straight to Erica's desk. "We need to talk and I think
we're both adult enough here to forego the preliminaries and cut
straight to the matter at hand."
Erica was taken aback at this approach but nodded anyway. "OK,
what can I do for you."
"I know you're don't really love him, and I want him back because I
love him more than you ever could." She said boldly.
Erica could not believe the gall of this woman and felt her anger
rising. "Look here Miss Hughes I love Jackson Montgomery and I
mean real love. We are in love to our souls. I am not going to give
up the best thing that ever happened to me just because of some
high school fling.
Scarlett could feel the icy chill in the room and knew this was not
going to be easy. "Why Miss Kane, you actually sound like you
mean that" She said back sardonically.
I do! Erica said boldly almost shivering as she realized herself after
speaking it that she had truly meant it. "I DO LOVE JACK" She said
again loudly, suddenly feeling the urge to shout it out her office
window for all of Pine Valley to hear.
"Time to pull out the stops" Scarlett thought as she plotted her next
move. "Look I know I broke his heart and he hasn't been able to get
over that but...."
"You broke his heart?!" Erica was incredulous. "You have got some
warped perception of reality you know that. He was the one who left
"Oh really, is that what he told you" Scarlett replied coolly. "Let me
set the record straight." She began to tell her version of the story.
"It all began during high school. He asked me out to a banquet, and
of course I said yes. He was so dashing and charming any girl would
have gone with him, but he picked ME!"
Erica rose her eyebrows but said nothing as Scarlett continued.
"We dated heavily for the rest of high school and then on prom
night... I'll never forget it, underneath the stars he gave the most
eloquent proposal, and of course I accepted" Scarlett if
overcome with memories.
"We went on to college together and got an apartment as we started
planning for our wedding. The problem came when my father found
out we were engaged."
"Wait, now back up, you're telling me that you were engaged for
several months without telling your father" Erica felt like she had
caught Scarlett in a lie.
"It was somewhat of a secret engagement you see, since we were so
young and all" Scarlett said calmly though Erica thought she saw a
bead of sweat appear.
"Being a proper southern gentleman he was appalled that I had
become engaged without bringing Jack home to meet the family.
And then when he met Jack well, he had such high expectations that
Jackson just didn't have a chance and so he told me he would take
away my trust fund if I married a young man with so little ambition
and drive. You see Jack was very easygoing and mellow during
college and most people didn't think he'd succeed very far. Well I
couldn't give up millions of dollars so I told Jack that we would have
to break off our engagement until I turned 25 and could collect the
trust fund. He was so broken-hearted, he even cried while begging
me to reconsider but I couldn't possibly lose all that money. I still
regret that decision" Scarlett actually had a tear in her eye.
"I can't believe she expects me to believe this, she's definitely got
more than one screw loose" Erica could not believe what she was
My father wasn't satisfied with my claims to have broken things off
and he forced me to move back home. I told Jack I would write him
every day and we would be married on my 25th birthday. That's
when I left. The poor guy was so brokenhearted. Then he must have
moved because all my letters came back undeliverable and that was
when we lost track. So don't you understand now?"
"Understand what" Erica said confused as to what the question was.
"Haven't you been listening" Scarlett was exasperated. "Understand
that we still belong together, that finding each other after all this time
is fate. That our love cannot be overcome" she practically wailed.
"Look, I'll tell you what I understand, you've obviously obsessed over
Jackson ever since high school. Yes he is a wonderful person and a
true rarity among men. BUT he has moved on and you can't accept
that. You need to get over it, move on and get a life. There are many
more men out there, but Jackson Montgomery is mine" Erica said
sharply her words stinging Scarlett.
"Well, I never!" Scarlett jumped up, almost looking like she was going
to strike Erica. But perhaps realizing this was someone who could
give as good as she got turned around and stalked out of the door.
"Miss Kane, Opal Cortlandt on line #2" The secretary buzzed her
"Opal, hi there, how..."
"What do you mean cut to the chase...."
"What's going on with Jack?..... Opal who have you been talking to?"
"He shouted it out over the dining room..... everyone heard..."
"I see Opal, look I'll tell you about it later....."
"Yes I heard you, he still loves me.... right... bye Opal"
Erica was shocked at this latest development. What in the world is
Opal talking about, I'll have to ask Jack about this later. A small
charade is one thing but broadcasting it to PV is another, I can't have
the whole town think I've rejected him again. I'll be committed.

Chapter 9

Erica walked down the path of the park until she reached the bench
where she had asked Jack to meet her. Standing a few feet off, she
watched him, leaning back in the seat with his eyes closed. Gosh, he
is so handsome. I love how his hair catches the sunlight, Erica
thought, as she continued walking.
Clearing her throat softly, Erica stood beside the bench, waiting for
Jack to notice her. Jack shifted his head down, then opened his
eyes. Well, well what do we have here? Yes, those are definitely her
legs, Jack thought as his eyes slowly headed up her body. Oh, and
without a doubt, those are her hips. Gosh, I would love to wrap my
arms around that waist right now. Those lips, yep, I'm in heaven!
"Jack, thank you for meeting me here," Erica said, after his eyes had
met hers and she sat beside him.
"No problem. With all you are doing for me, the least I can do is meet
you at a park. I assume this has to do with Scarlett. So what did she
do now?" Jack asked, staring into those beautiful brown eyes of
"Well, actually Scarlett came by my office this afternoon. She
informed me of why you two broke up. Her story was the exact
opposite of yours. It was so obvious she was lying, but that is not
why I asked you here. I dealt with her just fine." Erica fidgeted
nervously with her purse, avoiding Jack's glance.
"Then why did you ask me here, Erica?" Jack knew it was bold, but
he ran his finger under her chin and lifted her face to meet his glaze.
"Well, Opal called me this afternoon. So did Edmund and Tad. I
didn't understand their calls at first, but finally called back Opal to get
the full story." Erica thought to herself, is it true, Jack? Tell me if it's
true. I know you said you loved me, but was it just for show?
"What did Edmund and Tad call you about?" Jack was almost afraid
to ask. He knew the brush off would be coming. Opal has probably
told her about my outburst, and well, now Erica is going to try and "let
me down easy." God, I hate this. I can't help it that I accidentally
yelled the TRUTH!
"They congratulated me. I didn't get it, but then Opal called and told
me that Tad, Edmund, and her were all at the Pine Valley Inn for
lunch today. And well, she told me what you said Jack." Erica was
trying to work up the nerve to ask him if it were true.
"Scarlett and I were talking, and well, you know how she is. She
wouldn't back off, and before I knew it, I was yelling that where
everyone could hear."
"Jack, tell me what you yelled. Opal told me, but I want to hear it
from you." Yeah, that's a good way to see if he really means it. You
will be able to tell by his voice. Come on, Jack, tell me you love me.
Tell me, please tell me.
Jack lowered his face, looking down at his shoes. "Well, I was telling
Scarlett, that I have always loved you, and look I am sorry Erica. I
know that this was only suppose to be for Scarlett's benefit and now
the whole town knows. I am sorry."
"Yes, the whole town does know, Jack, but sometimes people have a
hard time dealing with certain emotions," Erica said, as Jack's mind
wandered, Here's the big kiss off. She is going to say that I am
having a hard time dealing with the emotions of being this close to
her. I need to beat her to it. That's it, I'll say it before she does.
But…what if?
Jack interrupted, "Erica, since Scarlett came to town, I know I have
been "using" you to brush her off. I mean we have been awfully close
in trying to convince her, of course."
"Yes, of course, trying to convince Scarlett. I mean, it is certainly
understandable why someone might have a hard time dealing with
the emotion of it all, especially considering our past."
"Yes, our past," Jack said solemnly. "With all that we have been
through together, it would be hard for someone not to feel that old,
um, familiarity."
Erica didn't know what to say. Familiarity, familiarity just kept playing
over and over in her mind. Last night was more than just familiar,
Jack. Last night was, oh, so wonderful. Your touch, your kiss. I
haven't felt so alive, so real, since the last time we were together.
But it was just "familiar" to you.
"I'm sorry that my past with Scarlett has affected your life so much,
Erica. But we did have fun last night at SOS, right?" Jack's eyes
danced with the thought of the porch swing.
"Yes, I had a very nice time. It has been a while since I have been
out on the dance floor," Erica stated, as she thought of that kiss.
"Back to the issue at hand though, Erica. I hope I didn't embarrass
you too much with my outburst at lunch. I can promise you that I will
try and be a little more discrete. What exactly did Opal say?"
"She told me that you were having lunch with another woman and
asked me if I knew. I said, yes, that she was an old friend of yours.
Then she said that your conversation started getting heated and
before she knew it you were raising your voice, claiming your love for
"Well, I was claiming…" Jack looked up and over Erica's shoulder, he
spotted Scarlett headed their way. She was a good 20 feet off.
"Erica, this isn't exactly the time or place I was going to do this, but…"
Jack kneeled down beside the bench. Taking Erica's hands in his,
Jack pulled a box out of his pocket. "Erica, this whole mess with
Scarlett has just made me realize that I should have done this long
ago. Erica, I have loved you for such a long time now. I realize that
we should be together. So, I guess what I am trying to say is. I need
you in my life for the rest of my life. You are the only woman I want.
Please do me the honor of being my wife." Jack opened the box, and
Erica gasped as she saw the ring he gave her when he first
proposed. "He really does love me. He really does want to marry
me. Oh, he kept the ring. Oh, Jack!" Erica thought, as she suddenly
Scarlett came running up to the bench. "No, no, you can't. You just

Chapter 10

"Can't what, Scarlett?" Jack said as he automatically slipped the ring
on Erica's finger. Erica was just sitting there stunned as Jack rose to
talk to Scarlett.
"You can't marry her, Jack! You just can't. She doesn't love you.
She admitted it today in your office. She doesn't love you. She could
never love you like I do," Scarlett squealed.
Hearing this caused Erica to rise. She placed herself between Jack
and Scarlett, glaring into Scarlett's lying eyes.
"You are lying, and you know it, Scarlett Hughes. But I guess a
woman, as hopeless as you, has to resort to such low and dirty
tactics to try and steal a man. You know what I said in my office
today. And you know what Jack said at lunch, so just accept it.
Jackson has moved on and upward for that matter. He is no longer in
some two-bit high school farce of a romance. He is in a real
relationship with a real woman that loves him very much. So deal
with it, Miss Scarlett Hughes, because trust me deary, even on your
most cunning day, you could ever get Jack away from me. The
reason why is that we have true love, something you wouldn't know if
it bit you in the…"
Jack placed his hand over Erica's mouth and kissed the back of her
head. "I think it is time for us to go, baby." Jack took Erica's hand in
his and led her to his car, leaving Scarlett just standing there with her
mouth hanging open.
At Erica's House
The entire car ride back to Erica's was silent. Jack kept his eyes on
the road ahead, while Erica stared at the ring on her finger. When
they pulled into the drive, Jack stiffly got out of the car, walked over to
Erica's side, opened her door and held his hand out to her. As he
helped her up, their eyes met for the first time since he started the
proposal. Feeling uncomfortable, they both quickly looked away and
started up to the front door.
Once in the house, Bianca came bounding down the stairs. "Did you
tell her, Uncle Jack?"
"Tell who what?" Jack asked, looking at Bianca in a dazed and
confused state. Erica's silence had him scared. He was so worried
he had screwed up his only chance of turning that proposal into a real
engagement by rushing it for Scarlett's sake.
"Did you tell Mom about your little confession at the Pine Valley Inn?
I told you both that you still love each other, now there is proof."
Erica had seated herself on the couch. "Bianca, Jack doesn't love
me. He said that to Scarlett in an attempt to get her to leave him
alone. Jack doesn't love me." Erica's voice trailed off at the end, and
she just stared down at her hand.
"Mom, I heard how he said it. I have seen the two of you, last night
and for quite sometime now. You two look at each other with love in
your eyes. There is no doubt that you love each other. I am sorry,
but you both are wrong. The sooner one of you just admits your
feelings, the better off we will all be." With that Bianca ran back up
Jack stood on one side of the living room, staring at Erica, while she
sat on the other side, staring at her ring trying not to cry. Finally
deciding that the silence was too much, Jack crossed to Erica, sitting
beside her.
"Are you okay, honey?"
Refusing to look at him, "Sure, why wouldn't I be?" Erica asked,
quickly rising and walking over to get a glass of water. "Do you want
something to drink, Jack?"
"No, honey, I don't. I want you to come and sit with me. I want to talk
about what has you so upset."
"I am not upset," Erica, turned and flashed Jack her "see I am fine"
smile. Jack got up, slowly walking over to her, and said, "You are
upset about what happened at the park, right?"
"I told you, I am not upset, Jackson. Did I do a good job telling
Scarlett off?" Erica asked in a futile attempt of changing the subject.
"Yes, baby, you did a great job. Are you upset because of the ring,
Erica?" Jack put his hands on her shoulders, forcing her to look at
"I just don't understand, why you used this ring for a pretend
proposal, Jack? Why this ring? Why use a ring that has such
meaning to me for your little show for Scarlett? You could have
gotten a cubic zirconium ring. Why this ring?" Erica was now glaring
him straight in the eye, with that twinge of fire in her eyes.
"I don't know. I'm sorry it upset you."
"Jack, this ring has so many memories. Were you trying to hurt me?
How could you use this ring to try and get rid of that woman?" Erica
questioned, before she ripped herself out of his reach and headed
But it wasn't a pretend proposal. I used the ring because I know what
that ring means to us both. I love you, Erica. Jack thought, as he
stood there watching her flee from him.

Chapter 11

Jack waited for three hours for Erica to come back down. Bianca
came and went. Then she left to go out with Leo and Laura for the
night. Finally around nine, Jack decided Erica had to eat something.
He went into the kitchen, pulled a couple of sandwiches, some fruit
and veggies together. Taking a tray, he headed upstairs. He had
finally pulled together exactly what he was going to say to her.
Erica realized how much she truly loved Jack when she felt the sting
of his fake proposal. How could he propose to me like that and not
mean it? But he didn't mean it. It was all a show for her. Why, Jack,
why don't you love me? She cried and thought about it over and over
again until she finally fell asleep.
Jack knocked softly on the door, but when no one answered, he
opened it. Erica was lying curled up on the bed with tissues all over
the bed around her. She had changed into her robe and her hair was
in a loose ponytail. She looks so peaceful and beautiful lying there,
Jack thought. He set the tray on the nightstand, cleaned up all the
tissues, then sat on the bed beside her, just watching her.
Jack was kneeling beside her in the park. He had just finished
proposing to her, when she opened her mouth to say yes, all that
came out was Scarlett's whinny voice. Erica was suddenly standing
to the side of Jack, watching Scarlett kiss him and put on her ring.
"No," Erica yelled. "No, Jack, no! I love you, not her." Erica awoke
with a start. She bolted upright, only to be sitting face to face with
"It's okay. I'm right here," Jack said calmly. He wrapped his arms
around her and pulled her close to him. Erica was satisfied with
laying her head against Jack's chest and sobbing.
"Ssshhh, it's okay. I'm right here. I am not going anywhere.
Ssshhh," Jack whispered in her ear.
Pulling back slightly, Erica wiped her tears away. She looked into
Jack's eyes, and then started to cry again. Jack pulled her back into
his embrace.
"Baby, baby, ssshhh, why are you crying? That must have been
some dream, baby. You woke up yelling and then started crying.
Please, Erica, tell me what is wrong." Jack continued to speak very
Sobbing, "You…You gave my ring to her. You…You proposed to
her, not me."
"Oh, baby. Oh, Erica, I would never, ever give this ring to anyone but
you," Jack said, as he took her hand. Gently kissing her ring finger,
right above the ring. "Erica, this ring has belonged to you and only
you, since before I met you. I swore to myself, I would never place a
ring on a woman's finger unless I truly loved her with all of me. I can
honestly say that I have only broken my vow once."
"Today?" Erica asked, pulling back, having calmed down. Jack left
his hand resting on her hip.
"No, not today. The only time I ever placed a ring on a woman I didn't
love with all of me was when I proposed to Laurel. You see, I never
gave Scarlett a ring. Do you realize that means you are the only
woman I have ever given a ring to that I meant it?"
Erica shook her head no, and then said, "What about today? You
didn't mean it today." Erica pulled off the ring and placed it in Jack's
hand. "I can't wear this ring, knowing you didn't mean that proposal.
I only want to wear your ring, if it ever means anything to you again. I
can't wear this ring, now. Not after today's show. I have too much
pride, too much dignity for that," Erica was now staring Jack straight
in the face. "I love you. I am sorry. I know you don't love me, but I
do. Yesterday just affirmed what I have been feeling for so long
now. Jack, I never stopped loving you."
"Erica, look into my eyes. Look very closely. Tell me, honestly what
you see?" Jack's eyes were showing his feelings brightly. There was
no way Jack could deny his love for her now.
"Oh, Jack! You do love me!" Erica exclaimed throwing her arms
around his neck. "I have missed you so much. I never stopped
loving you, Jack, never."
"Erica, I have something I need to ask," Jack's tone was serious.
Erica pulled back, happy, but now worried.
"What Jack?"
"Will you please put our ring back on? I want you to be my wife.
Regardless of this Scarlett mess, I have always wanted you to be my
wife. Please know that my proposal this afternoon was real. I used
this ring to show you how true and real my proposal was and is.
Marry me, Erica Kane. Become Mrs. Jackson Montgomery." Jack
watched her face, as he slid the ring on her finger.
"Yes, Jack, Yes! Oh, Jack, I love you!" Erica was sobbing, and Jack
quickly silenced her cries with a soft, gentle kiss.
"Jack, I did think at first your proposal was real until I heard Scarlett,
then…" Erica trailed off, as they lay in bed eating sandwiches.
"It was real, but I had bad timing. I am so sorry, sweetheart. I never
wanted you to doubt my seriousness of wanting you to be mine."
Jack finished up his sandwich, and kissed her forehead.
"Oh, Jack, I love this so much! I know we should probably talk more,
but could we just curl up in bed for tonight. I just want to feel your
arms around me tonight," Erica said as she scooted down under the
covers and Jack moved the now empty tray. Jack then slid down in
the covers beside her, wrapping his arms around her.
"Yes, of course we can, but nothing more. Not yet anyway," Jack
whispered in suggestion. "I want to get Scarlett out of our lives
before we make love. I want you to have no doubt that I am with you
because of us, not her."
"Jackson," Erica turned to face him. "I know you love me. I see it in
your eyes, now that I am not trying to explain it away. I love you, but
tonight is too soon. Besides, how could I explain it to Bianca? All I
want tonight is to wake up in the morning with your arms around me."
Jack kissed her forehead lightly, and they drifted off to sleep.
Chapter 12

The sunlight streamed in the sheer curtains, lighting up the room.
Jack was lying on the bed, watching Erica sleep. Watching the soft
sunlight illuminate her face, Jack was overwhelmed by his love for his
beloved. Leaning over, Jack softly brushed his lips across her
cheek. This caused Erica to stir.
"Mmm, Jack," Erica moaned lightly. She stretched slightly and
opened her eyes to look straight into his.
"Good morning, honey," Jack said with a softness that could only
speak of love.
"Mmm, good morning, Jack." Erica wrapped her arms around his
neck and brought his handsome face down for a kiss. Their lips met
gently with a sweet tenderness. Erica ran her fingers along the nape
of Jack's neck, as the kiss started to deepen. Jack's tongue slowly
licked Erica's lips, as their first kiss of the morning became filled with
greater desire. Their bodies responding to this deepening kiss
started to wake up much faster.
Jack rolled onto his back, bringing Erica on top of him. Pulling back
from their breath-taking kiss, Erica placed light, airy kisses all over
Jack's neck. Nuzzling her way over to his earlobe, she rasped, "I
love you, Jackson."
"I love you, Erica," Jack proclaimed, as he switched positions with
her. Now gently lying on Erica, Jack had her neck area exposed to
him. Brushing the opening of her robe aside, Jack leaned in and
started kissing her collarbone.
"Mmm, Jack," Erica moaned, as Jack reached her ear. Pulling back
slightly, Jack ran his fingertips along her cheek. Lightly Jack kissed
her forehead, then each cheek. As Jack was leaning in to capture
Erica's mouth with his, there was a soft knock on the bedroom door.
"Mom, Uncle Jack," Bianca called softly. "Are you up?"
Jack whispered in Erica's ear, "We have got to do something about
her timing." Then he slid off of Erica and straightened his shirt, while
Erica pulled her robe back over her shoulders.
"Come in, Bianca," Erica said once they were settled.
Bianca walked in the door, not surprised by the couple in bed
together. She sat down on the foot of the bed. "Mom, Uncle Jack,
are you going to admit it now?"
Jack laughed. Erica just held out her left hand and said, "Does it look
like we have admitted it to you?"
"Oh, Mom. Wow, oh, wow! Really?" Bianca jumped up and hugged
her mother's neck. Then ran to hug Jack. Once Bianca had calmed
down, Jack spoke.
"Are you sure you are totally okay with this?"
"Of course I am," Bianca stated calmly, still admiring the ring. "But
what about your psycho chick, Uncle Jack?"
"She's not psycho, just high-strung," Jack defended.
Erica looked him in the eye and said, "Jack, she is psycho. I am
sorry, but she is psycho. She may not have been back in college, but
she is now."
"Anyway, I am not going to debate that with either one of you. I think
your mother and I need to discuss how to handle Scarlett. Although,
it shouldn't be much of an issue in a few more days."
Bianca stood up. "Well, I do have to get to school. I just wanted to
tell you both goodbye."
"Yeah right, you just wanted to rub it in that we were wrong," Jack
"Bye guys," Bianca said, ignoring his comment as she walked out the
Jack leaned over and kissed Erica's neck again. "Now, where were
"Wait a minute, Jack." Erica pulled back quickly. Getting out of bed,
"I think we need to get ready for the day and get to our respective
places of employment."
"But, Erica…"
"I also think you need to decide how you are going to get that woman
out of our lives." Erica said walking into her bathroom and shutting
the door.
Later that day…
"Ms. Kane, Mr. Montgomery is here to see you," Val said as he
showed Jack in.
"Val, Jack can show himself in from now on. No need for you to
make such a formal introduction for the man I am going to marry.
After all, all he has to do is walk into the room and that is introduction
enough," Erica gushed, as she got up from behind her desk and
walked over to Jack by the couches.
"Yes, Ms. Kane. No interruptions, unless your daughter, I assume."
"Correct. Thank you Val." Erica watched Val close the door, then
turned to face Jack. "This is a nice surprise. Everything okay?"
Erica asked, while motioning for them to sit.
"Of course, what could be wrong? You are going to marry me." Jack
kissed her left hand softly. "Scarlett called my office 5 times before
10. I finally left. I decided I would get more work done after we just
deal with her."
"Val has been intercepting her calls for me, telling her I am not in yet.
Jack, are you going to tell her the truth?"
"Yes, I just want you there. I am tired of Scarlett attacking me when
you aren't around. She doesn't come on to me as strong when you
are around. But after yesterday, I am sure she will never mess with
you again," Jack ran his fingertip along her cheek. "You really
blasted her."
"Well, what can I say? I love you. I wasn't about to let her lie to you
about me."
"I love you, Erica," Jack leaned in and pressed his lips softly to hers.
As Erica entwined her fingers in Jack's hair, her office door burst
open. Scarlett stormed in with Val hot on her heels.
"I told you they were in here," Scarlett claimed, as Jack and Erica
quickly rose from the couch.
"Do you want me to call Security, Ms. Kane?" Val asked, standing by
Erica's phone.
Jack spoke up, while Scarlett and Erica glared at one another.
"Scarlett, your timing is lousy. Val, security won't be necessary, but if
you hear any raised voices, call immediately."
"Yes and Val, please alert them that we might have a dead
advertising executive before long," Erica said coldly, never taking her
gaze off Scarlett.
"Yes, Ms. Kane," Val said, as he quickly retreated, closing the door
behind him.
Erica walked over to behind her desk. "Now, why did you burst into
my office unannounced, Scarlett. It can't be for business."
Jack sat down in one of the chairs in front of Erica's desk, enjoying
the exchange between the women. He loved watching Erica defend
him. He would see that passion growing in her eyes and realize that
he never wanted it to die. Jack would never try to change the petite
fireball he loved so much.
"Actually, it is business. I am moving to Pine Valley. I am not going
to let you win this easily, Ms. Kane. You may think you scare me, but
you don't. Jack will soon realize that you are not worth his time and
that I am the woman he wants. I most certainly am not leaving town
until he does."
"Ha, Scarlett! What is on my finger?" Erica held out her hand. "That
is an engagement ring, something you never got. Now listen and
listen well. You never got a ring because your relationship was
nothing like his and mine is. We are serious about one another. We
are going to be married. If you are the woman Jack wants, why was
he in my bed last night? Why did I wake up with his arms around me
and not you?"
Jack stood up, as he noticed Erica's temper was about to blow. Erica
walked to the door of her office. As she held it open, she said, "Get
out of my office. Get out before I have you arrested for trespassing."
Scarlett looked at Jack for help. Jack said, "I think you should go,
"Come with me, Jack. We need to talk alone, away from your
possessive she-devil. Please, Jack come with me. Give me a
chance to just talk. I promise I won't try anything else."
Erica continued standing by the door, not wanting to interfere. "If he
wants to go, I should let him go. He is a grown man," Erica thought.
Jack looked over at his lovely fiancee. "No, Scarlett, I am engaged to
Erica. It would not be appropriate for me to go anywhere with you. I
love her. Please understand that. I have moved on. I love Erica
Kane. Please don't dwell on this."
Scarlett looked at Jack. "You still have that soft spot for me, Jack. I
can see it in your eyes. You do still love me, at least a part of you.
Jackson, I am not leaving until you realize that we still belong
Scarlett then sat down in the chair, still staring at him. Jack and Erica
exchanged looks of exasperation.

Chapter 13

Erica shut the door back. Jack told her with his eyes that he wanted
her to come stand beside him. Erica was stunned and didn't know
what to do. She just stood beside him, until Jack reached out and put
his arm around her. Kissing the top of her head, Jack finally spoke.
"Ladies, I think I need to be honest with both of you. Why don't we sit
on the couches and let me tell the truth." Jack suggested, leading
Erica over to them. Sitting down together, Erica was not worried
although she was unsure of what he may not have told her. Scarlett
sat down across from them.
"Scarlett, I owe you an apology. When we were together in college, I
was not the kind of man you wanted or needed. Although I am the
kind of man you need now, I love Erica. When I left college to go into
the army, I told you I would write you. I never did, I didn't even join
the army. Scarlett, the truth is I was running from you. You wanted a
commitment, and I was far from ready for that. I wanted to play the
"Erica, you were the first woman I ever wanted to settle down with. I
have wanted to be your husband for 13 years now, but we never
could get the timing right. We are together now, thanks to Scarlett.
This has all made me realize the mistakes I made in my past. And for
those that have affected both of you, I am truly sorry."
Scarlett finally looked up, meeting Jack's eyes. "But I love you,
Jackson. I never stopped. I kept waiting for you to return. Then I
decided I had to move on, but knew that someday you would return to
me, and you have."
"No, Scarlett, I haven't. I have not returned to you. I have finally got
things just right with Erica. I refuse to throw away my relationship
with her for one that occurred a long time ago."
"Scarlett," Erica found her voice. "I know it hurts to lose Jack. I have
lost him a few times myself, but you see Jack and I have always
belonged together. We love each other deeper than either one of us
has ever loved. Now that you know the truth about the end of your
relationship with Jack, can't you allow Jack and I to be happy? I
promise not to hurt him, to always treasure his love and never take it
for granted."
"Erica, I still love him though. I don't know if I can stop."
"Scarlett, part of you may always love him, but you can't make him
love you like you do right now. Trust me, I have tried with him. He
has to come to it on his own; or else all it would be is your coercing
him into it. That is not real love and not the kind of love you deserve."
Val slowly walked in. "Sorry to interrupt, Ms. Kane, but Mr. Adam
Chandler is waiting for you in the lobby."
"Oh, shoot, I forgot. The Enchantment Board Meeting. Val, tell him I
will be with him momentarily." Erica went to her desk, gathered up
the reports. "I'm sorry. I have to be there."
Jack stood up and walked her to the door. "Go, I think we will be
okay now." Erica kissed Jack's cheek as she headed out the door.
Turning back to Scarlett, he noticed a drastic change from the weepy
woman sitting there before Erica left to the seductress standing
before him now.
"Now that she is gone you can stop pretending Jackson. I know this
relationship has all been a farce. You and Erica haven't been
together in ages." Scarlett sauntered up to Jack, draped one arm
over his shoulder and said, "Enough with the games. I understand
that I screwed up when we broke up, but haven't we paid enough?"
Scarlett pressed her lips to Jack's hard and with full passion. Not
wasting any time she wrapped both her arms around his neck and
kept kissing him. Erica, having left the budget report on her desk,
walked back in. Waiting to see how long it is before Jack pulled back,
Erica just stood there watching. Not long after Erica walked in Jack
pulled back and pushed Scarlett away. As he did so, he said, "No,
Scarlett," then turned to see Erica.

Chapter 14

An eerie silence fell upon the room as both Jack and Scarlett stared
at Erica, nervously awaiting what she might say or do. Erica did look
at either one of them as she walked straight to her desk and picked
up her missing report. Erica opened the report as she turned around
and walked back out, while reading her report and ignoring both Jack
and Scarlett and the awkward situation she walked in on.
Jack's eyes never left her until the moment Erica shut the door
behind her. Scarlett watched Erica for a bit, but as she saw that Erica
wasn't going to say anything, she started focusing on what to do now
that she had assuredly broken the "happy" couple up.
Jack felt Scarlett's hand on his shoulder. He turned around furious
and scared. "What the hell did you kiss me for Scarlett? Damn it,
you know I am engaged."
"Engaged is not married, Jack. And married is not the priesthood.
Erica looked really angry. I am sure she just didn't want to embarrass
herself by admitting her defeat in front of me."
Jack's jaw was clenched tightly. "Scarlett, don't ever mention Erica's
name again. You are not fit to even mention such an incredible
woman's name. Not only that, but you could never defeat the likes of
Erica Kane. Get out of my sight!" Jack suddenly left the office to try
and find his bride-to-be, praying she would still be his.
Around 9 that night…
Jack had searched all of Enchantment with no avail. He went to
Myrtle's and Opal's trying to find her. He checked the Pine Valley
Inn, his apartment, SOS, BJ's, the park and finally gave up and went
back to Erica's. Sitting on her couch for the past two hours had been
complete torture. Jack tried to work, he tried to eat, but nothing
worked. Finally the fear took over he became worried she had been
in an accident. Having called Derek, who had no information on
Erica, Jack was greatly relieved when the door finally opened. He
was then disappointed when it was Bianca, who knew nothing of
Erica's whereabouts.
Jack started pacing the floor at ten. It had been five hours since the
debacle with Scarlett, and the look of terror hadn't left Jack's face
since Erica shut that office door. She was eerily silent, he recalled.
God, please bring her home to me. Just then the door opened and
Erica walked in.
Jack ran to her, threw his arms around her, holding her tightly against
him. "Oh, thank you God. Thank you. I was so scared."
Pulling back Jack looked deep into her eyes. Searching for the love
that shone so brightly from those brown eyes before she walked in on
Scarlett and him. Erica pulled back before he could get a good look.
Walking to the couch to put her bag down, Erica was still eerily silent.
Turning to face him, she finally spoke, "I am worried you might be
mad at me after you hear what I have done, so I would like for you to
sit and not interrupt me until you hear me out."
Jack started to speak, as he headed to the couch. "Erica, I could not
be mad at you. I need to explain…"
"Jack, please let me go first." Jack sat there silent, watching her
every move for any hint he could get.
"I am sorry you couldn't find or reach me this evening. I had some
business to attend to. What my business pertained to is what I worry
you might be mad at me about. I went to see Ryan Lavery about As you know, Enchantment is a very large
sponsor, and I personally invested quite a lot in the IPO. I offered
Ryan my top advertising executive from Enchantment, if he would fire
Scarlett. I told him I would pay for it and everything, but that I wanted
her out of town by sunset tomorrow. Ryan couldn't pass up the offer,
so Scarlett will no longer have job in Pine Valley after tomorrow
morning. Then Jack, I did the really horrible thing. I called every
business owner within a 100 mile radius that could possible hire
Scarlett, and convinced them not to for one reason or another."
Erica sat down on the couch facing Jack. Jack held his breath.
Taking his hand in hers, she said, "I then paid Marian Chandler
$100,000 not to sell Scarlett any property in town and to keep her
from having another realtor find her something. Jack, I know I was
mischievous, but I can't have this woman here any longer. I want our
lives back to normal."
Jack kissed her hand. "Is that all? Did you break into her room?"
"No, I decided what I did was bad enough, and you might really hate
me if I did that."
"Erica, I could never hate you. What about this afternoon? What
about what you walked in on? Do you hate me? You were so silent
and then you left. I can't lose you because of someone like Scarlett,
Erica. I love you and only you. I pulled away."
"This afternoon. Oh, that kiss. Jack, that doesn't worry me. I know
you love me and," Erica looked into his eyes. "I love you too. I was
silent because I wasn't going to give Scarlett the satisfaction of a
reaction. I trust you, Jackson. I always have and always will. The
likes of Scarlett Hughes or any other woman from your past could
never frighten me."
Erica leaned in and pressed her lips softly to his. Pulling back, where
she could still feel his breath on her cheek, Erica said, "I love you. I
also plan on kissing that ridiculous woman's lame attempt at a kiss
away by morning."
The suggestion in her tone was enough to drive any man wild. Jack
leaned in, starting at her cheek he kissed his way to her mouth.
Possessively claiming him hers, Erica's tongue slipped into his mouth
to tempt Jack further. Jack slowly started leaning back on the couch,
pulling Erica on top of him.

Chapter 15

The constant pounding on the front door and ringing of the doorbell
aroused Jack and Erica from sleep. Jack looked at the clock, seven
in the morning. Erica quickly went to the window to see, whose car
was parked out front.
"Your psycho is here, Jackson," Erica cooed as she slowly walked to
the bathroom to fix her hair before heading down to answer the door.
"She is probably here to kill me for sandbagging her in Pine Valley."
Jack got out of bed wearing his trusty blue pajama pants. "Erica, I
can handle this. Why don't you just get a nice hot bath going for us?
I'll be back to join you shortly."
Erica came out of the bathroom with her hair pinned up, wearing
Jack's pajama top. "I can draw us a bath, after we deal with Scarlett
together. There is no way I am going to let her rant to you for my
Wrapping his arms around her waist, "Are you sure you want to go
down there dressed like this?" Jack leaned down and kissed her
exposed neck.
"Yes, it will emphasize my point. Time for Scarlett to stick her tail
between her legs and run home, wherever that may be." Jack
wrapped his arm around her waist and they headed down stairs.
As they neared the front door, they could hear Scarlett. "Jack, I know
she's in there. Open this door. I have a bone to pick with you, Ms.
Erica Kane."
Erica started laughing. Jack moaned, sarcastically, "Great, this ought
to be fun."
"Oh, it will be," Erica laughed again, as she opened the door. "Good
Morning Miss Hughes, what can I do for you?" Erica was standing
where the door was only partially open, but Scarlett could see Jack's
bare chest and the state of Erica's clothing very well.
"You can call all your friends back and tell them you were wrong,"
Scarlett angrily said.
"Now why would I want to do that?" Erica bit back. "I want you out of
Pine Valley before sunset or else I will have to start calling more
friends." Erica smiled at Scarlett.
"You aren't that powerful." Scarlett tried to look past Erica to Jack,
but Erica kept bringing Scarlett's focus back to her.
"Do you really want to test me, Miss Hughes? Do you really want to
try my patience? You have flung yourself of Jackson every chance
you have gotten since you swooped into town. Every time he has
turned you down. We are engaged, and you still kissed him. Don't
force me to ruin you completely."
Jack laid his hand on Erica's shoulder. Scarlett was finally able to
make eye contact with Jack. His eyes had nothing but coldness
toward her as she searched for any hope of a chance.
"Scarlett, I think you should go," was all that he said to her. "Come
on, honey." Jack said, as Erica turned to him and he shut the door
behind them.

Later that day…
Jack was sitting at the Pine Valley Inn waiting on Bianca and Erica to
meet him for lunch after their shopping trip. He was reading the latest
news on Alex and Anna Devane in the Pine Valley News, when he
heard her voice.
"May I speak with you for a moment?"
Looking up, Jack saw Scarlett standing next to his table. He
motioned for her to sit, as he put the paper away.
"How is it that you have so much coldness in your eyes when you
look at me, Jackson? We were once so in love."
"That was a very long time ago, and to be completely honest, I was
never in love as much as you were Scarlett. You were my first
girlfriend, and I did love you, but…" Jack paused. He was
determined to tell her the truth.
"But what, Jackson?"
"I never really joined the army Scarlett. I left school for two reasons:
1) I didn't like it then; 2) I had to get away from you. You were talking
marriage, and I was waiting to play the field. I wasn't ready to settle
down with you or anyone."
"You lied to me to get away from me. I pushed you away," Scarlett
looked down at her hands as she started to cry.
"I am sorry, Scarlett, but you needed to know the truth. I love Erica.
She is the only woman I was ever not afraid to settle down with. I
know that she and I have what it takes to go the distance. Please be
happy for me, and let us go on with our separate lives."
Scarlett looked up, seeing Erica standing behind Jack. "Okay," she
said, as she quickly rose. Walking up to Erica, "You won. Treat him
right and don't ever let him go."
"Erica," Jack quickly rose. "How long where you standing there?" He
asked as he hugged her.
"Long enough to know we are spending the afternoon alone." Erica's
hands ran along Jack's back and the flash in her eye could have
seduced any man.
"Mmm, where's Bianca?"
"She met up with Laura at the mall. They wanted to do some
shopping alone, so here I am with a suddenly clear afternoon
schedule. Do you have any plans?"
Erica pulled back from Jack and went to sit. He quickly pulled out her
chair for her, then sat back down. Jack felt Erica's foot slid up his leg.
"Nothing I can't cancel." Jack took her hand and kissed it softly.

Chapter 16

Lying in bed, Jack held Erica close to him, as she played with his arm
hair. After a playfully seductive lunch, Jack couldn't take it anymore.
He realized there was no way he would be able to resist taking her in
his arms until they made it out to her house. Since his apartment was
closer and less likely to have interruptions, Jack drove Erica to his
place. A painfully slow elevator ride with Erica leaning back against
him, her whole body pressed up against him, amid the crowded
elevator. Jack unlocked his door and they stepped into the dark
room. After shutting the door, Jack pressed Erica up against it,
unable to resist any longer. Now, lying with her in his arms, Jack
tried to remember how they actually made it to the bedroom and
when they did. Replaying the entire scene over in his mind, Jack felt
Erica leaned back against him more.
"Jack," Erica whispered softly.
"Yes, honey."
"I am so sorry for all that happened between us these past few years,
keeping us apart so long. I am so sorry about that thing with Mike. I
loved you and although I screwed up, I never stopped loving you,
"Erica, why are you apologizing for any of that? It is all over. None of
it matters. We are together." Jack leaned up and kissed her cheek.
"And I am never letting you go again."
"Jack, make love to me again. It's been so long since we have been
together. I've missed the other part of me. I've missed you. I've
missed being with my soul mate."
Erica turned to face Jack. He ran his finger along her cheekbone,
down her chin, past her collarbone. Jack's hand was caressing every
inch of her body slowly. Erica's eyes locked with his, as she ran her
fingertip lightly along his chest.
"I've missed you Erica. You have no idea how many nights I have
woken up from a dream that you were here with me only to be
disappointed that it was a dream. But tonight when I wake up in the
middle of the night, I am going to have your hair on the pillow beside
my head. I will have you sleeping in my arms. I love you, Erica

"Oh, Jack," Erica moaned as his hand that had rested on her back
pulled her even closer. Jack's lips captured hers in a breath-taking,
tongue-dueling, never-ending kiss. Pulling her on top of him, Jack
and Erica continued to kiss, as their bodies slowly melded into one.
One body, One soul, One heart, and One love.



by Anne Boleyn

Summary: Jack and Erica find their way back to one another.

Rating: PG

Timeline: Future

Disclaimer: Don't own them, never will.

Feedback appreciated

Chapter 1

"Mom, you just don't understand. Rain is my friend. That's all. It's not like we're dating or anything." Bianca's voice showed her exasperation.

"I know you think of her as just a friend honey. But she wants more than that. I can tell. And Rain is not the kind of girl you should be involved with. Bianca, I met the nicest man at my parent's group the other night. He has a beautiful daughter who is 18. She's a freshman at Harvard this year she loves horses just like you do, she'd be someone you could really enjoy getting to know. I gave Richard your e-mail address to pass on to her.

"Mom, I can't believe you did that!" Bianca rolled her eyes.

"Oh Bianca, you'll like her. Don't worry. Now if you and Jack will excuse me, I need tofix my lipstick." Erica smiled and left the table. She, Jack and Bianca were having dinner at the Valley Inn.

"Uncle Jack, what am I going to do with her?"

 "You're asking me?" Jack laughed and patted Bianca's hand across the table. "Come on kiddo, isn't this better than having her cover her ears every time you say the word gay?"

"I'm not so sure." Bianca laughed too. "Can you imagine mom fixing me up with another girl? God only knows what kind of girl she'd choose for me!"

"Oh I don't know," Jack grinned. "Your mother has been known to have pretty good taste from time to time." His smile faded as he saw David Hayward leaving the restaurant with Dixie Martin. " Then again, she has been known to have absolutely appalling taste at times too."

"You never liked David did you?"

"No I didn't. I'm sorry sweetheart. I know that you did."

"Uncle Jack, I barely knew him. Mom broke up with him practically the day I came to Pine Valley. "

"But your mother mentioned several times how much you liked him. I assumed you must have gotten to know each other through phone calls or letters." Jack looked puzzled.

"When Mom told me she was dating him I told her that I remembered him from the hospital and that he seemed nice. After that, every time I talked to her she kept saying how glad she was that I was so fond of David. It made her so happy that it was just easier to let her think I was crazy about him. You know how Mom is."

"Oh yes, if there's one thing I do know, it's your mother." Jack smiled to himself remembering just how well he knew Erica.

Suddenly there was a scream from the doorway. A man was pointing a gunat one of the waitresses.

"Did you think I was just going to let you take my kids and walk out? Did you think you could get away with this?" he shouted, waving the pistol wildly. Panic broke out in the dining room as people dove under tables and ran for the kitchen exit. Jack pushed Bianca tot he floor and grabbed the man with the gun, twisting his arm behind him andwrenching the gun from his hand. Two hotel security guards ran in and pulled the man out of the dining room. Jack found himself surrounded by the other diners, congratulating him, thanking him, calling him a hero.

Bianca pushed her way to her uncle's side and hugged him tightly.

"God, you were so awesome!" she said proudly. "I can't believe you were so brave. Mom, did you see what happened? Wasn't Uncle Jack wonderful?"

Jack and Bianca turned and looked at Erica who was standing near their deserted table. Her face was a white as a sheet and she was shaking.

"How could you be so stupid Jack?" Erica's voice was furious. "I can't believe you could do something so incredibly idiotic! You could have been killed!" She turned and walked rapidly from the dining room. Jack and Bianca followed her. They caught up with her as she was talking to the clerk at the desk in the lobby. " Yes, could you please call a limo for me? I'd like to leave as soon as possible."

"You don't need a limo Erica. I'll take you home." Jack's voice was gentle.

"Mom, why would you be so awful to Uncle Jack?" Bianca was angry and it showed. "He saved people's lives and you're treating him like..."

"That's enough Bianca," Jack said calmly. "It's all right. Let's just go home now."

Chapter 2

No one spoke on the ride home. When Jack pulled into the driveway Erica barely gave him time to stop before she was out of the car and fumbling with her keys to unlock the front door. Her hands were shaking so much she couldn't get the key into the lock. Jack wordlessly took the keys from her and opened the door.

"I'm so proud of you Uncle Jack," said Bianca, glaring at Erica who had gone straight to the living room and was sitting in the corner of the couch clutching a pillow.

"Honey, there's nothing to be proud of. It wasn't something I thought about. I just reacted. If I'd thought about what I was doing I'd probably still be hiding under a table." Jack was watching Erica closely. He could tell she was close to tears. He walked over to the couch, sat down and took her hand.

" Nothing happened Erica. Bianca's safe, I'm safe, everything's all right."

Erica tried to smile. " I know. Bianca, after such an awful experience don't you think you should try to get some rest?"

"Mom, I'm..." Bianca stopped talking as she saw Jack shaking his head at her. "OK, I'll go upstairs." Bianca still wasn't sure exactly what was going on with her mother but that was nothing unusual. She went upstairs and called Leo to tell him what had happened.

Jack waited until he heard Bianca's bedroom door closed. Then he said, "Do you want to yell at me some more about how stupid I was?" But he was smiling and his voice was tender.

"I'm sorry Jack. I didn't mean that. No, actually I did mean it. Why would you risk your life like that?"

"Honey, I didn't stop to think. It just happened."

"You and your knight in shining armour complex. You saw someone in trouble and you had to help." Erica was still on the verge of tears. "But Jack, Bianca and I could never have gotten through these last months without you. You were there for her so many times when I wasn't. You kept me from going completely off the track over and over again. Since Travis died, you've been more than just a father figure to Bianca, you've been a real father. We....she needs you so much. How do you think she would have felt if you had been killed right in front of her eyes?"

Jack reached out and took Erica into his arms. He only meant to give her a reassuring hug but when he felt her trembling against him his arms tightened around her instinctively. Erica found herself clinging to him without even realizing what she was doing.

They had stayed there a long time just holding on to each other when Bianc came downstairs. Erica pulled away from Jack, smoothing back her hair and saying, "Bianca, what's wrong? Can't you sleep? Do you need something sweetheart?"

"I'm fine Mom. You're the one who was upset, remember? Uncle Jack, I thought you were gone."

" I was just leaving." Jack stood up and picked up his coat from the chair. He kissed Bianca on the cheek and walked back to the couch where Erica was still sitting. "Will you be all right now?"

Erica smiled up at him. "I'll be fine. You always make me feel better." She reached for his hand and squeezed it. "Goodnight Jack." Jack walked to the door, turned around and looked at Erica one last time, then left. Bianca looked at the door then looked at her mother and grinned.

"I have a really good feeling about this," she thought to herself.

Chapter 3

Jack looked at the clock. 2:30. " Anyone might have insomnia after an encounter with an armed gunman," he thought. But he had to be honest with himself. The incident at the Valley Inn wasn't what was keeping him awake. He couldn't get his mind off of what had happened at Erica's - how fragile she seemed, how good it felt to hold her in his arms after so long. It was getting harder and harder to keep his feelings under control. " How can one woman arouse every single emotion known to mankind?" he asked himself as he poured another scotch.

He knew that if Bianca hadn't come downstairs when she did he might have told Erica just how much he still loved her. But that would have been a mistake. Jack remembered how she had reacted the last time he told her that he loved her. She had immediately let him know that he was a valued friend but nothing more. Right now things were good between them. He didn't want that to change. "You can keep this going," he told himself. "Being her best friend is better than not being in her life at all."

Across town Erica gave up and turned on her bedside lamp. A long hot bath and a cup of herbal tea usually helped her sleep but not tonight. She kept seeing Jack struggling with the gunman and the image made her feel sick inside. "God, Jack, what if I had lost you tonight?" she whispered. Looking back, she couldn't remember the exact moment when she realized she had fallen back in love with Jack.

He had been a tower of strength for her and for Bianca since Travis's death. When Bianca came out, Jack was there to offer her the love and support she needed when Erica couldn't. He was there to mediate between them when it looked like their mother/daughter bond might be broken forever. He was loving and supportive when Erica was finally able to accept her daughter's sexuality. The three of them had formed a family unit that grew stronger as the days went by. Gradually she had realized that she was happy whenever aJck was nearby, that she missed him when he wasn't, that she was thinking about him constantly, fantasizing about him when she should be concentrating on Enchantment. Tonight, she had wanted him to go on holding her forever, to carry her upstairs and.....

Erica got up and looked at herself in the mirror. "I'll need lots of concealer in the morning," she said as she examined the circles under her eyes. "I've got to do a better job of controlling my feelings. The last thing Jack wants is for our relationship to change. If I start acting like a lovestruck teenager, he'll pull away so fast he won't leave any tracks behind." She remembered the night that Jack had told her that he couldn't live with her day to day because it was like being too close to the sun. He didn't want that kind of relationship again. "I can do this. I can keep everything the way it is now. I won't ruin things by telling him how I feel. I'm not going to lose him again."

Chapter 4

Are you sure you won't come in for coffee or a brandy?" Erica asked. She and Jack had just come in from having dinner at Courtland Manor.

Somehow Opal had managed to retain the elegance of the dining room even though half of the downstairs was taken up by the Glamorama.

"I'd love to stay but I really need to get some work done tonight," Jack replied. "I have closing arguments tomorrow in the Crawford trial and I want to make sure everything is in order."

Erica smiled at him. "I won't say good luck because you won't need it. I'm sure you'll be brilliant as usual."

"It's too bad you aren't on the jury." They both laughed. Jack leaned down to kiss her goodnight. He meant to kiss her on the cheek but somehow her lips were there. His heart started pounding as he felt her arms slip around his neck and her lips open under his. Their kiss deepened. Just then the phone rang. They sprang apart, shaken.

"You get the phone. I have to go." Jack was out the door in a split second.

He stopped on the porch and leaned against a pillar. "Way to go Montgomery. You swear to keep things at friendship and you end up with your tongue halfway down her throat. What am I going to say to her about this?"

Erica looked down at the Caller ID to see just who it was that she hated more than anyone else in the world. "Hello Val, you're fired! No I'm not serious but your timing is awful. Tell me what's going on with the campaign." Erica listened to Val but her mind was racing. "God, could you be more obvious? You were all over him! No wonder he couldn't get out of here fast enough." As she listened to Val tell her about the unacceptable way the newest Enchantment model was behaving on a publicity tour she had an idea.

"Val, I think I should go and handle this myself. I'll join the tour tomorrow and take care of everything personally. Will you please make all the arrangements?" She hung up the phone and said to herself," I'll put some distance between us until I can get myself back under control. It's the best thing for everyone."

Chapter 5

"Bianca, you're perfectly welcome to come with me on this tour. You can afford to miss a few days of school and you could see the business end of Enchantment rather than the modeling side."

Bianca was watching her mother pack her bags the next morning.

"Mom, I'd rather stay here. I have tests coming up and a history paper to write and..."

"And you're afraid I'd find a way to stick you in front of the cameras."

"No I'm not." Bianca laughed. " What is the problem on the tour?"

"The spokesmodel for the new fragrance apparently has started to believe she's as wonderful as her press notices. She's showing up late for personal appearances, has been rude to the press, and she's giving the company bad publicity. But I can take care of her. You know the old saying, it takes a diva to handle a diva." Erica paused for a moment then said," Honey, while I'm gone I want you to stay with Uncle Jack."

"Mom, I'm almost 17. I don't need a babysitter."

I know sweetheart but I don't want you in this big house all alone. Jack would love to have you and I'd feel so much better knowing he was taking care of you. You love spending time with him don't you?"

"Yes, it's almost like being with Daddy again." Bianca smiled a little sadly. " I guess I can stay at Uncle Jack's ."

"Wonderful. I'm really glad the two of you are so close." Erica hugged her daughter. "I'm going to miss you terribly sweetheart. I'll be back in a few days."

Later that afternoon Erica looked out the airplane window. She hadn't wanted to face Jack after last night so she had left a message on his answering machine telling him about her trip and asking him to look after Bianca. She had thought about apologizing for the kiss but then thought better of it. "Maybe if I never mention it, he'll forget about it," she thought.

Jack listened to the message on his answering machine for the 6th time. Erica's voice sounded odd, almost formal. He was glad to have Bianca stay with him but he still felt terrible. "You drove her out of town," he said to himself. "You know she doesn't want anything but friendship from you and you couldn't keep your hands to yourself. If you don't get yourself under control she's going to push you out of her life."

Chapter 6

Jack and Bianca sat in the airport waiting for Erica's flight to arrive. She had been gone for a little over a week and Jack had missed her more than he thought was possible. She had called Bianca every day and Jack almost always talked to her too. At first their conversations were a little awkward but gradually they lasted longer and longer, discussing Bianca, Erica's work on the tour, his court cases, anything else that crossed their minds. Almost anything else. Neither of them ever mentioned the kiss. The last two nights Jack had been concerned. Erica had sounded very tired and she had been coughing . When he questioned her about it, she told him that everyone on the publicity tour had a touch of the flu and the CEO of the company was no exception.

"She's here," Bianca said as she saw the first class passengers disembarking.

"Mom, over here." She waved and ran to hug her mother. Jack followed slowly, allowing mother and daughter a few private moments. Erica looked as tired as she had sounded on the phone last night and she was still coughing.

"Jack, it's so sweet of you to come to the airport with Bianca," Erica reached up to hug him. She held on for longer than she had planned. She was so tired and his arms felt so strong.

"My pleasure ," he answered. His cheek brushed against hers and he pulled back and put his hand on her forehead. "Sweetheart, you have a fever. Have you seen a doctor?"

"I don't need a doctor Jack, it's just this silly flu thing. I'll be fine once I get home and get a good night's sleep."

Jack's concern deepened by the time they arrived at Erica's house. Bianca had chattered away in the car, filling her mother in on all that happened in Pine Valley while she was gone. Erica hardly responded and finally fell asleep waking up only as the car stopped in front of the house.

"Mom, Coral has all your favorites for dinner tonight, "Bianca said. "You can tell us all about your trip while we eat."

"I'm sorry sweetheart, I'm not very hungry. I ate on the plane." She coughed again. "That's not really a lie," Erica thought. " I did take a bite of the salad."

"You two go ahead and eat. I think I'll go to bed early. I have a terrible case of jet lag on top of this bug and I'd be awful company." Erica was feeling worse by the minute. Her head was pounding, she was chilled, and her chest hurt every time she coughed. She hated for Jack to see her looking like this. "Vanity is stronger than the flu, " she thought.

After she went upstairs Bianca looked at Jack. "She really looks sick Uncle Jack."

"Don't worry honey. I'm sure some rest will do her a world of good. But just in case I'll make an appointment for her to see Joe Martin tomorrow. You can make sure she goes."

"Thanks a lot. Give me the hard job." Bianca laughed. Jack laughed too but he had to admit to himself that he was worried.

Chapter 7

Erica awoke the next morning to find Bianca standing by her bed with a tray.

"Breakfast in bed, Uncle Jack's orders." Bianca set the tray down on the bedside table." You're supposed to spend the morning in bed. Coral is making chicken soup for your lunch and I'm coming home after 6th period to drive you to Dr. Joe's office. You have a 2:30 appointment."

"Jack certainly is taking over isn't he? I suppose I should humor him and keep the appointment." Erica started to laugh but coughed instead. She had to struggle to catch her breath.

"Mom, are you okay?" Bianca's voice was anxious.

"I'm fine baby. I probably need some antibiotics but I'm sure Dr. Joe will take care of that. Now you'd better hurry or you'll be late for school."

After Bianca left Erica looked at the breakfast tray. She just couldn't handle the thought of eating right now. Maybe she would just wait for lunch and the chicken soup. She smiled a little sadly remembering a time when Jack's suggestions of a morning in bed wouldn't have included chicken soup and doctor's appointments. "Those days are over. You might as well deal with it," she thought. She felt like her fever was getting worse but the thought of getting up to get an aspirin was too tiring. She finally drifted off into a deep sleep.

Jack looked at his watch wondering if he should call Erica again. When he called earlier Coral told him that Erica had been asleep all day. She had promised to wake her up in time to keep her appointment with Joe Martin.

"I should go over there myself and make sure she's all right, " he thought. As he started out the door his phone rang. "Uncle Jack". It was Bianca. He could tell from her voice she was very upset.

"What is it?"

"I'm at the emergency room. Mom is so sick Uncle Jack. When I got home Coral couldn't wake her up. Her fever is so high. We called an ambulance and she's in with Dr. Joe now. Uncle Jack, I'm scared!" Bianca was crying.

"Honey, I'm on my way. Don't be scared. Everything will be all right. I promise." As Jack raced to the hospital he thought, "Please God, don't let that be a lie."

Chapter 8

"Dixie, did you ever stop to think that maybe it would be good for Jr. to stay with his father for a while? Boys need their fathers. I know how much I needed my father at that age. Look, Dixie, we'll talk about this later, I'm being paged." David hung up the phone. He wasn't being paged but he was tired of the conversation. Somehow the idyllic life he had envisioned with Dixie once he broke up her marriage hadn't worked out quite the way he had planned. Maybe if that bratty son of hers was out of the way things would be better. Bringing up his father had been a master stroke. That always made Dixie feel sorry for him.

She was still his strongest champion. He enjoyed watching her take on Palmer, the Martins, Dimitri, everyone who questioned his integrity. Sometimes listening to her defending him he almost forgot that he was guilty of everything he was being accused of. He walked out into the hallway where the nurses station was buzzing. He heard the words "Erica Kane" and "emergency room". David began to smirk. So Erica was up to her old tricks. He remembered how when they were together she would leave emergency messages with his service and even came to his office complaining of chest pains. "I wondered when she'd show up for another fix in her David addiction," he thought. "She lasted longer than I thought she would but I knew she'd be back."

As he started down the hall he saw Bianca and Jack Montgomery in the waiting room.Jack seemed to be comforting Bianca. This was unexpected. Erica must bea patient on this floor. David turned and went back to the nurses station.

"Give me Ms. Kane's chart," he ordered.

"Is Ms. Kane your patient?" asked the floor supervisor.

 "Don't question me until you have an MD after your name!" he snapped. He looked at the room number on the chart and headed down the hall.

"Dr. Joe says Mom has pneumonia Uncle Jack. Her fever was over 104 and she was having trouble breathing. " Bianca was shaking. "I keep thinking about the night Daddy died. Do you remember when I told her I wished that she had died instead? What if she's thinking about that now? What if she thinks I want her to die?" Bianca burst into tears in Jack's arms.

"Bianca look at me." Jack tilted her chin up to where she was looking into his eyes. " Do you remember what your mother did after you said that? She opened up her arms to you and held you. She loves you more than anything and she knows you love her. She knew you didn't mean it."

Jack looked up and saw David Hayward opening the door to Erica's room. He was surprised at the surge of anger that went through him. Some of his friends in the DA's office had tipped him off that Hayward was about to be brought down in the Libidozone incident. The last thing Erica needed right now was that lowlife moving back in on her.

"Bianca, I'm going in to see your mother now. Will you be all right here.?"

"I'll look after her Jack." It was Leo who had just arrived at the hospital. Bianca hugged Leo as Jack left the waiting room.

Erica was drifting in and out of consciousness. She knew she was in the hospital but she couldn't remember how she got there. All she knew was that she felt sick and scared. She opened her eyes when she heard someone say her name.

"Erica, it's me. David."

Erica closed her eyes. She didn't want David. There was only one person she wanted. She forced her eyes open again and whispered, "I want Jackson."

"I'm sorry Erica. He's not here," David replied surprised that Erica was asking for another man.

"The hell I'm not," Jack said from the doorway. He pushed David aside and took Erica's hand in both of his. "I'm right here sweetheart. You knew I would be." Then he looked at David. "You can leave now. She doesn't need a cardiologist."

Erica was struggling to stay awake. " Jack, please stay with me. Please don't leave me."

"I'm not going anywhere," he said, stroking her hair. "I promise I won't leave you."

Just before she fell asleep she whispered, " I love you so much Jack. I know you don't want me to, but I can't help it."

Chapter 9

You're doing much better Ms. Kane," the nurse said as she took Erica's vital signs. "I wouldn't be surprised if you get to go home in a few days."

Erica leaned back against the pillows. The first few days she had been in the hospital were hazy. Her fever had been high and it took a second antibiotic before the infection began to recede. She vaguely remembered fighting the oxygen mask, feeling like it was suffocating her. She knew that Bianca had been there frequently and she recalled hearing the voices of Myrtle, Opal, Palmer, Dimitri, even Leo. But the one constant had been Jack.

It was his name she had murmured every time she woke up, his hands that she clung to, and his voice that reassured her when she felt like she might die. For the last two days Erica's condition had improved steadily. Jack had still been by her side every minute until last night when she insisted that he and Bianca go home and rest. She had teased them that they looked worse than she did. "I've got to start weaning myself away from Jack," she thought. " He's too wonderful to stop me from leaning on him while I'm sick but I'm better now. I've got to stop clinging to him."

Jack opened the door to Erica's room. He had a strange expression on his face.

"Good morning beautiful," he said. "How do you feel?" He leaned down and kissed her, first on the forehead, then on the lips.

"Much better, Jack. I'm a lot stronger this morning."

"Good. Do you think you're strong enough for us to have a talk?"

Erica nodded her head, afraid of what he might say. He was probably going to let her down gently. She wondered if she was really strong enough to hear him tell her that they could never be together again.

"Honey, do you remember what you said to me the first night you were here?"

"Not really Jack. I'm not sure what was real and what wasn't."

"Well, I remember. I've replayed it in my head a thousand times. You said 'I love you so much Jack. I know you don't want me to but I can't help it."

Erica looked down at her hands. This was going to be worse than she thought. She remembered thinking that but she hadn't realized that she actually said it.

Jack continued, "Do you remember what I've said to you over the last few days? How I told you that I loved you more than anything in the world? How I said that my life was empty without you and that I needed you to be with me forever?"

Erica looked at him in amazement. "I thought I dreamed that!"

"No sweetheart, all of that was real. And all of it was true." Jack caressed her face with the tips of his fingers." Erica, why did you think I wouldn't want you to love me?"

"You said you couldn't live with me Jack. You said you didn't want that kind of relationship again. I thought if you knew I loved you, that you'd pull away from me. " Erica's eyes filled with tears. " I had to have you in my life, I couldn't risk scaring you away."

Jack pulled her into his arms and held her tightly. "I thought you only wanted friendship from me. I've been fighting telling you how I felt for so long."

Erica leaned back on the bed pulling Jack with her. "I can't believe it took a raging fever for us to finally be honest with each other." She kissed him, loving the feeling of his mouth on hers. "Jack, I want this to work this time. I want you in my life every day. I'll do whatever it takes to be the woman you can spend your life with."

Jack kissed her deeply. " You don't have to do a thing but be yourself. I know I said being with you was like flying too close to the sun but I've learned that life isn't worth living without the sun's warmth and light."

Erica looked him straight in the eyes. "Are you sure you're willing to risk it? You're not just saying this because I've been so sick?"

"I don't think I've ever been this sure of anything in my life," he answered.

Chapter 10

Jack there is one thing we haven't talked about."

Jack was sitting on the bed with his back against the wall holding Erica against his shoulder. He smiled down at her. "Do you want to know if I stil like to sleep on the left side of the bed?"

Erica laughed. " You can sleep on whichever side of the bed makes you happy."

She reached up to kiss him. "I'm serious Jack. This is going to be a big surprise for Bianca. I don't know how she'll react. She loves you so much. If anything she may resent having to share your love with me but..."

"But I'm still the man who broke up her parent's marriage all those years ago, "Jack finished her sentence. "Our being together may bring back some of those angry feelings she had as a child."

"I hope not but I think we have to consider it," said Erica. "She's coming by after school and I'd like to tell her alone. Do you understand why?"

"Perfectly," Jack said. "She needs to feel free to express any reservations without having to worry about hurting my feelings."

"I think she'll be fine with this darling," Erica touched his cheek with her fingertips. "But it may take her a little time. I just hope she doesn't feel blind-sided. I'm sure our getting back together was the last thing she expected."

"Mom, you look so much better." Bianca bent down to hug Erica.

"I feel so much better," Erica answered. She held on to her daughter and stroked herhair for a moment. "Bianca, there's something I need to tell you."

Bianca looked frightened." There's not something else wrong with you is there? The doctor's didn't give you bad news?"

"No baby, this is something wonderful. At least I hope you'll think it's wonderful. Bianca, Jack was here for a long time this morning."

"Mom, he's always here."

"That's right Bianca. He's always been here and he always will be." Erica chose her words carefully. "Honey, you know that Jack and I have loved each other for years. No matter how many times we tried to fall in love with other people and move on, something always pulled us back together. We realize now that we just can't stay apart any longer."

Erica looked closely at Bianca's face trying to gauge what her daughter was thinking. "Baby, I know this has been a shock for you. I realize it's going to take you some time to get used to the idea."

Just then Opal appeared in the doorway. "How's my best gal pal doing?"

"Much better Opal. But this isn't a very good time for a visit. Bianca and I were discussing something important."

Bianca got up and picked up her backpack from the corner. She took out a five dollar bill and handed it to Opal. She was grinning from ear to ear. "You win," she said.

Opal beamed at Erica. "You and Jackson are back together! I couldn't be happier girlfriend."

"What? How did you know?" Erica looked puzzled.

Bianca laughed. " Opal and I had this bet Mom. She said that you and Uncle Jack would be back together before you ever left the hospital. I thought it would take a couple of weeks. Myrtle thought you were both so stubborn it would take a month."

"Hey everyone, look who I ran into in the elevator," Jack said as he and Leo entered the room. Leo was carrying a bouquet of balloons. Opal waved the five dollar bill at him.

"Damn, you two couldn't wait three days! Binky, do you have any money I can borrow? I spent my last dime on these balloons."

"Pay your own debts Leo," Bianca said good naturedly. "Opal probably takes IOU's."

"What's going on?" Jack asked.

"Apparently there's been some betting going on about when we would get back together," Erica told him. "Just who else was in on this?" She looked sulky.

Oh, let's see," Opal was enjoying this. "There was Val, Coral, Dimitri. I thought Dimitri might win actually. He said you'd give in some time in the middle of your first night back home."

"Don't forget Olga, Stephanie from your office Uncle Jack, and the whole 4th floor nursing staff," Bianca added. Everyone in the room laughed.

"Hey, are you pouting?" Jack traced Erica's lips tenderly with his thumb.

"No." But she didn't sound very convincing. "I just don't like the idea of being so transparent to everyone."

"Sweetheart, if it makes you feel any better, Brooke told me months ago that she knew I was still in love with you."

"But that's different." Erica smiled as she said that realizing how silly it sounded.

"Oh, so everyone can know that I was eating my heart out over you but no one should guess that you were pining away for me. Is that it?" Jack was laughing.

Erica tilted her head to one side and smiled up at him. "Exactly." The room was filled with the laughter of their family and friends. Later as everyone drifted out, Jack stopped Bianca. "Is this really OK with you?"

"Who do you think organized the betting pool?" Bianca looked very happy.

"And guess what? No one was betting against the two of you getting together. Everyone knew it was meant to be."

Chapter 11

"Jack, you know I love having you with me every second, but darling if you don't go in to the office soon you'll lose all your clients. I don't want to be responsible for the collapse of your law practice."

Erica and Jack were sitting in the solarium at the hospital. Walking down there had tired Erica more than she wanted to admit and she was glad for a chance to rest before going back to her room.

"I'm not worried about the practice. You see, I know this very wealthy woman, world famous, runs her own company. She's crazy about me. I'm thinking about ditching the law and letting her support me."Erica laughed. "So that's your plan? Becoming a kept man? Though if I don't get back to work soon I might not be able to support you in style."

Jack looked serious. "We're not even going to talk about you going back towork until your 100% better."

"Now that's what I like to hear," Joe Martin said, walking up to where they ere sitting. "I have good news for you Erica if you'll promise to cooperate. You can go home tomorrow but with a few conditions. You have to promise that you'll rest for at least three days. Then come back in for a check up before you resume any activities at all."

"Joe you don't mean bedrest do you? Just taking it easy?"

"I mean absolutely no strenuous activity. Nothing more than walking from the bed to the couch. Jack, I trust you'll see that she sticks to it." Jack looked at him with raised eyebrows. Joe grinned. "Opal hit me up this morning for my five dollars."

"I think Opal made enough money off of us for a trip to Tahiti," Jack said inamusement. "Don't worry Joe. I can handle Erica."

As Joe left the solarium Erica smiled at Jack seductively. "I can't wait to get home so you can show me just how you plan to handle me."

David slammed into his office and threw a stack of folders off of his desk.He was in a terrible mood. Jr. had moved out of Dixie's suite at the Valley Inn last night and she had cried like he was going to another planet instead of across town to the Chandler Mansion. When David tried to calm her down she had even yelled at him that sex wasn't a cure for everything. Of course when he pulled his hurt little boy routine and told her how much he needed her, she fell right into his arms but afterwards she went back to her own suite instead of staying with him. She said she wanted to be home if Jr. called. One of the things that had attracted David to Dixie was her devotion to her son, but was it asking too much for her to show him the same kind of devotion? Then when he got to the hospital the whole staff was buzzing about true love and romantic reunions and how Opal Courtland had won that stupid bet. He'd like to place his own bet with all these sentimental saps on how long Erica stayed with Jack before she came back to him for the best sex she had ever known.

 Now he had a message from Dimitri Marrik asking for a meeting with him tomorrow morning about the Andrassy Foundation.Things hadn't been going well for the foundation. No new projects had been developed. Drug companies were reluctant to use the foundation facilities after the Libidozone scandal and other hospitals weren't referring patients to the studies that were ongoing. David glared at his empty appointment book. Several of his patients had asked for referrals to other cardiologists and he hadn't picked up any new patients to take their place. The Martin's were blackballing him in medical circles; he was sure of it. Could this week get any worse?

Dimitri, Alex and Edmund were talking over lunch at Wildwind. "I still think we have every right to ask for David's resignation. His reputation is hurting the foundation.,"Dimitri said. "It carries my family name and I won't stand for seeing it tarnished."

Edmund looked at his brother, wondering if he meant to sound so pompous."I agree that he needs to be removed. But do you need grounds to do it? I think we should ask Jack about the legal steps we need to take before Davidb finds out we're trying to get rid of him."

"Edmund's right Dimitri. We may need something concrete to keep David from suing the foundation for dismissing him. I know he was responsible for drugging an entire boatload of people with Libidozone at Ryan's party but I can't prove it. And my word isn't strong enough to convince anyone. Not after I was missing for weeks and couldn't explain my whereabouts when I returned. I promised the British government I would never say a word to anyone but my family about the time I was gone."

"All right then," said Dimitri. "Edmund, you call Jack and see if we can set up an appointment with him this afternoon. Let's get the ball rolling to get rid of David Hayward."

Chapter 12

Thank you for coming over tonight Jack," Edmund said as he led Jack into  the living room at Wildwind.

"No problem," said Jack. "I wanted to take care of this tonight. Erica's coming home tomorrow and I want to be with her."

"I stopped by to see her this afternoon. She looks like she's making a full recovery. She also looks very happy, " Dimitri added.

"I intend to make sure she stays that way," Jack told him. He and Dimitri would never be friends but they had reached an understanding over the years.

"Jack, we need your input on how to dismiss David Hayward as director of the Andrassy Foundation." Alex was ready to get down to business. "If we ask for his resignation on suspicion only are we opening up ourselves for a lawsuit?"

Jack hesitated for a moment. "Can I count on everyone to keep what we say here completely quiet?"

"Of course, " Dimitri said. Alex and Edmund chimed in their agreement.

"I'd like for you to hold off doing anything right now. You know I still have a lot of contacts in the DA's office. PVPD is working right now on gathering enough hard evidence to get an indictment on Hayward for the whole Libidozone mess. Adrian Sword called some old friends as a favor to the Martins and they've located the lab technician who has been missing since the scandal broke. If he can be persuaded to testify, then along with some circumstantial evidence they've collected, they'll have a pretty solid case."

"What kind of evidence?"asked Edmund.

"Jake Martin found an audiotape that he believes David destroyed the day his records were audited. The tape has been mangled but ..."

"I think I can help here," Alex interrupted. "There is technology that can recover what was on a tape under almost any circumstances. Let me make a few phone calls. There are people in England who owe me a few favors."


"This is wonderful Bianca. What did you say it was called?" Bianca and Leo had sneaked a picnic basket into Erica's room. Erica couldn't bear one more day of hospital food. "Death by Chocolate. It's the best dessert the Valley Inn makes." "You'll have to try eating dessert once in a while Erica.

It's amazing what they can do with a huge amount of calories, " Leo grinned at her. "Hey Bianca did you tell her who you've been e-mailing lately?"

"Who?" asked Erica with a trace of concern.

 "Do you remember giving my e-mail address to one of your friends from your Parents of Gays group? You wanted to fix me up with his daughter. Well, she heard from her father that you had been sick and she e-mailed me to ask about you. We started IMing and we do have a lot in common. We're going to try to get together on her next break from school."

"Oh sweetheart, that's wonderful. Sometimes I actually do something right don't I?"

"I guess so," Bianca smiled as she said it. "Getting back together with Uncle Jack was one of your better moments."

"I agree with you there," Erica's smile was radiant. "I'm glad it makes you happy baby. More than anything I want the three of us to be a happy family. I've always regretted that I never gave you that."

Leo felt a little envious. He knew that he had stayed at Erica's house too long and that moving out was a step towards independence for him. But he couldn't help wishing that he was going to be a part of that happy family that Erica was talking about.

Chapter 13

Ohh, it's so good to be home." Erica sighed happily and leaned back against Jack. That morning when Jack carried her through the door she had been touched to see the house full of her favorite flowers. Bianca had skipped her first few classes of the day to welcome her mother home and Myrtle's presence had been almost like having Mona there.

"I think it's time I took you up to bed," Jack said. He was trying not to hover over her but he couldn't help watching every move she made and she was starting to look tired again.

"That sounds wonderful," Erica turned to face him with a flirtatious smile on her face.

" Don't look at me like that Erica. There are only so many cold showers a man can take."

She laughed delightedly, enjoying the effect she had on him. "Joe didn't say we couldn't make love."

"He said absolutely no strenuous activity and lady believe me, what I have in mind for you lends new meaning to the word strenuous." It was Jack's turn to be seductive. "But for now, I plan on tucking you in and watching you sleep. We have plenty of time for making love when you're strong enough to keep up with me."

He picked her up from the couch and carried her to her bedroom, placing her gently on the bed. For all of her bravado, she really was exhausted just from the effort of leaving the hospital. She fell asleep almost instantly. Jack watched her for a moment, wondering again if your heart could explode out of your chest from loving someone so much. Then he lay down next to her, wrapping his body around hers.

Leo was surprised when he opened the door of his new apartment to find Dixie Martin standing there. He knew that she was involved with his brother but he couldn't imagine what she wanted with him. "Come in Dixie," he said. " Is there something I can do for you?"

"It's not for me, it's for David. Today's his birthday. Did you know that?"

"No, I can't say that I did."

"I wanted to do something special for him, maybe have a few people over for a little party and I hoped you'd come."

"Dixie, David and I don't get along. We never have. I don't think he'd consider me on his A-list of party guests."

"But Leo, you're his brother." Dixie looked upset. "Can't you put your differences aside for one night? I know he cares about you. He was so concerned last year when your mother let you be arrested for killing Paolo."

"David wanted revenge on Vanessa, that was all. Family doesn't mean a thing to him. Dixie, I've probably had five conversations with him in all the time I've lived in Pine Valley. Besides, Erica just got out of the hospital today and I want to stop in and see how she's doing" Leo felt sorry for Dixie."

Look, you should just invite some of your friends over and forget about trying to make David and me into the Brady Bunch."

"But we don't have any friends," Dixie thought as she walked out into the hall. It wasn't like when she was with Tad and they could have a huge party full of family and friends at the drop of a hat. All of her old friends hated David, accusing him of all kinds of awful things. They just didn't know him the way she did. She could imagine their reactions if she called to invite them to a birthday party for him. David's colleagues at the hospital didn't like him either. Some of them might come but it wouldn't be the sort of warm happy gathering that she wanted for him. She had hoped that Leo would come and maybe bring Laura or Bianca. " I'll just have to do everything I can to make the day special for him," she thought. It made Dixie sad to think of what David's birthday might have been like if she wasn't in his life. "He really needs me," she said to herself. "I'm all he has."

Chapter 14

Erica came into Joe's office from the examining room. "Tell me Joe, am I fully recovered?"

"You're doing very well Erica. I think as long as you take things slow you can go back to your normal routine."

"Would you tell that to Jack? He's been treating me like I'm made of porcelain for the past few days. I'm surprised he didn't actually carry me into your office." Erica was smiling affectionately.

"Let's call him in here," Joe said. He pushed the button on his intercom.

"Carrie, would you send Mr. Montgomery in please?" Jack was in Joe's office instantly, trying to look unconcerned but not succeeding very well. " Is everything all right?" he asked.

"Everything's fine. I was just telling Erica she could resume her normal activities as long as she remembers to rest when she feels tired."

"And if my normal activities include making love to this wonderful man...."

"Erica!" Jack laughed and covered her mouth with his hand. "Is it okay Joe? I don't to rush things if you don't think she's strong enough."

"Normal activities include sex. There shouldn't be any problem."

Erica and Jack left Joe's office with their arms around each other. As soon as they reached the parking lot Jack pulled out his cell phone.

"Stephanie,cancel all my appointments this afternoon." He looked at Erica and smiled."Hell, cancel all of my appointments for tomorrow too."

Not long after Erica and Jack left Joe's office Derek Frye entered. "Good news Dr. Martin. Adrian's friends at Interpol have located Gordon Feemster. He's willing to testify if he's granted immunity for his role in the Libidozone scandal. He says he knows enough to hang Hayward from the rafters.The DA's office agreed to immunity and Gordon's on his way back to Pine Valley."

"That's wonderful Derek! I can't wait to get that man off of my staff. I know I resent him for what he's done to my family but this isn't a personal vendetta. I've worked most of my life building the reputation of this hospital into something to be proud of. I'm not going to let Hayward destroy it."

Erica was snuggled in Jack's arms,absolutely and totally happy. They had made love all afternoon - the first time they barely made it in the front door before they gave in to the passions that had been building for such a long time. The next times were slower, sweeter, each one doing everything they knew gave the other pleasure. Now they were lying as close as two people could be, unable to stop touching even for a moment.

"Happy?" Jack asked just to hear the answer.

"Happier than I've ever been in my life. I love you so much Jack. I want to spend the rest of my life proving to you just how much I love you."

"You're doing pretty well so far," he said teasingly. "But if you'd like to make your point one more time I suppose it would be all right." His hands started caressing her as he kissed her, feeling her body responding to his touch one more time. Soon they were completely lost again in making love.

Chapter 15

Erica stood at the window watching Bianca back out of the driveway, closing her eyes as her daughter narrowly missed hitting Jack's car. She still didn't like the idea of Bianca driving but she was 16 and so proud of her driver's license.

Jack came up behind her, wrapped his arms around her and kissed her on the neck. She turned and smiled up at him. "Don't you have to go to work?"

"I took the day off, remember?"

"I didn't think you were serious."

Why don't you let me show you just how serious I am?" Jack lifted her of the floor to where her lips were even with his. Just as he moved to kiss her the phone rang. They both looked at the phone and then at each other as it continued to ring. Jack set Erica on her feet and looked down at the caller

ID. "It's your ex-husband."

"Which one?" Erica grinned at him.

Jack picked up the phone. "This had better be important Dimitri."

"It is Jack. The lab technician who did Hayward's dirty work is going to make his statement to the police at 10 this morning. I'd like for you to be there as a representative of the Andrassy Foundation. The Libidozone Hayward used came into this country with the understanding that the Foundation would be using it. I want to make sure we can't be held accountable for any of the consequences of Hayward's actions."

"I don't know if that will work Dimitri. It's not exactly according to procedures to mix private interest with police business."

I know that. But between the two of us we should have enough contacts so that exceptions can be made."

"You're right about that." Jack thought for a moment."All right, I'll be there at 10."

Jack hung up the phone and looked at Erica. "This really is important honey."

"It's all right. I'll find something else to occupy my time. I really need to get back to work myself." Erica wrapped her arms around Jack's waist. "Just remember where you left off and we'll continue this tonight."

Jack listened carefully, taking notes from time to time as Gordon nervously continued his story. He knew that he had been granted immunity from prosecution but he was afraid if David Hayward found out what he was doing that his life might be in danger. "Hayward called me from the Fidelity that night and told me that a patient was being brought in to the ER, a young woman suffering from hypothermia. He said that I needed to make sure that all traces of Libidozone were erased from her bloodwork and from anyone else's bloodwork that came in that night. Hayward had already threatened me that my involvement was deep enough to bring me down with him if I told anyone. "

"How did you get involved in the first place?" asked Derek.

"Hayward was taking the drug himself. I took the blood samples to analyze how different dosages affected him. I thought it was really a part of a legitimate study until I realized that he was using it for his own purposes."

"When was that exactly?"

" I suspected it when he told me an experiment had failed and he needed more of the drug. I checked in the computer and no test results had been recorded for any studies conducted by the Foundation. Then about two hours before the party on the Fidelity I went to his office. I overheard a woman talking to him. She sounded upset, confused and angry. She was telling him that she didn't know what had happened the night before, that she had felt so out of control and she wanted to know why. He was blowing her off but I knew that what she was describing were the effects of Libidozone. I realized that he must have drugged her to have sex with her."

Derek leaned forward. This woman might be another potential witness. "Do you know the woman's name?"

"Oh yeah," Gordon answered. "It was Erica Kane."

Chapter 16

Jack's hands gripped the steering wheel as he headed for Pine Valley Hospital. He was trying but failing to get his anger under control. He kept remembering that afternoon at the Valley Inn when Erica had been so seductive with everyone - him, Dimitri, David, even Palmer. He recalled how when Erica was sitting on his lap, David had been trying to persuade her to go home with him. "I knew something was wrong. Why did I let her leave with him?" he thought. He parked the car and headed for the fourth floor and Hayward's office.

David was standing at the nurses station going over charts and giving orders to anyone in sight. It was time for a shift change and the area was crowded. He didn't notice Jack approaching until Jack called his name. He looked up in time to be sucker punched in the stomach, in the jaw and kneed in the groin. David collapsed on the ground. Jack kicked him in the abdomen and walked toward the elevator without looking back. David was writhing in pain on the floor. He tried to whisper, "Call security" but no one heard him. As he lay there he heard the sound of applause, first one pair of hands then two, then more until gradually the whole staff was clapping and cheering.

Jack walked through the front door and went straight to pour himself a drink. He was glad that Erica wasn't home yet. He knew that he had to tell her what Gordon had said. He couldn't count on this not leaking to the press and she would be devastated enough without the tabloids being her first clue as to what had happened to her. But he couldn't bear the thought of hurting her when she had been so happy for the last few days. When he heard the door open he prayed for the strength to do this right.

"Darling, you're home. Couldn't wait for tonight could you?" Erica was

laughing until she looked at Jack's face

"What's wrong? Is Bianca all right?"

"Bianca's fine. But I have some bad news for you." He took Erica's hand and led her to the couch.

"Jack, you're scaring me."

"I'm sorry Erica. Honey, David Hayward is going to be arrested this afternoon for the Libidozone drugging on the Fidelity as well as some other charges."

"That's too bad, but Jack you can't think that I'd be upset about it. Darling, David's been out of my life for a long time.'

"I know that. But the guests on the Fidelity weren't the only people who David drugged with Libidozone. I sat in on a questioning session with a former lab technician at the hospital. He knew of a time earlier that week where Hayward drugged a woman and then..." Jack paused as he saw the truth dawning in Erica's eyes.

"Oh my God," she said in a whisper. "That day at the Valley Inn." She turned pale. "I even told him I felt drugged. I couldn't understand what was happening to me. But he just laughed at me. He even told me I was addicted to him." Her voice was bitter. Then she tightened her grip on Jack's hand.

"Oh Jack, I'm so sorry!"

"Sorry? Baby what do you have to be sorry for?"

"It must have been so humilitating for you, to sit there and hear about David and me."

"Erica, none of this was your fault! The only thing I felt was rage, that he could treat you like that." He tilted her chin up to where she was looking into his eyes. She was in so much pain that it broke his heart.

 "Honey I know how this must hurt. I know that you loved him."

"Did I? I was certainly infatuated with him. But I never trusted him and you can't really love someone that you can't trust. " Erica shuddered as images from that day flashed through her head.

"It's not so much that it was David that used me, its just, Jack I feel almost the way I did when I was fourteen years old. It feels almost like I was raped again. I think subconciously I felt that way even when it was happening. I remember that I couldn't wait to take a bath when I got home."

She started to cry softly. Jack reached out, pulled Erica into his lap and cradled her in his arms. She nestled against him and put her head on his shoulder while he stroked her hair gently. "It's going to be all right sweetheart. He's going to pay for everything he's done."

David was holding an ice pack to his jaw when he opened the door to his hotel room.

"David, my God, what happened to you?" Dixie looked worried. David couldn't stand up straight and his face was bruised and swollen. "Jack Montgomery happened. The man assaulted me Dixie."

"Jack? Why would Jack do something like this?"

"I don't know. Erica probably called out my name in the heat of passion.

It's a good thing Montgomery's a lawyer because I'm going to press charges."

There was a knock at the door. David opened it to find Derek standing there.

"Derek, you're just the man I wanted to see."

"Somehow I doubt that." Derek took out his handcuffs. "David Hayward you have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be held against you in a court of law."

Dixie watched horrified as Derek read David his rights and escorted him from the room.

Chapter 17

After a while Erica lifted her head from Jack's shoulder. "Will I have to testify?" she asked.

"I don't know honey. But if you do I'll be right there beside you."

Erica smiled slightly. "Do you think they'll let me sit on your lap on the witness stand?"

" Hmmm, I'll see what I can do." Jack was relieved to see her smiling.

"You're feeling better now?"

"In a way it helps to know I was drugged. Jack, every time I thought about that day I felt such self-disgust. I didn't want to be with David yet there I was. I couldn't believe I had so little self control. But now I know why."

Erica looked adoringly into Jack's eyes. "Besides, you make me feel so loved and so secure that I can handle anything."

Jack kissed her softly. " I punched him out you know. After I heard Gordon's story I went straight to the hospital and let him have it. I'm not sure but I think I got a standing ovation from the nursing staff."

"Oh God Jack! He didn't hit you too did he?" She looked at him anxiously.

"No, Hayward's like most bullies. He picks on people who are weaker than he is but never stands up to someone bigger and stronger."


It was morning when David and Dixie returned to his hotel room. He had spent the night in the Pine Valley jail while Dixie contacted a lawyer to take his case and arranged bail. She was very quiet on the ride home but as they entered the room she began to question him.

"David, how can they arrest you for something you didn't do?"

"Everyone in this town is against me. The Martins hate me, Alex and Dimitri despise me. All of these people have power and they must have pulled strings. You're the only one who believes in me Dixie."

"Why am I the only one David? Is there something I don't see that everyone else does?" Dixie was starting to have doubts.

"No Dixie. You're the only one who does see the truth. You're the only one who knows what I'm really like. I've opened my heart to you. I told you about my father. No one else has ever heard that story. You know it's why I became a doctor. Do you believe that the little boy who watched his father die would risk his medical career by drugging a whole roomful of people?"

David put on his most sorrowful look.

Dixie melted at the sight of his sadness. "No, of course not. I do know you better than anyone. I'll help you fight this David. I won't stand by and let them ruin your career." Dixie threw her arms around David and held him tightly as he smirked over her shoulder. "Works every time," he thought.

Chapter 18

Don't worry Erica. I'll see that Bianca gets home after her ride. I'm a little surprised she didn't drive herself over though." Dimitri and Erica were standing at the doorway of Wildwind.

"Believe me, she wanted to. But I was afraid it might get dark by the time she was ready to leave and I'm just not comfortable with her driving after dark yet. "

As Erica turned to leave, Dixie came up to where they were standing.

"Dimitri, I need to talk to you about David. He needs your support. Yours too Erica."

"I'm sorry Dixie. I can't possibly support David I know him well enough to know that he's guilty." Erica started to walk away.

"But you don't know him. You never did. If you knew what he'd been through as a child, what his mother put him through, how his father..." Dixie stopped suddenly. She couldn't betray David's secret.

"Do you mean how Vanessa goaded his father into committing suicide?"Erica asked.

Dixie was stunned. "You can't know about that. He said I was the only person he ever told!"

"Dixie, you can't trust David. That's something everyone he comes in contact with has to learn. Now, I really have to go." Erica walked away.

Dixie turned toward Dimitri. "How can you turn your back on him after he saved your life? Surely you don't believe he's guilty."

Dimitri led Dixie into the house. "Hayward saved my life and was amply rewarded for it. In turn he betrayed the foundation and risked the reputation of the hospital for his own purposes. "

"There's no proof of that." Dixie was still clinging to her faith in David but it was getting harder.

"Actually there is. I'm sure David's lawyers have already filled him in on the case against him. There's the statement from the lab techician who David bribed to falsify hospital records."

"He could be lying," Dixie insisted.

"There's a video tape showing David dropping a flask into the punch bowl on the Fidelity."

"That doesn't mean it was Libidozone." But Dixie's voice was shaking.

"And there's an audiotape where he calculates the exact dosage that he needs to drug someone. Someone you know Dixie."

"Who?" she whispered.

"Tad," Dimitri told her gently. "Tad was the intended victim. Drugging everyone at the party may have been accidental but David intended to drug Tad from the beginning."


When Jack got back to his office after his day in court Erica was there waiting for him.

"What a nice surprise," he said kissing her. " What brings you here?"

"I couldn't remember if I told you this morning how lucky I am to be with you," she said. "So I thought I'd come over here and show my appreciation for having you in my life." She began to unbutton his shirt.

"I do love it when you're in an appreciative mood," Jack's voice was low and seductive. He reached around to unzip her dress.

"Don't you think you should lock the door?" Erica asked as her dress slipped to the floor.

"I'll do better than that." Jack locked the door and then pushed the couch in front of it. He turned and lifted Erica into his arms and laid her down on his desk. "Now tell me again how much you appreciate me."

"I'd rather show you," she murmured pulling him down to her.

Chapter 19

You know Jack, it's after 10:30. We really should get up now."

 Erica and Jack were still in bed on a Sunday morning. They were lying with their arms around each other, their legs intertwined, and her head on his chest.

"Why? We don't have to go to work. Bianca always sleeps in on the weekends." Jack's voice darkened. "Besides, I don't want to read the paper this morning. The less I hear about Hayward's plea bargain the better."

"It really bothers you doesn't it?" Erica stroked his chest.

"It shouldn't but it does. As a lawyer I know the best thing was to let him plead guilty to a lesser charge. This way there's a lot of publicity for a couple of days and then it will all blow over. If he went to trial, it could have dragged on for months and the Foundation and the hospital might have suffered. But a shorter sentence in a minimum security prison just isn't enough punishment in my opinion."

"He lost his medical license too. Besides, you wanted him drawn and quartered. I don't think they do that anymore," she said teasingly.

"They could have brought it back just for him," Jack answered. "Sweetheart, did it help at all to know he didn't mean to drug you, that it was really meant for Tad?"

Erica looked thoughtful. "Not really. He still knew that I had been drugged and he still took advantage of the situation. And he still let me think that what happened was all my doing. "

Jack kissed the top of her head. "Well, if there's any justice in this world, right about now Dr. Hayward is meeting his new cellmate. I'll bet he's about 6'5, around 350 pounds, shaved head." Erica began to giggle. Jack continued, " His name is Bubba and he's been really lonely in prison. He's probably very excited to have a roommate after all this time." Erica was laughing now. "You're so mean! I'll have to remember not to geton your bad side."

She moved to where she was lying on top of him and began kissing her way down his chest.

"Mmm baby you're definitely on my good side now," Jack groaned.


Dixie was still in bed in her suite at the Valley Inn. She couldn't bear the thought of getting up and facing the world. After David's sentencing yesterday, everyone knew what a fool she had been. "Be honest Dixie," she thought. "Most of them already knew." She thought back over the past months and couldn't believe that she could have been so blind. When Leslie was arrested for stalking Tad, she had told the police that David encouraged her to go after Tad and even told her that Tad was interested in her. But David had laughed and said that Leslie was insane and she had believed him.

When Alex came back and told everyone that she knew David was using Libidozone for illegal purposes, David had told her that Alex was a woman scorned. He recounted the story about how Alex had pursued him in medical school and turned on him when he rejected her. Dixie had believed him then too. There was a knock at the door. Dixie pulled the covers over her head but the knocking continued. "Dix, open the door. It's me, Tad."

Dixie couldn't believe it. What was he doing here?

"I'm not leaving until you open the door. Come on baby, let me come in. I'm worried about you."

Dixie put on her robe and went to the door. When she opened it, Tad took her in his arms. Neither one of them said a word, they just held on to each other.


Erica sat at her dressing table brushing her hair. It was almost noon and she and Jack had decided they probably should get up before Myrtle arrived for lunch.

"Jack, do you know what I think we should do next weekend?"

"I certainly hope you're not planning on waiting until next weekend," he said putting his hand on her shoulders and kissing her neck.

"Don't you ever think about anything else?" she laughed hitting him playfully with her hairbrush. Then she stood up and turned to face him. "I want us to drive up and visit Lily at school. I think it's time I really got to know your daughter."

Chapter 20 - Conclusion

"I think that's everything," Tad said as he brought the last of Dixie's suitcases into their bedroom. Dixie turned and smiled. She was hanging her clothes back into the closet next to his suits. After 3 months of marriage counseling they both felt they were ready to live together again. Counseling had been painful at times for both of them. Tad had to admit that he had never really considered Dixie a partner in their marriage and that in some ways he was more comfortable with Liza because he wasn't afraid of disappointing her.

Dixie was forced to face the fact that her sexual attraction to David was so strong that she had deliberately shut her eyes to the truth about him. But one fact had emerged from the sessions. Tad and Dixie had never stopped loving each other. With the therapist's help they were going to build on that and try to make their marriage work this time.

"I wish the boys were moving back in too," Dixie said a little sadly. While both Jamie and Jr. were happy that Tad and Dixie were trying again, neither one of them had chosen to move home at this time.

"I know, so do I. But I can understand them being leery. We've put them through a lot in the past. It's natural that they'd be a little wary of trusting us to make things work. But we'll prove to them that we've learned from our mistakes this time." Tad kissed Dixie on the forehead. "One of our mistakes was not communicating and I'm changing that right now."

"What do you mean?" Dixie asked.

"Do you remember when I decided to leave television? I told Dad before I told you. Well, baby you're the first person to hear this. I'm quitting my job at Chandler."

Tad, are you sure?" Dixie couldn't believe her ears.

"Liza only hired me in the first place to make Adam crazy. And I can see now what my working with her so closely must have done to you."

"I don't want you to give up your job for me," Dixie said.

"I'm not giving it up for you. I'm giving it up for us. Besides, I really don't like the corporate world. It's just not me."

"I never thought it was." Dixie hugged Tad tightly. "I'm glad you're leaving the job. What do you think you want to do?"

" I've thought about this a lot and I realized that the only job I really loved was being a private detective. I'd like to go back to that. What do you think? I'll get a trench coat, maybe a deer stalker cap, it'll be great."

"That sounds wonderful Tad. You know, I've been thinking about going back to work myself. "

"Hey, you can be my assistant! We'll get you your own trenchcoat."

" I'm flattered sweetie, but I really want to go back to teaching. It's what I should have done in the first place instead of taking the job at the hospital with David."

"Dix, you'll be a great teacher. Hmmm, I like this idea a lot." Tad got that devilish sparkle in his eyes. "I'll come by after school and you can make me have detention. Maybe if I'm a really bad boy you can get out the paddle."

"Or if you're a good boy I'll let you clap my erasers," Dixie laughed.

"Is that what you call them? Mrs. Martin, you sure have a nice set of erasers.

" Tad reached out for Dixie, both of them laughing. Laughter quickly turned to passion as they fell back on to the bed.

Jack stood by the fireplace watching Erica brushing Lily's hair. Repetitive actions like hair brushing were very soothing for Lily. Her first week long visit home had been a great success. Lily was only two years younger than Bianca but she was small for her age and her lack of verbal skills made her seem much younger. She and Erica had quickly established a strong rapport during visits at school and that helped her adjust to being in a home setting.

To everyone's surprise she was crazy about Leo. He had come for a visit the first morning, bringing his dog Happy with him, and had ended up staying most of the week.

"There sweetheart, do you want to take this back to your room?" Erica handed the brush to Lily.

"I'll take her upstairs Mom," said Bianca.

"Come on Lily, we can listen to music in my room." Bianca winked at Jack as she and Lily walked upstairs.

"Oh Jack, I wish she didn't have to go back to school tomorrow," Erica said sadly.

"So do I, but you know her teachers say she needs a highly structured environment. It's been so good having her here.You're really wonderful with her," Jack said sitting down next to Erica.

"Bianca says I get along so well with her because she doesn't argue with me," Erica said smiling. " Now what's on your mind? I can tell you're up to something by that look on your face."

"Erica, there's something I want to talk to you about. Something I want to give you." Jack took a small box out of his pocket.

"Oh Jack! Is that what I think it is?" Erica's smile was radiant.

"It's not an engagement ring, if that's what you're thinking." Jack watched as Erica's smile disappeared. He couldn't help teasing her a little. "After all, you've still got more than one of mine around here somewhere. You never gave any of them back."

Erica looked at him and her eyes flashed angrily. "Do you want the combination to the safe? Go look in there and take them back if you still remember what they look like! Or pick out the ones you like best. You're not the only man who's ever given me a ring you know!"

"Aaahhh, an Erica Kane tirade! We haven't had one of those in a long time. Are you finished?" Jack was laughing. Erica joined in.

"I can't stay mad at you," she said kissing him.

"Now, don't you want to see what's in the box? "

Erica opened it. She looked at Jack in astonishment. "Wedding rings?"

"Honey, we've tried being engaged before. Something always went wrong. I'm not willing to risk letting that happen again. I want us to get married tonight, with just the two of us and our daughters here."

"Is that possible?"

"I know enough people in the legal system to make it possible. I've already talked to the girls. Bianca's thrilled and I think Lily is too. If you say yes, the judge will be here in an hour."

 Jack knelt in front of Erica and took both of her hands in his. "Erica, we belong together. We both know it. Will you marry me tonight?"

Erica had tears in her eyes. "Of course I will." She threw her arms around

Jack's neck.

"I've made so many mistakes Jack. Sometimes I can't believe you would still want me after everything I've put you through. But I know that the love we share is unbreakable. I think I've always known that somehow we would end up together. After all, as Bianca told us, it was meant to be."



The Christmas Angel

by Posse Gal Pam

Erica slept peacefully, blissfully wrapped in Jack’s sports coat. She hadn’t intended to fall asleep at his loft, but in the stillness of the night, her thoughts of only him, sleep had overtaken her. Smiling to herself, she imagined herself cloaked in the warmth of his arms, the smell of his cologne intoxicating her. If only he were there with her....

“Erica. Erica wake up” came a familiar voice. The voice at first seemed faint. But as it continued, it became more forceful, louder, like the beat of a drum. “Erica. Erica. Ericaaa.”

Erica opened her eyes slowly, shaking off the fog of her slumber. She smiled as she looked up at the face before her. But as she focused on the face, her smile dropped and she sat up with a start. Sleep’s haze gave way to clarity, then utter confusion.

“Travis? Travis, is that you? How? Am I— ? Oh my God, I’ve died and gone to Hell.”

The visitor laughed. “No Erica, you’re not in Hell. You’re in Pine Valley. There is only a fine difference between the two, I’ll admit. But Hell’s hotter in Winter. And, no, I’m not Travis. I’m the Ghost of Christmas Past.”

“Ahh, I see. The Ghost of Christmas Past. Of course that’s who you are. And how do you know my name? Did Greenlee send you? Is this some sort of sick joke? And why do you look so much like Travis?” Erica was clearly becoming unhinged.

“Look, I told you. I’m not Travis. I’ve only chosen his physical form because it’s familiar to you. I’m the Ghost of Christmas Past. Here, I’ll prove it to you.” With that, the Ghost of Christmas Past turned on the television with a wave of his hand.

“All right.. Nice trick. But turning on a television is not-----.” She stopped abruptly when she focused on what was on the television. “How? What the—?“.

“Christmas season circa 1989,” the Ghost offered. “A year of big hopes and even bigger hair. Oh, look there’s Jackson. Frankly, I think Travis was better looking.”

Erica glared at the ghost. “Are you absolutely sure you’re not Travis?” Then she turned

her attention to the television. It was Jackson all right. He had come to give her the earrings that his Aunt Dina left him. She watched as her past played out. She re-lived Jack’s first “I love you” and all of the love and tenderness they showed each other that Christmas. Erica was filled with emotion. When she spoke, her voice trembled. “That seems like so long ago. We were so in love. We were going to get married----“ Her voice broke off. “Please, I’ve seen enough.”

“Oh no, you don’t get off that easily. Let’s fast forward a year or two. Ahh, here we are.”

Erica turned her attention to the screen again. She and Travis were married. But, she was having an affair with Jack. She was promising Jack that they would be together, that she would ask Travis for a divorce right after the holidays. Erica winced at the memory. But, the ghost showed her no compassion. “So it appears that yet another holiday hope is dashed . Tell me, what is that you have against Christmas?”

Erica could barely speak, her voice a whisper. “I was trying to protect my daughter. I meant well. I loved him so much. I always have. I-----“ Erica began crying softly. “Why are you here? Why are bringing up all of these painful memories?”

There was no answer to her question. “Let’s move on. Oh, here’s a good one. Christmas season 1996, was it? You had just been released from the slammer. And here you are at the Crystal Ball. Roll tape!”

This time, Erica closed her eyes. She couldn’t watch. But the memories played on in her head. She and Jack dancing, holding each other gently, kissing. They had professed their love for each other later that evening. Months later he would propose again—a proposal that she would happily accept.

“So full of hope.” came the ghost’s voice.

“Yes”, replied Erica softly, opening her eyes. “But, you never answered my quest—“

When she opened her eyes, she realized that the ghost was gone and the television was off. Erica’s mind was reeling from what she had seen. So many years right there before her. So much love. So much hope for the future. Had they lost sight of that?

Erica was startled out of her reverie by the opening of the front door.

“Oh, Jack! Oh I’m so glad to see you!!” She ran to him with open arms, grabbing him

into a hug. “You won’t believe what just happened here. In fact, I think you’d better sit down. And, by the way, why did you stay away so long? I have so much to tell you—“

Her voice trailed off once she realized that Jack was not reacting. He had not returned her embrace. His face was emotionless.

“Jack, is there something wrong? Is it Bianca? Jack?”

“I am not Jack. I am the Ghost of Christmas Present.”

“Christmas Present? The Ghost of Christmas Present? Look, whoever is behind this is doing a bang up job. Let’s just call off this charade. If—no, WHEN—I find out who is putting you people up to this, you will be sorry that you ever met me!” .

“I’ve already been told that would be the case, Ms. Kane. I must say that you certainly live up to the legend.”

Unamused by the visitor’s sarcasm, Erica replied “Please let me show you the door. I think you need to go before I call the police.”

“I’ll go, right after you have seen this.” The Ghost of Christmas Present handed Erica a large, sealed envelope. “Open it.”

Erica tore open the envelope. It was filled with photos of Jack which had been taken over the past 48 hours. They depicted a fatherly Jack with Greenlee, offering advice and comfort; a compassionate Jack hugging Bianca and Reggie ; a concerned Jack advising distraught Kendall; and a loving Jack holding Erica close.

“Why do all of you lean on Jackson for support?”, the ghost asked somewhat rhetorically.

Erica did not hesitate with her reply. “Because we trust him. Jack always does the right thing. I may not always agree with him. But, in the end, Jack always follows his heart —and his conscious.”

“Has he ever let you down?”

“Yes----and No. He has refused to lie for me. He has forced me to be honest with myself and with others. In those moments—during Bianca’s custody dispute and during my

kidnapping trial—my narrow view was that he had betrayed me. But, in looking at the broader picture, and with the maturity of hindsight, I know that he has only wanted the best for me. He wanted me to be able to love the person that I see in the mirror every day.

Other men have loved me superficially. They’ve fallen for the image of Erica Kane. But, Jack loves me–the real me. He loves who I am, not what I am. I had difficulty seeing that before. But, I see that now. And look at him, in these photos. He loves us all.”

“But look at him. He’s being pulled in so many different directions. How can you be sure that his love for you will never fade?”

Erica was stunned by the question. It was as if he had been reading her thoughts. “I, I don’t know. That’s what scares me, I suppose. Jack and I have been through so much together. He has never, ever failed me. I wish I could just allow myself to be loved by him. I wish I could just have enough faith in his love for me.”

“Faith. Yes, that is a difficult concept for you isn’t it Ms. Kane?”

“I beg your pardon? What exactly do you mean?”

“Well, you just said that Jackson has been there for you through some very tough times.

You’ve also said that he has never truly let you down. Yet, you are still insecure in his love for you. Is that right?”

“Yes, yes, I suppose it is.” Erica replied softly.

“Tell me, Ms. Kane. What would it take for you to have faith in Jackson—to believe in his love so strongly that you would never doubt it, not even for a second? Does he need to constantly reassure you of his love?”

“He does that.”

“Okay then, does he have to commit to you by asking you to marry him?”

“He has done that, several times.”

“Well, maybe he should live a life devoted to only you.”

“No, that would be–“


“Yes. And ridiculous. Besides, he’d never go along with that.”

“I agree. So what is it that you need from him exactly?”

Erica turned away and pondered the question. She searched her heart for the answer.

Then it dawned on her. She needed nothing more from him. He had given himself to her entirely, completely. Had she done that for him? In that moment, Erica realized that she had been her own worse enemy. Sure, she had faith in Jack. But it had been superficial: faith that he would always be there when she needed him, faith that he would always offer the right advice. But, the faith that she had lacked was deeper than that: faith that the depths of his love for her were endless, that she could give her heart to him without fear or reservation. Her eyes were open now. She would do everything in her power to show Jack that she did have faith in him and in his love for her. Erica turned to thank the Ghost of Christmas Present, but he was gone.

There was knock at the door. Erica opened the door to a beautiful raven haired little girl with pale blue eyes. She looked as if she was no older than 10 or 11. She seemed curiously familiar, somewhat reminiscent of Bianca at the same age, with Jack’s blue eyes.

Erica smiled at the girl. “Hello sweetheart. Are you lost?”

“No. I’m not lost. Actually, I’m here to see you. I’m the Ghost of Christmas Future,” the girl responded, sounding much older than she appeared.

“I think I know the drill now,” Erica replied laughingly. “So, what does my future hold? Is Jack in it? And, will I ever find my—“

“Whoa! Lady, I’m not a fortune teller. I’m the Ghost of Christmas Future. I’m here to clue you in on what your future might be like if you don’t start steering your ship in the right direction. Haven’t you ever read Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’?”

Erica laughed. “My, you are a bit precocious aren’t you?”

“A bit. Actually, I come from a long line of highly intelligent women—though you wouldn’t know it from some of the choices they’ve made. Which brings me back to my reason for being here.”

“Ah yes, that. Well, what visual aids did you bring? Let’s see, we’ve done television photos, what’s next, a Broadway musical all about me?”

“Wow, what an ego. No, this one won’t be about you at all. It’s about Him.” The girl pointed to a nativity scene that Jack had placed in the corner, on a small table.


“Why not. That’s who Christmas is about, isn’t it?”

“Well sure, but what does that have to do with my future? Where’s the lesson for me in the birth of Christ?”

“Hey, you’re the adult. You tell me. But first, answer this question for me: Do you really buy into that whole ‘virgin birth’ story? Sounds pretty fishy to me. What do you think?”

“Well, you’re awfully cynical!”

“Hey, I’ve watched reality TV—your generation’s creation by the way---- I know a fishy story when I hear one.”

Erica was amused by the enchanting little girl. “Well, I’m not deeply religious, but I think that whether you believe the story behind his conception or not is irrelevant. I think the real miracle of Christmas is the notion that a when a child is born, the world is given a Divine gift. A child is a blank slate, a well of untapped potential. The birth of Jesus gives us hope that every new life can make a difference.”

“Wow, that’s really beautiful. So, what your saying is that no matter how he got here, the world is a better place because He was born into it.?”

“Yes, that’s it exactly. And every child has the potential to effect great change—either positive or negative— on the world into which they are born.”

“Oh, I think I get it now. But, what determines whether a child grows up to do good versus evil?”

Erica thought about it for a moment. She thought about her own life—about how differently Kendall and Bianca had seemed initially, and how Kendall had changed and grown over the past year. “I don’t want to sound corny, but I think that love is what makes the difference. If you show a child love, unconditional love, then love is what she gives in return.”

The girl smiled at Erica. “Thank you for the education on the power of love. I think my work here is done.”

Erica smiled back. “I don’t understand. I thought that I was supposed to learn the lesson.”

“You have. You will. You’ll see. Until we meet again.....”

“But, wait—“ Erica reached out to hug the girl, but she vanished, leaving a confused Erica to ponder the gifts of wisdom that her visitors had bestowed upon her. When she drifted back to sleep, the voice she heard was Mona’s:

Erica, you have always had all of the answers. But, it’s all right to admit to being confused and scared. Tonight you learned that what the Bible tells us is true—that of these three things —faith, hope and love----the greatest of these things is love.

Erica, our trials give us hope. Our triumphs give us faith. And the people who stand beside us through it all—they teach us to love. And, my sweet angel, that is the greatest of all gifts. I have always wanted to see you happy. I think you know who and what makes you happy. Erica, don’t be afraid to fulfill your destiny. With Jack by your side, you will not fail. I love you.

Erica awakened suddenly, reaching out to her mother. Instead, when she opened her eyes, she found herself in Jack’s embrace. He had returned. “You were having a dream—“ he started.

“No, it wasn’t a dream, Jack. It was so real. I can’t even begin to tell you how happy I am to see you.” Her eyes welled up with tears. Jack didn’t ask any questions. He just held her, loving her as he always had and always would.

The End

The Christmas Angel

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Special thanks to Misha & Mary for their design and stories. We also want to thank the other talented writers for sharing their talents with us.