What They Didn't Know

Chapter One

"So, tonight's the night, huh?"

Alondra nodded. Tonight was indeed the night. She stared across the small table at her friend Fallon, while picking at the sandwich she had ordered. She was much too nervous to eat.

Tonight was the night she would finally discover if Thane had meant what he had said the night he left. If he had really waited for her.

"And?" Fallon understandably wanted more information, however, Alondra wasn't sure what to tell her. She had barely worked out her feelings herself.

Trailing one French fry through a puddle of ketchup aimlessly, Alondra finally shrugged. "Nothing's changed, Fallon."

"He's been away for six months!"

Alondra avoided her friend's gaze. Thane was not her boyfriend, nor had ever been. True, Thane had been in Texas for almost six months; however, she did not see how that was supposed to fix everything.

"Alondra." She looked up. "Tell me you don't still have feelings for him and I'll drop the subject."

"I didn't say that." Alondra's eyes dropped to her lap. "What I said was that nothing had changed, meaning his feelings. What happened the night he left obviously meant nothing to him. I am nothing more than Dustan's little sister to him. I have been since high school."

High school had been torturous for the chubby brunette. Her self esteem had been so low that she'd fallen for the first guy who had bothered to speak to her. Even then, Thane had only done that because he was her older brother Dustan's friend and just generally a nice guy.

That had been almost ten years ago. Alondra was twenty-seven now, and the time had come to get over her childish fantasies. That was what six months away from Thane had taught her.

"Yes, but that was before he moved in with you." Fallon grinned, thinking she had cornered her.

Alondra did not as much as blink. "He's renting a room in our house. That's a lot different than him moving in with me. It's not like I'm the only one there. Dustan and Kari live there, too."

Thane had been the one to introduce Dustan and Kari almost three years before and they had been dating ever since. Kari and her sister had moved in when Alondra and Dustan had been forced to rent out rooms to keep the mortgage paid. Her sister had gotten married a month before and moved one town over.

"We have to rent the room to someone," Alondra insisted weakly, having the bad feeling that she was not fooling her friend. They did have to rent the room out. Otherwise, Dustan and she would not be able to make the mortgage payment. They had barely been able to pay it the previous month, so when Thane said he needed a place to stay, it just seemed like the thing to do was to offer him the room.

Fallon raised an eyebrow and Alondra inwardly groaned. Who was she kidding? She'd offered Thane the room because she couldn't resist the thought of seeing him every day.

She glanced at her watch. "I should be going. I'm supposed to be making supper for Thane."

"Are you serious?" Fallon laughed. "Poor thing. I hope you're just heating up take-out."

"I'm not a bad cook!" Alondra exclaimed. She really wasn't, she just hated it and avoided the stove like the plague. One thing she could handle was spaghetti, the planned meal for tonight.

She wasn't cooking it because she knew it was Thane's favorite meal either. That had absolutely nothing to do with it.

"I STILL don't get what the big deal is," Dustan said forcefully, dropping a can of tomato sauce on the counter. Alondra's foray into the world of homemade sauces had gone terribly wrong, so Dustan had been sent to the grocery store for damage control.

Alondra grabbed the can and began a frantic search for their can opener. "It isn't a big deal. I'm just cooking dinner."

Dustan opened and closed his mouth, obviously thinking better of whatever sarcastic comment had come to mind, which was good, because Alondra had found the can opener in a drawer and probably would have whacked him over the head with it if he had said something.

"Aren't you and Kari going out tonight?" she asked pointedly. Dustan's "big brother" routine was becoming more than a little annoying. He'd been acting like a crazy man all day, and just because Thane was coming back.

Dustan sat directly on the counter next to the stove. "You're not planning on poisoning him are you?"

Alondra barely resisted the pre-teen urge to roll her eyes at him. "Just because I'm cooking does not mean that I'm going to poison someone."

"Just checking." He shrugged.

She gave the sauce a half-hearted stir. "So when are you picking Kari up?"

"There's no need for sarcasm." Their elderly neighbor Mrs. Edelstein considered it absolutely scandalous that Kari and Dustan were living under the same roof while they dated. She thought Alondra a "poor substitute for a chaperone". Dustan just thought it was hilarious.

"I think I hear Kari." She strained her ears for some sort of a noise. The sooner Kari was ready, the sooner Dustan would leave her alone to collect herself before Thane got here.

He didn't get the hint.

"Good-bye, Dustan," she tried again.

"Fine. I'm leaving." He grabbed a coke and made his exit.

After he left, Alondra sank into a nearby chair. It all was pretty ridiculous. So what if Thane had told her he wanted them to start a relationship? In six months all she had gotten was one lousy postcard and a phone call to announce he was coming home. That was it. Six months had gone by. It was time for Alondra to put her foot down.

Yup, it was definitely time to move on. No more sitting around the house mooning over Thane like a teenager. She was almost twenty-seven years old, after all! Mr. Right was probably just around the corner.

The doorbell rang, making her jump up. She wasn't sure if she was anticipating or dreading seeing him again. She took a deep breath, glancing down at her outfit. Jeans and a pink flowered tank top. Bare feet. It wasn't perfect, but it would have to do.

"With my luck," she muttered, "I will end up poisoning him." She flung open the door.

Somehow she wasn't surprised that he looked even more amazing than she remembered. His dirty blonde hair was still perpetually in need of a haircut, tousled like a little boy who'd been hard at play all day long.

When his pale blue eyes smiled down at her, she felt her stomach tense. This was not going to work. She just could not resist those eyes. Not to mention his deep voice.

"Hey, Lonnie." Nobody had called Alondra that since she was a little girl, except for Thane. When Thane said it however, it made her feel like anything but a child. Instead it made her heart first stop, then beat like she was running a marathon.

He pulled her into a tight embrace, and she allowed herself to hold him back, although surely he could feel her heart beating through her thin top.

A tiny whimper made her pull away. She looked around, at first seeing nothing, then noticing the infant seat on the porch next to Thane's feet.

Alondra stared open-mouthed at Thane. He wasn't alone. She looked up at him. Surely he could see the confusion in her eyes.

"This is my daughter," he said simply.

His daughter? Alondra twisted her hands as they began to tremble. She closed her eyes, remembering the night he had left.

"When I get back we can really start our relationship. I'll be back for you," he had said in a deep voice, making Alondra laugh.

Had that meant nothing to him? Sure, she hadn't expected him to propose when he came back, but she hadn't been expecting this either.

"Her name's Desiree."

Alondra felt tears welling up in her eyes." That- that was my mother's name," she whispered. Did he remember how, when her parents died, she'd said she wanted to name her first daughter after her mother? It still didn't make sense. He'd only been in Texas for six months. Even if he'd met someone the immediately after arriving, that still wasn't enough time for him to have reproduced.

"I know." Thane grinned down at the tiny infant. "I call her Desi for short."

Alondra continued to stare open-mouthed at the baby. Her brain was in such a muddle she didn't know what to do.

When she finally looked back at Thane he was looking at her expectantly, making her realize that he had asked her a question. "I'm sorry, what did you say?"

"I asked if you would mind taking Desi inside while I got out suitcases."

Desi made a soft mewing sound. "Okay," Alondra found herself saying. She picked up the infant seat and carried it inside, down the hallway, and into the living room. Once there, she set the baby down and sat down on the couch.

Now what should I do? She wondered. Desi's face started to scrunch up and turn red.

"Don't," Alondra murmured, patting her on the tummy. The baby ignored her, beginning to cry.

She leaned down and scooped up the warm little bundle, cuddling her against her chest. The baby quieted, giving her a chance to take a better look.

Little Desi had tan skin, paler than her own Brazilian tone, yet darker than Thane's, and dark hair. She also had caramel colored eyes, which blinked as she looked up at Alondra. With a yawn, she proceeded to fall asleep.

Alondra felt her heart melting. She had never seen such a precious creature in her entire life. At that moment, there was nothing she wouldn't do for little Desiree.

"I hope this isn't going to change things," Thane said, leaning against the doorway.

"Huh?" Alondra didn't even glance up.

"Desi doesn't sleep through the night yet. I hope she wont be keeping anyone up."

"Don't worry about it." Alondra continued to watch Desi, who was now sucking on her fist contentedly while she slept.

THANE definitely did not think he was going to have a problem. Man, did Alondra look good. She still had all her curves in the right places, her curly brown hair crazy, but beautiful, and those eyes! Those wide hazel eyes that seemed to see directly through to his soul.

He leaned over and kissed his sleeping daughter on the forehead. "Do I smell spaghetti?" he asked, sniffing the air.

Walking towards the kitchen, with Alondra trailing behind him, he grinned. He did smell spaghetti, which proved that Alondra wasn't too mad at him for not calling. Not if she'd cooked. That was a good sign.

He smiled as he spotted the sauce can in the trash. Nope, not much had changed.

He hadn't wanted it to, either, but he had a daughter now and there was nothing he could do about that. He'd made the choice to come back anyway, risking everything with Alondra in the process.

"How old is she?" Alondra had finally broken out of her baby-induced trance and was now looking at him.

"Almost a month."

Thane could remember the first time Desi had been put in his arms, when she was only a few hours old. She had been so tiny, and he had marveled at what a miracle she was. Everything since then continued to amaze him.

Including how beautiful Alondra looked with his child in her arms. She seemed to have forgotten all her questions as she stared at Desi. He was thankful for that, because he didn't have any answers for the time being that would have satisfied her.

"SO YOU'RE okay with Thane staying here?"

Dustan shrugged. "Why wouldn't I be?" He tried to ignore the expression on Kari's face that told him she wasn't going to accept his innocent act.

"You didn't touch dinner."

"I wasn't hungry." That was a lie. He'd been starving when they'd reached the restaurant. It was just that when Kari ordered a pasta dish, all he could think of from then on was that his sister was dining with the guy who had the power to completely crush her heart.

Kari's eyebrows were raised high. "Dustan, what are you so worried about?"

He shrugged, staring at the front door of the house, wishing that Thane's blue car wasn't in the driveway. He didn't even want to go into his own house.

"Everything is going to be fine." It was easy for her to say that. Her baby sister wasn't in serious danger of getting her heart broken again. No matter how many girls Thane had dated, Alondra had always gotten that little girl expression on her face whenever he was around. This time, it was breaking Dustan's heart. He refused to let her get hurt again.

"So, you're okay with him staying here?"

Dustan shook his head. There was no reason to lie. "I'll put up with it, for Alondra's sake. She's going to have to learn for herself that Thane Conway does not care about her."

Kari tilted her head and smiled. "Are you sure about that?"

He didn't even want to think about that.

Getting out of the car finally and walking up the front walkway, Dustan held onto Kari's hand tightly, for support. Soon enough, he was going to be sweeping up the pieces of his sister's broken heart.

He stopped suddenly. "You don't think she's in love with him do you?"

Smiling, Kari remained silent. It was best to let Dustan sweat it out. It was time for him to let Alondra live her own life, although personally she didn't think Alondra was in love with him.

Kari unlocked the door and pushed it open, The first thing Dustan saw was a baby bag sitting in the hallway next to a worn pair of sneakers he recognized as Thane's. "Alondra!"

Kari winced as he shouted. Then, her cringe turned into shock when Alondra appeared in the doorway carrying an infant in her arms.

"Would you mind taking Desi back in to Thane?" Alondra asked calmly, passing the baby to Kari.

Once Kari had left the room she shrugged at Dustan. "You can yell now."

"Yell?" he exclaimed. "I'm going to do a lot more than just yell. What the hell is going on?"

Thane could hear Dustan clearly in the dining room. Kari was sitting where Alondra had been, staring inquisitively at him.

"So, who's this?" she asked, motioning to Desi, who was sleeping soundly through the fight.

"She's my daughter." Thane stared at the door. "And I thought Alondra would be mad," he murmured. There she was, in the living room taking this colossal beating for him, and he was just sitting there.

He felt enormously guilty. "Should I go in there or something?" he asked Kari, who was still observing him and Desi.

"Nah." She shook her head. "It's much better to let them just get it all out. They'll yell for awhile, Alondra will start insulting Dustan in Portuguese, eventually she'll win. It happens all the time."

"Alondra speaks Portuguese?" Thane knew she was Brazilian, but Alondra and Dustan only lived in Brazil for a few years during their childhood.

Kari was now folding the napkins into various shapes. "Actually she doesn't. Its just, when she and Dustan fight and she gets really fired up, the words just come up out of her. What little Dustan remembers confirms my theory that she learned some curses in Brazil."

How like Alondra that was! Thane smiled. He kissed Desi softly, inwardly wincing at the heated voices that could still be heard. Alondra was such a sweet person. He did not deserve her.

Flicking at tiny piece of spaghetti off of her wrist, Kari looked puzzled. "I thought Alondra hated spaghetti," she said, to no one in particular.

"She does." One side of Thane's mouth turned up slightly, remembering how Alondra had moved the food around her plate all through dinner, hardly taking a single bite.

Surely he still had a chance with her. Otherwise, she wouldn't have gone to such efforts to make his homecoming pleasant. Especially when she seemed to be the only one who was happy to see him back.

Meanwhile, Alondra was watching Dustan pacing back and forth on the kitchen's tile floor.

"I still can't believe you're letting him stay here!" Dustan slammed his fist down on the counter. "He takes off for six months, you hardly hear from him, and suddenly he shows up with a baby. He was obviously doing a little more than just visiting his mother!" He sighed. "Did he even tell you who it is?"

"He said she's his daughter and I'm not pressing him for details." The statement shocked her almost as much as it shocked Dustan. Alondra had had every intention of having a serious talk with Thane that night and asking him about Desi's mother.

"Mom and Dad are probably turning over in their graves!"

"Really?" Alondra was becoming so furious with him by this point that she could barely talk. "I'm sure they did a lot of turning over when you moved your girlfriend in here."

"That is completely different."

"How, Dustan? I anxiously await your answer." She glared at him as he walked across the floor.

Dustan sighed, managing to calm himself down a tiny bit. "Look, my girlfriend didn't come back from Texas with a baby in her arms, and if she had, I would have had a lot of questions for her."

"I have questions, I just refuse to force him into answering them. Obviously he feels like he can't tell me right now."

"Or won't."

Alondra bit her lip, knowing he was right. Thane could be choosing to keep things from her. It was just that she'd never had a reason not to trust him in the past. Surely he deserved a chance to explain, and at the time of his choosing.

"What is the big deal?" she asked weakly.

"The big deal is he came back here with this baby and handed it to you like it was some damn present!" Dustan had progressed to shouting again. "This isn't going to change things. How do you know he isn't just using you?"

His words stung her, but she was too angry for tears. "Using me for what?"

Dustan remained silent.

"He can stay," he finally said, stopping in the middle of the kitchen and turning to her, "but don't think that nothing's changed since he left, because everything has. He's taking advantage of you, Alondra."

Kari stood up quickly as Alondra walked into the room. "I'm gonna go watch TV or something." With that she slipped out of the room, neither Alondra nor Thane noticing, as their eyes were on each other.

Alondra spoke first. "I don't know why I was defending you in there."

"Me neither," Thane said softly, "but you have no idea how much I appreciate it."

"I said I wasn't going to ask, but," Alondra stared at Desi. "But, I need to know. Where did she come from?" The pain was evident in her eyes.

Thane didn't know what to tell her. She felt betrayed, he could tell that much just by looking at her. There was just no simple answer to her question. Especially when he couldn't tell her certain things. Not yet.

"Okay, so you're not going to answer that one." Alondra took a deep breath. "How about this one: Where do I fit in?"

A smile crept over Thane's face. "I was hoping we could figure out that one together."

To Be Continued…