Sorry guys, I thought I posted this on Fictionpress a long time ago!

Five years later...

Madison smiled and raised from her chair slightly as she waved the couple over. Brianna made her way over to the table and sat down across from her in the five star restaurant. She had moved to Manhattan to work with Darick, a year after McKenzie's wedding. It didn't take long before she met Ian there, who had purposely opened a franchise in the city. The two had been friends back in Cerulean Harbor, but his sudden move to be with her made Brianna open to more although it took her some time to come to terms with it.

They had dated for a year and a half before they were engaged and married. It would be their first year anniversary in a couple of months. Something Brianna was proud of. One of the reasons she didn't date him sooner was due to some therapy she had put herself through in order to work out some of her issues.

Saturday nights were couple's nights since they began dating and the two would meet with Madison and her husband for dinner and some drinks. For the last three months, however, Madison had been coming alone as Ethan had separated from her. He had overheard Madison mention to a friend over the phone that she had slept with Darick before her sister's wedding. He had kept it to himself and married her anyway, though it bothered him. Now they were going through a trial separation, but seeking counseling in an attempt to keep their marriage together. Ethan had grown tired of keeping the secret with Madison and had come to distrust her, it came to a head when Madison started working with Mitchell Corporation on several projects though none involved Darick.

"Long week?" Brianna asked looking down at the half empty bottle of wine.

Madison nodded her head. "William is having me take over more of his responsibilities, so my plate is becoming overloaded. I'm starting to worry if I can do this work and be able to take care of Morgan. I don't want to pawn her off on a nanny like my mother did to my sister and cousin."

"William seemed to be able to spend enough time with you, didn't he?" Brianna didn't seemed bothered that Ian looked bored. He normally would speak to Ethan about work, but now it was only him and two women.

"I suppose I'll have to speak to him. He had Patricia to help him out, so if Ethan and I get divorced it will only be worse. I can't imagine having to play single parent especially if Ethan remains bitter, because he'll just pick apart everything I do."

"He has every reason to be." Ian interrupted.

"I didn't say he didn't, although it has been five years. I haven't even seen Darick since McKenzie's wedding and he lives in the city now." She sighed. "It just seems to me that Ethan didn't come out with it in the beginning and just allowed it to brew until it became more than it actually was. I'm not trying to excuse myself for my behavior, I was wrong and I admit it. I made a horrible decision and I wish I could take it all back, I really do, but I can't. He shouldn't have married me without talking to me and letting us work through it first."

Brianna nodded. "I agree."

"Right, but we don't live in a world of "shoulds." There are a lot of things we should have done in our lives, but they don't exist and never did. You have to accept what did happen and face the consequences." Ian crossed his arms.

Licking her bottom lip, Madison smirked slightly. "You are mad at me, aren't you, Ian?"

He only crossed his arms further in response.

"Yeah, he is. He and Ethan became good buddies, and now he's torn between his wife's friend and his friend. Just ignore him. He would argue for you if Ethan were sitting here talking about your problems as well."

"That makes me feel better then."

"Why hasn't the waiter come yet?" He grumbled.

"I already ordered for us." Madison chuckled. "You two always get the same thing, so I thought it would be alright."

He wanted to tell her that she shouldn't have done that and he wanted to try something new, but he knew that was a lie. She was right, he would just order the same thing as always. "I haven't gotten my drink..." He looked up as the waiter set his scotch on the rocks in front of him, then placed a bottle of white wine and a wine glass in front of his wife. "Thank you."

Both women giggled at him as he tried to hide his slowly growing red cheeks.

"He's in a bad mood today. Apparently there was a huge mix up at work and no time to fix it. He won't even talk about it. I only have what I do know from a crying Winnie that I couldn't understand when I went to pick him up." Brianna told her after the waiter poured her glass of wine and left. "Oh, I wanted to ask earlier, before we were interrupted. How is counseling going? Do you think it'll work for you?"

"Ethan is trying his best and so am I. This is something that I want to get worked out. I mean if he sat on it for five years without me ever knowing there was a problem then... well, I don't really know. I guess, I hope it means that once we air everything out that he'll be able to forgive me. I think he wants to, so I can only show him that I am worth trusting again. I have to earn it all back."

"He wants to. He just doesn't know how he'll ever be able to." Ian informed her before taking a sip of his drink, and then drinking some of the water that he had also been given.

"I know. He has said as much to me as well." She shrugged. "If it was just me and him, I'd probably tell him that we should take a break from each other."

"With Morgan, you two have to at least be amicable in front of each other. She's only three, so she doesn't really understand what's going on. I mean you both moved out of the apartment and into her grandpa's mansion while leaving her daddy behind. I'm sure it confused her."

Madison shook her head. "We've been very open with her. Well, as much as you can be with a three year old. She understands that we are having problems, but we are making her feel secure about how much we love her and that we will always support her. Ethan loves her to death, so I think that's why he is trying so hard with this too." She sighed. "Anyway, I don't want to talk about this anymore. It feels like that's all everyone ever asks me about now a days."

"I'm sorry." Brianna frowned.

"It's not your fault. You should be informed of what's going on." She looked at Ian. "You won't tell Ethan what I said, will you?"

"Did you say anything wrong that you don't want him to hear?"

"It's not that. I just don't want him thinking I am talking about him behind his back. He might think that I am trying to turn you guys against him."

"I doubt he would think that." Ian rolled his eyes.

Madison chuckled again and looked at Brianna. "He is really pissed at me. It's kind of cute."

"I think the same thing when he is mad at me. It's so funny, isn't it?" She pinched his cheek, and Ian pulled back to glare at her.

Sitting around the table drinking tea by the pool, Abigail's hands were rested upon her belly as she sat by the pool. She smiled as she and Lydia talked about the baby that would be born in two months time. Lydia sat beside her with her own daughter on her lap. The little girl, Ashley, was four years old and looked exactly like her mother. She stroked the feathery light hair on her daughter's head as the two talked as Ashley continued to color in her coloring books. She wasn't interested in the adult conversation in the least.

"How is he coming around?" Lydia asked.

"For a while he drowned himself in work, but when he heard I was pregnant he really seemed to turn around. He took an interest in me." Abigail took a drink of her tea. "I don't know if it will last after the baby is born, but he has softened up a great deal. For a while there, I thought we might live in a loveless marriage." She bit her lip. "I'm sorry, I didn't think before I spoke."

Lydia shook her head. "Don't worry. I understand where Brad and I are. He treats me well enough."

"What about the ten year divorce plan?"

"We decided to remain married. It's what is best for Ashley and I think we have just gotten comfortable living together." She cleared her throat and continued to stroke her daughter's hair. "After he heard about Brianna's marriage, he seemed to give in a great deal more. I doubt we will ever be in love, but this works for us." She shrugged her shoulders. "I don't know if I finally understand and have accepted everything or if I am just comfortable in my own misery."


"Daddy!" The little girl jumped from her mother's lap and ran over to Brad, who was waiting with his arms open at the sliding doors.

Brad picked her up in his arms, and playfully patted her bottom once, before he looked the pink dress over that she was wearing. "You look beautiful today."

"Thank you." She smiled as she looked down at him with her hands on his shoulder and her feet dangling by his hip.

He turned his attention to Abigail. "Good afternoon. I didn't know you were in town. Is it safe to fly in your condition?"

"I wanted to give birth here near my family." She pointed to her stomach as if Brad hadn't seen her engorged abdomen yet or heard of her pregnancy. Of course, Abigail was very excited about her first child and that was made abundantly clear to everyone who met with her.

He gave a nod and then turned to Lydia. "I'm taking her out to dinner, is that alright?"

Lydia agreed as he brought Ashley over to give a kiss to her mother. The little girl rested one hand on her mother's shoulder to steady herself as she left a wet kiss on her cheek before he pulled her up again.

"Bye, mommy." Brad said in hopes she would mimic him and the little girl immediately followed his cue.

Once the sliding doors shut, Abigail smiled. "He seems to really love her." She continued to smile at the glass doors.

Lydia nodded. "Oh, without a doubt. It is seeing him interacting with her everyday that gives me hope to be honest. I really think she is the reason that he treats me better, because he doesn't want her to see him treating me the way he used to. Indifference is more cold than hate."

"Well, and a daughter will often times seek out a man who treats her the way his father treated his mother. So, it's good that he acts kindly toward you."

"It was a bad idea to get pregnant and have her in hopes that it would fix us. I was pretty stupid to think that, but I'm glad that it didn't make things worse."

"You did say he changed more after Brianna's wedding." She raised an eyebrow as she tried to pry further into their private relationship.

"I know." She snorted. "I shouldn't have said that either. I don't know if that was the reason. I think it might just be me still caught up in the past and not realizing that he gave up a long time ago." She sighed once more. "I catch myself doing that too much and I need to put an end to it. I am changing myself, not because I want Brad to like me, but because I want to like me. I think the happier I am with myself, my thoughts, and the way I live the more Brad seems to care about me."

"You think he'll love you one day then?"


Abigail seemed surprised with her answer. She tried to think of a way to respond, but her mouth simply open and then closed again.

"I have given up on that a long time ago. We are partners in marriage and business. Some people get lucky and fall madly in love with their arranged spouse. Other people hate them and want to divorce as soon as possible. Others still learn to live together in harmony because it what is for the best. Brad and I fall into the latter, but we will never find love."

"If you think that then you never will."

Lydia chuckled. "That's alright with me. When he and I first met we never expected to, and it was only me that got caught up in that delusion that we ever would. Now that I have let it go, Brad and I get along just fine. It's a loveless marriage, but there is still contentment. He and I work together very well both in the business sense and the personal sense."

"How can you ever sleep together?" She stuck out her tongue part of the way and ignored that she had slept with her own husband before anything like love had appeared in her relationship with him.

Lydia ignored her friend's hypocrisy that she was well aware of and answered the question. "I slept with plenty of people I didn't love before I got married. The same goes for him. It's a personal need that we help each other fulfill."

Abigail stroked her stomach. "I don't know how I could go on if I had given up the hope of love in my marriage."

"Maybe you'll get lucky. He might come around and you'll find yourself in the best kind of arranged marriage."

"Oh, so you are going to encourage my hope, but not your own?"

She shrugged. "My relationship is different from your own. We are friends and I'll support what you need and want." She looked down at Abigail's stomach. "You haven't told me if it's a boy or girl yet."

"Oh, I haven't! I could have sworn, I did." She clapped her hands happily and rocked her head from side to side. "It's a boy."

"I hope my next one is a boy. Do you have a name picked out?"

"We've settled on a couple, but haven't decided yet. I think we are going to wait and meet him before we pick one." Abigail took another drink of her tea.

"Next up in the pile, Madison Kincade, famous for being the secret heir to the Kincade Conglomerate and first born daughter of Patricia Kincade, has separated from her husband." The reporter, who stood in the center of the blue circular stage with several photos of celebrities changing in the background, spoke.

Anna's eyes looked over her shoulder as slyly as she could to see if her husband had looked up at the television screen. They had. It only made her feel annoyed, but the annoyance was directed more toward herself for other things she felt than at him.

The reporter continued, "There has been no official word from the Kincade family or their representative, but it has been confirmed that Madison and her daughter have moved from the apartment. More on this as the story unfolds."

She turned off the television set that was sitting on the counter in the kitchen and turned to look at her husband as she finished off the dishes. He was at the table sitting between their five year old and their eighteen month old sons. She always finished her meal first so she could finish off the dishes and pots she used to cook with, before she had to turn to the dishes the family was using.

Dorian fed their youngest son, who was seated in the highchair, his peas. He could feed himself mostly with his hands at this stage, but his father hated to watch him try to eat peas and other small foods one at a time. The five year old sat quietly as he finished off his meal, because he wanted to watch television in the other room and would only be allowed to do so once he had finished his plate.

"You were listening to that weren't you?" Anna asked. She hated that she was jealous whenever a story about Madison came on the entertainment channel. In truth, she knew she had it on that channel simply to be able to catch him watching it, since he never paid any attention unless her name was mentioned. It was a trap, and she felt guilty for setting it.

Dorian never mentioned Madison and it was Naomi that explained their relationship to her. He would answer questions when she asked and Anna knew that he was over her, but that didn't stop him from showing interest in her life when she was unexpectedly brought up.

"I don't want to get into this conversation again. Why are you so insecure about this?" Dorian asked as he turned his attention to his eldest, Garrett, and helped wipe his face of the tomato sauce.

"Because you never talk about it." The devil on her shoulder liked to tell her that he never talked about her because it was still a painful memory. She knew in her heart that it wasn't true, but she couldn't convince herself of it.

"It's in the past and I don't live there, that's why." He looked up at his wife as the baby chewed up some more of his peas. "We haven't talked in years. I'm not jealous when we run into one of your ex-boyfriends."

Nodding her head, she turned her back on him to complete the dishes in the sink. They had a dishwasher, but Anna considered it something to disinfect the dishes and washed them all before hand. "Are you worried that she and her husband have separated?"

"I don't hold any ill will toward, Madison. I want the best for her and so yes, I am concerned. I'm not going to call her up and ask how she is. I don't even know how to get a hold of her if I wanted to, besides it's been nine years, Anna. What could I possibly say to her?"

She bit her bottom lip as she continued on with her task. This wasn't something she wanted to fight about and she already knew how it would end. Dorian would tell her that it's been nine years since he had seen Madison, and that she was overreacting. Anna would agree that she was and they would move on with their lives. She would be fine for several months until one day she would be reminded of Madison in someway and then set another trap for Dorian to fall into so she could bring the subject up again. All this was just to be reassured once more. She was a confident woman in everything else, so she didn't understand truly why she allowed this to bother her at all.

"Why does this bother you so much?"

"I don't know. Maybe I feel insignificant compared to her. I know it's stupid and normally I am not even thinking about it. For some reason, I keep setting myself up to be jealous over her and I know you aren't doing anything wrong. This is all my problem."

Standing up from his chair, he walked behind his wife and placed his hands on her shoulders to massage them, before he wrapped his arms around her. "You are a beautiful and successful doctor. You are the mother of my two wonderful sons and the woman I married. How can Madison compare to that?"

"Don't say that as if you never loved her. It'll only make me feel worse." She finished up the last plate and then turned to face him.

"Anna, I loved her once almost a decade ago. I almost married her. I almost did a lot of things with her, but I didn't. Everything I could ever want is right here in this house and I don't regret it, so stop setting the television to the channel you know Madison will appear on, eh?"

She chuckled. "You're right. I need to let this go and I'll try my best. It can't be healthy for the kids to see their mother act this way, can it?"

He shook his head. Dorian was just as bothered that his wife couldn't get past it and cursed his sister-in-law's name for ever mentioning it to her. He was going to tell her about it eventually, but he wanted to establish their relationship first. Naomi had told her too soon and had caused some problems between them.

"I'm sorry. She is such a beautiful and rich woman. Whenever I see her do an interview, it's like she has everything someone could want and she is so nice. People seem to really like her and she gives more to charity than our annual salaries combined. It's hard to think that she was almost your wife and how you can be happy with me, you know?"

"First of all, wealthy people like that always give to charity, because of tax breaks. Second of all, Madison is actually pretty distant and hard to get along with. She can make a person feel very insecure without even trying. Don't get me wrong, she is a wonderful person, but she has her faults like everyone else. I'm sure Naomi told you all about our relationship."

Anna nodded her head once more. "I know, I know. It's ridiculous and I'm just being insecure and stupid."

"Is Bryant finished with his dinner?" She asked deciding the change the subject and return to their normal life. It had happened as she expected and once again she was reassured and knew that her fears were unfounded.

Dorian stepped away from her and checked the highchair tray. "It looks like he is just playing with it now." He pulled the tray out so he could pick his son up. "I'll go give him a bath while you finish up in here."

"Alright. Thank you." Anna looked down at her other son who was pushing his peas around his plate. "You have to eat it all. Pushing it around won't make me feel sorry for you."

Garrett looked up at his mother and frowned. "I know."

"The faster you eat them, the quicker you can be in the living room watching TV." Dorian reminded him as he headed out the door.

Madison put her keys down on the table near the front door and kicked off her high heels. She could hear the little girl's voice coming from the sitting room through the large archway and Ethan's voice would mumble in from time to time. She smiled as she made her way to the archway and looked at Ethan sitting on the couch with his daughter sitting on the floor as she put together a puzzle on the coffee table.


Morgan looked up at her mother causing her blonde curls to bounce and she jumped to her feet to greet her.

"Morg, Morgie, Morg." Madison chimed as she picked up her daughter and attacked her cheek with multiple kisses. "Did you have fun with daddy today?"

"Yeah, um, yeah. We went to the zoo and, um..." She looked at her father who had come to stand in front her and Madison.

"We went out to dinner." Ethan spoke more to his daughter than to Madison.

"Yeah." She smiled and looked at her mother. "Daddy, um, daddy, he, um, bought me a... he bought me a..." Her eyes turned back to her father. "What is it's name?" She whispered the question to him.

"A bracelet."

Morgan's blue eyes immediately turned back to her mother. "A bracelet."

"He did?"

She nodded her head enthusiastically, but it soon turned into hysterical laughter as she looked behind her mother. Madison looked over her shoulder to find Francis making faces behind her and McKenzie shaking her head as she leaned against the archway's frame.

"Is Uncle Frankie being funny?" Madison asked her daughter in a playful tone.

Francis reached around Madison and tickled the little girl's belly briefly causing her to kick around and laugh.

"Where is William?" Madison asked.

"On a date with that woman again." McKenzie winked at her in a playful way. "The date has lasted since yesterday evening."

"May I speak with you?" Ethan asked.

"Sure." Madison kissed her daughter, before handing her off to McKenzie. "Go play with Aunt Micky and Uncle Frankie for a while, honey. Daddy and I need to talk for a while."

"Come on, Morgie Morg. I was going to bake some cookies, do you want to help?" McKenzie asked as she walked across the hall toward the dining room that would lead them into the kitchen.

"Is... will Uncle Funkie help?"

"Sure, I'll help." Francis announced as he walked behind them heading into the kitchen.

Madison smiled at her sister and brother-in-law. They had both decided not to have any children of their own, due to the lifestyle that they led. Their open marriage wasn't something that the news had reported on or that they were open with the public about, but they didn't want to bring children into it. They both had decided that they wouldn't be good parents, nor would they be happy as parents. They loved playing with Morgan, however, and even tried to goad Jack into having her own and Madison into a second one.

"What's up?" She was still smiling as she and Ethan sat down on the couch.

"I want to run something by you and see what you think." He cleared his throat before he continued. "I've been thinking about my life and how I've only ever dated you. I mean there was that one girl that I slept with, but it was hardly a relationship. I am starting to wonder if maybe I missed out on something."

"I see."

He shook his head. "I'm not asking for a license to sleep around or anything."

"You think that if you slept with someone that would make us even?" She leaned back on the couch.

"I can't lie and say it isn't part of my reasoning for doing this, but I'd like us to stick a pin in our relationship for maybe a year or two."


He shrugged. "I want to find out if I am really in love with you or just doing what William told me to. I mean I feel that I am, but I want to know for certain. All rules will apply to you as well. I just want us to live separately for a couple years and find out where we are at the end of it."

Madison leaned forward and crossed her legs. It was her turn now to be patient and understanding with Ethan. He had always been the one to do it for her and her outrageous requests, so she simply nodded in response. She didn't think it was a good idea, but if this is what he wanted then she didn't want to stop him. "What about Morgan? We can't just put a pin in her."

"I know. I won't subject her to anything that I am doing and as far as she knows we are still working out our problems. I just... I just need time, Madison. Time apart and time to heal. Just time where you aren't my concern to find out who I am when I am not William's pawn in your love life."

"I understand."

"But you don't like it, right?"

"Right." She folded her arms as she was becoming more annoyed with the conversation, which was a sign that Ethan was aware of. "I almost feel like you are asking me to give you a relationship like McKenize and Francis have."

"No. I'm asking us to pretend we are divorced for the next year or two, so we can see where we stand at the end of it. Maybe we will find ourselves together and maybe we won't." He grabbed her hand. "I'm not going to just date random women and sleep with them. I wouldn't do that to you or to William. That wouldn't be good for our companies as it would make us all look bad if it was found out."

"Then what are you planning on doing?"

"Just being by myself. Yeah, I might date a woman or two, but I don't have any plans on starting anything serious with anyone. I just want to be a bachelor, you know?" He squeezed her hand more tightly. "I wouldn't expect you to just wait around for me. I want you to enjoy the freedom as well."

"I'll agree, as long as we continue to see each other."

Ethan nodded. "Saturday nights, I'll start having dates with you and the Pratts again. Would that work for you?"

Madison agreed. "As long as I am part of your scheduled dating and have a chance to win you over."

He chuckled in a somewhat embarrassed way. "Hearing you say that makes me feel slightly more secure in our relationship."

"So, no more therapy then?"

"I don't feel it's working for me. All I ever hear from that guy is how I am at fault. I mean he blames you for your mistakes, but it feels like he wants to put the weight on my shoulders. So, if we go back I want someone else. I just don't care for his style."

"Alright. I think we should talk about this more, but I have to go to a party tonight and need to start getting ready."

"Let's have dinner together later this week and we can talk more."

She stood up from the couch. "Call me to set a date and time then."

"What in all that is good in this world could make you call me in on a Saturday evening; my day off?" Brianna snapped as she entered into the large office. She often thought of how the office and even her own home was several times larger than the small studio apartment she had once lived in. Sometimes she wondered how it was that she had gotten from there to being able to own practically anything she wanted.

Darick was standing in front of his desk; digging through a pile of folders on his desk. "I can't find those valuation reports."

She searched the room with her eyes after she placed her hands on her hips. "Where did you see it last?"

"The last time I remember having them was when you were in here. It was a blue folder and you set it on my desk, I asked you to move it to the coffee table and then..." He tossed up his hands.

"That explains why you called me in here."

Brianna had given up on being an accountant when Darick had hired her on as his assistant. She made seven hundred and fifty thousand dollars a year and knew that odds were against such a hire salary as an accountant. It annoyed her from time to time to think of her time wasted earning that degree only to be Darick's full time nanny, but in truth she enjoyed her job. The only time it ever bothered her was during one of his hissy fits or when some of his more unsavory behaviors come back to haunt him. Those people were normally quickly removed by security, but it was Brianna that had to deal with them being locked out of the office. Of course, Darick's secretary also was a victim in these predicaments.

"I put it on the coffee table and then I left, but that was on Thursday. It could be anywhere by now."

Running his hand through his hair, he followed her lead and looked around the room. "I don't remember looking at them. I couldn't have gone through them and sent them back."

Clicking her tongue, Brianna left the office to use the phone on the empty secretary's desk. She, too, was off on Saturday. Darick continued to look for his folder until Brianna returned after ten minutes.

"They received them. I hate to call one of them at home, but you did go through them already. He said there were a lot of notes. Are you sure it's the valuation reports that you need?"

It wasn't unusual for Darick to forget that he had already done work. The hours he worked and the amount of time and effort he put into it eventually it all became a blur. He would often take other projects off departments that were overrun and work them alone.

There was plenty of work for himself even if he worked long hours, but Darick never took a day off nor did he ever go on vacation. Brianna often enjoyed the time she was on vacation, because she knew Darick was a mess running around trying to figure out her system or even do the things that she normally did for him. She knew this because she had witnessed it herself whenever his secretary was on vacation.

Darick bit his bottom lip briefly. "Huh." It was the only response he could come up with.

She sighed to show her sympathy for him. "Are you seriously looking for more work to do?"

"I can't believe I have nothing. There has to be something." He began to look through the folders again.

"This is what happens when you work twelve to sixteen hours a day seven days a week." She crossed her arms. "Plus, you have me to do some of the work as well. Maybe you should take a weekend off, or are you too afraid of being by yourself?"

Darick glared at her. "I prefer to work than play."

"Well, now you have to do something you don't like. You have..." She snapped her fingers. "Oh, I know what you can do. There is a party tonight. You can do your thing there."

He watched her walk over to his desk and open one of the drawers. She pulled out an invitation for him and offered it over. "I hate parties."

"Yes, well, there are people there and things to do. Or you can go home to your cold and empty apartment and stare at the wall. It's really up to you. I, however, have a loving husband that I would like to get back home to."

"Where were you?"

"Huh?" She had begun to turn around.

"I called you earlier and you didn't answer your phone."

"I know. You actually called thirty four times. It's Saturday that means I meet with my friend. I've told you about this before." Brianna never mentioned Madison in front of Darick, and she rarely mentioned Darick in front of Madison. The two hadn't seen each other since Madison left Cerulean Harbor five years ago and Darick stayed away from anything that she might go to. She thought it was ridiculous that the two had gone to such extreme measures to prevent seeing each other, but it wasn't her life or her problem.

"You don't leave your phone on in case I call?"

"I'm sorry, master, but this is my day off. I have two of them actually and you shouldn't be calling me on these days. I know you like to drown yourself in work every waking moment, but I have hobbies and relationships that I like to attend to."

Though Darick seemed needy and soft around her, he was a real hard ass to everyone else. He didn't like mistakes or being treated with disrespect and everyone knew better then to incur his wrath. There wasn't much about him that changed from college, except now he didn't hit people but destroyed their livelihood. Someone making a million dollar salary could be finding themselves hard pressed to find a job, if they ticked Darick off enough.

He seemed to enjoy the suffering of others a little too much, but Brianna felt safe enough and he allowed her to get away with saying pretty much anything to him. If she thought he went too far then she would say something, but she only did so on rare occasions as she didn't want to make him think she thought she had any real power over him.

"Are you going to go to the party?" She motioned toward the invitation.

His eyes looked down to the white envelope and then back up at her. "What are you doing today?"

"I'm going to spend the evening with my husband and no you can't come along. Go get some friends that aren't from work. I see you for up to ten hours a day five days a week, I don't want to see you in my off time." She flipped him off, before heading out the door.

Darick knew she was only joking as she often left the office in such a manner. She never did anything in front of others though. Some people suspected that Darick treated her differently but in public she put up with his crap as much as the next person. Her cold words and insults were private matters and they liked it that way.

"And when do you two plan on having children?" Felice asked Aries and Amy who were sitting on the couch to her left, while Arion and Victoria sat on the right. She was seated in her own reclining chair with her eldest grandson on her lap.

"When we feel emotionally ready, mother." Aries answered before Amy could go into her long rant about their decisions.

"If you wait for that then you'll never have children. The older you get, Amy, the harder it'll be to get pregnant."

"When we are ready to have children if my body cannot then we will just adopt. Aries and I have thought it through. We have all our bases covered."

Felice frowned. "An adopted child will never receive as much love from it's extended family as one born into the family. That is because it is a stranger."

"Mother, that's enough." Arion interrupted. "If Aries and Amy are planning to wait then it's their choice just as much if they never wanted to have any."

"We don't mind not having any either. At this time all our options are open." Aries patted his wife's hand.

"I suspect this is Grady's and Kierra's doing." Felice sighed. "I heard they don't plan any children in the future either."

"Grady and his wife have not made up their mind anymore than we have. I just turned thirty mother, we have plenty of time still." He looked across the table at his brother. "Speaking of Grady and Kierra when will they arrive?" His eyes turned to his watch. "I don't want to be out all night."

Victoria answered for her husband, she was holding her third child and only daughter in her arms. Her second born, who was three years old, had fallen ill and was sleeping due to his medication. "Kierra called just before they left home, so they should be here soon."

"Are you willing to go out when you have a sick child?" Felice asked.

Their mother had stopped drinking shortly after she became a grandmother. She said it had something to do with having a second chance to be a mother, even though they weren't hers. The twins found their mother to be more unbearable now than she had been before. At least when she was drinking she was sweet and easy to be around, but now she was judgmental and always shoved her opinion down other's throats. She really had only traded one addiction for another. Instead of drinking alcohol, she spent all of her time with her grandchildren and had stopped working completely. She was overbearing to her grandchildren to the point that Victoria would sometimes kidnap them so they could have time away from her, and those hired to take care of the children often found themselves being shoved out and left without work.

"There are two nannies and you here, I think it will be alright if I went out for a couple hours to have dinner with my friends."

She snorted. "That doesn't seem like something a good mother would do."

"A good mother knows not to spend all her time with her children. A good mother takes time to take care of her relationships with her husband and friends, because that makes her happy and healthy, which in turn gives the children a good mother." Victoria snapped.

"Ridiculous, new age nonsense." Felice barked. "Believe me, I know. You'll be regretful when you are my age and look back at all the time you wasted on yourself and not on your children. You are merely being selfish."

"That's enough, mother." Arion interrupted once more.

"I'm so sorry that we are late." Kierra announced as she entered into the room with Grady following behind her. "I got half way out the door and realized that there was a stain on my dress. So, I had to change my dress and then with a new dress I needed new shoes and a new purse."

"Women." Aries spoke in a teasing manner.

"Just be thankful I didn't think I had to change my eye make-up color too." She sounded like she was scolding him, but in truth she was merely joking.

Grady greeted Felice before he sat down beside Amy, which forced Kierra to sit next to Victoria. It was difficult for Victoria and Arion to ever go out with them, not because they were bogged down by their children, but because of Felice. She felt her own guilt for how her children were raised and seemed to want to force it on them. It was one of the many reasons that Aries and Amy didn't want any children at the moment.

"Are we almost ready to go?" Kierra asked.

"What you can not stay and chat with me for a while?" Felice set down her grandson and sent him off to play. "He's the top of his class, you know."

"I heard." Kierra smiled and looked at the boy's parents. "Congratulations."

"It's not our accomplishment, but his." Arion answered, before his wife could accept Kierra's words.

Felice rolled her eyes. "Until you become a parent yourself, you'll never know the joys of having your child excel. Watching your own flesh and blood grow and become a note worthy member of society."

Kierra knew where this was heading and merely nodding her head in agreement. Felice was stuck on all the young married people around her having children, and she tried to play matchmaker with anyone who was not. Grady was never any help in this situation and always just agreed with her to keep the peace, which was something that his wife eventually adopted. It was just easier to deal with her.

"You four think that life will just wait for you, but it doesn't. Eventually, you will find yourself nearing fifty years old and wonder what the hell happened to all that time behind you. You will hate yourself for the decisions that you didn't make when you had the chance, but you won't listen to me, will you? I'm just a ranting, baby obsessed old woman, aren't I?" Felice stood from her chair and called her grandson to follow her before leaving the room.

"She's having a bad day today. I think she wants a drink." Arion tried to explain, but the Dawsons were used to the excuse.

"It's fine. We don't take offense." Kierra waved her hand at him. "I'm sorry, but I am starving and would really like to go get seated. I hope our reservation is still there. I would hate for us to get all dressed up and for them to give it away."

"I made it for an hour after what you suggested, we will be fine." Grady chuckled as he knew she would be late as usual.

"If Arion did that to me, I'd deck him in the mouth." Victoria stood up and seemed unamused as she left the room thinking the others would follow her.

"She having a bad day too?" Grady asked playfully.

"Well, you did just hear my mother." Aries stood up and everyone followed his lead. He patted his brother on the shoulder before following everyone out.

Caleb frowned as he looked at the stack of boxes in the attic. His father had passed on about a year ago and his mother had decided that the house was just too much for her. She was giving it to him and moving into a smaller apartment. Most of the household belongings were staying but she had sent him up to the attic to get some items that she couldn't live without at the apartment, though she managed to due without them during the decades she had lived here.

Looking to the left of the large attic, he saw the stack of boxes that she had sent him up to go through. As he began to take them down one at a time and open them, in hopes of finding the items quickly, he was stopped when his eyes fell upon a couple pictures. They were all of Emily in her pregnant state either smiling or laying asleep on the bed. His son's sonogram was hidden under them as he lifted the photos up.

He hadn't talked to Emily in years and as far as he knew she was still living with Tabitha. Her friend would call him or email him from time to time during the first years, but that soon filtered off and now there was no news. He had decided that it was for the best since Emily only seemed depressed when she looked upon him.

"Your mom sent me up to help." A thin woman with dark brown curly hair spoke once she made it to the top of the ladder. "What do you have there?" Her eyes went to the items that were held firmly in his hand.

"Pictures of Emily and a sonogram of my son." He held them up as he slid back onto his bottom from his knelt position, as he did so he motioned for her to come over and look at them with a wave of his hand.

Walking around the boxes, she bent down beside him and looked them over. "She was really pretty."

"She is still alive." He grinned and his tone told her that he was trying to tease her, which was something she was used to. Caleb always enjoyed correcting her and though it used to upset her, she had soon learned to just live with it.

The woman chuckled, "Fine, she is." Taking the sonogram from him, she looked it over and a frown slowly formed on her lips. "You told me about it before, but I guess I never really thought of it as real until now. I mean I can't tell what is the baby and what isn't, but it's like proof that he really existed, you know?"

Caleb nodded his head as he looked at the sonogram along with her. "I can't tell you how many times I had hoped she would miscarry or that it wouldn't be mine. I wished a lot of harm on him and in the end he harmed me."

Rubbing his back, she looked at him with sympathy. "You were young and you wanted your freedom. I don't think any one out there wouldn't have had similar thoughts. Besides, thoughts are harmless until they are made into action. You didn't hurt him. It was all random chance that he didn't make it. You told me how diligent Emily was in her bed rest, so..."

"I know, but after all these years, I still want someone to blame." He took the sonogram. "I can't imagine how much different my life would be had he lived. If we had managed to do better, then he would have been born. Emily and I would be together probably. The only reason that we broke up was because she couldn't stand to look at me anymore after that." He placed the pictures in the box and began to look through the others again.

"I wish I could say that you and I ended up together because of it, but it sounds so awful to be grateful in any way for a child's death." She leaned against a beam that was in the center of the attic and crossed her arms.

"It's no use to wonder what could have happened. The past will never change itself and I am not depressed any more. I guess finding those photos just brought back a lot of memories for me." He tossed another box to the side and began to go through the next one.

"Loss is always a hard thing to deal with and you loved her very much. I'm sure it hurt to lose them both at around the same time." She made her way over to the boxes and began to search through them.

"Yes, but as I said I have moved on. You never truly get over the pain, but you have to keep going with your life." He held up one box. "Here is the cooking wares, we still need some other things on the list." He pulled the note from his pocket and offered it to her.

"I made a joke about moving in here with you, and your mother became very serious and told me only when we were married."

Caleb looked toward her as he lifted a box up and stopped midway. "Don't try to push me into that, Juliet."

"I'm not. I am just telling you what your mother said." She frowned and returned to her digging.

"I almost got pushed into marriage once before and I want to be ready this next time around. I realize that you are worried that I am just going to dump you after these past few years spent together, but you just have to be patient."

"And if I don't want to be?"

"Then you will need to move on and find someone else to give you what you need out of life, because I won't be bullied into that type of commitment again." He turned his back on her and tried to finish his search.

Juliet gave a nod even though he couldn't see it and then decided to pout quietly as she continued to help him.

"Anyway, once my mother moves out of here and signs it over to me, then this is my house. I won't allow her to have any say over my relationships anymore. She was just trying to scare you into not bringing it up to me."

"So you wouldn't mind if I moved in?"

He looked over his shoulder. "I won't give any promises yet, but it is something that I think we should discuss in the future."

She sighed. "Three months to kiss me, a year to sleep with me, and now three years later you are still the slowest man alive."

"Slow and steady wins the race."

She chuckled. "I guess that's what I love about you. I never know when one day you will turn around and change the relationship again. You never did tell me what triggers these decisions."

"You." He stopped digging around and turned to look at her. "You have all the power, you just don't know it."

Shaking her head, she didn't believe a word he said. "Yeah, right."

"You do. Once you make me feel comfortable with a decision then I am more than willing to fulfill it, but when you push and bully the more I resist."

"I'll have to remember that for the future." She spoke with a joking tone, but she really meant what she said.

"You should."

"I will." She gave a firm nod.


"Good." He teased back.

"Alright then."

"Fine. Now find my mom's stuff so we can get her busy body out of here." He ordered playfully before returning back to his search.

Darick filled a small plate with some appetizers and picked up a fork and napkin before looking around the room for somewhere to hide. He had made his rounds and was tired of dealing with these people but didn't want to go home just yet. He had been wracking his mind all night on any work he could think of that might be waiting for him, but he knew that he had checked thoroughly before he left. There was nothing to do and as much as he loved his work, he knew he had to take a break since he was empty handed in that area.

The double balcony doors were open and he made his way across the large ballroom. Once out on the balcony he expected a couple people would be there and he would have to deal with them, but instead he found himself alone. It was slightly chilly though not enough to scare everyone indoors.

The balcony was rather large and there were several benches made of marble against the railing. He took a seat to begin eating his food, when he realized that he had dropped his fork along the way.

"Damn it." He mumbled to himself and decided on whether he would just eat what he could with his fingers or make the journey back. He had gotten lucky that no one had stopped him to chat on his way over and he worried that he would be pressing his luck if he made two more trips through the crowd.

A fork appeared in front of his face as he stared down at the plate. Turning his eyes upward, Madison's lips smiled as if she was realizing who he was. "I saw someone drop their fork on the way out here, so I grabbed you a new one."

Darick took the utensil from her and began to eat. "I heard you and Ethan separated."

"You just jump right in, don't you? What makes it any of your business?" She sat down on the bench beside him and didn't give him an opportunity to respond. "We are, but we are going to get back together. He just needs time." She wasn't going to tell him the reason that Ethan had left revolved around him, though she suspected after hearing what Ethan had to say that Darick was barely the tip of the iceburg.

He grunted in response.

"I hear Abigail married some foreign guy. How did you manage to stay single with a mother like yours?"

He shrugged his shoulders. "I learned to deal with her, besides Abigail became something of a sister to me."

Leaning back against the rail, Madison looked up at what little stars she could see. "This place is no Cerulean Harbor, huh?"

He looked at her briefly and then up at the sky. "Nope."

"Abigail says that you and she are still pretty close, and that you are going to be her child's god father."


"Not going to ask me how I know that?" Madison asked with a slight amount of humor in her voice.

"I suspect that you and Abigail still talk."

Madison shook her head, "Not really. She just called me when she found out she was pregnant. I have a daughter of my own now."

"That's what the entertainment news reported." He continued to eat his food and seemed uninterested in speaking with her.

Cocking her head to the side, she watched him for a moment. "Alright. I'll leave you alone. If I had known it was you, I wouldn't have brought you a fork." Her last sentence held a slight bit of venom in it.

"You aren't bothering me." Darick announced when she stood back up.

Looking down at him, she thought over his invitation to sit back down and then slowly did so. "Obviously to you this seems weird to talk to me after all this time, but to me it feels like the years did nothing to change us. I mean our lives are very different."

"Yes, they are."

"To be honest, I get kind of jealous when Brianna goes on about how close of friends you two are. She tells me some stories from time to time. I kind of miss when we were friends." She folded her hands on her lap.

"I've changed a great deal since we last met. Besides, I never wanted friendship from you." He finished off his plate of appetizers and then set it beside him on the bench.

"I remember." She bit the inside of her cheek and looked in the opposite direction.

"I'm over that now, you needn't worry about me." He stood up and began to brush away any crumbs that had landed on his lap from some of the crackers.

Madison followed him up. "That's good to hear. Brianna tells me that you are a bit of a playboy now. She says that she has to deal with several young women coming to your office demanding to see you every week."

"It's her job."

She chuckled. "I suppose so. She seems to enjoy it."

Her fake smiles that had bothered him so long ago were still there, but he could see them for what they really were now. What he saw as false was actually genuine. She was truly happy now and then, and it was only back when she was hiding herself did she offer false happiness to him.

There was a moment of silence and he thought that she might use it to leave, so he tried to think of something else to say. "For as much as you try to keep her out of the media's eyes, your daughter has become somewhat of a media darling."

She nodded with a grin. "People seem to find the way she talks and stutters to be very adorable. They take whatever we give her."

"You don't plan on raising her like your father did you?" He crossed his arms over his chest and straightened his back.

"If she ends up being the heir, I think I will. I want to do it slightly more different so that she understands it better, but I don't see what my father did as wrong anymore." She continued to smile as she spoke.

"How is she taking your separation?"

"We haven't told her. We want to work it out first and know where we are going before we make her worry. It's no use telling her we are apart if in the end we only end up together again. I'm sure that won't be healthy for her. Anyway, why are you asking me so many questions about her?"

He shrugged his shoulders. "Making conversation, that's all."

"Oh, well, I guess I better get back to the party then." She began to walk away but Darick grabbed her hand.

"Do you want to dance?"

"I hate dancing especially at parties and especially not with my husband. If someone caught a picture of us, do you know the media attention and rumors it would spark? Not to mention that my relationship with Ethan is already strained."

"I didn't mean the literal dance. I meant for us to see each other more often."

Madison pressed her lips together as she thought and pulled her hand away when she was finished. "Even if it was just a friendship, I don't think I could put Ethan through that at this point." She sighed. "Let me think it over and I'll call you."

Darick nodded and allowed her to leave the balcony. It could all start over again with the simple act of returning his fork, he thought.