posted on 5-Nov-2001 11:09:46 PM by FreeFall
Title: Day Break
Email: freefall1974⊕hotmail.com
Rating: PG -13 to NC-17
Category: M/L, AU
Disclaimer: I do not own Roswell or the novel “Vows of the Heart” by Susan Fox. No infringement intended.
Summary: Max owns a ranch in a small town. Liz lives the city life. They have known each other but haven’t seen each other in years. Can a tragedy be the beginning they both need to heal?
Author’s note: I’ve been playing with this for a while now. The initial idea came from a cheesy romance novel I read some 10+ years ago (gotta love em) disclosed above, but the plot is different. Max and Liz were stepsiblings. Nancy married Philip when Liz was 7 and when Max was 10. They were divorced sometime later. I haven’t decided about the other characters yet, but will try to work them all in. This is my first fic so let me know what you think.

Prologue

It was a beautiful day, not a cloud in the sky. Liz found herself standing in front of his resting place. She reached her hand down to the cold marble stone. She traced the letters with her hand whispering lightly “Philip Evans – Beloved Friend and Father.” Liz felt her legs give and she fell to the ground no longer to stop the onslaught of tears.

She had come here to make amends, to put the past behind her and had hoped to start a new relationship with the man she considered her father. He was the only man in her life that had filled that place in her heart.

“I’m so sorry. There are so many things I wish I could make up for. But most of all I want to say thank you. Thank you for showing me what it feels like to be loved. I want you to know that I consider you to be my father. I loved you….love you like a father. And I want you to know how ashamed I am. Ashamed for not keeping in touch with you when you meant so much to me. And for Mama. She never could tell when she had a good thing.” Finally looking up to the retreating sun, she slowly stood up. She had been sitting in the cemetery for over an hour. She grabbed a tree for support as she struggled to keep from falling. “I guess this is goodbye” she said as she wiped her eyes with her right palm.

Chapter 1

* denotes a flashback


Much later Liz found herself sitting in her motel room. She wasn’t even sure how she had gotten there. Her mind was in shock. She had no idea that Philip had died, and right now she wasn’t sure if she could handle it. She had planned on many things when she decided to make this trip back to Arizona – but this, the thought that he was gone, dead – had never crossed her mind. As she looked around the small room she slowly walked to the desk and grabbed a glass then made her way to the bed and grabbed the bottle she had bought on her way back from the cemetery and filled the glass high. Vodka, her mothers drink of choice. Liz flinched at that realization as she whispered “ well Liz, you’re more like you’re mother than you thought.” She picked up the glass and took a drink. She coughed bitterly as she choked on the liquid.

All Liz could think of was her past as she downed the bottle. Those few years while her mom was married to Philip, those were the memories that brought her joy…and sorrow. Joy because she finally felt loved like a child should be, loved for the person she was and would become. Her mother never was a caring woman. After her father left when she was 5 her mother withdrew more and more emotionally from Liz and eventually became no more than a shell of the mother she once was. Liz was a bright and joyful child, but growing up with so much hate and indifference began to change her. She slowly changed from the energetic outgoing child into a scared, guarded, shy child. That was until her mother married Philip when she was 7. He helped bring her out of her shell. He knew how special she was, that she was meant for bigger and brighter things. As Liz thought back to her mother's relationship with Philip she couldn’t help but wonder if she was the reason they had stayed together for so long. His love for her mother definitely wasn’t the reason. She pondered her past until she fell asleep.


Liz awoke with a blinding headache and an overwhelming sense of nausea. As she began to sit up and feel her way off the bed toward the bathroom she was lifted from behind and taken into the bathroom. She could no longer control her nausea. As she lay on the cold tile floor she felt a cold rag brush across her face. Strong arms pulled her to a sitting position as a glass of water was placed in her hands. As she gulped the water she felt a large rough hand brush the hair away from her face. She had an indescribable feeling of warmth come over her. As quickly as the warmth invaded her body and senses it disappeared and she was left feeling empty once again. She winced as she slowly opened her eyes trying to adjust to the light around her. As she looked toward the doorway she saw the figure of a man. Still unable to see clearly she blinked as she spoke.

“Who are you?” she asked.

Silence.

“How…” clearing her throat “how did you get in here?” She remained silent waiting for an answer. When he finally spoke his voice sent chills up and down her spine. She would know that voice anywhere.

While Max contemplated what to say to Liz, he looked around the room and took everything in. On the table was a half empty bottle of Vodka. Next to that was the unopened can of soda she bought to mix he guessed. ‘Like mother like daughter’ he thought with disgust. On the other side of the bed he saw crutches up against the wall. Before he had time to question his discovery he heard a small gasp coming from Liz’s direction. ‘She’s finally coming out of it. I’ve got to get her out of here. Now,’ He thought, ‘ before I change my mind’. “This will probably be the biggest mistake of my life” he whispered as he walked toward her.

“Your mother told me you were here.” Her head snapped up as she heard him speak.

“Max?” she asked hesitantly.

Silence.

“My mother told you I was here, that doesn’t explain why you’re here. Go away Max, haven’t you done enough?” she spoke harshly.
“I’m sorry, I thought you knew. I didn’t know until your mother called. I assumed she told you.” Max replied softly.
“When did it…..how did it happen?” she asked.
“Last spring, he had a heart attack when he was out riding. There wasn’t anything anyone could do.”
She thought back to last spring. Of course her mother hadn’t told her. That was right after the accident. She was still in the hospital. Her mother had sheltered her since then. She felt as if she were 12 again, not the 27 year old woman she is now.

Liz shook her head slowly “No, she never told me. I was out of touch around that time, she must have thought she was protecting me.”

Max let out a bitter laugh “More like she was protecting herself.”

Liz glared at him. He had always hated her mother. Of course he had good reason to. Her mother was never a one man woman. He saw through her from the beginning. Nancy married Philip not only for his money, but so she could pawn her daughter off on someone else while she played her husband. She had had numerous affairs, not to mention her addiction to the bottle. How his father could keep her around for 8 years was beyond him.

And Liz, she had always had a rather close relationship with his father. Max even confronted his father about their relationship with her and he had admitted at one point that Liz was a big reason for him keeping Nancy around. His father had always had a big heart and knew Liz needed more than her mother could give. She needed someone stable that she could depend on. All children deserve that. This was not something Max could see. He had always felt that Philip should have left Nancy early on in the marriage. But Max hadn’t kept a grudge against his father, but he had resented Liz. She was after all the reason why Nancy stayed around as long as she did. When he was 18 his father and Nancy finally divorced. That was the last he had seen or heard from either one of them until his fathers passing.

Liz’s voice brought him out of his memories. “You haven’t told me why you’re here.”

“Like I said, your mother told me you were here. She pleaded with me to find you. I guess she knew this would be hard on you. I’m sorry Liz. I never would have acted that way on the phone with you if I had known.”

“You don’t have to apologize. I understand why you acted the way you did. We haven’t spoken in over 10 years. Not to mention the fact that my mother and I destroyed your fathers life” she spat. She couldn’t help but feel anger towards Max as she thought back to the phone conversation they had earlier that morning.

***She had taken a flight in from Chicago late last night with the intention of mending fences with Philip. She awoke early the next morning with a sense of dread. She couldn’t shake the feeling that something was wrong. Little did she know of the unexpected turn in her life.

She picked up the phone with a trembling hand. She took a long, deep, calming breath. “Come on Liz, you can do this” she said as she exhaled. She took another long breath and held it as she dialed the number. Her heart was racing. She could hear her heart pounding, the blood rushing to her ears. She waited what seemed like forever until someone answered.

“Hello?” came an all too familiar voice on the line.

“Max?” she paused “Max? It’s Liz. Listen, I’m sorry to bother you. I just called to…I called because I need to see your dad.” Liz held her breath again. ‘Lord, of all people to answer why did it have to be him’ she thought nervously.

Max had to laugh with disgust as he spoke “Liz, I wish I could say this was a pleasant surprise. I’m not surprised. I expected to hear from you earlier, and this definitely isn’t pleasant.” Max spoke bitterly. ‘I should have known that she would come to collect.’

“Please Max, I don’t have the energy to fight. Please just tell me where he is,” she pleaded. With that Max gave her an address of where she could find his father.

“Thank you Max.”

“I’m sure we’ll be in touch” Max said quickly and hung up the phone.

‘Well, that didn’t go so bad’ she thought to herself. With that thought she set off on her journey. During her drive in the car she kept repeating ‘It’s going to be ok, it’s going to be ok, it’s going to be ok’. She just about had herself believing it as well, that is until she pulled up at her destination. Her heart was pounding hard with disbelief. Her eyes filled with tears as she looked at this place where Philip rested. The cemetery. ***



Liz was pulled out of her thoughts as Max let out a deep sigh. “It’s no secret how I feel about your mother….and you. It still doesn’t excuse the way I acted on the phone. I’m sorry.”

“I think it’s too late for that. Get out and go back to your precious life.”

“I’m not leaving you here like this.” Max argued as he grabbed her arm. Liz trembled at his touch. “Leave……please” she said in a small, soft voice.

“I said I’m not leaving you here like this. Besides, we have a lot to talk about. You’re coming with me.” With that Max lifted Liz into his arms and carried her toward the door.


The drive to the ranch was eerily silent. Liz was not ready to face her step-brother yet. Her head was swimming with so many concerns and doubts. She had fought so hard and for so long to leave the past behind her. She thought she had done a good job at it as well. But seeing him again after all this time she came to realize that she had just hidden the past deep within her and being back in this town, seeing him again was all bringing it back to the surface. She didn’t think she could handle it.

During the 8 years her mom was married to Philip never once had she felt accepted by Max. She knew he wouldn’t accept her because of her mother. Her mother was no saint, hell she was the first to admit that. Nancy had only looked out for Nancy. She craved attention and was never satisfied with one man. Not even her own father, whom Nancy had claimed to love dearly, had been enough for her mother. As she trailed off in her thoughts the last thing she remembered seeing were the acres of flat bare land until she could keep her eyelids open no more.


TBC????

[ edited 21time(s), last at 20-Sep-2002 9:41:18 AM ]
posted on 9-Nov-2001 9:30:45 AM by FreeFall
Wow! I'm glad ya'll are liking it! Here's the next chapter. Let me know if you have questions or if anything is unclear. The next few chapters are going to build on the characters, may just bring up more questions than answers.

Chapter 2

The next morning Liz awoke to the sound of a soft knock on the door. A short blonde popped her head in.

“Good morning. Breakfast is waiting. Whenever you’re ready come to the kitchen, it’s straight down the hall and to the left.”

‘Well,’ Liz thought ‘it’s now or never. The sooner I get this over with the sooner I can get out of here!’

Twenty minutes later Liz had showered and dressed and slowly made her way out of the bedroom. She closed the door behind her and grabbed her crutches. She had to concentrate on what she was doing so she wouldn’t slip on the slick wooden floor. She wasn’t feeling very well, she still had a slight headache and her legs and her arms were sore from the position that she had passed out in. She still had many months of physical therapy to go before her legs were strong enough to walk on their own for any length of time.

As she walked into the kitchen she noticed the blonde, she was busy cooking while Max was seated at the table with a small boy, a miniature version of Max. ‘No mistaking those features, this must be Max’s son’ Liz thought. Before she had a chance to announce herself Max spoke.

“Glad you could join us this morning” he said with a sarcastic tone. The boy stopped what he was doing and stared at Liz. She had never felt so self-conscious in her life, well except for…

“Max, don’t be so rude.” The blonde chimed in. She then turned her attention to Liz “Liz, just ignore Max; he can be kinda grumpy before his first cup of coffee. Would you like an omelet? How bout some juice? I’m Maria by the way, I have the pleasure of living next door.” The blonde now known as Maria rambled on while giving Max a distasteful look. It took a few seconds for Liz before she could process all that was said.

“No thank you, Maria. I’ll just have some coffee and dry toast if that’s ok?” She said while giving Maria a quizzical look.

“No problem at all” Maria responded hesitantly.

Liz could feel eyes on her. She turned her head back to the table slowly and saw that the young boy was still looking at her with his wide dark eyes. She smiled hesitantly at the boy as his face broke out into a huge grin. Max turned to Liz, noticing the exchange between the two. He wasn’t sure how he felt about it. He knew that he did not want his son to get mixed up in their feud. ‘No, it’s better if we get this over quickly. I can’t have her here disrupting our lives’ he thought.

“Liz, this is my son Austin, Austin this is Liz”. Max introduced.

“Hi Austin, it’s nice to meet you” Liz then gave him another small smile.

Austin looked at Liz and spoke softly “Hi”.

About this time Maria came back to the table bringing coffee and babbling on about everything that Max needed to have done that day. She had taken it upon herself to make sure Liz got out of the house today. Max didn’t seem to be too happy about this new houseguest, and Maria wanted to get the dirt on the situation.

Maria looked to Liz and gave her a warm smile, “Liz, I’m going to town this afternoon with a friend of mine. I’d love it if you’d come along.”

Liz looked to Maria hesitantly “Thanks for the offer Maria, I’m sure that would be great, but I think I should be leaving...”

Maria interrupted her “Nonsense Liz. I won’t take no for an answer. It’ll be great fun and a chance for us to get to know each other better. Don’t worry, we won’t do anything exhausting, just grab lunch and bond over ice cream.” Maria winked at Liz. “Besides, I know that you and Max have business to go over and there is no way that he can take the time out of his schedule today to get it all done.” Maria gave Max a pointed look. “Right Max?” she said as she nodded indicating that he had better agree with her or else.

Max quickly nodded in agreement with her. He had seen that look on her face too many times and decided to quit while he was ahead. ‘No need to make the day worse’ he thought.

The rest of the meal passed in silence, the atmosphere becoming tenser as the minutes went by. When Austin started to fidget Maria decided to take him to get cleaned up. This left Max and Liz alone. Liz looked around the spacious kitchen. It looked different, obvious that a remodeling had taken place.

“You’ve done a lot to the place. It looks different – but nice. It has a warmth to it,” she said while wringing her hands trying to ease her nerves. ‘It was never this warm and inviting while I lived here.’ She had never imagined coming back to this place. It held so many memories of her childhood.

Max just shrugged and spoke – never averting his eyes from the paper he was reading, “Yeah, we had it redone a while back. It was time for a change.” The remodeling had been Max’s idea. After his father had divorced Nancy he had wanted to change things. There were too many reminders after they left, from the dull wallpaper to the tan carpet. It had taken some convincing but his father reluctantly agreed.

When Max didn’t offer anymore to the conversation she tried again. “You’re son is amazing. He looks just like you. How old is he?”

“He’s 6, and yes he is amazing. He may look like me but he has a lot of his mother’s personality. Very trusting and loving.” Max added while thinking ‘I hope I don’t regret having her here. The last thing Austin needs is any more disruption in his life’.

“I had heard that you had gotten married, but I didn’t know you had a son.”

Max interjected quickly “Karen and I were married 9 years ago. She was the most amazing person.” Max smiled fondly as he remembered his wife.

“Max, where is she now?” Liz asked softly, interested to see what had become of his life since she had last seen him 12 years ago.

Max replied harshly “She died 3 years ago, it’s been hard on Austin these last few years. He still remembers her but doesn’t understand why she’s not here with us. It has been even more difficult this past year since dad has passed. They were very close” Max’s tone had softened significantly since his harsh outburst. He sighed heavily and ran a hand through his hair. He still had not gotten over the loss of his wife. But she was more than that. She was his best friend and he truly missed her. He didn’t know why he was sharing so much detail with Liz. They had never been close. He had always considered her to be an annoying child. Always demanding attention. Always doing things that got her into trouble. ‘It’s not like she could change, and from what I’ve heard from her mother she definitely hasn’t changed’ He was brought out of his thoughts as Liz spoke.

“I’m so sorry Max. I…. I didn’t know. That must have been awful for you” she finished feeling foolish for bringing up the subject.

“It was. How about you. Your mother said you had gotten married. Where’s the new hubby?” he asked sarcastically.

Liz lowered her head “We aren’t together. It didn’t work out.” She tried to hide her humiliation. She knew that this was just another piece to add to the fire. One more thing to link her to her mother. Her marriage. Huh, if you could call it that. It ended before it even had a chance to start. ‘At least I found out what kind of person he was early on.’ She slowly raised her head to come face to face with a smirking Max.

‘This is too good,’ he thought. He chuckled lightly to himself. “So I see the fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree.”

Liz raised her head and glared at him. She couldn’t believe he was acting so bitterly. “Max now is not the time to be going into this.” Liz started but was cut off.

“This sure as hell is as good a time as any Liz.” Max stood quickly. “What did you expect to gain by coming here? Did you think that we would just welcome you with open arms? After all this time? Give me a break Liz!”

“No, I expected nothing of the sort, especially from you Max! I came back for personal reasons, but believe me they had nothing to do with you!” Liz stood shakily grabbing the back of the chair for support as her anger took over her body. Anger from the past year, anger for how Max had always treated her.

“Max I would be a fool to think that you would treat me any differently than you ever had, a fool to think that you had actually grown up..”

“You don’t know anything about me! You didn’t 12 years ago and you sure as hell don’t now!” Max shouted in anger. “How dare you…” Max was cut short when Maria grabbed Max’s arm tightly and pulled his attention away from Liz. Both had been so involved that neither had noticed Maria’s presence.

“Max, she’s right. Now is not the time. Austin’s waiting.” Maria looked at Max anticipating a protest but Max had just shrugged her off and headed out the back door. He turned his head on his way out “This is far from over.” He said in a warning tone.

As the door slammed shut Liz let out a strangled cry. She hated the way that he looked at her. The way he judged her without knowing anything about her. ‘Why is this so hard?’ Maria placed a hand on Liz’s shoulder as a show of comfort.

“Look, I know that you don’t know me, but if you need someone to talk to, a friend…”

“Thank you Maria, you don’t know how much that means to me.”

Maria stared at Liz. Her eyes looked so tired and weary, like she had been carrying a weight on her shoulders. “Liz, he’ll come around. He may put up a strong front, but deep down he has a heart of gold. He would do anything for those he cares about. Just give him time, I know he’ll..”

“No Maria, you don’t. How much time am I supposed to give? It’s been twelve years. TWELVE YEARS MARIA! Things will never change between us. Never.”

Maria gave Liz a sympathetic look, “How do you know if you don’t try?”

“Can we just not talk about this?” Maria gave her a look. ‘This isn’t going to be easy, which reminds me..’ “Fine. I have a few things I need to take care of anyway before we leave for lunch. Will you be ok for a few hours?”

“Yeah, I have a few calls to make. Don’t worry about me. I think I can find my way around. I mean I only lived here for 8 years.” Liz said with a half smile.

“Great. I’ll be back to get you at 12. Be ready.”


TBC???
What do ya think? Questions? Comments?
posted on 4-Dec-2001 12:56:39 AM by FreeFall
First, I'd like to say thank you! and I'm so sorry it's taken so long.
Second, I have part 3 ready to post, after many a re-write. Anyway, I have proofed it several times but since I am running on empty right now I'd like to know if anyone would like to give it a once over before I "officially" post it.

Any volunteers?

You guys rock!

If you're interested leave a note or email me at freefall1974⊕hotmail.com
posted on 4-Dec-2001 11:22:19 PM by FreeFall
Sorry this took so long to get out. Hope you enjoy!

Chapter 3

Maria was true to her word. At exactly 12 she pulled up in a new Dodge Durango with a rather rough looking guy with shoulder length brown hair. Liz made her way slowly down the stairs of the front porch, careful not to get her crutches caught in between the wooden boards.

“Hey chica! I was afraid that I was going to have to drag you out of this house.” She gave Liz a warm smile. “Liz I want you to meet my fiancé Michael Guerin.” Maria grabs Michael’s arm “Michael get your butt over here and meet Liz.” “Michael, this is Liz Parker.” “It’s nice to meet you Michael.” Liz gave a small smile. “Yeah, you too” was his mumbled response. Maria elbowed him in the gut while turning the conversation back to Liz “You’ll have to excuse Michael, he’s not much of a talker. He and Max are best friends, have been for what? 7 years now?” Maria looks to Michael for confirmation. When he nods she continues “Anyway, that’s how we ended up living down the road. Max had the house built after he was married, but moved back here with his dad after Karen died. We moved in a couple years ago.”

“Whatever Maria, I’ve gotta meet Max. Remember what I told you about Midnight.”

“Midnight?” Maria looks at Michael expectantly. “Yes Midnight” he says as he points towards the Durango. “Do you listen to me at all? Maria we’ve had this conversation. We’ve been over this before, if you take Midnight you have to respect his wishes.”

“His wishes?” Maria is now looking at him like he sprouted another head. “Yes his wishes. He doesn’t like it when you play that station; you know the one that plays Back Street Boys and Britney Spears back to back? He doesn’t like it and he told me he will revolt the next time it is played. Don’t play it, he won’t stall. Just stick to the pre-set channels and you’ll be fine. And before I forget, don’t be spraying that aromatherapy crap in there either. He definitely does not like that.” He chanced a look back at the Durango then turned back to Maria “Geez, and you wonder why he’s already broken down on you twice!”

Maria gave him a dumbfounded look. “Maria! We had this conversation yesterday. Respect his wishes and there will be no problems.”

At this Maria rolls her eyes. Liz ducks her head to hide her amusement. She lets out a soft chuckle as they continue.

“Michael shut your mouth! This is not just your car. We are engaged. ENGAGED Michael! And I do listen to you – when you have something worth saying, which isn’t very often. And Midnight? It’s a car for crying out loud, not a horse!” he lets out a grunt as he mumbles, “It’s not a car, it’s a sports utility vehicle.” Glaring in his direction she continues, “Liz and I will be back in a few hours. And don’t worry Mickey G” she says as she pinches his cheek playfully “I will take care of Midnight. Now be a dear and help us.”

Michael walks both girls to the truck and opens the passenger door for Liz. He takes her crutches and holds her arm to help steady her as she climbs into the passenger seat. He puts her crutches in the back seat on his way over to Maria. He walks up to her window and waits for her to roll down the window. Seeing that she is engrossed in conversation he taps lightly letting his ring hit the glass. Maria quickly turns off the radio as she reaches to roll the window down, anxious to avoid a confrontation. She looks up at him with a guilty expression. Michael looks at her knowingly.

“Remember what I told you. I should be here when you get back.” “Bye Liz” Liz waives back to him as they pull onto the long gravel driveway.

The 20-minute drive into town was uneventful. Maria had tried to get Liz to talk about herself, and when that failed she tried unsuccessfully to get her to talk about anything at all. She didn’t seem to pay attention to Maria; she just sat looking out the window with a thoughtful expression on her face. As they pulled into their destination Maria placed a hand on Liz’s arm to bring her out of her trance.

“We’re here chica. Are you ok? You kinda zoned out on me.” Maria said with a touch of concern.

“Yeah, just got a lot on mind. Come on lets eat, I’m starved.”

“Now that’s the best idea I’ve heard all day.”
***************************************
As the girls drove off, Michael made his way into the house. He’d know Max for over 7 years, since he had first moved to this town. He had helped Mr. Evans in the past from time to time but had been here full time since Max’s father had passed. He had always loved working with horses; they never demanded much from him, just patience and understanding. That’s all he ever wanted as well.

He had grown up in California with his parents. They were the stereotypical socialites. Always coming and going, their parties and social standing more important to them than anything else, even their children. Michael had not known that life could be like this, that he could actually be happy, until he finally decided to make the move and cut ties with his parents. The sad thing is that he had not regretted it once and actually wished he had done it sooner. The only regret he had was not being able to take his now 16-year-old sister with him.

As he made his way into the kitchen and stopped short when he heard Max talking on the phone.

“Yes, could I speak to Mr. Whitman please?” pause “This is Max Evans”

“Alex, buddy. I need you to free up some time for me first thing tomorrow morning. … Look, I know you’re busy but this is important…..Yeah, she’s back and I want to get this over with as soon as possible…. I don’t really care what you think just schedule the appointment!”

Feeling like he was intruding Michael decided to make his way out of the house and towards the stables. He knew Max would be out after he took care of business. Michael was working diligently for about 20 minutes when Max emerged.

“Hey Michael, I didn’t know you were out here. I didn’t see your car out front.”

“Yeah, I got here about 30 minutes ago, Maria dropped me off. She had a girls thing planned with Izzy and Liz.”

Max seemed to be studying one of the horses thoroughly. “Yeah, I remember her saying something about that this morning.”

Michael took that as a sign that he didn’t care to broach the subject. ‘He’ll talk when he’s ready’.

“Michael? I’ve got some things that I need to take care of in town. Do you think you can handle things out here for awhile?”

“Sure man, not a problem. Did you want me to wait around till you get back?”

“Nah, I think I’ll pick up Austin after school. He has softball practice today so we won’t be back until late. I’ll catch ya tomorrow.” Max said on his way out of the stables back towards the house.

Michael couldn’t help but wonder exactly what was going on with his friend.

******************************************

“Come on Liz, take a seat. I can’t wait for you to meet Isabel. She’s one of my best friends. She should be here any minute.” Maria looked over at Liz who was studying her menu intently. She decided to see if she could bring Liz out of her daze. “So Liz, tell me, what brings you to Arizona?”

Liz looks up from examining her menu. “Personal business” she said as she looked back down to her menu. She hated being so aloof with Maria; she just wasn’t sure how to act around her. It had been awhile since she had any real friends to talk with, and even with her friends she never got too personal. ‘Some things just need to be forgotten.’

Maria looked at Liz with a frown. She was determined to find out what was going on in that mind of hers. ‘By the look on her face whatever she’s thinking can’t be good.’ Both girls were startled out of their thoughts when a tall blonde burst through the doors of the restaurant running at high speed. Liz looked at her with a quizzical expression when she stopped at their table.

“I am SO sorry that I’m late Maria, I had to drop off Maddy at mom’s and there was an accident on the freeway over.” She took a deep breath and exhaled as Maria gave her a knowing smile.

“That’s ok Isabel, we’ve only been here a few minutes ourselves. Isabel Whitman, I’d like you to meet Liz Parker.” Maria introduced. Isabel gave a bright smile at the petite brunette and extended her hand.

“Hi Liz. I’ve heard a lot about you. I’m glad I finally get a chance to meet you.”

“It’s good to meet you too, Isabel.” Liz had a thoughtful expression on her face ‘Why does that name sound so familiar?’ “Whitman? Are you related to Alex Whitman?”

Isabel’s face brightened at the mention of her husband. “Yes, he’s my husband. He’s mentioned you before, and to tell you the truth I’m dying to get a scoop on him when he was younger.”

“Am I missing something?” Maria chimed in.

“Oh, sorry Maria. I just got carried away. Alex was best friends with Max since, since…well since forever.”

“Yeah, I remember him. He and Max used to go riding all the time. But honestly, that was a long time ago and I don’t remember much.” Liz decided it was time to take the conversation in her own hands. ‘That’s the only way I can keep certain topics from being covered.’ “So, Isabel how long have you and Alex been married? How’d you guys meet?”

Isabel smiled at Liz knowing she was intentionally changing the subject “4 years now. Actually, believe it or not we met on a double date. I was Max’s date and Alex was with some girl named Tess. Needless to say Max is definitely not my type but Alex and I hit it off. It was kinda awkward at first because Alex and Max were best friends, but Max was really cool about it, especially after he met my sister.”

“Your sister?” Liz asked confused.

“Yeah, my older sister Karen. We moved here the summer after Alex and Max graduated. Karen was their age while I was just going into my junior year. They met a couple weeks later. I think it was love at first site, at least I know it was with Karen.”

“I’m sorry Isabel, you don’t have to talk about it. This must be difficult for you.” Liz said sincerely. She hadn’t known that Karen was Isabel’s sister, otherwise she would not of brought up the subject.

“It’s ok Liz. It was hard at first; we were very close. But I like talking about her now. It keeps her memory fresh, ya know? Max still won’t talk about her to us, the wound is still deep for him. I think he blamed himself to a degree, which has made it worse. For a long time he wouldn’t open up to anyone, but thankfully Philip was able to make him see that he couldn’t stop living, that Austin still needed him.”

“Yeah, it was a bad time for us all. I don’t know what Max would have done without Philip and Austin. I don’t know if he would have ever come around.” Maria thought back to that time with a heavy heart. Even though Karen and her had not been good friends, her death still hit her hard. She was so young and had so many people who loved her and needed her. ‘I’ll never understand why she was taken when she was.’

Liz stared out the window. She hadn’t known about all this, otherwise she never would have come. She didn’t want to cause any more distress to their family.

“Well, I think we’ve touched on that subject enough for one day. I think a change of subject is just what we need.” Maria wanted to keep the conversation as upbeat as possible. She didn’t want to push Liz too hard and as she looked across the table to Liz she could feel her slipping away.

“So Liz, what do you do? Max said you live in Chicago?”

“Yeah, I moved to Chicago right out of college. I’m the Public Relations Director for an international pharmaceutical company that has their American headquarters in Chicago.”

“Really? Sounds like you’ve done well for yourself. Do you get to travel much?”

“Not much anymore. When I first started with the company they had me overseas for several months in their training program. I still get to travel every now and then, well, I mean I did. I’m taking leave now.” She made sure to make it clear that she would not be answering any questions as to why at this point in time.

“I always thought I wanted a career like that Liz. How do you feel being so young and successful?”

Liz didn’t really know how to answer that question. How did she feel? She knew what her goal was. She had wanted to feel proud of her accomplishments, to be successful, self-confident, independent, and most important- to feel whole. But the word that slipped out first “Lonely. It feels lonely.”

Neither Maria or Isabel could miss the melancholy expression that crossed Liz’s face. The two women silently agreed that it was time to move this conversation on. There would be other times to ask questions.

Liz came out of her thoughts as Maria was clearing her throat. “So, how long do you plan on staying? I heard Max talking to Alex last night and I know he’s setting up a meeting for ya’ll.” Maria searched her face for any traces of anticipation or deception. Max had said she only came to collect on the inheritance. Now was Maria’s chance to see if that was what Liz was really after.

“Why would he be setting up a meeting with me and Alex?” She couldn’t help the confused look she was giving. Maria had just baffled her.

“Liz – Alex is Max’s attorney. He’s handling Philip’s estate and now is the best time to get everything taken care of.” Isabel filled in a few holes.

“Philip’s estate? I don’t understand?” she whispered, the look of confusion still on her face.

Isabel’s expression matched Liz’s. “Didn’t you know? I thought that that was why you came. Alex said your mother tried to take care of it for you, but legally it could only be done by you.”

“You mean Philip? He included me in his will?”

“Well, yes. Why do you look so surprised? Didn’t anyone tell you?” Isabel added.

“N…no. I didn’t know,” she said shaking her head frantically. ‘What is going on? Why would he name me in his will?’

Isabel gave Maria a questioning glace. She wasn’t sure what was going on but something was definitely up. Something did not feel right. And both girls were certain that she was telling the truth.


******************************************

Pulling in the long dirt drive Max glanced back at his son who was trying very hard to keep his eyes open. Max had had a long hard afternoon taking care of a few loose ends before it was time for him to pick up Austin from school. He took him to the park. Austin had a couple hours before his practice, so they spent it laughing and playing. It felt good to be out with Austin. He had been busy lately, hadn’t spent enough time with his son.

He stepped out of the car and opened the backseat door. He slowly undid the seatbelt and picked him up when he stirred. “Daddy, are we home yet?” Austin asked while rubbing the sleep out of his eyes.

“Yes, we’re here and it’s time for bed.”

As Max walked in the door he heard voices from the back room. He made his way towards the main stairwell with the intent of putting Austin to bed when Isabel’s voice stopped him.

“Max, you’re back.” She turned her attention to the little boy who was fighting off sleep. “Hey Austin, how was your practice?” she asked with a bright smile.

“It was fun,” he said as he muffled a yawn. She could tell he was worn out.

“Looks like they succeeded in wearing you out! You look exhausted.” He ducked his head and turned his face into Max’s broad chest.

“Come on Austin, let’s get you to bed.” Max interrupted.

“Can I say goodnight to Aunt Maria and Uncle Michael first?” he asked with a pouty look. “Please?”

“Ok, but make it quick.”

As soon as Max put Austin down he took off down the hall towards the others in the back room. As they made their way towards the others Isabel grabbed a hold of Max’s arm stopping him.

“Hey, are you ok? I mean really ok?” she asked with a worried expression.

Max had to smile back at her. She reminded him of her sister. Not so much in looks, but they had the same mannerisms and they both had a big heart. It was usually very comforting to have her around because she made him feel like part of wife was still around, but right now it just made it worse for him.

“I don’t know Isabel,” he said with a tired expression “but don’t worry, I will be.” She let go of his arm as they made their way into the back room, both stopping and watching little Austin as he made his way first from Maria, then to Michael and finally to Liz to give them a hug and kiss goodnight.



TBC?
Let me know what you think......

[ edited 1 time(s), last at 4-Dec-2001 11:27:25 PM ]
posted on 10-Dec-2001 11:15:02 PM by FreeFall
Here's the next part, hope you enjoy!

~~~ Indicates a dream

*** Indicates a flashback

Chapter 4

~~~Liz walked quietly down the hall to her mother’s bedroom. Nancy was sitting at the desk near the window fumbling frantically through the drawers. She looked up startled as let out a sigh of relief as it was only her daughter.

“What are you doing Mama?”

“Sweetie? Oh, nothing…I seemed to have misplaced a file I was working on for Philip. Oh! I forgot. I must have left it in the study. Would you be a dear and retrieve it for me? Oh, and here’s the key to the safe.”

“But Mama, I’m not supposed to be in there.” Liz said refusing to take the key.

“Oh honey, it’ll be alright. Philip won’t mind. Besides, I really want to get this done for him. He’s been working so hard lately and this will be one less thing for him to worry about.”

“Oh, ok.” She took the key with shaky fingers and made her way out of the room towards the back of the house. As she glanced back she noticed the vicious smile plastered across her mother’s face.

As she walked the hallway became longer and longer seemingly stretching to eternity. Suddenly, out of nowhere emerged a door off to her left. As she passed it she heard a room full of boisterous laughter. Turning her head in curiosity she could not help but notice the people occupying the room. Alex and Isabel were off to the side dancing merrily as Maria played a tune on the piano while Michael and Max propped themselves along side it.

She entered the room slowly and stopped when the occupants all turned their eyes on her. She became more and more self-conscious as their gazes intensified and the fun atmosphere turned to something else. Feeling her insecurities overwhelm her she took a step back towards the door. As she did this, they took a step toward her. The closer they came the more frightened she became. She turned quickly ready to run out the door when it slammed shut. She tried the doorknob franticly but it would not turn. ‘No! I have to get out of here!’ Her movements became more and more hurried as she realized she was trapped. Suddenly she felt a tight grip on her arm pulling her away from the door. Shocked, she turned suddenly and came face to face with….Philip~~~

“No…no….no… let go of me! I didn’t know I swear!” Liz let out a sob as she hurled herself upright and panted heavily. She looked around the room she was in and felt relief fill her as she realized it was a dream.

----------------------------------------------------


Max left the ranch early in the morning. He was on a mission, intent on getting this talk with Alex out of the way as soon as possible. He wasn’t sure how he was planning on handling Liz and the whole inheritance issue, but he sure as hell didn’t want her around for too long.

He got to the office building just after daybreak. The sun was just coming over the ridges to the east. What a beautiful morning it was turning out to be, he just hoped his day would turn out well. He stepped into the empty office building heading toward the familiar office in the back. He poked his head into the open door to find Alex sitting in his chair facing the window. He knocked softly on the door and made his way inside.

“Hey Alex. Thanks for being here so early.”

“Morning Max.” Alex said as he turned back to his desk. “What can I do for you?”

“Look, I’m sorry about yesterday. We need to set up an appointment with Liz but I wanted to talk to you first.”

“I figured as much. What’s on your mind Max?”

“How long will it take to get everything settled?”

“Oh, I don’t know. Depends on if the will will be contested. But since we’ve already gone over that it shouldn’t take too long.”

“Good, good.” After a hesitant pause Max asked “Do you know why she came? Did Nancy mention anything to you?”

“No, Nancy didn’t contact me. I don’t know why she’s here. But it wasn’t because of the inheritance.” He said in a serious tone.

“I don’t know Alex. I think she’s keeping something from us. How could Nancy not of mentioned this to her?”

“I don’t know Max. But you have to admit that that is a Nancy thing to do. All I know is that she didn’t know she was in the will. Isabel assured me of it. I mean, why would she lie about that. It’s not like her knowing would change the situation.” Alex said as he shuffled through some papers on his desk. “Maybe you should just get over it Max. The past is the past, it can’t be changed. No use letting it eat at you forever.”

Max couldn’t believe what he was hearing from his long time friend. The more nonchalant Alex was being about this situation the more it made Max’s anger boil.

“What? Are you trying to tell me what I should think and feel? Do you have any idea what this did to my dad? Do you? He was never the same Alex! He never got over it!” Max could not believe that his best friend was pulling this with him. He knew better than anyone what had happened, Alex was there through it all.

“You’re wrong Max. Look, I know there’s bad blood; I’m not trying to tell you what to do. But I see how you have been acting these past few days.” Alex paused and let out a heavy sigh. “It’s not you. This isn’t you Max. I haven’t seen this side of you since high school and it’s scaring the hell out of me and everyone else.”

He searched Max’s face for understanding. “Max all I’m saying is maybe it’s time to let this go. You’re both grown adults, you should start acting the part. This isn’t high school anymore Max, and you aren’t a teenager. It’s time to grow up. There are a lot of things that you don’t know, things that I know would make you feel differently but…”

“Then tell me Alex. Tell me why I should give her another chance?” he pleaded.

“I can’t tell you what I know, it was told to me in confidence as your father’s attorney. Talk to her Max. She’s the only one that can give you the answers that you want. And I think that if you ask her, if you show her you are sincere about wanting to get past all this, I think she might open up to you. It upsets her that you blame her for her mother’s mistakes.”

“She doesn’t care what I think. We’ve never really gotten along and..”

“Come off it Max!” Alex could not believe how pig headed Max was being. Sure, he had seen his stubborn streak thousands of times, but not like this.

“I can remember plenty of times when we were younger when she would tag along while we were riding or when we went camping. Granted, at the time we thought of her as an annoyance, but honestly Max I can only remember her as a shy little girl that looked up to you. So, you can say that the two of you have never gotten along; you can pull that card with anyone else Max, but not with me! I was there! I know it wasn’t always like this!” His faced dropped and his tone softened. “What is all this about?”

Max closed his eyes and tightened his jaw as he let his emotions roll over him. “She was a part of it Alex. She lied for her. She deceived us, and that hurt Dad more than anything Nancy could have ever done.”

“Not this again,” Alex said as he threw his head back and rolled his eyes. “She was 15 years old Max! She made a mistake. You can’t punish her forever – you’d only be punishing yourself. Face it Max – Nancy used her to try to get to your Dad. Do you really believe she understood what was happening? THINK about it Man!” Alex took a deep breath and started over more calmly.

“I know this is hard, but give her a chance. She’s nothing like her mother. I don’t care what you’ve heard or what you THINK you know.” Alex paused a few seconds to let his words settle on his friend before he continued, “We’ve been friends a long time Max. Do you trust me?” he asked softly.

“What?” Max asked stunned. He was definitely not expecting Alex to question their friendship. “Of course I do. You’re my best friend.”

“Then trust me when I tell you to give her a chance.” He pleaded.

Max looked at Alex, searching his face for any doubts. He wanted so much to be able to let things go, to forget but he had so many doubts. What if she truly was like her mother? What if she couldn’t be trusted? But if he was honest with himself he would know that this wasn’t the real issue. Truthfully he was afraid to let her in. Even when they were younger she made him feel things. The things she could do to him with a simple touch! That is not something he wanted to deal with, especially now.

Being honest with himself he would have to admit that he was scared. Scared of her and what he knew he could feel about her if he let her in. He wasn’t ready for that. He contemplated this as he made his way to the door. No, he wouldn’t go to Liz, not yet. ‘But I need answers,’ and he knew there was only one other person he could go to to get that information. As he opened the door he only stopped for a second, not looking back. “I’ll think about it.” That’s all he could offer for now.


------------------------------------------------------


Max found himself looking out over the expanse of land in front of him. His thoughts cleared as his horse gave a little squeal. He always did his best thinking while riding. It was familiar to him – put him at ease – calmed his nerves. He had had a disturbing conversation with Nancy Parker earlier; had uncovered some things he wished he’d left alone. Things that would change the way he felt. Thing that he needed to think deeply on.


***Max made his way into his study after his meeting with Alex. He needed answers. He picked up the phone and dialed the number that he had scribbled on his note pad. He waited impatiently as the phone rang until it was finally answered.

“Hello?” Came an unfamiliar male voice.

“Yes, may I speak with Nancy please?”

“Yeah, yeah. Hang on while I get her,” the man said shortly. Max could hear him yelling loudly for Nancy to pick up the phone. He waited what seemed like several minutes before a female voice finally came on the line.

“Hello?” came a tired sounding voice.

“Nancy? This is Max Evans.”

“Max, what a surprise. I’ve been meaning to..”

“Spare me the pleasantries Nancy. This isn’t a social call. I need to know about Liz. Why is she here? Why didn’t you tell her about Dad? Or that she was named in the will?” he went right to the point. ‘What were you thinking!’ he wanted to shout. He could never understand how she could be so selfish and insensitive to keep this from her daughter.

There was a long pause as Nancy contemplated her answer. “I know Max. I tried to tell her….so many times. I just….it didn’t….I couldn’t do it. She was going through so much at the time. She’s been through so much Max. I couldn’t bear to see her in any more pain.”

“She deserved to know Nancy.” Max said through clenched teeth.

“I know.”

“It’s been almost a year. How much longer were you going to keep this from her? And why didn’t you tell her before she left?”

“Don’t you think I would have told her if I’d of known she was going to see him! Do you think I’m that heartless to let my own daughter find out that way?”

Max didn’t know how to respond to that, so he didn’t.

“Max, I know you hate me. I’ve done a lot of things in my life that I’m not proud of, things that I can’t take back. But please, don’t hold that against Liz. She has a good heart. She’s never condoned the things I’ve done. Please don’t hold my mistakes against her.” Nancy pleaded.

“What happened to her Nancy? Does this have to do with the accident? Her marriage?”

“Both actually. When she met Sean, her husband, I thought things had changed for her, for the good I mean. She was happy – happier than I’d ever seen her. She was in love and had a great career. But after the accident…she hasn’t been able to work and….let’s just say that Sean wasn’t who she thought he was.”

He could hear the intake of breath over the line.

“I’m sorry. It’s hard for me to talk about this. It, the accident, was caused by a drunk driver. It was really bad. She was trapped in the car for over an hour before they could get her out. She was in a coma for two weeks before she regained consciousness. Then she was in and out of consciousness for the next couple of weeks. The doctors didn’t know the extent of her head injuries – they didn’t know if she would have brain damage or if she would be able to live a normal life again. I think it was too much for Sean.”

“What, he just left her?” He couldn’t believe he was hearing this. Never once did he ever think of leaving his wife’s side. No matter how painful it was for him to see her suffer.

“He came to see her a couple of times while she was still in a coma. The last time I saw him he had spoken with her doctor. I haven’t seen him since. She hasn’t heard from him either. I’ve tried to keep her preoccupied with other things, like getting back to normal. The doctors are positive that with time and therapy she would regain her strength.” ***


After thinking long and hard on the subject, he had come to a decision. Alex was right; it was time for him to be mature about this. It didn’t matter if he wasn’t ready for this, she needed him. With a new found determination he quickly made his way back to the stables.

-----------------------------------------------------


Max headed straight for the house after leaving his steed with one of his ranch hands. As he came closer to the back of the house he noticed that everyone was gathered on the porch sipping lemonade while Maria played her guitar.

As soon as they noticed his appearance they stopped what they were doing. It was easy to tell that Max had something he wanted to say. He approached the porch and turned towards Liz.

“Hey guys, do you mind excusing Liz and I for a few moments. There is something I need to talk to her about.” He asked her with his eyes if it was alright. She nodded, never once loosing eye contact with him.

“Great. Give me a few minutes and I’ll meet you in the study.” He said on his way in.

Liz felt herself let out a deep breath as she mentally prepared herself. She glanced around and couldn’t help but smile at the reassuring smiles everyone was giving her.


TBC?

I hope I didn't confuse anyone, that wasn't my intention. I wanted to give you guys a few answers but I also want to go more indepth into what went on before it all comes out. As for the dream scene, it may not have made much sense - but it's something that has been haunting Liz for awhile. Besides, when do dreams ever make sense? More answers to come......

Let me know if you liked it.








posted on 15-Dec-2001 12:15:33 AM by FreeFall
Ok, this chapter isn't going to be as long as most have been, sorry guys. I'm going out of town tomorrow until next weekend and wanted to post something before I left. I'm not entirely happy with it, but I think it gets the point across.

And THANK YOU so much for the feedback, it is greatly appreciated!

Cinder - I hope this clears up the extent of her injuries.

Chrissy - We'll be finding out more about Sean in the next few parts.


Chapter 5

Liz went quickly to the study sitting on the plush couch in the middle of the room. ‘This is it.’ She spent the next few minutes concentrating on her breathing and gathering her thoughts for she knew once he entered the room she would loose all conscious thought.


-------------------------------------------------------

Max made his way toward his room to quickly freshen up before he confronted Liz. He couldn’t get the phone conversation off his mind. As he thought more on this whole situation all the pieces started to fall into place for him. It all made sense. All the evasive answers, trying to cover up her recent past, all of it. And he didn’t blame her for it. After all, that’s not the type of information one goes around telling virtual strangers. And that is what they have become over the years – strangers. What right did he have to demand this information from her? None. But without it he knew he would never give her another chance.

Now for the hard part. Convincing her that he was sincere about her and getting her to agree to stay. He knew she would get better care here, with potential friends, than she ever could in Chicago. Nancy had mentioned that Liz had become very withdrawn; that this trip was the first thing she had done for herself since the accident. ‘Yes,’ he decided ‘she is better off here. Now I just have to get her to agree.’


-------------------------------------------------------


Max entered the room silently clearing his throat so as not to startle her. He noticed she sat to the far left on the couch, almost as if she wanted to be as far away from him as possible. Taking a closer look at her he could see her uneasiness. Her face flushed under his intense gaze and she turned her head away from him, breaking the spell. ‘Why, she’s afraid of me!’ Taking a seat in a chair across from her, he took a deep breath as he began,

“Liz, please look at me? I have some things I want to say to you – but I need you to look at me, ok?” She did not respond but he was encouraged as she lifted her eyes to meet his. That was all the reassurance he needed.

“First, I owe you an apology. Ever since you arrived here I’ve been acting like a complete jerk, and I’m sorry.”

“Max, you don’t owe me an…”

“No Liz, don’t even say it! I had thought that I was past this, behind everything that happened. No, I never forgave you for what happened – but I forgot about it, buried it deep in here,” he said while putting his palm over his chest. “And that’s been enough. That was enough, until I saw you again. And now everything is coming back to the surface, like it just happened.” He continued quickly as he noticed Liz tense up and open her mouth to interrupt him.

“I realize now that this, these emotions, will be apart of me, be lurking under the surface until I talk to you about what I’m feeling. I need to get this out….resolved, I don’t want to go back to the way things were before. But I need to know that this isn’t a one sided thing. I need to know that you will at least hear me out……allow us to talk through this.”

Her expression changed to one of understanding and she nodded in consent.

“Liz, what happened?” As she looked up he could see the questions in her eyes. He gave her an earnest smile. “I can remember a time when you were full of emotion, affection. Now when I look at you I see someone who is closed off, whose true self is hidden behind a wall.”

She let out a sarcastic laugh. “Isn’t it ironic how someone so needy and clingy, as mother put it, has become repulsed by the things she so craved? To answer your question Max, life happened. I’m just a product of my environment.” She said with a touch of sarcasm.

“It doesn’t have to be this way.”

“Tell me Max, what way should it be?” she exhaled harshly before continuing. “Sorry, I guess I’m still a little defensive.”

“A little?” he asked with a half smile.

She looked deep into his eyes. She needed to know that this wasn’t some cruel joke he was pulling on her to humiliate her. The more she concentrated the more she was convinced that he was being sincere, after all, the eyes never lie.

“What do you want to talk about?”

“What about your relationship with Sean? Is that something that can be covered?” He asked hesitantly.

“I don’t know, do you want to tell me about what happened with Karen?” she relied curtly but regretted it immediately as she saw the pain echo in his eyes.

“No. Ok, how about the accident? Nancy seemed to think you could recover a lot quicker than you are allowing yourself.”

“She told you that, did she? For your information maybe I don’t want to be on the fast road to recovery. Maybe I want to take some time to grieve over everything that has happened!” He could tell that he had hit a nerve. She was becoming extremely upset and he needed to do something quickly to diffuse the situation.

“It’s ok Liz.”

“Is it?”

“Yes. You are allowed time to grieve. But it’s also important that you go on with your life. Liz, I know what it’s like to be so blinded by guilt and sadness…and anger. With me, it got so bad that I could have been lost in it forever. And if not for my son, my family, I don’t know if I could have gotten through it.” He continued to watch her as his words sank in.

“I can help you….if you let me”

“Help me? Why would you want to help me? Besides, he is not something I can discuss with you right now. I have to deal with a few of my own demons before I can have a rational conversation about him…….Please Max?”

“Ok. Back to the accident.”

“The accident….ok…..well, I don’t remember much. That’s good I guess. From what they tell me it was pretty bad. The first thing I can really remember is waking up in the hospital 2 months later. I remember a few things before, but most of the memories are really hazy. They said I had a concussion – obviously, and that my right side was crushed from the impact. I had a few broken bones in my arm and leg as well as a few cuts and gashes from some twisted metal. That’s not why I have a hard time walking though. Most of those injuries have healed. But my back was injured as well and a nerve was crushed. I’m not really sure how to explain this. I didn’t really understand half of what I was told. But basically they had to go in and operate to alleviate the pain and pressure. That’s why my legs are weak, that and the fact that I was off my feet for over 7 months causing the muscle tissue to degenerate. So basically I have to build up my muscles before I can get back to normal.”

“I’m sorry you had to go through all that, Liz. I really am.” As he spoke she noticed something different about him, something she couldn’t place. As soon as she had concentrated on what it was, it was gone. She was broken out of her thoughts by him. “Listen, I talked to Nancy about something and she seemed to agree with me.”

“What is it?” she asked skeptically.

“I want you to stay.” Feeling her pulling away emotionally he knew he had to reassure her. He didn’t know where these emotions within him were coming from, but over the years he had learned not to ignore them. That’s why he couldn’t let her leave, not yet.

“Alex and I were talking and he made me realize that I treated you unfairly….then and now.” He looked her straight in the eyes. He wanted her to know he was telling the truth. “I was hurt and angry. I know that is no excuse, but..”

“No, I understand. Philip meant the world to you.” She wanted him to understand as well that it was time to put this behind them. “Why Max? Why do you want me to stay?” She couldn’t help being curious. Him admitting that he wanted her to stay shocked her to the core.

“I’d like to think that before we were friends.” She lifted her eyebrows at his comment. “Well, so I acted like a jealous older brother – but we had some good times didn’t we?” He held his breath, he was almost afraid of her answer.

“Yeah, we did.”

Max walked over to the sofa and sat next to her. As she turned to him he asked again “Please stay Liz?”

He could see that tears were forming in her eyes and before he could think he pulled her body to his. She let go of her emotions and sobbed quietly. He continued to hold her until he felt her sobs subside and her breathing become more normal. As he pulled away he turned her face towards him and caressed her cheek, wiping away the tears that had fallen.

“Liz?” He asked near a whisper. He found himself leaning in to her more and more, or was it her moving towards him? He was too caught up in the moment to notice.

“Yes,” is all she was able to get out as she was too transfixed on his face.


TBC?

*note*I don't know if the injuries she sustained really would affect her like that, but they will in this story.

Let me know if you liked.....

posted on 23-Dec-2001 12:09:25 AM by FreeFall
Thank you everyone for the incredible feedback. It is truly appreciated. Sorry this part took so long, but I hope to have the next one out in a couple of days.


Chapter 6

“Liz?” He asked near a whisper. He found himself leaning in to her more and more, or was it her moving towards him? He was too caught up in the moment to notice.

“Yes,” is all she was able to get out, as she was too transfixed on his face. Her eyes closed as his lips descended towards her. He gently glided his lips over hers. The kiss was hesitant, even awkward at first. Neither knowing what was happening, not knowing how to proceed.

In an instant the kiss became more urgent, more demanding as Liz and Max fought to maintain control over themselves. Liz gasped at the sensations that were running through her as Max slid one hand behind her back and brought the other to cup her cheek. He took this opportunity to deepen the kiss. As their desire rose their need to feel each other, to touch each other intensified.

The kiss was broken as Max brought his mouth to her neck. Liz took in a deep breath and tried to steady her breathing. She let out an involuntary moan at the sensations Max was causing her. His large hands rubbed her back soothingly as he brought his mouth to her ear. Just the feel of his warm breath against her skin was enough to send shivers down her spine and throughout her body. She shuddered at the thought of more to come.

Her moans drove him mad. She threw her head back, uncovering more flesh for him to feed on. He began to massage her shoulders lightly, unbuttoning the first few buttons on her shirt pulling it down away from her shoulders. He nibbled on her ear and began to make his way past her neck to her collar bone. He smiled slightly against her skin as she writhed beneath him, feeling her pleasure.

Looking down at her exposed skin he noticed a scar running down her exposed length. It started about two inches below her collar bone and trailed beneath her shirt. He touched it lightly and traced it with his thumb before kissing it tenderly. As he did this he felt her body go rigid as she quickly jerked out of his grasp.

She had gotten carried away with his caresses, in this feeling of true and utter bliss he created for her. Panicked, she pushed Max away and pulled her shirt back on to cover her. Looking toward Max to gauge the situation she felt guilt rise as she saw the look of surprise and hurt as she pushed him away. Acting quickly to save herself more embarrassment she hurried to her feet with the intention of putting as much distance between them as possible. The last thing she needed right now was to lose her bearings and not be able to handle this situation rashly. In her haste, she caught her foot under the end table and began to fall. Before she hit the floor she was engulfed in his arms. She braced herself against his chest to regain her balance. She closed her eyes to gather her strength.

“I can’t do this!”

“Liz, I’m sorry….please…” She was out the door before he had a chance to finish. He closed his eyes tightly trying to regain his senses. ‘You’ve really done it this time!’ he chided himself.

*****

Liz made her way out of the study as quickly as she could. As she turned the corner to she could no longer hold in her tears. She rushed to the safety of her room.

Maria had been down the hall when she heard the faint sound of crying. Letting her curiosity get the best of her she followed the sound. As she approached she could see Liz heading towards her room. She felt the anger build inside her as she saw the young woman’s tears. ‘What has he done now!’

She made her way to Liz’s door and knocked softly. Not getting a response she slowly opened the door. She stopped in the doorway taking in the sight before her. Liz was huddled in the corner shaking violently. Maria approached her cautiously.

“Liz? Liz honey? What’s wrong?” she asked as a knot began to form in the pit of her stomach.

“Nothings wrong Maria, I’m fine.” She got out between her sob.

“You don’t look fine to me. What did he do to you?” she demanded angrily, “He had so better…”

“Stop it Maria! He didn’t do anything, ok? This has to do with me! I’m what’s wrong. I’m the problem!”

“Somehow I get the impression that you’re leaving something out. Are you?”

“He kissed me.” She cried as she lowered her head.

“He what? He kissed you?” As Liz chanced a glance at Maria she wished she hadn’t as she saw the look of shock displayed plainly on her face. She turned her head away quickly but in doing so she missed the knowing grin the other woman now had plastered on her face.

“I knew it – I knew he liked you!” She said as she bounced on her heels happy in her new found realization. “Why are you crying?”

“Maria!”

“What? I’m only calling it like I see it.”

“He doesn’t want me; at least he won’t.”

“Why not?”

“Because I’m scarred! Because he can do so much better – he can have someone normal.”

“Scarred? From the accident?” Liz only nodded in response.

“Honey, he won’t care about that. He isn’t like that.” She tried to make her think reasonably but she shook her head violently. The only way she would get over this is if she faced her fears head on.

“Tell me.”

She waited for a reply as she watched Liz stare towards the wall as if waiting for Maria to leave her alone.

“Liz, I like you. You send out a good vibe and I really want to help you. But I can’t if you won’t let me in.” she pleaded.

“It’s just so hard. I…I feel like I don’t even know myself anymore. I look in the mirror and all I see is some stranger starring back at me. I don’t know how to get passed this….how to move on.”

“Something tells me this has to do with a man. Am I right?” she asked with a frown.

“How’d you guess?”

“Honey, all the world’s problems either start with a man or end with one.” She said prompting a chuckle from her. “Besides, I’ve been there before….many times actually. I’m really lucky to have found Michael. He may be…difficult at times, but he’s a softie when it comes to the women in his life. You’ll have that too, I promise. As for finding yourself – I think you need time to reflect on who you are and who you’ve become. And if you need anyone to talk to – I’m a great listener. Well – not as great as Isabel, I tend to babble….but you get my point right?” Seeing Liz nod her head in confirmation she continued, “What do you say…”

She was interrupted by a light tap at the door. Maria looked up to see Max standing in the doorway. His gaze was fixed on Liz – who had yet to acknowledge the interruption. Maria stood causing Max to look to her.

“Maria, could you give us a moment alone…..please?” She gave him a reassuring smile as she left the room shutting the door behind her.

He turned his attention back to the brunette that had captured all of his attention these last few days. He knelt in front of her and lifted her chin to bring her face closer to his giving her a soft kiss, which caused her to relax a little.

“I’m sorry Liz.” He whispered to her as he stoked her cheek with his thumb. He could tell the gesture was soothing to her. He could feel her begin to calm under his touch and he pulled her into a soft embrace.

TBC..............

Let me know what you think.
posted on 31-Dec-2001 9:17:16 PM by FreeFall

THANK YOU guys so much for the wonderful feedback! (And I am soooo sorry it’s taken this long to get this part out.)


Hope everyone has a HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

**** means a flashback

Chapter 7A

The next week and a half flew by for Liz. She busied herself with her therapy and helping Maria out in the garden. The gang had been very accepting of Liz and each one of them had taken it upon themselves to spend time with her and had helped her with her therapy. Alex helped with finding a physical therapist. Maria and Isabel had taken her up to the local recreation center several times over the last week. The rec center had a pool and Liz’s physical therapist had recommended that she do some swimming exercises to strengthen her muscles. Max and Michael made sure she got some time on horseback each day, which was also recommended.

With the help of her new friends and her therapy, she found herself doing really well. She was now walking with the aid of only one crutch as her leg and back muscles were growing stronger.

Liz looked up towards the bright sky while on her daily ride reflecting over the past week. The brightness of the afternoon penetrating her somber mood. She had opted to go alone on her ride, despite protests from Max. She really needed this time to plan her next move. Did she want to stay? A small smile formed on her lips as she thought more on it.

She had spent several hours out on her ride reflecting on her life. Her thoughts had consumed her lately. She knew she could not keep living in the past. She had to face her demons head on if she wanted to have a normal life. Otherwise she would always doubt herself, question her existence. ‘Today is the day I start my new life’ she thought with conviction as she reflected on her conversation just yesterday with Maria and Isabel.

*** The three girls gathered around Maria’s kitchen table, each with a container of ice cream. They were each getting used to being around each other, spending time together. Liz looked at both of them and for the first time gave each of them a genuine smile. She was beginning to become very fond of both Maria and Isabel. Maria was like the sister she wished she had while Isabel was more of the motherly type. Both were dearly needed in her life.

The conversation started out in high spirits, the girls talking and laughing over the events that led Maria to Michael and Isabel to Alex. Then the conversation came to Liz. Her first instinct was to lead the conversation elsewhere, but decided against it. Maria and Isabel had trusted her enough to tell her about many of the painful events that had occurred over the last few years. And so when the conversation touched on Sean, she knew it was time for her to trust them.

“No offense Liz – but how could you be with a guy like that?” Maria couldn’t help but ask.

“Believe me, I know.” she groaned, “Let’s just say that I wasn’t thinking too clearly at the time.”

“I just don’t understand how you couldn’t have known.”

“Honestly Maria, we were never put in a situation remotely like that. He was always very caring and considerate of my feelings.” She knew how that sounded; she needed to make them understand. “You have to understand where I came from. Growing up with my mom was hell in itself. She sure as hell didn’t love me, not like she should have. Besides Philip, I don’t think anyone has ever cared about me. And when Sean came along…. Sure, he may not have been perfect, but I really thought that he loved me. And now, I don’t know what to think. I’ve never had with anyone what Sean and I had.” She looked at both girls reading something that wasn’t there, “Pathetic, I know. I mean…I was a late bloomer. Didn’t have my first date until I was 19. Never really had many friends…I…I have trust issues.” She added softly as she focused on the half eaten container in front of her.

“Anyway, then I met Sean and things went from there. We were happy, really happy. And then he left…and...well, I haven’t exactly been in the frame of mind to handle it yet. And, I mean, he deserted me. How am I supposed to deal with that?” As she studied the container the words became bleary as tears welled up in her eyes. She wiped them away quickly knowing she needed to continue.

“Not that I blame him for leaving. I don’t even want to deal with my problems – why would anyone else?” the tears were now flowing freely. As she looked up both girls noticed the pain and anguish in her eyes. They became teary eyed as well.

With much emotion Maria responded, “How can you say that Liz? If he really loved you…he would be by your side right now…..You deserve so much better than him.”

“Liz, I have to agree with Maria. It’s best that you two divorced.” Isabel added in a sympathetic tone.

As Isabel’s words registered Liz became quiet and lowered her head.

“Liz? What is it?” Isabel asked.

“I…uh…we didn’t get divorced….we’re still married.” She couldn’t even bring herself to look at the Maria and Isabel, she had a feeling she knew what their reaction would be.


TBC?????

Sorry this part is so short, I’m on my way out the door as we speak and thought this was a good place to stop. Hopefully I can get the rest of the chapter out by tomorrow night (no promises). Don’t worry, I’ll address more M/L in the next part, I just needed to get this one out of the way (it’s been giving me a hard time).


Let me know what you think!

posted on 22-Jan-2002 8:14:16 PM by FreeFall
Thank everyone for the feedback! It is appreciated!

Disclaimer: see chapter 1


Chapter 7B

“Liz? What is it?” Isabel asked.

“I…uh…we didn’t get divorced….we’re still married.” She couldn’t even bring herself to look at the Maria and Isabel; she had a feeling she knew what their reaction would be.

“What?” Both girls yelled in unison.

“Still married? Liz – How….why?”

“Look, I’m not proud of it ok? It’s just…..it’s been really hard. The only person I’ve had to talk to about any of this has been my mother. And she’s been great….it’s just…” Liz paused, searching for the right words. “We’ve never been that close, and I’ve been trying all my life to get her to see me….to really see me. Not just as a person, but as her daughter. And I was in a place where she respected me – my life. I mean, I had a great career and this wonderful guy. And after he left….well, I didn’t really….I couldn’t talk to her. Not about this, about how I was feeling, how I should handle things” She looked up at both girls “It’s not something she would have understood. So I pretended that everything was ok. I was in denial.” She said the last softly, talking more to herself than the others. It was at this point where she was finally able to admit to herself that he wasn’t coming back to her.

“Have you talked to him? Did he explain things to you?” Maria asked.

Liz looked at them. It was evident she was fighting with her inner self on whether or not to open up to them.

“You can’t keep running forever Liz.” Maria added. And Liz knew this was true. She had been running from this since it happened and now it was time for her to move forward with her life. And in order for her to do that she needed to resolve her problems, Sean being at the top of her list. ***


Liz couldn’t help the silly grin that made its way on her face as she thought of the new friends that had so easily stolen a place in her heart. She had come a long way over the past week, on a journey she didn’t know she was capable of. And she knew that she had her new friends to thank for it.

Returning her attention to the present, she made her way towards the stables. She had an appointment with Alex this afternoon and she did not want to be late. It was time that she closed the door to her past so that she could open another door to her future. She hurried her pace as her anxiety grew. She couldn’t wait to get this over with.

Not that she was in a hurry to jump into another relationship. Her failed marriage had hurt her deeply. No, she was content with just getting her life together. Once she settled the problems from her past she would concentrate on her career. She had taken a leave at her company and was anxious to get back into the swing of things. Her superiors were all very understanding and offered her as much time as she needed. They even offered to let her freelance on a few projects that she could do from home, which would make it easier for her to come back to her position when the time came. But for now she needed to focus on her therapy, and letting her husband go. But she had to admit, the past week with Max had been joyful. She just didn’t know where any of it would lead. She was, after all, planning on going on with her life after everything was settled here. She just hoped that it would be as easy as it sounded.

As she made her way back towards the stable she recalled the conversation she had had with Maria earlier that week.

***“What about Max? I see the two of you are spending quite a bit of time together.”

She blushed at Maria’s insinuation. “Really, Maria, it’s not like that.”

When Maria opened her mouth to protest Liz quickly added “We’re just friends Maria.”

“You two sure have been spending a lot of time together to be ‘just friends’”. She frowned as she looked over at Liz.

“We’re just getting to know each other again – that’s all.”

“So…what changed between the two of you anyway? A week ago you two couldn’t be in the same room together for more than 20 minutes without insults flying.”

“It was a misunderstanding. Something that has been between us since mom and I left.”

“Does this have to do with the thing that happened between Philip and Nancy?”

“He told you about that?” Liz whipped her head around to look at Maria. It was evident that she was surprised that he would share something so personal, but then again he was good friends with her. She felt a pang of envy at not ever having someone to confide in.

Maria looked away guiltily. “Not exactly….I…overheard him talking to Michael. I didn’t get many details though. Just something about Nancy trying to blackmail Philip? Care to enlighten me?” By the look on Maria’s face she could tell that she was hopeful for her side of the story.

Liz lowered her head unable to look Maria in the eyes. Thinking back to this time in her life always left her with a sick feeling.

“Well, I think that’s true. I still don’t know the real truth….Max’s story is much different than Mom’s – not that that should surprise me. I just don’t know what to believe. I never got the whole story at the time because we left right after the ‘incident’. It’s really complicated. Mom was….I don’t know….not a person to stay around for long? Hmmm…well I think when she met Philip she saw him as a way to get to the top. I mean, he had money and was well respected in the business world. And Maria, Philip adored her. She knew exactly how to manipulate him and he bought all of it…at least for a while. Then she got tired of being with one man and got involved with one of Philip’s rivals. Apparently, the other guy, I think his name was Ed….yeah Ed Harding. Well, he convinced mom to help him in this business venture against Philip. Something about some papers that he had that Ed needed? I don’t really understand it myself. Anyways, mom found out that Philip kept these papers in his office but she didn’t have access to them. I think by that point in their relationship he had his suspicions so he was reluctant to share much with her. So…”

“So you mother got you to do the dirty work for her. I can’t believe her!” Maria finished angrily.

“Yeah, she used my relationship with Philip to get what she wanted. But luckily it didn’t work. I swear Maria, I had no idea what was going on. And mom did help Philip out with his work. I should have gone with my instincts though. I’m just glad that Max caught me in Philip’s office. I was really confused at the time…I didn’t understand why everyone was so upset. Even mom tried to deny she had anything to do with it.” Liz closed her eyes as the memory caused a searing pain through her heart. Even after all this the memories of her betrayal hurt so much.

“But somehow Philip found out the truth. I never even got a chance to tell him I was sorry….that I didn’t mean to hurt him.” She looked at Maria as the tears welled up in her eyes.

“Liz, I’m sure Philip knew. If you were as close as you say you were.” Maria placed her hand over Liz’s to assure her that she believed her.

“But his face….the look on his face Maria. He was hurt. And I caused it. I was so glad that he divorced my mom. I thought at least then he could be happy. Away from her and away from me.”

“Oh Liz!” Maria said sympathetically as she grabbed Liz and pulled her into a tight embrace. Liz stiffened momentarily but quickly relaxed. “What’s done is done. You can’t change the past, no matter how much you may want to.”

Pulling out of the embrace and returning to their conversation “I know.”

“So, I take it that since you and Max are on good terms now that he must have believed you?”

“Yeah…I don’t understand what changed for him to allow me to explain what happened…but I’m not complaining.”

“Oh…I think I can guess what his intentions are.” Maria said with a giggle.

“Whatever Maria!” Liz said as she rolled her eyes. ****


As Liz emerged from the stable she quickly entered the house to freshen up. As she entered the kitchen she was greeted with a warm smile from Max.

“Hey, how was your ride?”

“Good…it was good.” She said not really knowing how to respond. She wasn’t used to being greeted in such a way, which made her feel slightly uncomfortable.

“Good.” He said and then stood awkwardly waiting for her to say something. Their relationship was still quite new, both needing time to adjust to everything that had happened over the past week. After several minutes he decided to break the silence. “So…you may want to head on out if you plan on meeting Alex on time.”

Liz nodded her head “Right, right.”

“Come on, I’ll walk you out.” He said as he extended his hand to her. She looked at him briefly before reaching her own hand out and placing it into his.



Half an hour later Liz found herself outside of Alex Whitman’s office. She stood outside for several minutes before deciding to take her first step through a newly opened door.


………Part 8 is in next post.


posted on 22-Jan-2002 8:19:46 PM by FreeFall
Chapter 8


After walking Liz to her car, Max made his way back into the house. Looking at the clock in the hall he noticed it was past time for him to be meeting with Michael. He made his way quickly out the back only stopping to grab a couple of bottles of water and putting them in his bag.

Securing his bag to the saddle Max mounted his horse and set off in search of Michael. He took the back trail across his land in hopes of meeting him out by the creek. As he made his way around back of the house he slowed, his mind taking him back 15 years to a time when things were different, when he was much younger.

He had kept many memories of her bottled up and with her resurfacing something unlocked that part of him and now these memories were overwhelming. He stood out on the bank of the creek for what seemed like hours, until Michael’s arrival.

“Hey Man – where you at?” he asked noticing his friends far away appearance as he waved a hand in front of his face snapping him out of his daze.

“Hmmm? Oh, hey Michael. I didn’t hear you come up.”

“For some reason that doesn’t surprise me.” He said with a smirk. “What’s on your mind? You looked like you were on another planet. Let me guess, does it have anything to do with a certain brunette that happens to be staying under your roof?”

“What? Did you say something?” he asked as he snapped out of his daze.

“Yeah…that’s what I thought.” He mumbled under his breath.

“Whatever Michael. I don’t see how any of this should concern you.” He said as he gave Michael a look of annoyance as he took the water bottle from his bag and tossed one to Michael.

“Doesn’t concern me? Considering that having her here is disruptive to your work I sure as hell think that this concerns me. I do, after all, get to pick up your slack.” He argued.

“What? I thought you were all for me burying the hatchet with Liz! What’s your problem now?”

“Look…I am all for you two working out your differences. Believe me when I say it wasn’t a bed of roses having you stalk around in an eternally bad mood. But don’t you think this is a little extreme? First the bad mood, and now you walk around oblivious to what’s going on around you. Do you even know that much about her? Has she got you bewitched?”

“God Michael, I can’t win with you can I? No, I don’t know much about what has happened to her over the years, but I know her soul, and her soul is so pure…so honest. True, there have been misunderstandings between us…and they’ve caused both of us a great deal of unnecessary pain. But that’s over now. We’ve straightened that out and now I want to help her get on with her life. She’s spent too much time feeling guilty and dishonest over things she had no control over. It’s time we all move on.”

“Look Maxwell, I know you’re capable of making your own decisions, but I just want you to know that I worry about you. I hope she is all you are looking for and more….believe me when I say that. And not only are you my best friend, you’re one hell of a good guy. I just hope you know what you’re getting into. I know that I don’t know that much about her, but she has a past Max. Are you sure you want to go digging for something that once you find you may not like?”

“Thank you for your concern Michael. I appreciate it…really I do. But you’re right…I can make my own decisions…I don’t need your approval.” He said with a hint of annoyance. “I understand if you can’t stand by my actions, but I would like to have one of my best friends behind whatever decision I make.” He made a point to look Michael in the eyes so his friend could see that he was serious.

“I’ll respect any decision you make Max….though I may not agree. Look Max, I only want what’s best for you. And I’m happy for you…I haven’t seen you this happy in a long time.”

“It’s like the weight of the world has lifted off my shoulders.” Max whispered as he looked out on horizon.

“I just don’t want you to get too attached to her being here. Do you even know her plans? Once she claims her inheritance she could be on the first plane out of here. Are you ready for that possibility?” Max could see the worry on Michael’s face as he confessed his worries.

“I don’t know Michael. But I can’t just shut her out. I can’t and I won’t. I’m going to make it clear to her that she is welcome here as long as she wants to be here, but I can’t stop her if she makes up her mind to leave.” He sighed heavily as he turned to get his horse. “I’ve got a few things in town I need to take care of. You know how to get a hold of me if something comes up.”

“No problem. Oh, and Max,” he continued as Max looked back to him “tell Liz I said hi.” He added with a grin.


****


“So, what happens now Alex?”

“Well, first we need to file papers with the courts. I’ve been reading over Illinois law and from what I can gather about your situation we have several choices. But I have to be honest with you Liz, this is going to take some time,” seeing the crestfallen look on her face he continued “first, we can file on grounds of desertion BUT he has to willfully be absent for at least a period of one year so we still have several months before we can file. But I think this will be the best option for you Liz.” He stated bluntly, aware that Liz wanted this over with as quickly as possible.

“What other options are there? Can’t I get this marriage annulled? It’s not like he stayed around very long.” She said with disgust. ‘How on earth did I get myself into this mess?’

“Well, if you had gotten married in another state, maybe. But unfortunately in Illinois your…situation doesn’t meet the qualifications for an annulment. I’m really sorry Liz.”

“Well…what other options are there?” she asked hopeful that there was a way to get this over with quickly.

“Well, we can file on the “No Fault” ground.” Seeing the questions arise in her eyes he explained “ Basically neither party blames the other. All we tell the court is that there are irreconcilable differences that have caused the breakup of the marriage. The only problem with this option is that it can only be used after a period of separation, the shortest being 6 months if both parties agree to use this ground.”

“Both partied? But Alex – I have no idea where he is. I haven’t been able to find him since I got out of the hospital. I’ve tried everything I could think of – he is no longer with the company and they refused to give me his forwarding address!” she was angry with herself for getting into this mess in the first place.

“Alex? What happens if we can’t find him?” she asked hopeful that there was something to get this care of.

“Well, not being able to find him will slow the whole process down. We can still file on the “No Fault” ground, but the separation period is 2 years without both parties consent,” seeing her face fall he was quick to re-assure her “but don’t worry – it may take some time but I’ll do everything in my power to get this terminated for you as quickly as possible.” His reassurance was encouraging to her he could tell by the way she straightened at his comment.

They sat in silence – she, contemplating her next step – both hoping and dreading contacting Sean. He was contemplating how to bring up what had been plaguing him since reading over her file. Deciding that the best way to handle this was to just come out and say it he began “Liz – look, I know that this has been hard on you – with Sean leaving you the way he did. But I’ve got to tell you that this whole situation, what I’ve read in your file….well….well, it’s rather disturbing to me.” He noticed how she seemed to put up her wall as he brought up the topic. “Does Max know what happened?” he asked genuinely concerned about her ability to handle this all on her own.

“Besides the basics, no…no he doesn’t.” she looked away unable to deal with being confronted with what she should do and what she desperately wanted to do. “I…I just want to forget it Alex. They all pity me as it is…I don’t need to give them anything else to have them pity me for.”

“Oh Liz! Don’t think for one minute that we aren’t sincere about you getting better and getting on with your life. You’ve been handling things on your own for a long time – I hope you know that you’re not alone anymore. We’re all here for you now.”

“Thanks Alex. You don’t know how much hearing you say that means to me.” She gave him a small smile to show how truly grateful she was for his help.

He stood as he heard a soft knock at the door. Quickly striding across the room he opened the door to reveal Austin while Max stood behind him, both boys with mischievous grins plastered on their faces.

Austin entered the room carrying a small bouquet of wildflowers he had obviously picked himself as the stems were all different sizes and the bouquet was tied together haphazardly by a string. He propelled himself towards Alex and embraced him. “Uncle Alex!”

“Hey there Austin! Whatcha got there? Are those for me?” Alex asked playfully.

“Don’t be silly uncle Alex! Flowers are for girls” he replied with the confidence of a 6 year old.

“They are? Well, if they aren’t for me, then who are they for?” Austin lowered his head bashfully and slowly inched his way closer to Liz who was sitting a few feet away watching intently. As he got closer to her he pushed the flowers out towards her and muttered “These are for you.”

Liz reached out “Why thank you Austin! Did you pick these yourself? They sure are beautiful” taking the flowers and giving him a warm smile. He smiled back, turned, and took refuge behind Max who chuckled at his son’s shyness.

“So, what are you guys up to?” Alex asked.

“Well, we were on our way to an early dinner in town and we wanted to see if Liz wanted to join us?” he asked hopefully.

“I’d love to.”

“Great, we’ll just wait outside until your done.” He turned and headed toward the door.

“That’s ok Max. We’ve finished up for the day, unless there is anything else you’d like to cover Liz?”

“Nope. I think I’ve had all the legal talk I can handle for the day.”

“Great. Well, I guess I’ll be seeing you guys in a couple of days to go over Philip’s estate.”

“Thanks Alex.” They both said as they headed out the door.


TBC?

Sorry it’s taken so long to post, but I’ve been rather busy these past few weeks. Let me know what you think.

I’m still pretty busy and will be for the next week or so, but hopefully I can get another part out by the 1st. After that the parts should come much quicker.


posted on 4-Feb-2002 12:38:51 AM by FreeFall
Thank you everyone for the Feedback! It is greatly appreciated!


Chapter 9

Max walked up behind Liz and tentatively placed a hand gently on her shoulder. He could tell she was in deep thought and he was determined to get her out of her daze. Today was, after all, a day to relax and have fun.

Liz looked up at Max with her eyes wide causing a clenching in his gut. ‘Come on man – this is not what she needs right now!’ he belittled himself for letting his emotions run wild. He had to admit he was very attracted to her. There had always been something about her – before he was so young that he dismissed it as being annoyance. But now he could relate it to the familiar feeling of yearning.

“Hey, you look a million miles away.” he said once he had gotten her attention.

“Oh….sorry.” she said as she nervously looked away. She didn’t know why, but lately she always felt nervous while she was around him. Maybe it had to do with how she had always felt intimidated by him before. She had always sought out his approval, never receiving it. ‘Who knows, maybe it can be different this time.’

He gently took her hand in his and turned her towards him.

“Max….we can’t do this.” She said regretfully as she pulled her hand back.

“Why?” he asked his tone coming across harshly, the agitation clearly in his voice.

She continued to stare. She didn’t know what possessed her to say that to him. In fact, she was feeling the complete opposite as she looked deeply into his eyes. But something held her back, kept her from confessing to him all that she wanted. So, not knowing what to say she continued to stare into his questioning eyes until the emotions that crossed over them were too powerful for her to deal with. She broke the trance by looking away, instead focusing her attention on Austin who was a few feet ahead of them waiting patiently for them to catch up.

“Something’s causing this. Something that was said between you and Alex is causing this…isn’t it?” He was afraid that she would pull into herself and he was even more afraid that he would not be able to reach her.

Liz let out a tired sounding sigh. Not meeting his eyes she pleaded with him, “Please Max. This isn’t the time.” Focusing her attention back on Austin hoping that he would get her meaning that this was indeed a conversation that would be best had away from his son.

“Ok,” he took her hand in his again as he continued, “let’s go catch up to Austin, he’s not the most patient boy in the world.” He said with a small grin.

Liz had to smile back at him. She had been witness to Austin’s lack of patience many times and was eager to avoid any possibly embarrassing episodes.

“Ok, let’s have a nice dinner and we’ll talk later, ok?” Seeing the questions in his eyes she added “Promise.” Which elicited a nod from him.


***


As they sat down in the back booth of the restaurant Austin decided that he would rather be sitting next to Liz so he quietly scooted under the table to join her on the opposite side of the booth.

“Austin,” Max said sternly, “how many times have I told you that it isn’t polite to crawl under the table. You are too old to be playing these games.”

“But Dad! I only wanted to sit by Liz!” he whined and Max couldn’t help but chuckle.

“That’s fine young man, but next time go around like everyone else. Stop looking for shortcuts.” He held up a hand quickly to stop any upcoming protests.

“Yes sir.” He said meekly.

As Max glanced over at Liz he saw her eyes dance with enjoyment. He had to admit that he was happy that Austin had taken well to Liz. He couldn’t help but think that it would make it a lot easier on everyone involved if anything more came out of his relationship with Liz. ‘Where in the hell did that thought come from?’ he wondered. Sure he had been thinking about their future and if he had to admit it to himself he was scared to death of what may happen between them. He wasn’t sure if he could just shut his feelings off and forget about her like he had been able to when they were younger.

As the waitress came around he was shaken from his thoughts and focused his attention back to dinner. The remainder of the meal passed uneventfully as the three sat in each other’s company enjoying their time together.


***


After putting Austin to bed Max went in search of Liz thinking now was the perfect time to have their little talk. He first went to her room and after seeing that she was not their made his way out to the back porch where he knew he would find her. As he stepped out the door she greeted him.

“Hey Max, what took you so long?” she asked while swinging slightly on the porch swing.

“Austin was a little riled up this evening. Usually he’s out like a light after a few minutes, but not tonight.” He said with a tired sigh. “So, where were we earlier? If I recall correctly you said you would tell me what was bothering you this afternoon.” He said as he placed his hand over hers squeezing it gently to comfort her.

“Yeah….about earlier. I don’t know what to say. I mean, the meeting with Alex just kinda took me back to the accident and what happened in my marriage. I guess I kinda freaked.” She added lightly as she smiled before looking away from him quickly, her shyness returning under his intense gaze.

“Do you want to talk about it, your marriage I mean?” He asked hopeful that she trusted him enough to confide in him.

She let out a deep breath as she contemplated his offer. Did she trust him enough? Yes, she did. She was just afraid of what he would think after hearing everything. Would he still be interested? What was she thinking? Still interested? She didn’t even know if he felt anything more for her than friendship.

“Well, Alex was very helpful. He seems to think we can file on the grounds of desertion…which is probably the way we will go about it. The only problem is, he has to have been gone for at least a year. So we’d have to wait a couple of months before the papers can be filed. But it does seem to be the best option…the quickest option.” She added quickly.

“I’m sorry Liz. I know that this is hard on you, but know that I’m…we’re here for you. For whatever you need.”

Her heart fluttered at his admission. Maybe it would be ok to open up to him completely. Maybe he has changed.

“I know Max. And I want to be straight with you. Yes, my relationship with Sean was a disaster. I should never have married him. I mean, don’t get me wrong…I did love him, very much. I was just too naïve.” She looked up towards the sky as if it held all the answers to her unanswered questions. “I keep asking myself why? I saw the signs before we were married but I shrugged it off, ya know? Deep down I knew that I wasn’t his main priority. But I didn’t listen to my instincts. And after he left I just felt like I did this, that I deserved this.”

“But now that I’ve had time to think things through, I realize that it wasn’t me….it was him.”

“Do you know why he left?” He was curious as to what actually happened between them to cause her such emotional distress.

“He was the type of person who liked everything in his life to be perfect. He had to have the perfect job, the perfect house, the perfect car and the perfect wife. I guess after the accident, after not knowing what injuries I had, he decided I wasn’t so perfect after all.” She bit back a sob as she continued to gaze up at the stars.

Max pulled her into him as she wrapped his arms protectively around her. He wanted her to feel safe, to feel loved…feelings he knew she had never had the privilege to feel.

“You deserve so much better than him Liz. He was an idiot to throw you away like that.” He held her tight in his embrace as he stroked her hair lovingly.

“Better to find out when I did than several years and children down the road. I don’t know if I would have been able to handle it. This accident has been like a saving grace for me. I mean, my life literally flashed before my eyes and as I look back on my life…to the person I was,” she said emotionally trying to hold back her tears “ I realized that I don’t want to be that person that I was. And that has given me something to think about….what kind of person I want to be.” She said softly as she buried her head into his chest.

He whispered softly to her “I think you’re a wonderful person Liz Parker. Capable of so many great things.” He continued to stroke her hair as he looked up to the stars wondering what the next few weeks would bring, hoping that she could find the peace that she needed.


TBC?
I hope to have the next part out in the next couple of days.
Let me know what you think.
posted on 10-Feb-2002 12:35:23 AM by FreeFall
Thanks so much for all the encouraging feedback!

Sorry this part has taken so long, I was planning on having it out by Wed. but ended up re-writing about 85% of it.

Hope you like. If you have any questions let me know!


Chapter 10

Max walked quietly down the hallway towards his office not wanting to wake anyone. He had awoken early and sleep had evaded him. He decided that he would get an early start and get a few things completed while he tried unsuccessfully to quench the anxiety that had overcome him during sleep.

He was worried. He was taking Liz to meet with Alex today, that today would be the day she would learn just what his father had left her. He was having a hard time getting over the feeling that after today things would be different, that there would be changes and he was afraid of what that meant.

He knew his thoughts were unfounded, but he could not stop the doubts. What if she left? What if she was putting up some sort of act? Deep down in his heart he knew that that was not what she was about, but he found it hard to know what to think.

He felt like his mind and his heart were playing tug of war. On one side was his mind, telling him to be cautious. Telling him that he wasn’t ready for the level of disappointment it would bring him to have her walk away. On the other side, his heart was telling him that she could never be capable of that level of deception.

Putting his mind back on his business dealings, his goal was to have a productive morning. Three hours later his attention was drawn away from his reading by the sound of movement in the hall. He rose from his chair as he heard a light tap at the door followed by the slight creak as the door opened slowly.

“Hey you, you’re up awfully early.” Liz spoke as she noticed his appearance. She could tell something had him worried. It was evident by the dark circles underlying his eyes that he had been up for quite a while. “Everything ok?”

“Yeah, I couldn’t sleep so I thought I’d at least get some work done.”

“How long have you been up?”

He glanced over to the clock on the wall startled at how late it was. “I’ve been up for a couple of hours. I’d better be getting – we’ll need to head out within the hour.”

“Sure, come to the kitchen when you’re ready….I’ll have breakfast waiting.” She said as she turned to leave his office. Looking back towards Max she hesitated before heading out the door. She had wanted to ask him again if everything was ok, but had thought better of it and decided to give him space. Instead she tried to focus on getting the breakfast meal ready for Max and Austin, feeling content with how things had turned out for her over the past month and a half.


**


They made the trip into town with silence. Neither knowing what to say to the other. Max had made sure that Alex kept the meeting discreet. Thinking of her best interest, he had asked that Alex not bring up any of the unpleasant past memories where Liz was concerned. He wasn’t naïve; he knew that Liz was bound to bring it up. He just wanted to make sure she wasn’t forced into talking about something she wasn’t ready to. He did not want to push her too hard too fast.

Liz sighed as she looked out the window towards the bare outstretched land that encompassed either side of her. Unbeknownst to her, she was having the same fears for Max’s benefit. She knew how hard Philip’s death had been for him. Maria and Isabel had told her how withdrawn he had become….how even now he rarely mentioned Philip. She just hoped that the meeting would not be too much for him. The last thing she wanted was for him to become withdrawn. They had come too far for her to let that happen.


**


“Max, Liz, it’s good to see you both. Come in and take a seat.” Alex offered.

“Hi Alex, thank you for taking time out of your day.” Liz said as she sank into the plush sofa she had come accustomed to.

“Yes Alex. Thank you.” Max said as he took a seat on the couch next to Liz.

“Well, I’m sure you’re anxious to find out what was left to you, so why don’t we go ahead and get started? Do you have any questions?” Looking up Alex noticed her gesture to continue.

“Liz, I’m pretty sure you were unaware of Philip’s actions so this may come as bit of a shock to you.”

“Alex, me being here at all is a shock to me. I wasn’t expecting anything from him.”

He gave her a small smile as he started, “Ok, I’ll just come out and say it and we’ll go from there. Basically he left you shares of stock. Shares of Davis Pharmaceuticals to be precise. And to be more precise, enough shares to have a major impact on the company. It’s also worth several million.” He added with a smile.

Liz was in a daze, not able to comprehend the information that Alex had given her she just stared at him in confusion. “Alex, it sounded like you said that Philip left me several million dollars worth of stock for the company that I just happen to work for. How?” she asked.

“That is what I said. As for the how, he had some contacts….that’s how he obtained the majority of the shares. You happened to start out with the company while it was still privately held. He contacted them, ended up doing some work for them here and there in exchange for shares. It’s only worth a fraction of the value it was at several years ago since speculation of a merger hit…and the legal issues involving some of the Board members haven’t help the value either. So, yeah the value is pretty much declining, and has been over the past year…but I guess you know that since you work for them?” Alex added, feeling foolish for getting into so much detail when she obviously knew more about the situation than he did.

“But why would he leave this to me, I don’t understand? Why would he even have an interest in the company?” She asked not knowing what to say.

“Philip had every confidence in you Liz. You never knew it, but he kept an eye on you, followed your career path. Once you signed on with this company after graduation he decided to invest a little here and there. It was a private organization at the time, but he had several contacts that got him in.”

“He was very proud of you Liz.” Max interjected.

“Yes he was Liz. He wouldn’t have been more proud of his own son.” He said as he looked to Max.

“You mean, he was there all along?” she asked.

“Yeah, he was. He cared a lot about you and wanted to make sure that you were going to be ok.” Max answered softly.

“But why didn’t he ever try to contact me?” she pleaded, so unsure of this situation and why this was happening.

“He didn’t want to upset you. You were getting on with your life, making vast improvements.” Max answered.

“And all this time…all these years I thought…”so choked back a sob “thought that he hated me….” She was so wrought with emotion at the admissions given today. She was so incredibly happy to know that Philip hadn’t hated her. But at the same time she was so incredibly sad to know how he really felt ‘All these years, and now I can’t even say thank you.’ She struggled with that realization.

“But it’s so much. I can’t take this. Sign it over to Max and Austin, it’s rightfully there’s.” She insisted.

“No can do Liz. Once it gets transferred into your name you can do with it what you want. I can’t stop you. But if it makes you feel any better, it wasn’t worth much when he obtained them.”

“Alex is right Liz. Dad wanted you to have this. He knew how devoted you were to your work. Austin and I are fine, we don’t need the money. Like Alex said, this really wasn’t a big part of the estate, he made sure that Austin and I would be taken care of.”

“But Max..”

“No Liz. And that’s final. I’m sure you can find other ways to put this to good use. Alex, why don’t you get the necessary paperwork together and come by tonight?”

“Sure Max. Liz, if you have any other questions I’ll be happy to answer them then. Ok?”

“Ok.”

Max looked over at Liz. He couldn’t read her emotions; she had put another wall up. He touched her shoulder gently to get her attention. “Are you ok?” he asked softly, the worry reflecting in his voice.

She gave him a small reassuring smile “Yeah. I think I just need some time alone to absorb all this.”

He nodded in understanding. “Well, I’ve got a few things I need to take care of before we head home. How about I drop you off somewhere and pick you up in a couple of hours?”

Liz smiled gratefully at him, as his words made her feel warm and tingly. ‘And it does feel like home Max, like I’ve finally found home.’ She couldn’t help but think. He had been very considerate of her lately, both physically and mentally.

“Thanks Max. For everything.” He smiled back at her as they headed toward the door, both stopping to thank Alex on their way out.

TBC?
posted on 10-Feb-2002 5:18:23 PM by FreeFall
Woah, two parts in less than 24 hours? What can I say, I guess I’m on a roll. Anyway, this story is about half done, maybe a little more than half. But anyway, I’m ready to get this one wrapped up. I’ve had a few ideas on where I want to take this but I’m going to stick with what I originally had in mind when I first posted. Hope this doesn’t upset anyone. But I can promise you one thing, it will have a happy ending! There will just be a few twists and turns along the way.

Thanks guys for the encouraging words!

Now for the next chapter.

Chapter 11

An hour and a half later she found herself sitting on a park bench watching passersby. She was contemplating everything that had been going on since she arrived here. How had she gotten to this place in her life?

She stood wearily and decided to walk over by the pond in the middle of the park. She stood there staring out at the children watching them as they fed the ducks and squirrels. She smiled as she thought of Austin laughing as he chased the squirrels. He was definitely his father’s son.

How she longed to be as carefree as him. Even with loosing his mother and grandfather he seemed to radiate this joy and love to everyone he came into contact with. And she knew Max had everything to do with how he turned out.

As she looked out upon the pond her thoughts turned back to what she had learned this morning. How could he have watched over her all this time? How could she not have known about this? Did her mother know that Philip had kept his eye on her?

She knew that Philip had kept in occasional contact with her mother, but she thought it mainly had to do with business dealings. Could she be the one to tell him about her life? And if so how could she have kept this information to herself for all these years! The more she thought about it the more confused she became.

Along with the confusion came anger. Now knowing how Philip had felt, she was certain that there was no way he would not have mentioned something to her mother. And her mother knew how upset she had been after that whole fiasco and how the thought of Philip hating her had hurt her badly. It was months before she and her mother had a civil conversation, even then Liz did her best to avoid her mother at all costs. And to think that her mother had let her believe that Philip hated her!

Liz shook the thought from her mind. “No, there is no way she would have kept that from me now.” She whispered fiercely to reassure herself. Sure her mother was no saint, but they had mended fences, they had started anew this year and she could not blame her mother without talking to her first. Most of the harsh feelings between them over the past few years came from miscommunication in the first place. She wouldn’t just start jumping to conclusions now, she would just have to wait and talk to her mother later.

And what about the money? There was no way she was going to take that kind of money away from the Evans family. She had money of her own, granted it was only a fraction of that amount, but she had accumulated quite a nest egg of her own. She would just have to think of a way to give it all back to them. Maybe Max won’t accept it for himself, but maybe he will for Austin? ‘One thing is for sure’ she thought, ‘that money will be put to good use.’

She glanced down at her watch and noticed it was time for her to meet Max. She walked through the park towards the sidewalk that lead to the park entrance and the main city street where she knew Max would be waiting. As she got further away from the walking trail she had just come from she had a bad feeling come over her. She felt as if she were being watched.

Her heart began beating wildly in her chest as the fear overcame her senses. She looked back towards the trail to find it empty. She looked around quickly, loosing the sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach as her fear subsided. Not noticing anything out of the ordinary she let out the breath that she had been holding and scolded herself for being so paranoid.

She quickened her pace as she tried to calm herself. The meeting today had really jumbled her nerves. She had hoped that this time alone would help to calm her, but something felt odd, not quite right. As she walked out of the park entrance toward the street she saw the familiar old truck that Max often used sitting across the street. She looked around to see if he was anywhere near when something caught her eye. A man in a suit was walking briskly toward her. She gulped as a sense of recognition passed over her. ‘Sean?’ she couldn’t help but stumble as the words screamed through her head and a sense of panic drove through her.

As the man walked closer the pounding of her heart grew more fierce, her insides seemed to twist into tiny knots as she waited with held breath. All her thoughts were jumbled, she felt like she was being sucked in to some sort of tunnel. Everything around her seemed to grow smaller.

Only once the man had passed right in front of her did she notice that it was indeed not Sean. Only then was she able to snap out of her haze. Shaking her head slightly she looked around the streets once again. This time her eyes finding a man walking towards her from across the street, buy her heart did not fear.

Relief flooded through her like a tidal wave as he laid eyes on the beautiful site ahead of her. Max was here…..she was safe.


**


“Liz? Liz what’s wrong?” Max asked her as he felt her shiver as she pulled him in closer, hugged him tightly to her body.

“Huh? Oh…nothing Max.” she said as she buried her head into his chest. Exhaling sharply she turned her attention down the street and back to the unknown man that had stirred up countless emotions within her.

Max followed her gaze and watched a man walking hurriedly down to the corner before disappearing out of sight. He turned his attention back to Liz and studied her while her attention was still focused on the walkway.

“Did that man say something to you?” he asked her, she could feel the anger rising in his body as his muscles strained against her. He pulled her against him unwilling to let her go.

“NO!….no Max. I just thought he looked like someone I knew, that’s all. And it just kind of startled me is all.” She added lamely as she pulled out of the embrace, embarrassed for overreacting.

“Come on Max, let’s go home. I’m kind of tired after everything that’s been going on.”

He grabbed her by the arm unwilling to let this drop. He could tell she had been genuinely frightened and he was going to find out what was going on.

“Not so fast. Look at me.” He directed. She continued looking around them, keeping her eyes low. He gently grabbed her chin and forced her eyes up to his.

“What’s going on?” when she offered no explanation he continued “Come on Liz. I know something spooked you. Look at you, you’re still jumpy. Please tell me what’s wrong.” He pleaded.

She continued to look into his eyes. She knew she should not be afraid to tell him what happened. But she was afraid for him to know how irrational she was being. She didn’t even know why being reminded of Sean bothered her so much. She was married to him for goodness sakes, it’s not like he ever tried to hurt her.

“It’s nothing.” She said quietly. “I just overacted, that’s all. That guy, the one that walked by, well I saw him walking towards me and it was just something about him. I thought it was Sean. I don’t know what’s wrong with me, I was being irrational. And then when he walked past I knew that it wasn’t him. He just walked like him and dressed like him. Now that I think about it he didn’t even really look like him. It’s stupid I know.” She said meekly as she pulled away from him and headed towards the truck.

Before she was able to get fully out of his grasp he pulled her into him again, this time wrapping both his muscular arms around her offering her comfort, to reassure her that all was well.

“It’s not stupid. Obviously you were upset over it. Why does it bother you to see him again?” he asked curiously. “Did he do something to hurt you?” his voice rising with that question.

“Besides leaving me when I needed him the most, no. He never laid a hand on me. I don’t know Max. I just want this whole thing to be over. I guess I was scared to see him here. He can be relentless if something were to get in his way and I don’t want him to come between us. I mean, I know that we’re friends, but it feels like more, ya know?” She looked up into his eyes trying to gauge his reaction to her admission. Sure, they were friends but it had been over a month and a half since she had first arrived at the ranch and things were becoming more heated between them. At least she thought they were.

He looked down into her eyes as he cupped her cheek with one hand, caressing it lightly as he leaned his head toward her and placed a soft quick kiss on her lips. She moaned in protest as he pulled away from her. He pulled away from her slowly unwilling to let things get too heated. He was aware that she was still upset and he did not want to take advantage of the situation.

“Yeah, I know what you mean.” He said as he took her hand and walked her to the truck.

TBC…..

Hope to have the next part out sometime later this week.


Let me know what you think!











posted on 3-Mar-2002 4:42:57 PM by FreeFall

Chapter 12

Liz rolled over lazily looking around the room as she heard the phone in the background. She had had a fitful nights sleep, tossing and turning until a painful leg cramp forced her to walk around to relieve the pressure.

As she turned to the clock she noticed it was late, 11 am already. She rolled over onto her back as she stared up at the ceiling, contemplating what she needed to get done that day. It was another 15 minutes before she made it out of bed. As she stepped into the hall she noticed the house was silent.

Walking into the kitchen a note on the table caught her eye. ‘Hmmm….looks like I have a few hours to myself,’ she thought. Not that she minded. She was still quite groggy from her lack of sleep.

Putting the note back on the table she smiled and walked toward the sitting room. As she walked through the hall she noticed the message light on the phone blinking. Remembering the phone earlier she pressed the play button expecting to hear Max, or possibly Maria.

But as the message played she was surprised to hear her mother’s voice. She hadn’t expected her to call, atleast not on this line. She usually called her on her cell. But her mother had called her several times over the past couple of weeks and Liz had yet to return her calls. The last conversation they had was a bit forced and while Liz appreciated her mother’s concerns, she was more than capable of taking care of herself and she hadn’t been in a good enough mood to deal with her mother and her endless questions.

Pushing the erase button she reluctantly made her way to the study. She needed to get this call over with. She knew if she didn’t her mother would persist and that would not be good. The last thing Liz wanted right now was to deal with Max asking questions about her mother.

Sinking into the thickly padded leather chair behind the desk she picked up the receiver and dialed the number quickly. Putting the receiver to her ear she leaned back into the chair and waited for her mother to answer.

When her mother finally answered she greeted her softly.

“Sweetie, how have you been?” he mother greeted in an overly concerned manner.

“Good….good.” she answered distantly.

“What’s been going on? How had your therapy been going?”

“It’s been going good mother. My therapist says that my muscles are almost as good as new.”

“That’s wonderful. I was starting to get worried when you wouldn’t return my calls. I…I thought maybe something had happened.” She said with a quiver in her voice.

Liz turned in the chair until she was facing the big bay window behind the desk, opting to take in the beautiful afternoon sky. “Nothing’s wrong mother. I’ve just been busy.”

“Ok. Have you thought about when you’ll be coming home?” she asked in a hopeful manner.

“I don’t know mother, I feel like I am home.” She said softly. She felt compelled to be honest and truthful with her mother even though she knew that admission would hurt her mother. She could tell by her mother’s sharp inhalation at her admission that she was hurt. She could also tell by the next few words that her mother had gone on the defensive.

“I see.” Nancy replied in a cold tone. “What about your career? Are you planning to throw that away?” she added with frustration.

“No mother. Besides, I’ve been doing some freelance projects as well and that’s been working out really well.” She added with a light tone. She wasn’t sure if her mother knew of her inheritance and she wasn’t sure how to bring it up. So she decided to keep it from her, for now atleast.

“Elizabeth, do you really think that it’s wise to stay in such a small town? How do you expect to get ahead? What’s this really about? Is this about Max? Is there something going on between the two of you?” she asked. When all she heard was Liz’s sigh she continued. “Liz, you’re married. What about Sean?” she asked but immediately regretted bringing up the topic.

“What about Sean mother? I haven’t talked to him since he walked out on me! I don’t plan on being considerate of him when it comes to my future plans! Besides, I’ve already spoken with an attorney and I’m in the process of filing for divorce.” Her mother had a way with things when she didn’t get her way.

“Liz, are you sure you want to do that?” Nancy asked. Liz could hear the panic in her mother’s voice, which enraged her. Her mother was at it again. More concerned with social standing that what was best for her.

“Of course I’m sure mother! Why wouldn’t I? It’s not like he’s coming back.”

“But what if he did? I know he hurt you, but we don’t know why he left….Liz, he was good for you and….”

“Don’t even mother! Just because we’ve been getting closer since the accident doesn’t give you the right to butt into my life!”

“Liz, I’m sorry. I know I’ve overstepped….”

“You’re right, you have. Look, I know you want the best thing for me…and right now the best thing for me happens to be in Arizona.” Letting out a heavy sigh she began to rub her temples with her free hand.

“Please don’t bring this up anymore. I’m getting on with my life. And as for my career, I don’t know. I’m content where I am right now. I know that I’ll have to make a decision about my future but I’m just not ready to do that yet. Please, please respect my decision. Now, I’ve got to go. I’ll talk to you later.” She turned back around quickly and let out a frustrated growl as she slammed down the receiver.

“Your mother giving you hell?”

Liz looked up startled. Max was leaning against the doorframe, his arms crossed in front of his chest. Once he had her attention he entered the room and walked to her. As they locked eyes she could see the concern in his eyes.

“Everything ok?”

“Yeah, I’m fine. Sorry, but sometimes talking to my mother can just be so frustrating!” she said.

“I don’t know why you bother.” Was his simple reply.

“It’s not that easy Max. She’s my mother. And true, she may not be the best mother in the world but she’s been trying. She just doesn’t understand my need for happiness. It was never a high priority for her, so it’s hard for her to understand. Things were so different for her…she was raised by her father..she never had a mother of her own. She doesn’t really know how to be a mother.”

“Besides, I think she’s been drinking again. She sounded appalled when I told her I was filing for divorce. Don’t know why she would care though, she divorced enough for the both of us.” She smiled at Max as she looked toward him.

Max took a seat in the chair across from the desk. He was silent a few moments while he processed her words.

“I don’t understand. When I talked to Nancy she seemed…I don’t know. But she seemed angry at Sean. I don’t understand how she could not know you would want a divorce.”

“Well, if it’s one thing you can learn about my mother it’s that she puts up appearances. Sure she would have acted that way to you….because how would you have taken to her if she defended him?” she asked him outright, and seeing the look on his face she continued, “that’s what I thought. Look, my mother has her own agenda, and no one knows what that is besides her.”

“Liz…the relationship you two have had has never been healthy. Why do you let her treat you the way she does? She doesn’t deserve to have you as a daughter. No one would think less of you if you decided to cut ties with her.”

“Maybe no one would think less of me, but I can’t do that Max. I already feel so guilty. Like now that she wants to be a part of my life I feel like I owe it to her…I can’t just turn my back on our relationship.”

“Deciding that you want to have a relationship is one thing Liz….but doing this just because you feel you owe it to her? It’ll never amount to anything.” He said. He wanted to make her understand that she had a say in her life, and that she should not feel guilty about the choices she makes.

“I don’t know Max…” True, she shouldn’t feel guilty about wanting to live her life without worrying about her mother judging her every move, every choice…but for some reason she did.


TBC… more of the talk to come.

I have no idea when the next part will be out. I’ve been having a hard time writing this one over the past couple of weeks. Hopefully this will end my dry spell…but you never know.

As for Sean coming into the picture? Hmmm.....


Let me know what you think.


posted on 15-Mar-2002 7:13:54 AM by FreeFall
Here is the rest of "the talk". I know it's short, I'm working on the next chapter but haven't had a chance to finish it yet. Hopefully it will be done by early next week, but I'm going out of town over the weekend so I don't know if I'll have a chance to get it finished.

Thank everyone for the feedback, it really is appreciated!

Chapter 12B


“Liz…” But he is cut off before he can go on.

“Can we just not talk about this now. I can see it’s not something we are going to agree on.” She told him quickly.

“Ok…Ok…so what are your plans?” she looks to him with a questioning gaze.

He smiles shyly before answering, “Sorry…I kind of overheard your conversation with Nancy.” And he was glad he did. It gave him hope for their future knowing she felt at home here, with him…and his friends of course.

She threw him a smirk. “I don’t know. I guess I’ll just take it one day at a time. Work has been great about me freelancing, and they’ve even recommended me to others. They want me to attend a meeting next month, if I’m up to it. I guess it depends on how the next couple of weeks go.” She said not really knowing what her plans were. She loved her job, and she was good at it. Freelancing was great, but different. She would not be able to keep the exposure she had in this small town.

Now all Liz needed to do is find out what her priorities were, where she really belonged. What she told Nancy was true, she felt like she was at home. But she didn’t know if it was because she was hoping that there was something between her and Max or if it was because she had practically grown up in this house and it held some of the best memories of her life.

Max asked this next question and held his breath while she answered. “So….you’re thinking of going back then?”

Unsure of what to say she replied, “Yes…no…I..I don’t know.”

A look of hurt and sadness passed over Max so quickly that Liz missed it. When she looked up to him she noticed how his face was emotionless, so different from what she had become accustomed to over the past few weeks. She felt a pang of hurt rush through her. ‘Why didn’t he say anything to me? Surely he would let me know if he had wanted me to stay?’ she thought. A surge of hope flowed through her as he finally found words to reply.

“Oh….I thought you had decided to stay?” he asked softly and added quickly, “I mean everyone here would miss you, Austin has really benefited from having you here and I know Maria and Isabel would hate to see you go…” ‘and so would I’ he wanted to add but his pride would not let him. He didn’t want her to stay here if she didn’t choose to.

Liz felt the hope dissipate as she listened to his statement. He was worried that she would hurt their friends by leaving, and his son. True, she couldn’t love Austin any more if he was her own, but she didn’t think she could take getting more attached to him and having to step aside once Max finally found the woman to replace Karen, his late wife.

Liz didn’t know what to do. Maybe she should talk to Isabel and Maria, get their opinions. After all, they knew Max better than she did. She never could figure him out while growing up, and now it seems the same. Just when she thought she was to the point of breaking ground he would put up his defenses and she would be right back where she started from.

“Well Liz, I’ve gotta meet the guys, we’ve got a softball game this afternoon.”

“Yeah, I’m meeting Isabel and Maria. We’ll be there to cheer you guys on.” She said putting up a strong front as he walked out the room.


**

In Chicago---

Nancy flipped through her rolodex looking for a number. Once coming across it she picked up the phone and dialed. She then waited for the line to be picked up.

“Hello? No, no she’s not coming home.” She told the voice on the other line.

“Well, what do you expect me to do? I’ve played the motherly role with her for nearly a year. You’re just going to handle it from here.” She said.

“Ok…ok…she’s in Phoenix.” Pause “No, I won’t tell her I talked to you.” She said and then the other line went dead.


**

Ok, ok...I know this is frustrating, but just go with me on this. The next part will be a lighter in nature, promise.

Let me know what you think.



[ edited 1 time(s), last at 15-Mar-2002 7:15:00 AM ]
posted on 25-Mar-2002 12:54:15 AM by FreeFall
Hi guys! Thanks so much for the feedback. And I am sooo sorry it took me so long to get this up. I was out of town for longer than I expected and then a part of this chapter just did not want to get written! Well, to make up for it (hopefully) this one is extra long, like 12 pages or something.
And the last half is NC-17
I'm going to post it in 2 posts...the second half will be the NC-17 half and won't have much to do with the story itself, I just wanted to try something new. So, if you don't like to read that type thing you can skip it and not miss much.

And please forgive any typos, I haven't had a chance to read through the whole thing yet.

Hope you guys enjoy!

Chapter 13

An hour and a half later Liz found herself next door at Maria’s while they waited to join the guys at the game. In the mean time Maria and Isabel were taking the time to find out what had been happening over the past week.

“Geez Liz, if you had been around lately you would have known by now! Where have you been, we haven’t seen you all week and it’s Saturday – what’s up with that?” Maria asked Liz in a playful manner.

Liz smiled at them sheepishly feeling guilty for being unavailable, “Sorry guys. I guess I’ve been busier that I thought. I’ve had a lot of work to catch up on.” She tried to explain.

Maria looked at Liz with a raised eyebrow, “Uh huh, I bet you were busy with work.” She said suggestively.

Liz blushed at the innuendo, “Mar-ia!”

“So, how is the Max business going?” Maria continues, ignoring Liz as Isabel looks at both girls deciding on whether to help Liz to get Maria to lay off the questions or to join Maria in the information dig.

“What ever do you mean?” Liz asked innocently.

As Isabel looked at Liz’s flushed face she decided this was too much to pass up. “Come on Liz. Dish!” Isabel commanded.

Liz chanced a look behind her to find that she was alone in the room with two desperate women and decided she would play along with them. ‘Who knows’ she thought, ‘maybe they can give me some insight on him.’ Their earlier conversation had really gotten to her. As she had watched Max retreat from the room she had wished that she had stopped him, and she would have too. All she needed was the courage to tell him how she felt.

“I don’t know. Up until this morning I thought we were headed somewhere…that maybe…I don’t know.” She said not able to finish her thoughts.

“Ok, what did my lunk head of a brother-in-law do?” Isabel asked with a frown.

“Nothing. It’s just…I called my mother this morning and that conversation did not go so well. I was frustrated and then Max was there. Somehow the conversation turned to my future plans and he asked me if I was going back to Chicago.”

She looked to the two girls to make sure they were following the conversation. “I told him I don’t know, I mean there are a lot of things that need to be straightened out before I make my final plans. And I was going to tell him that I wanted to find a way to stay here, to stay with him, but I kind of chickened out. I told him I didn’t know. And I hoped he would say something…and he did, but it wasn’t what I was expecting. I don’t know, maybe I’m reading him all wrong? I thought there was an attraction, or even something more than that, but now I don’t know.” She finished, her thoughts returning to the previous conversation. Just remembering what was said made her cringe. She chided herself at not being able to think straight in his presence. And she was always saying the wrong thing!

“Liz…how could you not know? It’s so obvious. And how could he not know?”

“Maria, this is Max we are talking about.” Isabel enlightened the girls.

“That’s it Liz, you are going to tall Max how you feel….and you are going to do it before the day is out.” Maria declared.

“Maria,” Liz protested, “it’s not going to happen. I can’t put my feelings on the line like that. I just got out of one relationship and to jump into another….”

“Liz, you have made a vast improvement health wise – mentally and physically. And Max has everything to do with it. You can deny it all you want but we all know it’s true.” Up to this point Isabel had remained a bystander. She had wanted Max and Liz to figure out their feelings for each other and come together on their own. But after watching and waiting for over a month and not seeing either party give in to their obvious desires she knew it was time to step in and give them a little push.

Liz gave the girls a skeptical look as she contemplated what she would do. She didn’t think it would be fair to Max to get involved now, she just needed to make Maria and Isabel understand.

“Ok, I’ll admit that I do have feelings for him and….ok so Max has feelings for me.” She admitted with a small smile to which Maria and Isabel responded with slight nods urging her to continue.

“But that doesn’t mean I should tell Max how I feel. I mean, it would not really be fair to him. I have so much baggage and there are so many…”

“And he doesn’t have baggage? Liz, everyone has baggage…so yours may be bulkier and heavier than most, but you would be a fool to think that Max would not want you because of it.”

“Maria’s right Liz. Plus Max knows you, he knows what you’ve been through and trust me when I say this attraction is not one sided. He’s probably just trying to be careful Liz. He does have Austin to look after and…”

“I know Austin will always come first with him, I’d be disappointed if he didn’t. And I adore Austin too. I wish he were mine, but he’s not and I don’t want Max or Austin to think that I’m trying to replace Karen.” Liz laid all her fears on the line to Maria and Isabel. It made her feel somewhat better getting their perspective on things.

“They would never think that Liz.” Isabel stated firmly, “Trust me on that, I know.”

Liz looked to her and smiled gratefully. Hearing that admission from her meant the world to her for if Karen’s own sister was able to accept her into the family then she felt confident that things would be ok.

Catching both girls still staring at her intently she felt compelled to relent on the issue, “Ok, ok. I’ll talk to Max….after the game. Which reminds me, what did ya’ll mean earlier when you said you had a surprise for Michael?” she asked and was answered with two mischievous grins.


**


“Come on guys, we’ve only got 30 minutes left to warm up before the game!” Michael yelled to his team mates as he threw the ball to Max who threw it back. After a few more warm up throws Alex took a bat and waited patiently for a pitch so he could warm up as well. Noticing the distracted look on Max’s face he braced himself for the pitch he knew would be coming. As Max let the ball fly from his hands he cursed as it curved more than he expected and was grateful that Alex was able to scramble out of the way before being hit.

As Alex regained his balance after dodging the pitch he looked to his friend for an explanation.

“Sorry Alex. Guess I’d better get my mind on things, huh?”

“That would be a good start Maxwell.” Michael huffed as he noticed the distant look on his friends face. “Listen, does this have something to do with Liz?” he asked agitated that his friend wasn’t concentrating on the game. As he Max shrugged the question off Alex jumped in.

“We’ve all noticed how close you two have become over the past month. But what you need to ask yourself Max is, are you ready? You’ve both been through some painful experiences and I would hate to see either one of you get hurt in this.” Alex said sincerely as he stood back over the plate to allow Max another pitch.

“I don’t know, I…I think I’m in love with her. I just…..I’m afraid that she doesn’t feel the same way. And it’s not just me, I have Austin to think about. I know she’s already in his life, but he knows she’s just visiting.”

“Do you think that will matter in the long run Max, whether she is visiting or not?” Alex asked and Max just looked away.

“Maxwell, you want her and it’s pretty obvious that she wants you too….who says you need a commitment?” Michael asked as he caught the pitch Max threw.

Max stood and stared at Michael, “What? Like an affair?” he asked, disbelieving his friend could be so nonchalant about his life.

“Max, don’t listen to Michael,” Alex said in a stern tone as he pointed his bat toward Michael and shot him a stare daring him to say anything, “that isn’t what Liz needs right now…we both know that. You know she’s had self-esteem problems, especially since the accident. True, I’ve noticed a dramatic improvement in her attitude and confidence, but now isn’t the time to play games with her.” Alex said as he swung his bat at Max’s pitch and missed. “Besides, there is no way she would agree,” swinging again, “come on Max, get it over the plate this time.” He called to his friend.

“So what do you think I should do?”

“I think you should ignore Michael’s idea and follow your heart, as cliché as that may sound.” Alex grinned as the bat came in contact with the ball flying over to left field. “Yes!” he cried.

“Save it for the game Whitman.” Michael added with a small smile. It always amused him how Alex could get so worked up when they were practicing, ‘Now if only he could get as worked up while we actually played.’ Michael thought.

“Well, I think you should get your mind on the game, we start in 10 minutes man. And after that,” he said as he looked at his good friend, “I think you should tell her how you feel. Let her know what your fears are. You never know, she may have the same doubts and fears as you….but you won’t know until you talk it out.”

“Well, this is one time I have to agree with Michael, Max. You two have never had the best communication skills, and there is no time like the present to fix that.” Alex said as Max gave a nod indicating he would think about it.

“Come on guys, lets hit the dugout.” Michael said as he noticed their team standing by waiting for the coach to give the lineup.


**


As the girls arrived at the park they waived at the guys and wished them luck before they took their seats on the bleachers to the right of the field. As they sat down Austin ran up to Max in the dugout area where Max picked him up and swung him around.

“Hey there! Whatcha doing over here?” he asked his son.

“I wanted to wish you good luck,” he said and then turning to Michael and Alex, “and you too Uncle Alex and Uncle Michael.” He said as Michael ruffled his hair.

“Well thank you Austin.”

“You had better get back over to your Aunts before they notice you’re missing. Go on kiddo.” Max said playfully as he sent him off.

The team’s attention was brought to the coach when he announced they were up to bat first. Calling off the order of the hitters the rest of the team sat on the bench awaiting their turn and cheering on their teammates.

Max looked over to the bleachers, his eyes immediately finding Liz. Even thought she was wearing sunglasses he could tell she was lost in thought. Evidently he wasn’t the only one bothered with how the talk they had earlier turned out. He made up his mind to get his feelings out in the open and stop this wondering for once and for all.

…..


“Ok girls, this is the last inning. It’s almost showtime.” Isabel looked around to the crowd of children that were at the game. “Are you guys ready?” she said with excitement in her voice.

“Yes!” came their reply.

“Well, go on, get in your places.” Isabel directed the children in a line to the side of the fence. She was excited for Maria and knew she wanted to make this memorable for her and Michael.

“Isabel, thank you so much for helping me with this. I don’t know if I could have come up with this on my own.” Maria gushed as she hugged her friend warmly.

“Oh Maria, you know I love doing things like this. And besides, you’re like a sister to me, and Michael like a brother, of course I would want to help you!”

“Maria, I am so excited for you and Michael. I can’t wait to see his reaction when he finds out!” Liz joined the girls in their hug as they talked over the possibilities.

“Well, we don’t have to wait too long, Michael is up to bat next.”

…..


“Guerin, you’re up next!” The coach yelled as the last hitter hit a single to land in first.

As Michael walked towards the plate he heard the coach lecture him, “Come on Guerin, we’ve got one out and a man on first and second. We will need all three runs to win this game!”

“Yeah, yeah. I got it.” Michael said shrugging off the nagging feeling that something big was about to happen. As the first pitch was thrown he watched it and held off noticing it was a little outside.

“Ball” called the ump.

He could hear the bystanders in the audience yelling to them, mainly Maria. He smiled slightly as he looked over to her and noticed her jumping up and down cheering for him. He did a double take when she yelled, ‘did she just say what I thought she said?’ he thought to himself but shrugged it off as he noticed the pitcher was about to throw the next pitch.

On the next pitch he wasn’t so lucky. His concentration was still on the bleachers where he knew his fiancée was. The pitch was perfect, unfortunately he swung too late and missed.

“Strike.” Called the ump.

Shaking his head clear he decided not to look over to where Maria was until his at bat was finished. As he shifted his feet in the dirt to get a better stance he heard the guys in the dugout whoop and cheer, catching his attention. He looked back over to them. Noticing their attention was on the audience he looked back over to be startled when he saw the line of children that were holding up signs that read ‘Go Daddy Guerin’

“Daddy?” Michael whispered to himself before realization dawned on him.

“Strike” called the ump a second time as the ball flew by a disoriented Michael.

The loud bellow of the ump snapped him back to his senses as he immediately dropped the bat and searched for Maria in the crowd. The bystanders were still jumping and cheering and after finding Maria he looked to her for confirmation. When she nodded her with a tearful grin Michael turned to the guys who were right behind him.

“Do you hear that guys, I’m going to be a daddy!” he shouted for all to hear.

He was so excited that the umpire had to literally shake him back to reality so he could finish his bat. Michael picked up his bat and pointed it out to the crowd which made them cheer loudly.

As the pitch came close to the plate he swung and hit the ball into the field.


….


Once the game was over Michael found Maria waiting by the sidelines. He ran to her and picked her up swinging her around and around as they both laughed heartily. The crowd was slow dissipating as everyone stopped by the happy couple to congratulate them on their upcoming addition.

After Max hugged his friends congratulating them he made his way over to Austin and Liz. As he strode over to them he could see the happiness radiating off of Liz and had a sudden urge to throw her over his shoulder and go make a baby of their own. Smiling slightly at the thought he shook his head and caught Austin as he flung himself to his dad.

“Hey there, did you guys have fun?” he asked to them.

“The look on Michael’s face was priceless.” Liz said as she came to stand next to him.

As she came closer he snaked one arm around Liz letting her know that she was not getting away from him. She smiled as she looked to him and moved her body close to his while putting her arm around him as well.

Isabel and Alex walked up to them and offered to take Austin for some ice cream with their daughter Maddy to give Max and Liz some time alone. Max readily agreed with the proposition and smiled to Alex thanking him for making sure he had some alone time with Liz.

“Come on, let’s go home.” Max said as he led Liz to his truck.


**


After arriving home, Max excused him self for a few minutes to shower and freshen up. While she was waiting Liz went to the kitchen to fix him dinner. She knew he would be hungry after his game so she busied herself with this small task to keep her mind off of the inevitable conversation she was about to have.

Lost in her thoughts she jumped slightly when Max came up behind her and ran his hand through her hair.

“You scared me.” Liz said quickly looking away as a blush crept up her face.

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to.” He said simply.

“It’s ok. I…I was just making you a sandwich. I figured you would be hungry after the game.”

“Thanks.” He said as he leaned against the counter watching her intently.

“Listen Liz, about this morning…”

“Yeah, I wanted to talk to you about that. I owe you an apology.” She said. She looked to Max and he remained silent but she could see the confusion on his face so she continued, “I wasn’t totally honest with you. Not intentionally, I was just confused….and I didn’t know what to say…and I didn’t want to mess things up between us…”

“Whoa, whoa, whoa. Slow down. I wasn’t truly forthcoming with you either. There were some things that I should have said, but at the time I didn’t know if it was my place to or not. And I didn’t want to get in your way…I don’t want to get in your way.” He corrected himself.

Liz looked up at him. He could see the questions in her eyes so he elaborated.

“I should have told you how I feel about you….I should have told you that I wanted you to stay.” Max said as he looked straight at her.

“Why didn’t you?” she asked in a whisper.

“I was afraid. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt the way I’ve felt.” He said as he drew closer to her, taking her hand in his. “And being honest with myself I know that I’ve actually never felt anything like this before, and it scares me to think that you don’t feel the same way.” He said in a whisper as she brought her hand up to cup his cheek.

“But I do, Max. I feel that and so much more. I didn’t say anything not only because I was scared, because I don’t have the right to come into your life and weigh you down. And our history isn’t the best Max. You practically hated me your whole life.”

“I never hated you Liz. I kept my distance from you because you made me feel things I wasn’t ready to feel, even then. It scared the hell out of me.” He said as he inched closer to her and ran his fingers through her hair.

“I can’t replace her Max.” Liz stated firmly as he looked to her taken aback by what she said.

“What do you mean? Replace who?”

“Karen, your wife. Austin’s mother. I can never be her.” She stated again.

“Liz, I know you aren’t her and I don’t want you to be her! What we had was something special…yes I loved her very much, and I will always have a place in my heart for her. But I’ve already got a place in my heart for you Liz, and I don’t want to give that up…to give you up.” He said as he blinked to keep the tears from coming.

Liz looked up at him and her final wall crumbled as she saw the pleading in his eyes. She had waited so long for this, she was so happy she reached up with both hands and steadied his face as she kissed him lovingly.

“Oh Max!” she cried as she kissed him continuously, “You don’t have to. I don’t want to go anywhere, I want to stay her with you, to be a family with you and Austin.” She said as the tears poured freely from her eyes.

He kissed her passionately before sitting her up on the counter, wrapping her legs around him. He continued the kiss as she ran her hands over his shoulders and through his hair. He let out a small groan as she tightened her legs around his waist. He deepened the kiss and was about to suggest they take this to the bedroom when Austin burst through the kitchen door followed by Alex.

Max and Liz jumped apart quickly at the interruption. Austin was none the wiser but as Alex entered he could see that they had interrupted something.

“Hey guys, sorry to interrupt” Alex looked over to Max and Liz who were now several feet away from each other. He grinned as a blush crept up Liz’s face.

“Did you guys want us to take Austin for the night?” Alex asked.

“No, no that’s alright. It’s his bedtime now anyways. But thanks for the offer.” Max said to his friend.

“Ok. Well, goodnight. Max, I’ll be talking to you tomorrow.” He said on his way out the door.

Max looked over to Liz sheepishly before stepping over to help her down.

“Well, I guess that’s it for tonight?” she asked in an amused tone.

Disappointment flooded through him when he realized she was probably right. He didn’t have time to contemplate the situation before Austin ran back through the kitchen.

“Dad, will help me with my homework?” he asked.

“Sure son, I’ll be right there.”

“Night Liz.” Austin called out before he raced down the hall.

“Goodnight Austin!” Liz called after him.

“Well, I guess this is goodnight…it is getting pretty late.” Liz said as she turned to Max.

“Yeah, goodnight.” He said as he pulled her in an embrace and kissed her passionately before leaving her disoriented in the kitchen, alone.


TBC in next post...
By the way in the softball scene where the children held up the sign - got the idea from meet the parents

[ edited 1 time(s), last at 25-Mar-2002 1:01:49 AM ]
posted on 25-Mar-2002 1:08:33 AM by FreeFall
NC-17

Walking slowly into the darkened room Max made his way cautiously towards the bed, being careful not to knock over anything in the process. As his knees came in contact with the frame, he used his hand as a guide to feel his way to the side of the bed. Feeling a slight indention in the mattress he sat down lightly as reached his hand toward the brunette beauty that was laying just inches away. Being careful not to startle her, he reached her hair first and began to run his fingers through her long silky strands.

She stirred as she felt a warm presence next to her. Turning ever so slightly towards the presence she let out a sigh at the sensations he was causing just being close to her. She groaned when she felt his hand stop his calming ministrations only to be pleasantly excited to feel his hands return to her back and arm, running up and down softly causing her flesh to become alive under his touch.

“Are you awake?” he asked in a whisper so close to her ear it caused her shudder.

“Um hmmmm…” she said in a slight purr as she turned her head towards him.

“Sorry,” he said again in a whisper, “I just couldn’t wait till morning to see you.” He said looking into her eyes. Noticing the passion in her eyes he closed the distance quickly and engulfed them into a heated kiss. He moaned at the feelings that were flowing through him and deepened the kiss.

As he did this Liz let out a strangled moan and arched her body toward him. It had been so long for both of them and they were to the point where they could no longer hold back the passion they felt when with each other. Breaking the kiss for much needed air, Max immediately attached his lips to her neck caressing her skin lightly before bringing his lips to her ear and whispering lightly.

“God, I want you.” She shuddered as his warm breath hit her ear causing an arousing sensation to flow through her. She had never felt so aroused before, and they were just getting started.

She answered him by pulling his head up and meeting his lips in another heated kiss. This time she sought entrance to his mouth as her tongue gently traced his bottom lip. As he opened his mouth her tongue immediately found his and dueled. This time it was her that broke the kiss. She began the slow torment of him by sucking lightly on his earlobe, determined to find an erogenous zone. Her lips widened into a smile when she heard a low groan escape his lips.

Pulling back slightly, her hands roaming over his broad chest. He pulled his shirt off quickly and threw it to the side of the room while she placed small little kisses along his neckline until he could stand it no longer. He pushed her back onto the bed and started his own ministrations on her body. Holding her hands above her head with one hand he began exploring the bare skin her tank top left with his other. He could feel the energy radiating off her body and it made him want her more.

Kissing his way down her neck and pulling at the hem of her top with his free hand he rubbed her abdomen gently before bringing his hand up to cup her breast. Rolling her nipple between his fingers she arched her back violently in an attempt to get closer to him.

He pulled back and reached for the hem of her top. He felt her stiffen and tried to pull her hands away forcefully as he pulled the top up her body. He calmed her quickly by placing a tender kiss to her lips not relenting until he felt her relax in his arms.

He whispered softly, “What’s wrong?” He could feel her anxiety over the situation and wanted to know what was causing it. He watched her and as he saw her face away from him in embarrassment he was pretty sure he knew what was wrong. He turned her face back towards him as he continued to pull off her top while looking deeply into her eyes to reassure her. Once it was removed he glanced down at the beautiful woman before him.

He was so aroused at this point he didn’t know if he could keep from attacking her, but he knew what she needed right now. He could feel her eyes on him. She was watching him, looking for a trace of disgust at what he saw. But as he lifted his eyes back to her to he whispered, “You’re beautiful. Breathtaking.”

He released her hands and began to trace the faded scar that marred her body. He then began to kiss the line that flowed from her far left shoulder down to right below her breast. He felt her shudder as he took her breast fully into his mouth and writhe beneath him as she cupped both hands behind his head, pulling him into her fully. He turned slightly to a more comfortable position and she gasp as she felt his hardness press against her thigh. That mere touch ignited the already passionate flame and they both gave themselves over to their emotions, both trusting the other with their most protected possession, their hearts.

With a low growl Max slipped his hand between her legs, parting them slightly. He could tell by her wetness that she was as excited as he was. He gently moved his fingers under her panties and touched her lightly. She moaned loudly at the contact and thrust her head back, content to enjoy his pleasuring. He was pleased even more pleased at her response when he slipped a finger into her wet folds. As he rubbed her clit with his thumb he could feel the tension radiating off her. He withdrew his hand momentarily and was immediately greeted with a whimper from his lover.

Liz was even more surprised when he slipped from her grasp and traveled down her body, slowly peeling off her last layer of clothes. She immediately felt cold and unsatisfied, only to be filled with warmth and need as his mouth came in contact with her core. He pulled her legs apart and assaulted her with his eager mouth, determined to release her tension. As he continued his assault she began to buck her hips wildly at the sensations that he was causing. Not being able to hold on any longer she felt her orgasm come over her violently as her need for him increased.

“Max, I need you now.” She hissed as she grabbed at his shoulders to pull him up the length of her body, only letting him stop long enough to rid himself of his boxers. As he braced himself above her gathered all the control he had as he had to make sure this is what she wanted.

“Liz…are you sure?” he asked, his eyes pleading with hers. Her quick nod of assurance was enough for him as he slowly slid into her depths. They both let out a moan at their joining. Liz grabbed onto Max’s shoulders and wrapped her legs around his hips as he slowly thrust in and out. He slowed his pace as he felt her legs around him, looking up to her to make sure she wasn’t in any pain. He knew her muscles were still giving her trouble from time to time but as he looked her over he could tell by the pure bliss etched on her face that she wasn’t in any pain.

He brought his lips down to hers to savor the moment. She released his lips having other things on her mind. She began to caress his neck with her nose and mouth. She wanted to do to him what he was doing to her, driving her crazy. She brought her mouth up to his earlobe and licked it quickly before nibbling on it.

As she nibbled his ear he closed his eyes. No longer able to control his need of her he began thrusting harder and harder, seeing her beneath him, matching him thrust for thrust he felt himself harden. Not sure how much longer he could hold out he brought a hand down to her clit and began rubbing with his thumb causing her to explode once again. The soft moan of his name on her lips could have caused him to loose it right then. He continued his thrusts as he kissed her passionately, willing her to feel his love.

Once she was able to think straight she placed her hands on his shoulders and began to rub his back before bringing her hands to caress his chest. He began to slow his pace as he looked at her with a passion she had never seen before. As she tightened her legs around him to let him know she wanted more he pulled back.

“Nu uh,” he whispered to her, “I’m not ready for this to be over.” He told her as he slid his hand over her breast before brining his mouth down to taste her once again. She arched her back bringing her closer to him. But the longer he took with his exploration of her the more agitated she became. She needed more of him. She brought his head up to her and kissed him slightly as she made her way down his chest before settling her mouth onto his nipple.

As he felt her warmth encompass his nipple he lost all control. His slow, gentle thrusts were no more as his body began thrusting harder, even harder still as she bit down on his nipple and all he could do was grunt as his emotions went haywire. He felt her tight walls clamp down on him as she climaxed and he joined her soon after, the couple murmuring to each other softly.

He laid his head to her breast as he tried to catch his breath, his sweat mingling with hers. After he caught his breath he rolled onto his back and pulled her to his chest holding her tightly.

“I love you Liz.” He said to her as his mouth brushed over her hair.

“I love you too, Max.” she said as she drifted off to sleep, content at knowing that they could overcome any obstacles as long as they were together.

I'm not too sure about this, so let me know what you think. Liked it? Not so much?

TBC.....
posted on 23-Apr-2002 11:17:25 PM by FreeFall
Hey guys! I'm sooo sorry its been so long. Guess I was on hiatus along with the show...hehe. Seriously, I've been having some serious issues with writers block....or more like motivation. But it's probably my own fault. I've been reading a lot lately and I got started on a book that was really disturbing and depressing...so I've been in a very angsty mood when it comes to writing. And this has moved beyond that....at least in the coming parts.

But after watching tonights ep I was just so motivated that I wrote this up. I know, it is kinda short but thats all I have time for. Hopefully it won't take me so long for the next part. BTW, did Michael have serious issues in this ep or what? Talk about scary.....lol.

Hope you enjoy and please tell me what you think.

Chapter 14A

He couldn’t sleep. Not with her so close. Her scent was invading his dreams, his reality. He looked down at his love as she lay sleeping soundly, occasionally drawing herself in closer to him. Impulsively he tightened his grip on her, causing her to stir. He kept his eye trained on her face, looking to see if he had awoken her. After watching for several minutes he turned his attention upward, to the blades of the metal ceiling fan that twirled around and around. And that’s what he could associate with…he felt his life being pulled in each and every direction. Spinning. Twirling. His life whirling around and around…like the blades above him. And as he looked down to the sleeping beauty beside him his world stopped.

For so many years he had felt this great need to be a part of something more. To become the man his father had always wanted him to become. And he was well on his way. Marrying the love of his life had been one of his most proud moments. He knew that with her he could do anything, be anything. And the arrival of his son only compacted that pride. He had 3 years of pure bliss with his wife, son and father at his side. 3 years.

And the death of his wife. How he had survived that he would never know. But one thing was for certain, without the love and support of his father and close friends, and the need of him to be a father to his son, he didn’t know if he would have come out of it sane. It changed him, hardened him. He became more aware of the cruelties that came with life. The things that would happen no matter what you did to prevent them. So he did what he needed to do. He closed off the one part of him that had been hurt so badly…the one part of him that he was sure that would never feel again.

Until tonight. She had come from his past and stirred up emotions that were hidden deep within him. And this time it was so much more. When they were younger, he had always had a place in his heart for her….even though he would never admit it, not even to himself. And when she left he was glad. Pleased and positive that the emotions that were running through him would vanish as quickly as she had.

Boy was he wrong. The longer she had been gone the more his heart had ached. Until he met her, Karen. And then he felt again. Only this time he thought she was worthy of his heart, his love. And she loved him so. And their son. He was a miracle to them, bringing so much joy and hope into their lives. He never knew he could love one person so much. But his son was everything to him. Everything.

But what would it have been like if things had been different? If he had chosen to trust Liz instead of scorn her? What a fool he had been. Pushing her away. Blaming her for her mother’s mistakes. Throwing away what future they would have. Until, that is, their paths stumbled together once again.

At first he was hesitant. Angry is more like it. He was angry at her for coming back into his life, for causing him to feel again in a way he had sworn to himself to never again allow. And now he didn’t know what to think. His emotions so heated and fierce that he feared one wrong move would destroy him. And that scared him. Scared him shitless.

Looking back down at his love laying in his arms he said a silent prayer that thing would work out in the end, knowing that they were stronger together than apart. Kissing the top of her head lightly he looked back up to the ceiling, heaving a contented sigh as he closed his eyes and pulled her in tight.


TBC???

Tell me what you think.


[ edited 1 time(s), last at 23-Apr-2002 11:19:19 PM ]
posted on 8-Jun-2002 11:12:10 PM by FreeFall

*Wow*...thanks for the bumps *grins*. It's good to know there are some who still want more.

Well...this is just a little note. Sigh It has been waaaaay tooooo long. I can't apologize enough for my lack of updates. Anyway...I've been working on the new part and just need to do some edits and finish up some things...so...I'll try my hardest to have something out this week.

Again...sorry for the delay...but thanks for your patience.

posted on 10-Jun-2002 10:44:27 PM by FreeFall

Finally!

It's not very long but it kinda ties up the past couple of chapters.

I know where I want to take this but there is more transitional stuff next...that's what gives me a hard time.

Thank you to everyone who has stuck by this and has had patience with me! I'm truly inspired by all of you!

Hope it doesn't disappoint....



Chapter 14B


She was aware of warmth. It consumed her, wrapped around her to the point she was sure she would never be cold or alone again. She shifted into the warmth more as a smile spread across her face. She could get used to this. Her body and mind feeling more free than it had ever felt. She could definitely get used to this.

As she basked in the warmth she became more aware of her surroundings. Stretching, her eyes opened wide as her legs came in contact with something…someone. Focusing on her lover her eyes became even wider as the details of the previous evening came crashing back to her.

She felt her heart melt as Max looked over to her and smiled that half smile that always succeeded in making her weak as a teenager. Never in her wildest dreams had she expected to be on the receiving end. Bending his head down he placed a swift, chaste kiss on her lips.

“Mmmm…morning beautiful.” He whispered against her lips.

“Morning yourself.” She replied, pulling him back towards her. Placing her lips against his she reveled in the feel of them. They were so soft, so gentle. He cradled her gently against his frame, so gently that he might fear she would break if handled too roughly.

Resting her head against his chest she let out a contented sigh. Her love for him so overwhelming that she had to pull herself closer to him, afraid that she may lose him. She relaxed her grip as she felt him relax back into the bed.

Looking up towards him she noticed him starring up at the ceiling, a pensive look on his face. Rising slightly she looked over to him, aiming at getting a better view of his face. He turned his head; looking toward her he gave her a small smile, his eyes full of love before clutching her tightly to him once more.

She giggled slightly at his actions but the laughter died when she saw the seriousness in his eyes. Feeling a tightening in her stomach and the beating of her heart speeding as panic griped her she tightened her hold on his arm.

Sensing her panic, he engulfed her once again into his arms, not letting her push her way free of his grasp.

“Max?” she asked, her voice hoarse and cracking as worry filled her.

“Oh Liz.” He exclaimed breathlessly, the worry in her voice shattering his resolve.

Grasping him tightly as she held her head against his chest,

“What’s wrong?” she asked, her voice so faint he thought he could have imagined it.

He exhaled softly as he realized he was causing her this torment, this uneasiness she was feeling.

Not knowing what to say he remained silent, contemplating his feelings.

She closed her eyes tightly as his fingers coursed through her hair, an unconscious gesture she realized. She laid silently, waiting for him to open up to her. She knew last night was a big step for him. Hell, it was a big step for her as well, but she remained silent, listening to the sound of his beating heart.

After a few seconds of contemplation he began, “I never thought I’d feel this way again.”

He turned his gaze up towards the ceiling, blinking back his tears.

She looked up to him, pulling away slightly to better position herself to look upon him. Touching his face softly he shifted his gaze to her. She watched him, mesmerized by the depth of emotion she saw in his eyes. As he remained silent she tensed, afraid of what his next move would be.

“I’m sorry,” he said softly, truly sorry for scaring her, “It’s just a little overwhelming, ya know? It’s been so long since I’ve let anyone in…I….” He trailed off, unsure of what to say next.

“It’s ok Max. I understand. Really. And although it hasn’t been as long for me….I think it’s just as hard. We both lost someone we really cared about.” She said, willing him to know she was in the same place as him.

“It’s just…it was so hard to lose her…I don’t think I could go through that again.”

“Do you want to talk about what happened?”

Looking at her directly he began, “I knew I was going to lose her…but I didn’t know when.” He confessed.

As he noticed her confused expression he expanded his explanation, “She was sick…cancer. She had first been diagnosed when she was pregnant with Austin. After she first found out she was pregnant she began getting sick…really sick. So they did some tests…and that’s when they found it. They said with the stress of carrying a child would be too much for her…that we should consider terminating the pregnancy. But Karen…she wouldn’t even consider it. They said she had a good chance of beating it if she went through treatment immediately…but she wouldn’t do it. And me…god…I was no help to her. We had wanted this child so badly! He was everything to us. And to have someone tell me that I have to choose between my wife and my child…” he broke off as he tried to keep his composure.

Liz placed both her palms on his cheeks, looking at him directly before placing a soft kiss of comfort on his forehead.

“Shhh…it’s okay. I can’t imagine what you must have went through.” She said through her tears.

“I wouldn’t do it. I couldn’t. And Karen knew that…so she made the decision for us. She lived longer than they thought she would…but she was in such a bad way for the longest time. Even though I miss her with all my heart, I’m glad she’s no longer in pain. I just wish she would have had a proper chance to get to know her son…to raise him.”

“I’m sure she would have loved that too. But you can’t change what happened. All you can do is learn to live again. Austin needs you, your friends need you. I need you.” She said firmly.

“I need you too, Liz. I’ve got to know that you’ll stay…that you aren’t planning on going back to the life you had before. I….I can’t take losing you…not after this…” He trailed off, unable to say more as the thought of her leaving him crossed his mind. His emotions hit him full force, the tremors plowed through his body so quickly he was unable to do anything but wait…wait for her to accept him or reject him.

“Why would I ever want to go back? I’ve got everything I’ve ever wanted and needed right here. Right in front of me. I can’t go back to what I was before. I’d be lost without you…you’re everything to me.”

“You’re everything to me, too.” He whispered. Both sat in the comfort of each other’s arms, basking in the warmth of their love. They were too caught up in the moment, caught up in the emotions that were soaring through them to say any more. Wrapping his strong arms around her small frame he held her tightly to him as he prayed it would always be like this.


TBC?????

Let me know what you think...



posted on 20-Jul-2002 9:10:30 PM by FreeFall
Ok, ok. I'm working on the next chapter as we speak...maybe I can have it up, or at least a portion of it up tomorrow?

Thanks so much for the bumps guys! Ya'll are definitely inspiring me to get this out quickly.
posted on 23-Jul-2002 11:04:28 PM by FreeFall
Thanks so much for the bumps guys! Sorry, I meant to have this posted Sunday, but..well, I'm not too happy with it but haven't been able to fix it to my liking. Hope its not too horrible.

I want to thank everyone who has been reading this all to all my feedbackers! I appreciate every one of you!

This part is short, and is mostly transition. I have the remainder of this story outlined in my head...maybe 3 or more parts, but we'll see how that goes. Also, I'm house sitting for a friend this weekend and hope to get lots done on this.



-Maddy is Alex and Isabel’s daughter – She was only briefly mentioned in like chapter 3 or 4.


Chapter 15

Evans household

Austin looked up, a grin stretching across his face when he heard the kitchen door open.

“Uncle Alex!” he squealed excitedly as his favorite uncle entered.

“Hey there, big guy!” Alex greeted him as he tousled the hair on his head playfully.

“Hi Aunt Izzy,” he greeted next, his smile faltering as he squenched his nose toward his little cousin.

“Ausin!” Maddy squealed as she hugged him, knowing very well that it unnerved him to no end.

“Hey! Stop that!” he yelled as he struggled to get away from her.

“Guys! Guys! Come on, sit down.”

“Humph,” Austin sat at the table stiffly, his hands folded across his chest, ignoring the faces his cousin was making at him. He knew her all too well; she loved to make him squirm. And the adults would agree that she was good at it, too. She was as stunning as her mother and had the adults wrapped around her fingers.

“Hello! Hello!” Maria called out in a singsong voice, walking in with Michael in tow.

“Hey guys! What a surprise! We weren’t expecting to see you today,” Alex said, obviously surprised to see the two out and about. He remembered when he and Isabel had found out about Maddy, a goofy smile appearing as he thought back on that time. They hadn’t left their house for days.

“Well, we couldn’t let you guys have all the fun, now could we?” Maria smiled back to Alex and Isabel.

“Hmmm…whatcha cooking?” Maria asked while rubbing her stomach slightly.

“Maria, we just ate 15 minutes ago,” Michael reminded her.

“Oh hush! It was more like an hour ago and it was toast!” she glared at him.

“Uh, a bit of advice Michael? I wouldn’t mention anything about her eating habits if I were you. Believe me, I speak from experience,” Alex whispered the warning to Michael, knowing full well that Maria would be as much of a handful as Isabel was during her pregnancy.

Isabel came up to Maria and grabbed her arm lightly, ushering her out of the room.

“Come on Maria, lets go take while Alex and Michael finish breakfast,” she added for the benefit of the guys. She winked at Maria and they both giggled as they heard the grunts and protests from the guys.

Pulling her into the adjoining room she started, “Well, how was it? What happened? What’d he say?” she asked quickly, anxious to hear how their evening had gone.

“Oh Isabel! It was beyond beautiful. He was so romantic, I…I never knew he could be like that. And guess what else! We set a date for the wedding!” Maria said giddily as she jumped up and down.

“Oh my god, congratulations! I thought it was going to take an act of war for him to finally agree on a date!” Isabel was beyond excited for her friends.

“Tell me about it! But, in two months time I’ll be Mrs. Michael Guerin. I never dreamed I could be so happy!” she replied, wiping the tears from her eyes.

“I am so happy for you!” Isabel said, equally tearful.

“I can’t believe you guys are here so early! I didn’t expect to see you for a few days. I mean, when Alex and I found out about Maddy…well”

“Yeah, I remember. I don’t know, we have plenty of time together…the rest of our lives. And today we want to celebrate with the people closest to us…with our family.”

“Oh Maria!” Isabel cried, lunging herself into Maria’s arms.

“Isabel, Maria! Can ya’ll come in here a sec!” Alex yelled to them.

Walking back to the kitchen both girls stopped and giggled at the sight before them. Michael and Alex had apparently tried to mix the pancake batter with the mixer, but evidently that did not work.

Isabel straightened, clearing her throat, “Um, guys…you’re supposed to get the batter in the pan, not on yourselves,” No longer able to hold their composure the girls began laughing uncontrollably at the sight before them.

Michael and Alex stood by the counter with un-amused expressions on their faces and pancake batter splattered on their shirts, on their faces and even in their hair.

“Ok, ok. Yeah, very funny. Come on Alex, lets get cleaned up,” Michael grunted, causing Maria to laugh even harder.


After Alex and Michael exited the kitchen, Maria turned toward the two giggling children seated at the table. Glancing back toward the kitchen counter to survey the damage she sighed as she thought of the cleanup. Turning back toward the children she lifted an eyebrow as she studied their faces, feeling more was going on than was revealed.

“Guys?” she asked sternly, “What have ya’ll been up to?”

“Oh come on Maria,” Isabel interrupted, “lighten up!” she exclaimed as she took Maria’s arm and pulled her toward the counter.

“Let’s get this cleaned up so we’re not stuck here all day. Besides, Liz would freak if she saw this mess,” Isabel giggled.

“Speaking of Liz,” Maria turned back towards the table, “Hey Austin, have you seen Liz this morning?”

She quirked her eyebrow as the giggling returned. Before she was able to question him Alex and Michael walked in.

“Hey Austin, where’s your dad?” Alex called as he made his way to the table.

Austin looked up at his uncle and quickly quieted.

“What do you mean, where’s Max? Why didn’t you bring him in here with you?” Maria questioned.

“Maria, we went to his room but he wasn’t there. His door was opened and his bed was made…I think he may have went out,” Michael mentioned.

“See…I told you Michael! What did I tell you? To tell him not to make any plans for today! But no! You had to wait until the last minute and then what happens? You forget! That is so typical….” Her words stopped short as Michael cupped his hand over her mouth to stop her rambling. He then pulled her close and the others watched as he whispered to her, all eyes removed from them as they watched Maria’s face pale and then a warm blush color her skin.

Alex turned his attention back to the table and watched as Austin tried uneventfully to ignore Maddy, but she was having none of it. Alex couldn’t stop his chuckle as he looked at the two. His daughter was a handful, he was the first to admit it, but he wouldn’t have it any other way.

Clearing his throat he chuckled at the two. “Austin, care to join me in the search for your old man?”

Austin looked up at his quizzically and spoke, “Daddy’s here.”

“Yeah sport?” Michael asked, “You know where he is at?”

“Uh huh, he’s in Lizzy’s room,” he stated matter of factly and returned his attention to the cereal before him.

The adults in the room looked at each other before returning their attention back to Austin.

“Is that so?” Michael asked in a suggestive manner, not caught onto by the children.

“Uh huh, he wasn’t in his room when I got up so I went down the hall to see if Lizzy was up. She didn’t answer when I knocked so I went in to see if she was asleep and she was. Daddy was in there, too,” he finished, obviously not bothered by the scene.

Before Alex could react Maria and Isabel took off down the hall towards Liz’s room, wanting to see for themselves just how comfortable the two had become with each other. Looking behind them they quickened their pace when they saw Michael and Alex on their tale, knowing they would spoil their fun.

Isabel shushed Maria as she let out a squeal when turning a corner. Maria pushed open Liz’s door and both attempted to make their way in but were stopped by two sets of strong arms that pulled them back into the hall, slamming the bedroom door shut in the process.

Inside the dimly lit room, both occupants shot up, violently awakened by the slamming of the door. Max looked around the room, taking in everything as he assessed what was going on, his gaze returning to his prize before him. Hearing the giggling voices in the hallway he watched intently as a deep blush covered Liz, both realizing that their newfound relationship was no longer a secret.


TBC.............

I hope this wasn't too bad.

[ edited 1 time(s), last at 4-Aug-2002 11:37:06 PM ]
posted on 3-Aug-2002 11:46:29 AM by FreeFall
A/N:

I'm here! I'm here! Wow! This is the most fb I've gotten and I want to say thank you to all! Its gotten me motivated! Sorry about the delay...I haven't had much computer access this past week. Anyway, I've gotten the next part about done, but mostly its written out and needs to be typed up...and then a few transitions added. Hopefully I can whip it out sometime today, but who knows. Tomorrow definitely if not today.
posted on 4-Aug-2002 11:31:07 PM by FreeFall
First off, Thank you! Sorry for the delay, I just can't seem to find time to get everything I need to get done, done.

Here's the next part. I hope ya'll enjoy. Hopefully I can have the next part out before the week is up.



Chapter 16



“We know you’re in there!” Maria called to them, “Meet us in the kitchen in 15 minutes, or else!”

Liz buried her face in her hands and groaned, “Oh God, this is so embarrassing!”

Max chuckled at her uneasiness, “Come on Liz, its not that bad!” he said encouragingly, “Besides, its not like they didn’t expect this to happen. Hell, they’ve practically been forcing us together at every conceivable moment!” he chuckled when he thought of all the antics his friends had played since Liz had come into their lives.

“You make that sound like a bad thing,” Liz tilted her head and arched a brow at him, “and you seem to be forgetting that this is Maria we are talking about. You know her better than I do Max. So tell me, do we have anything to worry about?” she asked easily and giggled slightly as Max let out a groan.

“You’re right. Speaking of which, we’d better get a move on it if we expect to get out there on time or risk the wrath of Maria.”

“Mmmmm….if I have to,” she playfully pouted and buried her head into his shoulder, breathing in his scent.

“Yes, if I have to, you have to,” he kissed the crown of her head lovingly and pulled her back to him as she pulled away, “Hey, I love you,” he said as he looked into the depths of her eyes and kissed her softly.

“Love you too Max.”


***


“Well, well, well. If it isn’t Sleeping Beauty and her Prince Charming,” Maria announced the couple as they entered the kitchen.

“Well, its so nice of you to grace us with your presence your highnesses,” Isabel added as she curtsied, causing the room to fill with laughter.

Max and Liz walked into the room to face their friends and family. He pulled her closer to him and tightened his grip around her waist as he felt her stiffen at the remarks.

“Alright, that’s enough,” Feeling bold Alex stepped in for his friends, seeing their flushed faces. He loved his wife and Maria dearly, but he wouldn’t wish them on his worst enemies.

“So, what’d we miss?” Max asked the group as he sat at the table, pulling Liz into his lap.

“One helluva breakfast if I do say so myself,” Michael said, casting a glance at Maria as he heard her snort across the room, “What?”

“Nothing…nothing,” she replied and turned the conversation back to her friends, “We saved you each a plate. We can’t have you two going without this morning, we’ve got a big day ahead.”

“And I’m sure they need it after last nights activities,” Michael commented under his breath, much to Maria’s displeasure.

“Big day?” Liz asked shyly from her seat on Max’s lap.

“Yep, today we’re packing up a nice lunch and taking the boat out to the lake. It’s going to be a beautiful day and we had better get a move on it if we want to get a good spot,” Isabel informed them as she started packing up the last of the supplies they would need for the day out together. She couldn’t wait to get out in the sun and watch her family. Her daughter loved to go out in the boat with Alex and Isabel loved to watch them.

“Yeah daddy, we’ve been waiting on you forever!” Austin pouted, obviously anxious to get out on the boat.

“Well, I guess we’d better hurry along then, shouldn’t we?” he asked toward Liz. She smiled at him and nodded her agreement, happy to have found such wonderful friends. ‘And they couldn’t have come at a better time,’ she thought.


**


Liz stood in front of the mirror gazing at herself. She didn’t know why but for some reason she was very hesitant to go out today. At first she was excited, thrilled at the idea of spending time with her friends and doing something normal. She could remember a time in her childhood when she would give anything for a day of normalcy like this, but it just didn’t feel the same now.

She wasn’t ready to face the world yet. She looked at herself, he eyes following the still evident scar running below her shoulder and disappearing under her suit. Her mind filled with other possibilities for her but none arose. She had picked this suit out with the help of Maria and Isabel and was sure it was the best choice for her. The one piece was a stunning blue, deep and dark and in the lighting of the store it looked as if it highlighted some of her features. Now, looking at herself in the mirror she wondered if she had made the right choice for her scar seemed to be even more noticeable against this color.

Max’s breath caught in his chest upon entering the room. Seeing Liz standing in front of the mirror, staring at her reflection with a pensive look on her face did something to him. He knew she wasn’t yet over everything that had happened to her but he knew that together they would work through their past, one day at a time.

Closing the door behind him, he quietly walked across the room until he stood behind her. She was so enthralled by the examination of herself that she did not notice him enter the room and jumped when he put his hand on her shoulder, gently kissing her neck.

“You scared me,” Liz admitted as she clutched her hand to her chest.

“What were you thinking about?” he asked her softly.

“Huh? Oh, nothing really. Just thinking about how long it’s been since I’ve been out on a boat. I never really was much of a water person. I’m much happier on land,” she told him, her attention still focused on her reflection.

“Something tells me that’s not all you were thinking about,” Max said, knowing that there was something more.

Letting out a defeated sigh Liz closed her eyes tightly and hung her head low, “You know me so well,” she said, a faint smile crossing her lips.

“You look beautiful Liz,” he said as his fingers lightly grazed over the visible portion of her scar, “You have nothing to feel self conscious about. Besides, who cares what anyone else thinks. Well, anyone other than me, that is. But you know I wouldn’t want you any other way,” he stated to her. He knew she was still getting used to the idea of living with her scars, and that she thought they were much worse than they actually were. And now it was his duty to make sure she was reassured and loved unconditionally.

“I know, I know. It’s just hard. And it’s going to take some time to get used to this. This is the first time I’ve really had to deal with this. I know I’m being emotional, just please, I need some time.”

“Shh, I know love. Take all the time you need. Just know that you have a family now that will support you. We don’t have to go if you don’t want to Liz.”

“No! I mean, I’m just being silly. It’s just, I’ve wanted to be a part of something like this for so long, and now that I am…….I guess I just have to get used to it,” she said to him.

She knew he understood what she was trying to say. He felt it even when they were younger. She had always wanted a real family. Sure, she had her mother and for a while she had his father, but it wasn’t the same. And her mother never liked doing things with Liz. She had missed out on so much growing up.

He wanted to make it up to her, do things with her that she had never had the chance to do, and maybe, if he was lucky enough, he would get to watch her experience things for the first time with her own children. That thought brought a smile to his face.

“Come on, let’s go before they leave us here,” Liz pulled out of his grasp, heading toward the door.


**

“No way! You didn’t!” Liz exclaimed to Alex as Isabel reminisced on one of their first dates.

“Oh yes he did! I couldn’t believe it! It was so hilarious! I’d never seen anyone turn so red before. I thought he was having a heart attack!” Isabel laughed.

“Ok, ok. Enough with the ‘lets tell embarrassing Alex stories’. I’m going back out in the boat. Anyone else care to join me?” Alex asked the gang, hoping to avoid having to hear of his most embarrassing Isabel moments. And she had a lot of them.

A chorus of “yeah, sure and I’m in’s,” was heard from the group.

“I think I’ll wait out this time. Besides, someone needs to watch out stuff,” Liz said to the group, urging Max to go ahead when he hesitated to head with the group.

“I think I’ll wait here with Liz. Keep her company. You guys go ahead,” Isabel urged. Max nodded to Liz and went ahead with the group.

Liz watched with a smile on her face as Max carried Austin on his shoulders and how Alex twirled Maddy around before putting on her life vest.

“They’re a lot of hard work, but they’re worth it,” Isabel said to her as she saw the expression on her face.

“What are?” Liz asked, befuddled by her statement.

“Kids. I didn’t think I was ready for Maddy when I found out about her. I was still really young. But I thank the stars every day for her and for Alex.”

“She’s beautiful Is. And Alex is such a good father…so is Max. And I know that Maria and Michael are going to make great parents. How could they not? They surround themselves with such wonderful people that they couldn’t not make great parents,” Liz responded.

“You’d make a wonderful mother, too Liz,” Isabel said softly, not sure how Liz would react. She could see the yearning in her eyes when she looked onto the small children and knew that it was only a matter of time before the feeling consumed her.

“Maybe,” she replied softly, “Maybe not. I’ve never had anyone that has relied on me before, except an occasional pet here and there and most of the time that didn’t turn out to well. I don’t know. Should I even try? What if I’m not a good mother? What if I turn out to be like her?” she added softly, fear evident in her voice.

“Liz, listen to me. You could never in a million years turn out to be like her. The way you are with Austin proves it. I know you are afraid, I’m sure I would be too if I were in your shoes, but you worrying about turning out like her is proof that you’re better. I might worry if you attached yourself to Max and pushed for it right away, knowing that you had many issues that needed to be straightened out first…but you didn’t. You’re here right now telling me how unsure you are. That says something Liz.”

“Come on, let’s get the food ready. I think they’ll be hungry soon,” Isabel added, effectively changing the subject. Today was a day of fun and relaxation, not a day to dwell on life.


**

TBC....

Tell me what you think.



posted on 20-Sep-2002 9:40:22 AM by FreeFall
Just wanted to post a quick note.

No, I haven't forgotten about this story, I've just been preoccupied by a new guy in my life who is taking up a lot of my spare time. I have most of the next part done, but not all. I'm going out of town today and won't be back before Monday, so I'm not sure when I can get the next part up.

Thanks for the bumps guys!