CHAPTER ONE

FOUR YEARS LATER: CHICAGO

            Sara groans hearing the doorbell ring. "Damn." She tosses the towel aside hurrying down the stairs to the front door. She opens the door startled to see who's there. "Ian" She says stunned at the sight of her husband standing on the porch dressed in black.

            "Hello Sara." Ian greets smoothly looking his wife over 'God she's beautiful.'

            At his intense appraisal Sara swallows heavily "What are you doing here?"

            Ian's eyes go to the ground "Father's dead."

            Sara inhales sharply at the announcement "When?"

            "Two days ago."

            "Sorry." Sara mutters

            Ian lifts his eyes meeting hers "No you aren't."

            Sara shrugs "I'm not sorry he's dead. I'm sorry because I know how much he meant to you." She steps out onto the porch "How'd you find me?"

            "Father told me where to find you just before he died."

            "Did he say anything else about my being here?" Sara asks suspiciously

            "No." Ian replies "Why?"

            Sara shakes her head "Why are you here Ian?"

            "I was hoping maybe we could start over. I still love you Sara I never stopped." He reaches out cupping her cheek. "I miss you Sara" He says softly

            Sara closes her eyes enjoying his touch "I miss you too." She admits then opens her eyes reaching up she touches his hand as it rests on her cheek. "Things have changed Ian."

            "I know."

            "No you don't" She sighs her eyes going to his wedding ring "There's something I need to tell you Ian."

            "Anything."

            Sara takes a deep breath about to speak when she hears a familiar voice

            "MAMA! MAMA" the childish voice shrieks happily

            Sara steps around Ian to see a little girl with brown hair in pigtails running across the lawn as fast as she can as a teenage girl walks right behind her.

            Ian watches stunned as the little girl throws her arms around Sara's neck.

            "Mama, you're home."

            Sara smiles standing with the three year old in her arms, "I had the day off. How was school?"

            "I drawed you a picture."

            "Oh really." Sara looks at the teenager as she joins them on the porch "Jamie can you take her into the kitchen and get her a snack?"

            Jamie nods taking the child, "Come on Talie lets go put your Mama's picture on the refrigerator"

            "OK" the child chirps

            Once the two kids are inside Sara meets Ian's confused gaze "Come on we can talk upstairs." She passes Ian entering the house she leads him up the stairs to her bedroom.

            "Why didn't you tell me you have a child?" Ian demands

            "You've been here for five minutes I haven't exactly had the chance." Sara retorts closing the bedroom door "Keep your voice down. I don't want to upset Natalie."

            Ian notices a picture on the dresser and picks it up "How old is she Sara?"

            "Natalie's three, her birthday is December 13." Sara watches Ian's eyes almost seeing his mind going through the math.

            "Mine?" He asks hoarsely

            Sara nods "Yes."

            Ian looks back at the picture of Sara rolling around on the floor with the child "Why didn't you tell me?" he asks pained

            "You made your choice to stay with him. I wasn't going to raise Natalie around him. Not after how he treated you."

            Ian runs his hands over his face "Why didn't you tell me you were pregnant?" he asks

            "You didn't want to leave him to save your own life or our marriage. I wasn't going to risk asking you for our baby and having you say no. I couldn't have handled that." She whispers

            "Sara what makes you think I would have stayed with him had I known we were going to have a baby?"

            "You wouldn't leave for me." She says sadly "I couldn't stay and take the chance I'd lose another baby." She finishes her voice soft as she sits on the edge of the bed staring at the floor she waits for Ian to react.

            Ian inhales sharply his eyes going to his wife sitting on the bed. "Sara what are you talking about?" He questions. When she doesn't reply he kneels before her reaching out he gently urges her to look at him frowning when he sees the tears in her eyes. "Talk to me sweet Sara." He pleads pained at the look in her green eyes.

            Taking a deep breath Sara speaks "Do you remember when he suddenly sent you away three months into our marriage?"

            Ian nods "The training exercise."

            "Two days before you left I found out I was pregnant." She stares at the floor

            "Why didn't you tell me?" he asks hurt

            "I wanted too but I knew if I told you before you left that you'd worry the whole time. I decided to wait until you got back." She glances at him "When you got back it was too late and I couldn't get myself to tell you. I knew you'd blame yourself."

            Ian reaches out touching her cheek tenderly "What happened while I was gone Sara?"

            Sara takes a deep breath "A few days after you left Irons showed up at the apartment. Somehow he found out I was pregnant."

            "What did he say?" Ian asks taking her hand

            Sara looks at their hands and continues "A lot of things. He said that if I didn't get an abortion he'd find someway to get custody. When I told him there was no way I'd get an abortion he said that if we ever divorced he'd find someway to get the baby. We argued for a while then he left. The next few days were stressful" she looks at him seeing the anger and pain then continues "and I started feeling really sick. I had told Danny I was pregnant after the argument with Irons and as always Danny was worried when I started feeling sick, so he dragged me to the hospital." She pauses remembering that day as tears start falling "While I was in the hospital I had a miscarriage. The doctor thought it was from stress."

            Ian pulls Sara onto his lap rocking her as she cries into his shoulder. "Sara." He says sadly "Why didn't you tell me?"

            Sara lifts her head from his shoulder wiping away her tears as she sees the tears in his own eyes "I wanted to but I couldn't. I didn't want you to blame yourself."

            Ian presses a kiss to her forehead before she rests her head back on his shoulder.

            After a few moments of silence Sara starts talking again "When I suspected I was pregnant again I knew I couldn't risk him finding out so I took a home pregnancy test at Danny and Lee's. When it came out positive I was happy... we were going to have a baby." Her hand moves to her middle "I wanted to tell you so bad but I was so scared that if he found out that I'd lose that one too." She lifts her hand to his face "I wanted to have the baby... your baby."

            "Were you ever going to tell me about Natalie?" He asks hesitantly

            "I almost did the week before I left but when I saw the gash on your back I couldn't do it. I kept thinking if he did that to you and he raised you what would he do to another child"

            "I wouldn't have let him hurt either of you Sara."

            "I know."

            "I love you Sara."

            Sara kisses him sweetly "I love you Ian."

            Ian's eyes go to their wedding rings "Can we start over Sara? Give our marriage a clean start?" He asks hesitantly

            "I'd like that." Sara smiles her heart melting as Ian gives her one of his rare smiles. Sara brushes her lips over his "We better get downstairs before Talie runs Jamie ragged." As they stand Sara slips her hand into Ian's.

            In the kitchen Jamie turns around to find the three year old climbing onto the counter "Natalie what are you doing?" she demands

            "I want cookies." Natalie reaches for the bag of cookies

            "Natalie Christine how many times have I told you no climbing on the counter?"

            "Uh oh" Natalie's eyes widen turning to find her Mama in the doorway of the kitchen holding the dark haired man's hand. "Hi Mama." She grins sheepishly, "Cookie?" She grabs a cookie holding it out to her Mama.

            Unable to help it Sara chuckles "Talie I think you've had enough cookies for today." She takes the cookie from the child returning it to the bag.

            "No. Want more!" Natalie pouts

            "You've had enough." Sara says returning the cookies to the cupboard.

            "I better get going. Still have that science final to study for." Jamie rolls her eyes "Need me to watch her tomorrow?"

            "I'm not sure. I'll call you tonight."

            "Bye Talie." Jamie waves walking out the back door.

            "Bye" Natalie chirps remaining on the counter. Remembering the strange man Natalie looks at her Mama curiously "Mama who's that?"

            Sara smiles lifting Natalie off the counter "I'll tell you in a minute baby. First let's get the cookie crumbs off you huh." Sara carries Natalie over to the sink wetting a paper towel she wipes Natalie's face and hands clean of cookie crumbs. "There." She smiles

            "Mama?"

            At her daughter's curious tone Sara lifts Natalie onto her hip turning to face Ian. "Well Talie this is your Daddy."

            Natalie looks at the man curiously "You really my Daddy?"

            Ian steps closer to his family "Yes I'm really your Daddy."

            Natalie looks at her Mama then back at her Daddy and grins shifting she holds her arms out "Daddy" She says happily

            Ian carefully takes his daughter from his wife hugging her for the first time.

            Sara watches the amazing sight as Natalie hugs her Daddy tight.

            "I love you Daddy."

            Ian smiles at Sara over Natalie's head before he replies "I love you too Natalie." He holds his free hand out to Sara and the small family stands in the middle of the kitchen hugging.

            Natalie lifts her head from her Daddy's shoulder looking at her Mama then at her Daddy, "Daddy you going to stay forever?" she asks hopefully

            "Yes I'm going to stay forever." Ian replies

            "Good." Natalie nods firmly kissing his cheek

            "More than good." Sara smiles at the sight.

COUPLE OF HOURS LATER

            Sara and Ian sit on the couch watching as Natalie quietly plays on the floor of the living room. "She's incredible." Ian remarks his voice holding slight awe and pride.

            Sara smiles "Yeah she is. Its funny how much she takes after both of us."

            Ian rests his head on the couch cushion his eyes on his wife. "Sara there's something I need to talk to you about."

            "What?"

            Ian looks way "I know that it's a lot to ask after everything..."

            "Well ask" Sara shrugs

            "I'm going to have to go back to New York for Father's funeral and finish up some things." He glances at Natalie then back at Sara "I want you and Natalie to come with me."

            "How long?"

            "A couple days."

            "Ian"

            "Please Sara"

            Seeing the plea in his brown eyes Sara takes a deep breath "When do we need to leave?"

            "The lawyers ordered me to be back tomorrow night."

            Sara sighs "I'll have to call work and the school."

            "Thank you Sara."

            "I'll see if Marie can watch Talie while we're at the service."

            "The housekeeper can watch her." Ian offers

            Sara shakes her head "I don't want Talie near that place"

            "Good thing I kept the apartment then."

            Sara smiles "You did?"

            Ian lifts his shoulders "It's the only place I remember being happy." He lifts his hand to Sara's cheek "With you is the only time I've ever been truly happy. I love you Sara."

            Sara smiles "I love you too."

EVENING

            Sara stands in the doorway of Natalie's bedroom watching as Ian reads to the girl. 'They are so adorable together.' After a few more moments watching the two then walks away heading downstairs to clean up.

            Natalie yawns listening to her Daddy read to her she hugs her stuffed dog tight. "Daddy?"

            "Yes Natalie." Ian looks at her

            "Be here tomorrow?" she asks sleepily

            Ian nods "I'll be here when you wake up." He closes the book setting it on the nightstand "Good night Natalie." He tucks her in kissing her forehead.

            Natalie smiles sleepily "Night Daddy. I love you."

            Ian smiles "I love you too Natalie." Ian sits on the bed watching as Natalie drifts off to sleep. 'My daughter.' He gently brushes a strand of hair off Natalie's forehead.

            Downstairs Sara wipes the counter down going over the plans for the next day. 'Breakfast, stop by the precinct pick up next weeks schedule, call the school. Call Jamie. Catch up with my husband.' She runs her fingers through her hair 'God my husband. Try and get his forgiveness.'

            Ian enters the kitchen to find Sara wiping down the counter. 'My wife. Almost five years and I still can't believe that she's my wife.'

            Sara notices Ian watching her "Is she asleep?"

            "Yes."

            "Not surprised. She's had a long couple days. She stayed at Jamie's house the last two nights. Jamie has finals this week so her mother has been helping her keep an eye on Talie after school."

            Ian leans against the counter "How often do you work nights?"

            "Couple times a month." Sara shrugs "It works out fine. Talie adores Jamie and her family and Jamie's parents are fine with Jamie spending the night here or Talie staying there." She tosses the dishcloth in the sink "Let's talk in the living room." She walks to the living room where she sits down on the couch. "What's going on in your life?"

            "My life?" Ian chuckles dryly "My life has been hell since you left."

            At his pained tone Sara winces feeling tears blur her eyes

            "I still wake up at times expecting to find you curled up next to me. Especially after he would get angry." He absently rubs his wrist.

            Seeing his action Sara reaches out taking his wrist frowning feeling a raised scar on his wrist. Looking down Sara turns his wrist up gasping as she sees a long ragged scar "What happened? Why is this scar worse?" Sara asks concerned. When she doesn't get an answer Sara moves so her knees are on either side of his legs. She takes his face between her hands "Ian" she says firmly she watches as he opens his eyes "What happened?"

            "I couldn't stop." Ian glances at Sara then down at his wrists "I tried."

            "You did this to yourself?" Sara asks horrified

            "I couldn't stop."

            "Why? How?"

            "The doctors were working on a new drug for some sort of military project. They needed a human test subject." Ian traces the scar absently "Father said they could use me but something went wrong with the drug."

            Sara blinks back the tears that fill her eyes "Oh baby" She hugs him "I'm sorry." She rests her forehead against his gently caressing his cheeks with her thumbs. "Why didn't you come find me?"

            "I wanted to but I was scared I'd hurt you."

            "You'd never hurt me."

            "I didn't want to risk it." Ian murmurs burying his face in her neck

            Sara strokes his hair "Its OK."

            "I missed you so much." Ian whispers

            "I missed you too."

COUPLE OF HOURS LATER

            Ian runs his fingers through Sara's dark locks as she rests her head on his chest. "I've missed these moments."

            "So have I." Sara lifts her head kissing him lightly

            Quickly the kiss becomes intense as they cling to each other hands roaming over bodies. Needing to breath Ian breaks the kiss his eyes lock on hers. "This seems to bring up a lot of memories."

            Sara laughs "We did spend a lot of time on that couch."

            "And the kitchen." Ian chuckles

            Sara leans in kissing him passionately "Lets take this upstairs." She stands pulling Ian to his feet. As they walk up the stairs they stop in the doorway of Natalie's bedroom watching the little girl sleep.

            "She's beautiful." Ian whispers hugging Sara "We made a beautiful little girl."

            "Yeah we did." Sara turns her head kissing his jaw then leans back into his arms and they stand there for a few minutes watching Natalie sleep. Sara closes the bedroom door looking up at Ian seeing the love in his golden brown eyes she gently strokes his cheek suddenly finding herself pressed back against the wall his mouth on hers in a devouring kiss. "Bedroom" she says hoarsely as she pulls him down the hall to her bedroom. As she closes and locks the door Ian turns her around kissing her.

            "Beautiful Sara." He murmurs against her lips his fingers trailing over her face. "I love you sweet Sara."

            "I love you too." Sara deepens the kiss pouring all her love and pain into it.

            Ian steps backwards slowly guiding Sara towards the bed. At the foot of the bed he ends the kiss the two breathing heavily. He brushes his lips over her face.

            Sara tilts her head watching her husband with a slight smile then meets his lips in a slow kiss her hands going to the hem of Ian's sweater. She reluctantly breaks the kiss as she pulls his sweater off dropping it on the floor. Her hands go to her shirt when Ian stops her. She looks at him then drops her hands to her sides.

            Ian quickly pulls Sara's shirt off dropping it alongside his sweater he gazes at her in the dimly lit bedroom. "Beautiful." He says awed at the sight of Sara standing there in her bra and jeans her feet bare.

            Sara shivers at the tone in his voice and the look in his eyes. Her hands go to the hem of his undershirt yanking it off she drops it on the floor. She runs her hands over his bare chest and down over his stomach smiling slightly as she hears him inhale sharply. Her hands go to the button of his pants about to unzip his pants when he stops her. She looks at him questioningly "Ian." She whimpers

            Ian kisses her sweetly then releases her hands and unbuttons her jeans sliding the zipper down he slowly moves her jeans down her legs. "Do you know how many sleepless nights I've had?"

            "I know." Sara sighs "There have been nights where I've woken wanting you so bad. Some nights I wake after dreaming of different times we made love." She brushes her fingers down his cheek their eyes locked. "When I woke up it always felt as though it had just happened."

            "I know. It was the same with me."

            Sara gently shoves Ian on the bed "So many nights" She settles her knees on either side of his hips she leans down their lips inches apart "I thought of those times."

            "Same." Ian hisses as Sara rocks her hips against his, "Sweet Sara don't do that." He pleads hoarsely

            "Why not?" She asks innocently "You've always liked when I do that."

            "Oh I do." Ian assures rolling Sara under him "I have very limited control right now."

            "As do I. So shut up and make love to me."

LATER

            Cautiously Sara trails her fingers over the scars covering his chest, arms and stomach. She rests her head on his chest just over his heart as Ian runs his fingers through her hair. "I'm glad your here."

            "As am I." Ian kisses her head.

            Sara lifts her head leaning up she kisses Ian lightly then groans shifting so she's straddling his hips. "How 'bout another round?" She smirks

            "Think you can keep quiet this time?" Ian returns

            Sara blushes "She's still asleep isn't she?"

            "True." Ian grins sitting up he kisses Sara deeply

CHAPTER 2

DAWN

            Slowly Sara opens her eyes at first surprised at her position of being on top of a warm body. She frowns in her sleep confusion then rubs at her eyes lifting her head to look down at the familiar face. She smiles remembering the day before. She leans in brushing her lips over Ian's cheek 'He's really here.' She realizes

            Feeling the light kiss Ian awakens "Sara" he murmurs sleepily

            "Hey you." Sara kisses him sweetly "Go back to sleep."

            "What if I don't want to?"

            "What do you want?" Sara asks amused by his childish tone.

            "You" Ian shifts rolling her under him.

LATER

            Sara grins as Ian wraps his arms around her pulling her back against him.

            "Mine" Ian murmurs possessively brushing his lips over her ear.

            Sara smiles "Of course. Now go back to sleep."

            "Here's a better idea."

            "What?" Sara looks at him

            "Shower." He suggests

            Sara laughs "You know that might be a good idea."

COUPLE OF HOURS LATER

            Natalie steps out of her bedroom rubbing her eyes sleepily as she holds her stuffed dog. "Mama" she calls going to her Mama's bedroom door she reaches for the doorknob turning it she enters her Mama's bedroom. "Mama"

            Hearing the familiar voice Sara opens her eyes to find Natalie standing in the doorway rubbing at her eyes holding her stuffed dog. "Good morning Talie."

            "Mama school?" Natalie asks sleepily

            "Not today baby." Sara pats the spot beside her

            Natalie grins climbing into the bed "Morning Mama." She kisses her Mama's cheek as she sees her Daddy slowly stir. "Morning Daddy." She kisses his cheek

            Ian smiles at Natalie "Good morning Natalie. Did you have a good sleep?"

            Natalie nods snuggling between her parents. "Yes."

            "What's your dog's name?" Ian asks

            "Oscar." Natalie grins hugging her stuffed dog tight "Uncle Danny and Auntie Lee gave him to me when I was a baby."

            Ian reaches out running his hand down Natalie's head.

            "Daddy can we play outside?" Natalie tilts her head looking at her Daddy

            "After breakfast." Sara answers

            "OK" Natalie grins bouncing happily. "Mama you going to work?"

            "Not today baby." Sara replies "We're going on a little trip."

            "Where?"

            "Well." Sara looks at Ian then continues "Daddy has some things to take care of in New York so we're going with him. Tomorrow you'll get to see Grandma Marie."

            "Really?"

            Sara laughs "Really." She kisses Natalie's cheek "Now what do you want for breakfast?"

HALF HOUR LATER

            "Talie turn off the TV and come wash your hands." Sara calls giving Ian a slight smile as he watches her. "What?"

            "You cooking" He shakes his head "and it's not from a box."

            Sara laughs "Well Mike, my Partner, who is also Jamie's brother, their Mom took it upon herself to teach me to cook. She thought Talie would end up eating too much microwave food." She sees Natalie run into the kitchen "Talie no running."

            "Sorry Mama." Natalie stops frowning "Mama where's my chair?" Natalie demands not finding the chair she uses to climb up to the sink.

            "I had to move it." Sara answers

            "I need to wash my hands Mama."

            "Ian can you..." Sara nods at Natalie

            Ian nods lifting Natalie up to the sink he turns on the water.

            Sara listens with a faint smile as Natalie talks to Ian while she washes her hands

            "Daddy when can we go play outside?"

            "After breakfast." Ian answers

            "OK." She turns off the faucet "Done Daddy."

            "Here you go." Ian hands Natalie a dishtowel. Once Natalie wipes her hands dry Ian turns her around "Clean hands?"

            Natalie nods "Yep" She grins throwing her arms around his neck kissing his cheek. "Love you Daddy."

            Ian smiles "I love you too Natalie." He gently brushes Natalie's hair back "Now go sit down." He sets Natalie down watching as the little girl climbs into her booster seat. He steps up behind Sara kissing her cheek. He grabs the glasses of milk setting it before Natalie.

HOUR LATER

            Sara and Ian laugh as Natalie squirms trying to escape. "Talie you need shoes."

            "No." Natalie argues

            Sara looks towards the bedroom door as she hears the doorbell ring. "OK you try to get her into her shoes. I will get the door." Sara hands Ian the shoes "Good luck." She kisses his cheek as she stands. "Talie if you want to go play outside you have to wear shoes." She calls as she walks out of the bedroom.

            "Daddy why do I have to wear shoes?"

            "Because it is too cold for you to go outside without them." Ian answers

            Sara walks down the stairs opening the front door to find her partner Mike Mallory standing there. "Hey Mike." She steps aside letting him "What's the deal?" She asks nodding at the files under his arm.

            "Sarge told me you were leaving town on a family emergency but first I need you to sign some papers. Got any coffee?"

            "When don't I?" Sara laughs "Come on we can do this in the kitchen." She leads him back to the kitchen.

            "So what's the family emergency?" Mike asks setting the files on the counter

            "Uh my father-in-law died."

            "Father-in-law?" Mike lifts his brow "Since when were you married."

            "We're what on five years now?" Sara smiles at Ian as he walks into the kitchen

            "Getting there." Ian sets Natalie on her feet "Go get your jacket."

            "OK. Hiya Uncle Mike." Natalie grins as she scurries to the laundry room.

            "You're married?" Mike says still stunned

            Sara rolls her eyes "Ian Nottingham meet Mike Mallory."

            Ian nods in greeting

            "Daddy help" Natalie yells

            "She probably can't reach her jacket." Sara says

            "Coming Natalie." Ian kisses Sara's cheek then heads to the laundry room

            "Married?"

            "Get over your shock Mike."

            In the laundry room Ian crouches before Natalie helping her get her jacket on zipping it up. "There"

            "You have to wear your coat too Daddy."

            "I will." Ian picks her up where they find Mike still looking shocked. "Sara you have to stop shocking people like this." He chuckles

            "Funny." Sara scowls

            "What does shock mean?" Natalie asks

            "It's another word for surprise." Sara answers

            "Oh."

            "I can't help but be shocked." Mike grumbles

            "Daddy I wanna go play now." Natalie demands

            Ian sets Natalie on her feet "I'll go get my coat then we'll go outside."

            Sara pours Mike a mug of coffee as Ian leaves the kitchen.

            "Mama are you gonna come play?"

            "Not right now baby. Uncle Mike and I have to get some work done before we leave."

            "Oh OK."

            "I'll come outside after I'm done here. OK?"

            Natalie nods "OK." Seeing her Daddy enter the kitchen Natalie hurries over grabbing his hand "Come on Daddy." She pulls him to the back door "Let's go play."

            "Talie don't run Daddy ragged OK?"

            "I won't Mama." Natalie calls

            Once the back door closes Sara looks at Mike "Ask away." She offers

            "You're married?"

            "Yes we've established that Mike."

            "Since when?"

            "Our anniversary is in two months and it will be five years."

            "Why didn't you tell me?"

            Sara shrugs "Ian and I separated not long after our first anniversary."

            "Why didn't you divorce him?"

            "I love him."

            "How'd you meet?"

            "We met once when I was nine and he was eleven. We met up again about five and a half years ago. His Father who was also his employer sent Ian to get some information on a case. When we met we remembered each other. He asked me out and three months later he asked me to marry him." She takes a sip of coffee "His Father didn't approve of our relationship so we got married in secret in Atlantic City. Only four people not counting the justice of the peace knew we were married for over a month."

            "Why'd you separate?"

            "His Father. He wasn't a very nice guy. Not even to Ian." She looks at her coffee "I had to make a choice that I never should have had to make... to protect my baby."

            Mike is silent for a moment "So does this mean you're going back to New York?"

            "We haven't discussed it. Right now we're going to go deal with his Father's funeral and estate then will figure it out from there."

            "Well sign these and I will get out of your way so you can have more family time."

            Sara smiles "Let's get to work then"

            Outside Natalie slides down the slide once at the bottom she looks at her Daddy thoughtfully "Daddy why are you sad?"

            Hearing his daughter's question Ian snaps out of his thoughts "Why do you think I'm sad?" he asks crouches before Natalie as she sits on the bottom of the slide.

            Natalie shrugs holding her arms out once she's in her Daddy's arms Natalie regards him "Daddy where is your Mama and Daddy?"

            Ian inhales sharply at the question then answers "I'm not sure. I haven't seen them in a very long time."

            Natalie frowns "Who tooken care of you?"

            "I was raised by a man named Kenneth."

            "He your Daddy?"

            Ian shakes his head "No just someone who looked after me."

            "Where is he?"

            "He just died a few days ago."

            "Like Mama's Mama and Daddy?"

            Ian nods

            "Oh."

LATE MORNING

            "She has a big vocabulary." Ian remarks watching as Natalie colors at the table in the playroom.

            Sara nods "Her daycare teacher thinks Talie should be in kindergarten. She's the only three and half year old in her class who can speak with almost complete sentences."

            "She asks a lot of questions."

            "Only to people she likes." Sara grabs Ian's hand tugging him to the living room. "What did you two talk about out there?" She sits down on the couch.

            Ian sits beside her "She asked about Father... my parents."

            "Oh." She laces their fingers "How much did you tell her about Irons?"

            "Not much. Just that he raised me."

            "Looked like you got into a deep discussion."

            "Not really. She just asked questions."

            Sara laughs "She's good at that. She loves questions." She rests her head on Ian's shoulder looking at their rings.

            "Did you finish your work?"

            "Yeah. Just had to sign off on a few cases."

            "You never told your Partner about me." Ian states

            "It's no ones business." She shrugs "Besides we agreed that no one would know until we were ready to say anything."

            "True." Ian presses his lips

            "Ian are you sure about going to New York?"

            Ian sighs "I don't want to but I have to. He was my Father, Sara. I owe him that much."

            "You owe him nothing Ian. He's the one who owes you." Sara lifts her head her hand going to Ian's cheek she urges him to look at her. "Baby you don't owe him."

            "I can't help but feel I do." Ian nuzzles her hand "If he hadn't taken me in I'd never have found you. The idea of not having met you scares me Sara."

            Sara moves in kissing him lightly "Scares me too." She admits about to continue when the phone rings. She groans reaching for the phone on the table. "Yes? This is she."

            Ian watches as his wife talks 'She's so beautiful.'

            "Oh you did." Sara says excitedly "Thanks for getting right to it. Yeah I'll come get them right now." She hangs up the phone

            Seeing the look on his wife's face Ian lifts his brow "What are you up to?"

            Sara grins secretively "You'll see. I have an errand I need to run. Think you can handle Talie?" Seeing the look on Ian's face she pats his cheek "I won't be long. Besides she's in a good mood. If anything comes up Jamie's number is on the refrigerator. Her Mom should be home."

            "Sara" Ian says worried

            "I'll be back in an hour." Sara promises "You'll be fine."

            Natalie bounces into the living room "Hi Mama. Hi Daddy." She says cheerfully

            "Talie I have to go run an errand. Be on your best behavior for Daddy OK?"

            "I will Mama." Natalie climbs onto the couch crawling onto her Daddy's lap "Daddy will you read to me?"

            "Sure." Ian kisses Natalie's head

            "I'll be back in time to make lunch." Sara promises

            "Bye Mama."

20 MINS LATER: RECORDS OFFICE

            Sara steps up to the counter "I called earlier about pulling a birth certificate."

            "Name?" the clerk asks

            "Pezzini."

            "Child's first name?"

            "Natalie"

            The clerk types up on the computer "Oh yes. It was pulled. Just a moment."

            Sara watches as the clerk walks to a back desk picking up a file.

            "Here it is." The clerk returns to the counter. "You wanted to add a name."

            Sara nods "Her Father's name."

            "He needs to sign it."

            "I know."

            "This needs to be returned as soon as possible."

            "It'll be returned by this evening." Sara assures

            "To legally change her last name you'll need to file the paperwork."

            "I'll take care of that when we return. Thanks."

45 MINS LATER: THE HOUSE

            Sara enters the living room to find Ian on the floor with Natalie on his lap as they look through a book. "Hey you two." She greets joining them on the floor

            "Hi Mama." Natalie grins

            Sara leans in kissing Ian's cheek "Did she behave?"

            Ian looks at Natalie on his lap and smiles "Very well."

            "Good." Sara leans in kissing Natalie's cheek "Well you finish reading to her I will start lunch." Sara stands

            Ian watches as Sara walks out of the living room jarred out of his thoughts by Natalie's voice

            "Daddy finish reading to me." Natalie demands

AFTER LUNCH

            "Natalie is in her bed but she's not quite asleep." Ian says joining Sara in the kitchen.

            "She's probably tired. She'll fall asleep soon." Sara says standing at the kitchen table folding clothes.

            "What is it you went to pick up?" Ian asks leaning against the counter

            "It's on the counter." Sara watches as Ian picks up the paper turning it over. She joins him at the counter "I knew that if you were looking for me and you found her birth certificate you'd be more upset to find out from her birth certificate than from me. Irons... I knew that he'd take her from me if he knew, so I left it blank."

            Ian glances at Sara "Do you think he knew?"

            "Wouldn't be surprised." Sara says dryly. "I'd rather have him think I'd cheated on you then have him show up at the front door." After a second she speaks "I didn't cheat on you."

            "I know." Ian picks up a pen signing his name.

            Sara grins "Only one thing left... well two."

            "What?" Ian asks curiously

            Sara wraps her arms around Ian's waist "Change her last name and get her used to being called Natalie Christine Nottingham."

            "Sara, are you sure about that?" Ian asks hesitantly

            Sara looks at Ian "That was what I've wanted since she was born. I promised myself that if we ever had the chance to start over that she'd be more than just your daughter by blood but name as well." She touches his cheek "You both deserve that. So do all the future little Nottinghams." She smiles at the look on his face.

            "Future little Nottinghams?" Ian lifts his brow.

            Sara leans up kissing him lightly "Of course. She needs a little brother or sister to pick on... one day."

            Ian lifts Sara onto the counter stepping between her legs his hands on either side of her. "One day? When?"

            "Eager honey?" Sara tilts her head

            Ian shrugs "Just thinking ahead."

            "As always." She runs her fingers down his jaw "I'm not sure when. I know one day but not right away. I don't think it would be fair to Talie if she had to share her Daddy's attention with a baby so soon. Maybe in a few years."

            "I like that idea."

            "So do I."

            "Sara," Ian looks down "I know I wasn't there for you with Natalie or the other baby. Next time I will be." He looks at Sara "I will be at your side through everything."

            "I know." Sara kisses him sweetly "But first we need to finish up the New York stuff then we'll be able to move on."

            Ian's eyes go to her ring "Sara there's something else we need to discuss."

            "What?"

            Ian takes a deep breath "When I called Mr. Francetti, Father's lawyer, he brought up something interesting." He looks at Sara "When I told him you'd be there he said there might be a lot of questions about who you are. He wants to know what to tell them."

            After a second Sara answers "The truth. I'm your wife. Why hide it now? I no longer work in New York. Neither Vorschlag nor Irons has any connection to my job here so there's no controversy. And he's not around to hurt you."

            Ian nods "I'll tell Francetti to tell the truth if asked otherwise not to volunteer it. You and Natalie are not part of Vorschlag and I don't want the press to invade your lives which they will no doubt do once its out."

            Sara shrugs "We knew it was possible once we went public." She kisses him lightly

            "Thank you Sara." Ian murmurs tucking a loose strand of hair behind her ear.

            "For what?"

            "For going back there with me even though you didn't like him."

            "I may not have liked him or how he treated you but he's not the one I'm doing this for... you are."

            "I love you Sara."

            "I love you Ian." Sara hugs Ian then hops off the counter taking his hand "There's something I want to show you." She pulls Ian into the living room releasing his hand she goes to the bookcase grabbing a couple photo albums off the top shelf. "I was going to show you these yesterday but Talie refused to slow down."

            Ian gives Sara an amused smile "That she did."

            As they settle on the couch Sara opens the first album "Joe and Marie spent two weeks here before she was born and Marie stayed two weeks after until I went back to work." She explains "I don't know why I didn't burn this picture after Joe took it." She says dryly as they look at the few pictures taken of her while she was pregnant. She rests her head on Ian's shoulder as he looks at the pictures of her pregnant "God I was huge."

            "No you weren't. You look incredible." Ian says his fingers brushing over the picture

            "I started gaining so much weight that I ended up having to take off my ring off that last month." She laughs

            Ian turns the page to find Sara lying on a hospital bed obviously just having given birth holding Natalie.

            "She weighed six pounds three ounces. I was in labor for ten hours. She was born the exact day the doctor said I was due." Sara smiles "She definitely gets her sense of timing from you."

            "If she got your timing she would have been born late." Ian teases

            "Don't even tease me about that." Sara shudders then chuckles "While I was in labor Marie threatened to wash my mouth out with soap. Marie said she didn't want her grand-goddaughter's first words heard to be swear words."

            "You always have had a way with words." Ian says amused "How did you come up with her name?" he asks curiously

            "December thirteenth?" Sara lifts her brow "Nine months earlier"

            "My birthday." Ian says with a faint smile

            Sara nods "One of the few weekends I had you to myself."

            "You hung up on Father when he called." Ian remembers

            Sara shrugs "I wanted you to have a birthday that didn't include being yelled at."

            "You did yell at me." Ian reminds with a smirk

            Sara blushes "You were teasing me."

            Ian tilts her head up kissing her lightly "You like when I tease you." He says huskily

            "Mmm that I do." She purrs nipping at his lower lip "I must've conceived Monday morning." she says thoughtfully

            Ian smiles slightly at the memory

            //"Sara" Ian groans as his wife kisses his neck "My love I have to get going. I can't be late."

            "Make love to me one more time." Sara pleads "Please baby." She whimpers pressing light kisses over his jaw.

            "Sara we used the last condom last night." Ian grinds out as she presses her naked body against his.

            Sara whimpers looking at him.

            Ian groans at the look at her face then captures her lips in a searing kiss guiding her backwards onto the bed. //

            "Five weeks later I found out I was pregnant and a week later..."

            "You left." He finishes his voice pained

            Sara sighs brushing her fingers through his dark locks "I wish there had been another choice but at that time I felt that to leave was the only choice."

            "I know." Ian kisses her forehead "I know."

            "Mama. Daddy." Natalie calls

            Sara sits up turning to find Natalie standing in the entryway of the living room. "Talie baby its naptime. What are you doing up?"

            Natalie walks over to the couch "I can't sleep."

            "Come here." Sara lifts Natalie onto her lap "I was showing Daddy your baby pictures."

            Natalie grins pointing at a picture of her in her Mama's arms. "That's me Daddy," she says excitedly "when I was borned."

            "Yep that's you." Sara hugs her daughter "That's my baby."

            "Mama I'm a big girl now." Natalie protests

            "You are a big girl but you're still my baby."

            Ian smiles turning the page to find a picture of Joe holding Natalie

            "Granpa Joe." Natalie grins bouncing on her Mama's lap.

CHAPTER 3

LATE AFTERNOON

            "Hey Sara." Jamie greets entering the kitchen "Mom said you wanted to see me."

            "Oh hey Jamie" Sara says looking up from packing Natalie a snack as Ian enters the kitchen carrying a duffle bag. "Ian this is Jamie. Jamie this is my husband Ian Nottingham." Sara introduces

            "Husband?" Jamie says surprised

            "Long story. Your brother can explain." Sara says

            "Nice to finally meet you." Ian nods "Natalie's told me about some of your adventures."

            Jamie laughs "She tends to start them."

            "Not surprised. She does take after her mother." Ian stops kissing Sara's cheek. "This the last bag?"

            "No" Sara replies "This one and my backpack are."

            "I'll go put this one in the car."

            "Jamie, Jamie" Natalie runs into the kitchen clutching Oscar in her arms.

            Jamie picks the girl up "Hey you."

            "Mama an' me are going on a trip with Daddy." Natalie announces

            "So I heard." Jamie laughs

            "We'll be gone for two, three days. I called the school and told them. Can you bring in the mail and newspaper while we're gone?"

            "Sure."

            "Eat anything that's about to expire while we're gone."

            "Sara we need to get going if you want to drop that off on the way to the airport." Ian says entering the kitchen.

            "I know. Talie are you sure you don't need to go to the bathroom before we leave?"

            "I don't need to go Mama." Natalie says

            "All right, Jamie can you go get her into her jacket and take her out to the car?"

            "Sure. Come on kid." Jamie carries the girl out of the kitchen

            "Sara, why do we need all this stuff?"

            "Talie's things. One thing I've learned about your daughter is that she hates leaving her favorite things at home."

            "It's only a couple days."

            "Honey its only five bags between the three of us." Sara pats his cheek then leans up kissing him lightly "I love you."

            "I love you." Ian murmurs "More than anything"

            "I know" Sara reaches up tucking a strand of his hair behind his ear "You know I'm definitely liking your hair like this."

            "Oh really?"

            Sara nods tangling her fingers in his curly locks guiding his lips to hers in a long and lazy kiss. After a moment Sara reluctantly breaks the kiss. "Better stop this before Jamie has to get the hose out." She chuckles

            "Mmm" Ian nods stepping back

            Out at the car Jamie looks at Natalie as she buckles the girl in the car seat "Are you sure you don't need to go to the bathroom?"

            Natalie nods "I'm sure."

            Noticing Sara and Ian walking out of the house Jamie ruffles Natalie's hair "Come on give me a hug."

            Sara smiles seeing Natalie hug Jamie in the backseat as Ian drops the final bag in the trunk.

            Jamie gets out of the backseat "Have fun Talie."

            "Bye Jamie" Natalie waves

            "Bye kiddo." Jamie shuts the back door

            "The numbers where we'll be are on the kitchen counter."

            Jamie nods

            "Lock the house up. Don't forget to set the alarm."

            "Sure" Jamie nods "I'll see you when you get back." she says watching as the car pulls out of the driveway.

HOUR LATER: PRIVATE AIRPORT

            Sara unbuckles Natalie from the car seat lifting her out as Ian and the co-pilot take the bags out of the trunk. She sets Natalie on her feet right beside the car "Don't go far sweetie."

            "Mama Oscar." Natalie demands

            Sara finds the fallen stuffed dog sitting on the back seat "Here baby." She hands the dog to Natalie "Don't drop him."

            "I won't." Natalie hugs the dog looking around

            Sara removes the car seat from the back seat setting it on the tarmac she turns to find Natalie standing by the car her thumb in her mouth as she looks around with wide eyes. Sara shoves her glasses up on her head crouching beside Natalie "Hey you getting sleepy baby?"

            Natalie shrugs removing her thumb from her mouth "Planes Mama."

            Sara laughs scooping Natalie into her arms standing "You like planes huh?"

            Natalie nods then grins seeing her Daddy pick up her car seat handing it to the strange man "Daddy"

            "Put this on the plane. Call the airport office and tell them to pick up the car." Ian instructs

            "Yes Mr. Nottingham" the co-pilot nods taking the car seat

            "Have the plane ready to take off in ten minutes."

            "Yes sir."

            Sara looks at Natalie "Give me a kiss"

            Natalie gives her Mama a kiss then hugs her "I love you Mama."

            "I love you baby."

            Ian joins his family "They'll be ready to take off in about ten minutes. Do you have everything?"

            "Did you grab my backpack?" Sara asks

            "Yes."

            "Talie you have Oscar. Do you have your blanket?"

            Natalie shakes her head

            "Is it in the car?" Sara asks with a frown

            "No Mama."

            "Sara you put it in one of the bags." Ian reminds

            Natalie shifts holding her free arm out to her Daddy "Daddy."

            Ian takes Natalie from Sara "You ready to go?"

            Natalie nods hugging Oscar "I like planes."

            "You do huh?"

            "Yep." Natalie looks at her Mama "Mama why couldn't Jamie come too?"

            "Because Jamie has to go to school." Sara answers following Ian and Natalie to the plane. Once in the plane Sara takes Natalie from Ian setting her in the car seat as Ian goes to talk with the pilots. "I'm sure Jamie will love to play when we get back." Sara buckles Natalie into her car seat.

            "Mama I don't wanna wear my shoes no more" Natalie holds her feet out

            "Sure baby." Sara unties the shoes pulling the off "Better?"

            "Thank you Mama." Natalie says wiggling her toes as she hugs Oscar

            "Your welcome baby." Sara kisses her forehead.

OVER AN HOUR LATER

            Sara watches Ian read to Natalie as the girl sits on his lap hugging Oscar her thumb in her mouth. She smiles seeing Natalie rub at her eye with the back of her hand. "Talie are you getting tired?"

            Natalie nods

            "Pajama time" Sara announces

            "Daddy's reading to me Mama." Natalie protests

            "He can finish when you're in your pajamas." Sara says lifting Natalie off Ian's lap grabbing one of the duffle bags she removes a pair of pajamas with yellow ducks. She sits on the couch with Natalie on her lap.

            "Are we there yet Daddy?"

            "We have a couple hours yet." Ian answers

            Sara pulls Natalie's jeans off setting them beside her on the couch "Legs out"

            Natalie sticks her legs out as her Mama helps her into her pajama bottoms.

            Sara sets Natalie on her feet pulling the bottoms up. "There. Arms up."

            Natalie holds her arms up as her Mama pulls her shirt off.

            Sara slips the pajama top over Natalie's head "Arms."

            Natalie slips her arms through the sleeves "Mama where's my blanket?" She asks once her pajama top is on.

            "Here you go." Sara takes it out of the duffle bag handing it to Natalie.

            Natalie kisses her Mama's cheek hurrying over to her Daddy "Finish book please." She grabs Oscar off the seat beside her Daddy holding her arms up.

            Ian lifts Natalie onto his lap opening the book to where they left off.

            Sara folds up the dirty clothes listening as Ian continues reading.

3 HOURS LATER

            "Sir we're about to descend." The co-pilot says softly noting the child is asleep on his employers lap as the dark-haired woman leans against him.

            Ian nods

            Sara stretches before stroking Natalie's hair "Talie sweetie"

            "Mama" Natalie says groggily

            "Its time for you to get back in your seat."

            Natalie rubs at her eyes "Tired."

            "I know baby." Sara lifts Natalie off Ian's lap carrying her over to the car seat she straps the little girl in the car seat. "You can go back to sleep once we're on the ground."

            " 'kay." Natalie sticks her thumb in her mouth.

            Sara sits beside Ian buckling her seatbelt.

HALF HOUR LATER

            "Cars loaded." Ian says as he finds Sara sitting on the couch in the plane with Natalie on her lap wearing her coat and socks clutching Oscar and her blanket. "Want me to carry her?"

            Sara nods standing she hands Natalie over to Ian taking Oscar and the blanket

            "Mama" Natalie says groggily

            Sara kisses Natalie's cheek "Go back to sleep baby. Daddy's just going to carry you to the car."

            "Oscar." Natalie mumbles

            "I'll give you Oscar once we get to the car."

            " 'kay." Natalie wraps her arms around her Daddy's neck closing her eyes.

HOUR LATER: APARTMENT

            Sara unlocks the door entering ahead of Ian she turns on the light looking around. "It's still the same."

            "Pretty much." Ian admits as he enters with Natalie asleep in his arms. "I'm only here a few times a month. I had the housekeeper send someone over to clean the place up."

            "I'll take her." Sara takes Natalie from Ian. "Be sure to bring Oscar and her blanket up."

            Ian nods

            "I should warn you she kicks in her sleep." Sara warns

            "So do you." Ian retorts

            "Funny." Sara carries Natalie into the bedroom setting the girl on the bed "Natalie sweetie."

            "Mama" Natalie mumbles

            "Sweetie I need to get you out of your jacket."

            " 'kay." Natalie yawns

            Sara unzips the jacket "Do you need to go to the bathroom?"

            Natalie shrugs

            "All right. Let's just see." Sara removes the jacket setting it on the bed she carries Natalie into the bathroom closing the door behind her.

10 MINS LATER

            Sara smiles as Ian enters the apartment with the final bags. "She's fast asleep."

            Ian nods setting the bags on the floor he walks over to Sara removing his gloves he brushing the backs of his fingers down her cheek. "Its good to have you back here."

            "This place has a lot of memories." Sara says stepping into Ian's arms she tugs lightly on the curls at the nape of his neck.

            "That it does."

            "The first time we made out was on the couch. The first time you spent the night you slept on the couch even when I said I was fine with sharing the bed." She brushes his hair back

            "We'd only been seeing each other for two weeks." Ian shrugs

            Sara tilts her head "I seem to recall a week later we made love." She smiles faintly "You didn't protest then"

            "I wanted to be with you more than anything." He trails his finger down her nose, "When I was with you I felt normal not like I was a servant. I didn't have to worry about disappointing you."

            "Never could." Sara assures "You are the sweetest guy I know." She cups his cheek "After all you put up with me."

            Ian turns his head kissing her palm "We should get to bed."

            "What time do we have to leave?"

            "We have to go to the house. The housekeeper took my suit to the cleaners."

            Sara nods "What time?"

            "I have some things to do at the house before we leave. The service is at three."

            "So we leave here at noon. Drop Talie off at Joe and Marie's. We can be at the house by one?"

            "Sure."

15 MINS LATER

            "Goodnight my love." Ian kisses Sara sweetly

            "Night baby." She smiles as she sees Ian kiss Natalie's forehead before they lay down on either side of Natalie. Sara pulls the covers up to Natalie's chin then reaches over gently stroking Ian's cheek. "I love you."

            "I love you" he echoes

CHAPTER 4

EARLY NEXT MORNING

            Ian awakens feeling a small body cuddle against him. He opens his eyes to find Natalie curled up against his chest her small hand clutching at his shirt. Gently he runs his hand down Natalie's hair marveling in the feeling of the small body cuddled against him. 'My little girl, my daughter. I still can't believe she's part of me... part of Sara. She's so amazing.' He looks over to see Sara slowly stir.

            Sara slowly opens her eyes yawning she rubs at her eyes. Blinking sleepily she smiles at the sight of Natalie cuddled against Ian. "Morning." She greets softly

            "Morning." He looks at Natalie

            Seeing the look on his face Sara speaks "What are you thinking?"

            "She's so... affectionate even in her sleep."

            "So are you." Sara smiles reaching out she gently strokes his cheek.

            "Only with you."

            "She's always been affectionate especially when she likes the person." She leans in kissing Ian sweetly "And she adores her Daddy."

            Natalie sniffs sleepily as she shifts to her back rubbing her eyes "Mama? Daddy?"

            "Hey Talie" Sara brushes Natalie's hair back "Have a good sleep?"

            Natalie nods looking at her Daddy "Hi Daddy."

            "Good morning Natalie."

            "Mama can we go play outside?"

            "Not today baby. Today Daddy and I have to go take care of something. Your spending the day with Grandma Marie remember?"

            "But I wanna play with you and Daddy." Natalie protests

            "We can play for a while before we have to leave." Sara says looking at Ian "Any chance there's things to eat around here for breakfast?"

            "I don't know what was delivered." Ian shrugs sitting up

            Sara nods "Only one way to find out." She rolls to her feet "Let's go find something for breakfast."

LATE MORNING

            "Daddy I'm drawing you a picture." Natalie announces as she sees her Daddy walking out of the bedroom dressed.

            Ian crouches down beside Natalie "It's very nice. Thank you."

            "I'm going to go shower and get dressed." Sara kisses Natalie's head then leans over kissing Ian's cheek. "Talie once you're done with Daddy's picture pick up your things please."

            "OK Mama." Natalie turns her attention to her coloring "Daddy what's your favorite color?"

            "I don't think I have one."

            "Why not?"

            Ian lifts his shoulders "I don't know. I wasn't raised amongst a lot of colors."

            "Oh." Natalie continues coloring "What's your favorite animal?"

            "Dogs."

            "Do you have a dog?"

            "Actually I do."

            "What's its name?"

            "His name is Bran. He's a Rotweiller."

            "What's a Rotweiller?" Natalie asks curiously

            Ian smiles "It's a type of dog."

            "Is he gonna live with us?"

            "Mama and I haven't talked about it."

            "Is he nice?"

            "He can be."

            "Will he play with me?"

            Ian lifts Natalie onto his lap "He's not used to little girls."

            "Why not?"

            "He wasn't raised around little kids."

            "Oh." Natalie tilts her head "What's he look like?"

            "Well he's black and brown. He's as big as you."

            Natalie snuggles against her Daddy's chest "Daddy I wanna stay with you and Mama today."

            "I know."

            "Can we play tomorrow?"

            "As long as I don't have to do anything."

            "Can I play with your doggy?"

            "We'll see. I'll talk to Mama about it." He looks at the papers and crayons spread out on the table. "Natalie are you done coloring?"

            Natalie shakes her head "Have to finish your picture."

            "All right." Ian sets her on the floor he watches as Natalie goes back to coloring.

HALF HOUR LATER

            Sara walks out of the bedroom wearing a bathrobe. "Natalie its time to clean up your things."

            "But Mama I'm not done."

            "I know but its time to get dressed." Sara calls "You have ten minutes to clean up your mess."

            "OK."

            Sara returns to the bedroom where her jeans are laid out. She smiles faintly as she feels Ian wrap his arms around her waist kissing her neck. "Mmm" She sighs in pleasure lifting her hand to his cheek "you OK?"

            "I'll be fine."

            Sara turns sliding her arms around his neck "Will you?"

            Ian nods "Now that your here everything will work out. I'm free from him. Free to be with you... with Natalie. Be a family. Have a life."

            "Now all we have to do is get through this week." Sara sighs

            "We'll get through it." Ian kisses her forehead

            "Mama, Daddy I'm done." Natalie enters the bedroom "I'm ready to get dressed."

            Sara smiles reluctantly pulling out of Ian's arms "All right baby."

            "Do I have to take a bath?"

            "Not now. But before bed you will."

            "OK."

            "Let's find something for you to wear" Sara smiles

            Ian leans against the counter drinking his coffee keeping an eye on the workers as they work in the bedroom. After a few minutes he hears the bathroom door open and sees Natalie run out of the bedroom.

            "Daddy. Daddy."

            Ian picks Natalie up as she hurls herself at him. "Hello sweet one."

            "I'm dressed." She says happily

            "That you are." Ian chuckles "Where's Mama?"

            "She had to finish getting dressed." Natalie answers "Daddy can I have a cookie?"

            "Nice try but its still morning."

            "Then can I have ice cream?"

            "No."

            "Please?"

            "Natalie, it is not even noon."

            "Mama lets me have ice cream." Natalie says fidgeting with the button on her Daddy's shirt

            "Mama drinks too much coffee." Ian returns

            "Don't tell Mama that. Last time she yelled at Mike."

            "Not surprised." Ian says dryly "As long as I've known your Mama she's been obsessive about her coffee."

            "No I haven't." Sara retorts joining them in the kitchen she takes the coffee mug from Ian taking a sip.

NOON

            "Natalie, come on its time to go." Sara calls

            "Coming Mama." Natalie runs out of the bedroom jumping up and down happily

            "Come on baby put your jacket on." Sara holds the jacket out

            Natalie takes her jacket slipping it on. "I'm ready."

            Sara holds out her hand "Well then let's go."

            "OK" Natalie slips her hand into her Mama's "Mama is Oscar in my backpack?"

            "Yes baby. I know you like taking Oscar."

            "Oscar doesn't like being in the dark too long."

            "I know."

            Ian picks up Sara's backpack as he closes the door behind him and locks it. "Come on you two lets get going before you find something else to distract us."

HALF HOUR LATER: SIRI APARTMENT

            As the front door opens Natalie grins, "Granma." She holds her arms up

            Marie Siri smiles "Natalie." She picks the girl up kissing her grand-goddaughter's cheek. "Oh it is so good to see you." She holds her arm out to Sara hugging her goddaughter "Both of you."

            "Hey Marie." Sara smiles

            "So where's that husband of yours?"

            "He's in the car. His phone rang." Sara shrugs "He had to talk to the person."

            "Natalie, there are some cookies on the kitchen table for you."

            "Really?"

            "Really." Marie sets the girl down watching as she runs to the kitchen. She looks at Sara "Are you two really going to work things out?"

            Sara nods setting Natalie's backpack and Oscar down on the floor "I love him. I never stopped."

            "I know."

            "With Irons gone we have a chance to start again, be together like we wanted."

            "And Natalie?" Marie asks

            Sara smiles "It's only been two days and they already adore each other."

            Marie nods "I'm not surprised. They are a lot alike."

            "Yeah they are."

            "Mama Mama." Natalie hurries into the foyer

            Sara crouches, "Hey Talie."

            "Chocolate chip." Natalie says happily

            Sara laughs "That they are. What do you say to Granma?"

            "Thank you."

            "Your welcome sweetie."

            "Now I have to go baby. Be good OK?"

            "Can't you an' Daddy stay Mama?"

            "We'll be back to pick you up in a few hours." Sara promises "Give me a hug and kiss."

            Natalie hugs her Mama kissing her cheek "Bye Mama."

            "Bye Talie." Sara stands "Thanks Marie."

            Marie nods

            Sara closes the door behind her heading down the stairs and out the front entrance she finds the car still parked and gets in as Ian hangs up. "Something going on?"

            "Just the lawyer. Natalie settled in?"

            Sara nods buckling her seatbelt "Marie made her cookies so she'll be fine."

            Ian pulls the car away from the curb.

HALF HOUR LATER

            "Oh good your here." The Butler says "Your suit is hanging in your closet."

            Ian nods "Francetti?"

            "He'll be before the limo gets here."

            "Let me know when he's here." Ian takes Sara's hand leading her up the stairs to his bedroom in the back of the house. Once he closes the door he sighs rubbing his forehead.

            "What's wrong?" Sara asks concerned

            "I guess part of me is so used to hearing him yell for me the moment I walk in the door I half expected that." He sets her bag on the floor sitting on the bed.

            "It'll take you a while to get used to that. After Dad died there were times that first year I half expected him to show up at the door." Sara reaches out running her fingers through Ian's hair as he rests his forearms on his knees staring at the floor. She sits beside him wrapping her arm around his waist resting her head on his shoulder. "It'll be OK Ian."

            "I know." Ian lifts his head looking at Sara "With you at my side everything will be OK."

            Sara brings her hand to his cheek "When we're together things are always better." Slowly their lips meet in a gentle kiss within seconds the kiss becomes passionate and hands quickly pull off clothing.

WHILE LATER

            Ian runs his fingers through Sara's hair as she rests her head on his chest. "I love you Sara."

            Sara smiles pressing a light kiss over his heart "I love you."

            "Sometimes that scares me." Ian admits softly

            Sara lifts her head looking at him "Why?"

            Ian brushes his forefinger down her nose "Because someone like you shouldn't love someone like me."

            "Why do you say that?" Sara demands

            "I've done a lot of things over the years... bad things." Ian looks away "I killed people Sara."

            Hearing that Sara winces slightly then reaching up she gently cups his cheek urging him to look at her "You wouldn't have done those things if he hadn't made you would you?"

            "No." Ian admits

            "You've done good things too." At his puzzled expression Sara shifts so their face to face and brushes her finger over his lips "You helped make a beautiful little girl who will grow up to do a lot of good things. The past is the past Ian. Now we can start over the way we wanted to when we first got married."

            "You don't hate me for what I've done?"

            Sara stares at him surprised by his question "I could never hate you Ian, I love you so much. You and Natalie mean everything to me." She kisses him lightly "As much as I hate to say this we should get up and get a move on." Sara sits up "We should go shower."

            "Probably right" Ian agrees standing he lifts Sara into his arms

            Sara yelps in surprise wrapping her arms around his neck. "Ian!"

2 PM

            Sara smiles at the sight of Ian dressed in a black suit and tie his hair pulled back in a ponytail. "I always did think you look incredible in a suit."

            Ian looks Sara over wearing a black ankle length skirt with a slit up to her knee with green vines along the hem and a black tank with spaghetti straps "Why is it you've seen me in a suit more often then I've seen you in a dress or skirt?"

            "Because he made you wear a suit and no one in their right mind would make me wear something I didn't want to wear." Sara shrugs slipping on her strappy heels. "God the last time I wore a dress was at a wedding for Mike's family. He begged me to go as his date" She sees the look on Ian's face then shrugs "It wasn't an actual date he just didn't want to deal with his whole family annoying him about not having one."

            "The last time I saw you in a dress was... our anniversary."

            Sara smiles at the memory "Yeah" She leans in to kiss Ian as the bedside phone rings

            "I have to get that my love."

            Sara nods watching as Ian picks up the phone 'God he's gorgeous.' She looks at her wedding ring and smiles faintly 'And he's all mine.'

            "We'll be right down." Ian hangs up the phone looking over at Sara "The limo and Francetti are here."

            Sara nods pulling on her jacket "Let's get this done." She kisses him sweetly "I love you"

            "I love you." He holds his hand out to her as she slips her hand into his they exit his bedroom heading down the stairs to the foyer.

            "Good your here." the grey haired man says

            "I assured you I would be here on time." Ian returns

            Sara squeezes his hand reassuringly

            "Sara this is Francetti... Father's lawyer." Ian introduces

            "Kenneth mentioned you a few times." Francetti remarks

            "I doubt it was anything good." Sara says dryly

            "Let's get going. I will fill you in on the way." Francetti says hurriedly

            The two follow the lawyer out to the limo. Sara gently rubs Ian's hand with her thumb sensing his restrained anxiety.

            Once the limo pulls away from the mansion Francetti speaks opening a folder "OK here's a list of things we need to take care of. Are you sure about leaving New York Ian?"

            Ian nods bringing Sara's hand to his lips "I belong with my family."

            "Fine. Before you leave we will need to go over his will."

            "Tomorrow afternoon. I promised Natalie that we'd do something in the morning."

            "Fine we'll meet tomorrow at 3?"

            "Sure" Ian answers

            "You'll also need to meet with the board members before you leave." Francetti says

            "Set up a meeting with the board members on Saturday. We plan to leave Sunday night."

            Francetti nods "All right." He writes quickly in the folder "Now fair warning the press already knows that you inherited the company... and everything."

            "It's never been a secret." Ian shrugs

            "Well it's the biggest news in business this year. Once your marriage is known and that you've been keeping it a secret for so long the press will go nuts."

            Ian nods "I know."

            "All right. Now about who will be there..."

30 MINS LATER

            The limo stops in front of the building Sara looks at Ian as Francetti gets out. "You OK?"

            "I'll be fine." He assures getting out of the limo he helps Sara out keeping a tight grip on her hand as they walk into the building ignoring the press milling about.

            'Here we go.'

COUPLE OF HOURS LATER

            Sara looks at Ian as they drive in silence back to the mansion. She reaches up stroking his beard with the back of her fingers "What's wrong?"

            Ian looks at Sara "Just thinking." He gives her a slight smile

            "How about we change out of these clothes and go pick Talie up?"

            Ian nods "Sounds good." He kisses her hand

LATE EVENING: APARTMENT

            "Hey Danny."

            "Saw you on the news... as did the whole precinct."

            Sara sighs shifting the phone on her shoulder "How'd it go over?"

            "Everyone was shocked to say the least. Jake was as well."

            "I'm not surprised that it shocked everyone."

            "Any chance we'll be able to get together before you leave?"

            "We're leaving Sunday night. I have to be back to work on Monday. Ian has meetings with the lawyers and board members until we leave."

            "Why don't you bring Talie over on Saturday" Danny suggests "We can catch up and the kids can play."

            "Sure." Sara agrees

            "Mama, can I get out now?" Natalie yells from the bathroom

            "I'll be right there Talie." Sara calls "Danny can I call you back? I need to go get Talie out of the tub and ready for bed."

            "Where's Nottingham?"

            "He went for a walk. He's had a lot to deal with today."

            "Call me later." Danny hangs up the phone

            "Mama I'm getting cold."

            "I'm coming baby." Sara sets the phone down heading into the bathroom she grabs a towel. "Come on lets get you dried off and into your pjs." As Natalie stands Sara wraps her in the towel lifting her out of the bathtub. "You're all clean now."

            "Mama where's Daddy?"

            "He just went for a walk. He'll be back soon." Sara quickly dries Natalie off "Did you have a good time with Granma?"

            Natalie nods "We watched a movie."

            "Which movie?"

            "Benji. I like Benji. He's cute."

            Sara smiles "Yeah he is."

            "Mama did you know Daddy has a doggy?"

            Sara nods "I met him a few times."

            "His names Bran. Daddy said he's bigger than me."

            Sara laughs "He is. Let's get you into your pjs huh."

            "OK."

            "What else did you do with Granma Marie?" Sara asks listening as the little girl chatters happily. Once Natalie is in her pajamas Sara kisses her cheek "How about we go watch some TV while I get your hair done."

            "OK." Natalie runs to the living room flopping on the couch

            Sara laughs grabbing a comb and a couple elastics joining Natalie in the living room picking up the remote she turns to the Cartoon Network.

            "Bugs" Natalie bounces happily seeing her favorite cartoon character. "Bugs Mama."

            "So I see." Sara lifts Natalie onto her lap running the comb through the girl's dark slightly curly locks. "I used to love Bugs Bunny when I was little."

            "Bugs is funny Mama."

            "That he is." Sara smiles "Now do you want one braid or two?"

            "Two please." Natalie requests giggling at Bugs' antics

            Sara carefully starts the first braid stopping when she hears the front door open. She looks over to see Ian enter the apartment dressed head to toe in black.

            "Daddy your back." Natalie says happily squirming on her Mama's lap

            "Stay still Talie." Sara sighs

            Natalie pouts "Yes Mama." She fidgets on her Mama's lap wanting to go hug her Daddy.

            Ian removes his cap and gloves putting them in his overcoat he takes his overcoat off hanging it up in the closet. He joins his family on the couch.

            "Feeling better?" Sara asks

            Ian nods resting his head on the back of the cushion he watches as Sara braids Natalie's hair. "Just needed to think."

            "Cold out?"

            Ian lifts his shoulders "A little."

            "Can we go to the park tomorrow?" Natalie asks

            "We can go in the morning." Ian says

            "Yeah!" Natalie bounces happily

            "Talie come on stay still." Sara laughs "I'm almost done."

            "OK Mama."

            Sara quickly finishes the second braid "There."

            Natalie kisses her Mama's cheek "Thank you Mama."

            "Your welcome baby."

            Natalie crawls over to her Daddy's lap "I like the park."

            "Oh you do huh." Ian tickles her stomach getting her to giggle

HOUR LATER

            Sara looks up as Ian walks out of the bedroom. "Is she asleep?"

            "Yes." Ian sits beside Sara on the couch

            Sara turns the TV off she moves to his lap one arm going around his shoulders her hand going to his cheek. "What's wrong?"

            "I don't know why Father wanted his will read. I know what is in it."

            "How do you know?"

            "He never made a secret of the fact that I'd inherit everything. For as long as I can remember he's told me that I'm getting everything."

            "Then why does he want his will read?"

            Ian shrugs "I have no idea. Maybe he made some provisions over the last few months. He did update his will twice a year."

            "Twice a year?"

            Ian nods "Something tells me whatever he wants read will be interesting."

            "Just relax Ian. Whatever it is we'll be fine." Sara kisses Ian lightly

            Ian smoothes a strand of hair behind her ear "We will won't we." He rests his forehead against Sara's "I love you."

            Sara kisses his nose "I love you."

AN:

This fic may later change. The whole idea will be the same but I'm

thinking I may change it so Irons is still alive. I haven't decided how

that will work.~ inquisitive1