Author's Note: It took me a very long while to get this next chapter out. Sorry about the long delay and I hope you guys enjoy.

Reflections of A Wish

Chapter 3

Monterey, California

"Move, will you?" Serena hissed the command at her friend, struggling to see through the tiny slit between the doors that separated the parlor from the hallway in her home.

Amy, undaunted and with more skill then Serena would have given her credit for, angled herself into a neat little position which allowed her to see clearly through the opening, one eye shut as the other took in the scene before them and the two women ease dropped as hard as they could. "Can you believe it? Can you just believe the sheer coincidence of those two being in the same place and actually meeting as well?" she shook her head. "It's truly amazing."

Serena snickered. "I can't get over that Lita pulled a fast one over his head and made him think she was someone else."

"I can't believe he didn't figure her out."

"I can't believe they both headed back at the same time and came here tonight as well."

"And I can't believe we have such nosy wives." Greg commented from behind the women, raising one dark brow when both jumped and whirled to face their husbands. "You two told us you would be in the kitchen baking cookies, if I remember correctly."

"Then I realized it was much too quiet in the kitchen." Darien spoke mildly, arms crossed over his broad chest, his blue eyes narrowed on his wife.

"And I realized right after that my lovely wife doesn't like to cook, much less bake cookies." Greg leaned one hand against the wall, next to Amy. "Darling, couldn't you keep your nose out of it for once?"

Before Amy could reply Lita's voice came through to them, loud and raised in fury, followed closely by Ken's bellowing reply. The women resumed their positions, shoving to see what had occurred between the couple.

"I can see they're not going to listen to us." Darien shook his head and turned away. "Let's go watch the game Greg. The Dodgers were up when we left anyway."

"I always find it a nice surprise to see that my wife has her idiotic moments. Sometimes she's just too much of a genius for her own good. Did I tell you what she did the other day?" Greg's voice faded as the men disappeared down the hall.

"Baboons." Serena muttered, earning a muffled giggle from Amy as they continued their spying.

:

Kennedy Steele was not a man known for raising his voice, even in the most extreme of circumstances. He had been taught by his parents to remain calm at all times, no matter how much anger surfaced from within, and to maintain a quiet dignity. He had been told to handle his fury calmly, and to exude pure charm and a suave manner that would earn him respect.

These lessons had of course been instilled from childhood and remained with him, as strong as the day his mother and father had lectured him on the importance of control. He had indeed earned respect from fellow colleagues and people who were employed under him, maintaining a reasonably calm exterior whenever it was called upon.

However well taught he was, nothing had prepared him for the utter fury and rage that had overtaken him at the first sight of Vanessa.

Lita, he corrected himself bitterly, not Vanessa. She had never been Vanessa, but Lita from the first moment of meeting. She had known this the moment he had spoken his name and had never once, not once, attempted to correct her mistake and tell him who she truly was. She'd had several opportunities, of that he was certain, and had chosen instead to continue lying to him and twisting him around her little finger.

Oh he knew she must have enjoyed his obvious torment. He recalled stories Serena had told him in the past about her wild friend, the one no man had ever succeeded in taming. Serena had described her as a woman who could hold her own completely, a person who had been born with a restless spirit and a thirst for adventure. She lived her life as she saw fit, and allowed no man to take the independence she had been born with from her.

It was irony, pure irony, that he had been attracted to the sultry dark looks when he had first laid eyes upon her in the club, but the utterly self dependent nature she had demonstrated to him had been what had piqued his interest and intrigued him. It was this unattainable personality that had lured him more deeply into the enthralling spell she had quickly cast over him.

Taking a deep breath, struggling for calm, he allowed his mind to smooth out, unclenching the fists that were currently gripping with brutal strength the soft settee in Serena's parlor. In the first moment of laying eyes upon one another again she had feigned ignorance, the look in her sharp green eyes clearly a challenge that he dare act otherwise. After the first moments of sheer shock had faded the nameless fury had taken over.

And so the shouting had began.

He had been unable to help himself. How could any sane man react otherwise when faced with the woman who had sent they're well ordered world spiraling out of control in a mere two days? Even the idea of acting, of pretending, as she had done for days, had further enraged him.

The two couples who had witnessed this first meeting had been left, quite simply, speechless. It wasn't until Lita had shoved him hard and he had retaliated by gripping her about the waist and heaving her over his shoulder that the others had leapt into action.

Amy and Serena had taken in the situation rapidly, and while Lita had spat several impressive curses at him from over his shoulder, the two women had led him through the house and to the parlor, where they had promptly shut the doors and left them alone.

He had then tossed her onto one of the small settees, quickly bracing himself as she had risen and launched herself at him. Rather then use fists as he had been prepared for she had screamed vile names at him, until his own anger had risen once again and their voices could be heard throughout the entire mansion.

It was through sheer force of will that he had been able to reign in his temper when he had been on the verge of calling her something he knew he would have deeply regretted. He was unable to recall a time when he had lost his temper with such a blinding flash, or when he had ever been unable to maintain control over himself.

But even he knew that control had slipped away from him as smoothly as water the moment he had set eyes on her in that dimly lit club.

He lifted his eyes to study her, watching as those haunting emerald eyes remained sharply focused on him in quiet rage. She looked so beautiful, so fucking gorgeous, glaring at him from across the room with her hands planted firmly upon her narrow hips. She had pulled her hair back into a pony tail that reached well to her waist, the ends waving gracefully together, her smooth features bare of any make up.

She shouldn't have appealed to him, this woman with her sultry, hot looks and abrasive, blunt manner. He most usually preferred calm, cool blondes, women who were content to remain at his side at cocktail parties and give him the needed freedom he required. His preference had always lain with women who had been brought up as he had, always supremely aware of their good manners.

But it was Lita, with her sharp tongue and uncaring nature, who intrigued him as no woman ever had. He had never been as, well...obsessed, with any other woman before. She contained none of the qualities he had long since searched for in the women he met and it deeply annoyed him that it was her he could feel himself quickly succumbing too.

Even the mere thought of being so close to falling for such a woman had him stiffening and immediately shutting the disturbing thought away. He could feel something struggling to soften inside of him as he stared at her, something shuddering within when she raised one of those slender dark brows at him, her jaw tightening. But he chose to shake it off, push it aside, and focus sensibly on the situation. She had humiliated him enough, weakened him and by God she had hurt him when she had left him the way she had, but he would regain control and show her he was no man to be trifled with.

He spoke in a clipped tone, a muscle ticking in his jaw. "I hope I was able to accommodate your sense of humor and give you some entertainment."

It stung, very sharply, to have him think of her in such a way. But what had she expected? Men like him always assumed the worst of women like her. If she had been raised as he had, with privileges and wealth, he would never have made degrading assumptions about her.

When had she lost control? When had she actually began to care what he thought of her? She didn't give a damn how people saw and thought of her. Growing up, she had accepted the fact that most of the friends Serena and Amy had made had always stayed clearly away from her, unwilling to befriend a woman who was known to have an alcoholic mother. Having the two of them as her friends had always been enough for her. The opinions of others had never mattered.

But with Ken it seemed everything had changed.

She still had her pride though and taking insults from him was something she would never accept. "If you've finished with this little temper tantrum display of me bruising your inflated ego, I'd really like to go now. Somehow the welcome home party my family was having for me has been ruined beyond repair." With her back rigid, she quickly strode toward the double doors leading back into the hallway.

She was caught not two feet from the doors and whirled to face him. His expression was no longer calm and calculating, but livid, the burning fury in his eyes causing her heart to race with both fear and excitement. "Oh no, were not done. Your not getting away that easily."

"Listen you bastard, you--"

Whatever else she'd been about to say was silenced by his mouth crushing hers, his hands releasing they're tight hold on her arms to snake up her back and fill themselves with her glorious hair. The heat between them was instant, as if the flame had merely been smoldering, waiting for a single spark to ignite the inferno of passion created between them.

Furious, pissed off at him and herself, she attempted to shove him away, to gain her freedom, but he had her wrapped solidly against his hard chest, his arms like two bands of steel vibrating against her struggling body. She could feel the muscles of his body quivering with his temper, with the fury she had created, but it was his mouth, hard and aggressive, that sent a sharp slice of excitement rippling through her belly. One hand held her twisting head still as he ravished her with his delicious mouth, the other gripping her firmly by the waist and grinding her brutally into his lithe, powerful frame. It seemed the harder she struggled to free herself, the more desperately he took from her.

And suddenly, without realizing it, she was gripping that thick, beautiful golden hair in her hands, one thigh wrapped securely about his hips, as the kiss shifted quickly from desperate to madness.

She hadn't meant for this to happen. She had meant to fight him off, to shove him away and make him see she refused to succumb to his will. She wouldn't give herself to him so completely, she wouldn't surrender what he seemed to wordlessly be asking her for. She was strong, stronger then this.

But the thought was fleeting, her mind misting over as his mouth moved slowly now, with infinite tenderness and care, over hers.

It had only been hours, really, since she had seen him, but already she had missed him. She ran her hands gently over his cheekbones, down the broad shoulders that distinctively tensed beneath her wandering hands, and up his taut, rippling back. She could feel something softening inside of her, some nameless, faceless emotion struggling to take flight within her. She sensed a change taking place, an occurrence that would shift the course of her life forever and lead her down a path she had no hope in understanding. Here she would be unable to see her life clearly, as she saw it now, and would be forced to walk blindly through the dark.

Terrified of what was happening inside of her, of him, she managed to shove back and free herself, groping for the nearest chair. Holding on to it with a grip like steel, she shut her eyes and willed the swirling emotions to leave her and bring normality back to her life, the sense and reason she had always lived by.

But when she shut her eyes she still saw him, and she was afraid now she would always see only him.

"It appears not everything was an act, was it?" Ken sneered the comment at her, enraged because he could still taste her, could still feel her, and because his hands were not quite steady.

She went still, her eyes darkening with a furious anger he had already come to recognize and admire in her. She had to take a moment, to will the pain he had just caused by his simple statement to fade enough so she could speak without allowing it to surface in her tone. "Fuck off pretty boy." And this time when she marched away from him, he didn't stop her.

She yanked open the double doors, not at all surprised to find Serena and Amy crouched outside the doors, both of them straightening slowly and facing her. Amy's usually ivory complexion was flushed with embarrassment, but it was Serena who was glaring from first her, to Ken.

"Figures." Lita muttered the comment, shoving past her friends and continuing down the hall.

"Lita, wait!" Suddenly moved into action, Amy quickly went after her while Serena remained behind.

He could feel shame coursing through him, like a disease poisoning his insides and causing his chest to tighten almost painfully. She had hurt him, he knew that, but even this could never excuse his appalling treatment of her. His fury had been blinding enough, his pain vivid enough, to nearly give him proper justification for his comment. He could believe she had deserved it, that she had asked for it and it had been her punishment for what she had done.

But even these reassurances did nothing to keep him from feeling like complete and total shit.

He could sense her stare, he had always been able too, and turned to meet Serena's disapproving gaze. The anger he could deal with, the shouting and lashing comments she would throw at him an easy task of shrugging away. But this silent disapproval cut deeper then any insult ever could.

"I can understand she hurt you with the way she lied Ken, but even that was low for you." Serena spoke quietly, but it was enough to have him flinching as if she had slapped him across the face. Not waiting for a reply, she turned and left him, going in search of her friends.

She emerged into the front of her home, where she found Amy blocking Lita's entrance into her truck, pleading with her furious friend. "Don't leave like this, please. He's angry Lita, he's hurt. He doesn't realize what he's saying."

"Bullshit. He knows exactly what he's saying and now I know exactly how he thinks of me too." Her hands planted firmly on her hips, she brought her face close to Amy's and spoke between clenched teeth. "Now get the fuck out of my way."

Amy lifted her chin and met this fury with her own. "No."

Serena couldn't help admiring Amy, who usually went out of her way to calm Lita and do anything she could to ease their friends rage when she was this way. "She's right Lita. Will running away from him solve anything?"

The eyes Lita turned to her were steady, but cold enough to freeze a person at twenty paces. "I'm not running. If I don't want to be in the same house he is, then I won't be. Now if the two of you are done shoving your opinions where their not needed or wanted, I'd really like to get the hell out of here."

"Well it's too bad for you that were not done shoving our opinions where there not needed. I don't know exactly what happened between you two while you were in Mexico, but its enough that I see the two of you are suffering from it." When Lita turned away, Serena came forward and placed her hand gently on her arm. The muscles beneath were tense. "You can't lie to Amy and I. We know you better then anyone, probably even yourself."

"It doesn't matter." Willing herself to calm, forcing the fury that was boiling inside and straining for release down, she spoke in a carefully controlled tone. "I've had enough insults from him for one night." She heard footsteps coming from inside the house, turned and watched as Darien and Greg came to stand just outside the front doors. "Fact is, I've had enough testosterone in general. I'm going home."

At Serena's nod Amy moved aside, allowing Lita to climb into her truck. They watched as she roared the engine to life and sped down the drive, disappearing just outside the gates.

There was a long silence following her departure, where Amy and Serena merely stared at each other in silence. They turned back to their husbands and found each of them looking totally perplexed.

"So," Greg hooked his thumbs in his front pockets, raising one brow while Darien stood next to him scratching his head, "what did we miss?"

:

Oaxaca, Mexico

Twelve Years Earlier

She'd been sent here during her spring vacation, when the weather was a steady flow of withering heat. She preferred the month of April as opposed to the summers. Summers were brutal, with thunder storms blasting through the countryside and nearly shaking the small home her Uncle lived in. With the thunder storms came a wave of blistering humidity that usually left her choking on the thickness of the air for breath.

But spring time here was just fine and when her mother had stated she would be sending her here for the next week, Lita hadn't thought to complain. She visited her Uncle enough to have become familiar with the weather of Oaxaca, as well as the language and the customs here. This had very nearly been her second home. It may have been if she hadn't found her real home was with Serena and Amy.

She missed them, although it had only been two days since she'd arrived. But they were the one's who mattered most in her world, who actually gave a damn about her and what happened to her. She'd learned at a young age that her mother didn't care about her, that perhaps she had at one point until her father had left them both. Lita hadn't understood how her father could love her and play with her, then leave her alone with a mother who had from that point on blamed all of her misfortunes on her. But as she'd grown she'd come to understand that her father and mother had been unable to love each other, and as the years had passed her father had strayed more and more, until he could no longer return.

He'd left, and the only object he'd left behind had been a note telling Lita he was sorry, and that none of it had been her fault.

She'd felt abandoned, completely and utterly alone, with a mother who neglected her and did her best to forget the abandonment of a man who had fallen out of love with her. Lita had watched as her mother had turned to alcohol in the first months, drowning herself in it and hoping her sorrows would disappear. Time had passed, the sorrow had slowly turned to bitterness, then the bitterness had taken the nasty form of rage. Rage against her small daughter.

Lita had wondered in the first months why her mother had never abandoned her as well, but she had slowly realized over the years that she had indeed abandoned her, worse in fact then her father had.

It was late afternoon, when the sun no longer beat as harshly as needles, but softened, casting a warm glow to the slowly descending day. She preferred this time, no matter where she was. Home, in Monterey, she most usually watched the sunset at the beach, either alone or accompanied by her two best friends. She had always been fascinated with the mysterious disappearance of light and the swift emergence of dark. Her mother had stated these fascinations came from her father, idiotic, romantic notions that were a waste of one's time and day.

Lita knew for a fact she was no romantic, but she was glad she had inherited her fathers touch for softness and relaxation. There was no other idea of romanticism in her, no other belief that someday she would be saved from the life she led with her mother by some white knight on a horse. The very idea of a fairy tale ending sent deep resentment coursing through her, mingled with disgust that any woman could believe in such things.

She had known a harsh reality from the age of four and had never known anything else since. Men on white horses, princes descending from their castles to save her, were possibilities she would never dream of nor consider. She would depend on herself to ride the horse alone, she would will herself to build the castle. She would see to her own needs and never fall for a man, therefor opening her heart to betrayal and pain.

No man would ever have the opportunity to abandon her again.

She sensed him coming then, watching from where she sat on the porches as he slowly approached the small home he lived in. Her Uncle had left some hours before to the city nearby to purchase more groceries for them. Although the Azaleas were a people known to be deeply entrenched in their own culture and traditions, they were also a people who had adapted to change over the years and modernized their way of living. They had known that remaining trapped in the past would neither serve them to live well in the present or help their situation to improve in their future.

She rose from her seat on the porch, not saying a word until he stood some feet away from her. Planting one hand on her hip, she cocked her head and spoke loudly. "I thought you said you would only be gone for a half hour."

He smiled slowly, although her voice clearly carried a distinct threat of fury. His niece was a strong woman, with a character borne of steel and a will as solid as iron. He wondered frequently how it was she could have grown to be such a woman with his sister as weak as she was. "I was delayed."

Lita merely snorted in reply to his short remark and took the bags from his hands. "What did you get us?" She looked inside the bags, disappointed to find several green vegetables and fruits. "Christ, Uncle Pete, couldn't you have gotten some steaks or something? You know, real food, not this rabbit shit."

He ignored her crude use of language, going inside his home with her trailing behind him. "That 'rabbit shit' is extremely good for you. What you eat in California will rot away your insides."

"Yeah, no shit. I could use some of that rot right now." Dutifully she began putting the contents of the bags into the refrigerator, purposely allowing her expression to turn dreamy. "Like a Big Mac with a huge order of fries, or even a Double Western, extra cheese and bacon." She could feel her mouth watering at just the thought of them.

Visibly shuddering, he took a beer from the refrigerator, heading back to the porch. "It's a wonder your so thin with the way your mother allows you to eat." He sat on the porch, joined by Lita seconds later with a cold beer in her own hand. He raised a brow at her. "What do you think your doing?"

She popped open the beer, taking one long drink before smiling deliberately at him. "Shove it, I'm already eighteen. That's the legal drinking age over here, isn't it?"

He grunted, annoyed that she could still outwit him as well as she had been able to as a child. "I'm never sure if I admire your smart mouth or detest it."

She shot him another grin, elbowing him playfully. "You know you love when I visit Uncle Pete, admit it."

"I'm afraid if I do your abnormally large head won't fit into my home anymore." He couldn't prevent the smile that came when she laughed appreciate, slapping him on the back and nearly causing him to spill his beer.

"And you wonder where I get this smart mouth." Still chuckling over his retort, she missed the sharp glare he sent her over the near mishap with the beer. "So...," amused now, she ran her tongue along her teeth as she considered him, "how's your sugar momma doing these days? What was her name? Elena?"

He didn't so much as blink, merely shifting to send her one long, cool look. "You need to mind your own business and quit listening at keyholes."

"Listening? Hell, it's not my fault you guys make enough noise to wake the dead! I mean, really Uncle Pete, who knew that you would ever be such a sex maniac? Sometimes it sounds like you guys are killing each other or-"

"Lita! We do not make that much noise! Your just a nosey sort who has to stay awake and listen instead of sleeping like she's supposed too." Annoyed, but supremely embarrassed, he struggled to manfully hold back the burst of flaming crimson that spread across his face.

"Don't even try to turn this around on me. I sleep just fine, but when there's screaming and grunting going on down the hall it's not my fault if I wake up." She meant to tease him more, to embarrass him further, but saying the words out loud caused some memories to come flooding back and with them painful reminders.

Pete noted when she lapsed into silence, studying her and watching as shadows he had become accustomed to seeing shift through her green gaze. He knew what she was thinking without her saying a word on it. He had known Lita since she was five years old, the first time Amanda had sent her to him for the summer.

He could still recall, as clearly as if it had been yesterday, how small and frightened she'd been as a child, and how she'd cried during those first nights with him. Amanda had sent her alone on that airplane and Pete knew his sister well enough to know she had given her daughter no comfort and absolutely no well wish's of love. Lita had been abandoned by both her parents as a child and had from then on began to rely solely on herself.

He'd taught her the language of his people, as well as the history and culture. He had admired this child of his sisters who had such enormous strength inside of her already, with an eagerness to learn and know everything surrounding her.

It was the wild independence that had worried him.

It had appeared to him as if she had struggled to find some release for the fierce tangle of emotions she had been born with. For someone with a heart like hers, abandonment and neglect had not weakened her nor softened the thirst for adventure, but had instead caused the restlessness within to strain against the tight bonds holding her back. Over the years he had watched as the child had disappeared and the woman within had emerged, strong and self reliant, and with no need of the parents who had left her or the men who had come and gone from her life.

He was proud she had grown this way, proud she had found herself even through the grief of her childhood. But it was the lack of emotion she showed to strangers, the uncaring nature that had slowly hardened her heart against anyone who would threaten the life she led, that caused him to wonder if she would ever allow this wall she had built to be climbed.

Dependence of her own person was an admirable quality, but this could quickly lead to loneliness. Loneliness was a hollow emptiness to exist in, and although in the first years it could be dealt with, over time it would eat away at one's insides, until despair and bitterness were the only emotions left.

He wondered if she knew this was how her mother had become.

He allowed the silence to stretch, instead keeping his gaze on the setting sun and allowing himself to fully relax. "Your keeping something from me." He spoke quietly, aware she had tensed beside him.

Lita had always been very, very good at keeping secrets, at manipulating, and lying her way out of several mishaps in the past years. He had been fooled by her numerous times, more then he cared to count.

But when there was something important, deep inside where no one could see, he could feel it from her, just as he'd been able to when she was a frightened, lonely child.

He knew her well enough to know she would take her time answering him, picking her words carefully to halt any anger she might cause. "Well...there is something." She studied a small beetle making its way across the dirt below the porches, swirling the beer in her hand absently. "Mom made me swear I wouldn't tell you."

This alone brought anger, but he would keep it in check for the moment. He was more concerned with Lita then feeling rage against his sister. "She usually does."

She blew out a sharp breath, nodding. "Yeah." The beetle was further now, making its way across the lawn, away from them. "Two months ago she brought this guy home." She hated remembering the incident, hated the fear that still haunted her at night when she heard her mother bring a man home. "The bastard thought he could rape me, but I knocked him out."

Pete could feel his hands slowly curl into fists, the muscles of his arms and shoulders going taut. The fury came, as it always did, and the helplessness close on its heels. Lita had been through so much and every time she told him something new his sister had done to her, it tore his insides apart and sent a fierce wave of guilt piercing through him.

Each time he was never there for her.

He looked at her then, really looked at her, and felt some pride at the strength in those sharp green eyes, the will to fight against those who would wish to do her harm. "You never cease to amaze me Lita."

She let out a short laugh, rubbing the back of her neck and meeting his dark eyes with her own. "Oh really? And why's that?"

"You don't allow the hatred of others, they're abuse or bitterness to affect you. It only makes you stronger." He ran a hand over her dark hair. "Most people would have succumbed to weakness and found some unhealthy way out of their life. But you didn't."

Embarrassed by this, she jerked her shoulder in a shrug. "It's no big deal." But she knew why she had remained as she was, untouched by drugs and alcohol. "I have more important priorities then feeling sorry for myself."

He nodded once. "I can see that." He set his beer aside, lacing his hands together and leaning his elbows against his knees. "But you also worry me."

She glanced at him quickly. "Me? Why?"

He studied her for a moment, knowing she would certainly hear the words he would tell her, but shrug the meaning of them away. "Your strength and self dependence are admirable qualities, but I see a mistrust in you that will follow you for the rest of your life."

She snorted, rolling her eyes. "Oh please."

He held one hand up, halting what ever else she'd been about to say. "I'm not finished." He waited until she'd looked at him once again, his intense gaze causing her to shift uncomfortably. "If you don't allow yourself to trust, there will be nothing for you in the future. Without trust there can be no love. Don't allow your mother's bitterness to take any happiness you may find one day."

"That's crazy. I'm not going to let her rule my life. She can't-"

"Her memory alone will remain within you and even when you break free from her, she will keep a firm hold on your spirit." He placed his hand over hers, linking them together. "And that link will ruin you, breeding mistrust against any man who may come into your life." He released a deep sigh, filled with despair. "Don't allow her bitterness and hatred to ruin a love that will come looking for you. And believe me Lita, it will find you one day."

:

Monterey, California

Present Day

She came awake with a start, sitting up quickly in bed and glancing about her darkened room. She'd left the windows open so the cool breeze from the sea could drift in, easing the heat from the night. She could just barely make out the crashing of the waves from the ocean, the tangy scent of salt relaxing her tense muscles.

She wondered why it was she had dreamt of that time so long ago, when she had visited her uncle for spring vacation of her senior year in high school. It had been twelve years ago, when she had still lived with her mother and existed in a prison of fear.

But time had passed since then, and so many changes had come with it. She had returned home, graduated in the following month, and during her summer vacation traveled to Europe for one week, where she had stumbled upon Chad Henry in a small cafe. He had followed her for most of her vacation, until she had returned home and departed for college.

She had then attended Photography Studies College located in Australia. She had chosen to distance herself as far away from her mother as possible, but the decision had torn her heart in two. Leaving home had been difficult, but saying goodbye to Amy and Serena had been nearly more then she could handle. She had come to rely on her two friends to be there for her, just as she had been there for them.

They had separated and gone to their separate colleges, keeping in frequent contact with one another even through the length of distance between them. It had taken a month for Chad to come looking for her, and to this day she would still regret the rash decision she had made in allowing him into her bed. The man had fallen madly in love with her and although she could secretly admit it had pained her to cause him harm, she had found someone else to quickly replace him.

To this day she still couldn't forget the immense anguish that had passed over his handsome features, and how he had told her he would be leaving his heart with her.

Pushing the sheets from her, she rose and walked to the balcony she had overlooking the ocean some distance away, leaning against the railing and slowly allowing the tension of her dream to flow out of her. Her uncle's words had been fresh in her mind when Chad had confessed his undying love for her, stating he wished for her to marry him. She remembered being terrified by his admission, and even more terrified that if she allowed him to remain near her, she would perhaps fall in love with a man she wasn't ready for.

But that had been so many years ago, and although they had crossed paths again in the past years, she had not allowed him near her again. There had been stolen kisses, several hot and heavy moments between them when they had run into each other down at the docks. But even through his pleading, she had refused to walk down the same path in her life with him.

And now there was Ken. Kennedy Steele, a man accustomed to a life of luxury and slim, well bred blonde bimbos hanging on his arm. She could imagine how well a blonde would suit his own looks; the dark, streaked bronze of his hair, the shimmering gold of his eyes, the sharp angles of both a rugged, yet sophisticated face that could cause any living woman's heart to race with desire. In her mind's eye she could picture him perfectly, dressed in a polo and slacks, a glass of wine in one hand, an elegant, leggy blonde on the other, cooing with adoration and batting her impossibly long lash's at him.

The bastard...Her lip curled in a silent sneer, her hands tightening unconsciously against the railing. She realized with a sudden jolt this was the first time she would experience the nasty form of jealousy. In her past she had never felt any type of jealousy for anyone, never cared when the men she was seeing admired another woman strolling by. It had never occurred to her to actually allow such things to matter.

But with Ken she couldn't seem to control it.

Pushing one hand through her heavy mass of hair, she struggled to will the images of him with another woman away. Why should she care who he dated or what type's of women were more to his taste? She had her own taste in men, her own type's as well, and they didn't include rich pretty boys like him.

And yet, he was the first man in which her desire for him had overruled her common sense.

Muttering beneath her breath, cursing him and all men in general, she turned and went back to bed, hoping she would be able to get some sleep and forget about Ken entirely.

:

He went to the office only because he hoped work would keep his mind off of what had occurred in Serena and Darien's home the night before. Burying himself in paperwork seemed a better idea then remembering the two days he had spent with Lita in Mazatlan, moments he was sure would haunt him for some time.

It didn't occur to him that he was snapping at his secretary for even the smallest tasks; it didn't register in his mind how rude he was being as he shouted down the phone at the head contractor he had working on the construction of one of the newer hotels in Las Vegas; he didn't realize it when the regional manager of Carroway Hotels for California came to see him and he snarled at the man during the entire meeting. Even as he muttered throughout the morning and drank three cups of coffee, black and scorching hot, he failed to see that even work wasn't helping him in the least.

It wasn't until his mother called him, inquiring if he would come to dinner the following weekend and he lashed out at her that it hit him.

He was being a complete and total ass hole.

His mother sensed it almost immediately, making him promise to come to dinner before excusing herself, that she had a lunch date with his father. As he listened to the dial tone from the other end he wondered how it was one woman could cause him to go insane and act so out of character.

Furious with her and himself, he left his office and informed his secretary he was leaving for the day. Without waiting for a reply, he quickly departed, taking the elevator to the basement floors and climbing into his sleek Mercedes. He knew he needed some sort of release, some understanding and compassion on his part from the entire situation. So he did the only thing that could come to mind at such a time.

He drove down to the docks, parking near the water and making his way down the crowded boardwalk. The day had dawned warm, with the sun steadily climbing into the sky as the morning chill passed and the early noon warmth came in its place. The breeze from the sea felt refreshing, and the sight of the clear waters allowed him to relax muscles he hadn't realized were tense.

He spotted the sign up ahead: 'Stanford and Knight.' The building was much larger now, having expanded in the past two years due to booming business that Greg and Darien had handled expertly together. The two made quite a team, with Darien's sharp mind and Greg's clever hands. He had never believed that this business of their's would fail, but had known from the first it would succeed. He knew personally what excellent, yet dangerous men these two had been during their time in Europe when they had raced boats on the circuit. Darien had used it as an escape from the life he'd had here in Monterey; Greg had done it for the pure thrill of the win.

He found both of these men in Greg's office, where they stood studying the outline of a smooth schooner Greg was blue printing together. He found it an amusing sight to see how different they appeared when standing next to each other; Darien dressed in a well cut, extremely expensive business suit, Greg wearing a faded New York Yankees T-shirt and ripped jeans.

But despite these differences they argued over the design Greg was creating together, pointing at the blue prints and gesturing with their hands.

"Its a suggestion Greg, only a suggestion." Darien's voice was calm, as precise and smooth as the man. Ken imagined this was the tone he used when arguing a case in the courtroom, never once losing his temper or allowing any type of annoyance to surface. "If you weren't so temperamental about your designs we wouldn't get into these arguments on such a regular basis."

Ken distinctly heard the pop of Greg's knuckles at this comment. "Temperamental?" He straightened slowly, his hands forming fists at his sides. "Look, why don't you take your suggestions and shove them up your-"

He stepped forward, clearing his throat and swallowing the chuckle that nearly emerged. "Gentlemen, I think its a little early in the day to be spilling blood already." He gave them both a charming smile when they aimed those scowls at him. "At least wait until after lunch, that is."

The scowl disappeared from Darien's handsome face, replaced with a quick grin. "Ken, good to see you. What brings you here?"

"I thought I would come by and see if you guys wanted to go for some drinks later and watch the Dodger game tonight."

"Sounds like a great idea. I'll have to call Serena and let her know."

Greg studied him, smirking suddenly. "Look at you two pretty boys, you make a nice Kodak picture in your expensive tailor suits and ties."

Ken arched one brow. "And you look like a Marlboro ad."

"Women prefer real men to girly boys." He flexed his muscles to prove his point, biceps bulging.

"Rough night Ken?" Darien ignored Greg, studying instead the shadows over the man's face, noting how miserable the golden eyes appeared.

He let out a quick, humorless laugh. "That's putting it mildly." He rubbed one hand down his face. "You guys got any coffee around here?"

"Darien made it, so it probably tastes like bark." Greg merely grinned when Darien sent him one long, cool look. "Help yourself."

The coffee was a temporary relief for the fatigue beating at him, as well as the miserably long, sleepless night he'd endured due to thinking of only Lita. He couldn't remember a time in his past when a woman had ever affected him to such an extent.

"So Ken, how was Mexico?" Greg asked innocently, grunting and rubbing his side when Darien elbowed him sharply.

"Interesting." He turned back to them, holding a steaming cup of black coffee in his hand. "I'm sure you already knew that."

"Greg's just being nosy Ken, don't pay any attention to him."

He held up his free hand. "No, it's all right. After everything you two heard last night I'm sure your curious." He took a sip of the coffee, nearly choked on it. "Fucking shit, this does taste like bark."

"What did I tell you?"

"If you two don't like it, then don't drink it. I think its just fine." Secretly Darien knew he wouldn't touch it either.

He set the coffee aside, instead slipping his hands into the pockets of his suit. "Lita lied to me. She told me her name was Vanessa and she never attempted to tell me the truth, even after she knew who I was."

Darien and Greg exchanged a silent glance. "Well that's Lita." Greg spoke lightly, noting how Ken stiffened at the comment.

"Does that excuse her humiliation of me?" The wound was still raw and throbbing to his ego. "I was just a toy she enjoyed for two days, then discarded as soon as it became a nuisance."

"Hold on just a minute." Darien was shaking his head even as Ken prepared to launch into the abuse she had put him through. "I can see where your coming from with this, but there was something different in her last night." He and Greg had both agreed that Ken hadn't been the only one affected by those days in Mexico.

"I saw a woman who didn't give a damn about me, and who walked away from me the same way she had done only the night before." The pain of that was still fresh, but it was the memory of how close she'd come to bringing him to his knees that had his insides tightening with unease.

Greg studied how agitated the other man appeared, debating for a moment. "Well forget her then. What's two days anyway? Whatever happened to Francine, the politicians daughter? She's more your type anyway, right?"

Ken turned a blank look toward him, fumbling through the haze of emotions clouding his mind and heart to remember who it was he spoke of. "Francine?" The image came in a quick flash, a tall, slim blonde with clear blue eyes and skin like porcelain. "She's in Paris. She should be returning tomorrow, I believe."

"There you go. Lita's totally not your type, she'd drive you crazy within a week. Just spend some time with Francine and you'll forget Lita in no time." Greg merely smiled at Darien's questioning look.

"Your right. Francine and I are perfect for each other. We're extremely compatible and she doesn't cause me any headaches." The reasoning of it was perfect to his mind. "She doesn't demand anything from me that I can't give and she would never cause me to lose my temper."

"Right, right. Listen, lets go get something to eat, I'm starved. You can treat Ken as a payment for our great advice." The questioning look had shifted to respectful approval, as he and Darien grinned at one another behind Ken's back.

Francine was perfect for him. They had enjoyed one another's company on several occasions before they had each departed, him for Milan and her for Paris. They had agreed they would see each other again when they arrived back in Monterey and had kept minimal contact in the past three weeks.

But even with all of these sensible solutions, he couldn't summon even a tiny speck of interest for Francine now.

He wanted Lita, goddamn it. It was her he wanted to take with a raw fury such as he had never known. It was her sultry, erotic face that caused his knees to tremble and a desire that boiled like an incurable poison to race through his blood.

He swept a hand through his hair, swearing beneath his breath. "It's no use."

"What was that?"

"The woman put me under some spell." Ken turned back to them, oblivious to the silent communication that had been going on behind his back between them. "I don't want Francine, I want Lita."

Darien came forward, clapping one hand on his shoulder in sympathy. "I know the feeling. I think some lunch and a beer might help."

"We'll call it a day a little early and have those drinks. I'll call Amy on the way and let her know." Greg spoke as Darien ushered Ken from his office, turning and locking the door behind him.

"Thanks. I knew I'd get some understanding from you guys."

:

She spoke with her boss first thing in the morning from National Geographic, listening with vague interest as he complimented her and her team on their work while they had been in Mexico. It was while she listened to him drone on and on about how important this research was and how brilliant the photos had been, that he mentioned in passing she wouldn't be required to be leaving for her next assignment for another six to eight weeks.

This bit of information had frustrated her, but she couldn't argue with her boss on the decision. It was a break for her, he told her in jovial tones, unaware that she was currently gripping the phone hard enough to break it. She should appreciate the time and spend it with her family.

Right, she thought snidely, spending it with her family when Ken was prancing around them was the perfect idea.

Its not that she was afraid of him. No way, that would mean she was some sort of coward and there was no way in hell she was. She had encountered the most dangerous predators on her travels, trudged through the jungles of Africa, and spent the night in a haunted alley way in Europe, where it was rumored people had died of the black plague and still haunted the area. She had seen and heard more then most people ever would in their lifetime.

She was just being cautious. This was an excellent form of reasoning for her when Serena called and invited her over to her home for dinner and movies, stating Amy was coming as well because Darien and Greg would be watching the Dodger game that night. She considered it a very smooth move for her to make sure Ken was with them and wouldn't just 'happen' to drop by again.

She did her own duty and stopped by the store to buy a twelve pack, juice for Serena, and some chips and dip. When she arrived at Serena's home she found them arguing over what movie to watch first while they settled their sons in D.C.'s nursery to watch Shrek 2. D.C. was standing between them, gazing up at his mother and pulling on her slacks, repeating 'Momma' while the twins toddled behind him on unsteady legs about the room.

It was an amusing sight and she stood in the doorway watching them, chuckling when the twins each gripped one of Amy's legs and nearly sent her tumbling. "Tucker and Roman Knight! How many times do I have to tell you two not to grab me like that?" There was no heat in the reprimand, instead a mere tint of exasperation.

"What is it baby?" Serena finally looked down at her son, who's handsome little face could still send a jolt through her at how alike father and son looked.

"Daddy!"

"He'll be home later baby." Serena assured him, glancing toward the doorway and finally spotting Lita. "Your here! Oh thank God, maybe you can convince Amy we should watch Roman Holiday before Pretty Woman."

Lita slid her tongue along her teeth, smiling slowly. "I don't know, its a pretty tough decision. Richard Gere is sexy as hell in those suits, but Gregory Peck is a classically handsome guy."

"Richard Gere couldn't be as handsome and charming as Gregory Peck no matter how hard he tried." Serena shot this at Amy, the three little boys all shouting with joy behind them when Shrek flashed onto the screen, immediately capturing their attention.

Amy rolled her eyes as she kissed her sons, turning and striding from the room. "I refuse to argue over this with you Serena." She stopped at the door. "After all, their's no accounting for true taste."

Outraged, her cheeks blooming with color, Serena quickly kissed her own son and raced after Amy. "Come back here! You can't tell me something like that and just walk away right after!"

Lita watched them disappear down the hall, then turned back to the boys. "Surprise guys." She produced a bag of cookies she had been hiding behind her back, smiling when they squealed with delight. "Just keep it down, ok? Your mom's will skin me alive if they know about this." She opened the bag for them, placing it between them to share.

She admired the three boys for a moment, as handsome and charming as their fathers, before she turned and left the room to join Amy and Serena in the kitchen. They were no longer arguing, but laughing uproariously, Amy settled in a seat at the counter while Serena prepared pasta salad.

"What's the joke?" She went to the refrigerator and took out one of the beers from the twelve pack she'd purchased, popping it open and taking a long drink.

"I was just telling Amy how much fun her brother is to play jokes on." Serena raised one brow at Amy, smiling when the other woman nodded in silent agreement. "So Lita, now that we finally have you here, would you mind filling us in on exactly what happened between you and Ken in Mexico?"

Lita rolled her eyes. "I should of known. You two just have to get into everyone else's business, don't you?"

"Not everyone." Amy smiled brightly at her. "Just yours."

She grunted in response. "Yea, whatever. Look, I really don't want to talk about it." She leaned against the counter, suddenly intent on studying her beer.

Amy glanced at Serena, eyebrows raised in surprise. "Really? That's funny, you usually enjoy bragging about your latest lover."

"Ken and I aren't lovers. We just spent two measly days together in Mexico and he-," she halted, irritated because they were both staring at her in utter shock. "Oh stuff it."

"You two didn't...are you serious?" Serena was staring at her friend in open mouthed shock. "I assumed you did because of the way you guys were all over each other last night."

Lita threw her hands up in frustration. "Holy shit, you guys should have taken a picture while you were at it."

"Now this makes things completely different." Amy murmured, watching her friend carefully. "If he had meant nothing to you, you would definitely have slept with him. Which leads me to believe that there is indeed something there." She leaned across the counter toward her. "Am I right?"

Lita refused to answer that question, even to herself. "Your making too much of this."

"Am I?"

"Don't start your psychiatrist bull with me Amy! Answering everything with a question." She took another drink, hoping the cool liquid would calm her suddenly jumping nerves. "He's a rich boy, a big shot society prick used to money and blondes. He's not my type."

"It sounds like your trying to convince yourself more then us." Serena raised her hands in defense when Lita shot her a fierce glare. "Hey, I'm just saying."

"Can't we just watch these damn movies already? I didn't come here to be interrogated by you two, I came to eat and relax!" She was shouting as she left the kitchen and headed toward the living room, leaving Serena and Amy behind.

"She's afraid of him." Serena whispered, looking at Amy. "She's afraid of her feelings for him."

Amy nodded. "It worries me. Lita's never loved any man, never even cared for one, imagine having one come into her life and suddenly make her feel things she'd denied herself in only two days?"

Serena blew out a breath. "Yea, your right. But I'm glad. Its about time she met someone who could show her how wonderful it is to love. And besides that, I've always thought Ken would be perfect for her. He's smooth enough to get around her, smart enough to keep her guessing, and strong enough to match that temper of hers."

"Yes, he is." Amy's calm blue eyes met Serena's, and they were filled with concern. "But is she brave enough to let him?"

:

They had watched Roman Holiday first, eating from the chips and dip she'd brought for them, then the pasta salad Serena had prepared for them. She'd been able to relax for a good portion of the movie, until Serena and Amy had once again began drilling her for information.

She had to admit she was surprised they had waited that long during the movie until they began their snooping once again. She figured they had felt some guilt in questioning her as soon as she'd arrived and had therefor agreed to give her some space. Of course, space for them meant forty five minutes of allowing questions and endless curiosity to build, until they'd both been unable to hold back and had sprung her once again.

But even she knew she'd enjoyed spending the evening with them. Being with them relaxed her, it always had and always would. Just hearing them laugh, cry, or even nag at her sent a smooth ripple of peace through her mind and body. There was no one else on earth who could do that for her.

Even as the thought occurred to her, she knew it was no longer true. Spending those days with Ken had made her realize he could bring her the same emotions as well.

She'd given Serena and Amy the most minimal amount of information, amused by the tantrums Serena had thrown over this and the utter frustration it had caused Amy. If they were going to hound her then she was going to pick the time and place herself of when she would tell them.

Secretly she knew she couldn't talk about it just yet because it brought too much anger, and pain with it.

She parked her truck in the darkened structure of her apartment building, sliding out and making her way toward the stairs that led to her apartment. It was late, around midnight she guessed, but still warm out. She had only allowed herself two beers because she knew she would be driving home and although she could handle her drinking, she was not going to allow herself to be that irresponsible.

She was approaching the steps when she heard a slight rustling sound, then the footsteps of someone approaching her from behind. She knew the people who lived in this complex didn't usually stay out this late and in that moment all of the stories of women being raped or abused came flooding into her mind in one panicked moment.

Swallowing the fear coating her throat, forcing herself to be calm, she waited until she heard the footsteps just behind her until she swung around, her fist stretched out to give a good right hook to the unknown intruder.

Her arm was fended off as if it were a mere fly, then her shoulders were caught in a grip like iron. Terrified but determined to fight back, she began to struggle even as the hold on her arms tightened painfully.

"Let me go you bastard!" Even as she spoke the words she was looking up at him, and found the rest of what she'd been about to say dying out in shock.

"Nice try, but my reflexes are a little faster." Ken spoke grimly, shaking her once when she could only stare at him. "What's wrong Lita, have I actually left you speechless?"

Recovering quickly from her stupor, she shoved his hands away from her. "What the hell are you doing here?"

His jaw tightened, the golden eyes hardening. "I think you know."

"Get the hell out of here before I call the cops!"

"No chance." Even in anger she was beautiful, those green eyes sparking flames, that sensual face captivating him beneath the glow of the moon. She was so gorgeous, so ethereal to him, he spoke without fully comprehending the riot of thoughts and emotions racing through him. "I've been able to think of nothing but you all day. I inhale and its your scent; I touch and its you I feel." He reached out and slid his hands along her arms, moving in until he was speaking against her temple, vaguely aware of the shudder that passed through her. "I want you so goddamn much Lita, its eating me from the inside out."

She shook her head sharply, unable to resist when his arms slid around her waist and held. "No, I don't want this."

He chuckled quietly, idly caressing her back with one hand, the other cupping the back of her neck and forcing her eyes to his. "You know you don't mean that."

It was the smug arrogance in his tone that had her back stiffening against his hand, yanking herself out of his arms. "Did you come here to insult me again? Is that why your here?" She turned away from him; looking at those superb features hurt her more then she cared to admit. "I think we said everything we needed to last night."

He willed himself to be patient, to remember that although she had lied to him and hurt him, he had hurt her last night as well. "I don't think we did." He moved forward and gently placed his hands on her shoulders, ignoring how she tensed at his touch. "We need to talk Lita."

He spoke quietly, but the iron beneath the words showed he would not take no for an answer. She could honestly say she would have preferred remaining angry with him, hurt by what he'd told her last night, and in the firm belief that he'd come to regard her as just another wild, ill bred woman he'd had fun with for two days. She'd nearly convinced herself he would, and that she would go on living her life as it had been and forget about him, remembering him only as a slick, rich bastard she could add to her list of men.

She could still walk away, she mused in silence, and quickly dismissed the thought with disgust. Run away, not walk, she corrected. She had only run from two people in her life in the past: her mother and Chad. She had sworn to herself after running from Chad that she would never allow herself to take the chicken shit way out of her problems again. She would face this because she was no coward, and she would handle him as easily as she had handled all of the others who had come and gone from her life.

And yet, even as she turned to face him, she could feel her heart hammering against her ribs as a sudden chill passed over her, as if spiders legs crawled over her and left her with a terrible sense of foreboding.

Raising her chin and meeting his intense gaze, her tone was steady and firm, and showed none of the agitation she felt underneath. "All right, fine."

He bit back the smile that nearly came at the defiant, almost challenging look she was giving him. Jesus, what a woman. "Will you ask me up?"

This time he was challenging her, clearly, raising one brow in question. Leaning forward suddenly, bringing her mouth close enough to have those golden eyes narrowing sharply, nostrils flaring as a stallions did when scenting its mate, she spoke softly. "No, not tonight. But maybe someday." Her lips came closer, until she could feel his warm breath blowing rapidly against her and his hands moving to grip her waist.

Then, with a sudden laugh, she turned and left him aching beneath the stars, mounting the steps to her apartment.

He stared after her, struggling to control his body and the fierce desire she'd left in him. Shoving his hands into the pockets of his suit, he called out to her. "Lita!" She turned back to him, waiting. "We will talk. I'll come by for you tomorrow, seven, for dinner." When she opened her mouth to argue, he held up one hand. "No. Seven it is." He turned to leave, then halted, looking back at her, each studying the other in the darkness of the night. "And your right about one thing Lita. You will ask me up, and it will be very, very soon."

She watched him smile slowly, then turn and leave her alone. Furious by his conceited arrogance, that her own comments had been thrown skillfully back in her face, she slammed into her apartment and swore she would forget the bastard even existed.

But when she dreamt that night, it was him she saw, holding her and telling her he loved her, answering the secret wish's that lived deep inside her heart.

:

Last Notes: That was an extremely long chapter and I seriously hope everyone was satisfied with it. I had been very behind with this story and I decided I needed to sit down and focus completely on it every chance I had. So after one month of typing like crazy and changing things here and there, this is it. I hope everyone loved it!

I apologize for the long delay and I hope no one thought I had abandoned this story. No way! Lita has been the character that I've been waiting to write about the longest because she's really the funniest, the most outgoing, and also the most complex. I think you guys can understand why I dedicated yet another portion of this chapter to a flash back in her life. In order to understand her completely, you need to see and know the things she went through as a teenager growing up.

By the way, Chad Henry will definitely be having a larger role in this story then the others. That's all I'll say on that. )

I'm currently struggling with Carnal Moon and adding to the next chapter. I have a good portion of the first part of the chapter done, but I'm very picky and I keep back tracking and changing things. I want only the best, you see. But hopefully that will be the next update. If not that one, then most likely Simply Enchanting.

Anyway, please leave me a review of what you readers thought and until next time.

: SailorPerfect :