"Yes Ethan. Fox can be your daddy. "
The sound of Theresa's voice behind me was completely and entirely unexpected. My conversation with Little Ethan had NOT been meant to be something Theresa heard, especially considering that my feelings were so strong they would probably scare her away. I mean, wouldn't you be a little apprehensive if you heard a man you only recently got to know tell your son that he loves you? I know I'd be a little freaked out if it were anyone else but Theresa.
But hadn't she said that I could be his Daddy? Didn't that mean something? Is it the slightest bit possible that Theresa returns my feelings for her? Do those tears falling down her beautiful face mean that she reciprocates? Slowly, I got to my feet and carefully placed Little Ethan on the ground beside me. I took a step toward Theresa, inhaling sharply as she looked up at me with those big brown eyes. In a few moments, I was only inches away from her, staring down at her from my staggering height. I allowed one hand to rise to facial level and wipe a freshly fallen tear from her face with my thumb.
" Theresa... I-... "
She shook her head softly and raised her own hand to clasp over mine. I sucked in another breath, grateful just to be so close to her. I'd been falling in love with Theresa for a long time now... ever since Danielle's death. Walking into the Crane Pool Area with Theresa and Little E on my heels was the worst experience of my life. Sometimes the vision of my sisters lifeless, soulless body floating face down in the pool haunts me in my dreams, constantly fighting and clawing to the surface no matter how hard I try to stuff it down again. Danielle may have been my competition in life but she was my only confidant. Growing up, she was the only one who ever knew exactly what it was like to be cast aside and forgotten. The only one who knew what it was like to live in the shadow of Prince Ethan! Sure, my other sister Vanessa lived through it... but Vanessa was always like Ethan. The preppy, do-gooder. Danielle was my other half, the female Fox Crane.
And then all of a sudden, she's dead and it's like a part of me went with her. A part of me died in that swimming pool and maybe that's why I won't go in anymore. I guess it's kind of like the aftershock of Jaw's... people are still afraid to go in the water. Maybe I'll be afraid all my life.
Have you ever heard the expression, when one door closes another one opens? I never really realized just how true that was. Danielle died and in a weird, roundabout way it brought me Theresa... a woman who I've come to love more than anyone in just three months. And although we've never spoken about it, I knew by the tears that were falling down her face that she felt the same way. Theresa, who loved me and supported me while I was grieving... who held my hand and let me sleep in her bed when the thought of sleeping in my bed alone and in mourning was just too much. Theresa, who everyone seemed to hate before knowing what truly was in her heart. But I've seen her heart and I know that I want more than anything to be in it.
While all these thoughts were running through my head, Theresa was inching towards me on her tiptoes, holding my face in her hands as she pulled me towards her. Slow but steady, our lips connected... and I shivered with the intensity of the kiss... so soft and sweet, yet the most passionate thing I could ever know. That kiss, the way her supple lips moved across mine, the way her tiny hands found their way into my hair-... I knew that I was in her heart. I wrapped my hands around her waist and ended all the space between us, refusing to think that I would ever let a person leave my life again without them knowing exactly what they mean to me.
And unbeknownst to us, Little Ethan Crane was staring up at us with his arms folded and his nose scrunched up, one impatient foot tapping against the carpeted floor of the playroom. After a moment, he released an impatient sigh.
"Fox, stop kissing my mommy! I wanna open my presents... "
So, technically this scene is from Danielle's Point of View, but that will be hard to acknowledge until the end because she is just observing this scene.
"Open this one now Ethan. "Theresa offered softly as she pushed the beautifully wrapped silver and red present towards her son and ruffled his hair lovingly. "This one if from your Uncle Luis and Aunt Sheridan. "
Little Ethan grinned as his stubby little fingers quickly ripped and tore at the wrapping of the present, his little cheeks greedily up turned, his eyes glinting with that typical Crane hunger for possession. In an older Crane man, such as Julian and Alistair, it was different but in the eyes of my young nephew, it was nothing but the cutest thing I had ever seen. The boy definitely was good looking and I could tell he would be a heartbreaker, just like his father and half-brother when he grows up and into his shoes. 'Cuz hell are they big shoes to fill... but I think this boy will rise to the occasion. His got a little Crane inside of him and a lot of Lopez-Fitzgerald. That's a lot of Irish and Latino blood... a lot of fire. I think the kid will be just fine.
Tonight, this morning... Christmas. And it was the perfect, picturesque Christmas. It was almost sickeningly sweet the way everything seemed to fit but considering I can't be in the mix just yet, I'm not one to complain. It's good to see Fox so happy, he really deserves it. I mean, if I can't have the happiness that I want so badly, I'm going to do everything in my power to make sure that he is.
That's probably why I was so pleased to see things unfolding the way they were on that Christmas morning.
A roaring fire crackled softly in the hearth of the fireplace and lit the Christmas tree in a beautiful, haunting glow. The strings of Christmas lights twinkled softly as they wound their way up the tree, coming to rest on the glowing white angel that topped the evergreen. All around the tree sat beautifully wrapped presents in all color and sizes, awaiting their owners hands to descend down upon them and unmask the gift lying in-wait within. Little Ethan sat in footy pajamas and all on the carpet right in front of the hearth, directly in front of his mother. And even as I watched from my hiding spot within the mansion, the newly arrived form of my brother descended down upon them and handed Theresa a mug of steaming hot chocolate as he sat down beside her and watched Little Ethan continuously rip each present to pieces, squealing with delight as the contents came into view.
"It's the Monster 545x race car I wanted! Look Mommy, look! "
Theresa smiled warmly at Little Ethan and nodded, regarding the remote control car with a nod. "Wow Ethan, you better make sure to thank your Aunt Sheridan and Uncle Luis, hmn? "
"Yeah mommy, I will. "
"Hey Little E... open that big one with the red bow over there. "Fox grinned. "That's from me. "
I watched in near delight as Theresa smiled warmly at Fox and kissed him quickly on the cheek before he got to his feet and lifted the huge box towards Little Ethan. With a huge grin, Ethan tore into the present as fast as possible, all his little fingers flying until finally he revealed a shiny red battery operated convertible mini-car. The elation on Little Ethan's face was really amazing, the way every inch of his face seemed to glow as his moved towards the car as fast as his tiny legs could carry him, hopped over the side door and slid into the leather seat.
"FOX! "Theresa cried playfully, batting the tall man in the arm. " You're turning my son into a miniature version of you! "
Fox nodded, unashamed by this. "You better believe it. Hey little man, check in the glove box... "
Little Ethan gave Fox a confused look before leaning over and opening the box with the silver key that was dangling from the hole. He fished around inside for a moment before retrieving something with his hands and pulling it onto his lap. Quickly the small boy unfolded the leather jacket, eyed it for a moment and then swung it around his shoulders quickly, pushing his arms through the holes. His hands next moved to the other part of the present still lying on his lap until he brought them up to facial level and put them on.
My four-year old nephew sat in the leather interior of his new, bright-red mini convertible, wearing a leather jacket and a pair of biker shades over his baseball pajamas.
Oh yeah, my brother had definitely done the impossible. But it wasn't over yet and that was undeniable as Fox strode over towards Ethan and ruffled the younger boy's hair upwards.
"There. "Fox said, stepping back to take in his masterpiece. "It's complete now. "
Theresa was nearly convulsing now, unable to control the squeals of laughter that were escaping her perfectly proportioned lips. It was probably just the sight of her little boy all dolled up as if he were about to go out and pick up some chicks for a night on the town. The prospect of such a thing actually happened terrified her but the sight of her little son so dressed up offered the humility that she needed after being the wife of Julian Crane for such a long time now.
"What? You think that's funny Mrs. Crane? "Fox mocked her as he took a step-towards her now. "Hey Big E, I think she's laughing at us big man. "
"Uh-oh. That's not good mommy. "
" Oh--... "Theresa continued to laugh as she attempted to speak through her laughter. "Why is that? "
"When you laugh at Crane's, dangerous things ensue. "
And the tickle fight ensued. But I, of course, lost interest. I do love my brother but honestly, there is just so much I can stomach before I boil over. So instead of watching Fox lunge towards Theresa and began to tickle her, I took a step from the shadows and attempted to gain Little Ethan's attention. When those familiar eyes settled down upon me I put a single finger to my lips and then waved my hand, beckoning him again in my direction. Silently the little boy waddled forward until he was just a foot in front of me. One tiny finger rose up and then found it's way to my forehead, prodding me hard.
" Ethan... what the hell? "I hissed. "That hurt. "
"Sorry, Auntie Dani. I'm just making sure you're not a ghost. "
I smiled warmly at the boy, despite my irritation at being poked at. " Listen little man. I need you to do something for me, okay? "
He hesitated for a moment, his eyes falling towards the now intertwined forms of Fox and Theresa, who had apparently forfeited the tickle battle for a battle of the tongue's... and then back to me.
"Auntie Dani... I already did what you told me to do last time. Look, Mommy and F-... Mommy and Daddy are together now. "
I ruffled the kids' hair. "Yeah kiddo, I know. Great Job... you didn't tell them that you saw me did you? "
"Nope! "He replied proudly. "Kept it a secret like you said. "
"Good Boy. But I just need you to do one more thing.... "
Playground school bell rings again;
"C'mon Theresa. We'll go for a swim in the pool and you can let of some steam. I know how riled up you get when you see Ethan and Gwen together that way. "
"I don't know, Fox. Little Ethan has to go to bed soon and I promised to read him a bedtime story. "
Fox Crane sighed in an almost defeated sense as he leaned idly against the oak doorway of his former bedroom, eyeing his beautiful stepmother with a soft sense of scrutiny. Nicholas Crane stepped forward swiftly and grabbed Theresa by the wrist, slowly tugging her forward towards him with a satisfied grin.
"If you come with me for half an hour we'll come back and I'll help you read Ethan a story... C'mon, I know you want too... I know it. "He smirked. "No woman can ever resist the urge to see me shirtless and wet. "He winked suggestively at her and turned to leave, knowing with a certain arrogance that she would indeed meet him by the pool.
Quickly he changed into his swim shorts, discarding his day clothes in the hamper in the corner of the room. Silently he slipped from his room again and walked languidly towards the familiar area of the poolroom. The room and the things that you were required to wear in it would create the perfect scenery for Fox to begin to insinuate his motives towards Theresa. It was now around ten o'clock and the stars would be shining softly in the clear sky, little rays of starlight falling swiftly down from the sky and illuminating the pool in a shimmering sense of romance. The water would make for a rather sensual surrounding. The bottle of wine chilling in a bucket of ice near two expensive wine flutes would only intensify that feeling. Plus, Fox couldn't think of a thing he'd rather do then watch Theresa get wet in a bathing suit.
Rain clouds come to play again.
As he reached for the doorknob of the poolroom a soft, barely noticeable shiver ran down his spine. He stopped dead, feeling the hair on the back of his neck twitch and then stand on end. He inhaled a sharp breath, his mind racing as he attempted to shake a sudden feeling of sickness that was washing over him. What could have possibly brought on this sudden feeling? It wasn't nervousness... that was for damn sure. Fox had never, ever in his life been nervous about interactions with women before... so it couldn't possibly be that. Pushing through the awkward feeling, Fox reached for the handle again, turned it and stepped inside.
The inky blackness seemed to consume him and once again, Fox was awash with a sense of apprehensive fear. His hands groped frantically along the wall for the switch that would put an end to the darkness surrounding him; his mind urged himself to remain calm, even though a seemingly unfounded fear was now seeded deep within his heart. An audible sigh was released as he flicked the switch and the swirling lights of the Crane Pool shone bright upon the tragic scene that his eyes had not yet consumed.
Has no one told you she's not breathing?
But it did not take long for Fox to drink in his surroundings; for his agile mind to take in the severity of the unfolding situation. His breathing seized... he couldn't tear his eyes away from the seemingly undisturbed surface of the water; from the pallid body floating face down in the frigid waters. The figure of the body was lean and tall but undeniably feminine... the skin pale, a twinge of blue sickeningly apparent, even from the distance that Fox stood. Locks of golden blond fanned out beside the body, hiding the identity of the person from view. But that didn't matter... even though the face wasn't visible, the identity of the body was easily apparent. Fox finally inhaled a breath, walking in large strides towards the edge of the pool.
His heart constricted painfully as he noted the white cancer stick that floated just beside her, tiny flecks of ash surrounding it like a menacing halo.
Hello, I'm your mind giving you...
Someone to talk to;
Fox dropped to his knees just as Theresa entered the dimly lit poolroom, an almost mischievous smile apparent across her lips. A smile that quickly faded as her eyes adjusted to the light; taking in a heartbroken, sobbing Fox Crane strewn across the floor and the floating lifeless body of Danielle Crane, face down in the blue waters. Theresa sucked in a breath but found that her feet where moving her towards Fox swiftly; even though she couldn't remember commanding them to do so. He was in her arms even before she realized the severity of the situation. Danielle Crane; the one time possible and only woman heir to the Crane throne was dead.
If I smile and don't believe;
soon I know I'll wake from this dream.
Don't try to fix me, I'm not broken!
Hello, I'm the lie, living for you so you can hide...
Neither Fox nor Theresa could remember just how the paramedics were called, nor when. Frantically the emergency workers rushed around them, ignorant to the soft, never subsiding sobs of Danielle's eldest brother, Nicholas. And when the tallest, staunchest paramedic trotted grimly towards them, neither Fox nor Theresa heard his words, or the words that Danielle's father, Julian Crane spoke in return. Both of them were silent, never wavering in their grief; in their trauma. Horrible as it was, both of them knew they would never forget this night.
The visions of Danielle's corpse; her murderer floating seemingly innocent by her side, the feeling of angst that welled up in their hearts; were all things they'd be dreaming about for years to come.
Oh, but how little they really knew...
Suddenly I know I´m not sleeping;
Hello, I´m still here,
All that's left of yesterday.
"Tabitha! Would you give it a rest? "
Tabitha Lenox, the centuries old scourge of Harmony looked up from the surface of her scrying bowl, sighing with frustration as her eyes settled upon the frame of her young roommate, Kay Bennett. The old woman frowned in deep lines at the much younger girl and then shook her head, turning her attention back towards the bowl but inviting Kay forward with an inviting wave of her bangle adorned arms.
"Kay! Come here will you? Maybe if you see what I see you'll finally shut your trap. "Tabitha chuckled appreciatively at her own insult as Kay rolled her eyes and stepped forward, rolling up her sleeves and gazing almost irritated into the shimmering surface of the dark liquid. No images were apparent and the much younger woman began to get less and less patient by the second. Just as she was about to stomp away, Tabitha raised her arm and waved it over the bowl. Images wavered into existence even before her arm had cleared the top of the bowl.
Whatever it was that Kay saw in the bowl was enough to expel a shocked gasp from her glossed lips as she stepped backward and squinted her eyebrows, as if attempting to evaluate the vision unfolding in front of her.
"Do you know who that is? "Tabitha ventured, not bothering to look into bowl herself.
" Sure... that's Rebecca and Julian Crane. "Kay squinted again with her other eye and leaned in a tad bit closer. "Is Rebecca wearing a donkey suit? "
Tabitha's eyes went wide for a moment and she furrowed her brown in disgust, trying to keep out the visions of her own recent roll in the hay with the surprisingly virile son of Alistair Crane. Impatiently, Tabitha waved her arms again and the clashing of her bracelets singled the arrival of the proper image.
"There! "Tabitha exclaimed, triumphant. "Do you know who THAT is? "
Kay eyed the bowl with scrutiny for a moment, as if searching her memory for the identity of the young woman speeding down the streets of Harmony in stealthy black mustang. Moments later, a light shone in Kay's eyes as it dawned on her who she was watching. She let out a confused squeal as she reached towards the counter, where she retrieved a magazine she had picked up while she was doing the groceries. She slapped it down beside the scrying bowl and pressed a fingernail to the glossy cover.
"LOOK! "She cried.
Tabitha walked around to Kay's end of the counter and read the headings.
6 Moves to Make your Man Moan.
This Fall's HOTTEST Fashions: Straight off the Runways.
How to save your Money for those Shoes you've been sweating.
Rebellious Hair? You can tame it in these five easy steps.
And finally, at the bottom of the magazine, in large block letters:
The Life and Times of the Fiery, dearly Departed Crane Daughter.
Beneath all the text, a large glossy, black and white photograph of Danielle gazed enchantingly up and them. Trademark brown eyes were rimmed in lines of kohl, smoldering up at the camera and entrancing the readers of the magazine. No smile accentuated the young woman's aristocratic features; highlighted the prominent jaw line and high cheekbones. The corners of her supple, sensuous lips were slightly up-turned in the familiar Crane smirk: calculating and arrogant. Long blonde locks fell just below her back in cascading, graceful waves, offsetting the slim contours of her neck as it glittered beneath a thick diamond choker. A simple black fedora perched atop her head and fell low, masking one eye from view in an unfamiliar sense of mystery. The young woman's tall yet elegantly feminine figure was draped in an expensive looking black pin stripe Chanel suit, accentuated by the black stiletto boots that covered her feet. She stood on top of a desk in what appeared to be Julian's den, one foot strategically placed upon a large world globe, with the a large Crane Industries logo imprinted across the front.
"This picture is strangely fitting. "Tabby remarked with a witting arch of her eyebrow. Kay seemingly ignored her.
"DANIELLE CRANE. "She squealed. "I thought she was dead! Cancer, wasn't it? Dead in the Crane pool. "
The witch smiled an almost admiring smile as her gaze returned first to the glossy black and white photo and then delved back into the depths of her bowl.
"The little fire-cracker even had me fooled. "Tabitha admitted. "I've never seen anyone more ambitious... besides me, of course. "
Kay stuttered to speak; to find the words to respond to Tabitha's hints. How could this be? And if the only explanation that was forming in Kay's mind was true, why did it make Tabby so happy? Oh yes, that's right... she's a thousands of years old witch who is so intent on destroying the Crane's that watching a Crane destroy the empire from inside out would give her more satisfaction than anything ever could.
"B-b-b... "Kay swallowed. "But how? "
"Miss Crane obviously staged it all. I must say, her acting abilities are commendable. "
Kay was apparently shocked. "You evil witch. "Tabitha grinned as Kay realized that she had done little to insult Tabby, seeing as she had simply just stated the truth. "She faked her death? That's horrible. Her poor brother... Nicholas, I believe? He was absolutely devastated. "
Tabitha's eyes glinted at the mere memory of Fox's unspeakable volumes of pain.
"Merely an added bonus. "She paused for a moment, watching the inky depths swirl around as new visions formed. "But that's besides the point! Don't you want to know what she has planned for that bloody empire? She has trump cards up her sleeve that will set the Crane's to crash and burn. "
Kay sighed, defeated. "Pray tell, Tabitha. "
"Well... "Tabitha shook her head. "I think it's better if I show you. "
Rebecca Crane giggled as Julian chased her around their large master bedroom, dressed in a long floral print pink dress, and with a big bow tied around his neck and a long sheepherder's tool. Sure, they have their fairytales and Nursery rhymes a tad bit mixed up, but they get points for effort.
I mean, when you're that old you must do what you can to make sure that he can get it up, right?
Now, if we ignore that disgusting comment I just made about my father's virile condition or lack there of, we can focus on what's about to happen next. This is the best part to tell you the truth.
And it isn't just happening here.
Sweaty and spent, Rebecca Crane rolled over her husband and reached for her vibrating cell phone. Allowing it to ring in her hand for a moment, she flipped it open and pressed it to her ear.
"Rebecca Crane. "A hoarse, rasping voice queried. Rebecca squinted her eyebrows and futilely nodded.
"Uh, yes. How may I help you? "
"I know. "
"Um, what? "
" I know about you. "The voice paused. "I know about what you did. "
Rebecca swallowed roughly. "What I did? I'm not sure what you're talking about. "
"You killed him. Does your daughter know? Hasn't she wondered? "
Rebecca seized to breath, to shocked to muster the effort.
"But he's not the only person you've killed, is he? Thankfully Mrs. Crane is a little more resilient than your late husband. "
"I ... I never. I d-d-... "
"Are you denying that it was you and Ms.Winthrop that sent the tabloid? Go ahead, deny it. We have all the proof we'll ever need. Your rein as First Lady of the Crane Empire ends now. "
The voice offered an arrogant, husky laugh; undeniably masculine.
"'Till tonight then, Becks. "
Becky hung up the phone quickly, completely terrified and completely unknowing. Rebecca Hotchkiss Crane was completely oblivious to the fact that in a select few households in Harmony, the exact same thing was happening... Further inside the Crane mansion, another phone was ringing. In the Bennett house, the cordless phone that was cradled in my mother's apron pocket let out a shrill ring. The phone in Dr. Russell's office chirped, awakening the doctor from a moment of much-needed slumber. Oh, revenge would be sweet.
And he really pulled it off, didn't he? I had doubts about allowing him to do this for me. He was supposed to be just like the others, believing, unknowing... part of my illusion.
But then again, there is just something about him. He's unlike any man I've ever known, so able to capture me with just a gentle transition of his facial features, with the brush of his fingertips against my skin.
I hate to admit it but I'm enraptured.
I'm in love.
Now, I know many people would believe that this is the beginning of the taming of Danielle Victoria Crane.
And to those poor misguided souls, I can only pray that your dirty laundry doesn't cross my path. I shan't hesitate to air it to the gathered population of Harmony.
I won't hesitate.
My middle name is Victoria for a reason.
I shall be victorious.
I want retribution.
And I'll get it if it kills me.
Tonight, this ends.