CAROLINE AND THE WAY IT WAS MEANT TO BE

I do not own "Caroline in the City," nor any Characters form the show, I have mentioned in this fanfic. CITC is the property of Three Sisters/Barron-Pennette Productions, and I'm not trying to take anything that does not belong to me. I'm just a fan who doesn't like the way the series ended, and this is how I see Caroline and Richard's life ending up, after the series finale.

Caroline and the Way It Was Always Meant To Be

A CITC Fan Fiction

By

Sandra Ferrell

Caroline awoke, to find two sets of eyes staring at her through the door to her bedroom. She smiled deeply and then held out her arms, as her twin 4-year-old daughters Laurie and Melanie ran to her and joined her on the bed. "Hello, my little darlings," she replied as she hugged them tightly to her chest. And as she held them to her, she remembered the day four years earlier, when they were born…

The moment she heard the first cry, she was happy. The doctor said, "Congratulations Caroline, Richard. It's a girl!" He then looked over to an ecstatic Richard. "Richard, would you like to cut the cord?" Richard took the scissors from the doctor and proudly cut the cord and then, re-took his place at Caroline's side. The doctor placed the wrinkled little baby onto Caroline's chest and Caroline replied, "Hello my little Melanie." She planted a gentle kiss on her head then said happily, "I'm your Mommie, and that," she replied as she pointed to Richard, "Is your daddy." Richard placed his hand on Melanie's tiny hand, right as Caroline had another contraction. A nurse took Melanie from her and the doctor replied again, "The nurse will get her cleaned up, while we concentrate on the next one. Now, are you ready to begin again?"

"As ready as I'll ever be," She replied tiredly.

Fifteen minutes later, Laurie Karinsky came into the word, the splitting image of her slightly older sister. Caroline began to cry, and Richard said in a concerned voice, "I'm sorry you're in so much pain, Caroline. I can imagine one being hard, but with two…" She took his hand in hers and kissed it gently then replied, "No Darling, I'm not crying out of pain. I'm crying because I'm so happy, and the fact they look just like their daddy," She said proudly. "From that quirky little smile of yours," She said as she placed her fingers gently across his lips. "Up to your beautiful," She said as her fingers left his lips and moved up to his nose and touched it lightly, "And strong nose."

Richard kissed Caroline on the side of the cheek and said through his own tears, "Maybe, but I am just as happy that they look like you, also. They have your beautiful red hair," He said as he ran his finger through hers, "And your beautiful and expressive eyes." And as he kissed her on the lips, there was one thing Caroline knew from that moment on; their daughters were the most precious children on the face of the earth and would become in no time, the apple of their father's eye.

As Caroline came back to the present, she realized she was right, about the twins becoming the apple of their father's eye. Richard took up with them almost immediately, and she could not have wished for a better husband and their daughters could not have wished for a better father. Breaking out of her revere, she kissed each twin on the temple and then smiled deeply at them.

"Hi Mommie," They both said in unison, smiling. Laurie continued, "Daddy said you are sick and for us to come up here and keep you company." Caroline smiled, because she knew what that meant. They were getting in his way.

"Yeah," Melanie added. "He said he was going to make you brekfas in bed for your anniersery. Mommie, what is an anniersery?"

"Oh, sweetheart," Caroline replied as she kissed them both on the side of the cheek. "An anniversary is the day a Mommie and Daddy celebrate the day they got married. And today is the day, 6 year ago, when your daddy and I got married. And we hadn't been married but a few months, when we found out we were having a baby. And do you know who that baby became?" The twins shook their heads from side to side. "The two, of you of course," She said happily and hugged them to her again.

"Oh," Both of them said together again. "But Mommie, what does celebrate mean?"

"Like your birthday, with presents and cake…"

"Yummy. Cake…" They both said. "And presents. Do we get presents," They both asked enthusiastically.

"No, your daddy and I give each other a present. But, I do have sort of a present for you. You dad and I were thinking you might like to stay at Aunt Annie and Uncle Del's tonight, so your dad and I can go out to dinner for our anniversary. How does that sound?"

"Yeah. I like to go there." Laurie replied.

"Me too," Melanie added. "Do we get to spend the night!"

"If you want to. Your daddy and I will bring you by there on our way out to eat. And if you want to spend the night I don't see a problem with that, but if you decide you do not want to, all you have to do is call and we well pick you up."

"No, I like Uncle Del. He is so funny," Laurie said giggling.

"Yes, he is that," Caroline said, smiling, as the door opened up and a voice said, "Whom is funny?"

The two girls stood up and ran to their dad Richard, who had a lap tray in his hand, and the smile on his face said it all. "Uncle Del," they both replied.

"Yes, he is, my sweethearts," he said smiling as he looked over to Caroline, and thought to himself, 'How did I get so lucky to have Caroline and these two rays of sunshine that are my beautiful daughters?' "Now," he said as he walked over to them. "Why don't you two go down and eat your breakfast? I put it on the coffee table, and the VCR is set so you can watch your favorite cartoon."

"Yea," they both said together as they rose form the bed, and as they ran out of the room and down the stairs, they were screaming, "Goody! Rug Rats!"

"Richard you are spoiling them. You know that?" She said with a wide grin.

"Who me," he said, as he placed the food try over her lap and sat down beside her and kissed her gently on the lips. "Caroline, I'm just being a dad. I can't believe how beautiful thy have become. Just like their mother," He said with love. "So, are you feeling better?"

"Yes, just a little morning sickness. But not as much as with the twins."

"So, have you told them the good news yet?"

"Well, which one?" Se said smiling at him. "Stefano will be back tomorrow from his visit with his mother, we're going tomorrow to look for a new home because we're running out of room here, or the fact that we're expecting another baby?"

"The Baby of course," He sad with pride.

"Well, I thought we might want to wait until Stefano gets back to break the news to the entire family."

"Yes, I don't think he would be too thrilled to not be here when we tell that terrific news."

Caroline kissed him on the side of the cheek then said, "So, what time do we have to be at the airport to pick him up?"

"The ETA is 11:00 tomorrow morning, but with the flights from Italy he has been on in the past, that doesn't mean much."

"Yep, I remember the last time. The twins were so excited to see him again, but fell asleep after the 2nd hour."

Richard smiled then replied, "Yeah, and I also remember he wasn't much better off himself. And in fact, I don't think he realized he was actually home in his own bed, until the twins woke him up with their infamous wake up call, the next morning."

"Yeah," Caroline replied laughing. "There would be no mistake where he was, when he was woken up with the twins jumping up and down on his bed screaming, 'Stevie! Stevie Stevie! Wake up. Stevie! Mommie is making your favorite breakfas! Stevie!'"

"Yep, that was some wake up call, and one he is still talking about today. It just goes to prove, how much they love each other."

"Yes, it does," She replied lovingly at Richard and smiled, then her expression became serious. "Richard, why doesn't Julia ever bring him back herself?" She asked sadly.

"I don't know Caroline," He said as he caressed the side of her cheek. "I don't know, in fact I will never understand why she treats him the way she does. And from what Stefano has told us about his past visits, she doesn't seem to want to have anything to do with him."

"I know, and I feel sorry for him because of her attitude toward him, but at least he knows here, we all love and care about him."

Richard smiled deeply then replied softly, "You do not know how glad I am that he has you, Caroline. A real mother like you, to love him. I know he does not get that from Julia, but I know you love him like your own, and he loves you and sees you as his mother and not Julia." Tears came to her eyes from his statement. He smiled at her again, then began to feed her breakfast, kissing her on the lips in between bites.

After she was feeling a little better, Caroline, now fully dressed, made her way down to the ever-present partner's desk. The twins were intently watching the video Richard had set up for them earlier, and Richard was dressed in a suit, sitting at his side of the Partner's desk, coloring in one of the CITC Panels.

"Richard," Caroline said, happy he was helping her out, but knowing he did not have the time. "I'll do those. You need to get going, or you're going to be late for work."

"Hey, I'm the boss. What is Sheila going to do? Fire me," He said giggling slightly.

"Maybe not, but she just might quit."

"No, she would never do that. She couldn't find a another job that pays so well, or would allow her to showcase her work."

"I am so proud of you and the gallery. I knew you could do it, but you never really believed in yourself."

"Well, that was until I met you," He said smiling at her. "And if you had not insisted I take the galley as an anniversary present…Now," He said joking, "What was the anniversary we were celebrating again?"

She poked him in the ribs then replied giggling, "Well if you don't remember…" HE cut her off with a kiss to the lips.

"AH!" He said, softly. "First kiss."

"Yeah" She said beaming. "Well, the first real kiss."

"And, thank you for believing in me, Caroline. If you had not done so, I would never be where I am today."

"Well, I had to do something with the money I got for the house in Peshtigo. What else would I do with it, besides spend it on my husband?"

"Save for our children's education?"

"Hey. We have that covered, you know that. The rest of that money is still in the savings account earmarked for the children's education, and I for one am glad we have it, because the way things are going," She said as she patted her stomach for emphasis, "We are going to need every cent."

"Yeah, I know. But look how happy they are, just watching a cartoon," He said with pride. He kissed her on the side of the cheek, then walked over to where the twins were sitting. "Ok, you two," he replied as he picked up one twin in each arm. "I have to get to work, but I want you to be good for Mommie since she is not feeling well today, and do you remember the rules?"

"Yeah, daddy," They both said together. "We do not play with your paints or your paintings, unless you are here watching us."

"Good girls," He replied as he kissed each on the side of the cheek. "I'll see you tonight when I get back home." He placed them both back down on the sofa and then, walked back to Caroline.

"Honey, I'm sorry my cousin left you hi and dry…"

"Richard, Jennifer is a very talented artist just like you, and she has to live her dream, just like you. She was almost as talented as you were as my colorist, but I am happy she finally got her big break. She deserves it, just like you did."

Richard smiled at here and then said, "So, do you have some interviews set up for today?"

"Yes, a few."

He took the chair from the other side of the desk and rolled it in front of her and sat down, then took her hands in his. "Honey," He said softly, "I can always take the day off and do the interviews for you, if you aren't up to it."

"Richard, I'm fine. I was a little sick earlier, but I am fine now. Really. And I know for a fact, you can not afford to stay here with me today, when you are expecting the reporter with the Art Review at the Gallery, in just an hour." She gave him a peck on the cheek, then replied happily, "Thank you for your concern love, but I am better, so get going before you are late."

"Ok," I'll go, if you're sure about it," He replied as he kissed her on the top of the head. He then walked over to the sofa and kissed each twin on the top of the head, then walked out the door.

As the day progressed, Caroline interviewed several applicants for the colorist job, but none of which she really believed could do the job Richard and Jennifer had done.

She was coloring in one of the panels thinking about how much she loved her strip, and it got her thinking about the past. When she and Randy were planning on marrying, he had convinced her to give up the strip and move back to Peshtigo and just be his wife. She was still trying to figure out, how he ever convinced her to give up something that she loved so much and not to work. She loved to work and in truth, she loved her comic strip and could not imagine it not being a part of her life. But Richard knew how much it meant to her and told her it would be a mistake to give up something that she loved so much, and she happily agreed. But now, "Caroline in the City" went from being a comic strip about a single woman and the many obstacles a single woman had to face during her day, to a strip about a happily married wife and mother and the funny antics that happened during her day. 'And,' she thought to herself. 'There is no loss of material with Melanie and Laurie here with me,' She thought as she looked over to the girls, who were sitting in the middle of the floor, making Tinker Toy figures.

Laurie was busy placing the last of a set of green pegs into what looked like the top part of her creation and proudly said to her sister, "This is daddy!"

"No," Melanie replied. "That's not daddy," She said matter of factly.

"And why not," Laurie said with her hands on her hips, the figure tightly gripped in her hand.

"Cause, Daddy don't got green hair," Melanie said giggling.

"Oh," Laurie said as she removed her hands from her hips and pulled out all of the green pegs from the head part and replaced them with yellow ones. "Now," Laurie said happily. "It looks like daddy."

"Yeah, and this," Melanie said as she picked up the figure she had been working on that had red pegs on the head part, "Is Mommie, cause she gots red hair just like us."

"And this," Laurie replied as she proudly showed Melanie a smaller figure with yellow pegs on the head part, "Is…"

"Stevie," Melanie screeched.

"Yeah," They both said together, "Cause he gots yellow hair just like daddy."

"Mommie," They both asked Caroline. "When is Stevie coming home?"

Caroline was so intent on her daughters interacting, she had to shake her head to come out of her revere. "What darlings?"

"Stevie," They both said together again. "When is he coming home?"

"Well, we just heard. He should be home tomorrow."

"Yea," They said together again. "WE miss him."

"WE all do sweethearts, WE all do," She replied, as the phone began to ring. Caroline found the phone and answered, "Yes. Are you calling about the colorist job? This is who? Joe?" She replied shocked. "Hold on a second," she replied as she put the phone on hold. "Ok, you two. It's getting time for lunch. I want you to go up to the bathroom in my bedroom and wash you hands."

"Ok, Mommie," They both replied, as they ran up the stairs.

After Caroline was convinced the girls were safely in the bathroom and out of earshot, she hit the hold button again. "Ok, Joe. What do you want?" She asked annoyed.

"Well, when I saw your ad in the newspaper, I decided to call and see if we could continue where we left off, since I'm older now."

"Joe, I don't know if you are aware of this or not, but I am the mother of two children and happily married to their father, Richard, and before you ask, yes it is my assistant, Richard Karinsky. So please, do not call again." She had just hung up the phone with Joe, when it rang again, this time it was Trevor asking the same question.

After she hung up the phone with Trevor and telling him the same thing she had told Joe, the phone rang again, and this time it was Randy. She thought to herself, 'Why me? Why do all the nuts decide to congregate in my tree, and no one else's?'

By the time evening came, Caroline's stomach was felling a lot better and she was glad, so she would be able to enjoy the evening Richard had planned for them. On their way to their romantic evening, they dropped off the twins at Annie and Del's then went on their way. They ate and then danced, only thinking about each other for a change. But Caroline, being the classic concerned mother, began to think about her children, and insisted she had to call and see if they were all right. Caroline knew Richard should have been disappointed that she left him at their table to use the phone, but his smile told her just the opposite was true. As she left for the lobby, he was thinking, 'She is a wonderful person, a wonderful wife and a wonderful and loving mother. How could she possibly believe I would be upset because of that?'

Out in the lobby with a phone to her ear, Annie's voice was coming from the phone saying, "Caroline, they're fine, so don't worry. We watched a Disney sing-along-tape along with popcorn, and Del and I put them to bed about 20 minutes ago, so do not worry. They're fine. I had just checked on them when you called and they were sleeping like a couple of babies. So, you and Richard have a nice anniversary, and we will bring them to your place in the morning. But," She said jokingly. "Just the thought of Richard doing well, you know what, still makes my skin crawl!"

"Annie," Caroline replied. "Just remember part of his DNA is what produced those two beautiful children sleeping in your guest bedroom?"

"I know. I was just joking. See you tomorrow, Caroline," She said with laughter in her voice.

"So," Richard replied as she walked back to their table. "Are they all right?" He asked lovingly.

"Yes, I just had to check on them," She replied as she sat down in her chair next to him. "I hope you aren't upset."

"Caroline," He replied as he placed his hands on top of hers. "I could never be upset because you are a concerned mother," He said with emotion. "Now I've already paid the bill, so what do you say we continue this celebration at home?" He said grinning.

"Yes," She said smiling. "Let's."

As they made their way into the loft, they were kissing each other with a passion they had been unable to express anywhere but their bedroom for some time, because of their children. Richard took off her wrap and began to kiss her shoulder, as they made their way up the stairs to their bedroom.

Later on that night, they were bellowing in the afterglow, just holding each other in their arms, looking into each other's eyes. Richard took her face between his hands and kissed her on the lips then replied, "Do you have any idea how much I love you?" He said as he kissed her left eye lid, "How much I cherish you," He replied as he kissed the other eyelid, "How happy you make me?" he replied as he kissed her on the lips again.

She snuggled into his shoulder and replied, "Yes I do, because that is how you make me feel, every day. I have to say, these last 6 years, have been the best years of my life."

"I know, because they have been for me to, my love."

"Richard," she said as she looked into his eyes. "I have to tell you about something a little strange, that happened this afternoon."

"Ok, What did Annie do now?" He asked jokingly.

"Oh, you," She said tickling his side. He took a sharp intake of breath, then kissed her on the side of the cheek. "Not Annie or even the kids this time," She said grinning at him. "This has to do with several really strange phone calls I received today."

"Don't tell me you got some obscene calls from the ad!"

"No, nothing like that, but it was just as strange, anyway."

"Honey, what is it?" He asked concerned.

"Well first, Joe called. Said he saw the ad and thought he would call. Would you believe he actually asked if he were old enough for us to be in a relationship now?" Richard giggled slightly, and she continued, "And can you believe he wanted me to forget he cheated on me?" She giggled slightly and caressed the side of his cheek then said softly, "But really, I just didn't have the heart to tell him the only thing that really kept he and I apart wasn't the age difference, but the fact I was in love with you."

"So, I have to assume you didn't tell him you and he could have a clandestine love affair?" He said jokingly.

She giggled slightly and snuggled into him, even more. "Of course not. I told him I was happily married to you, the father of my children and not to call again."

"Good Girl," He said kissing her gently on the side of the cheek. "But, you did say some weird calls. Who else called?"

"Next," She said exasperated, "It was Trevor, asking me if I were over you yet and if I wanted to get back with him…" He looked her in the eyes smiling, and she replied with a smirk, "And yes, I told him the same thing I told Joe."

"Good. Now that is over…"

"Actually, I had one more call."

"Don't tell me. Randy!" He said in disbelief.

"Yep," She said exasperated.

"What is going on today? Is it a full moon," He asked half-joking.

"I know, I was thinking the same thing myself," She said as she kissed him on the side of the cheek. "But, it was still quite strange if not just a little bit eerie for the last 3 men I have been involved with besides you, to call me on the same day and asked me the same question."

"Ah! He wanted to know if you…"

"Well, he saw the ad too and assumed you left me again, because I was adverting for the position you held for me, the last time I saw him."

"What do you think he was trying to tell you? You had made a mistake by marrying me?"

"Yes, and he was trying to rub my nose in the fact that he had warned me the last time I saw him, you would leave me and he would not be there for me, when you did."

"I hope you told him where he could put his opinion."

"What I told him, was exactly what I told Joe and Trevor. You and I are happily married and the parents of two beautiful children, and I have no intention of leaving you now, or ever."

"Do you think, he will ever believe you made the right choice?"

"I don't know and frankly, I do not care. He needs to get over it and get on with his life. It's been 6 years, more than enough time for him to do so."

"Caroline," He said as he caressed the side of her cheek. "Do you think he was trying to tell you he wanted you back, no matter what?"

She sighed deeply, looked him in the eyes and smiled broadly, then cuddled up against his chest again, letting him know her answer to him; telling him how happy she was with him. "I don't know Richard, but if he thinks I made a mistake 6 years ago, I have news for him. I have never been happier in my entire life. With you and our children. All three of them.

"Shouldn't that be," he said as he caressed her stomach, "Four children?" He said happily.

"Yes, you are right, love. Well, 3 and ½ anyway," She said happily, and she snuggled up to him again.

"No one," Richard said as he held her tightly to him, "Has ever made me as happy as you do, Caroline. No one, not even Julia has ever touched my heart the way you have or continue to do, every moment I am with you or even think about you. I still can't believe how lucky I am to have found you and you love me just as much as I love you."

Tears came to Caroline's eyes, as she caressed the side of his cheek. "Richard, are you still having doubts about my love for you?"

"No, Caroline, No. I knew when you left Randy at the altar to come after me where your heart was, and it was not with him, it was with me. Why you would chose me over him was a mystery to me then, but I now realize it was the same reason I chose you, over Julia. Love, pure and simple love. I love you so much, I can not imagine my life without you in it."

"Me neither Richard, because you are my life." Richard gathered her in his arms and kissed her gently on the lips. As they began to drift off to sleep, someone began to frantically knock on their door. "Oh my God," Caroline said panicking. "Something is wrong with the children!" Richard though the same thing and the fear could be seen in his eyes, as they hastily threw their robes on themselves as they raced down the stairs, toward the door. Caroline was the first one at the door and flung it open in a panic, almost in Richard's face and then she screamed, "What's wrong!" To the person at the door: Stefano, and his Grandfather, Julia's father, Mr. Mazzone.

"Dad!" Stefano replied as he ran to Richard and placed his arms around him. Richard picked him up in his arms and hugged him tightly to himself and then looked over his shoulder to look at Mr. Mazzone. "I thought Fabriana was bringing him back tomorrow?" He asked concerned.

"Yes that was the plan, but I had some business in New York, so I thought I would bring him back myself."

"Well, how is Julia?"

"Yeah, Dad. Mom is getting married again." Stefano said trying to be happy about the fact, but Richard could see something else in his eyes.

"Oh," Richard replied happily. "That is great."

"Yes, Marcello," Mr. Mazzone replied.

"Marcello? The same Marcello she was engaged to when…"

"Yes, the same. And, that is the reason for my business."

Caroline looked at the expression on Mr. Mazzone's face and could see he had something he needed to discuss with Richard, something that Stefano had no business hearing. "Stefano," Caroline said. "Why don't you and I go upstairs and get you ready for bed, so your dad and Grandfather can talk?"

"OK," Stefano said happily, as she picked him up in her arms and carried he and his bags, up the stairs.

"Mr. Mazzone," Richard asked concerned "What's the problem?"

"Marcello. I know Julia loves him, but I do not like him."

"Yeah, but you didn't like me either."

"Yes, that is true, but you are a wonderful father to your son, but Marcello?" He shook his head from side to side.

"Why?"

"He doesn't like Stefano. He is a wonderful little boy, but for some reason, he and Marcello do not get along. Marcello told Julia he was spoiled rotten and if Stefano was part of the deal, the marriage was off."

"He said what!"…Mr. Mazzone shook his head up and down to agree. "So he and Julia are not…" Mr. Mazzone shook his head from side to side to disagree with his statement. "Julia chose him over Stefano? What kind of mother is she!"

"Yes, and that is why I am here."

"What," He asked him, almost scared to hear what he feared. He would never see his son again.

"Richard, it was true I did not like you because I believed you were only after her money. And when the two of you began to divorce, I was waiting for you to claim some or yet all of her money, but you did not. I did not respect you then, but I do now and not only for that, but for taking responsibility for your son." Richard could not believe this was the same man talking to him who had actually tried to kill him and then left him destitute, not more than 6 years earlier, and the shock of it all, caused him to fall onto the sofa, in disbelief. Mr. Mazzone sat down on the sofa, beside him.

"So Julia is willing to give up her son for him?"

"Yes," He said sadly. "And that is why I am here." He pulled out a large set of papers from his inside jacket pocket and placed them on Richard's lap.

"What is this?" Richard replied, looking down at the papers.

"Papers my Lawyer made up, giving you total custody of Stefano."

"What?" He replied shocked.

"Yes. I am not happy with her decision, but it is up to her and because of Marcello, she is giving up her parental rights to you. She has already signed them at my Lawyer's office in Italy, and you must sign them," He replied as he took out a business card from his pocket and placed it in Richard's hand, "In the presence of this Lawyer, in Manhattan."

"I can not believe she would do this to her son!" He looked at Mr. Mazzone, then back down to the papers in his hands. "Don't get me wrong. I am happy he will be staying here with Caroline and I for good, but I know he will not understand why his mother abandoned him."

"I know, but I know you could do a better job of letting him know, than I," He replied sadly.

"Mr. Mazzone, I know this was hard for you to do and you could have just taken him away and never allow me to see him again. And for that, I will always be grateful. But just because Julia has given up her rights, does not mean you and your wife can not be a part of his life. You are his grandparents and are welcome to see him any time."

"Thank you Richard. I am glad you understand and now, I really need to get back to my business. I'll go up and say good-bye to Stefano, then I really need to be on my way, and while I am up there, do you mind if I say hello to your other children?"

I know they would love to meet Stefano's grandfather, but they aren't here right now. Caroline's friend Annie, You remember Annie?"

"Short skirt and the big…" he said, placing his hands several inches in front of his chest.

"Yep, that's Annie," Richard replied amused. "Well she and her husband Dell, offered to keep them tonight for us, since today is our 6th year anniversary. In fact, we are really surprised she hasn't called us yet, telling us they want to come home." At that moment, Caroline walked down the stairs, to greet Mr. Mazzone.

"Did you have a nice chat?" She asked.

"Yes," Mr. Mazzone replied. "I would like to say good-bye to Stefano, then I really need to be on my way."

"Ok. He's in the tub in the bathroom, the door the other side of the bed." Mr. Mazzone walked up the stairs, and then Caroline looked at Richard and whispered, "What's going on?"

"Let's go out in the hall. I don't want Stefano to overhear."

"She what!" Caroline replied in disbelief, from out in the hallway in front of the door. "What kind of mother does that to her child!"

"I don't know Caroline, I don't know, but I have known for some time, she is not the ideal mother." He began to giggle slightly.

"Richard? What is so funny about this situation?" she asked in a confusing and shocked tone.

"I just realized, who she reminded me of. My mother. She is just like her. Flighty and unpredictable, and on top of that, basically a terrible mother. My mother was not the motherly type nor is Julia, but I do know Stefano could not have a better mother than the one that is standing in front of me," He replied as he kissed her gently on the lips. "But Caroline, you are a wonderful mother to our daughters and you have been a better mother to Stefano, than even his own."

"Thank you for saying that, Richard. But I too know something. Our children, all three of them could not have a better father than the one that is standing in front of, me."

They began to kiss lightly, but it soon turned into a very passionate one, as the elevator opened up, and two little voices screamed. "Mommie! Daddy!" She and Richard turned around and Caroline said, "Hey there. What are you doing here," She asked happily.

Annie and Del emerged from the door, each holding a twin in their arm, and Annie said, "They were fine for a while, but Melanie had a nightmare and began to cry for you, then Laurie joined in and after that, it was no use."

"But," Del replied, smiling, "Why are you out in the hallway kissing in your robes, instead of your apartment?" He said with a wink.

"Long, and very weird story," Caroline and Richard replied as they each picked up one of their daughters and ushered Annie and Del into the loft. "Come on in and we'll tell you about it," Richard continued.

"And," Caroline added as she touched the tip of each of her daughter's noses. "We have a surprise for each of you. Guess who is up stairs right now, taking a bath?"

"Who," The twins replied.

"Stefano's granddaddy brought him back early." Caroline smiled at the gleeful expression on the twins' faces, as they both screamed, "Stevie! Yea," clapping enthusiastically.

Once inside the loft, Mr. Mazzone was coming down the stairs with Stefano, and when all three of the children saw each other, it was mass hysteria, as they all screamed and cried as they hugged.

"Richard," Mr. Mazzone replied, whispering. "They really do get along, don't they?"

"Yes. They love their big brother, and he loves them. When he left to visit Julia, they cried for days."

"He did the same when he arrived in Italy. But I do know, this is where he belongs." He turned to look at Stefano who was giving each of his sisters a present. "Stefano," Mr. Mazzone said, emotionally, "Come here and let me give you a kiss and a hug good-bye." Stefano waked over to him and they hugged, then he went back to his sisters.

After their guests had left, Caroline and Richard looked at their family, and smiled. "Now," Caroline replied to the children. "It is late, and I think it is time for 3 little people to get into bed." All three of their children looked at her and smiled. "Ok, Mommie," The twins replied.

"Ok, mamma Caroline…" Stefano grimaced and then replied, "Dad, I know my mother would be upset about this, but can I call Caroline mom?"

Caroline began to cry and Richard replied, "Son, I think Caroline would love that. Won't you Caroline?"

She reached over and hugged Stefano tightly to her and said, "I would love that, Stefano, I would love it. I may not be your natural mother, but you are just as much my son as your sisters are, and I would be honored if you would call me mom." She hugged all of the children, then proceeded to walk them up the stairs, to their prospective rooms.

Once back in their room and back in bed, Caroline laid her head back onto Richard's chest, then kissed him on the side of the cheek. "Can you believe all that has gone on today? And did you see the expression on our little ones faces, when they were reunited?"

"Yes, My love," Richard replied as he planted a kiss on her mouth. "Yes I did," He said breathlessly. "I still can't believe about Julia, but I do know he will be just fine here with us, because we can give him something, I don't think Julia can give him: Love."

"I know, my love. He will be just fine." Richard kissed her on the lips and snuggled up to her, thinking how lucky he was to have this beautiful woman in his life and thinking back to the day, 6 years earlier, when he almost lost her to someone else. He was thrilled she chose him over Randy, but until tonight, there was always a little doubt in the back of his mind, about her decision. But he could see the look in her eyes when she talked about Randy and the other men who had called her today, and then the look in her eyes when she looked at him. It was pure love. He would never doubt her love for him, again. He kissed her on the side of the cheek again, than pulled her tightly into his embrace and drifted off to sleep. And in sleep, they were both thinking, dreaming about that afternoon 6 years earlier, when they were brought back together…

THE SERIES FINALE AND WHAT HAPPENED NEXT

The look on Randy's face was horror and sadness, as he saw Caroline look up and see Richard standing in the balcony with his son, and the smile she had on her face, told Randy everything. And it told Caroline what she had known, all along. There would or could be no one but Richard for her. 'Richard! Why is he here,' she thought to herself, but the slight smile she gave Richard told her what her heart already knew. She would never be over him. Marrying Randy was a mistake. Randy was just a transitional fling, and Richard was the only person she would ever truly love. She barely heard her mother say to her, 'quickest way out is right over there,' when she saw her pointing to the entrance behind her. She looked up to Richard again, then did the only thing she could do. She motioned for him to walk to the exit. She gave him her most heartwarming smile, then looked over to Randy, as tears began to run down her cheeks. "I'm sorry Randy," She said as she walked over to him. "The Wedding is off, at least for now. I am really confused…"

"Caroline," he said through his own tears. "I understand. Really. You have to get your feelings straighten out. WE can decide when we want to continue, when you have your feeling's straightened out." But his expression told her he knew she could not marry him, when she still had strong feelings for Richard.

Richard met her in the hallway with Stefano still crying, and she motioned for him to join her in the changing room. He obeyed.

Inside the room, Caroline was pacing the floor, trying not to look him in the eyes, but finally she lost that battle and looked over to him. "Richard," she said quietly. "Why are you here?"

"I had to see you, Caroline. I ran into Charlie in Italy, and he told me you were marrying Randy, and I just had to see you. I'm sorry I ruined your wedding. Maybe it was a mistake…"

"Not so fast, Richard. Why are you really here?" She asked harshly.

"I told you…"

"Is that all," She asked accusingly.

"No Caroline. I love you. You know that. I know it was a mistake to leave, but…"

"No Richard. We broke up because you said you did not what to have any more children besides the one you had with Julia, and I wanted to have children, and I still want to have children."

"Caroline, come and sit down next to me and let me introduce you to my son," He said proudly. "Stefano."

"Stefano?" She said amused, as she joined him on the sofa.

"Yeah, Julia named him," he said giggling slightly.

"And where is she?" She asked a little hurt to hear him say her name.

"Well, the last post card we received from her said, 'Still having a wonderful time. Monte Carlo is just the right thing for postpartum depression.'"

"You mean she left him! What kind of mother would leave her child?"

"I know Caroline, and his Nanny said the same thing. But you know Julia. With her, you can never tell."

"You don't believe that?"

"No. She left Stefano behind. Like you said, what kind of parent would put their own needs, ahead of their child?" He looked over at Caroline, and sighed. "But, I shouldn't be surprised. Even before we were married, she was one of the most self-centered people I have ever known. So, why would I think she would be any different once she had a child?"

"So, you and Julia are back together," She said sadly.

"No, No," He said as he caressed the side of her cheek. "No. I do not love her. I know I did way back when and I thought I did when we got married, but there was something getting in the way."

"What was that?"

"You, Caroline," He said his voice full of love and sadness that he had lost the only woman he had ever truly loved. "I could not get over you, or forget how much I love you. And, she knew it, Caroline. She knew I was in love with you. And that's why she didn't make a fuss about the divorce, because she knew my heart belonged to you and would always belong to you."

Caroline kissed him on the lips then said, "I love you too, Richard, but I can't help remember what you said about Sincere Amore. She was yours…and maybe I was the transitional…"

"No, Caroline," He said softly, caressing her cheek with his fingers. "Remember I told you it was a love you never had to question. But, I always questioned it, Caroline. I questioned her true feelings for me, her reasons for choosing me over the many others she could have married, or the fact she chose on more than one occasion, her trust fund over me. That was not love, Caroline. That was my insecurity talking. But when I fell in love with you, I never ever questioned my feelings for you. And when we finally discovered how we really felt, I never had any doubts that you loved me, just for me. You, Caroline Duffy," He replied as he kissed here gently on the lips, "Are my Sincere Amore. You are the love I never have to question. You are my life and the love of my life, and Julia knew it from the start. Why else would she have erased your message professing your love for me, if she did not know?"

She snuggled into his chest and replied, "Trevor knew it, and I think deep down, Randy did, too." She moved away from his chest and smiled broadly then asked, "Can I hold Stefano for a second?"

"Ok, but he does not seem to like strang…" But before he could finish his sentence, Caroline had him in her arms, and he was quiet for the first time that day. "Caroline!" He replied amazed. "You must have a way with children. He won't even let Fabrina his Nanny or even Mr. and Mrs. Mazzone pick him up without crying."

"Yes, I guess I do. So you and Julia are not back together, and you have no intention of getting back together?" She said smiling.

"Lord, no. I don't love her, you know that. I thought I did, but there is only one person I love and that's you. But it's just like me to screw it up, like I do with all of my relationships."

Caroline gave him a quick peck on the cheek, trying to let him know she was still there and his, if he wanted her still. "So," She said looking him in the eyes lovingly, "Where do you think she is, really?"

"All I know is what the post card said. But the truth is, she has never spent any time with him. She is just not the motherly type, but you are Caroline. I just wish I has seen that 6 months ago and you would be here with me and not Randy."

"I might as well tell you this. The wedding has been postponed until I can get my feeling straightened out, but the truth is Richard, I know where my feelings are, and they are not with Randy. They are with you."

"Caroline, you would not have been about to marrying him, if…" She gave him a big kiss.

"That is if I wasn't on the rebound from you, just like you ran to Julia, because you thought I didn't feel the same way about you."

"You don't love him?"

"Yes, to a degree, but not like I love you, and the only person I want to spend the rest of my life with, is you Richard."

"I love you Caroline, and I can tell you if being a father," he said as he kissed Stefano on the top of the head who was still happily snuggled in Caroline's arms, "Makes me feel this good, imagine how I will feel when you and I have children of our own?"

"Are you saying you want to have children now?"

"You better believe it, my love," he said as Annie busted into the room.

"Ok, Caroline," Annie said with annoyance. "We have a very agitated crowd in the Chapel. What do I tell them?"

"Sorry Annie, but the wedding is not happening. At least not now," She said as she smiled up at Richard, her eyes asking him a question.

"Yes, Caroline, that is if you want me after all this." She shook her head up and down, then looked over at Annie.

"Annie, I am not, I can not marry Randy, when I'm still in love with Richard. But, I have to explain this all to Randy, first."

"Ok, I'll go get him. Back in a few minutes." After Annie exited the door, Charlie skated into the room and said, "Hi, Richard. Long time no," He replied waving his left hand wildly, and finished with the word, "Seeee."

"Charlie, we saw each other in Italy, just 3 days ago. Remember?"

"Oh, Yeah," He said to Richard, then turned and looked in Caroline's direction. "I did good didn't I," He said proudly.

"Charlie," Caroline asked with confusion. "What are you talking about?"

"Del said you weren't happy about marrying Randy and sent me to Italy to tell Richard…Oh I forgot I wasn't supposed to tell that part…" He said with his face turning red with embarrassment. He turned around and skated to the door and opened it up, and as he skated through the now opened door, his last word was said, in classic Charlie. "Byeeee!"

"Hey Charlie," Annie said from outside the door. "Watch where you're going!"

Sorry Annie, but I gotta get away. Del is going to kill me because I told…"

"Charlie you didn't…"

"Annie Spadaro! Get in this room, now." Caroline said, harshly.

Annie peeked her head through the door and opened it slowly and said, "Yes," in a meek tone.

"Don't act so innocent with me, Spadaro! Charlie just let something slip, so now I'm going to ask you. What is this all about?"

"Caroline, we only did it for your own good."

"Did what…And weren't you going to bring back Randy?"

"Sorry, can't find him. His car is gone, and I overheard someone say, he told him he was going for a ride to clear his head before he could talk to you."

"Left. Well, he and I will have to have a long talk later about this whole mess, but right now, you tell me what you and those two dufuses I call Charlie and Del, have been up to?"

"Caroline, listen. Del and I sent Charlie to Italy."

"Why would you do that?" Richard said with annoyance, as he rose from the sofa. Caroline followed his move, placing Stefano on the sofa in the place she had just occupied. Stefano stuck his thumb in his mouth, rolled over and than began to drift off to sleep.

"Because both of you are stubborn as mules, that's why. I knew if you found out she was marrying someone else, you just might come back and fight for her, but I never expected it to be your son that would actually stop it." She said giggling slightly.

"Annie, I thought you liked Randy and were glad he and I were getting married?" Caroline said softy in a hurt tone.

"I was Caroline, until that nightmares began."

"What nightmares," Caroline asked in confusion.

"Caroline," Annie said softly. "Since the night you accepted Randy's proposal, you have cried yourself to sleep and screamed out Richard's name in your sleep, every single night."

I haven't done that, have I?" She said with disbelief.

Yes you have, Caroline," Del's voice said softly as he entered the room. "Every night. Annie and I care to much for you, for you to marry someone, when you are not in love with him."

"I am…No you are both right," Caroline said as she looked over to Richard with love in her eyes. "Randy was just there and helped me get through it all. But, I never got over you Richard," She said as the tears began to flow from her eyes.

"And I never got over you either, Caroline," He said as he wiped away her tears with his thumb. "I still love you and nothing will ever take your place in my heart."

"Annie, if you and Del knew all of this, why didn't you say something?" She asked through tears.

"Caroline you are my best friend, and I know you, sometimes even better than you know yourself. If we had told you, you would have sworn you were happy and marrying Randy was the right thing to do."

"I would never…"

"Yes you would have Caroline," Del said. "And the more you protested how much you loved Randy, the more intense your nightmares became. And when we found you humming the same sad tune day in and day out, we knew we had to do something, because you were still in love with Richard."

"What tune," Richard asked.

"It's a sad story about someone dreaming about the love of a woman they could never have," Annie replied.

"Oh," He said smiling. "Was it a song called 'I like Dreamin', by any change," He asked, looking directing directly at Caroline.

"Yes, How did you know…" Caroline said.

"Because I've been humming the same tune, since the day we broke up too," He interrupted.

"Well, we thought as much," Annie said. "And when Charlie called, we gave him the address of the Mazzone Estate, and he was on his way there when he saw you."

Caroline smiled through her tears, then said softly, "Thank you both, for brining us back together again. We owe you."

"Honey," Annie said. "We had too. You two belong together. I know I raze him a lot, but he makes you happy. Anyone who does that can't be all bad." She said to Caroline then looked over to Richard, who was about to say something. "And don't think this gets you off the hook for running out on her, either! You will make good with her, or I have an uncle in Paramus, who would love a chance to practice on a string bean like you. You understand me?" Richard shook his head up and down not daring to disagree with her, because he knew she was right. This was his last chance with Caroline, and he knew if he blew it with her now, he would never get another chance with the woman who means more to him, than another living soul. "Good," Annie replied satisfied with herself. "So, Del and I will leave you here to finish up your conversation, and I'll try to run Randy down. Caroline, do you want to talk to him here?"

"No, ask him to meet me at the hotel in a few hours if you find him. I don't know how I am going to break it to him, but I can't marry him."

"Caroline," Annie interrupted. "That is fine and good about Randy, but what do I tell all of your guests? They are getting a little antsy."

Caroline looked over to Richard, and said, "Tell them the wedding is not happening, at least not to Randy."

"Ok, let me get this straight. Richard crashes your wedding and you're marrying him now?" She said smiling broadly knowing her best friend was really happy. He wasn't the person she would have picked out for her, but he made Caroline happy, and that was all that really mattered, when she really looked at it.

"Yes, if he will have me."

"Yes, Caroline, That is if you will have, me." She shook her head up and down, happily.

"Ok, so I tell the guests, what?"

"Ok. There will be no wedding today, but they are invited," She said Giggling, "At least for those who wish to be a part of another one of my infamous weddings, to my and Richard's wedding…when?" She replied looking at Richard.

"How about a month from now? We can decide where and when, after we get back home. Your home in New York," Richard said to Caroline, with love in his eyes.

"Yes," Caroline said smiling up at him, "And for real this time, Annie."

"Ok, I'll inform your guests about the changes, but I don't think you will have many takers the next time."

"That is fine with me, as long as Richard is the one I marry."

"Yes, you have my word on it Caroline. It would be my pleasure," He said with happiness.

"Ok," Annie said. "Del and I will go and inform your guest of the changes, but like I just said, I don't think you will have many takers."

Caroline mouthed the words 'Thank you' to Annie as she and Del exited the door.

After they were out the door and the door closed behind them,

Richard got down on one knee and took out the ring he had planned on giving Caroline 6 months earlier and said softly to her, "Caroline Duffy, would you do me the honor of agreeing to be my wife?" He tried to put the ring on her finger, but it still held the engagement ring Randy had given her.

"Oh," She said sadly. "I need to give this back to Randy."

"Caroline," Richard said softly. "Are you sure this is what you want? I mean, I want you to be happy and if being with him makes you happy, I will leave you for…"

"No, Richard," She said in return. "Being with you is what makes me happy. I'm just sad because he is a good man and this will hurt him. But I have to go with my heart and you have that and have had it, since the day we met." Richard looked her lovingly in the eyes, as Caroline removed Randy's ring. She undid the necklace that was around her neck and placed the ring on it, then redid the clasp. She looked up to Richard with a wide smile, as she placed her left hand in front of Richard's face.

He kissed her hand softly then asked again, "Caroline Duffy, will you do the honor of agreeing to be my wife," He said through tears, as he gingerly placed the ring on her left ring finger again.

"Yes, Richard. Yes!" She said as she kissed him hard on the lips.

He kissed her back with a wide grin on his face, but then his face took on a more serious look. "Caroline," He said softly. "There is one question I need to ask you, before you really accept my proposal." She looked up to him, with a curious look on her face. "Are you really sure this is what you want? I mean if you were so unsure about your feeling for Randy, why were you about marry him?"

"I thought I was in love with him, but Annie and Del are right. You are the only person who can make me happy. I know I thought I loved him, but he was just a substitute, kind of…"

"Like Julia was for me?"

Caroline wrapped her arms around him and laid her head against his shoulder. "Hum hum," she said happily, against his shoulder.

Caroline was now out of her wedding dress and dressed more comfortably in the jeans and tee-shirt she had worn to the chapel before she changed into the wedding dress, and she and Richard with Stefano in her arms, made their way to her Hotel room in town.

Once in her room, Caroline placed Stefano in the crib she had ordered from room service, then looked over to Richard. She could see he was nervous about being alone in the room with her and with only one bed. "Richard, are you all right?"

"Yes, but I don't think I need to be here with you, right now. I mean, you were about to marry someone else just an hour ago, and I don't think we need to be this close, until you are sure this is what you want."

"Richard," She said as she placed her hand on his cheek and caressed it gently. "This is where I want to be. With you. It's where I belong, where you belong. I will be the first to admit it is a little awkward, but I DO know where my heart lies, and it is not with him." He kissed her deeply on the lips, as there was a knock on the door.

Sighing deeply against his lips she said, "Richard, I know it's Randy. Can you take Stefano with you so he and I can discuss this in private?"

He kissed her on the side of the cheek, and then smiled. "Sure. How about an hour?" She shook her head up and down to agree with him. "OK, I'll go then…He doesn't really need to see me here with you. Is there another way out of the room?" He said as he scanned the room and noticed the door for the adjoining room on the opposite wall. "Can I go through there or…"

"Sure, you can," She said smiling and almost laughing, because he didn't know about Annie and Del yet. "Yeah," She said giggling. "That's Annie's room, but knock first. She and Del are probably a little pre occupied right now, if you know what I mean."

Getting her meaning he exclaimed, "Annie and Del!" He asked shocked by what she was telling him.

"Yeah," she said smiling and giggling. "Since right before you left, they have been a hot item. They've been trying to hide it, but…"

"Yeah with those two…Well anyway, they do sort of belong together. Same taste in everything and same morals."

He kissed her on the side of the cheek, than knocked on Annie's door. He could hear a moan and then a mumble, as the door opened up, and he walked inside. "Del," Caroline heard Richard say, "No use trying to cover your tail," He said giggling. "Caroline already let me in on your affair."

The door to Annie's room closed, and then Caroline put on her warmest, happiest smile and opened up the door to her room. "Hi, Randy. WE need to have a talk. A serious talk."

"Yes we do. Like when do we reschedule?"

"Randy, I think you know what I am going to say, but I'll say it anyway. I can not marry you."

"Caroline, I know Richard's appearance upset you, but that is no reason to throw away the life we planned on."

"Randy come on in. This is not something we need to let everyone in the hotel to hear." He walked into the room and was about to pull her to him, when he saw the crib. "What is that doing…He's here with you, isn't he?"

"He and his son are staying in the room with me for now. He took his son down to the lobby so you and I could talk in private."

"Good idea to get him away, so you and I can get you cleared out of here and into our home, where you belong."

"Randy, did you hear what I said? I can not marry you, when I'm still in love with him."

"Caroline, you just think that you are. You will think clearer, once we get…"

"Randy, I said no. I know what is in my heart, and I still love him. Not just feelings, but honest to goodness love."

"I can't accept that, when just an hour ago, you were about to commit to me. We have had six months to get to know each other, and I know you do not love him, you love me."

Randy, I can't. Six months or 60 years would not matter, when I feel this strongly for him."

"The minute he shows up, you forget what we have shared between us for the last 6 months!"

I know we had a good time together Randy, but I still love him. It was foolish of me to accept your proposal after only 2 months, when my heart still belonged to him. And it still does."

"Excuse me? But you were marrying me. You told me you loved me. Was that a lie?"

"No Randy. I thought I did. You were there to help me put the pieces back together and I thank you for it, but what I thought was my love for you was really my appreciation for your help. I'm sorry to have to hurt you, but Richard and I are leaving for New York tomorrow and are going to try to put our lives back together."

"Caroline, we had all of these plans…"

"Yes, and Del and I did too. Did I ever tell you the real reason I broke up with Del?"

"You said you realized you were better as friends."

"That's only part of it, Randy. It was because I had a dream two days before the wedding. In it, Richard kissed me very passionately, just minutes before I was to walk down the aisle. Then the very next day he really did kiss me, and I then realized I was having feeling for him and to marry Del would have been wrong, if I doubted my love for him." She began to pace the floor, then stopped in front of him. "Every time I have been about to embark on the next step of a relationship that did not involve Richard, something always stopped me, before it was too late." Randy tried to pull her into his arms, but she pulled away. "Randy, please. No. I would never want to hurt you in a million years, but I am not in love with you, at least no in the way you deserve to be loved. But I do love him that way and he and I want to be together. He and I are moving into my loft and are planning on getting married. Please be happy for us."

"Caroline, come back to me. I love you, and I know you love me. We belong together. We have so much in common. We belong together."

"No Randy, that's the problem, I don't love you. I thought I did, but I was trying to get over Richard, and you were just there. Comfortable and someone to talk to; A shoulder to cry on; I should have known when you proposed 2 months into the relationship it was to early, but I was so distraught, I wasn't thinking clearly."

"But he left you, and he will do it again."

"No Randy. The only reason we broke up was because he didn't want to have any more children, but now he does and we want to be together."

"Caroline, you're not thinking clearly and he is using that to his advantage. You will regret it, in the end. You know that. You're upset and you need time to decide."

"No, Randy. I am thinking clearly for the first time in 6 months. I am not over him, nor would I ever be. There would always be a shadow between us if you and I marry. It would put a wedge between us, and in a year of so, it would be too much for me and we would have eventually divorced. It's no use fighting the inevitable, Randy. I am in love with Richard, AND I will always be in love with him."

"But what about your dreams of a life in our house and Children? That was our dream, and a dream he does not want to share with you. Can't you see he will use you and tell you what he wants you to hear and leave you again?"

"No, Randy, that is where you are wrong. He never used me. And if you knew the horrible childhood he had, you would understand his reluctance about being a father and having a tiny helpless being dependent on him. That is why I left him, but if I were really thinking as clearly as I am right now, I would have realized the minute he held his son in his arms and realized how good it felt to be a parent, he would change his mind. And he has."

"Caroline, you must realize he is only using you. He went back to this Julia. Looks like she left him again, but when she comes back for him, he will dump you."

"No, Randy. They are parents of a beautiful little boy, but that is all she is to him. I can see it in his eyes, what she is to him. The mother of his son, but that is all."

Randy stood there speechless, then said, "But he will leave you in time, just like he has in the past, and I will not be there for you when he does. Either you chose me now, or I walk out the door, never seeing you again. Because you will need me eventually, because he WILL leave you again. And when that happens, I will not be there for you."

"I'm sorry you feel that way, Randy, but he really does love me, and he would never hurt me. I told you we are getting married. We haven't set a date yet, but it will be in about a month. Please be happy for me Randy."

He responded sarcastically, "I'll believe it when I see it. You drop men like flies."

"Randy, that is enough! I know I have hurt you by leaving you at the altar, but this is the way it has to be. I am in love with Richard, end of story.

"In that case," Randy said harshly as he grabbed her left hand, "I WANT THE RING BACK!" He began to try to pull it off of her finger, but she pulled her hand back away from him. "WAIT a minute! That is not the ring I gave you!"

"No," Caroline replied happily, "It's not. It's an engagement ring from Richard," She said as she rubbed her finger.

"Engagement ring! You walk on our wedding just a couple of hours ago and become engaged to HIM right after," He replied with a harsh tone.

"Yes. He asked me to marry him, and I accepted."

"Well, Fine! But I want the ring I gave you, back. You can't have it!"

"I don't want it Randy. It belongs to the woman you marry, and I can not accept it in good conscious."

"Conscious, my ass! If you had one, you would not have walked out on me during our wedding!"

"That's enough, Randy," she replied as she undid the clasp on her necklace. She removed the ring from the chain, then handed the ring to Randy. He took it in his hand, then tried to force it on her ring finger. "Randy, you're hurting me," She said crying tears of pain. "Please, stop," She continued as she pulled her hand back yet again. "I am sorry I hurt you, but I have to go with my heart, and my heart belongs to Richard. And the truth is, it has belonged to him since the day we met," She said emotionally, still rubbing her ring finger. "Please be happy for me Randy, and I will be happy for you when you find that special someone."

"I thought I already did," He said sadly.

"I'm sorry Randy but that's the way it has to be."

Randy looked at her with hatred on his face, and then held the ring so tightly in his fist, his knuckles began to turn white. "It's you loss, Caroline. I gave you a chance, and you blew it! I can give you so much more, than a no talent looser who has to rely on YOU for his paycheck," He said harshly, as he flung open the door and stormed out. He ran into Richard on his way out the door and said harshly, "Good luck Sucker! You are going to need it, when she stabs you in the back like all of the others!!!" He raced past Richard toward the elevator, and stomped into it.

"What was that all about," Richard asked, as he closed the door and locked the door behind him.

"He's just upset, I'm marrying you instead."

"He didn't try to get you to change your mind, did he?"

"Yes, and he was not pleased I am in love with you. Come on to bed and we will discuss this tomorrow. All I want to do is go to bed and think about our life together." Richard placed Stefano in the crib and kissed him on the side of the cheek, then looked over to Caroline, who was now snuggled into bed, patting the other side of the bed for him to join her.

"Caroline, are you really sure this is such a good idea for us to share a bed so soon after your breakup with your fiancée?"

"Richard," She said smiling. "This reminds me of the night we were pretending we were married for Julia's benefit. If you really love me you wouldn't mind, and it's not like we haven't been in bed together before."

"Yes, but you have shared it with someone else since then…"

"That is true, but in all that time, I was fantasizing that it was you I was with and not him." He looked at her, and he was sure she could see it in his eyes, that he had done the same thing many a night in the last 6 months, himself. Going to bed and fantasizing that he was with her. He walked over and sat down at the foot of the bed, beside her feet. "Richard, I know it is too soon for us to be together in the biblical sense, but I missed you. ALL of you. The way you used to caress my cheek when you kissed me, your gentle kisses on my lips and cheek, the way you would hold me in bed as I slept. Please come to bed and hold me like that again," She said pleading, the tears of joy beginning to form in her eyes. "I need you Richard. I don't think I realized how much I needed you in my life, until I saw you again."

He reached over her and caressed the side of her cheek with the back of his hand, then kissed her gently on the lips. He smiled at her, then rose from the bed and proceeded to take off his pants and shirt, leaving him there in only his tee shirt and boxer shorts. She grinned at him, patting his side of the bed again. He smiled at her in return and walked over to his side of bed and got in beside her, kissing her gently on the cheek, then holding her tightly in his arms. Within minutes they were sound asleep, the smiles on their faces still there, as a peaceful sleep overtook them.

On the plane ride back from Peshtigo, Caroline and Richard were in an almost vacant plane and found they were able to discuss some things that really needed to be discussed about the changes in their life that would have to happen, if they were going to make it this time. One, was the fact that Julia, despite the fact she was Stefano's mother, had shown no interest in her own child, which meant that Caroline would be taking over that role. And the fact was, Caroline fell in love with the little tyke the minute she laid eyes on him and had no problem taking over that role. The next issue they had to deal with was Richard's position as her colorist. Not that he was uncomfortable being around her; he was uncomfortable about working for his future wife and accepting a salary from her. But, his stubbornness had caused him to lose her 3 times, and he was not about to repeat that mistake and agreed to return to his old position. The last issue they had to discuss, were the wedding plans, and she thought, 'Richard will really be surprised by my ideas for our wedding, but it's what I really want,' She thought, as she looked over at Richard who was strapping a sleeping Stefano into his car seat. She could see the love he had for his son. "Richard," She said softy. "Since we're practically alone here, I thought we could discuss one more thing."

"The wedding plans," He said smiling.

"Yes. And I know you're going to be surprised by what I am about to tell you, but I really don't want our wedding to be the large grand and stylish affair I have planned in the past."

"Caroline, I know you better than that. I know you want a large one and you're just saying this because you think it's what you think I want. But, I want you to have the wedding you have dreamed of. All I want is for you to be happy."

"No, Richard," She said as she caressed the side of his cheek. "For one," She replied giggling slightly. "My dad has just about gone broke on the first two that didn't happen." She than kissed him gently on the lips and then replied, "But seriously Richard, I want something small. A small intimate wedding with just our family and closest friends."

"Caroline, I know you want a big wedding. I still remember the plans you were making on the pretend marriage for Julia's benefit. You remember the Chapel in Peshtigo and the doves?" He said grinning.

"Yes, I know, but I've planned two of those elaborate affairs and all I've gotten from them, is not being with the man I love." She caressed the side of his cheek again then said, "The wedding is not what is important, Richard. Not how grand an affair it is, but marrying, committing your life to the person you love. I want our wedding to be simple, but elegant, with our parents and our closest friends and besides," she said giggling, "I doubt if any of the guests from my first two weddings would be willing to come, with two false starts." He hugged her to him, and kissed her gently on the lips.

"And I don't think your mother would be too pleased, either."

"Yeah," she said smiling, happily. "So I will not be the one to disappoint her."

"Neither will I, my love. Neither will I."

They arrived at the loft late in the afternoon, and when Richard, with Stefano asleep in his arms opened up the door, he stopped in his tracks when he saw what was inside. Caroline had already arranged for the appropriate baby furniture to be delivered and assembled, so it would be there and ready for Stefano's use on their return. An array of baby toys, clothes and blankets were laying on the sofa, and a changing table, playpen and crib were placed in the area next to the stair climber. "Caroline," Richard said in awe. "When did you do all of this," He asked astonished and with emotion.

"Before we left Peshtigo. I knew you weren't able to bring a lot of things with you for him when you left Italy. So, I ordered a few odds and ends from a store in town." She took the sleeping baby from him and said, "And we can't have him sleeping in a box now can we," She said as she looked over at Richard, and smiled. "We do have the crib down here, but I also ordered a bassinet, and I had it put into OUR room."

"Our, room," He said softly, as he kissed her on the side of the cheek. "You have no idea how good that sounds to me," He said as he hugged her to him.

"Yes, it does, doesn't it," She said beaming. "Now," She said as she caressed his right arm. "While I'm upstairs putting him to bed, why don't you turn on the baby monitor that is sitting on the bar and then put on some coffee so we can talk some more about our future, when I get back down."

She returned a few minutes later. Richard had two steaming cups of coffee on the coffee table and he was sitting comfortably on the sofa. She came over and sat down nest to him, he wrapping his arms around her.

"So what else do we need to talk about?"

"I know we discussed a little about Julia and Stefano on the plane. But what I really need to know, will she come by one day and take him away from you, from us?"

"I don't know Caroline and that's what scares me. I have been the parent that has looked after him since I arrived in Italy. Once I arrived, she just left him." Sighing, he replied sadly, "A child cramps her style, and the fact is, and I know this is a horrible thing to say about her, but I don't think she even cares about him. But, it would be so like her to show up one day and take him away from me. But, I don't see that happening. Like I said, being a parent cramps her style."

"Well, I will always be here for him."

"I know, my love," He replied as he kissed her on the side of the cheek. "And that is one of the reasons I love you so much. You have such a kind heart, and I can not wait until you will officially be mine. But are you really sure you are not doing what you think I want, by having a small wedding instead of a large one like I know you have dreamed about?"

"No, small is just fine with me, as long as you are the one I marry." Richard looked her in the eyes, and then kissed her soundly on the lips. And at that very moment, Stefano's crying could be heard coming from the baby monitor. Richard rose, but Caroline said, "No, I'll go. I better get into practice, if I'm going to be his mother," she said with a smile. She headed for the steps and Richard thought to himself, 'No wonder I love her so much.'

A few minutes later she returned with a quiet and very happy Stefano. "I wonder what was wrong?" Richard asked. "He's normally a pretty good sleeper."

"Oh," she said cooing. "He just woke up in a strange place, didn't you fella," She said as she kissed Stefano on top of the head. "But the minute he saw I was there, he began to smile happily."

"No wonder. You've spent more time with him in the last 72 hours, than Julia has in the past 6 months. I have a feeling, he thinks you are his mother. And as of right now, you are Caroline." He said with love.

She sat down next to him, and the three of them snuggled on the sofa and went to sleep and didn't wake up until they heard the knock on the door. Caroline and Richard began to shake the dazedness from the heads. "Who can that be," Richard asked yawning. "It's late…What time is it anyway?" He said yawning and stretching.

"It's just 7:30," Caroline said yawing herself. "I'll get it," She replied as she kissed him quickly on the cheek, then rose from the sofa and walked to the door. She opened it up to the find Angie standing there. "Angie! Hi! I didn't expect you to be back so soon."

"We just got back. And Annie only stayed long enough to get a shower and go over to Del's. And the truth is, I'm just a little lonely."

"Well, come on in. We haven't been here long, ourselves."

"Oh," Angie said, as she walked over to the sofa and looked down at the yawning Stefano. She tickled him under the chin and then replied, "And this must be Stefano. Can I hold him a second?"

"Sure," Richard replied, as he handed him to her.

"Well, hi there Stefano," She said cooing at him. She bounced him in her arms, and he giggled happily.

"Angie," Caroline asked her, "You're not upset that Angie and Del are an item, are you?"

"Not at all. This is the longest relationship she has ever had. I know I'm being old fashioned, but I really don't like the idea of her staying over at any males place."

"Angie," Caroline asked. "They're just getting to know each other a little better. And they are becoming closer and closer."

"I know and I'm happy for her, but like I said, I'm lonely without her there. So, it got me thinking. I'm all alone in Annie place, and you two have some catching up to do, so how about I take Stefano with me and he and I can go shopping?"

"You would really like that?" Richard asked.

"Yeah. I haven't had to care for a baby since my own were babies. It'll be fun."

"Ok," Richard, replied, "If you're sure." She shook her head up and down to agree and he and Caroline packed up his diaper bag with the appropriate supplies and placed them in a stroller. Angie placed Stefano in the stroller, and they left for the outing.

Caroline and Richard were now all alone in the loft. She turned off the lights on the bottom floor, placed her right hand into Richard's left, then replied seductively, "Come with me, lover boy." He obeyed, as they walked up the stairs into her bedroom, hand in hand.

Once in the bedroom, she led him toward her bed, kissing him and knocking him onto the bed. "OH Richard," She said breathlessly. "I have missed you so much."

"I have too, my love. I have never loved anyone like I love you. You make me feel hole, and you understand me like no one ever has."

"Yes, and I can say the same about you. Remember that first date Julia set me up with Trevor?"

"Yes. I know I was acting like a fool, but…"

"But you were Jealous," She interrupted, smiling.

"Yes. I married her on the spur of the moment hopping we could pick up where we left off. The only trouble was, I had met you in the meantime and I was too blind to see you had my heart, completely. But if I had known, had any inkling you felt the same, I would never have…"

"I know. Richard, there is something I need to tell you, something I need to tell you about why I couldn't go through with my marriage to Del, and it wasn't because…"

"You were better as friends," He replied, continuing her sentence for her.

"Yes, but that was just a small part of it, Richard. The real reason is something completely different. And if I had told Del the truth it would have hurt him far too much, so I went along with the lie."

"What Caroline?" He asked, almost afraid of the answer.

"Two nights before the wedding, I had a dream about you. You kissed me so passionately right before my wedding to Del, I thought it was real until I woke up. Then you really did kiss me at Remo's, and I began to realize, I had feeling for you then, too."

He sighed deeply, then replied, "And you already know that is the reason I left when I did. Because I thought you were marrying him."

"Yes, and I know that's when you wrote the note. But what I don't understand is why didn't you say anything before?"

"Caroline, you were dating Del and then marrying him. And when I returned, you were dating the KID," He said seriously.

She punched him in the side, lightly. "Joe, wasn't a kid. A few years younger than me, but no kid."

He pulled her to him and then said, "But seriously Caroline, after you broke up with him, it took everything I had, not to tell you how I felt. And even then, I was so unsure of myself, I could not get up the courage to tell you. And as far as I knew, you didn't feel the same." He held her to his chest and caressed her cheek. "I mean, why would you want me? I'm not exactly your type. I mean, like Annie says, I'm geeky, and I know I'm dark and not the easiest person to get to know. My childhood was no picnic, and I'm not close to my parents unlike you, who have a great relationship with yours. And on top of all that, you are a people person, unlike myself, who has always had a very hard time interacting with people."

"Yes, you are all of those things Richard, but those are the very things that made me fall in love with you. You are so much different than any one I have ever known, but you have to realize, we are more alike than you want to admit. I mean, we love the theatre, opera, the arts, and even staying home, and just reading a good book." He smiled at her, letting her know, he knew she was right.

He pulled her to him and kissed her on the forehead. "Well, I do know that now, my love. But, if we had had the courage to tell each other this sooner…" She silenced him with her fingers gently across his lips.

"Richard," She said softly, as she snuggled up against him. "Let's not dwell on the past. All that matters at this moment, is we are together now, my love. And I do love you, more than anyone I have ever known, and I want to live with you by my side and grow old with you."

Tears came to his eyes and he said, "I do too, My love. I do too."

She took his hand in hers and brought it to her lips, than said, "Let's get cleaned up," she said mischievously, as she lead him to the bathroom. He smiled.

They took a long hot shower together just enjoying being together again, then went to the bedroom to begin their life over again.

Later on that night, they were naked under the covers of the bed, leaning partially against the pillows of the headboard, entwined in each other's arms, kissing each other ever so gently on the lips. Richard had his right arm around her back and resting on her right side, his left hand caressing her left shoulder ever so gently. Caroline had her right hand resting gently on the left side of Richard's neck, enjoying their closeness, when she jumped. "Caroline, did I do something wrong?" He replied, remembering the last time she had done that, when they were dancing together, after Julia and Marcello had come to New York.

She kissed him on the lips and then said seductively, "No, my love. It's this scene. The night we were at the restaurant with Julia and Marcello and you and I were dancing. Remember?"

"Yes," He said as he kissed her on her forehead, gently. "What about it?"

"The fact was, like you were jealous of Trevor, I was jealous of Julia. And when you and I were dancing, I had a vision of us together in my bed, as lovers. It was this very scene. What do you think it means?" She asked through tears.

"It means, my love," he said softly, "We were meant to be together. Someone, somewhere up there," he replied as he looked up toward heaven, "Has been telling us for 3 years, we were meant for each other. We've just been too stubborn to listen; but not any more, my love. You are the only woman I ever want in my life. Besides," He said as he caressed her stomach with his right hand, "If you decide one day to bless me, us, with a son or daughter, you would make me the most blessed and happiest man in the world."

"It would be my pleasure, my love." She replied, as she kissed him on the lip, then snuggled up next to him. He wrapped his arms around her tightly and they drifted off to sleep, with smiles across their faces.

ONE MONTH LATER

In the bottom of Caroline's loft, Annie was picking up an apple from a fruit basket from the counter, when the shower from the upstairs bathroom came on and a feminine voice began to sing. Annie bit into the apple and was heading toward the door when it burst open, and she came face to face with a very happy and smiling Richard, who had a dozen roses in his hand. Annie placed her hand over her heart and said, "For me?"

With a little annoyance in his voice, he replied, "Annie, don't you have a place of your own, that's," He said as he pointed out the door, "Across the hall?"

"Talking to Caroline," She replied, then said in her most seductive voice, "She's upstairs in the shower, waiting for you,"

"Really?" Annie shook her head up and down as the singing from upstairs resumed. He smiled as he placed the bouquet on the top of the fish tank, minus the rose he placed between his teeth, than began to walk up the stairs, disrobing as he went along. "Darling, I'm home," he replied as Annie smiled an evil grin as she heard Richard open up the shower door from the upstairs bathroom. "Hi Darling! I heard from Annie, you're waiting for…" A blood curdling scream came from a female voice, and Annie looked pleased with herself, AS she heard Richard say, "I'm sorry Mrs. Duffy!" As he slammed the shower door closed, harshly. "Annie," he said from upstairs, "You are dead! You hear me!" As he appeared in the frame of the top step now dressed in a bathrobe, he literally leaped down the last 3 steps, landing directly in front of Annie, who now was opening the door to the hallway. She was about to run toward her door, but she ran into Caroline, who had Stefano in her arms.

"Annie? What are you…"

Annie interrupted her and said, "No time, Caroline! Richard wants to kill me and this time he really means it," She replied as she ran into her apartment and said, "By!" As she locked the door behind her.

Caroline stood in the hallway dumbfounded, when Richard ran out the door. He ran to her and greeted her with a kiss and replied, "Hi, Darling." Then as he ran past her toward Annie's door, he said, "By Darling," As he made it to Annie's door and began to pound on it. "Annie Spadaro, this time you've gone to far. Do you hear me! You've messed with me for the last time," He said as he began to pound on her door again. Caroline walked over to him with a happy Stefano in her arms and she turned Richard around to looks at her.

"Richard, will you please tell me what's going on?"

"Oh nothing," He said sarcastically. "I went out right after you left and when I got back, Annie was in the apartment. I heard the shower running and singing coming from it, and Annie told me, in a way that would make me believe you were waiting for me to join you in there…"

"Who's in my shower?" Caroline interrupted, confused.

"Your mother! I flashed your mother while she was in the shower," He said screaming his response at Annie's door.

Caroline's face turned red with rage, and then she too began to pound on Annie's door screaming angrily, "Annie? Open up this door. Now!"

"Ok, but only if Richard leaves." Caroline handed Stefano to him, and motioned for him to go back to their apartment. He obeyed. "Ok, he's gone. Open the door." She obeyed, and Annie had never seen her so angry.

"Annie, I've had it with your pranks on Richard, and this time, you've gone to far!"

"He's just exaggerating, and what's the harm…"

"You don't think it is a problem that my fiancée flashes my mother! Do you have any idea how upset my mother is going to be, as well as Richard? Do you hurt these people just for the kicks or do you really not give a damn that you are hurting someone!"

"It was only Richard and a harmless little prank," Annie said matter of factly.

"Only Richard. Huh? Well, what about my mother or did you even think how this would affect her? Do you think I enjoy seeing you harm and humiliate the man I love?" Annie shrugged her shoulders. "You don't see a problem." Annie shook her head from side to side. "Well I do, and if you can not get along with him, than I think our friendship is over…"

"Caroline, I've known your longer…"

"Yes, Annie, but the truth is I am just as sick of your pranks as he is, and if you want me to forgive you, you go inside and apologize to my mother, then to Richard."

I didn't do…"

Caroline gave her a stern look than replied angrily, "Either you do, or you can count this friendship as over! Friends DO NOT DO what you just did to the man the friend loves, as well to their mother! Do you get what I'm saying."

"Ok, Ok, I'm sorry and I will apologize."

"Not only that, Annie, you will never pull another prank on him, ever again."

"Ok, ok, but jeez. You would think he was the Pope."

Caroline gave her a slight giggle, than looked her in the eyes. "Annie?"

"Ok, Ok."

As they entered Caroline's apartment, the tension could have been cut with a knife. "Annie," Caroline said, "Do you have something to say to my mom and Richard?" Annie's face turned beet red, then she opened her mouth…

Later on that afternoon, Annie was decorating Caroline's for yet another bridal shower, with Richard sitting at Caroline's old drafting table, looking at a brochure. "Richie," Annie said amused. "Good reading material. A book to advanced for ya?"

"Annie, didn't you learn anything earlier today?" He asked with a stern look.

"Sorry, just making small talk. What you looking at, anyway?"

"Honeymoon, brochures," He said showing her the brochure in his hand.

"The Blue Quail Inn! Didn't you learn anything the last time!" She asked quite shocked with his choice for a honeymoon.

Yeah, I know, but we received this in the mail last week. Seems it has new owners. I called just to make sure the couple from HELL, had nothing to do with it."

"And?"

"No," he said grinning happily. "In fact they lost it to bankruptcy, and it was auctioned off several months ago."

"Whoa! How could it go downhill, that fast?"

"Let me put it this way," He said giggling slightly. "When your livelihood depends on repeat business and word of mouth, do not be rude to your guests." Annie was about to say something else but he stopped her and said, "And do not under any circumstances tell off the writer for one of the most famous travel magazines, in the business!"

"They didn't," She said giggling, as Richard shook his head up and down. "Well, serves them right, after what they did to Caroline." He looked at her, expecting her to say something else. "Ok, and you too. So, you're taking her back there. And I can assume, the Primrose Room?"

"Yep. I told the new owners about our run in with Steven and Alice. They knew exactly what I was talking about and guaranteed we would have the Primrose Room."

"Ok, so how are you getting her there without her seeing where you're going?"

"Blindfold, which is where you come in. Do you have one by chance?"

She said in a hurt tone, "So I am the only person you can think off who might have a…" He looked at her with a smirk. "Ok, ok, I'll be right back."

THE WEDDING OF RICHARD AND CAROLINE

Caroline was upstairs in her room with Annie. She knew going to the expense of a new wedding dress was a little elaborate, but her wedding to Richard was way to special to wear a dress she had planned to marry someone else, in. So with Annie's help, she found a dress that screamed she was going to be Mrs. Richard Karinsky and for the first time as a bride, it felt right to be wearing a more classic wedding dress, accompanied with the ever classic veil. And she was really happy and not at all queasy. It really surprised her that she didn't have an upset stomach or even indigestion, so there was no doubt in her mind, that Richard was the one.

"Honey," Annie asked, as she was standing in front of her in the Bridesmaid dress she had worn the last time, "Are you all right?"

"Never better, Annie." She said through tears. "I am really about to marry Richard!"

Annie took a tissue and handed it to her and replied, "Caroline don't, or your mascara will smudge."

"I know, I'm just so happy," she said, as there was a light knock on the door. "Pudding, are you ready?" Her father asked.

"Hi, Dad. Yes."

"I mean, is this really taking place this time?" He asked very seriously.

"Yes, dad," Caroline replied a little embarrassed. "Yes, I'm sure Dad. Richard is the only man I have ever truly loved, and I am sure he is the one for me. I have never been so sure of anything in my life."

"Ok, so are we ready to get this show on the road?"

"Yes," she said smiling her eyes brimming with tears as the bridal march began. Annie took her place at the top of the stairs and began to march down.

As Annie made her way toward the Altar, placed in front of the window where the drafting table had been just days earlier, the wedding march began, and Caroline and her father began to descend the stairs. Richard looked at her with awe with her veil over he face, and when she made her way to his side, he lifted the veil and kissed her gently on the lips. The Minster replied, " I understand that the two people in front of me, have been through a lot to get to this point, and in the times I have met with them, I have never seen any 2 people in my 30 years as a Minster, more in love. It is a special time for them, and they have asked to write their own wows. "Richard…"

"Caroline," Richard said as he held her hands in his, "The moment I first met you, I knew you were special. I feel in love with you almost imminently, and when you were about to marry someone else, I could not stand it and left. If I had had the nerve to tell you all of this then, we would have been at this point so much sooner. But we are together now, which is all that matters to me and we are about to begin our life together, as one. I commit my life to making you happy and vow to love you and cherish you, for as long as I live."

With tears in her eyes she replied, "Richard, I too knew you were special the moment I met you. But, not until you had left the first time, did I begin to realize, how much you really meant to me. Though all we have been through, my love for you has been the only constant. Though it all, you have always been in my heart. It has taken us time to get to this point, but I promise to love and cherish you and to love and devote my life to you, as long as I live."

"Richard Karinsky," The minister asked. "Do you take this woman to be your lawfully wedded Wife? To love, honor and cherish her as long as you both shall live?"

"I do," Richard replied with so much emotion, he choked on the words.

"Caroline Duffy, do take this man to be your lawfully wedded husband?" To love honor and cherish him as long as you both shall live?"

"I do," Caroline replied with just as much emotion as Richard had replied to her, just moments earlier.

"Now the rings," The Minister replied. Del, who was Richard's best man, handed Caroline's ring to him. "Richard, place the ring on Caroline's finger and repeat after me." Richard placed the ring on her finger and then the Minister said, "With this ring, I thee wed."

"With this ring, I thee wed," Richard replied, through tears.

"Now, Caroline," the Minister said, as Annie handed Richard's ring to her. "Take the ring, and place it on Richard's finger and repeat after me." Caroline took the ring in her hand and placed it on Richard's finger. "With this ring, I thee wed."

"With this ring, I thee wed," She said happily.

If anyone here knows why these two people can not be joined together, speak now or forever hold you peace."

Caroline held her breath, half expecting someone, anyone especially Stefano, to begin to cry. But, he was happily giggling and smiling in his position on Angie's lap. Caroline turned around and looked lovingly at Richard, then toward the minister. Happily, the minister said, "With the power vested in me in the state of New York, I now pronounce you husband and wife."

Caroline's father said, in relief, "About time." The minister giggled slightly and then said, "You may now kiss the bride."

And Richard did, kissing Caroline with so much passion and with more love than she had ever felt in a kiss from him, or anyone. "Caroline," He whispered into her ear. "Are we really married? Are you really, my wife?"

"Yes, my love. Yes." She replied kissing him back.

As Richard and Caroline turned around to look at their friends and family who had graciously blessed them with their presence on this special day, the Minister said, "I now present to you, Mr. and Mrs. Richard Karinsky.

The reception was planned at Remo's of course, and it wasn't a surprise to their guests, that Annie caught the bouquet, and Del caught the garter.

THE HONEYMOON OF RICHARD AND CAROLINE

Richard was happily driving to their honeymoon destination, with Caroline sleeping peacefully in the front passenger seat. He smiled happily at her, thinking about their discussion the night before, about what to do about Stefano while they were away. Angie, hearing their plight, was happy to keep him for them so they could spend their honeymoon alone. She had taken a liking to him; he was like the grandchild she didn't have and had became his surrogate grandmother. Richard and Caroline could see how happy Stefano seemed with her and agreed happily, but in reality, neither one wanted to be away from THEIR son for long and had all ready agreed with each other on a shortened honeymoon. Breaking out of his revere, Richard saw the sign for the entrance for the Inn and then nudged Caroline awake. "Hum?" She replied as she stretched and yawned. "Are you going to tell me where we're going now?"

"No, not yet. We'll be there in a few minutes and not to spoil the surprise, I want you to wear the blindfold that's in your lap."

She looked down and saw the item in her lap, and then placed it over her eyes. "This place must be something."

"It is my love. It's is and some place really special."

He stopped the car and went over to her side and opened it for her and then removed the blindfold. Her mouth fell open. "Richard, are you crazy! Remember the last time and the Innkeepers from hell?"

Yes, but… He replied as he told her the same story he told Annie about Alice and Steven.

"Well," She replied as she kissed him on the side of the cheek. "Couldn't have happened to a better couple. So, who owns it now?"

"Remember the Baxter's? Barney and Dorothy?"

"They didn't," She asked amused.

"Yep. And they were thrilled about it."

"Why?"

"Well you remember Alice telling Steven, Barney crashed into the gazebo?" Caroline shook her head up and down, grinning when she remembered that night at the Inn. "Well, Alice lost it with them and kicked them out of the place as well."

"Oh. I hope they gloated and rubbed their nose's in the fact that being rude to your guests, is not the thing to do."

"Yes, they said they did and also guaranteed we would have the Primrose Room."

"The Primrose Room?" She said hugging him and crying tears of joy. "Oh, Richard. No one has ever gone to this much trouble for me, well no one but you, that is."

And they did get the Primrose Room, and did what they wanted to do the first night they spent there; take a long gingerly bubble bath together, and then make love in the four poster bed. They spent most of their 4-day stay in bed, and unlike their first night there, almost a year earlier, it was heavenly and very romantic.

"Caroline," Richard asked breathlessly, as he was holding her in his arms in the bed. "Is this all you expected it to be? I mean this room and for us to be here together?"

"Yes, but anywhere we can express our love for each another, is and will be jut as special."

"Even in the Gazebo?"

"Richard, we haven't…" She slapped him across the chest lightly, then giggled, "I gather you want to do it in the Gazebo?"

"Yeah, but I think here is a lot safer," He said giggling. "We can't afford for these Innkeepers to be mad at us, too. That way we can return one day and relive this wonderful honeymoon."

"Yes, just a long as Alice and Steven do not buy it back."

"Yes, my love," He replied as he pulled the sheet over them and began to kiss her passionately yet again.

Once back in civilization, it was back to work as usual. Richard was happy still coloring in "Caroline in the City," but Caroline knew he was wasting his talent there. He was a talented artist, and she just prayed he would get his big break, soon. She knew it meant she would lose the best colorist se had ever had, but his happiness was a lot more important to her, than that.

FOUR MONTHS LATER

The area in the loft that ran behind the bathroom and the kitchen was now turned into a nursery for Stefano. Julia had called and said she was still in Monte Carlo trying to get over her postpartum depression, and she would be there for a while, but would come and pick up Stefano, when she was better. And it was just fine with Caroline and Richard. He was already beginning to call Caroline Momma, and they both were beginning to believe she would not come back for him.

Richard was alone in the den of loft, sitting at the partner's desk that was now back in its old spot in front of the window. A fire had destroyed part of the GMD Entertainment Building, and all artists for the firm had to find alternative workspace, until the building could be refurbished. But Caroline and Richard weren't complaining. They preferred the quietness of the loft, over to hustle and bustle of the office. Richard was coloring in one of the panels, when he heard crying from the baby monitor and then Stefano saying, "Momma, Dada." Richard looked down at his watch, as a smile appeared on his face. He put the paint pencil he had in his hand on the desk, then walked into Stefano's new room, returning with him in his arms.

"Oh, what is wrong with my boy? Hugh?" He replied kissing him on the cheek. "I bet, my little fella is hungry. Stefano began to cry some more, and Richard knew without a doubt that was Stefano's hungry cry and walked over to the fridge, took out his bottle, and then put it into his mouth. At almost a year old, Stefano had no problem holding the bottle by himself, so Richard placed him in the playpen along with some toys, then went back to work at the partner's desk.

At that moment, Annie barged in screaming, "Hey Caroline!"

Richard didn't look up from his work, but said, "Quiet Annie. I just got him quiet and Caroline's upstairs. She'll be down in a minute, and why are you here? Don't you ever work?"

Giving him an evil eye, she said, "You know I'm unemployed and besides, she asked me to come over, thank you very much." She began to walk up the stairs but turned around and muttered, "How she ever fell in love with someone with the personality of a dead fish, is beyond me."

"Annie," Caroline replied from upstairs. "Please quit agitating him and come on up?"

"Ok, Ok." She muttered again.

Once upstairs in the bedroom, Caroline was sitting on the bed fully dressed but she looks awful, and Annie walked over to her and sat down next to her. "Honey are you all right?"

"No. I'm late."

"Late? Late for what?"

"I mean late, as in late."

"Oh! Late!"

"Yeah, and I feel awful. I've been getting sick every morning, for the last 4 days. I don't want to tell Richard before I'm sure, but…"

"Pregnant, with Richard's baby." Caroline shook her head up and down, and her face turned even more ashen, as she raced toward the bathroom and got sick in the commode.

As she was coming back from the bathroom looking a slight bit better than before, Annie patted the place on the bed beside her and Caroline sat back down. "Caroline, I don't want to seem not thrilled about this news, but haven't you been using…"

"Of course, Annie. But you remember the night he had the showing at the art gallery and sold one of his paintings?" Annie shook her head up and down, to agree. "Well," She replied sheepishly, "When we got home, we just forgot ourselves," she said, as her eyes glassed over and she remembered the passion they held for each other that night and each and every night since their reunion.

"Caroline, listen. I have a few pregnancy tests at home. I'll be right back." Caroline looked at her with a shake of the head. "I know, I know. I sleep around too much…or I did sleep around way too much until Del and I…You are really all right about Del and I?"

"Of course, I am. I'm really happy, and I think you really belong together."

"Really?" Caroline shook her head up and down. Annie rose and as she was walking out the door replied, "OK. I'll be right back."

"No, I'll go with you, but if Richard asks, tell him I wanted to show you, this," she said as she placed her right hand in front of Annie's nose, which was adorned with a brilliant emerald ring.

"Caroline, that is beautiful! Where did you get it?"

"Richard, of course."

"No, way. What did he do? Rob a bank?"

"No, he sold another painting at the art gallery last week."

"Another someone actually bought something Mr. Doom and Gloom painted?"

"You know, his mood in his art has changed since we got married. And if you must know, it was a painting of a baby playing happily with his father."

"Oh. Well, if that has changed, maybe he'll do something about his wardrobe. I mean, something besides black or gray. He looks like a corpse half the time."

"I like him just the way he is, Annie. I know he is different, but that's what makes me love him even more."

"Ok, Ok, so let's get to my place and see what the verdict is."

As they emerged from the steps, Stefano was sound asleep in the playpen, and Richard was still working at his side of the desk. Richard looked over to them and noticing how sick Caroline looked, asked, "Honey? Are you all right now?"

"Yes, I'm fine, but I need to go over to Annie's for a few minutes and get something. I shouldn't be long." He walked over to them and kissed Caroline on the side of the cheek.

"Do you want something for breakfast?"

"Just plain toast will be fine. Back in a minute."

15 minutes later, two pieces of toast were sitting on a plate on the counter, and Richard was coloring in yet another panel, when Caroline walked into the room with a dazed look on her face, being led through the door, by Annie. "Annie," Richard asked concerned, "What did you do to her?"

"It's not what I did to her, Richard. It's what you did to her."

"What are you talking about?" Caroline turned to look at him and muttered something under her breath. "Caroline are you all right?"

"Yeah, I'm fine. But, I need to tell you something," she replied as Annie walked toward the opened door.

"If you need me, I'm across the hall, " She replied as she walked out the door.

"Caroline, talk to me. You're scaring me. What's wrong?"

"It's blue, Richard. It's blue."

"What did she give you to smoke?" He asked in a very serious tone.

"Richard, come over and sit down on the sofa, with me. We have something to talk about." They did just that, and Caroline took his right hand in hers and began to caress it with her thumb. "Richard, do you remember when my friend Jeannie showed up?" He shook his head up and down to agree. "Ok, do you remember what you said about bringing a child into this world?"

"Yes, I said it was an ego trip."

"The other thing you said, when I found out my eggs didn't take."

"Oh, about if a child had to be brought into this world, it would not be horrible if it were part Caroline."

"Yes, that's it, so I have a question for you. Do you think a child that is part of both of us, would be all that bad," she replied as she took the pregnancy test that was clutched in her hands, and placed it in his.

"Caroline," He said though tears, "What are you trying to tell me?"

"It's blue, Richard," She said grinning.

"Does this mean we're going to be…We're having…

"Yes. I'm pregnant. We're having a baby, Richard." He pulled her to him and hugged her hard, then place his hand on her stomach. "Richard, This is not the reaction I expected."

"Why? Because of what I said when Jeannie came by and what I said when we said good-bye at the airport?" She shook her head up and down, then he continued. "Well, considering at the time I would have been facing the prospect of having a child with Julia, and the fact I was scared to death I would be just like my father and my mother, can you blame me?" he said sighing deeply. "But then Stefano came along," He said smiling happily. "And the moment I held him in my arms, I knew it was worth it to have this tiny human being in my life and how I could ever believe that a child, my child could be considered anything but a blessing…" He broke down as tears began to form in his eyes and then began caressing Caroline's stomach. "And now I, we have another blessing on the way. Our child, Caroline," He said, trying to talk through his tears. "Do you have any idea how happy you make me and how happy I am that you are having my child?" He said as they both broke down in tears.

Caroline's pregnancy was going along fine, but she was beginning to believe as well as Richard and Annie, she was a little too large for how far she was into her pregnancy, so when she and Richard came in for her next cheek up and the ultra sound, she mentioned her concerns to her doctor. Her doctor was looking at the machine, and said, "Well, I think I know what the problem is, now," He said grinning.

Both Richard and Caroline panicked and said together, "What's wrong!"

"Well, look at this, and tell me what you see." They nervously looked at the image on the screen and their mouths feel open. "Twins? We're having twins!" They both said together.

"Oh, Richard. We're having twins," Caroline said with the tears flowing down her cheeks.

"Yes, my love. "Twins," He said hugging her to him.

"OK," the doctor replied. "Do you want to know the sex?"

"Yes," They both said together.

"Ok, from what I can see, it looks like you are having 2 very healthy little girls and they are progressing right on schedule."

"Girls, were having two girls. Oh Richard," She said crying.

"Ok," Annie replied as Caroline and Richard made their way back to the loft. "What is wrong with you?"

"Nothing Annie. Everything is perfect."

"Perfect? You're twice as large as you should be. If your doctor didn't find anything wrong with you, you need to find another doctor, because anyone can see something is wrong!"

"Yes, if I were having A BABY," She said, emphasizing the words A and BABY.

"Caroline, you're not making any sense. You are having a baby, because I can see it moving around, as we speak!"

"Yes, like I said, if I were only having A BABY."

"I have to lie down. You are confusing me," Annie replied as she flopped down on the sofa.

"What she means Annie, is A as in not singular."

"What?" She said as she looked at Richard, then looked back to Caroline. "You're having twins!" She screamed.

"Yes," Caroline replied happily. "Two healthy little girls."

"Twins!" She screamed again, then rose from the sofa and went to the opened door. "Ma! Get over here. Caroline is having Twins!"

Caroline had taken a 3-month hiatus from her strip so she could care for her little girls Melanie and Laurie and also Stefano, who was by this time a little over a year old. But now, she was ready to get back to work again. She really missed working on the strip, and she had to admit, she loved drawing it and using her experiences from the vast city of New York, to draw her strip from. It was where her best friends were, where Richard was finally able to get his big break in the art world and where her children were born. And finally she began to wonder, how Randy ever convinced her to leave? She finally had to admit to herself; she was never in love with him. Like Richard said about Julia, she was in love with the idea of him. He was successful, lived in her hometown, and wanted what she wanted out of life, at least she thought he did. But the more she began to examine it, Randy was not the person she thought he was. He had convinced her to give up her baby, "Caroline in the City," and to come back to Peshtigo and be his dutiful wife. His wife, a housewife! Imagine he did not want a wife that worked. He wanted her to be at his beckon call, and what? BE a baby machine? Yes, she wanted children, but she wanted to work, also. And then it hit her. The only way he would ever have been able to get her to act that way, was to pray on her vulnerability. He knew she was in a deep, deep depression after Richard had left and not really thinking clearly. And she was sure if she were thinking clearly and her old self at that time, she would have told him to go jump in a lake and bring his 19th century ideals, with him. But, she knew Richard respected her and her work. Ok, he used to joke about the strip not really being art, but she knew that was just Richard's way of joking. He never ever expected her in their marriage, to be anything but what and who she was. So with that in mind, her mind was made up to do something she should have done, shortly after her marriage to Richard.

She picked up the phone, and dialed. "Randy? Hi, this is Caroline."

"Caroline! I knew you would call eventually, and beg me to come back."

"Randy, that is not why I am calling. I told you the night at the hotel, where my feelings were. I am sorry I hurt you, but I was never in love with you. I know I thought I did, but I was so depressed and confused after Richard left, I was not thinking clearly."

"Caroline, I KNOW that is only Richard talking, telling you what to say. Because I know you love me, or you would not still have the house…"

"Randy," She interrupted. "That's why I'm calling. I'm selling the house. The only reason I bought it in the first place was because I thought I would move back there some day, but I really like New York and where I am in my life with my strip and my family."

"What? You can't do that! What about the plans we made, the children we planned!"

"Randy, I am not married to you, so my decision has nothing to do with you! It has everything to do with my husband Richard and myself. And about children, Randy? My husband and I are the proud parents of twin girls, born 3 months ago. But, I am really surprised you do not know this by now Randy, since you live in Peshtigo, " She said accusingly. "Because I DO know, from friends from town who have called to congratulate me on the birth of my children, that my mother has blabbed it across town, that her daughter Caroline, has finally given her two grandchildren. And considering how small the town is and how everyone in town knows when you even sneeze, I'm fairly certain you must know about the birth of my daughters. And with their birth and even before, I realized Richard and I are living our dream, my dream and his dream, together, as one. We are very happy and plan on living in New York for a very long time. He and I may eventually move to Peshitgo, but right now, we are happy where we are."

"Then why did you call? To rub my nose in it," He said harshly.

"No," She said angrily. "I called to tell you I am selling the house and to see if you wanted to buy it, before I put it on the market. You have a week to decide. If I do not hear from you by next Monday, I'll know your answer is no, and it will be placed on the market. But no matter what, the house will be sold."

"Caroline you can't. I know he will hurt you eventually, and you will come running to me, and don't think I don't know he is there with you and the one that is forcing you to sell it."

"NO Randy. I am selling it, because I know it hurts him to see the rent check come in each month with your name on it. And the other reason I want to sell it is I want you out of my life. Not because of Richard, but because I have been thinking about what you wanted in a wife. You wanted a dutiful wife. A wife that would not work, wait on you hand and foot and be a baby machine for you. Well, that is not me, Randy. I wanted and I now have 2 children and I will devote my life to them, but I also want a career. Richard understands this and is very supportive and it got me thinking, how you could ever convinced me to give up my life, my career? But I can tell you with 100% certainty, if I were really thinking as clearly as I am now, I would have never agreed to it."

"He is telling you what to say."

"No, he is not, in fact he is out of the house at the moment, spending some quality time with OUR son. And to answer your next accusation, he has no idea I have decided to sell the house. And if you must know, I am planning on using part of the proceeds for a present for MY Husband because I am his wife and he love me, and I love him. And because he loves me just the way I am, and he DOES NOT want me to change, to please him. That is the kind of person Richard is, Randy. But, can you honestly say the same?"

With her harsh tone, he hung up the phone harshly, as one of her daughters began to cry.

She walked over to the playpen where they were sleeping just moments earlier and picked up the crying one and began to stoke her back. "Is my little Laurie hungry?" She said cooing. At that moment, Annie and her mother Angie walked into the room and exclaimed, "We heard them crying. Need any help?"

"Thanks guys, but only Laurie is…" At that moment Melanie began to cry, also. "Yes, maybe you can help after all. See if you can comfort Melanie, while I try to comfort Laurie."

Angie picked the other one up and Annie said, "Caroline, how can you tell the difference?"

"Hey, a mother knows. And besides the name tags help," She said giggling. "But really, Melanie scrounges up her nose when she cries."

"Oh," They both replied. Angie felt the diaper. "I don't think she's wet," Angie Continued.

"No, that is their hungry cry. I'll get the bottles from the fridge.

"Don't you breast feed them?" Angie asked shocked.

"Yes, but when they both begin to cry at the same time, bottles are the best bet. You just put them in the microwave for 15 seconds," She replied as she walked over to the fridge and took out two bottles. "But just to let you know, the bottle's contain breast milk," She said as placed the bottles in the microwave and set the timer for 15 seconds.

"Ewe," Annie replied. "I don't even want to know how you do that!"

Caroline smiled at Annie's comment, right as the microwave dinged. Caroline took the bottles out and checked them and was walking over to the sofa to join Angie who had Melanie in her lap, when they heard Del's voice. "Annie, are you ready," He replied as he knocked on Annie's door.

"Over here, Del," Annie said. He entered the door and smiled at the scene, then became serious. "Is all your stuff packed yet? The moving van will be here in ½ hour."

"Yep, everything is packed and waiting for the movers."

"Caroline," Del replied a little embarrassed. "Are you sure Annie and I moving in together is not going to bother you?"

"Why Del? Because of our past?" He shook his head up and down to agree. "Del I can tell you, I am fine with it. I am happily married to Richard and the mother of two, no make that 3 children, and very happy with my life."

"Three children," Del asked a little confused, then his eyes showed he knew what she was talking about. "You're including Stefano, too?"

"Yes. I am as close to a mother as he is going to get. Julia is not the mothering type. She has called to asked about him only once since we got married and even then, she didn't even want to talk to him," She said disgustingly. "I don't know what her problem is, but it's her loss because he is beginning to believe I am his mother, and I am his mother or the only one that cares about him, and I have no problem being here for him."

"She really doesn't care?" Del and Annie replied astonished.

"I don't think she is capable of loving anyone but herself, and Richard is beginning to believe the same thing."

"Ok," Del continued. "Where is Stefano anyway," He replied as he began to scan the room, looking for him.

"He's just a little bit jealous of the girls, so we thought it might be good if he and Richard go out, just the two of them."

"Yes," that is a good idea," Del said, then added, "So you really have no problem with Annie and I?"

"No, Del. You and Annie are good for each other. I believe that, and I am really happy for you, but having Annie not across the hall is the thing that is going to be difficult."

"Hey, I'm only going to be 6 blocks away. And with Ma living across the hall, I'll see you more than you think."

"I know, but I'm still going to miss you."

"Yeah," Angie replied, "But still, I don't like you living with a man."

"Del," Annie said. "Go on across the hall, and I'll be there in a few minutes. I need to talk to Ma."

"Ok," he replied with a quick kiss to her lips, then exited the door.

"Ma, listen. He asked me because we…well, I hate to admit it, but we're in love. Imagine, knowing him all these years, and never realizing the person I'm suppose to be with, is a friend!" She said happily. "I know living with a guy is not your cup of tea, but think of it this way. It's the next step before marriage. And the way we're going, I don't think that will be far behind."

"Annie," Caroline said. "I was thinking that myself, and yes I am fine with it. You really are good together."

"I know, I know, so I better get going so we can get this done before nightfall."

The day turned into a week and since Randy never called her back, she happily put the house up for sale. She was surprised it took so little time for someone to make an offer for the house and had it sold within a month. But, she was not really surprised by Randy's decision not to buy it back from her. After their phone conversation, she thought she had finally gotten it through his head, she was not now nor had ever been in love with him, and they did not have a future together. But the one thing she did know in the back of her head, if he did make an offer on the house, he would have still believed she would leave Richard one day, and come back to him and Peshtigo. But she didn't care what his reasoning was, she was just glad she could do something with the money, something for Richard, like she was bragging to Randy, the day she called him about the house.

A few days later it was a little warm for August, so she and Annie were on their way to lunch, with the kids. Caroline was pushing the double stroller with the twins, and Annie was pushing the stroller with Stefano, and that is when Caroline saw it. An Art Gallery run by a very snobbish owner who refused to show Richard's work several years earlier was up for sale, and she knew what she was going to do. Buy it for Richard. 'But,' she said to herself. 'For what occasion? Our anniversary was several months ago, and I already gave him his present.' And that was when she remembered the map. The map Richard had made for their official first date and all of the special moments he felt were an important part of their life. They were important, from the first time he heard her voice, to their first hug. But an anniversary present of the magnitude of what she planned? No, those events were not big enough, and then she remembered, their first kiss. Not the make believe kiss they gave each other for Julia's benefit, but their first real kiss. The kiss they gave each other after his return from Spain, when they realized they were in love with each other.

About a month later it was a normal October, with just a little chill in the air, and Caroline, trying to get Richard in the area of the Art Gallery, had insisted they go out to eat at a restaurant, just a block from the Gallery. But the fact she insisted on taking the children with them had peaked his interest and made him a little suspicious. And after they had finished eating and she had insisted they walk back to their apartment, he was sure she had something up her sleeve. Well anyway, he was just happy they were together and had the kids with them.

When they got close to the Art Gallery, Caroline made a mention of it. The gallery name was covered over with a sheet with an open sign, next to the door. "Darling? Look," Caroline replied. "Isn't that the Art Gallery where the owner who would not show your work?"

"Yes," he said sadly. "I heard he was forced to sell, because of lack of…"

"Talent."

"Yep. And believe me, the talents he thought were sooo great, were not so great. He never could get it thorough his head, just because an artist wasn't famous, didn't mean they didn't have talent. I know besides me, he refused to show several brilliant artists, who later with no help from him, became famous. He just could not see beyond his own nose."

"Yes, I know. I saw some of it. Hum," She said feigning surprise. "Looks like someone has taken it over and they're open. Come on. Let's go in and see what someone else thinks real talent, is."

I don't know, Caroline…"

"Can you do it for me?" She asked smiling.

"You really want to go in?"

"Yes, I do."

"Can I ask you why? The only time you ever want to go to one of these is when I'm showing." In his mind, he knew something was up, but he couldn't imagine what. 'Did she take some of my work for a show of my own,' he thought as they entered. He was surprised when they entered, the name in the foyer of the Gallery was covered over also, as well as one whole wall, which was apparently in his mind, the work of an artist. But what he saw next, confused him. Their friends were also there. He looked over at Caroline and asked, "Caroline, what is going on? And don't tell me nothing, because Del and Annie wouldn't be caught dead in an art gallery. So, what is…"

Caroline stopped his sentence, by placing her hand over his mouth. "One question at a time, love. First, yes something is going on. And if you will follow me," She replied as she walked them back to the Foyer of the Gallery, "I will show you." She pulled the corner of the sheet that was covering up the name, to reveal the name of the Galley: The Richard Karinsky Art Gallery."

His mouth fell open, and he almost fell over. "Caroline!" He asked in shock. "What is going on? Why is my name on the wall in here?"

"Richard, I have known for some time how talented you are, and the way some of these art galleries have treated you has made me angry, because anyone who has seen your art, knows you have talent, real talent. But most galleries only see dollar signs. This my love, is my anniversary present to you."

"Caroline, I can't accept this and what about the money? How can we afford it with the kids?" He then looked her in the eyes, and asked, "And what anniversary?

"One question at a time, love. First, Kenneth was forced into bankruptcy, and I got it at a steal. Second, I made a decision after the kids were born, to sell the house in Pestigo. We, you, I and Stefano and the girls are happy here in New York, so I decided to sell it."

Caroline, but you love that house, and what about your dream about moving back some day?"

"Richard, my dream was not about the house but what it represented; a home and family. Well, I have that right here. My home is where you and our children are. And on top of that, there is still plenty more money left from the sale to put into a college fund for all three of the kids."

"Caroline, I don't know what to say."

"Say, you love it and will do with it, what no other art gallery in town, will do. What none would do for you."

"Give unknown artist a chance?"

"Exactly," She replied.

"Thank you my love," he replied as he caressed the side of the cheek. "But darling, you said this was an anniversary present. But must I remind you, our anniversary was several months ago, and I love," He said as he pointed to the watch on his left wrist, "The present you gave me, as well as these," He said as he pointed to the two sleeping twins in the stroller. "That my love, is all the present I could ever want or need as a wedding present. These two beautiful little girls you have given me."

"Yes, they are beautiful, but I never said anything about a wedding anniversary." He looked at her with confusion. "This is the anniversary I am talking about," She said as she pulled his face down to hers and kissed him so long and hard, he almost lost his breath.

"Oh," He said breathing heavily. "First real kiss," He said against her lips. "I remember that kiss too and what it meant to us," He said as he caressed the side of her cheek. "So, would you like to show me around MY Art Gallery?"

"With pleasure, my love," She replied as she walked toward the wall, which Richard had believed was the work of an artist. Well, he was right, as Charlie, with his ever-present skates, skated past them and in one fell swoop, withdrew all of the covers from all of the pictures from the wall, to reveal all of Richard's paintings he normally left at the loft.

"Caroline, how did you get these here without my knowledge?"

"Del and Annie got them here, while we were at dinner."

He kissed her deeply then said, "Thank you my love. No one has ever had the faith in me that you do," He said choking back the tears. "No one, not my parents, no woman I have ever been involved with, not even Julia, has ever had the faith in me that you do, and I love you so much, I can not believe how lucky I am to have you in my life."

"I know, Richard," She said as she ran her hand through his hair.

In fact, you are my life too, and you are the only person I have ever been involved with, who has believed in me." He kissed her on the side of the cheek, then looked down at their now sleeping children. He then held her on her side and kissed her on the side of the cheek and then said simply, "Thank you Caroline. For everything. You have thought of everything, but this is really too much of your money…"

"Our money Richard," She said as she caressed his cheek again. "We're married now and what mine is yours, and what yours is mine. But, I have no doubt that you will have this place in shape and making a profit, in no time!"

Not long after the opening of the Karinsky Gallery, it was a huge success as Caroline had predicted and became one of the most respected galleries in town. And Caroline was happy about the success and for her husband, but it also meant he would not be able to spend time in the loft with her and be her colorist. She knew she would miss him in the loft during the day, but she also knew he had to live his dream of becoming a successful artist and a Galley owner, just like she had finally obtained her dream several years ago, with her success as a cartoonist. Richard had happily agreed to color in the panels until she found a replacement, but they both knew he could not do it forever. His time was needed at the gallery.

After the twins were born, they had discussed what to do about more room and more importantly, the need for a bathroom with a tub. With only Stefano, they were able to make do. But now with three children, all five of them were walking over the other and trying to wash the kinds in the shower, was a real challenge. With Richard's Gallery and Caroline's strip bringing in a descent living and with some of the money left from the sale of the house in Peshtigo, they decided it was time to expand. Neither Richard nor Caroline really wanted to leave the loft, at least not yet, because it was their home, the place where they had fallen in love. And as luck wold have it, they learned from another neighbor, the one room apartment above their den, had just become vacant. She and Richard knew it would mean more rent, but they were more than willing to comply, if it meant they could spend a few more years in the place where they had fell in love. With the arrangements made with the owner and a contractor already hired, they began to expand their home.

Several days after the hiring of the contractor, he stopped by to check on the final arrangements and to check on the supplies he would need for the job. He was upstairs with Richard and Stefano, and Caroline was downstairs with the girls. Melanie and Laurie were sitting in the playpen playing and giggling with each other, and Caroline was happily at the partner's desk looking at her daughters and attempting to make up an ad for the colorist job for the newspaper, when she heard a knock on the door. She didn't know who could be there to see them so early unless the contractor was expecting someone else. 'And Angie like Annie, would never be up this early and would have just barged in,' she thought, smiling. But what she found when she opened up the door was a complete surprise. A young woman, a teenager actually, was in the doorway. "Can I help you?" Caroline asked.

"Yeah," the girl replied. "I'm looking for Richie."

"You mean my husband Richard," Caroline replied in a partly harsh tone.

"Yes," She said happily. "Is he home?"

"Yes, he is, but he is upstairs with our contractor, letting him know what we need to have done. Can I tell him who is asking?"

"Oh, Sorry, you must be Caroline. He has told me all about you. I'm Richie's…" Before she could finish her sentence, Richard came down the steps with Stefano happily riding on his shoulders. "Richie!" The girl replied. Richard looked up and was very happy to see the girl and it confused as well as hurt Caroline, to see this girl so familiar with her husband.

"Jennifer! Hi! I didn't expect you to be in town, for another month."

"Sorry Cous, but I was able to get into the accelerated art program at the University, and it begins the beginning of the week."

"Richard," Caroline replied confused. "Who is this?"

"Oh, sorry, love. This is Jennifer, my cousin? Remember I told you she was attending the University art department, next term?"

"Oh, yeah," She replied as she looked at Jennifer. "Sorry I was a little harsh there, but when a young girl comes to your door and asks for you husband…"

"Hey, no problem," she said, then exclaimed, "Oh, Richard! Is this Stefano?"

"Yes," He replied as he took him from his shoulders and placed him next to his side. Jennifer went over to him and got down on her knees so she was eye level with Stefano and then, tousled his hair.

"Well, hi there, Stefano! I'm your daddy's cousin, Jennifer," She said smiling. Stefano smiled back at her, and then she looked up at Richard. "And where are the twins?"

Richard pointed to the playpen, where they were awake and playing with each other. "Oh, they are adorable! Just like the picture my mom showed me."

"Well," Caroline replied. "We were just about to eat breakfast, if you would like to join us."

"I wish I could, but I have to get out on the streets and get a job to help pay for my tuition. But how I'm going to find a job with my qualifications, is beyond me."

Richard and Caroline looked at each other and just smiled. "Jennifer," They both said together. "How," Caroline continued. "Would you like to work here, with me…"

When Stefano was 2 years old, Julia showed up demanding to see her son. Stefano had no idea who she was and would not go to her, even when she said she was his mother and instead ran to Caroline, the only mother he had ever known, for protection.

Richard tried to explain to him who she was, but Stefano still clung to Caroline. After a few hours, he finally went over to her and they had a good visit. Julia told Richard she was still not over her postpartum depression and she was not able to give him the attention he needed. She left him with Richard and Caroline, with the stipulation she and Richard would share custody.

When Stefano was three years old, she called them and asked for them to send Stefano to her in Italy, for a visit. They did, with Stefano coming back crying for days after his visit. She only asked for them to send him for a visit once a year, with him coming back crying each time, with him explaining on the visit when he was 5, he was sad because she never wanted to spend time with him.

END OF FLASHBACK TO SERIES FINALE

The kids were up early and watching a cartoon in the den, when Caroline and Richard made there way down the stairs. Caroline placed her arm around Richard's waist and then laid her head on his shoulder. "Honey, how are you going to explain to Stefano about Julia's decision?"

"I'm not sure yet, but I thought I would wait until tonight."

"Are you sure you don't want to tell him now?"

"Yes. I was thinking he would like to hear the good news we have to tell he and the twins, before I tell him THAT."

"Yeah, you're right," she said as she kissed him on the side of the cheek, then released her hand from his waist and walked over to the sofa where the kids were sitting.

"Children," She said as she looked at the three of them and smiled. "Your dad and I have a few things we need to tell you."

"Yeah, mom," All three said together.

"Well," Richard said as he walked next to Caroline. "We are going this morning, to look for a house."

"Why," The kids said again. "We like it here. This is home," They all said sadly, almost in tears.

"Yes, it is," Caroline replied. "But we are running out of room. All three of you are growing up and we really need more room. But there is one more reason," She said smiling over at Richard.

The kids looked at her with a quizzical look, as Richard continued. "There is a very special reason we need a bigger place…well, let me put it this way. How would you like a baby brother or sister?"

"A baby," All three kids exclaimed. "Momma is having a baby!"

"Yes," Caroline said, as all three kids ran to her and hugged her. "Really? We're going to have a baby brother or sister?" All three kids asked.

"Yes, My sweethearts," She replied as she hugged all three of them to her. "So, are you going to be fine with us moving into a bigger place?"

"Yeah, I guess so," They all said a little less sad. "And," Stefano added, looking at Laurie and Melanie. "If we do stay here after the baby is born and it's a girl, it will have to stay in your room. And they cry all of the time," He said with his hands on his hips, talking as if he were an expert on babies.

"Ok, Mommie and Daddy," The twins said together. "But if we do get a new home, can we each have a room to ourselves?"

"Of course," Caroline replied Happily. "That is one reason we wanted to look for a bigger place. Now, why don't you all go upstairs and get dressed, and then we'll be on our way."

"Ok," they all said happily, as they ran up the stairs.

In the Real Estate office, The Karinsky clan was waiting for an agent to help them. "Mr. and Mrs. Karinsky," A middle aged woman asked. "I'm Margaret Walker. If you and your family will follow me into my office, we can see how I can help you." They walked into the office and after they were all seated, Ms. Walker asked, "So what exactly are you looking for?"

"Well," Richard replied. "As you can see, we have three children, and my wife," He said as he looked over to Caroline lovingly, "Well, we are expecting another child, and our apartment is overcrowded as it is."

"OK. Are you looking for an apartment or a house?"

"House," Caroline replied. "We have rented for quite a while, and we really want a place we can say is really ours."

"Ok, so how many rooms? Do you want a one story or two story? How many bathrooms?"

"We really don't have a preference about how many stories," Caroline added. "What we are looking for mainly, is living space, and with our children growing and one on the way, we really need at least 5 bedroom and 3 bathrooms. And…"

"And," Richard interrupted. "A small room for our exercise equipment and for our art supplies."

"Oh. Are you both artist?"

"I am an artist and own the Karinsky Gallery on Bleaker St, and my wife is the creator of the comic strip, "Caroline in the City."

"Oh! Caroline Duffy. I love your strip, and I have purchased several painting from you're gallery for my home, since you opened that gallery back up, Mr. Karinsky. And just between you and me, the owner of that Galley before you bought it, had no idea what talent, really was." Richard giggled slightly. "Oh, I guess you knew that too?"

"Yes," Richard replied with laughter in his voice. "In fact, I was one of those talents, he turned away. And to tell you the truth, you are not the first person to tell me that." Richard said, smiling.

Margaret smiled at them, then said, "Now to get back to business, I have several houses that meet your needs, but I must warn you, they will not be as inexpensive as an apartment."

"Yes, we're aware of that, but we did look at apartments with the room we need, and they were way to expensive per month," Richard replied. "There is no way a house will be that much per month, with a 20 or 30 year mortgage."

"Yes, you may be right. Now, I have several brownstones and townhouses that would qualify."

Six houses later, they still had not found the house that would work and all of the kids could agree with. And then, on the 7th house, They were all in awe. It was perfect. A two-story brownstone with 5 bedrooms, 3 and a half baths, a large kitchen, a den, a living room and a study large enough for the stair climber and all of their art supplies. And to Caroline, the abundance of closet and cabinet space, was a real plus. They all loved the house and discussed it by themselves and had already decided to take it the moment they saw it, but told Ms. Walker they would need a few days to discuss it and arrange for financing.

Later on that night, after the twins were in bed, Richard and Stefano were talking in the den. "Stefano, I really need to talk to you about something. About your mother."

"Ok Dad, but can I say something first?" Richard shook his head up and down. "Dad, do I have to go back there?" He said sadly.

"Son," Richard asked concerned. "Did something happen that makes you not want to see your mother?"

"No, yes, not really, but I don't think she likes me. When I go for a visit, she says hello Stefano, then walks out the door and goes out. I never see her, and when I asked her if she could spend one night with me instead of going out, she told me I was spoiled. I'm not spoiled, am I dad? I mean, all I wanted was for her to spend some time with me. Is that too much to ask," He said through tears, as he whimpered against Richard's chest.

"Oh, son," Richard said sadly, as he kissed him on the top of his head. "I'm sorry she treats you that way. But, she is the one that is spoiled son, not you. And as sad as I am to say this, she just never grew up. Her father, your grandfather, gave her anything and everything she asked for. When you treat children like that, never expecting then to do anything for themselves, they more often than not, turn out just like your mother. But, you will never have to worry about me or Caroline or even your sisters, not being here for you. We love you and will be here for you, no matter what."

"I know daddy," He said hugging Richard. "But, do I have to go back?"

"Son, look at me," Richard replied as he took Stefano's face gently between his hands and looked him in the eyes. "That is why your grandfather brought you back, instead of Fabrina. He told me you and Marcello do not get along."

"No, he doesn't like me and I don't like him."

"Well, I don't know how I am going to tell you this without you becoming upset and thinking you are not loved, because you are. We love you here. Caroline, the twins and I love you without question, and I don't want you to ever doubt you are loved. But your mother," Richard said sadly, "Because of Marcello, has decided she is giving up her parental rights of you, to me."

"What does that mean," Stefano asked slightly confused.

"It means, she does not have custody of you. It means she is giving up her rights as your mother. It means, Caroline can now adopt you and…"

"I don't have to go back? Ever?"

"Not unless you want to. But, that choice is yours to make."

"No, I don't want to go back. She and Marcello don't like me," He said sadly. "I want to stay here with you, Melanie, Laurie and Mamma Caroline. Daddy, can Caroline really adopt me, and I will be her son from now on?"

"Yes, she will be your mom, from now on. But she's been that since you were 6 months old."

"I know Daddy, and I love her as my Momma."

"And she loves you as her son and she always will." As he said that statement, Caroline came down the stairs.

"Well, how did you talk go?"

"Fine," Richard replied, as Stefano ran to her and leaped into her arms. She held him tightly to her, crying happily, hugging him to her chest.

"Yeah," He said against her neck, "Mamma. Can you really adopt me now and I will be your son forever?" He said happily.

"Yes, Stefano, but in my heart you already are my son and always will be my son. It's just that through adoption, it will make it legal."

"Goody. I want you to be my mom."

"I do too, Stefano. I do too. Now, I think it is time for my little man to get to bed. Don't you?" She said as she touched the tip of his nose with her finger.

"Ok, Mamma," He replied happily, as she carried him up the stairs. She stole a look at Richard, and they smiled at each other, tears running down each of their cheeks.

Within a month, the arrangements were made for the house and the financing, and they were ready to begin their new life together in their new home. The kids were beginning to get used to the idea of moving, but Caroline was the one who seemed the most happy about the move, because it wasn't far from their old place, Remo's and just a few blocks form Annie and Del's.

As they were tucking each child into bed in their new home, in their very own rooms, it occurred to them, they were living their dream. Their careers were now on to a great start, and they had three of the best children, anyone could ever wish for. Yes, they were indeed living their dream, to have each other, their careers and the most important part, their family. Their family. It took them so long to get to this far, but it was well worth it, to have it all. And THEY DID HAVE IT ALL. Through all it took for them to be together, through all the obstacles that were put in front of them to get to this point, they were living their dreams together as one, the way it was always meant to be.

Richard smiled at Caroline as they were leaving Stefano's room and kissed her deeply on the lips, then asked her in a soft voice, "Caroline, the first night we spent together at your loft after the fiasco at the Blue Quail Inn, you asked me something, something that has always brought a smile to my face." She looked up to him, curiously. "You asked me, after 3 years after everything, was it worth it?"

"Yes, I remember," she replied happily. "And I remember your answer," She said kissing him on the side of the cheek. "You said, It was worth, and then you said you loved me, and I told you I loved you too."

"Yes, my love, so now I have to ask you the same thing. After 5 years of marriage and 3 or should I say four children later," He said as he lovingly caressed her slightly swollen stomach, "Was it worth it?"

"Oh, yes, my love," She replied as the tears began to flow down her cheeks. "It was worth it. Through all we have been through to get here, it was worth it, and I would not trade it for anything."

"I would not either, my love," He said as he kissed her on the side of the cheek, then wrapped his right arm around her waist and led her down the hall into another bedroom and then closed the door behind them.

THE END