DISCLAIMER: Don't own anything associated with the show… I just like playing with the characters in it from time to time. Dance Monkeys! Dance!
RATING: Teen
SPOILERS: None - No. 6 in the Discovery Series
PAIRINGS: GSR/Yo!Bling/Etc.
SUMMARY: The continuing years of the Discovery Series storyline. The family storyteller gathers up some photos and shares a perspective on the past. (including a "photo album")

A/N: Much faster turnaround than the last time, but I got hung up on some technicalities. Here's hoping the last chapter doesn't actually kill me. This has been a long and very fulfilling road, and I want to take this time to thank all of you for taking this journey with me. Also, if you haven't check out the story on my website, now would be a really good time. Not only are all the pictures and scrapbook pages talked about in the story there, but there are a few easter eggs hidden in links through some of the chapters. What does that mean? It means you could be missing a lot more story by only reading it here.

A/N2: Those Easter Eggs? Yeah, this is one of them, and it is hidden inside Part 14 as well as the final scrapbook in the last part on my website. And what's all this leading up to? Well, I'm glad you asked... After a GREAT DEAL of persuasion, I have been convinced to work on another Easter Egg story for this installment of the Discovery Series. It's nearly done, and I hope to have it posted in the next couple weeks. So, I figured it might not be a bad idea to push out the original Easter Eggs into the light, because I also discovered that quite a few people had never found them. I hope you enjoy this little refresher (or new glimpses for those who didn't find them), and I'll see you back in a couple weeks with the new story.

REVIEWS: Reviews are the way I know if people are enjoying the work or not. So, if you leave one, THANKS! And if not, I hope you found at least a little something to brighten your day, and thanks for taking the time to read.


Tucked behind the Wedding Page of the scrapbook are several printed pages
containing the stories told to the newest member of the family about their
relationships, along with a note...

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Finding myself suddenly immersed in this enormous and very complicated family, I tried to make sense of it all by asking a lot of questions. Inevitably, the conversations always seemed to drift to our relationships and how we got mixed up with these crazy people we now called family.

Being the new guy on the scene, I have very little to add to the celebration, so I've recorded all of those conversations in print and slipped them into your scrapbook. I hope you can one day sit back and enjoy the stories, as well as the pictures that make up the ties that bind in this group.

Thank you for welcoming me into your family,

Geoffrey

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Greg & Kirsten

Leaving Las Vegas was quite possibly the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. Way harder than it was to go away to college, and even more than going to Vegas in the first place.

I was comfortable in Vegas. Too comfortable. Everything was as it always would be there, and there was nothing I could do to change that. From Grissom, to Catherine, to Warrick, to…whoever came down the line; things in CSI were always going to be the same.

It was Sara who convinced me to take the chance in L.A. Sara was always my biggest fan, and she was also the person who knew me better than anyone else. She knew I was stagnating in Vegas. So, when Stephanie's friend at the L.A. County Coroner's office told her about the public liaison officer job, Sara was the first to suggest me for the job.

Sara knew I always had a fascination with the worlds of glitz and glamour, be it the Vegas elite or Hollywood, and she knew what an opportunity it was for me. As the public liaison officer, I would be in direct contact with the movers and shakers, because part of the job involved acting as a professional consultant to the production studios.

The job was everything I hoped it would be, and so much more. After three years with the L.A. County Coroner's Office, I walked away with a two movie script deal, the pilot of a new cop show, and the prettiest criminalistics professor in the world as my wife.

Kirsten came into my life at just the right time. I'd been in L.A. for not quite a year, and I was beginning to think the whole place was plastic and shallow. But then this amazing woman showed up looking to set up a tour for one of her classes at UCLA. I have no idea how I managed to set up the tour, but it was on the schedule for the following week when we were done.

From the moment she walked into my office that day, she's been taking my breath away. She inspires me every day with her love, not just for me, but for life. She's got this way of looking at things that makes it impossible to ever be cynical or brooding. Kirsten truly is the light of my life.

Don't get me wrong, she is absolutely beautiful and I count myself seriously lucky to have captured the heart of such a stunning woman. But it's not just the outside that's breathtaking. She's got this astounding inner beauty that totally outshines the rest. Kirsten can smile and I swear the whole room gets warm, even if you don't see her right off, you can feel the warmth of her smile. And I thank whatever god there might be, because our kids have it, too.

Six. I have six kids. Can you believe that? Me? With six kids? It's incredible, really. I was an only child, and so was Kirsten. To imagine either of us with six kids is just mind blowing, but we didn't want our kids to feel as alone as we did. Trust me, with six kids there is no such thing as alone. In fact, I sometimes wonder how in the heck we even managed to find the time to get the last three.

Kirsten and I are both from Norwegian families, and we decided to give our kids the same traditional names we had, but also ones that were easily Americanized. We both knew too well the cruelty of the schoolyard. So Nikolai, Birget, Erica, Marit, Karita and Greggers came into our lives, and nothing has ever been the same.

Now I work as a professional consultant for the television and film industry, in between writing pulp crime novels and watching my kids growing up. Most of my writing was and is done at home, enabling me to be a stay-at-home Dad. You wouldn't think that was something I ever wanted when I was younger, but I am grateful every day for how my life turned out.

I taught my kids all the same things my grandparents taught me, and I was there for every single milestone in their lives. From their first tooth and first words, to learning fractions and learning to drive, I was there. And now the milestones are even bigger, like being there when my first grandchild came into the world.

But I know, without a doubt, if it wasn't for my life in Las Vegas, none of this would have been possible. My life, my wife, my kids and heaven help me, the long line of grandchildren sure to sprout up soon; I owe them all to the time I spent in Vegas, and the people who have become an integral part of my extended family. They are my teachers, my mentors, my friends, my family; each and every one of them.

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Nick & R.J.

It's funny how life works out sometimes. Growing up in Texas my parents had this plan all laid out for me from the time I was born. All of us kids did, it was just how things worked in our family. But the thing about plans is they just don't always happen the way they're intended.

For instance, when both your parents are lawyers, it's pretty much a given that everyone thinks all their kids will go to law school. My big brother was supposed to take over the old man's practice, and one day to succeed him on the bench. My sisters were supposed to alternate between working with Momma as a defender, and following our father's footsteps in the prosecutor's office. Instead, after finishing law school, my brother Danny joined the U.S. Marshal's Service and never even bothered to take the bar exam. The girls all went to law school, but Maggie went into business law and then became a high-powered executive. Ruth-Anne started off in family law and ended up working for social services. Rachel went straight from law school to the maternity ward and never looked back. And that left Connie, who was the only one to follow our parents' path by becoming a criminal defense attorney in Momma's practice.

And then there was me. Only kid who didn't even go to law school. I don't know; it just never hit me the way it did the others. I didn't want to defend the law, I wanted to find the truth. And if there's one thing you learn as a lawyer's kid, it's that the truth and the law rarely work together.

For all their careful work and grand plans, my folks ended up with a one in six success rate. I think that's where the saying comes from: The best laid plans of mice and men often go astray. Of course, Grissom would tell you that it's a misquote and then go into detail about the original source material, but I'll stick with the one that makes more sense in the here and now.

The other prime example of that little piece of wisdom shares a very special place in my heart. I was never what you would call a playboy, but I also wasn't real big on relationships that went beyond a few dates and a nice roll in the hay. But at the same time, I grew up thinking I'd have all the same things my folks did. I just kept telling myself that I wasn't gonna settle until I found something as good as they had.

That was the lie I used to settle my guilt.

Truth was I didn't know what I wanted. So, I just focused on my work and tried to have a good time until something better came along. And boy did it.

Me and R.J. were never one of those couples whose destiny was written in the stars. There was no love at first sight, no bells, no chirping birds. This was no fairytale romance.

She was everything I never looked for in a date; wicked smart, loaded for bear at all times, foul-mouthed, pig-headed, opinionated, ambitious, hardened, sarcastic, and filled with more strength than any ten women I'd ever dated before. And she scared the ever-lovin' hell outta me. Still does.

The part that shocked me though was the real reason all of that scared me. It scared me because of just how much it all made me love her even more. We had a rocky start, to say the least, but every time I thought it would all fall apart, she'd do or say something making it crystal clear that I couldn't live without her and it would all fall back into place.

Once we accepted our fates to drive each other crazy for the rest of our lives, there was only one more instance where we almost fell apart. That was our wedding.

R.J. had met my parents and my brother several times before we went down to Texas to announce the wedding. However, it was the first time she'd met the rest of the Stokes clan.

There's one thing you should know about my sisters… They are fiercely protective of their baby brother. Almost to the point of being pathological.

I love my sisters very much, but I also know what a hornets' nest they can turn into. It was the primary reason why I never brought anyone home to get the full treatment. I saw what they did to anyone daring to take on a Stokes, and my brothers-in-law all wore the scars to prove it. And with the first and only woman I had ever brought home, they were beyond relentless.

It was the first time in my entire life where I had to stand up against my own family. We weren't even there two days before they crossed the line, and almost destroyed my whole relationship.

You see, R.J. has been through a lot in her life. She used to be really good at hiding most of it, but the years have made that impossible now. Doesn't stop her from trying, but she's finally gotten better about accepting help when she can't physically do something. But back then she was still very stubborn about doing it herself. And my sisters saw this as a reason to reject her as my choice in a wife.

They knew Neeley had stayed with us up in Vegas, and so they spent a fair amount of time grilling my poor niece about R.J., looking for ammunition to shoot her down. And they found it when they discovered she wasn't able to have kids because of the accident.

Nevermind that I had not once mentioned wanting kids, they made up their mind she couldn't possibly be the one for me if she couldn't give me children. And I guess they made sure she knew it.

Before I knew what had happened, R.J. had hightailed it off the ranch and out of Texas. Once I figured it all out, it was hell trying to track her down, but with a little help from my brother Danny, I did. And before I left the ranch, I gave my sisters a piece of mind. I told them that I didn't care if they accepted R.J. or not, because I was going to spend the rest of my life with her, even if that meant they wouldn't be a part of that life.

When I finally found her at her parents' old place in Sedona, I told her that not only did I not give a damn about having kids, that I didn't even want to invite my family to the wedding anymore. All I wanted was her, and me, and Uncle Petey, and the preacher, and everyone else could just suck it.

Thankfully, she talked me out of that particular scenario, but I would still have been just as happy if she'd have agreed. So, we compromised. We had the wedding, the following week, at this little church in Sedona high up on a cliff. Just my parents, Neeley and her Dad, my sister Connie and her family (after a rather broken-hearted apology), Uncle Petey, and our closest friends. It was small, but it was perfect. R.J. wore her mother's dress, with a little help from Rosa, and I had to drive all the way to Flagstaff to find a tux at the last minute. But it was perfect.

It's not easy, and there's always some kind of drama lurking right around the corner, but it's also the best thing that ever happened to me. I found somebody to challenge me. She challenges me to be a better husband, a better friend, a better man. But more than that, she loves me whether or not I meet those challenges. I wake up every day knowing there's at least one person in this world who understands and accepts me without limits. And that's better than anything I could've ever planned for myself.

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Catherine & Warrick

To say we weren't your everyday couple would be like saying the sky is blue. And with this crazy mixed up family, it's kind of a given. But even in this crew, we were different.

First off, we'd both been down that road before, and failed miserably. Warrick's first marriage was like an experiment in everything you're not supposed to do. And mine…well, let's just say I learned a lot of life lessons being married to Eddie Willows.

The age difference wasn't anything earth shattering, and the racial thing was never an issue for either of us. No, for me the big thing was that we worked together, and that we were such good friends before anything happened. That was never anything I had ever done. To get involved with someone who already knew all the deep dark secrets in my closet was really scary.

In the end, none of it mattered. We just belonged together. It was just that damn simple. There was no one else on this planet who was more perfect for me, and he swore the same was true for him.

The only thing we had left to sort through was how to let go of those old barriers and to truly accept one another in our hearts. It was also the easiest thing I had ever done. With Warrick, it just seemed like everything fell into place.

The part I really struggled with was letting him into my relationship with Lindsey. But that had more to do with the fact that I had been the only parent for so long. Even before Eddie passed away, it was always on my shoulders, with some help from my family. And I kept trying to insulate Warrick from anything to do with Lindsey.

However, the more I tried to keep him from dealing with the day to day parent stuff, the more he took on. Before I knew what was happening, the two of them were becoming a united front against me. And it was only broken when Lindsey brought a pimply faced boy to the house to "study." Warrick turned into a whole different person and Lindsey came to me for support.

Poor Warrick was beside himself, and I had to explain to him that the hardest part about being a parent was having to be the bad guy once in a while. And that was when it hit me; Warrick had become her father. We were her parents. And everything I thought I had to keep to myself in order to maintain our relationship was a joke.

We called up a friend at the Stratosphere and booked our wedding for the very next week. It wasn't fancy, or elegant or flashy, or larger than life. No, it was just us and our family, the whole crazy lot of them. We'd both been down that road before, and both of us had done the wedding chapel schtick, so this time we made it about us, and the people we cared for the most.

I know it's cliché and all that, but I can honestly say it was one of the happiest nights of my life. When I think about the life we shared, I always remember that night, and how it felt when I slipped that ring on his finger. I finally had a partner, someone to share everything with, and the rings we wear have been a symbol of that promise ever since.

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Niko & Tally

Everyone says we got married too young. Everyone but my Dad. He has always been a firm believer in knowing what you want, and going for it. All he did was ask me if this was really what I wanted more than anything, and when I answered yes, he gave me a big hug and said congratulations. Too young or not, I got married with my parents' blessing.

I am twenty four years old, and I have been married for three years. I didn't get married because I had to, despite what some people might have said. Tally and I just knew. We knew from the moment we first met that we were going to be together for the rest of our lives.

It was easy for us. It was everyone else that struggled with it. Admittedly, it was probably just a little weird, seeing as she was only sixteen when we met. But I was just nineteen, and we were both in college. She was at UC-Northridge, while I was at Cal-Tech, and we met on the beach.

We both wasted a lot of time riding the surf and basking in the glorious Southern California sun. But we also know how to hit the books. I was working in nano-tech before I even got out of college, and at twenty four, I'm already looking at starting my PhD in biomedical technology. Tally started college almost two years early, and she's been thinking about going back to get her doctorate in adolescent educational psychology once the kids are old enough.

We've got one daughter now, Lisabet, named for my great grandmother on my Mom's side, and sort of after my Dad's favorite chemistry teacher, who was also Aunt Steph's Mom. I say we have one now, because we'd like to have a bunch before we're done. I grew up in a big family and I really love it. Tally just had her and her sister, but she wants a big family, too. Thanks to our folks, we think we're both well suited to handle the challenge.

So, here I am, a twenty four year old tech monkey, playing with silicone during the day, and helping my wife with our baby at night. And I love every single minute of it, because the woman I share my life with is everything I could have ever wanted. So, if you see it, don't wait around and hope it'll still be there when you think you're ready… Grab hold of that wave and ride it straight through to the other side. You'll never regret taking the wave, but you'll always regret the ones you never tried.

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Paddy & Tammy

My father was a career Marine. He's still a Marine, but now it's just a way of life, instead of a career. I love him, I really do, but sometimes I wonder if my life would have been different if he had been around more, instead of out on deployment all the time.

That's one of the many things I love about being married to Patrick. Patrick comes home every night. In fact, he's home a lot of days, too. Our children are small right now, but they still appreciate knowing where their Poppa is at all times.

Paddy and I met in college, both of us struggling to make it on our own, away from our families. At first, I really wasn't interested in him at all. He was just such a cut-up all the time, and I couldn't ever imagine myself with someone who wasn't straight-laced and at least a little bit serious. And then I met his twin brother Mikey. I was shocked to no end to find out that Paddy was the straight man in that crew.

I looked at him differently after meeting Mikey. Twin brothers attending different colleges, trying to move out of one another's shadows. It became even more surprising when I learned that Mikey was gay. They easily could have gone to the same school, because they were both obscenely smart, but Mikey had chosen another school at the last minute. When I asked Paddy about it later, he told me that the reason Mike went somewhere else was because he never wanted his dating to color people's perceptions of his twin. Those two had this amazing relationship, and it made me want to know more about Patrick as a result.

The more I learned about Patrick, the more I fell in love with him. I uncovered a shy, unsure and incredibly gentle person underneath all the jokes and the preening. I found a man deeply committed to his family and his friends. And I found a man who was intensely empathic to those around him. Whenever I saw him, I almost expected to find him counseling one person or another, and it was usually true.

Before long, I was telling him my darkest secrets and my most precious dreams. I trusted him with everything, but most especially with my heart. And for that trust, he gave me his heart in return. Patrick would forever be a part of my life, and we became engaged between our junior and senior years of college.

My father was not amused when we went to the house in San Diego to tell him the good news. He felt we were too young, that we had no idea what we were getting into and we were making a huge mistake. I was ready to beat the old Marine over the head with an anchor when Patrick spoke up. He told my father that while he respected his opinions, he knew his own heart, and he trusted me to know mine and that we would be getting married, with or without his blessing. He said he hoped with every fiber of his being that my father could find it in his heart to grant us that one and only request. And much to my completely dumbfounded surprise, he did.

We were married right after graduation, and as Paddy and I prepared for our respective grad schools, we discovered the real good news; I was pregnant. And not just pregnant. Oh, no. I had to get pregnant with twins, right out of the gate. Before he had a chance to say anything, I tore up my grad school paperwork and told Patrick that if he didn't go, I'd divorce him right then and there.

I knew what it was like to grow up without my parents around all the time, and I was not about to do that to my children. There would be time later on for me to go back to school, but my children would only be children once. It's sometimes a struggle, but we've done it together, and we've all been better off because of it.

Of course, my return to school would probably come a lot quicker if I could just figure out what it is that keeps getting me pregnant. But three kids and one on the way is a fantastic way to practice all those early childhood education classes I took as an undergrad. And regardless of how long it takes to get there, I know my husband and my children will be right there cheering me on, and it will all be worth it.

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Steph & Thomas

Thomas likes to say that he fell for me the moment we met, but I know the truth. I'm pretty sure he was looking for me before that.

Life can be a funny thing sometimes. I was born to two people who never thought they could have children, who lived full and meaningful lives before I ever came along. They loved and treasured me in such a way that I never knew a day where I worried about what they felt for me. But Thomas never knew that feeling until we met.

The only love he had ever known was the love of God. Thomas was rescued from a life of instability and abuse by the Brothers at his parochial school. He learned the love of Catholic charity and he grew up in that world from the age of eight. But the love of family eluded him for many more years.

When he and I started dating, I surprised him by saying that I couldn't get serious with anyone who my family didn't approve of. He had never known anyone who was so committed to their family that they would allow them to determine their relationships. What he didn't understand was that my family also trusted me and my decisions, and if I told them how I felt, they would do everything in their power to support me. No, he would learn that much later in life.

I've often worried that our relationship has been very one-sided, with Thomas merely coming along for the ride that is my life. And I made some silly mistakes in an effort to try and find more balance between us. We even went so far as to separate during our advanced residencies, because I didn't want him sacrificing to stay with me in Los Angeles. Eventually, I saw the folly of my decision and packed myself up to be with him. That was when I realized it was a pretty even partnership, because we were both willing to sacrifice whatever it took to be together.

It was also when Thomas says he discovered the true meaning of unconditional love. He said any woman willing to pick up and move to the desert with no job in hand, just to be with him, showed him what love was really all about, and it made him determined to spend the rest of his life being worthy of that love. And so far…he's doing a damn good job.

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Jimmy & Emily

Never in a million years could I have imagined that winning a free portrait of my kids would change the course of my life forever. But that's exactly what happened.

A raffle ticket from a school carnival and an eager photographer looking for business; that's how my life changed. It took me two weeks to schedule enough time between jobs and the kids' school and appointments before I was able to finally get the kids over to the photographer's studio. And when I got there, it was even worse.

Being a single parent has a lot of disadvantages. The biggest one being that time is my constant enemy. On this particular day Micah was having a ball throwing his shoes and socks out the car window on the way over, Devon was in a huge snit because she wanted to wear the pink bow in her hair instead of the white one that went with her dress, and one of my jobs kept calling to get me to cover another shift, but my babysitter wasn't bothering to return my phone calls. So, the very last thing I wanted to do was have their pictures taken by anyone, let alone some young hot shot photographer who was going try and get artsy so he could show off his vision and make my life a living hell with the children.

By the time we got to the studio all I wanted to do was go home. I was just about to turn the key in the ignition and peel right out of the parking lot. It was at that moment Jimmy came out of the door with this huge smile on his face and a helium balloon for each of the kids, sinking any chance I had at getting away.

We went into the studio and I was hooked. It wasn't artsy or stuffy or even looked like any photography studio I had ever seen before. The whole thing reminded me of someone's living room, someone with kids. And my kids loved it.

Devon fell in love with Jimmy the moment he told her how much he liked her hair bow, and Micah was gone the moment he showed him the aquarium filled with fire-bellied tree frogs. When he started taking the pictures the kids laughed and giggled and smiled brighter than I could ever remember seeing before.

When he was done, he gave the kids Lunchables and sat down with his camera behind the computer. He kept up the small talk with me as he continued to work on the computer, and then he pointed to the screen behind his head. He said that he was biased, but he thought it was the best picture, and up there on the wall was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen in my life. There behind his head were my two children, brimming over with joy and happiness and smiling so brightly that I almost started crying. And I must have looked like it, too, because he quickly stood up and handed me a box of tissues.

Jimmy was so sweet, and he made sure there wasn't another picture I liked better. Before we left, the kids each had a stuffed frog with his calling card tattooed to the belly, I had a proof for the photo in my hands, and he was sending me the portrait in the mail.

After two weeks, I still only had that proof taped to my refrigerator. I was starting to think the whole thing was a bust when on my one and only day off every week, wearing my grungiest pair of jean shorts and a t-shirt I was pretty sure I had been wearing since high school, he showed up on my doorstep.

Jimmy was wearing these god-awful khaki cargo shorts and a utility vest over a UCLA sweatshirt and he looked like he was about fifteen years old. He also smelled like he'd just stepped out of swamp. He was holding a brown paper wrapped box and apologizing profusely.

Apparently the photo lab sent the pictures to his studio by mistake and he had been out of town on a photography excursion with his uncle. He was talking a mile a minute and the whole time I kept trying to figure out why in the hell he didn't just call me when he got back. It wasn't like I was a paying customer or anything.

When I asked him why he was there, he stopped cold in his tracks and looked like all the blood had just drained out of his face. He stuttered for a while and I was sure he would spontaneously combust, but then Micah ran to Jimmy and wrapped himself around his leg, asking if he had any new frogs.

Twenty minutes later, Micah was still glued to Jimmy's side listening to him talk about the jungle and all the frogs and bugs he found on his trip, and Devon was on the other side doing the same thing. I fixed lunch and invited Jimmy to stay. The kids loved him, and his enthusiasm was incredible. He actually seemed to enjoy talking to them just as much as they enjoyed listening to him talk.

After lunch I put Micah down for his nap, while Devon was busy showing Jimmy her paper flower garden in the hallway. I was finally able to rescue Jimmy and myself from the whole ordeal when the little girl next door came over to get Devon, so they could play in her backyard.

I thanked him for being so nice to the kids and he completely floored me. Jimmy said he was glad he got some time to hang out with us, because it gave him the chance to see what he was getting himself into. And then he asked me out on a date.

This young guy, free to gallivant across the globe at a moment's notice, wanted to go out with me. Considering the way I looked the two times I had seen him, I was convinced he must have been insane. And I told him as much.

Jimmy just took my hand and he said that his family taught him to look for the deeper meaning in things and not to get hung up on the surface. He said that he looked into my eyes that day in the studio and he thought he could see forever. And he told me that he knew, without a doubt, I was the woman he was looking for.

I was speechless. Completely and totally without words.

He left me the box of pictures, which were way more than I was supposed to get for my prize, kissed my hand and said that I knew where to find him if I wanted to make his dreams come true.

Right after he walked out my front door, I started laughing. I figured it had to be some kind of joke. This kid could not seriously be trying to date me. He was just one of those smooth young guys out to get another notch on the bedpost. And then the flowers started.

Once a week, on my one day off, a new arrangement of flowers was delivered to my house. Every one had a short note on the back of one Jimmy's business cards. Most of them had the same theme; he was still waiting.

After two months of this I had taken all I was going to take. I got a girlfriend from work to take the kids for the afternoon and I drove right over to his studio to give him a piece of my mind.

I found Jimmy with the kid from the flower shop as he was scribbling another note on a business card to stick in with the flowers. I cleared my throat and he looked up from his writing. The smile on his face melted all of my anger into a single puddle.

He slipped the kid from the shop a twenty and sent him away without the flowers. Jimmy just stood there smiling at me until the door closed behind the kid. His smile actually brightened, and his eyes were practically beaming at me when he said, "I guess you finally found me."

We've been together ever since.

My first marriage was a joke, but I got two great kids out of it. My marriage to Jimmy has been the single greatest source of strength in my life. And when I first looked into the eyes of our daughter Bridget, I saw forever, too.

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Max & Amanda

Everybody always wants to know what it's like being married to a certified genius. But I never get a chance to answer, because Max always says, "It's the best thing I ever did, because she makes me smarter, too." He's just funny like that.

Now, neither one of us is below the curve on the intelligence scale, but everyone knows that Max is the genius. He's scary smart, which is even more impressive considering who he grew up with. His parents are crazy smart, and so is his Aunt Steph. But Max is smart on a scale that even scares the government. He's borderline evil genius smart. Lucky for us, his family is also super awesome, and they nurtured him just right, so there's no chance of that happening. Especially not with me on the job.

I'm far from stupid myself, but I never had the drive that Max does. Yeah, I went to college early like him, and my family encouraged me to keep going, but it just wasn't as important to me. You see, Max and I had a lot of things in common, including how much older our parents were when they had us. And I wanted something different for my life.

Max and I met when we were both scared teenagers going to UCLA. When we weren't cracking books, or working in a lab, we were on the beach with our families, surfing and having a good time. Max was staying with his Uncle Greg's family while he was in L.A. and my folks lived just down the block. It was perfect.

It was perfect, right up until Max announced our engagement at our graduation party. I thought for sure my Dad was going to blow a gasket, and Max's Dad got really quiet. If it wasn't for his twin cousins and his big sister, I think the whole thing could have gotten ugly. After all, we were only eighteen and Max was off to MIT in the fall.

Lilli was the one who set everyone straight. She told their Dad that if Max was any other eighteen year old hot shot she would have been the first person to call shenanigans on the whole thing. But Max was Max, and he and I had been together for almost four years. Then the twins told the whole party they should just be glad we wanted to get married instead of going off to Massachusetts and shacking up the way most eighteen year olds did. After my mother cleaned off the punch she'd just spit all over my father, she agreed with them.

I applied to the Harvard Business School for an MBA, and we got married on the beach in Marina Del Rey before we moved to the other side of the country for grad school. And we have a great life in Boston now. While Max was blowing the doors off of every theoretical physics lab in the world, I was wiping baby spit up off of my graduation robes. As I make sure Tommy isn't going to set the house on fire trying to be like his Daddy, Max is leading his field in research. And when I was giving birth to our adorable little princess, I was also in the middle of brokering a deal for the application of one of Max's discoveries with the Jet Propulsion Lab in California.

Nobody ever had to worry about us, because we weren't just any eighteen year old kids. We're happy and we're together, and we have the rest of our lives to help our kids find the exact same thing.

Now, if I could just figure out how to get Max to remember birthdays, my world would be perfect.

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Lindsey & Brian

Talk about your fate, or your destiny, and that's what you've got with me and Linds. How else could you explain a kid from Nova Scotia coming to the States for university and ending up interning at one of the biggest, most incredible hotel and casino companies in the world, only to fall in love with this weird girl interning in the legal department because her grandfather runs the place? Has to be fate, or something a lot like it.

Or… Sam Braun's a much smarter man than anyone ever gave him credit for, and that's saying a lot.

I wasn't hired by the old man, so I have to assume it was fate that brought me crashing into this little slip of a girl with long blonde hair and an attitude ten times as long.

Me and Lindsey, we started out as enemies. She hated me more than any guy working at the Rampart that summer. And the next summer.

It was the summer after that when she decided I might not be so bad. I was working for the old man by that time. I was actually over at the Pike and an assistant manager. When I graduated from university, Sam said I had earned my stripes and he wanted to see what I could do. He gave me one year to improve the convention business at the Pike, and if I did he'd give me something bigger at the end. If I didn't, he said I'd have trouble getting a job as a pit boss in this town when he was done. I wasn't about to find out if the old man was kidding, so I got down to work.

At the end of ten months, I was turning conventions away, because the schedule was so full at the Pike. Sam called over to the Pike and told them to send that funny talking kid to the Tangiers, where I was told to fix the entertainment bookings in under a year. It took me six months, but I had featured performers from all walks of life set up, and deals in the works for seven headliners over the next eight months.

I never saw much of Sam, but he had his second put me on the casino floor at the Rampart next. Ben Riley told me I had three months to increase traffic on the floor and to bring in no fewer than two whales a week, or I was out. After two months, I'd gotten the floor to practically buzz with traffic, but I just couldn't figure out how to get the whales into the casino.

Lindsey and I had been dating for just over a year at that time and I told her I was worried I'd never live up to her grandfather's demands. We had never talked business before then. She only worked as an intern for her grandfather out of respect for the man, but she wanted no part of the casino world. She was about to finish law school and she was looking at taking a job with the district attorney's office.

When I shared with her my concerns she cursed at me. Well, not at me, but she still cursed. She grabbed my hand and pulled me straight across town and into her grandfather's office at the Rampart, where she proceeded to unload on the old man for being such a bastard to me. And Sam just laughed. The old man smiled for the first time I had ever seen, and he laughed.

Sam walked across the room and put his hands on her shoulders when he told her exactly what he had been doing. He said to her, "I had to make sure the lousy Canuck was worth the time it was gonna take me to train him to take my spot."

I was floored. I had no idea what I was supposed to say to something like that. Then he touched the side of her face and confessed, "I figured if he was good enough for my granddaughter, then I should make damn sure he's ready to handle the family business."

So, I never actually proposed to Lindsey. Her grandfather did it for me. Two weeks later, he told me to go out to Atlantic City to deal with a personnel problem, and then suggested that I fill up the corporate jet with the wedding party. We got married on the boardwalk with our parents and grandparents there.

All the important decisions in my life have been made by my family. My father picked my name. My mother chose my education. A mouthy blonde girl guaranteed my career. Sam Braun gave me a wife. And now, my son picks out my cars, while my daughter picks out my clothes. The only thing I get to do on my own is run a national entertainment, gaming and lodging corporation, but everything else is out of my hands.