Caroline In Paris

Caroline In Paris

Rated 'PG-13' for sexual content

BY: Jana~


Brandie Woodward



--Caroline got off the plane and headed for baggage claim to get her luggage. She still couldn't believe she was here, but she didn't want the tickets Del gave her to go to waste. After all, it's Paris! She had been so depressed the past 2 months, she hoped this trip would cheer her up. What was bothering her more then the fact that she and Del called off their wedding was how Richard took off without a word. That hurt her more then anything, and she wasn't exactly sure why. She grabbed her luggage and went to hail a taxi, heading for the hotel.

--Somewhere in Paris:

Richard stood painting on the beautiful bridge overlooking the river and nearby hotel. He tried to get his mind off all that had happened, off of thoughts of Caroline, but every once in a while thoughts of her crept in, plaguing him. He wondered what she was doing...

**I wonder if she misses me... What am I saying? Of course she doesn't miss me!** he forced those thoughts out of his mind and went back to his painting... titled: 'Caroline In Love With Someone Else'.

--The taxi pulled up to the entrance of the hotel, and as Caroline got out, the driver helped her with her luggage.

"Have a wonderful stay here. It is a lovely hotel." the driver said with a strong French accent.

"Thank you very much." Caroline said, paying the driver and gathering her bags. She looked at her surroundings as the taxi pulled away. She notice a quaint pedestrian bridge that lead from the hotel, over the river, and to the other side of the town. Upon admiring the bridge, Caroline noticed a tall, thin, blond man, diligently painting.

**He seems familiar to me somehow.** Caroline thought to herself as she continued to watch him. She noticed how engrossed he seemed in his work, a characteristic Richard had always shown... **Sheeesh! I'm halfway across the world and I STILL can't get him out of my mind!** Caroline shook her head and turned, walking towards the door. She glanced back to catch one last look at the man, and then walked into the hotel.

--Caroline opened the charming French doors that led to the balcony immediately upon entering her room. There was a breathtakingly beautiful view of the river and that same pedestrian bridge she had seen coming into the hotel. She noticed the man was still there painting...

**Hmmm... maybe I'll take a walk out there later and see what he's painting...** Caroline thought to herself as she unpacked some of her stuff. "I should probably think about eating something..." she said, starting to feel pangs of hunger. She freshened up, then headed out the door in search of food.

She walked out of the elevator and wandered around lost for a bit, trying to find the main dinning room. When she finally found it, her stomach grumbled at the sight of the huge buffet set up with bagels and croissants and fruits and cheeses. She grabbed a bagel and a cup of coffee and sat down, picking up a Paris newspaper that was sitting on the table. She chuckled softly, realizing it was all in French. She couldn't read it, but it was interesting to look at...

--Richard walked into the hotel, his latest masterpiece in hand. He headed through the lobby, past the dinning room where Caroline was sitting, and towards the front desk. In the limited amount of French Richard knew, he asked to see the hotel manager.

"Ah, bonjour Monsieur Karinsky." the manager said, coming out to greet him.

"Bonjour. J'ai terminé... ummm... la peinture... ummm... I finished the painting." Richard said, struggling with his French, handing him the painting.

"Merci. Il est beau. J'allais l'afficher là." the manager said, pointing at the wall behind the desk. Richard just smiled and nodded his head...

"I have no idea what you are saying..." Richard said, chuckling slightly.

"He said: Thank you. That it is a beautiful painting, and he plans to hang it here on this wall." the clerk said as the manager reached into his pocket and pulled out a piece of paper... a check. He then handed the check to Richard...

"C'est mon honneur pour acheter une peinture qui est si belle." the manager said as Richard took the check from him. He looked over at the clerk for the translation...

"He said: It is an honor to buy a painting as beautiful as this."

"Merci." Richard said, shaking the manager's hand... "Au revoir."

Richard was on his way out when the smell of food hit him. He had been so busy painting he had forgotten to eat. He decided to stop off at the hotel dining room for a quick bite before heading back out to the bridge...

**Seeing as how I can afford to eat now...** he thought to himself as he admired the check he was given.

--Caroline sat enjoying her coffee, trying to make sense of the French newspaper she couldn't read when Richard entered the dining room. He walked right past her, not being able to see her through the paper she was holding, and headed for the buffet table. He grabbed a bagel and some coffee and was heading for the door when Caroline stood to go get some more coffee. They just missed seeing each other as Richard left the dining room and started back towards the bridge and his next masterpiece.

--Caroline strolled alone through the nearby village, taking in the sights and enjoying the quiet time she had to herself to think. On her travels she found a strip of quaint little shops, one of which was a delightful little art supplies store. The artist in her had to go inside and have a look around. She dawdled about the shop, picking up a few markers and colored pencils, then headed for the cashier. Richard had just bought the supplies he had come for and was on his way out when Caroline approached the cash register.

"Avez-vous trouvé ce que vous avez voulu?" the cashier asked politely as she rang up her purchase.

"I'm sorry, I don't speak French..." Caroline apologized, smiling shyly.

"Ah! American? Vous êtes le deuxième... American... à venir dans aujourd'hui." the clerk said, mixing her limited knowledge of English with French. Caroline just smiled and nodded her head. "American... just... left." she added...

"Oh! Ok..." Caroline replied cordially... "Merci." she added, paying for her supplies and picking up her bag.

"Vous êtes bienvenu... You... welcome..."

--Caroline was heading through the lobby on her way to the elevators when the painting hanging over the front desk caught her attention...

"Excuse me? Ummm... do you know who the artist of this painting is?" she asked the clerk.

"I'm sorry, I do not know his name. He is American and he often paints on the bridge outside." the clerk answered as she went about her job.

"Ok... thanks... uh, merci..." Caroline replied, staring at the painting intently. **It reminds me of something Richard would paint...**

--Caroline entered her room and set her bag of art supplies down on a chair, then headed for the balcony. She spotted the artist on the bridge, painting with great passion and intensity. He reminded her of Richard, so much so that she started to cry...

"Why did you leave like that Richard? Just like that..." she snapped her fingers... "With no word... without saying goodbye. I needed you... and you just abandoned me. I had so many things to tell you... like how I couldn't marry Del, cause all I could think about was you..." Caroline said to herself, tears flowing steady. "Ugh! Get a grip Caroline! C'mon... pull yourself together..." she said as she wiped her tears and walked back inside her room. She plopped down on the bed, jet lag starting to take it's toll. She fell asleep easily, thoughts of Richard buzzing in her mind... "I wonder where he went... what he's doing..."

--Sunset came, making it difficult to paint. Richard started to pack up his supplies for the day, his constant thoughts of Caroline distracting him too much to continue painting anyway. As the sun went down, the city lights reflected off the water. Richard stopped what he was doing to enjoy the beautiful sight...

"Caroline would love this..." he said quietly to himself, imagining all the wonderful things they could do together in this, the most romantic city in the world. Richard leaned against the bridge and sighed, hanging his head low. **Ok, stop this! If you keep thinking about her, you will go crazy. She doesn't love you... she loves Del. She is married to Del. End of story.** he thought to himself, trying to force himself to 'get over it' and 'move on'. Those words sounded foreign to him. He crossed the bridge, leaving his easel and supplies for the moment while he grabbed a quick cup of coffee at the nearby cafe.

--Caroline strolled across the bridge, enjoying the view of the lights dancing on the river...

"Wow. That is so beautiful..." she said softly to herself as she leaned against the railing of the bridge. "Figures, I'm in the most romantic place in the world... alone." She shook her head and pushed away from the railing, continuing her walk along the bridge. Within seconds she saw an easel standing a few feet away, but the artist was nowhere in sight. "That must belong to the artist that painted that painting in the hotel... the one I keep seeing from my balcony..." she said to herself as she approached the abandoned easel. She turned and crouched down to admire some of the paintings that were leaning against the bridge when Richard came back from the cafe. The assembled easel constricted his view of her, and her view of him. As he broke-down the easel to pack it up, Caroline stood, bumping into him, causing him to drop the easel. Richard tried to catch it before it hit the ground, but to no avail. It landed with a loud crash.

"I am so sorry... I didn't see ..." Caroline started to apologize, but stopped in mid statement... "Richard?" she asked, shocked.


"Wha--?? What are you doing here?"

"Painting..." Richard replied nervously, not knowing what else to say.

"Why did you leave? Without saying goodbye? Was it something I did?"

"Well, no... I just thought it would be best... considering..." Richard answered, then he noticed how confused and hurt Caroline looked... "Didn't you get my letter?"

"What letter?"

"The letter I left for you in your apartment..."

"No. I didn't get any letters from you. Why would it 'be best' for you to leave? I don't understand..."

"Because... well... with you getting married to Del and all..."

"You left cause I was going to marry Del?"

"Well, kinda... I mean..." Richard stopped cold... "Wait a minute... 'GOING to marry'?? You didn't get married?"

"No. I realized... we both realized... that we didn't love each other. We care about each other, but as friends. We're better as friends..."

"Wow, I'm so sorry..."

"It's ok. I'm fine with it... really. But you leaving..." Caroline said, tears starting to well up in her eyes... "You leaving was hard on me..." she added, wiping at her tears. Richard looked at her, confused by what he was hearing... by what he was seeing...

"Why?" he asked softly, taking a step towards her.

"I... I don't know... I..." she stammered, trying to find the right words... "I had this dream... before you left... and in the dream, you kissed me. Then, at Remo's... you really kissed me... and I started thinking..." she hesitated, then looked up at Richard... "You asked me if I got the letter. Is that the same letter you just now asked me about?"

"Yes." Richard answered nervously.

"What was in the letter? Why did you kiss me?"

"You first..."

"Me first? What?" she asked, confused.

"Finish what you were going to say... about the dream... and then you started thinking..."

"You're not going to make this easy on me, are you? You know, I've had a rough couple months... can't you cut me some slack?"

"How? What do you want?" Richard asked, an obvious tenderness to his voice.

"I want you to tell me what was in the letter..."

"I need you to finish what you were going to say..."

"Are we on the same page here? Is what was in that letter what I THINK was in that letter?"

"What do you think was in the letter?" Richard asked, avoiding the question.

"God, Richard... please... let's not do this..." Caroline pleaded, tears flowing steadily...

"I'm sorry... I'm sorry... please, Caroline, don't cry..." Richard said, reaching for her, embracing her... "I'm just not a risk taker Caroline.... I don't want to get hurt..."

"And I do?" Caroline asked as she pulled away from him... "Are you so sure I would hurt you?"

"Are you so sure I would hurt YOU?"

"You're the one that left... without saying a word... even goodbye..."

"I'm sorry... I didn't think you'd care..."

"Well, surprise! I care! And even if I DIDN'T love you... you were my assistant! You left me in the lurch Richard! How did you think I'd feel?"


"I said: 'how did you think' ..."

"No..." Richard interrupted... "Not that. Before that..." Caroline just stood silent, confused, trying to remember what she had said. "You love me?" he asked, a slight smile crossing his lips. Caroline scowled, trying to remember what she had said. Did she say 'I love you'? She couldn't remember. She turned away and leaned against the bridge, looking out at the river and trying to collect her thoughts. Richard followed and stood behind her, placing his hands on her shoulders. His touch created a strong sensation that swept through her. "It's beautiful... isn't it?" Richard spoke softly in Caroline's ear.

"Yes. It is..." Caroline whispered, shivering slightly.

"Are you cold?" Richard asked, wrapping his arms around her, pulling her close. He nestled his cheek against hers and Caroline melted into him, enjoying the closeness. Neither dared to speak or move, for fear it would ruin the perfect moment they were sharing. "Do you want to go someplace warmer... and more private? So we can talk..." he asked, daring to break the silence.

"Yeah. I'm staying at the hotel there..." Caroline said, pointing to the hotel across the bridge. Richard continued to hold Caroline, not wanting to let her go, but finally, he broke away...

"Let me just gather up my stuff..." he said as he turned to collect his things. They walked in silence to the hotel, then up to her room.

--"Do you want something to drink?" Caroline asked as she poured herself some scotch.

"Sure. Thanks." Richard replied, moving the bag of art supplies off the chair and taking a seat.

"So, are you gonna tell me what was in the letter?" Caroline asked, handing him the glass. Richard downed the liquor in one quick gulp and handed the glass back to Caroline. Caroline chuckled as she took the glass and refilled it, then handed it back. He took a sip, then took a deep breath...

"In the letter I said that I have feelings for you, and that I want us to be together..."

"What about Del?"

"Well, I like Del and all... but I'm not interested in having a relationship with him..." Richard shot back sarcastically. Caroline smiled at his humor and sat on the edge of the bed, facing him...

"No, I meant, cause I was about to marry him. Were you just expecting me to dump him?"

"No. I mean... I was hoping that you would feel the same for me and call off the wedding... but my intent wasn't to upset or hurt anyone... I really didn't think it through..."

"So, if you wrote me a letter, why not just TELL me how you felt when you realized I didn't get it?"

"I lost my nerve. I was embarrassed..."

"So, now how do you feel? About me?" Caroline asked nervously.

"I thought by coming here I could get over you... I was wrong. I have not been able to stop thinking about you. I've missed you..."

"I realized I had feelings for you... like, 'more then friends' feelings for you... and I went to your apartment, but you were already gone."

"Ummm... 'had'?? As in past tense?"

"No... not past tense..." Caroline said, smiling shyly. Richard smiled and reached for her hand...

"Ok, so... now we know. What do we do now?" Richard asked softly. Caroline took his hands and gently pulled him from the chair. He knelt down in front of her, his heart racing as he anticipated her kiss. She leaned forward and kissed him passionately, running her fingers through his soft hair.

"How's that for a start?" she asked, staring deep into his eyes. Richard swallowed hard and smiled...

"That's a pretty good start..." he chuckled softly. Caroline gently pulled him to the bed beside her, then kissed him again, running her hand up and down his thigh. He moaned softly then pulled away, desperately trying to restrain himself... "If we start this, I'm not so sure I'll be able to stop..."

"Who said anything about stopping?" Caroline whispered, smiling mischievously.

"Are you sure about this?" he asked as he cupped her face in his hands.

"Oh, God, yes." Caroline replied without hesitation. Richard smiled and kissed her softly...

"I don't want this to be cheap and tawdry... I love you too much for that. Maybe we should wait..."

"For what? Wait for what?" Caroline chuckled... "We are in the most romantic place in the whole world... I want to be with you, I'm assuming you want to be with me..."

"Of course I do! More then anything! I have dreamt of nothing else for the past 3 months! But if we rush into this... I just don't want you to have any regrets later..."

"Believe me, I wont. Will you?" she asked shyly, her innocent brown eyes piercing his soul.

"No." he choked out, his voice leaving him momentarily. Caroline smiled and leaned into him, kissing him and caressing him, building a strong desire that took him over. He laid back, guiding her to the bed and ran his hand up under her dress, up her thigh. There was no mistaking she wanted him, and Richard trembled with desire as he caressed and kissed her hungrily. He made love to her with such intensity... with an almost gentle roughness, that took Caroline by surprise. But he never hurt her... he could never hurt her.

--Richard and Caroline laid side by side in bed, drained from their act of passion.

"I'm sorry..." Richard apologized, breathing heavy.

"For what?" Caroline asked, confused.

"For... well, you know... getting carried away... like I did. I'm sorry if I hurt you..." he said, turning to face her.

"Richard, you didn't hurt me. You surprised me..."

"Surprised you?"

"Well, yeah..." Caroline blushed... "You were so... so..."


"So... vehement..."

"Vehement?" Richard asked, smiling broadly.

"I got a word-a-day calendar from Annie last Christmas..." Caroline laughed.

"Something she needs herself..." Richard added sarcastically. Caroline laughed and hit him playfully...

"It means, like... impassioned, or intensely emotional..."

"I know what it means Caroline..." Richard chuckled... "I've just... wanted you for so long... I couldn't control myself..."

"Richard, there is no need to apologize. You were wonderful... amazing..." Caroline was interrupted in mid compliment by Richard's kiss... sweet and tender.

"I love you Caroline..."

"I love you, too Richard." Caroline sighed happily.

"When is your flight back?"

"It's an open-end ticket..." Caroline said, smiling. Richard returned the smile and kissed her again.

--Richard and Caroline spent the next month enjoying Paris, and each other. Richard painted and Caroline jotted down 'Caroline' ideas that came to her as she was inspired to do so, but their time was growing short. They were going to need to discuss what would happen next... soon, and they knew it. They ordered dinner in and enjoyed their meal, then got comfortable to have the dreaded conversation.

"As much as I love it here, my life is in New York..." Caroline said, somewhat sadly.

"I know it is. But my paintings are actually selling! This could be the start of something Caroline. If I go back now... I could miss out on something wonderful here."

"I know... I know..." Caroline sighed. Richard wrapped his arms around her...

"I love you Caroline, I will do whatever you want me to do. If you want me to come back with you, I will..."

"As much as I want you to come back with me, I can't ask you to do that. I don't want you to miss this opportunity... it's too important."

"So are you, Caroline. You are most important!"

"But so is your art Richard. You should stay... follow it through and see where it leads. I know how you feel about me... I know you'll come back..."

"I wont be able to stand it, you being that far from me..." Richard said as he nibbled on her neck. Caroline giggled, then gently pushed him away...

"It wont be forever... just... a few months maybe?" Caroline said, her demeanor turning serious again. Richard sighed deeply and stood up, walking towards the balcony. Caroline followed...

"I can't live without you Caroline. I know the pain of trying to all too well..."

"I don't want to live without you either Richard. But knowing it's temporary... and that you'll be back..."

"Ugh..." Richard said, spinning around to look at her... "Can't you stay just a little while longer? Then we can go back together..."

"I would love nothing more! But my syndicator is getting crazy! He needs me back. I have obligations..."

"I know... I know. I'm sorry, I'm not trying to make this harder on you... I'm just so..."

"I know. Me too..." Caroline said softly, embracing him... "But look..." she pulled away from him slightly and looked him in the eyes... "You can stay here and wrap things up... see where stuff leads... and I'll go back to New York and get everything situated there. You know, they say 'absence makes the heart grow fonder'..."

"Caroline..." Richard chuckled... "They also say licking frogs can get you high... but I'm not willing to test the theory..." Caroline smiled and shook her head. Richard had always used sarcasm to avoid feeling certain emotions he didn't want to feel... she recognized that he was doing that now. She embraced him lovingly, hoping it would take his pain away, and her pain.

"It wont be for long... in the grand scheme of things. We'll have the rest of our lives to be together..." Caroline added. Richard just nodded. He knew she was right, but the thought of her leaving for New York without him caused him to ache.

--"Final boarding for flight 389 to New York..." the voice over the PA system said in several languages, English included, but Caroline couldn't bring herself to let go of Richard.

"You have to get on the plane now Caroline..." Richard said softly, compassionately. He was just as sad as she was, but he was trying to stay strong for her. She was a wreck.

"Mmm-hmm..." Caroline squeaked out, still holding him tight.

"I'll be in New York as soon as I can..."

"Yeah..." Caroline whispered, choking on her voice.

"C'mon Caroline... it's time to go..." Richard said, starting to walk towards the gate. Caroline finally released her grip on him and handed her ticket to the stewardess...

"Merci. Enjoy your flight." the stewardess chirped happily.

"I'll miss you..." Richard said, holding her one last time for who knows how long.

"I'll miss you too..."

"Madame?" the stewardess urged Caroline to board the plane. Caroline nodded and waved at Richard, her voice abandoning her.

"Bye..." Richard whispered, a forced smile on his face. He didn't leave the airport till the plane was in the air... he missed her already.

--Caroline cried the entire flight back to New York. By the time she walked into the door of her loft, she was exhausted...

"And I look like a nightmare..." she said to her reflection in the bathroom mirror. She splashed water on her face, then headed for the kitchen to get some water.

"You're back!" Annie shouted, running to hug Caroline.

"Hi Annie..." Caroline said, returning the hug.

"How was your trip? Did you have fun? Why didn't you call? Did you meet any handsome French men? Did you... what's wrong?" Annie asked, noticing Caroline's red puffy eyes from crying.

"Oh, Annie... so much has happened... where do I begin?"

"At the beginning..."

--Caroline told Annie everything that had happened, tears flowing steadily. She thought she would have no tears left after all the crying she had done... she was wrong.

"Wow! That's just... incredible! You and Richie... Wow!" Annie said, shocked.

"I am exhausted from crying..."

"Why does he have to stay again?"

"His painting are selling well in Paris. He is staying to see if it leads anywhere..."

"Remind me to never visit France..."


"If they like Richie's paintings there, they must be as weird as he is!"

"Annie! Be nice!"

"Ok... ok. I'm sorry..."

"I would've stayed... if my syndicator wasn't going nuts..."

"Well, when is Richie coming back?"

"He doesn't know yet..."

"He doesn't even have a rough idea? As to when he's coming?"

"No. Annie, do you mind if we talk about this tomorrow? I'm real tired..."

"It's only seven o'clock in the evening!"

"Yeah, here in New York! It's one in the morning in Paris! I'm still on Paris time! Ever hear of jet-lag?" Caroline snapped.

"Ok, sweetie... I'm sorry..."

"I'm sorry Annie... I'm just real tired. I'll feel better tomorrow... after a good nights sleep..."

"Yeah. You get some rest... I'll see 'ya tomorrow..."

--Caroline couldn't fall asleep... her mind was racing with thoughts of Richard. God, she missed him. She wanted to call him, but he was probably asleep... she didn't want to disturb him.

"I wonder if he misses me as much as I miss him..." she said to herself, petting Salty for some small amount of comfort. Eventually, jet-lag forced her eyes to close and she drifted off to sleep.

--Richard was restless and unable to sleep. For the first time in a little over a month Caroline was not by his side, and he felt incomplete.

"If she's missing me even half as much as I'm missing her... maybe she's still awake... maybe I should call her..." he said to himself, reaching for the phone. He shook his head and set it back down... "No. She's had a rough day... she's asleep by now. I'll call her later..." After about 20 minutes of laying there, tossing and turning... "It's later..." he said, picking up the phone.

--"Hello?" Caroline answered the phone, half asleep.

"Hi. It's me..." Richard said softly. Caroline darted up in bed at the sound of his voice...

"Hi!" she exclaimed, forcing herself to wake up.

"If you're sleeping, I can call back later. I just really needed to hear your voice..."

"No. That's ok... I'm glad you called. I miss you so much..."

"I miss you too. How was your flight?"

"It was ok... long..."

"Does anyone know you're back yet? Did you tell anyone about 'us'?"

"Annie... I think I shocked her..."

"Annie? You shocked Annie? I didn't think that was even possible! To shock Annie..." Richard said humorously. Caroline chuckled... she loved his sense of humor.

"Richard, this is going to be harder than I thought..."

"I know. But it's like you said... it wont be for long. The time will go by before you know it... you'll see." Richard said, trying to convince Caroline when he himself didn't truly believe it. He missed her horribly... enough to get on a plane right then and there, but he had an important appointment in the morning. "I should try to get some sleep. I have that meeting tomorrow..."

"Yeah... I have to meet with my syndicator tomorrow..."

"I just had to hear your voice..."

"I'm glad you called. I needed to hear your voice too..." Caroline said, starting to cry. It amazed her how she still had tears left. "Good luck tomorrow..."

"Thank you. Good luck with your syndicator..."

"Thanks. I love you..."

"I love you too Caroline... with all my heart and soul..."

"Bye." Caroline whispered sadly.

"Bye." Richard said, trying to sound upbeat.

--"How long has it been?" Annie asked, in reference to Caroline being back in New York while Richard was still in France.

"It's been 3 weeks, 2 days..."

"How many hours?" Annie joked. Caroline ignored the comeback...

"I miss him Annie..."

"I know sweetie. But he calls you, like, every night... right?"

"It's not the same. I want him to be here, so I can touch him... so he can touch me..."

"I know..."

"This is an incredible time for him! His paintings are selling very well... unfortunately, I'm not there with him to share in his success..."

"Go back! To Paris I mean..."

"I wish I could! Without an assistant I have to color all these holiday cards myself! As it is I don't know how I'm gonna meet the deadline!"

"Does he know yet when he can get out here?"

"No... he doesn't..."

"Honey, are you so sure he wants to? Come here to New York I mean..."

"Annie! He misses me as much as I miss him! Trust me... I'm not wrong here..."

"Ok, ok. I'm sorry... I just thought I'd ask..." Annie apologized. Caroline sighed deeply and an odd expression came over her face. Like worry and sadness... "What?"

"Annie... he hasn't called in 2 days..." Caroline admitted.

"Well, maybe he's just been busy?"

"Maybe..." Caroline whispered, holding her hands to her eyes. Just then there was a knock at the door...

"I'll get it..." Annie said, walking towards the door... Caroline never moved. With her face still resting in her hands she sat crying, whoever was at the door mattered not at that moment. Suddenly, she felt movement beside her. She lifted her head and opened her eyes... there, kneeling before her was Richard, a dozen roses in hand...

"Richard?" Caroline asked softly, not quite believing he was really there... "Am I dreaming?" Richard smiled and kissed her softly on the lips...

"No. You're not dreaming. I'm not a dream... this time..."

"I can't believe it... wh--... why didn't you call? Why didn't you tell me you were coming?"

"I wanted it to be a surprise. Are you surprised?"

"Surprised?! That's an understatement!"

"I have one more surprise for you..." Richard said, his expression becoming serious as his smile faded. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a small velvet box, then opened it to reveal a beautiful diamond engagement ring. "Caroline, will you marry me?" he asked nervously, holding his breath, waiting for her answer.

"Oh my God Richard! Of course I'll marry you!" Caroline exclaimed, throwing her arms around him and holding him tight. Richard finally started breathing again...

"I love you Caroline..." he whispered breathlessly...

"I love you too Richard..." Caroline whispered, choking on her emotions. Richard pulled back and kissed her passionately, like he was starving for her lips. Both were so lost in each other they didn't even realize that Annie was still in the room...

"Ahem! Did you guys want me to leave?" she interrupted, a huge smile on her face. Richard and Caroline both looked over at her...

"Yeah, that would be good..." Richard said sarcastically. Annie glared at him facetiously, then headed for the door...

"Welcome back Richie... and congratulations. I want all the details tomorrow Caroline!" Annie said, then left, closing the door behind her. Richard looked at Caroline and smiled...

"So... you have any plans for my first night back?" he asked, the implication clear. Caroline smiled and leaned towards him...

"I have plans for your first week back..." she whispered in his ear.

"Hmmm..." Richard hummed... "Sounds wonderfully exhausting..."

"I took my vitamins... how about you?"

"I'll double up tomorrow..." he chuckled, then stood, gently pulling Caroline to her feet. He kissed her passionately, then headed for the stairs that led to her bedroom. "Let's lock the door... and use the chain... don't want Annie interrupting us tomorrow..."

"Good idea..." Caroline laughed. Richard locked and chained the door, then they proceeded towards the bedroom. True to her word, Caroline took a week to make up for the lost 3 weeks and 2 days Richard was away from her... but Richard didn't mind...