Epilogue:

two of two chapters uploaded 8/24

Spring

"Ring around the rosy!" Sarah and Jane chortled, holding hands and whirling around in circles as their older brother looked on. "...pockets full of posies...ashes, ashes, we all fall-"

"No, no!" Gwen rushed forward and put a hand on each little girl's back before they could plumment to the ground. "No falling down, not while you're in those dresses. "

Sarah and Jane giggled and then ran ahead of Gwen up the steps of the church. Gwen turned to EJ, smiling. "Ready?"

The boy grinned at her and Gwen was suddenly struck by how much he resembled his father. EJ was going to be a heartbreaker someday, and that someday was coming sooner then she was sure she was prepared for.

"Come on, then." Kieran, on the other side of her, gestured to EJ. "Let's get inside." He put a playful arm around him and Gwen's heart suddenly contracted. Kieran was such a good father to the girls, but she knew he'd love a son someday too. And she didn't know if she'd ever be able to give him one. She sighed, and then let the melancholy thought go. They had so much already, and she had no regrets.

Once inside, Kieran steered EJ towards the groom's room, while Gwen went the opposite way towards the bride's room. She had a sudden sense of deja vu as she walked through the corridor, remembering the last time she was here. A small giggle escape her as she remembered Ethan carrying Theresa down the stairs while she shrieked in outrage. Hopefully, this time around would be a bit more successful, but weddings in Harmony...well, who knew how it would all end up?

--

The church was alive with excited chatter as Ivy came in the side door. She'd told Sam to go on without her, refusing to watch her oldest son make the biggest mistake of his life, but when it came down to it, she couldn't stay away. She had to try, one last time, to make him see sense.

Hoping no one would notice her and guess what she was trying to do, she slipped quietly down the hallway towards the groom's area. Finally, reaching the doorway, she paused as she heard Ethan's voice, talking spiritedly with Fox. She gritted her teeth. She had hoped to find him alone, but no such luck.

"Ethan." She entered the room, her tone serious. "We need to talk."

Ethan sighed, turning away from his brother and looking at her. "I thought you weren't coming."

"I had to come!" Ivy burst out. "Ethan, you are making a horrible mistake. You can't marry Theresa! She's nothing but a lying, manipulating tramp who will only cause you pain. Please, listen to me! Call this off!"

"Mother.." Ethan gritted his teeth. "OK, that's it. I am not even going to bother having this discussion with you. Fox, can you do me a favor? Show our mother where the exit is...and make sure she uses it." He turned back towards the mirror, adjusting his tie.

"What? Ethan, you can't throw me out of your wedding! I'm your mother!" Fox took her arm but Ivy shook him off. "Do you see what's she doing to you already? Making you turn your back on your own family! And when I think of all that I have done for you!" She allowed her voice to break and her eyes to fill with dramatic tears.

"It's not working, Mother." Ethan didn't even bother to turn around. "If you can't be supportive of me, or happy for me, I don't want you here. Please leave."

Ivy sputtered in outrage for a moment, but seeing that Ethan was unmoved, she finally gave in. "Fine! I will stop trying to talk you out of it. Let me stay, please. I want to be here for you." She adopted a sweet, apologetic tone.

Ethan looked at her for a long moment, then nodded. "Fine, but not one more word about Theresa. Do we understand each other?"

"Of course." Ivy's smile was tight and 100 percent fake. Turning around, she headed back into the church, fuming silently.

"Damn Theresa to hell. She's got her hooks back into my son and he's ready to throw me out of his life because of her. I'm not going to stand for this. I may not be able to stop this wedding, but I can guarantee that if I have anything to say about it, they won't make it even to their first wedding anniversary." Feeling calmer at the thought, she smiled for real as she slid into the pew between Sam and Jessica.

"You came?" Sam looked at her, surprised.

"For our son's sake, of course." Ivy simpered.

Jessica rolled her eyes and Ivy shot her a warning look. Lately, Jessica had grown more and more irritable with her. Ivy hadn't had much time to help her try to break up Kieran and Gwen's wedding-she'd been so preoccupied with Theresa and Ethan, but now she could see that neglecting her young partner in crime had been a mistake. She needed to win back Jessica's loyalty-and fast. Then together, they could destroy Gwen-and Theresa.

A hush fell over the crowd as the wedding party began to come down the aisle. Standing next to the altar, Ethan had the biggest, most genuine smile anyone could ever remember seeing on him. Fox was his best man-the brothers had reestablished their relationship in the past few months and their bond was stronger than it had ever been. EJ was once again ringbearer and he was thrilled with his responsibility.

Then the bridesmaids began to come down the aisle, dressed in pale green. Gwen, who'd been offered the position much more wholeheartedly then last time, smiled at the crowd as she held her husband's arm. Whitney came behind her, followed by Paloma and then Rina.

Finally the strains of 'Here Comes the Bride' began and Theresa appeared. A collective gasp rose from the crowd as they looked at the radiant bride. Her dress was simple but lovely, and her hair was unbound and around her shoulders, decorated with a jeweled headband. Ethan's face lit up as he saw her, and Theresa came slowly down the aisle towards him, beaming.

The next few minutes seemed to pass in slow motion to Theresa, who was both impatient to finally be Ethan's wife after all this time and yet wanted the moment to linger forever.

I, Ethan, take you Theresa, to be my wife. I promise to love, cherish and honor you, in sickness and in health, in good times and in bad. I will love you all the days my life.

I, Theresa, take you Ethan to be my lawfully wedded husband. To have and to hold from this day foward, In good times and in bad. For all of our days, I will be by your side and I will love you for all of eternity.

It seemed no time at all before Ethan's lips met hers, and then they were turning to face the crowd, who were on their feet, screaming and cheering.

Kieran grinned at Gwen as they clapped along. "I think Theresa and Ethan weren't the only ones who were impatiently waiting for this day." He murmured. "I don't believe I've ever seen wedding guests do the wave before."

Gwen laughed as well, then looked again at Ethan and Theresa as they beamed and waved to the crowd. She had thought she might still feel a twinge of resentment against the two, seeing them pledge their lives to each other with so much more sincerity then Ethan had had for her on their wedding day. But it was gone, the bitterness...it had disappeared. Her own personal happiness had washed it away, and for that she was grateful...eternally so.

The Briar Rose-Ethan and Theresa's Wedding Reception

"Kieran, you and Noah set this up beautfiully." Theresa walked over to him and gave him a hug. "Everything is perfect, and I love the band!"

"I'm glad you're happy, little one." Kieran touched her cheek gently. "It's been a long time coming."

"You can say that again!" Theresa laughed and moved back towards her husband, who was engaged in conversation with a group of people across the room. Before she made it over, suddenly her progress was waylaid by Ivy, who had stepped directly in her path.

"Ivy." Theresa forced herself to smile politely. "I hope you're enjoying yourself. Excuse me." She started to move past, but Ivy grabbed her arm.

"Wait just a minute. I have a few things to say to you." Her voice was a malicious hiss. "Don't think I'm going to stand idly by and watch you ruin my son's life again. You have caused too much pain and misery for both of us already. After all the things you 've done to Ethan and don't think I've forgotten about your little stunt a few months ago, telling Sam that I was behind the job offer you made to him when you asked him to work at Crane."

"That wasn't a stunt." Theresa snapped back, glaring at her new mother in law. "You did ask me to get him a job at Crane. All I did was tell him the truth-something you're apparently not comfortable with. I didn't realize it was supposed to be a covert operation, nor do I care. Sam would never leave his job as chief of police, and you were an idiot to think he would."

"He nearly ended our engagement over that!" Ivy ignored Theresa's words. "And I'm going to pay you back for it...in spades!'

"Are we done?" Theresa yanked her arm away from Ivy.

"Just don't get comfortable, Theresa. We won't be inlaws for long, not if I have anything to say about it!"

"What's going on here?" Ethan had come up behind Theresa, unnoticed by either. He put a protective arm around his wife. "Theresa, is my mother harassing you again?"

Ivy paled, knowing she was a half second away from being thrown out the door, and by her own son of all people. Theresa knew it too, and although the sight would have made her wedding day even more perfect than it already was, she didn't have the heart to do that to Ethan. So instead, she smiled at her new husband.

"We were just talking about how well the reception is going. Speaking of which, you owe me a dance." She took his arm and moved away. Ivy was immediately forgotten as she looked into Ethan's eyes, gazing so warmly back at her.

"It's everything we dreamed it would be, isn't it?" She whispered and he took her hand in his, dropping a kiss on it.

"Better." He smiled and led her onto the dance floor.

--

Gwen finished refilling her plate at the buffet table and then turned to walk back to her seat. As she did, she saw Ivy and Jessica, deep in conversation, their heads together. For a moment her interest was merely idle curiousity, until the two lifted their heads, staring straight at her. For a second, their expressions were cold, vindictive...until they realized that she was looking back at them. Then the cold looks were replaced by the biggest, most insincere smiles that Gwen had ever seen. Her eyebrows nearly shot off her forehead and she shook her head as she turned to walk back to her chair.

"Dead giveaway, ladies, smiling like that. Ivy never puts that much effort into a facial expression, not with all the Botox she's had. Now I know something's up
." She murmured to herself. Lost in thought, she didn't pay attention to where she was going until suddenly, she smacked directly into someone.

"Gwen!" Pilar gasped as her own plate and drink went crashing to the floor.

"Oh, Pilar, I'm so sorry!" Gwen turned scarlet with embarrassment. "I wasn't even...I mean, I didn't see..."

"Oh Gwen, it's fine!" Pilar laughed and reached down to retrieve the broken pieces. "Nothing could upset me on this wonderful day."

Gwen started to help her but they both were brushed aside by Sam. "Pilar, don't touch that. You'll cut yourself. I already notified one of the staff-they're coming to clean it up." He helped her to her feet. "Let me get you another plate."

Gwen watched, amused, as color bloomed in Pilar's cheeks. "Oh, well...thank you, Sam."

Without another word to Gwen, the two of them walked off, talking animatedly to each other. Gwen watched them go in surprise. "I don't believe it. Did I just see what I think I saw? Pilar and Sam?" Abandoning her own plate on an empty table, she hurried across the room and approached Theresa, who was sitting down and sharing a piece of cheesecake with Ethan.

"Theresa, come here!" Gwen gestured to her impatiently.

"A little busy here, Gwen." Theresa murmured, still lost in Ethan's eyes as she fed him a bite.

"Oh, you can do that later." Gwen pulled her to her feet. "I want to talk to you."

Theresa rolled her eyes. "I'll be back. Don't go anywhere." She playfully touched Ethan's nose, then reluctantly walked off with Gwen.

"What's the big emergency?" She asked Gwen impatiently.

"That." Gwen pointed across the room at Pilar and Sam, who were still talking, completely ignoring the plates of food that both held.

"That what?" Theresa followed her gaze and looked confused. "My mother? What about her?"

"Your mother AND Sam." Gwen corrected. "They are totally having a moment."

"What?" Theresa looked again. "They are not!"

Gwen heaved an impatient sign. "Look more carefully."

Theresa was quiet for a moment as she watched Pilar and Sam laugh together, then her mother's eyes flit to his for a minute, then shyly look away.

"Oh, wow... you're right! My mother likes Sam! I mean, really likes Sam! How did I not see it before?"

Gwen mumbled something rude under her breath, which Theresa chose to ignore, then spoke again. "So what are you going to do about it?"

"What are you talking about?" Theresa frowned. "Sam is engaged to Ivy." She looked at Gwen questioningly and then caught on. "Oh, I get it. You want me to break up Sam and Ivy's engagement, because you have a bone to pick with her."

"No, I don't!" Gwen protested. At Theresa's disbelieving expression she gave it up. "OK, so I think it would be a bit amusing. But really, this is about your mother. She's been alone for so long. Don't you think she deserves to be with someone great, like Sam? And doesn't he deserve to not be stuck with Ivy for the rest of his life? I mean, what has he ever done to deserve that?"

"I know that, Gwen. But Mama wouldn't want Sam like that-she wouldn't want to scheme to get him and she wouldn't want me to do it either. Still..." Theresa bit her lip. "I'll think about it. " She finally conceded.

Gwen smiled smugly, and the two of them were silent for a moment as they looked around the room. Theresa sighed after a moment.

"Look at Fox, over there by himself. He looks so unhappy."

"Can you blame him?" Gwen asked. "He caught Kay and Miguel together again, for about the millionth time, and he told her he never wants to see her again. His heart is completely broken. I feel awful for him."

"Me too." Theresa frowned. "And after all that, look at Kay and Miguel. They're together, but they don't look happy. Kay keeps looking at Fox but he won't even acknowledge her existence. It's such a mess."

"You think that's a mess? Look at those three." Gwen pointed in the opposite direction and Theresa followed her gaze. Luis and Fancy were standing near the buffet table, talking with Sheridan, who was holding a tuxedo clad James in her arm. At first glance, the trio seemed happy enough, but a closer look told the tale. Sheridan was looking at Luis with a mixture of longing, melancholy, and out and out jealousy. Luis was looking back at her with the air of a man torn nearly in half. And as for Fancy, she was clearly not unaware of the vibe between her boyfriend and his ex lover. Her smile was fixed on her face but there was no real happiness or warmth behind it. Her whole frame was tense, and her hands were clenched on the wineglass she was holding.

Theresa sighed. "That's going to blow up in their faces if they keep refusing to acknowledge what's going on between the three of them and resolve it. I know how difficult it must be for them-all of them. It's going to get worse before it gets better, but in the end, I think it's clear who Luis should be with."

"Finally, you show some sense!" Gwen smiled as she looked over the three. "I see it too. He may have feelings for both, but in the end, there is only one person who has his heart, one person that he was meant to be with."

"Exactly." Theresa nodded. "It's-"

"Sheridan!" Gwen burst out at the same time that Theresa said "Fancy!" For a moment the two women stared at each other coldly, then Theresa smiled.

"Wanna bet?"

--
Coming Soon:

The third and last story in my Passions trilogy-The Matchmakers

Theresa and Gwen are both married to the men of their dreams and happy at last. But happiness isn't enough for these meddlers...both of them are determined that everyone in Harmony should be as happy as they are. With that goal in mind, the matchmaking is on and no one is safe from their machinations. And it's really on when the rival duo find themselves on the opposite side of the 'who should be with Luis' debate. Gwen may be determined to see her best friend Sheridan back with the man of her dreams, but Theresa is just as set on seeing Fancy as the only woman in her older brother's life.

Meanwhile, Ivy and Jessica continue to plot against Gwen and Theresa, but it may blow up in their faces, especially Ivy's. Gwen is onto her, and rivalry or not, she's not above joining forces with Theresa to bring both of them down.

And in the shadows, real danger lurks, as the past comes back to haunt the two in a big way.

Author's Note:

I refuse to beg for reviews. I have my pride, you know.

Yeah right...I have no pride. :D It's the last chapter - I'd appreciate your feedback on the series. Please? Send me a pity review. Hell, send me a pity flame.

I'll upload the first couple of chapters of The Matchmakers in a few days and see how it goes over.