The third and last story in my Passions trilogy-The Matchmakers. It is a follow up to my other two, The Ex Factor and Whisper. Please see story description below.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.
If you have not read The Ex Factor and Whisper, I suggest you read those first so you won't be completely lost. And just as a reminder, this Passions trilogy began right after Theresa and Ethan returned from their trip, the trip where she learned that EJ (Little Ethan) was biologically Ethan's son. So, in my world, the past two years on the actual show never happened. No Vincent, no Pretty, no loony, multiple personality Sheridan; Fox and Chad are still alive and kicking - you get the point.
The formula for this one is a little different than the other two as well. The Ex Factor and Whisper centered around Ethan, Theresa, and Gwen. In The Matchmakers, Gwen, Theresa and their loved ones are still at the helm, but the other characters have much larger storylines. Hope you enjoy!
A New Day
"Alright Gwen...I'll ask him and get back to you. Goodbye." Theresa hung up the phone and turned just as EJ ran into the kitchen.
"What's for breakfast, Mom?" Her son asked her brightly.
"Hmm...what would you like? Waffles? Pancakes? Oatmeal? Or maybe some bacon and eggs?" Theresa smiled at her son as she opened the cupboard door, prepared to get out a frying pan.
EJ made a face. "Pop tarts." He said decisively."Pop tarts?" Theresa's eyebrows shot up.
"Is that what Gwen fed you when you stayed with her and Kieran?"
"Are you kidding?" EJ looked disgusted. "She made me eat grapefruit, and nutritional shakes, and all this nasty healthy stuff. I need sugar, Mom. I'm going through total withdrawal."
Theresa laughed and got the box of Pop tarts down from the cupboard. "Alright, but we're not going to make a habit of this."She put the pastries in the toaster, then a minute later put them on a plate in front of her son, thinking about how glad she was to be home. She and Ethan had had a wonderful time on their honeymoon, traveling to Australia and New Zealand, but she had missed the children terribly.
As EJ ate, Theresa opened the kitchen window, letting the early morning sunshine in, and delighting in the smell of the sea breeze. Sometimes she had to convince herself that this was really her life now, after all the years of dreaming and waiting, and feeling like it was never going to happen, she and Ethan were finally together, and married. She'd moved out of the Crane Mansion, turning the keys over to Fox on her wedding day. He'd been more than surprised, but she and Ethan had decided that he should have the house for now, well, at least as much of it that wasn't already occupied by Julian and Katherine. She had no regrets about leaving it behind. She'd only stayed so long because someday, the house would belong to EJ and she had thought he should be comfortable in it, but in the end, the bad memories the mansion held for her and Ethan were too much.
They instead had bought a lovely midsized home close to the coast. It was perfect for them-even had a small garden that Theresa planned to have blooming before summer's end.Thinking of Ethan reminded her of Gwen's phone call, and she walked down the hall to their bedroom, pushing open the door and smiling at the sight of her husband sprawled across the bed, sleeping soundly.
"Ethan." She murmured, moving closer to him and leaning over.
Ethan sighed in his sleep and then his eyes slowly opened. He smiled as he looked up at his wife, and gently touched her hair."I love this." He said quietly.
"Love what?" Theresa asked, sitting down next to him on the bed.
"Waking up like this everyday, thinking it was all some wonderful dream and then finding out every morning that it's not, that it's my life."
He pulled her close to him and they kissed, Theresa feeling herself weaken and having to force herself to remember that she'd come in the room for a reason."Gwen called. She wants to know if EJ can stay with her overnight again on Friday, and on Saturday, she and Kieran are going to take him and Sarah to that new amusement park that just opened up. Jane will be with us as usual since she's too young to go on most of the rides. I told her I wanted to ask you first, but it's fine with me.""Sure, that sounds like it would be fun for him."
Ethan smiled. He felt a small twinge of jealousy, as he usually did when he thought about how well all three of his children had taken to his ex-wife's new husband, Kieran, but he knew most of that was due to all the time he'd lost with them. Rebuilding those bonds took time, but they grew stronger every day.
Theresa raised an eyebrow as Ethan continued to stare at her expectantly.
"What?" She asked.
"Is that all? Did you have any other phone messages for me, or family matters you wanted to discuss?" He moved closer to her.
Theresa shook her head, and Ethan grinned, pulling her down on the bed with him. "Good."
Theresa laughed as he pulled her into his embrace, forgetting everything else for the moment.
The Book Cafe
Sam looked up from his table in surprise as the plate was sat down before him."I didn't order yet." He started to say, turning to the server, and then a smile spread across his face as he saw it was Pilar.
"Really, Sam, you think I don't know what you like by now?" She returned a teasing look.
"Apparently not." Sam's tone turned serious and Pilar's smile faded as she gave his loaded plate a concerned look."Oh no, is it the eggs?"
Sam laughed. "No, it's just that if you really knew what I wanted, you'd join me, because what I'd like most of all is your company."
"Oh." Pilar felt yet another Sam induced blush coming on. 'Stop it.' She scolded herself. 'Sam is just being friendly, after all.' She turned a bright smile to him. "I'd love to join you, Sam. Just give me a few minutes to check on the to go orders. It's a madhouse in the kitchen during the breakfast rush. I'll be right back."
She hurried towards the kitchen. "Jeffrey!" She called to her head cook. "Are all the orders for The Crane Building ready to go? I have a driver waiting."
"Yes, they're right here." Jeffrey indicated a stack of white Styrofoam boxes on a cart. "We're doing big business with the Crane employees. I filled twenty six orders this morning already."
"Make that twenty seven." Laura, one of the waitresses, hung up the phone and turned towards them. "Fox Crane wants the special, and he asked us to make this a regular delivery every morning from now one."
"I'm on it." Jeffrey turned back towards the grill. "Wonderful." Pilar smiled to herself. Business was booming, and her idea of adding delivery service for bulk meal orders was a tremendous success. The only thing she had to worry about now was that they were rapidly becoming understaffed. She'd have to hire more employees, and soon.
As she walked back out into the dining area, she caught sight of Rina, who was returning a coffeepot to the counter."Rina, do you mind taking all the takeout orders for the Crane building to the driver, please? We're a bit behind.""Of course." Rina smiled and headed back into the kitchen. She found the delivery cart, and began to wheel it out, only to be stopped by a frantic Jeffrey.
"One more, Rina." He handed her another box. Rina started to put it on the cart, and then stopped as she saw the name on the receipt. "Fox Crane." She murmured to herself. She barely knew him, but his recent broken engagement to Kay Bennett had been the talk of the town and especially among the Book Cafe employees. What struck her the most though, was when she'd seen him a few days ago. He'd stopped by for a cup of coffee and he had just looked so...hollow. And hurt. There was such sadness in his eyes that her heart went out to him.I hate to see someone like that, and he seems so kind too. I wish there was something I could do to cheer him up. She thought to herself.
Then suddenly, an idea struck her. She looked quickly around to make sure no one was watching and then snatched a can of whipped cream off the shelf. It was a silly thing to do, but at least he'd know someone was thinking of him.
At the Crane Building
"Breakfast!" Fox's assistant, Sally, came into his office, smiling. "Straight from the Book Cafe. Here you go." She handed him the white box.
"Great...thank you." Fox mumbled, barely paying attention. He set the box on the corner of his desk and went back to the file he was reading. After a moment, he realized that Sally hadn't left yet. Reluctantly, he looked up to see her giving him a half concerned, half-worried look."Is something wrong, Sally?" He asked, trying not to let his impatience show.
"Well...Mr. Crane, forgive me for saying so, but you need to eat. You've been working such long hours and it hasn't escaped me that you haven't been taking care of yourself. I just...well, I'm just trying to help."
"Oh." For a moment Fox nearly told her to mind her own business, but he bit his tongue. Just because his life was a wreck was no reason to take it out on his employees. "You're right, Sally. Thank you. I'll eat right now."
Sally smiled and exited the office, and Fox reluctantly picked up the box. It smelled delicious, but he didn't feel like eating. Hadn't felt like it in days. If he was honest with himself, all he wanted to do was go home and pull the covers over his head, but he was a Crane, and he didn't have that luxury. He had a job to do, and an image to maintain. And he supposed that included eating.
He opened the box, then stopped in surprise. It was the breakfast special that he'd ordered...pancakes, scrambled eggs, sausage, and bacon-nothing unusual about that. It was the whipped cream happy face on the pancake that he hadn't expected. He lifted the lid higher to take a better look and noticed that someone had also taken what looked like strawberry sauce and written on the underside of the lid a single word...'Smile'.
"Huh." He just sat there for a moment, wondering who had singled him out for this cheesy little stunt, and then he shook his head and laughed. It was probably Pilar.Ã‚Â It seemed like something she would do. She undoubtedly felt bad about Kay and Miguel hooking up. The thought took the smile off his face as suddenly as it had come, and the bitter taste of his fiancee's betrayal was once again in his mouth. For a second, he contemplated throwing the whole thing in the trash, but then thought better of it, picking up his fork.'Smile', it had said, and he had. For a second maybe, but it was a second more than he'd smiled in weeks. And even that tiny gesture was enough to make his day just the smallest bit brighter.
The Marionette (upscale French restaurant -tres romantic)
Later That Evening
Fancy smiled nervously at the maitre'd as she smoothed down her silky black dress. "I'm sure my companion will be here momentarily."
"Of course, Ms. Crane. May I seat you at the bar, and bring you something to drink?'
"Yes, thank you. That would be wonderful." Fancy smiled, trying not to let her agitation show. Where was Luis? This was more than embarrassing; showing up at the most elite restaurant in Harmony by herself. She looked at the clock on the wall again, and at her watch. It was a pointless gesture, because she'd already done it thirty times, yet she kept hoping that somehow she was mistaken about the time. That Luis really wasn't late to a date she'd looked forward to for weeks.
Sitting at the bar, Fancy took a small sip of the wine she'd ordered, then set it down. She felt like jumping up and pacing, but she was already attracting curious looks, and she didn't want any more attention. Yet she was unable to stop her perfectly manicured nails from tapping an impatient drum on the smooth wood surface of the counter.
The minutes kept ticking by, and there was still no sign of him. Just as she was about to give up, her cell phone rang. Eagerly Fancy dug it out of her purse, smiling in relief as she recognized Luis's number on the Caller ID. She knew he hadn't forgotten-he probably had a perfectly good reason for being late, like an emergency call to the station or something.
"Hey, Fancy, it's me." Luis's voice was suitably apologetic, and Fancy felt herself relax a bit. That is, until he continued speaking."Look, I'm really sorry but I got hung up. We had a bit of a problem here."
"It's OK, Luis, I know how shorthanded you and Sam have been at the station."
"Uh, yeah." Luis's voice was nervous, and Fancy felt her hackles rise. "It's not police business, Fancy. Well, not exactly, anyway. Chris managed to smuggle out a threatening letter to Sheridan. We don't know how he got it out of the jail-someone must be helping him. Anyway, she's pretty upset and she didn't want to be alone. So I was hoping we could put off our dinner-maybe we can do it tomorrow night, or next week."
"I see." Fancy managed to keep her voice calm, happy he couldn't see the tears in her eyes. "The thing is, Luis, I'm already here."
"Why are you there so early?" Luis sounded surprised.
"It's not early!" Fancy snapped, beginning to lose her cool. "It's almost a half hour past our reservation time, Luis. I'm not surprised you didn't notice. Time flies when you're with Sheridan, doesn't it?"
"Fancy, not this again." Luis sighed, as if he were dealing with a tempermental child. "Sheridan is going through an awful time right now, finding out about Chris's real identity and having to fight to keep custody of James. She needs a friend."
"She has friends, Luis. She has plenty of people she could lean on. It doesn't have to be you, especially not tonight. It's our anniversary dinner, Luis! We are supposed to be celebrating the first year of our relationship. I thought this was as special to you as it is to me. I guess I was wrong." She hated the fact that her voice broke on the last word, but there was no hiding the hurt she was feeling.
"Fancy, I'm sorry. I'm just trying to help her out. Look, if it's that important to you, I'll tell Sheridan I have to go. I'll be there in twenty minutes, alright?" Luis's voice was apologetic, but tinged with a slight bit of condescension, and it was that tone that made Fancy's blood boil.
"Don't do me any favors, Luis. I think it's quite clear where I rank on your list of priorities." Fancy snapped the phone shut, and stood up, suddenly noticing that the bar and the surrounding tables had gone very quiet, the patrons hanging on to her every word. She just wanted to slink away, gathering the remaining shreds of her dignity around her, but the cell phone immediately started ringing again, ruining even that possibility.
"That's great. That's just great." Fancy gritted her teeth. "Fine, you all want a show? I'll give you a show." She took the phone between her forefingers as if it was a foul smelling piece of trash, and then dropped it, still ringing, on the floor. Then she deliberately brought her high heeled foot down on top of it, again and again, until it was nothing but a mangled, cracked mash of plastic and wires. Then she picked up her purse, held her head high, and sailed out the front door. Maybe she couldn't hide from the prying eyes of the world, but she could show them all that Fancy Crane wouldn't cry, or beg for a man's attention, or allow anyone to make her feel as though she were second choice.
Not even Luis.
That was easier said then done once she was outside. Fancy groaned silently when she saw them-the paparazzi had somehow been alerted that she was there, and they were all waiting for her, cameras in hand.
"Fancy, this way!" The voices cried, and she forced a small smile as she concentrated on moving forward to where the valet was bringing her car.
"Hey, Fancy!" A mocking voice called. "Why are you alone? What happened-did you get stood up?" Fancy gritted her teeth as she turned towards the speaker. Gideon Unger-she should have known. The lowlife tabloid photographer had been stalking her since she was a teenager, and they'd had more than a few run ins. He seemed to devote his life to trying to embarrass her in the papers, and tonight seemed to be no exception.
Gideon grinned at the aggravated expression on her face, and before she could turn away, a flashbulb went off in her face. "Thanks, Fancy. That's going to look great on the cover of the Enquirer, accompanied by the story of your pathetic love life and how you can't even get your own boyfriend to show up for dinner."
"You creep." Fancy seethed. "Why are you doing this?"
"Oh, you remember, don't you, Fancy? The glass of champagne you threw in my face at your sweet sixteen birthday party, the time you threw your shoe at me and gave me a black eye, the other time that you tripped me when I was photographing you shopping, and you and all your friends laughed when my camera broke. Consider this a little payback."
It was true, she had to admit...more than once she'd gotten Gideon back for all the times he'd invaded her privacy, but she wasn't about to feel bad about it. More than anything, she wanted to grab the camera from him and hit him with it, but causing even more of a scene would just drag this on even more. She'd just have hope karma had a nasty surprise in store for Gideon someday, but for now, she just wanted to get home and think.
Yes, tonight Fancy Crane had some serious thinking to do indeed.
Theresa finds out how bad things have gotten between Fancy and Luis. While she's determined to fix things, Gwen is equally as determined to take advantage of the fact to help Sheridan win Luis back.Fox receives another surprise.Kay and Miguel have an argument.Ivy starts to notice the attention Sam is paying to Pilar.
Thanks for reading the first chapter of The Matchmakers! Unlike The Ex Factor and Whisper, The Matchmakers is not finished, although I've got many chapters done already. If you like the story, please let me know; I'm going to do my best to finish it.