Author's Note: Oh gosh, I can't believe it's been over a year since I've updated this. Forgive me, and I'm not expecting you to remember what's happened already. Re-read if you want, or try to remember based off this chapter, or if you must, close this window and roll your eyes at me. As it turns out, I had written most of this last July (2011). Nonetheless, I know exactly how I want this to end, and it shouldn't be too many more chapters, it's just getting the time to actually write and finish this.

I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving! :) (If you're still reading this far, anyway!)


Chapter 10

Stolen

Mary

Her face was hot with fury. She was done, once again. She just couldn't take Carlos's constant criticism. Everything she did was wrong. If it weren't him, it was her neighbors, or her family. And then her family wondered why she never contacted them. She could never do anything right.

She couldn't get through a conversation with her sisters, brothers, or father without receiving a long, worthless lecture. The only person who pretended to understand her was her mother, but even Mary knew that her mother was only pretending.

Annie Camden pretended to care for her and to understand her. But really, Mary had no doubt that her mother was talking behind her back. There wasn't a thing her parents didn't talk about. And Mary just couldn't see her parents arguing.

Mary had always known her father hated her. She had figured it out back in her pre-school days. Lucy had always been his favorite, and that was why Lucy had become so emotional. She cried when she didn't get her way because when she was small, Daddy always gave her what she wanted; even if it meant neglecting his oldest daughter.

The only ones in her family who had ever truly understood her were the Colonel and Grandma Ruth. And that was where she was going. Her grandfather had tried to tell her not to go back with Carlos, but she had not listened. With going back to school, she needed a support system—and Carlos was the father of her son.

She couldn't have known that she was going to end up getting pregnant within a month of moving back with Carlos and Charlie. At the time, she had been taking online classes, moving swiftly toward her bachelor degree in education.

Looking at Jenny and Crissy, she did not regret having them. Having twins and having a pre-school-aged child had been a challenge, but it was also a joy. Mary only felt bad that they had to have such a douchebag for a father.

Carlos always had to make her look like the bad one. Her grandparents had told her everything he had told her parents. He had made it look like she had just gotten up and "left" her responsibilities for no reason.

Her dream had been to go to Chicago and attend college at Northwestern University. Carlos had only argued with her, protesting that it was best that they stayed in New York; it was best for little Charlie.

She couldn't disagree more. Raising a child in New York City was not the best for him. While she understood that Chicago wasn't the best city, either; she would rather have her son in the Midwest opposed to the Northeast.

But no, Carlos couldn't see that.

That was not why she had left him, though. The worst had come one day when she had come home from a long, tiring shift at the airlines. It was eleven o'clock at night, and she had expected to come home to see her husband and son in bed. She hadn't called in advance, assuming Carlos and Charlie were in bed.

She was clueless to what she would be walking in to.

Slowly, she had cracked the door to their apartment open, trying not to wake anyone. As it turned out, her efforts had been worthless. The room was dark, but the television was blaring. Curiously, she switched the light by the door on.

A loud scream had screeched in her ears as her husband, holding her child, and a strange woman jumped off the couch. Carlos was wearing his long johns, and Charlie was wide awake.

Mary didn't recognize the woman, but she was wearing only a tank top and shorts, and her face was covered with make-up. Mary could tell that her husband was not having any business meeting.

"Mary, I can explain," her husband had insisted. But she did not give him the chance. She had twirled around, caught a taxi to the nearest airport, and was off.

She and Carlos hadn't spoken about the incidence since.

With memories flooding from the past, Mary continued to pile her daughters' belongings into the suitcase until it was stuffed. She tried to fit as much as she could, as she knew she would be taking the girls for good.

And it wasn't that she didn't want Charlie too. For one, she knew she could never handle three children at once. For two, Charlie was so close to his father. Half of the time Charlie didn't listen to her, which made matters difficult. He needed to be with his father.

It saddened Mary that her son was turning out to be just like her husband, but he was Daddy's little boy. The best she could do was take preventative action so her daughters wouldn't take similar footsteps. They needed to far, far away from the man who called himself their father.

She knew there was only one place she could go; there was only one person she could turn to in this situation, and it wasn't her grandparents. He was the only one she could vent to. For hours he had listened to her rant about Carlos. After it all, he had tried to convince her not to go back with Carlos, and to move in with him. Stupidly, she had turned down the offer.

Over the years, she had thrown away every chance she had had with him, and there had been a lot. They were destined to be together. Why couldn't she just see and accept that? For the longest time she had always pictured that he would be the one she married. Yet, there was always something being thrown in her way. In recent years it had been Carlos, the father of her three children.

She frantically snapped the suitcase shut, having to put all of her weight on the suitcase to get it to close because of how full it was. Taking a deep breath, she swung around. Carrying the heavy suitcase, she rushed to the living room. Immediately, she noticed something was not right.

Carlos was not there, and neither were her children.

"Okay, Carlos, where the hell are you?" she growled, setting the suitcase down and running into the kids' room. He was not there. She ran into the empty kitchen. A rush of panic started to flow through her veins.

Leaving the door to the apartment open, she raced out of the apartment and went outside, looking for their car.

The cold New York wind rushed against her face as a drip of water splashed on her forehead. When she saw the empty parking space where her car had once been parked, her heart dropped to the floor. He kidnapped them. Carlos kidnapped the kids.

Instantly, she grabbed her cell phone out of her pocket and dialed 9-1-1.

"You have reached 9-1-1, what is your emergency?"

She took a deep breath. "You have to help me, my children have been kidnapped." Tears started to rush out of her eyes as she turned around, rushing up the stairs to her apartment. "My husband took them, and I don't know where he's taking them. Please help!" Her voice cracked as she broke down into tears.

"Calm down, Miss. What is your address?"

She gave the operator her address.

"Is there any reason to believe that your husband would harm your children?"

She closed her eyes as she built up the strength to respond. "Yes," she answered, "he's threatened to kill them. Please help me! My babies are in mortal danger!"

Carlos

Four hours had passed since he had taken the children. His fifteen-month-old daughters each lie in one of his arms. Their eyes were shut. Finally, they had drifted off to sleep. In the seat next to him, his son's head had fallen against Carlos's shoulder, as the little boy had nestled into a deep sleep.

He glanced at his cell phone, which had remained silently on his knee. The phone had shut itself off, indicating that its battery had died. Carlos couldn't remember when he had last looked at his cellular device. He had no way of knowing when it had died.

They'd been in the air for over three hours now, so he couldn't receive any phone calls. Nonetheless, he had expected that Mary would attempt to call him, demanding he bring the children back. There wouldn't be a way to know if she had until they landed. But he'd forgotten his phone charger back in New York, so he had no way of charging his phone.

He was sure that she was looking for him. That was why he had made sure to pay for the airplane tickets with all the cash he had on him. He didn't want Mary following him to California. His whole purpose of flying west had been to get away from Mary. He didn't need her following him there.

Otherwise, he knew, that she would never think to look in California for him. If anything, she would expect him to fly to Puerto Rico, where his actual family was. Never in a million years would she think he would run off to her parents.

He also knew that he was safe in California because Mary would never call her parents. She had tried her best over the last years to cut off all contact with them. That didn't stop her mother from prying into Mary's life.

Carlos knew that there was much more to Annie's flying out to New York to "help" Mary with the new babies. He and Mary were more than capable of handling the youngsters. Besides, Annie hadn't offered her help to Matt and Sarah, who were just as busy, especially with beginning their residency.

No, Annie had wanted to be close to Mary. After all the years Mary had cut her parents out of her life, Annie wanted to make up for all that lost time. And she knew that Mary would never willingly give her information unless Annie took it upon herself to fly out to New York. Neither Mary nor Carlos had been expecting Annie's visits. She had shown up unannounced, insisting she was there to "assist" with the babies.

Her motives all seemed well, but Carlos knew there was more to her arrival.

He stroked his daughters' hair gently. It had been almost ten months since they had seen their grandmother. The girls were growing so much, and so was Charlie. Carlos only wished they didn't have to have Mary as their mother.

Of course, what was he supposed to do? Mary could be the kindest, sweetest person. She could also be the biggest bitch in town, and she was prone to jumping to conclusions.

Carlos remembered the time his co-worker had called him, requesting that he come pick her up.

Mary had gone insane, accusing him of having an affair. Though, Carlos knew in recent months Carlos hadn't become much better. With every phone call Mary received, he would jump to conclusions. As much as she drove him insane, somehow he still managed to love her, otherwise he would have left her so long ago, and he wouldn't have gotten back together with her.

But mostly, he was afraid that she'd be the one to leave him and take the children. The thought was mortifying. Carlos lovingly looked at his three slumbering children, and he couldn't imagine losing any of them. He couldn't imagine his son and daughters sitting on another man's lap.

Carlos knew that Mary had contacted an ex-boyfriend of hers. There had been a strange number on the phone bill a few months ago, so Carlos had called the number. The man, Robbie, had indicated that he used to date Mary, but that was all. When Carlos interrogated him, Robbie had told Carlos that he and Mary were just "friends," and would never be nothing more.

Regardless, Carlos hadn't believed him, and he told Robbie to never call their number again.

Mary's and his marriage certainly hadn't been a cakewalk, and sometimes Carlos regretted getting back with her. He had only considered meeting with Mary that night for Charlie's sake. Sex had been the last thing on his mind, but somehow Mary always managed to seduce him. Nine months later the twins were born. And he loved those girls with all his heart.

The captain came over the speaker and announced that they were landing, and that all passengers should put on their seat belts. Carlos's and Charlie's seatbelts were still intact, as they had hadn't moved since getting on the plane. He held onto the twins tightly and prepared for landing.

Both girls were still asleep when the plane landed. Charlie had woken up.

"Where are we, Daddy?" the little boy whined and rubbed his eyes.

"Don't worry, baby. We're going to go see Grandma and Grandpa Camden."

Carlos stood up and motioned Charlie into the isle. He made sure to keep an eye on the little boy, ensuring he didn't get lost with the crowd of people. Fortunately, the plane was nowhere near full.

His shoulders were aching as he walked through the airport terminal.

"Stay close, Charlie," Carlos instructed his son. Charlie walked close to his father.

When they got out of the terminal and began walking toward the front of the airport—since they had no luggage—Carlos realized something. He couldn't call any Camdens to come and pick them up since his phone was dead. Also, just in case Mary had called the police, he had to be careful not to talk to any security guards.

That was when Carlos recognized a face in the distance. She had aged slightly since the last time he'd seen her. But even with the wrinkles around her eyes, her blue eyes were recognizable anywhere. Carlos knew that she was related to the Camdens.

Her eyes lit up when she met his. He knew that she'd recognized him. She began running towards him, and that was when she realized she had two young children with her. The girl had blonde hair like her, and the boy had orange-red hair.

"Carlos, right?" she asked, breathing heavy. "You're married to my niece Mary."

"Yes, that's correct." He nodded, a little speechless. This had to be a huge coincidence.

"Well, talk about coincidences!" she cried. She shook her head, and that was when Carlos saw the worry in her eyes. Something was wrong, but what? He could tell that she wasn't here regarding Mary and him.

"So, what brings you guys to the airport today? Are you catching a flight?" he asked her.

"Actually, maybe we're not. Now, I'm hoping you can shed some weight off my chest."

He lifted an eye brow. "Well, I can try, but I can't make any promises."

"You live in New York, right?" she asked. He nodded. "Well," she continued, "have you heard from Matt or Ruthie lately?"

"I'm sorry," he said, "but I haven't." Her eyes showed disappointment, and then he remembered something Mary had claimed earlier. "Though, Mary said something about maybe talking to Sarah last night. But she didn't say about what, I'm sorry."

He knew that it was for the plane tickets, which meant Sarah and Matt had probably gone on a last minute trip, likely California to see the family. Though, that didn't coincide with anything Sarah had told him the last time they'd spoken. He didn't know, so he wasn't going to say anything else to Eric's sister.

"That's unfortunate. I guess I'm going to have to make a trip out there tonight. You see, I received a weird phone call from Ruthie tonight…and I think Matt might be in trouble."

Carlos lifted a brow. "What kind of trouble? And plane tickets are expensive, maybe you should just wait it out. Hey, I'm sure everything's fine! Matt is a busy guy."

"Too busy to talk to his aunt?" the woman said sharply. "I don't think so. Besides, I have three days of vacation time I can use from work. It's a long overdue visit."

"Oh, hey, if that's what you want, it's up to you. But don't the children have school?" Carlos looked at the two small children: they were definitely school-aged.

"Right, I was about to call my husband to come pick them up. Hey, I suppose you're here to go out and see the Camdens, right? Is someone coming to pick you up?"

"Well…actually, it was going to be a surprise visit," Carlos admitted, "but my phone died, so I can't call Kevin or anyone to come and get us."

"Well. How convenient. How would you like to take my van? You could take Erica and Nolan with you. They haven't seen their cousins in a while, and I'll call Hank and he can come pick them up whenever is convenient for him. That'll work better."

"Um…sure, if you want to give me your keys."

She handed him the car keys. "There you go," she smiled. She gave the boy and a girl each a hug and said, "Be good, kids. I'm off to New York to see your cousin, and I'll see you kids in a couple days."

"Okay, Mommy. Say hi to Matt for me!" Erica smiled.

Nolan didn't look so happy. A tear started to dribble down his face. "But, Mommy, I don't know this strange guy!"

"You'll be fine, Nolan. He's your cousin's husband. Don't worry. I'll call you later, okay?"

"But, Mommy…"

Julie left, leaving Carlos with two more children who he didn't know.

His face burned and he didn't know what to do. This was just all-too weird. First, he made sure Charlie was still standing next to him. When he saw that he was, he realized both of the girls were awake, fortunately they were quiet. Next, he turned to the girl and said, "Erica, honey, can you show me where your mom's car is?"

"Follow me!" she chimed, and Carlos did, with Charlie still hovering close to him and Nolan sticking close to his older sister.