Author's Note: In the summer of 2000 when Passions was still in its early stages, I absolutely adored the relationship between Ethan Crane and Theresa Lopez-Fitzgerald. I discovered the wonderful world of fanfiction and even had my own fanfiction site, and this story was born through my enthusiasm for this show, this couple, and storytelling. This is the first fanfic I ever wrote, and though there are aspects of the story that I am tempted to change in 2010, I won't because the original (flaws and all) holds a special place in my heart.
I previously posted The Most Carefully Laid Plans on my site, Once Upon a Time, as well as on Turtle Run and Coffeerooms. It is no longer in any of those places and hasn't been for quite awhile, though I do still get e-mails from people from time to time wondering where they can find a copy. So in celebration of the tenth anniversary of this story, I decided to post it here.
Obviously, I do not own the Passions characters found within the story, though the original characters are my own. Nor am I affiliated in any way with Passions. No money is being made from this story. Believe me-if I did control Passions, the show would've gone much differently.
She smiled sadly, "I still believe in you." The simple words exemplified so much emotion. He reached out for her. He could almost touch her. Almost.
Ethan Crane jerked awake, but the image lingered: expressive brown eyes that sparkled, eyes he had once called exquisite; soft skin that radiated beauty; small hands he had once held in his own. Had it really been four years since he had seen her? Why, after all this time, did she still haunt his dreams?
During the day, it was relatively easy for him to focus on his life as it existed. As a corporate lawyer, he worked on a never-ending paper trail consisting of Crane Industries' latest merger or acquisition. Since returning to Harmony five years earlier, Ethan had also decided that he wanted to give back to the community that had given so much to the Crane Family. Ethan sat on the town council and often worked closely with Sam Bennett, Harmony's Chief of Police, to find ways to make improvements, which would be beneficial to the town. As always, the Crane Family worked diligently with numerous charities, though Ethan sometimes doubted the family's dedication to the causes.
Ethan was now doing what he had always thought he would do. But at night, the dreams came, and he could not help but wonder about what might have been.
I still believe in you. Those words lingered in his mind.
He turned over and looked at the woman who slept peacefully by his side. He had to admit that his wife, Gwen, looked beautiful with her blonde hair gently spread on the pillow. They had been together for as long as he could remember. It was always understood that they would marry, and they had fulfilled what was expected of them. "Nothing is more important than the family's interests," Julian had always told him, and their marriage was the perfect merger of the Crane and Hotchkiss families and businesses. But even the most carefully laid plans . . . .
Those eyes. Ethan closed him own, and he saw them in different incarnations. Sometimes they were happy, bursting with enthusiasm and hope. Sometimes they were playful, as though she knew something he didn't. And sometimes they were sad eyes, filled with disappointment and hurt.
I still believe in you.
The dreams called again, and he felt himself drifting, eager to answer that call.
Chapter One: "Wolf Fodder"
"Good morning, Mother," Ethan said as he kissed Ivy Crane's cheek.
"Ethan, darling, you look tired," Ivy said, concern creeping into her features. She knew she shouldn't feel this way, but her first-born always had been her favorite. Ethan was so different from his sisters and his brother. He was her son.
Ethan poured himself a cup of coffee, but then went to sit next to his mother at the dining room table. "I didn't sleep very well last night. That's all."
"Darling, this is the third night in a row. Maybe you're coming down with something," Ivy said as she touched her son's cheeks and forehead.
Ethan fought the impulse to smile. "I'm fine, Mother. Really."
Though he loved his mother dearly, she was hardly Dr. Mom. With all the years he spent away at boarding school, she had never been the one to nurse him when he had a cold or to bandage a scraped knee. Even when he was home for the holidays, Ivy Crane's various social functions prevented much interaction. At the time, Ethan had been much more comfortable with Pilar Lopez- Fitzgerald, the head housekeeper. Pilar lavished the lonely little boy with attention, and when it was time for her to leave each day, Ethan hated to see her go. He knew she had children of her own, and he wondered what it would be like to belong to a closely-knit family, one which was always together.
"So what do you have planned for today, Mother?"
"I am conducting more interviews," Ivy replied.
"You still haven't found what you're looking for?"
"As the old adage goes, good help is not easy to find. Ever since Theresa left, I feel as though I've been in a limbo. I don't know how I ever managed before her!"
A shadow crossed Ethan's face. Ivy noticed, but misinterpreted the significance. "Ethan, I know she wasn't what we thought she was, but she did do a wonderful job, and she is Pilar's daughter . . . Besides, you know the unfortunate streak of luck I have had with personal secretaries since then. First, there was Michelle. The poor girl had so many allergies that if you looked at her sideways, she would sneeze. I swear, the girl needed her own biosphere! I do hope Arizona is agreeing with her, though. Oh, and then there was Melinda. I am certain, Ethan, that she was cursed with clumsiness. Every party she planned turned into a fiasco!" Ivy sighed. "And let's not forget Amelia. Hhmmm. How could I? She was more interested in Julian's version of 'career advancement' than in being helpful to me." Ivy sneered as she said her husband's name. She shook her head, "Theresa made my life so easy."
"I wish that situation had been handled differently," Ethan commented introspectively.
"We can't go back and undo what's been done. Heaven knows there are plenty of things I wish I could change." Ivy's face clouded, but just as soon as the clouds came, they passed. She patted her son's hand. "Do you know how much I love you? I would do anything to protect you."
"I know you would, and I know you have."
Ivy looked at her son warmly, thinking of the secret they shared.
She stood. "I think I'll go to my room and review these notes before the first prospect arrives."
"Of course. Good luck with that."
As Ivy began to walk to the stairs in the Crane's massive entry hall, she saw her daughter-in- law, Gwen descended the stairs. "Good morning, Ivy," Gwen said cheerfully.
"You sound quite buoyant this morning," Ivy commented with a smile.
"I have every reason to be. I am married to the man I love, the sun is shining, and I just know it is going to be a wonderful day!" Gwen responded.
Ivy raised an eyebrow, but said nothing else, continuing on her way.
Gwen walked into the dining room where Ethan sat, staring at his cup of coffee.
"There you are! I expected to find you next to me when I awoke, but you were gone. But I am glad I managed to catch you before you left for the day." Gwen leaned down and kissed her husband on the lips.
So was Ethan. What he needed was for Gwen to distract him, to take his mind off of Theresa Lopez-Fitzgerald. "You certainly are a sight for sore eyes," he murmured into her ear.
"I have something more I would like to show you," she teased as she moved away from him. "You're never going to believe what I've just seen in the Herald."
"Well, don't keep me in suspense," Ethan insisted.
"Don't worry. I don't plan to. Here it is: Theresa Lopez-Fitzgerald is engaged to Chuck Wilson. Remember him? He's her old partner in crime and quite wealthy."
Gwen placed the lifestyles section of The Harmony Herald on the table, and Ethan could see it was true. A photo of Theresa and Chuck was printed, along with a short article.
Ethan felt his heart skip a beat. Intellectually, he always knew Theresa would fall in love with someone else someday. But it was still an inevitability for which he wasn't prepared. "I don't believe it."
"Neither did I! I mean, he has to know that Theresa just wants his money," Gwen said harshly.
"Gwen, Theresa is many things, but she is not a gold-digger."
"Please, Ethan! After everything she put us through, you're going to defend her? Theresa just illustrates a perfect point. You can take the girl out of the trash, but you can't take the trash out of the girl."
"Gwen, don't ever talk about her like that."
She touched his frowning face, but he jerked away from her touch. "Oh, Ethan, lighten up. Everyone knows what she is all about. The only good thing I can say about her is she knows how to throw a great wedding. But then again, she was delusional enough to think you would marry her instead of me," she said, but then paused a moment before adding, "Why is it that we always come back to this?"
Ethan said nothing, and Gwen frowned.
"Well, I must be going. I have a busy, busy day ahead." She absently gave him a kiss on the cheek and left the room.
Ethan looked at the newspaper intently. Nuptials were planned in New York in three weeks. Three weeks. It's time to let go of the dreams, he thought. Easier said than done.
He touched the photo of Theresa, tracing her smiling face. "You deserve all the happiness in the world, Theresa."
He closed his eyes and remembered the words that haunted him. "I still believe in you."
And he had fed her to the wolves.