Smoke And Mirrors

Chapter 3: Laugh a Little, Cry a Little

The next day, around noon, David's father and Stephanie appeared at Blue Moon and, after a short hello, Maddie and Stephanie left the office for their lunch-and-shopping spree. Deep down, David was not too happy to see them go off together like this; he wasn't sure if he wanted them sharing intimate girls' talk (Maddie was not usually one for gossiping but this situation was unusual). He hadn't been 100 % honest with Maddie about his encounter with Stephanie all those years ago, and he now found himself feeling ambivalent about her finding out the truth. But there was nothing he could do right now – he would have to deal with it later, whatever it would be. Now his son and his father wanted his attention. Great.

'So,' David Sr. said with enthusiasm, 'it will be the three of us for lunch? David Addison Sr., Jr. and Tiny?'

David chuckled, relaxing for a moment. 'Tiny?' he echoed. 'Sounds like a mobster's name!'

The Senior shrugged. 'Well, obviously this little gangster is wanted for stealing just about everybody's heart from New York State to California.'

'David nodded almost solemnly. 'That he surely is. Well, I'll just grab his things, and then we can go!' He turned towards his office door where Junior was waiting in his crib; his father followed him closely, attentive.

'Let me help you,' he insisted, and when David started to object, he added: 'And, besides, I want to give you something.'

David raised a questioning eyebrow when he had closed the office door behind them. That was the moment when he noticed the small white cardboard box that his father had been carrying. He handed it to him and David took it suspiciously.

'What's this, dad?' he asked, shaking the box a little, feeling its weight.

'It's a little something I brought along for the little one.' He waved his hands in encouragement when he saw David staring at him in surprise. 'Go on, open it.'

'Okay.' David looked down at the box, wondering what could be inside and why his father had chosen this moment to hand it over to him. He lifted the lid and folded back the wrapping paper that was covering its content. He saw white fabric, obviously it must be a tiny piece of baby clothing. He took it out and unfolded it: it was a small sized t-shirt. It took David a few seconds to connect the memories (from so long ago that they were buried in a very faraway corner of his mind) and recognize it. The tiny white shirt had a black and orange symbol printed on its middle, and it revealed a stylized bird's wing. It was the team symbol of his hometown hockey team, the Philadelphia Flyers. David's father was scrutinizing him slowly, eagerly awaiting his reaction. Unusually for David, it took him another few seconds before he found his voice in order to speak.

'Wow dad, this is... it's really...' his voice sounded funny, and he looked down at the tiny shirt in his hands again. He finally cleared his throat and looked up. 'But you really didn't have to...'

His father frowned. 'Hey, what are you talking about, son? I'm his granddad, right?'

'Sure you are, dad. I'm just saying that...'

His father silenced David by raising his hands in an almost pleading gesture. 'Listen, son. I know I wasn't the best father...' David opened his mouth, but his father went on quickly, before he could say something: 'There's no use in denying that, and I know I can't change it. But I can try and make it better with my grandson.' David looked down at the shirt again and felt his eyes grow misty. 'I mean, I can be close even if I'm not living round the corner, right?'

David nodded silently.

His father shrugged. 'I thought he should have something to connect him with his dad's background. I remember,' he went on with a lop-sided smile, 'how you loved to watch their games on TV with Richie.'

A very similar smile curled the corners of David's lips. 'You remember that...' he murmured absentmindedly.

'Course I do!' his father frowned. 'Why wouldn't I? All your friends, the ones you guys were running around with on the streets, always rooted for The Phillies.' He shook his head. 'Not my sons, no sir. You have both always been Flyers, with heart and soul.'

David nodded, still looking at the shirt. Childhood memories crossed his mind; he had almost forgotten those times, but his father hadn't. Yes, he and Richie had even played hockey in the streets. Obviously, he had never really completely forgotten about that, because wherever his life had brought him since he had left home, he had always kept a hockey stick somewhere, under his bed or, here in L.A., even in his office. The memory of the last occasion he had used a hockey stick struck him out of nowhere; he had been in mad despair, and it hadn't ended well for his office furniture. But the thought left him only with a faint, very old and very blurred sensation of pain from a wound inflicted a long time ago. He swallowed and lifted the shirt with both hands. 'This is really great, dad. I can't wait for Junior to grow up, so I can take him to see a game.'

David Addison Sr. cleared his throat. 'I hope you don't mind me saying this, but... I'm very proud of you, son. You'll make a terrific dad. You already are.'

Father and son looked at each other for a long moment, which was about to turn into a slightly awkward one, when David made a barely perceptible move towards his father. That was all the older one needed, and both men hugged, a little clumsily, but nevertheless cordially, patting backs heartily. Both blinked heavily and busied themselves with some random stuff that allowed them to look away from each other. But both smiled to themselves, thinking Yes.

From behind them, Davey giggled.

Before starting their shopping spree, Maddie had taken Stephanie to her favorite Italian restaurant where they were enjoying a light lunch . Maddie had many boutiques planned on the afternoon's busy itinerary, but she found herself taking time over the meal as she was finding it quite pleasurable to talk to the pretty brunette. She couldn't understand why (as she didn't really know her), but she felt surprisingly at ease in Stephanie's company.

'Tell me, Maddie,' Stephanie was just saying, 'are you nervous?'

'Am I nervous?' Maddie put her fork down and tapped her right index finger lightly to her chin, thinking. 'Hmm... partly, yes.' She frowned, trying to find the right words to express how she felt. 'Then again... there's nothing that would really change anything between David and me.'

Stephanie nodded slowly. 'I know what you mean... I felt the same about Dave and me.' She shrugged. 'Our wedding was beautiful, but it was just the last formal step.' She took a sip from her water glass. 'You two...' she scrutinized Maddie closely, 'have I got this right, you two weren't together then?'

Maddie shook her head. 'No, we were not. Well, I mean, not quite. I mean...' she felt she was stumbling over her own words and stopped, helplessly.

Stephanie smiled. 'You mean – it was complicated.'

Maddie returned the smile and felt somehow relieved. Obviously, the other woman didn't expect an explanation from her. 'Yes. No. I mean, it was. Now it's simple.' She smiled only to herself for a moment when she heard David's voice in her head: simple as that.

'Not easy, though,' Stephanie remarked.

Maddie laughed in a conspiratorial way. 'Is it ever?'

Stephanie's brown eyes twinkled warmly when she laughed back. 'Never.'

Maddie picked up her fork again. 'Well, I guess... there are ghosts in everybody's past that haunt us from time to time...'

David's stepmother gave her an open look. 'Only if you let them. My past is a part of my history, but...' she shrugged so lightly as if she never had felt any weight pressing down on her shoulders. 'Well, it's – past.' She smiled again. 'I'm glad David saw it that way too. Your David, I mean. It was very generous of him to welcome me to his family like that.'

Maddie frowned. 'Generous?' she echoed and cleared her throat. 'Well, he hardly had the right to morally judge...'

'Well, I would have understood if he'd have tried to talk his father out of it,' Stephanie explained.

Maddie could hardly believe that she was thankful to David for welcoming her into his family, as if she'd been a shameless sinner and he a saint.

'But it's not that Dave – my Dave – hadn't the slightest idea about my past,' Stephanie went on and added: 'He knew pretty much all of it.'

'He did?' Maddie asked incredulously.

'Of course,' Stephanie confirmed. 'I was honest. Besides – he had seen a few things anyway...'

Maddie's ice blue eyes widened in disbelief. 'He had?' Was she telling her that David's father actually knew about the one-night-stand his wife had had with his son in their wild past?

Stephanie shrugged again. 'That night, I had drunk a lot when I met him...'

Maddie let out an involuntary little groan and raised her hands. 'Listen, Stephanie, you really don't have to explain...'

'Irony is,' Stephanie interrupted, 'it was probably the best decision of my life to get senselessly drunk that night. Otherwise he might probably never have rescued me.'

'Rescued you?' Maddie echoed. This is getting weird.

'From myself, mostly.' Stephanie nodded. 'Already when he took me home safely and took care of me, where any other man probably would have taken advantage of the situation, I knew he was special.' she sighed almost dreamily. 'And when he called me the next day to see if I was alright...' she let her voice trail off.

'He did what?' Maddie let her fork sink again and bent forward not to miss any word. 'David did that?'

Stephanie was a bit puzzled about Maddie's strong reaction. 'Yes, that's how we met,' she confirmed. 'And pretty much why I fell in love with him.'

'Oooooh...' Maddie felt very silly. 'You were talking about your David, weren't you?'

'Why, yes!' Stephanie's eyes popped open. 'Oh wait, you thought I was talking about your David?' She put her right hand on her chest, a gesture that could have looked overly dramatic, but on Stephanie it looked completely sincere. 'No, by no means!' she exclaimed and took Maddie totally by surprise when she said: 'I only met him when I married his dad! Although...'

Why was she saying that? 'Although?' Maddie repeated.

Stephanie gave a little laugh. 'Although, theoretically it's possible that I have met him. Theoretically, it was even possible that we...' she fell silent, and the smile froze a little on her face, turning into an embarrassed blush. 'But that's really not the kind of issue that you talk about two days before you are going to become my... what? Stepdaughter-in-law?' She paused, still smiling and observing Maddie thoroughly, looking for a reaction, obviously hoping she hadn't shocked her.

And that was the moment when Maddie realized that Stephanie had gone completely blank about the time she had spent with David – and that David hadn't mentioned it to her when he had interrupted her wedding to talk to her about their encounter. Obviously, Stephanie didn't remember her one-night-stand with her stepson at all – and that was a blessing for everybody. Suddenly, Maddie realized that Stephanie would never have married David Sr., had she remembered how intimate she had once been with one of her stepsons. Stephanie was still looking at her, and she could read the question on her face. Maddie felt a wave of affection for the other woman roll over her, and she smiled at her.

'Something like that, I guess...' she said, nodding slowly.

Stephanie seemed to let out a little breath of relief and raised her water glass. 'I don't know you yet, Maddie, but I do have a feeling that the two of us won't ever be the reason for a family feud.'

'Yeah, me too...'

'So...' – she moved her glass towards Maddie's – 'here's to the second Mrs. David Addison... we are two lucky girls, aren't we?'

'We are,' Maddie confirmed wholeheartedly, 'but I'm afraid I won't be a Mrs. David Addison.'

'You won't? Oh, you mean you're keeping your name?'

Maddie nodded, but somehow, suddenly it didn't feel right. She ignored that odd feeling. 'Just for business reasons...' she explained. 'My name's well-known.'

Stephanie waved her hand in a dismissive way. 'Ah well, what do names matter anyway? How does that saying go...' she paused for a moment, then snapped her fingers. 'Ah, they're only smoke and mirrors, right?' She shrugged lightly. 'After all, it's the person that counts.'

'Right...' They clinked their glasses and toasted with their water. When Maddie took her sip, her thoughts drifted away.

After they had successfully accomplished their shopping mission, Maddie dropped Stephanie at the hotel, where she was staying with her husband. She then drove back to the office at an unusually fast speed, she could not wait to confront David with her new knowledge.

When Maddie eventually arrived at Blue Moon, everybody had left already, and the door to David's office was open, the lights dimmed. No sound was to be heard, and David was studying some files with the desk lamp on.

Maddie tiptoed in and said softly: 'Hey.'

David looked up and smiled his half-smile. 'Hey,' he replied and added with a little, un-Addison-like frown: 'Did you give her the big tour?'

Maddie glanced into the crib; the baby was asleep. 'Well, we took our time. Everything went well here?'

'Need you ask?' David shrugged smoothly, but – strangely enough – he also seemed a bit distracted, no... nervous? He cleared his throat. 'How'd your day go?'

'It was very nice. Stephanie is good company.'

'M-hm,' he managed, feeling clearly uncomfortable. Maddie smiled inwardly at his reaction.

'We had a nice chat,' she went on.

'You did, huh?'

Maddie couldn't hold it back any longer. 'Why didn't you tell me the truth?' she burst out.

David was still trying to pretend. ''Bout what?'

She shook her head and folded her arms mockingly. 'Well, Mister, looks like stepmom doesn't remember any of the pores on your body,' she pointed out.

David closed his eyes for a second in defeat, then sighed and ruffled his hair. 'Well, what do you think? Because it's not very flattering for me, is it?'

'Flattering?' Maddie echoed. 'Flattering? Seriously? It's flattering for you that you didn't tell her the truth!' Suddenly, she felt a rush of pity for him.

He shrugged. 'Well... why should I ruin her conscience and risk hurting... my father?' He looked at her with a mixture of slight embarrassment and utter honesty, and she felt a bolt of love from inside her core.

She was standing before him now, and she put both of her hands on his shoulders. 'You could never do that. Because you're a good-hearted and caring man.' Maddie touched his face lightly with her fingertips, leaving David speechless; he had half expected that she would be mad at him for not having told her the truth. But, obviously, he had thought wrong. Instead, she smiled at him mischievously, her blue eyes twinkling. 'Oh, and one more thing, David...' she lowered her voice in a sensual way. 'Me, I could never, ever forget one single moment I spent in bed with you... or on the couch...'

David's face lit up, and his eyes twinkled once more. 'In the shower?' he asked almost casually.

Maddie was still smiling, but her answer came out a bit hesitantly. 'Yes...'

He was getting into his stride now. '...on the carpet...'

Maddie's eyes narrowed dangerously. 'David...'

But nothing was gonna stop him now. '...in the car...'

'Addison!' she hissed sharply. 'That's enough! I think we both understand what it is that you're aiming at...'

Now he smirked. 'Yeah, I aim, shoot and score, every time!'

Maddie took a sharp breath in and tried really hard to look disgusted – and to fight off that smile that so desperately wanted to come out. 'You're an insect,' she snapped.

Quickly, he took her hand and kissed it. 'And I'm all tangled up in your cobweb, spider woman.'

She snatched her hand away but couldn't hide her amused tone any longer. 'Better be careful, I might bite your head off and have you for dinner!'

'Say dessert and I'm in,' he purred.

Maddie rolled her eyes and turned around to lift little Davey from the crib. David chuckled, all at ease with himself again, and took the changing bag. When they left the office, he was humming:

'Spiderman is having me for dinner tonight...'

Maddie looked closely at her reflection in the mirror of her bedroom vanity and smiled to herself. The champagne-colored dress was hugging her hour-glass figure perfectly, the soft, lace-covered satin fabric almost seemed to caress the curves of her body. It was a rather simple dress that rendered her absolutely breath-taking in her natural beauty; the skirt ended at the knee, and with the strapless top her shoulders would have been bare if it hadn't been for the little lace bolero-jacket. Her hair was simply falling in soft waves down her shoulders, pulled back only over her left ear and fixed with a creamy white orchid pin.

So, this was the day, finally. Had it seemed slightly unreal so far, especially after all the stress of the last few days with family duties, last minute organizations and all, now it was slowly, unmistakably sinking into Maddie's consciousness: she was really getting married to David, married – and in less than an hour. David Addison. Her business partner and best friend, her lover and soul mate, father of her child, intoxicating drug and healing medicine, nightmare and sweetest, wildest dream – in short: the love of her life.

The breathless, excited voice of her maid of honor brought her from the depth of her thoughts to the surface of reality. 'Oh, you look so beautiful, Miss Hayes!' Agnes exclaimed, appearing behind her, admiring her over her shoulder.

Agnes was looking very pretty herself, in a pale lavender-colored dress that fell smoothly to her calves, and her brown curls tamed by a silk ribbon of the same color. She put her hands on Maddie's shoulders from behind and gave her a reassuring squeeze, just in case, although (Agnes noticed happily) her employer didn't show any sign of uneasiness or hesitation. When Maddie had asked her to be her maid of honor, she had suggested Agnes call her by her first name, but after a very short pause to think about that offer, the secretary had just smiled and shook her head and told Maddie that she somehow couldn't do that, because it just didn't seem right. But Maddie knew that the closeness Agnes felt for her was all the greater.

She put her hands on top of Agnes' and smiled. 'Thanks, Agnes... you really think?'

The dark-haired woman beamed in her typical way. 'Of course you do!' she confirmed vigorously. 'Oh, Mr. Addison is gonna be so happy!'

A dreamy expression crept over Maddie's face. 'And so am I, Agnes, so am I.'

'Oh, Miss Hayes...' Agnes sighed, 'although it's been a dream of mine for a long time to see you two... like that...' – the women exchanged almost conspiratorial smiles in the mirror – 'it almost doesn't seem real now, just think of it – in a few hours you won't be Miss Hayes anymore! I mean – you will be Miss Hayes, of course, but you won't... you know... be Miss Hayes.'

Maddie laughed softly and squeezed her hands. 'I know, Agnes. And I can't thank you enough for all the things you have done to help us get there.' She turned around to face her maid of honor and hugged her. Agnes returned the hug eagerly. When they pulled apart, Agnes scrutinized Maddie thoroughly in a very uncharacteristic way and shook her head.

'Would you ever have imagined this, the first time you walked into City Of Angels a little more than three years ago?' It was a rhetorical question.

Maddie's lips curved into a fond, amused smile. 'Certainly not, Agnes... and I surely wouldn't have imagined it the first time I laid eyes on him.'

Agnes recalled that first meeting which seemed to have happened ages ago now. She chuckled. 'Well...'

Maddie rolled her eyes and nodded. 'Well...'

A short knock on the door was heard before Virginia popped her head in and smiled at both women. 'Are you girls ready? The limousine is here,' she announced.

Agnes took a step back. 'I'm gonna wait downstairs, Miss Hayes, Mrs. Hayes.' She gave a short wave and quickly left the room, leaving Maddie and her mother a short moment.

Virginia took her daughter's hands and asked softly: 'Are you ready, dear?'

Maddie smiled. 'Mom, I've been ready for this for a long time.'

Virginia pulled her in her arms for a brief hug and patted her back. 'I know, dear.' she held Maddie at arm's length and smoothed out her hair in a very motherly way. 'Then let's not have your man wait for any unnecessary moment longer.'

Maddie laughed. 'No, you're right, I think he's already had his share of waiting.'

Arm in arm, they left the room. Before she closed the door behind them, Maddie threw one last glance back over her shoulder, catching her own reflection in the mirror again, and the thought hit her that the next time she would enter this room, she would be a married woman. Agnes's voice rang in her head: You won't be Miss Hayes anymore...

She took a deep breath and clicked the door shut.

In the anteroom of the church, about fifteen minutes before the wedding ceremony was about to start, Agnes – being almost more excited than the bride herself – smoothed out Maddie's dress whereas Alex made his way down the aisle with long, determined steps. When he marched past his wife (who was sitting in the front row), Virginia frowned and asked suspiciously: 'Where do you think you are going?'

'Just for a little chitchat with our future son-in-law,' Alex replied.

Virginia put a firm hand on his arm. 'Alex!' she exclaimed in a slightly alarmed voice and gave him that severe better-not-mess-with-your-wife look of hers. 'Don't scare him off!'

Alex answered her with a light smile. 'Darling, don't worry,' he soothed. 'I'm quite sure that this guy isn't easily scared.'

She smiled fondly, somewhat relieved at the tone of his voice. 'If anything, that is true.'

Her gaze followed her husband when he made his way towards the door to the small side room where David was supposed to be. She was truly satisfied with how things had turned out; not that she had ever really doubted her husband would recognize in the end what a treasure David really was – Alex adored their daughter, but he was fair enough to admit she wasn't perfect, and finally learning what really had happened between David and Maddie after she had left Chicago had certainly opened his eyes and earned their future son-in-law respect, big time.

David had been pacing around the small side room in the church for twenty minutes, waiting for his best man Richie to finally show up and the ceremony to start. For about the seventh time in the last five minutes he was checking his watch. Only ten minutes left, and no sign of his brother yet. Terrific.

'Damn you, Rich,' he growled, when a short knock almost made him jump. 'About time,' he muttered under his breath and turned around at the sound of the opening door and froze at the surprise of seeing Maddie's father.

'Oh...' he cleared his throat. 'Mr. Hayes?' He threw him a questioning glance.

Alex raised his hands, palms to David, the international gesture for I'm coming in peace. 'I... I didn't want to disturb you right now, but... I've got something to say.'

David raised his eyebrows; he knew Alex had not been so fond of the whole process of the wedding, that he didn't marry Maddie before the baby had been born and that she didn't seem to get the big thing, the fairytale stuff. But, he had also noticed that the attitude of his future father-in-law towards him had changed over the last few days, had softened. Nevertheless, Alex's announcement added to his already throbbing nervousness. 'If I break her heart you're gonna rip my guts out and roast them?' he offered.

Alex cleared his throat and declared in a tone of utter conviction: 'Oh, I know you won't.' This earned him a surprised look from David; he firmly added: 'And yes, I will.'

David nodded with a feeble smile. 'Got your message, Sir.'

Alex returned the nod in an almost solemn manner. 'You should know that I told Madolyn the same.' When he saw David's questioning look, he explained quickly: 'Well, not exactly the same...' He drew a deep breath and straightened his back. 'I said if she breaks your heart, I will disinherit her.' He underlined his last words with a serious nod.

David was taken aback, but not in an unpleasant way. 'You did?' he asked incredulously. What was the big Alexander Hayes about to tell him?

Alex nodded again. 'Sure.' He cleared his throat again. 'Listen, David, I know why this wedding is being held...' he slightly swayed his head, '...the way it's being held.'

David just kept looking at Alex quietly, his face not betraying anything. He wasn't yet sure what Alex wanted to tell him. 'You do?' he finally asked.

Alex nodded for the third time. 'My daughter wanted it this way. And God knows if my daughter wants something,' – a slight shrug of his impressive shoulders – 'that it's gotta be.' He paused, and David smiled. 'And – ' Alex paused again and drew a deep breath; obviously, it was not that easy for him to say what he had to say, but he wouldn't have been Alexander Hayes had he backed off from this. 'I know she had her reasons.'

David remained silent, thoughtful, mulling over the words Maddie's father had just spoken. You bet she had her reasons. He searched for Alex' gaze and found it was lingering on him in an almost apologetic way. The two most important men in Maddie Hayes' life exchanged meaningful looks, and then David finally understood everything. Alex had known that his daughter hadn't been too innocent where the messing up of their relationship was concerned, but he hadn't had any idea about how absurd things had been after Maddie's return from Chicago. But now he knows. I don't know why and how, but he knows. He knows that I'm not his first son-in-law...

David cleared his throat now. 'Mr. Hayes...'

The older man raised his hands again, in the same gesture as before. 'Please. Alex.'

David noticed that – another step ahead. He felt his respect for the man grow. 'Well, Alex, I...'

'I haven't finished yet,' Alex interrupted, and David fell silent at once. Maddie's father went on: 'Anyway, what I wanted to say was...' his voice trailed off for a moment and David leaned further forward, anxious not to miss anything; he had no idea what was about to come. 'I don't want to sound arrogant,' Alex went on, 'and I know that you already have a father, and he looks like a real good man to me, but... I just wanted you to know that...' Alex straightened his shoulders again and looked right into David's eyes. 'If you should ever find yourself in a situation where you think I might possibly be of some help whatsoever to you... please don't hesitate to let me know, will you?'

David's first impulse was to say a lot of things, express how moved he was – but instead he only nodded slowly. He had heard the message loud and clear: Alex was saying sorry in his own way, and there was only one thing left for David to do – to accept his apology. 'I will,' he firmly declared. 'That's very generous of you.'

'No, it's not,' Alex contradicted. 'It's a matter of course.' Again, he looked David straight in the eyes. 'We are family now.' He cleared his throat. 'Well, I just wanted to say that. OK.' He seemed relieved and at peace with himself. 'Now I'm gonna leave you alone with your... nerves.' He turned around to the door.

'Okay,' David muttered.

He was still following Alex' back with an amazed, thoughtful look when Alex rooted to the spot as if he had forgotten something. He slowly turned around again, and from the look on his face David could tell that, obviously, he still had something to say. David just looked at him, curiously, seriously, quietly, and waited for him to speak.

'Me and my beloved daughter...' Alex began and smiled indulgently. 'Well, I know that we're stubborn. Distrustful.' He managed a little sheepish smile and added: 'Bossy. We're certainly not easy to match.' He took a deep breath. 'But... sometimes... very rarely... we are really, really lucky and meet someone special, like my wife...' David smiled fondly and nodded – Virginia had conquered his heart a long time ago. Alex cleared his throat again and added: '...or you.'

For a moment, only a fraction of a second, time seemed to have stood still. Both men were silently studying each other, and meaningful, appreciative looks were exchanged. Finally, David just smiled and simply answered: 'Thanks.'

Alex nodded again, obviously satisfied now that he had said everything that should have been said. 'Good.' he waved his hand in an encouraging way. 'Now go and get my daughter.'

David blew his cheeks out in a slightly embarrassed way. 'Well... as soon as my best man is with me I'll be ready...'

Alex raised his hands again in a reassuring gesture. 'You take your time. You can be sure that I won't give her to anybody else.' He gave David one last feeble smile, then he left the room.

David stared at the closed door in disbelief. Alexander Hayes, same as his daughter, would obviously never fail to surprise him. Then, slowly, a pleased smile crept over his face and finally curled his lips.

'You forgot amazing,' he mumbled to himself. 'Stubborn, distrustful, bossy – and amazing.'

For a moment he bathed in the warm feeling that the talk with Alex had left him in, then reality once again hit with all its might, and he realized that the wedding ceremony was supposed to start in about two minutes, and he hadn't seen any sign of life from his best man yet, and he started to pace the room again, infuriated, fists clenched. He wasn't even aware he was mumbling curses.

All of a sudden, the door was thrown open, and a self-confident, long-legged Richie strolled in with beaming green eyes. 'You ready to face the dragon, bro?' he asked brightly.

'You!' David shot an aggressive finger at him. 'I'm gonna kick your butt to...'

Richie backed away and hastily raised his hands in defense. 'Whoa! Easy!' he exclaimed and added in his best soothing voice: 'Shouldn't this be a day of joy?' he slapped his little brother lightly and playfully on the shoulder. 'Why so tense?'

David gasped furiously. 'Why? Why?!' He raised his fists and pressed through clenched teeth: 'Because I'm trying to get married and my friggin' best man doesn't show up, that's why!' The last words were almost yelled, and Richie was wise enough not to chuckle, although he had the urge to do so.

Instead, he smiled nonchalantly. 'Relax, bro. I'm here, ain't I? And you've still got plenty o'time to make a fool of yourself.' He smirked in a very Addison-ish way. 'As a matter of fact, the rest of your life.'

David was still breathing heavily, but, oddly enough, he found the anger at his stupid, jerky big brother had evaporated. 'Rich, I swear you are the stupidest...'

'Yo, Dave,' Richie interrupted in a very low voice and put his hands on David's shoulders, looking him deep in the eyes, green to green. 'Focus. I know you're nervous but there's no need to be. I'm gonna tell you why.' He smoothed out David's lapels. 'You look great. You're gonna get married to the homecoming queen. And she's coming home with you because she's crazy about you.' He squeezed his shoulders. 'All righty?'

While Richie had been talking, David had gradually been calming down more and more. Finally, he nodded slowly and smiled an involuntary, crooked smile when he suddenly realized that he was looking at his older self, and for a really crazy moment he felt like he was in Maddie's shoes. 'All righty then.' He took a deep breath and ruffled his hair. 'Do you have the rings?'

Richie's eyes widened, and he snapped his fingers. 'Darn! Shoot me bro, I knew something was missing!' When David's face went white, he quickly said: 'Hey, relax. Just kidding. Of course I have 'em.' He couldn't refrain from chuckling anymore. 'Boy, you should have seen your face just now!'

David snorted and suppressed a smile. 'You're toying with your life, jackass.' That hadn't even come out as fiercely as he had planned. 'Then... we're good to go?'

'You bet my nephew's college fund we're good to go.' Richie pushed David ahead, towards the door. 'Go! I have your back!'

David had his hand on the doorknob but stopped before turning it to open the door that lead into the church where all his family and friends were waiting to see him finally get married to his very own personal homecoming queen, and suddenly he knew that he didn't want anybody else by his side other than his best man, his big, annoying brother. 'Thanks, Rich.'

Richie punched him slightly on the shoulder. 'Don't thank me until you have heard my speech.'

David rolled his eyes. 'Oh, brother...'

Then he opened the door.

'Ready?' Alex asked and squeezed Maddie's right hand encouragingly before he pulled her arm through his.

She smiled up at him. 'More than ready.'

He smoothed out her hair with his right index finger. 'Then let's go and make this girl happy.'

Maddie was walking down the aisle at her father's arm, right behind her maid of honor, a proud and beaming and very gorgeous-looking Agnes. She didn't really hear the music and couldn't really take the whole scene in; her gaze was focused on what was happening at the end of the aisle. She saw the altar with the priest waiting behind it, and she saw the two handsome Addison brothers in their tuxedos standing there, waiting for her, two pairs of green eyes shining her way, one of them a deeper shade of green, but the other one glistening in an almost blinding manner. She looked away for one moment to gather her thoughts, trying to concentrate on her steps. You'd think this was odd for a former fashion model who should know – and usually did – how to walk down a catwalk with a lot of eyes upon her without stumbling. Yet, she felt shy like the ordinary bride-next-door, not used to public attention. She felt her palms dampen and her stomach fluttering; it stunned her that she felt so completely different from the first time she'd gone down this road – but then again, why would it stun her? It was completely different. This time she walked down the aisle for all the right reasons. This time she was walking towards a real risk, yet one that was worth it. In short, this time it felt right.

Maddie's gaze brushed over the guests waiting on the left and on the right of the aisle, watching her, smiling. May of them had been present at her first wedding all those months ago, but from the look on their faces, they seemed to sense the difference too. With a quick scan, she noticed that her female employees Kris and Jamie had tears in their eyes, and Bert blew his nose loudly just at the moment she passed him by. MacGillicuddy blinked frantically. David's father looked at her with a hint of fatherly pride that warmed her heart, and Stephanie smiled and nodded slightly. Maddie smiled to herself when she saw that her friends, Walter and Terri were holding hands and seemed more focused on each other than on what was happening around them. She shook her head, come on, this really shouldn't surprise you.

They had reached their destination, and with a big smile Agnes took the flower bouquet from Maddie's hands and stood aside while Alex took her right hand and put it in David's left, squeezing them both; then he placed a kiss on her temple, murmuring 'Hold on to him!' into her hair before he stepped back and took his seat in the first row beside his wife.

Only now, Maddie looked into David's eyes, and everything else around her vanished as she focused on them. All his love lay there for her to take, bare, exposed and simply breathtaking. She swallowed, almost overwhelmed, and suddenly she knew what was the only right thing to do here.

David's mouth felt dry when he watched Maddie walk down the aisle on her father's arm, heading towards him with a dreamy determination. Without even noticing, he rubbed his palms on the sides of his pants. They weren't exactly damp, but they were prickling with a strange sensation. David swallowed hard, but that lump in his throat just wouldn't go down. He realized that he hadn't felt this nervous since that night about a year ago – only a year ago, seriously? It was the night when he was walking, hurrying up those last few steps to Maddie's door at four in the morning, rain pouring down on him like the seven floodgates of hell had opened, his soul at stake; his heart on his sleeve and every bit of his courage desperately scraped together in his hands along with those stolen flowers. And all of it – heart, soul and courage – were crushed and crumbled and washed away by the rain that very moment the entrance door was opened and he saw a very casual, very under dressed spaceman standing there, looking like he freaking belonged there, staring at him like an intruder.

He knew that even now, with all that had happened since then and with all that he – they – had achieved, he would never ever in his life forget the white-hot shot of pain that went right through him in those seconds. Fortunately for him, even though he had not grown up in an uptown world, he had never been stabbed – but he was sure that had to be how it felt when a thin but sharp blade was thrust in to your heart and slowly twisted around and around. It was a sensation that had paralyzed him for the next few days until it had almost been too late...

David almost jumped when he heard Richie's deep voice whispering in his ear: 'Look at her, bro... the damn Berlin wall couldn't stop her from coming to you!'

For the first time, he really took in the sight of her. The plain but elegant dress, hugging her perfect curves deliciously, the soft waves of her hair with that single white orchid, the small flower bouquet in her left hand. Her right hand was placed on her father's arm, and he found that she was looking everywhere but into his eyes which startled him for one moment; but then they reached him, it was when Alex had put Maddie's right hand into David's left. Alex had squeezed them both gently and given Maddie a kiss and David a barely perceptible but very fatherly nod before he stepped back. Maddie had lifted her face and looked at him with her crystal blue eyes, looked at him with an openness and warmth he had never before seen. Had he harbored any, ever-so-faint, fears or doubts about her feelings before (which, deep deep down, he hadn't), in this moment it was the most obvious thing in the world that this woman was as devoted and ready to commit to him as he was to her.

They were only able to disentangle their stares when they heard the priest clear his throat.

David really hoped the happy grin he felt on his lips wasn't too stupid. When he tried to concentrate on the old priest's words he felt he calmed down more and more, so much that he was even tempted to close his eyes.

'Dearly Beloved, we are gathered here today to join together David and Madolyn in holy matrimony...'

David snapped out of his dreamy state when all of a sudden he heard Maddie clear her throat. He knew even before she did it for the second time that something was wrong. When the priest didn't react, she spoke up – softly, almost shyly, but unmistakably. 'Uhm... excuse me...'

The priest fell silent and raised a questioning eyebrow. Maddie turned her head to the right. David pretended not to notice, but he didn't have a chance. 'David?'

Slowly, as if trying to avoid the inevitable, he turned to the left, to face her. 'Maddie?'

She leaned over towards him and whispered: 'Could I see you outside for a minute?'

He almost let out a nervous chuckle and muttered back uneasily under his breath: 'Just a suggestion... how 'bout we finish this here first?' He motioned his left hand vaguely to the priest behind the altar.

She firmly shook her head, a gesture that allowed no objection; he knew that from over three years of experience. 'It's urgent.'

David closed his eyes for a moment and heard shuffling feet from the guests behind them. This can't be good. He had no idea what she was up to; nothing could have prepared him for this. He avoided her eyes, having the strangest sensation that his guts were being roasted and shock-frozen at the same time. He turned to the priest. 'If you would excuse us just for one minute, Father...'

The older man nodded indulgently and a little encouragingly. 'Take your time, son.'

David took a deep breath and turned around for a quick scan over their family and friends: everybody was looking either puzzled or worried, Agnes' jaw had dropped, and she was clasping her hands in front of her chest; in fact, a lot of the guests were even experiencing déjà-vu as they were reminded of that other wedding that had abruptly ended with the bride running away.

David raised his hands in an apologizing gesture and tried to sound nonchalant: 'Don't go away, folks. We'll be right back.' I really hope so. He gave them his best hit at the Addison grin, but somehow it managed to reveal the nervousness he felt. He took Maddie's elbow and led her to the small side room where he had been waiting only a few minutes before.

When they had disappeared, Alex leaned towards his wife and asked, totally startled: 'What the hell is going on?'

Virginia was keeping her composure and replied, just slightly puzzled: 'Don't worry, dear.'

'Don't worry?' Alex echoed. 'What do you mean, don't worry? Our daughter just...'

'Don't worry,' Virginia repeated firmly. 'I know my daughter. Once she's made the right decision... she sticks to it.'

Alex grumbled audibly; the word disinherit seemed to be uttered.

David let Maddie enter the small side room and then followed her, slowly closing the door behind him. He waited patiently until she finally turned around to face him with an uneasy little smile. He drew a deep breath and addressed her, trying to stay calm. He was anything but calm, though.

'So...?' he encouraged.

She clasped her hands. 'So...' she let her voice trail off.

David cleared his throat. 'Well...' he paused, hoping she'd speak up, but she remained silent. He sighed. 'No pressure, but... do you think you could tell me what's the matter?'

Maddie drew a deep breath and dropped the bomb. 'David, I can't do this.'

He felt as if he had been punched in the gut. This must be a nightmare. The following seconds stretched to an age while David was wildly, madly thinking. In a desperate attempt to save this absurd situation somehow, he tried to keep it light. 'Uhm... just to make sure...' – almost mechanically, his lips curled into a crooked, helpless grin, but it didn't work – '…by this you don't mean the throwing of the bouquet, right?'

Maddie worried the orchid in her hair and made a nervous, vague motion with her right hand that looked disturbingly all-encompassing to David. 'I mean... this. Getting married this way. I can't do it. It wouldn't be right.'

'But you planned it all by yourself,' he reminded her, 'just how you wanted it!'

'I know,' she admitted. 'But I didn't mean the reception or the ceremony itself...'

The tone of his voice took on an urgency as the time ticked on. 'What is it then?'

She paused again to swallow. 'Do you remember what you said when you... proposed?' Her big blue eyes were looking at him, piercing him with their intense stare, and he got more nervous with every second, because he had no idea where she was aiming. His mind was racing. When I proposed? Did I screw up when I proposed?

Suddenly, he snapped his fingers. 'OK, I got it!' he exclaimed. 'That's it, then?' OK, this can be fixed. He ruffled his hair. 'Look, Blondie... I know this wasn't the most romantic proposal ever, but...'

Maddie shook her head, in an almost apologetic way, and interrupted: 'It's not about that.'

David threw his hands in the air, clearly upset now, and exclaimed in a very untypical, almost high-pitched voice: 'Then what is your freaking problem?'

Maddie seemed to be rather calm which confused and irritated him even more. She sighed. 'Do you remember what you said?'

He rubbed his eyes warily. 'Maddie, I say a lot of things! All the time! That's what I do!' He stopped and expected her to say something, comment on that, enlighten him. But she just watched him silently, waiting. He sighed; it was more a gasp, though. 'OK, I said "Let's get married"?' he offered.

Obviously, he had hit the bull's eye, because her right index finger immediately shot at him like a bullet. 'You modified that!' she made clear. 'You said – we get married, and I keep my name.'

He nodded almost frantically, not getting her point. 'Yeah, and so? What's wrong with that? I thought it was what you wanted!'

'It sounds like a pact,' she blurted out.

'What?!'

'It sounds like a pact!' she repeated in a determined voice that made him feel like he had been hit on the head.

He shook his head vigorously and pointed both index fingers in the air in an almost menacing gesture. 'No, it doesn't!'

'Yes, it does!' she insisted stubbornly.

'Does not!'

'Does too!'

David grabbed her by the shoulders and shook her slightly to get some sense into her, still wanting to wake up from a really bad dream, pulling her with him, back into the real world. 'Does – not!' he barked. 'That's not a pact! Tit for tat is a pact. Show me your assets and I'll show you mine is a pact. If I say it never happened and you say it never happened it never happened is a goddamn pact. This is...' – for a moment, he almost stumbled over his words, looking for the right one – 'a compromise!'

'Take it back,' Maddie demanded quietly, without any visible reaction to his outburst.

His jaw dropped. 'What?!'

'Your proposal. Take it back,' she insisted firmly.

'Hell, no!' he exploded. 'Are you nuts?! You are nuts! I won't take anything back!'

Maddie was speaking slowly, pointedly, almost in a pleading voice now. 'Take it back and ask me again. Without any modification,' she added.

David's eyes widened in disbelief, almost to the point of popping out. 'What?'

Maddie took a deep breath and let the air out slowly, deliberately. Then she repeated very quietly but firmly: 'Ask – me – again.'

For a few moments, neither of them spoke, but David's mouth fell open as it slowly dawned on him what she was trying to say. Could this really be? It was the only thing that made sense. He opened and closed his mouth a few times and tried to speak, but his voice almost failed him. He cleared his throat, and then, finally, the words came out.

'I remember every single word I said,' he assured her. 'I said You should be an Addison.' He paused and searched her face for a reaction, a glint in her eyes, a twitching at the corners of her mouth, anything that might indicate whether he was on the right trail. He added: 'And you should. I mean, you don't have to, but...' he cleared his throat again, and that was the moment when he thought he had seen the faintest flutter of her eyelashes. Eagerly, he went on, without even trying to choose the right words – they just fell right from his mouth, all by themselves. 'Look, Blondie... I want to go to sleep and wake up next to you every day for the rest of my life. I want to drive you crazy. I want you to yell at me. To throw things at me. To slam doors in my face.' his gaze searched for her eyes, and their stares locked. What he saw there encouraged him to take her hands into his. 'To be my better half,' he added softly, and yes, she blinked away a tear.

'I want to raise our son with you and all the kids that are still to come,' he went on. 'I want to grow old with you. I want to make love to you until we both can't walk straight any more, and I want to be your best friend.' he squeezed her hands and had to use every ounce of his willpower to keep his voice from shaking. Her eyes were closed now, but he knew she was drinking in every word. 'I love you, Maddie. Names are nothing but smoke and mirrors, but let me ask you – please, would you marry me and take my name?'

She opened her eyes and let out a teary, adorable little sigh. 'Oh, David... I thought you'd never ask!' Then she threw her arms around his neck and hugged him so tight that he thought his ribs would break. He encircled her in his arms and closed his eyes for a moment. Oh thank God was all he could think.

After a long moment, he pulled back a little and looked her in the eyes again, scrutinizing her closely. 'Just for the record... Is this a yes?'

Maddie nodded fiercely and smiled through her tears, then she answered him in a thick voice. 'It is. And I want all that too.'

He ruffled his hair again and growled. 'Hell, woman, you just scared the crap outta me.' He firmly grasped her hand. 'What are we waiting for?'

She had found her humor again. 'Well, obviously we had to wait for you to speak up – again,' she teased and opened the door before he could reply with anything. 'Ready when you are.'

The wedding reception was not a huge one, as Maddie had wished, and it was being held at the Addison home, formerly known as the Hayes/Addison residence, more formerly known as Maddie's house. There were not more than forty people, it was an almost intimate celebration, and Maddie was perfectly happy with it. The atmosphere was familiar, and everybody seemed to be having a good time.

They had all finished the wonderful wedding dinner, and David had been half hoping Richie had forgotten that he was the best man. But just before the party was about to really start, much to his dismay, his brother rose to his feet and clinked his knife to his glass very clearly and very loudly, finally speaking up:

'Hear, hear...'

But the guests were having such a good time chatting with each other, that they didn't fall silent immediately, so Richie raised an eyebrow and raised his impressively deep voice to a thundering: 'Yo!'

Simultaneously, all gazes darted in his direction, and David grumbled audibly: 'Oh great, here comes Mr. social skills...'

A few people giggled, and Maddie elbowed her husband in the ribs and hissed: 'Leave him alone!'

Richie winked at her and raised his glass. 'Thanks, sweetie.' David rolled his eyes, and he cleared his throat again.

'Here's to my bro and new sisinlaw...' Richie began; he was addressing David and Maddie directly now. 'I knew there was something special between the two of you when I saw you together for the first time, although you both denied it back then...' – they both exchanged a knowing smile – 'but hey, no flies on an Addison!'

Everybody laughed, and David murmured with a smile: 'Whatever that means.'

'Of course,' his brother went on, 'that didn't stop me from tryin' my luck with Maddie...' She blew him a little kiss, and David playfully shook his fist at him, but his smile betrayed him. Richie pointed a finger at him. 'And you sure beat the hell outta me for that, bro!'

The guests were laughing again, and Maddie rolled her eyes when she recalled the day the Addison brothers had wrecked her living room during a heated fight.

'Well, bro,' Richie raised his glass towards Maddie, 'as usual, you got the prettiest girl. And you, sis...' – he bent a little forward in Maddie's direction, motioning his head towards David and lowered his voice to a theatrical, clearly audible whisper – 'you sure as hell got the best guy. But you don't have that from me.'

A roar of applause sounded when Richie raised his glass and took a deep gulp, thus unceremoniously announcing that he was through with his speech. David jumped up from his chair and punched his brother in the shoulder.

'Ouch!' Richie whined. 'What was that for?!'

'C'mere, dork,' David growled and hugged Richie. Maddie stood up, next in line for a hug, and while she was waiting for the two brothers to break apart, she caught a glimpse of her father-in-law and his wife. David Sr. was making a funny face, desperately trying to keep his composure, and sweet Stephanie dabbed a handkerchief to her eyes.

Suddenly, another clink of metal to glass was heard and Maddie turned around to see, to her surprise, that Agnes had also risen from her chair. The crowd went quiet again, and Maddie, David and Richie sank back in their chairs.

Agnes cleared her throat and announced a little shyly: 'The staff of Blue Moon has asked me to say a few words to you, Miss Hay–... I mean, Mrs. Addison and Mr. Addison...' she hesitated and blushed when she suddenly found all eyes on her. Bert reached for her hand and squeezed it lightly, and finally she drew a deep breath and said in a clear voice:

'A wonderful day we will never forget

Was the one when David and Maddie first met.'

She blushed slightly when she mentioned their first names, but went right on:

'It wasn't exactly love at first sight

More two forces of nature locked in a fight

We got used to the sound of her slamming a door

And to him solving those cases like never before

Through hell and high water we saw them both sail

Side by side they followed the same crooked trail.

It brought them together, it tore them apart

But they always stayed in each other's heart.'

David reached for Maddie's hand on the table, and they exchanged a smile.

'Reunited, they welcomed their sweet baby son

And today a new chapter of their life has begun

So now I do say – raise up all those glasses above

Now let's celebrate the victory of one special love!'

Agnes raised her glass, but all thank yous were drowned by the cheers of the guests.

The guests were dancing, chatting and socializing in a very relaxed atmosphere. Little Davey had been brought downstairs, fed, passed around, admired and cuddled by everybody – apparently he seemed to like it. Then he was taken upstairs again by Virginia, who was joined by Stephanie.

Meanwhile, David and Maddie were sucked in by the crowd and chatted their ways through the jolly bunch of guests.

Suddenly, David felt a hand on his shoulder. 'Congratulations again,' Walter said to him and smiled.

David grinned back and playfully nudged his shoulder. 'Thanks, Wally. You're not bearing grudges any more, are you? 'Cause I got her to say yes to me?'

Walter shook his head and gave a benevolent little snort. 'We both know she had said yes to you a long time before she even met me.' He shrugged with a sheepish grin. 'Besides...'

David smiled his half-smile and nodded. 'I know.' His gaze followed Walter's to the corner where Terri and Maddie were sitting side by side, chatting, both with relaxed smiles on their faces. 'You know,' he said slowly, 'if things had been different, I could have fallen for that quirky little brunette myself. But there was always that tall blonde haunting me...'

Walter tilted his head in consent. 'And you haunted her.' He shrugged again. 'Which is what brought us all together in that labor room. I guess you could say it was... I don't know... meant to be?' he suggested.

David winked. 'Kismet.'

Walter grinned. 'Kismet? I like that word.'

David laughed and slapped him on the shoulder. 'C'mon, pal, let's see if we can separate these two magpies.' Walter chuckled and followed him, and they made their way over to their mates, David's eager stroll leading the pace.

He approached them with a spring in his step and put on his best Addison smile, extending his hand to his wife. Wife, he thought and felt his head spin. 'Hey Lady, wanna dance?'

Maddie pretended to think about it for a minute, then she pursed her lips playfully. 'If you say the magic word,' she demanded. Terri smirked and threw an affectionate glance over David's shoulder at Walter. They shared a conspiratorial smile.

'Please?' David sing-songed.

Maddie rolled her eyes. 'Oh, please,' she chastised. 'Seriously?'

He was a trifle confused. 'Uhm... C'mere?' he offered hopefully.

Terri chuckled and shook her head. This could take a long time, she thought and unceremoniously took Walter's outstretched hand, leaving Maddie's side and following him; their departure went unnoticed by the newlyweds.

'Close...' Maddie purred, and finally the penny dropped.

David's lips curled into his half-smile. 'C'mere, Mrs. Addison?' he asked in a husky voice.

Maddie beamed and finally took his hand. 'You better get used to that, buster!'

He led her to the dance floor. 'Don't worry, Blondie, you're gonna hear that more often than you'd like,' he threatened.

They swayed quietly and happily to the music for a while, then Maddie remarked in a somewhat thoughtful voice: 'Our first dance as Mr. and Mrs. Addison!'

David's eyes were half-closed, and he inhaled the scent of Maddie's hair which he had always loved to do when they were dancing. He just managed a dreamy 'Yeah...'

'Doesn't feel any different to me,' she declared.

David pulled back a little to look her in the eyes and smirked. 'Are you saying, Mrs. Addison, that you always felt that great in my arms?' he asked smugly.

A pearly little laugh bubbled in Maddie's throat. 'I am, and I did. And you know it. That was never my problem. It was always great to be in your arms, on the dance floor and... well, anywhere else.' She focused on his face and went on in a more serious tone: 'I always felt... safe there. At home.' She let her fingers run casually, almost absentmindedly, up and down the top of his arms. 'But now,' she went on, 'it feels like... like your arms are always around me, even when they're not.'

He knew what she meant, and finally he understood those fears, doubts and insecurities that she had about him, about them. She had harbored these feelings for a long time, long enough to make her run away from him in the first place. Of course, he had already known back then that she had never wanted to hurt him, she had just been scared. He tightened his embrace again. 'They are, Blondie,' he whispered into her hair. 'I love you.'

Maddie closed her eyes again and leaned her temple on his cheek. 'I love you,' she replied softly, and he smiled. 'So much.'

Both were stunned when, as if on cue, they heard the bluesy version of a song that seemed to have been written just for them.

'You've got to

Give a little, take a little,

Let your poor heart break a little

That's the story of,

That's the glory of love.

You've got to

Laugh a little, cry a little

Until the clouds roll by a little

That's the story of,

That's the glory of love.'

'Ever heard a more perfect song? It may as well have been written for us,' David murmured in her ear. 'Laugh a little, cry a little? Tell me again you don't believe in kismet.'

Maddie rolled her eyes. 'Your precious kismet had nothing to do with it, David. I let Agnes choose the music.'

'Oh, don't kill the mood woman.' He tightened his embrace, and they both laughed, then closed their eyes simultaneously and drank the last lines of the song in, barely moving.

'You've got to

Win a little, lose a little

And always have the blues a little

That's the story of,

That's the glory of love.'

When the song was over, they stood there for a while, in the middle of the dance floor, apparently glued to each other. Then David put his hand on the small of her back, sending little shivers up and down her spine, and led her to a quiet corner, putting a flute of champagne in her hand and helping himself to another one. Smiling, they clinked.

'So...' he winked at her, green eyes glistening, lips curled into his half-smile. 'Happy, Mrs. Addison?' he asked.

'I've been worse,' Maddie nonchalantly answered, and he laughed.

'Don't kid a kidder,' he teased, 'I know you're beyond thrilled about the fact that you've finally managed to hunt me down.'

Maddie rolled her eyes. 'Yeah, keep dreaming.'

'Hey,' he said softly, his tone changing from playful to more serious. 'Is this wedding like you imagined it for us?' he asked almost anxiously.

'Well, except for the fact that I never imagined a wedding for us at all...' she stopped herself when she saw his serious face and nodded solemnly. 'Really, this is exactly the wedding I wanted,' she assured him, giving him an encouraging smile, touched by his concern. 'I'm happy to have all these special people with us on our special day, and I couldn't have dreamed of anything better for my real first wedding.'

He swallowed, very moved by the choice of her words. Before he could say anything, she leaned towards him and lowered her voice to a sultry whisper: 'Although, right now, I wish I just could sneak away with you...'

David's face lit up even more, if it was possible, and suddenly there was the infamous devil glint in his eyes and he purred: 'Well, why don't we just do that?'

Maddie shrugged in resignation. 'Well, it would be really great, but we can't...'

'What would you say,' David interrupted, 'if I told you that there is a honeymoon suite somewhere out there with our names on it?'

Maddie's eyebrows almost jumped up. 'What?'

'What?!' he repeated in mock horror. 'I'm shocked and appalled. The name's Addison, of course.'

She slapped his arm. 'You know what I mean! I mean – what are you talking about?'

He gave her a heart-stopping smile. 'I'm talking about our wedding night, of course. The night. Delight night. I thought it would be nice if we spent it alone – just you, me and a bottle of the finest heavy weight motor oil.' He winked. 'The latter is optional.'

Maddie couldn't help but return his smile. 'May I remind you that you've used that line on me before and I wasn't interested?'

He smirked. 'And may I remind you...' he grabbed her left hand and held it up between them, pointing at their wedding rings. 'You're supposed to be interested now.'

'Supposed?' she echoed and folded her arms, all Hayes-style. 'Well, I got news for you, Addison: I don't give a flying fig about what I'm supposed to be. I am interested. But we can't just disappear.'

'Why not?' He motioned his head towards the guests. 'They are having so much fun, they won't even notice we're gone. And besides – it's already organized.'

Maddie frowned. 'Organized?' she repeated skeptically. 'What do you mean by organized?'

He pursed his lips in a thoughtful, yet mocking way. 'Well, I believe the correct definition according to Webster's is following a set method, arrangement or pattern.' He lectured and laughed when he saw her roll her eyes. 'I mean I have it all planned, Blondie. Did you think I was kidding when I said there's a honeymoon suite with our names on it?'

Maddie's eyes widened in delightful disbelief, becoming huge azure blue marbles. 'You didn't...!'

David's mouth curled into a telling smile, and he just gave a barely perceptible nod, enjoying the total bliss slowly spreading across her face. But then her expression changed to regret and disappointment.

'Oh, David...' she sighed sadly, 'that would be so wonderful, but we can't just leave Davey...'

'Your parents will be happy to take care of him,' David offered.

She didn't dare to think the thought. 'Oh, but they might be afraid to...'

'Your mom has already agreed on it,' came his prompt answer.

Maddie could only stare at him. 'You have been plotting this with my mom?'

'Plotting, conniving – colluding...' his voice went lower with every word, and he brought his face closer to hers, purring the last word in her ear, again sending shivers down her spine: 'Conspiring.'

Her eyes were glittering with secret delight, eager anticipation. 'I'll have to arrange a few things...'

'Maddie, Maddie, Maddie,' he interrupted in an indulgent voice, like a patient teacher would have used on an unobservant pupil. 'Which part of I have it all planned didn't you understand?'

She put her hands to her hips, slightly annoyed. 'I got it, hub,' she snapped, 'you booked a suite and talked to my mom, but...'

'We need to pack a few things,' David interrupted, mimicking her.

'Yes, for example!' she confirmed, feeling a bit irritated.

'We need to write down instructions for grandma and grandpa for taking care of Junior.'

She was eyeing him suspiciously. 'That too...'

He smiled at her openly, completely without mockery now, and raised his hands, palms up. 'Done, Blondie. That is all done.'

Maddie just stared at him, totally amazed. 'All done,' she echoed feebly.

'All done,' he confirmed and held out his hand. 'May I abduct you, Mrs. Addison?'

She put her hand in his, immediately feeling the electricity buzz at their touch, a mesmerized smile spreading from her eyes to her mouth and then making her whole face gleam. 'Any time, Mr. Addison.'

Almost unnoticed by the crowd, Maddie and David snuck out, followed on their heels by Virginia and Alex. Maddie was stunned that she really found a little bag where David had "packed a few things" waiting for them in the car. She turned to him, her eyes widened in amazement whereas David shrugged with a smug grin on his face, mouthing told you so.

Smiling, she shook her head and turned to her parents to hug them goodbye. 'Oh, mom, dad,' she sighed happily and guiltily at the same time and took their hands in hers, 'are you really sure...'

'Relax, baby,' Alex interrupted firmly, much to his wife's amazement 'just relax. Everything will be fine.'

'Thank you, daddy!' Maddie threw herself into her father's arms, and Virginia and David exchanged a knowing and conspiratorial smile. Alex kissed his daughter's temple and murmured into her hair: 'Go and walk barefoot, baby.'

Maddie wasn't sure she had heard right; she pulled back to look into her father's eyes and frowned slightly, questioningly. When he just smiled back and squeezed her shoulders, obviously too moved to speak any further, she nodded and muttered back: 'Okay, dad. I will.'

Virginia hugged her daughter. 'Don't worry,' she encouraged, 'we'll take care of everything. And in case we need you – which we won't – we know where we can reach you. David has written down the phone number of your hotel.'

Maddie chuckled and shook her head in disbelief. 'Of course,' she murmured to herself and, after blowing a last kiss to her parents, climbed into the passenger seat.

David and Alex shook hands, and he kissed his mother-in-law's cheek before he literally jumped into the car and started the engine. Alex and Virginia waved after them until the red lights of the car had disappeared into the night, then they turned to each other. Virginia's forehead bore the same benevolent frown as Maddie's before.

'Walk barefoot?' she asked.

Alex shrugged. 'Just a saying.'

Virginia smiled.

They had checked in to a snuggly but elegant little hotel in the Hollywood Hills. Maddie hadn't been able to restrain herself from grinning almost foolishly when the clerk at the hotel reception conveyed his congratulations to the obvious newlyweds (both still wearing their wedding outfits) when he checked his reservation book and confirmed: 'Ah yes, there you are, the Honeymoon Suite, Mr. and Mrs. Addison.' Maddie giggled like a schoolgirl.

The suite itself was perfect, all with an oversized, shell-shaped bed (the sight of which David acknowledged with a wolfish grin), creamy-white satin sheets, flowers, candles, a jacuzzi and a platter of strawberries next to an ice bucket with a bottle of champagne. Maddie had the feeling that she was walking with clouds at her feet – it was the strangest feeling that she couldn't describe. The whole setting and situation were utterly realistic and surreal at the same time.

Maddie went to the bathroom for a moment to pull herself together. She splashed cold water onto her face and looked at herself in the mirror. She saw nothing but radiant happiness and sheer self-confidence, confidence in her love and the life she had chosen. Or had this life chosen her? Had it been indeed kismet after all? She didn't know, and she didn't care. She was sure of only one thing: that David Addison, her husband, was waiting outside for her, the man she had once thought she wasn't supposed to be with but she now knew she certainly was meant to be with. She smiled and pushed the bathroom door open, but before she could even step outside, David entered the bathroom like the whirlwind that he was and, without warning, swept her up in his arms, causing her stomach to flip.

'Hey!' she gasped breathlessly, 'what do you think you're you doing?'

He grinned. 'Well, I thought I should at least carry you over the threshold of the bathroom...'

Maddie raised a playfully skeptical eyebrow, but slid her arms around his neck. 'Isn't that a bit kitschy?' she probed.

David shrugged in spite of the weight in his arms, enjoying the feeling of holding her that way. 'I don't care, I just felt like doing that,' he stated with disarming sincerity and smiled at her. She felt his hot hands at the hollows of her knees and at her back and, for a momet, she felt like drowning in his stunning green eyes and his strong arms. 'I could stand here like this all night long.'

Their stares locked, and for a few moments time seemed to stand still, and neither of them moved or spoke. After half a century or so Maddie swallowed. 'Well, I hope you won't...' she finally managed and added: 'I mean, since you said you had it all planned – haven't you pencilled in anything else for tonight?' She batted her eyelashes meaningfully at him.

David was thrilled about her lightness, her playfulness. He smiled his half-smile. 'Like what?' he asked mischievously.

'Well, I'm not sure...' Maddie pursed her lips. 'Didn't you call this the delight night earlier?'

'A delight night...' he repeated and pretended to think about that, then he slowly nodded, as if something had dawned on him. 'Oh yeah, you betcha I did. The delight night.' His lips curled even more into his crooked grin that had always made her want to slap him or kiss him – often both. 'Believe me,' he drawled, 'you're so gonna get it!'

Maddie threw her head back and produced a wonderfully throaty laugh, then she brought her face close to his neck and started to nibble on his earlobe and kiss the sensitive spot right below it – yes, David Addison had some weak spots too, some buttons to push, and she knew all of them. He shivered and quickly carried her over to the bed, and they both fell down on it, Maddie lying half across him, laughing out all of their happiness.

'What,' Maddie exclaimed in mock disappointment, 'already tired?'

He threw her an evil grin and started to unfasten his tie. 'Trust me, woman, you don't wanna challenge me.'

'Looks like I just did,' Maddie teased and caught his wrists with her hands. 'No, don't...' she demanded softly and added huskily, her eyes all dark cornflower blue: 'Please, let me.'

David lowered his hands, thrilled by her demand, and Maddie unfastened his tie with expert fingers but she wasn't looking at him while she did so; in an almost shy way she was looking down at her own hands with a slight blush on her face, as if she was – as if they were – doing this for the first time. He was very touched by that genuine, girlish way, but he hid it a little behind a smirk. 'Admit it, Blondie,' he purred smoothly, 'you wanted to do this since the first day you laid eyes on me!'

This helped her to overcome her embarrassment. She smiled and vividly shook her head, sending soft waves through her loose hair. 'No, no, you got that completely wrong, mister. I wanted to strangle you with that tie!'

David slumped back on the pillow in fake defeat, arms widely spread. 'Well, I'm at your mercy,' he declared theatrically, 'you have your chance now. What are you going to do with it?'

'Hmmm...' Maddie purred in a sultry voice and slowly, very slowly pulled the unfastened tie from his collar. 'I think I'm gonna let you live – for now...and at a price... '

With a sudden, slick move he caught her by surprise in his arms, embraced her firmly, rolled her over and ended on top of her, pinning her down onto the soft pillows on cool sheets. They wouldn't stay cool for long.

'Bad mistake, Mrs. Addison...' he purred in a low voice that sent a shot of heat right into the center of her being, bringing his face dangerously close to hers. 'And one that I might make you regret it for the rest of your life...'

Maddie felt elated like she was on top of the world, exactly where she wanted to be, where she needed and where she was meant to be. She smiled up at him with slightly parted lips, a seductive, happy, open, ready-for-anything and devil-may-care smile and grabbed his spiky hair with both hands to pull him closer to her breathless mouth and her beating heart. 'Go on, Addison,' she challenged him, 'make me!'

The air between them seemed to vibrate with electricity, mirrored in the devilish glint in his eyes, and her heart skipped a beat.

Then he said: 'Don't worry, Addison. I will.'

The End

Songs:

Lovesong – The Cure

The Glory Of Love – B. B. King

Acknowledgements:

This took me really long to finish – maybe because I wasn't ready for letting go (which doesn't mean, however, that this case is for ever closed... just sayin'). I want to say thanks to all my ML girls and true friends, old and new, who accompanied me through this, starting from my very first attempt; you know who you are.

A special thanks as usually to my partner in crime Nancy, as always – for your patience, for editing, encouraging, correcting mistakes, smoothing out my style and otherwise holding back your wisdom and letting me do this solo and all by myself. But you're doomed now – Moonbeams and Darth Vader are waiting... You truly rock, Shakes.