BACK ON TRACK

Chapter 1

After hooking up during Julie's attempted wedding, Ryan had spent the following two days with Taylor in Berkeley. Now, after waking up with her next to him he came to realize how much he has missed her all this time, how much he really loved her.

It's true that he once held a great love for Marissa, but time helped him heal his wounds, make amends with life and fate for her passing, and he had finally and forever moved on.

Looking back, he could see how in spite of how much in love he had been with Marissa, everything had always been so messy, drama-filled, and how they had never been able to have a happy ending that could last more than a few weeks at a time because somehow she would sucker-punch him with something going on in her life. He had been in love with her so he didn't mind going through all of that at the time and he didn't regret anything now neither, but things with Taylor were different, so much different…

He had to admit that being with Taylor was like riding a rollercoaster, her mind didn't work as everyone else's most of the time; Her behavior could be unsettling on occasions, like the time when she tried to be his sleep therapist and insisted on watching him sleep to help him with his insomnia; but most of the time it was endearing. like when she tried to get him drunk to make him say that he loved her only to end up drunk herself.

But that was not all; there was also the cute, gentle, thoughtful, and funny Taylor. He remembered how he couldn't help himself from being amused by her witty comments or smile inside whenever she sent a sweet word or gesture in his direction; she had always been really good to him and always found a way to surprise him, with her, he had even found a sense of humor of his own he didn't know he had. With Marissa it had all been about saving her, with Taylor, she was the one who was always giving him support; she saved him from self-pity and bitterness… coming to think about it… she just saved him.

Somehow, Taylor had managed to make a space, a really big space, for herself in his heart and in his life; all the time they spent apart while she had been studying in France he told himself that he was over her but he had felt empty, not truly believing himself. He really loved her and he needed her, it's was all perfectly clear now.

Looking at the beautiful woman resting in his arms, asleep but smiling in complete peace and joy, made him warm inside; this was his rightful place: being close to Taylor, holding her tight, taking care of her, making her feel loved and safe.

As on cue, Taylor fluttered her eyelashes and opened her eyes slowly. When she saw Ryan staring and smiling down at her, she smiled in response and Ryan's heart made a jump.

Morning - she said and pressed a sweet kiss on Ryan's chest, he tightened his arms around her waist.

Morning – he replied, planting a kiss on her forehead – Did you sleep well?

I did – she replied with a puzzled look on her face - I usually sleep for only three hours every night but I always seem to sleep for longer and more soundly when I'm with you, I have the theory that it's probably because you wear me out with all of our pre-sleeping activities, not that I'm complaining or anything – she gave him a wicked smile and reached out to hold Ryan's neck and pull him close to kiss him softly on the lips. Ryan chuckled.

Are you ready for some breakfast?

Sure! I'm starving!

Ok. Let's get dressed and we can go wherever you want.

Mmmm…I don't know… so many options running through my head right now –she said pouting with a childlike expression, Ryan had to laugh at the sight. That was one of the other things he loved so much about her, she always made him laugh.

Well, you can think about it while getting ready and tell me later -he said while pressing a small kiss on the tip of her nose. She closed her eyes and smile at the gesture.

Deal! – She said opening her eyes - I'll go to my room and I will be ready and about an hour.

They've been staying at a little hotel in Berkeley along with Summer, Seth, Julie, Kaitlin and Frank. Sandy, Kirsten and the baby had remained in the house that was soon to be officially theirs… again. Although they got together at the almost wedding, later on when it was time to register at the hotel, he was about ask Taylor to stay with him but she quickly asked for a room for herself; as things were not clear with them at the time, not that they were any clearer now, he decided to let her have her way without comment and now her things were in a room two floors above Ryan's.

Ryan reluctantly let Taylor unwrap herself from him and leave the bed to look for her clothes and put them on while he stayed where he was, watching her – devouring her with his eyes was the most accurate description, really. When she finished dressing, she walked towards the bed, bended over to kiss Ryan softly.

I'll meet you at the lobby in sixty minutes, give it or take.

I'll be waiting – he said and pulled her in for one last soft kiss before letting her go.

Taylor smiled, incorporated herself and left the room.

After watching her disappeared through the door, Ryan started thinking, panicking actually:

What if she is over me and this is a one-time only kind of thing? Does she still feel the same way about me? Would she like to start things again with me? Can we really work things out this time?

Ryan recognized the self-doubt that always assaulted him when he was the most happy, making him second guess himself and build up that wall where he could shield himself form anything and anyone who could possibly hurt him. Well, not this time. Taylor was possibly … no… she was certainly the happy ending he had always craved for and he wasn't going to let his fears and insecurities stop him from having the woman he loved, not again. Maybe she didn't feel the same way… yet, but he will not lose her without a fight. He told the evil little voice inside his head to go to hell and started getting ready to meet Taylor, already planning how to make her agree to take him back.

Taylor walked into her hotel room feeling as happy as she could possibly be. The past two days with Ryan had been amazing. When she decided to come for the wedding in spite the high possibilities of finding herself in awkward situations with Ryan, she told herself that she was doing this for Julie, she had been like a mother to her when she needed one and there was no amount of Ryan Atwoods that could possibly stop her from being there for her; what she hadn't considered was the chance of falling back again in the arms of the man she secretly, well not so secretly as Summer already knew, considered the one and only true love of her life.

While she was getting ready, she found herself working hard to look her best because she loved the awestruck look Ryan would give her every time he saw her all dressed up, not that she didn't know he found her beautiful regardless, he would always smile with soft eyes every time he laid eyes on her but, when she really made an effort he would just look like a man who just couldn't believe his luck and she consciously sent to his subconscience the message that it was all for him, and for him only. She loved it.

While looking at herself in the mirror to assess the final result, Taylor could picture herself cuddled against Ryan on the sofa of their living room, watching a romantic movie and enjoying some alone time in their home…

Taylor you're doing it again! Snap yourself out of it! – she told her reflection while erasing the image from her mind – This weekend has been the best so far but it doesn't mean it's going to be more than that, just enjoy it for as long as you can and you will try to mend your already broken heart when you get back to France.

With a final glance over the mirror, Taylor turned around to grab her purse and sweater and headed for the door to meet Ryan.

Ryan was standing outside the hotel getting some fresh air while waiting for Taylor. When he made the decision of trying to win Taylor back an hour ago, he had called for back-ups. Seth was always great but he was dealing with his own problems, that with Summer leaving to work for G.E.O.R.G.E., and this really required the big guns, so he called Sandy for advice.

After telling Sandy what the situation was and how he really felt towards Taylor, Sandy told him that the key to win Taylor back was by earning her trust and by talking to her with honesty and resolution, no room for doubt. That left him out of base for a second, her trust? Just talking? No room for doubt? He wasn't sure if Sandy for once got things wrong, he was hoping to get ideas for a romantic get-away or something like that, but when his foster father explained, it all made sense to him at the end.

Sandy had told Ryan that love and romance wasn't the issue with them. He told him that he had watched their relationship developed before his eyes and it had been obvious for everyone that they had fallen for each other, even though it hadn't been so clear to him at the beginning; and that if his feelings towards Taylor hadn't changed after six months apart, it was most likely that hers hadn't had changed neither.

The problem was that he had lead Taylor on one minute to slam the breaks and push her away the other. Sandy reminded him about the time Taylor's ex-husband showed up, how he tried successfully to keep her just to pull back again, the dictionary fiasco on her birthday, that he finally told her he loved her and they spent a lovely summer together only for him to break up with her when she decided to go to France, all because he thought they couldn't handle a long-distance relationship and that it would only set them both back from moving on with their lives.

Looking back at all those things, Ryan could tell that Sandy was right. He needed to prove to Taylor that he was here to stay, that they could make things work and that she could let herself love him freely because her heart will be well-kept with him.

While going through his conversation with Sandy over his head, Ryan saw a small flower stand on the corner… Taylor loved flowers. He walked the distance and saw roses, Taylor's favorites. He found one that was a mixture of white and red, it was perfect! In one rose he could express the sincerity and pureness of his intentions along with the great passion she stirred within him. He paid for the rose and head back to the hotel and walked into the lobby.

Ryan stood in front of the elevator and when the doors opened and Taylor stepped out, he felt the air punched out of his lungs. She was wearing a lilac dress that would hug her rather curvy figure in all the right places, her shiny hair was loose in soft curls falling on her shoulders, her eyes sparkling. She was breathtaking.

After he managed to close his drooling mouth, she gave him that wicked smile of hers, the one she would always wear when she found something exciting or mischievous or when she knew something everybody else ignored. She occasionally would give him that smile when they were dating, without him knowing exactly why, most of the time. Maybe he should ask her about it in the future… the future.

He met her halfway and presented her with the rose he just bought, her eyes burnt brighter when she saw it.

How lovely! Thank you!

You're welcome. I saw it and thought of you so I got it

Why, aren't we chivalrous and sweet? – She pulled him in for a soft but somehow very passionate kiss that turned his knees to mellow.

Are you ready? - Ryan took Taylor's hand without even thinking about it, it had become a natural thing for him to do, he intertwined her fingers with his and hold them tight in an attempt to let her know that he was committed and that he was truly there for her.

Yes, all set -Taylor noted the change in him, how he looked at her, how he held her hand, how soft and sweet his voice got when he talked to her, how he had gotten out of his way to buy her a rose... It all made her feel as if she was the most precious thing for him, but she knew she was kidding herself. She was seeing what she wanted to see; she reminded herself that she had lost, six months ago, all hopes of having the love of her life within arms' reach forever.

She was determined to enjoy her time with Ryan and make the most of it but without letting herself hope for more, there were only so many times your heart could be broken.

So, let's go then – Ryan said leading her towards the exit doors.

They smiled to each other and walked out of the hotel hand in hand, both with very different things running through their minds.

TO BE CONTINUE…