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Till Death do us part- A STIC story

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So much had happened, they barely had time to resolve things, so many things that happened between them, their marriages, their divorces…Donna…a frown crossed his face at the thought of his most recent life crisis. How he broke her heart, his own heart by marrying Donna. He had known it the moment he stood there with Donna, Stephanie watching him and knowing what he was thinking. He was thinking of her, their life together but then he decided to go against his feelings, and he married Donna instead. He had seen the devastation in Stephanie eyes. How he wished he could take that pain away. Take away all the pain he had caused her over their years together. A sadness overcame him at that moment as he remembered all those times. Of course, the marriage to Donna did not last. He found himself wanting to be close to Stephanie the very next day after his wedding, he would seek her out with made up excuses, he defended Stephanie to Donna, chose her over his wife when she accused her of having a role in Beth’s death, his heart reminded him. Stephanie was capable of a lot of things, but he had known, instantly, she did not hurt Beth. His Stephanie could never do that. A smile crossed his lips as he realized he thought of her as his. Even with everything that happened between them she was there, always there, still there, he did not know why…she loves you, damn fool, his heart screamed at him. And now, after all this time, after Felicia illness, after everything…he was struggling, really struggling with accepting what was happening. To her. Cancer…again…A deep shaky, sigh escaped his lips as he stared aimlessly out the window into the dark night. His eyes teared at the fact that the love of his life had cancer again and she was…he could not think it, say it, believe it. He would not say it because then it would be true…….
“Eric…” She said surprised when she saw him standing in the dark looking out the window.
“Did I wake you up” He asked concerned?
“I…she took a breath deciding to be honest and not lie, your side was empty” She admitted.
“I couldn’t sleep” He admitted. A sadness crossing his handsome face.
“Me either” She sighed, faking a smile.
He knew she was trying but the fact that she felt she had to pretend with him made him feel sadder. He knew she was tired a lot more often now.
“Go back to bed. I’ll be up in a bit” He reassured her.
“Alright…” She did not know what else to say.
She turned and walked back toward the stairs. She stopped at the bottom and turned to look at him. She could see how sad he was as he looked out the window. Without a word, she went upstairs leaving him to his thoughts.
He heard her cotton slipper feet going up the stairs. With each step she took he felt as if he was losing her more and more. He did not know what to say anymore. He knew what she wanted. For him to accept what was happening, for him to follow her wishes but he could not. He just could not do it. And a part of him felt awful for not giving her what she needed.
“I’m sorry…” He whispered into the night as a tear slid down his cheek. He hated himself for always being a disappointment to her.

The next day…

Stephanie woke up and looked over to his side. It was empty. She sighed knowing he never came back to bed. She laid looking up at the ceiling wondering what to do now. He had always done this when he wanted to avoid “talking”. She knew that about him after all the years, but she was afraid, afraid that they would run out of time to “talk”. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath before getting up. Determined she went into the bathroom, freshened up then went downstairs to find him.
“Hello mother” Felicia said happily with a smile on her face as she sat on the sofa.
“Well hello. I did not know you were here. Where is your father” She asked as she looked around?
“Not here. I let myself in” She smiled cheekily.
A smile crossed Stephanie face. Her baby girl, her rebel.
“Join me for breakfast” Stephanie asked?
“Please tell me you’re not cooking” Felicia teased making her mother shake her head.
Eric walked in, hung up his coat and hearing laughter he followed it into the kitchen. A smile crossed his face when he saw his love and their daughter sitting at the table eating and laughing.
“I hope there is more” he chimed in interrupting their time.
“Daddy…you know mother always saves you a plate” Felicia teased making her mother blush.
Eric smiled happily as he kissed his daughter cheek and then feeling a happiness he could not contain, he kissed Stephanie on the lips, wrapped his arms around her shoulders giving her another intimate kiss on the neck, surprising them both.
Stephanie blushed and pulled away slightly turning so she can look at him. He had not shown that kind of affection in a long time, since they argued about her not wanting to be intimate since the diagnosis, she reminded herself.
“Did I miss something” Felicia asked nosily? A mischievous smile on her face.
“Eat your breakfast” Stephanie said uncomfortably.
Eric whistled happily as he got his plate, warmed it up and sat beside his girls. Smiling at them both as he began to eat.
After breakfast, Felicia left stating “some of us have work to do” making them chuckle.
“Our girl” Eric smiled.
“She is only ours when she is well behaved” Stephanie said amused.
Eric chuckled at her humor making her smile.
“Where are our other children” He asked teasingly?
“I haven’t heard from them yet” She said honestly.
“The day is still young. I give it another hour before Ridge and Thorne are here or calling” He stated in a matter of fact tone.
“Kristen called last night” Stephanie shared.
“Did she? I don’t recall you mentioning it” He said surprised.
“She called to talk to me…” She smiled in a teasing way.
“Is that so? I’m beginning to feel neglected” He teased back.
“You were always the favorite. You can’t complain now” She said with a roll of her eyes.
“Sure, I can. She is the only one that thinks of me first” He said making her laugh.
“Not last night” She reminded him with a big smile.
“That is not funny” He laughed.
“It really is” She said full of mirth.
The phone rang disrupting their silly time, Eric answered it with a cheerful “hello”
After a few moments, his cheerful and silly demeanor faded.
Stephanie watched him intently.
“Thank you. I will be sure to let her know” He said in a serious tone as he hung up.
“Is everything alright” She asked concerned?
“Massimo is at Forrester, looking to speak with you” He said honestly but she could hear in his tone that he was not at all pleased.
“Is that all? I thought something bad happened” She said and instantly regretted her choice of words by the look on his face.
Instead of responding he walked out of the kitchen abandoning his breakfast.
Stephanie rolled her eyes in frustration as she held her head. She truly, thought Eric was past this silly jealousy.
Before she could do anything, he stormed back into the kitchen.
“Just so we’re clear. I don’t want him at Forrester, or our home and I don’t want you seeing him” He spat out angrily.
“Eric…” she sighed. “I’m sure it’s about Ridge” She said trying to reassure him although she really wanted him to let this jealousy go.
“It’s always about “Ridge” He said annoyed.
Stephanie remained silent as she looked him in the eyes.
“Why do you entertain him” he asked, his anger and jealousy getting the best of him?
“I don’t…but we….do we really have to argue about this again” She asked in frustration?
“No, we don’t since you are going to see him anyway no matter what I say” He spat as he walked out again.
Stephanie sighed but she decided to let it go. He was right. She was going to see him. Not to make him jealous, not for any other reason other than he was Ridge’s father and a friend. Eric was going to have to deal with it.

Forrester….

Massimo decided to spend some time with Ridge while he waited for Stephanie to arrive. The two got caught up and spoke about the kids mostly.
“How is she” Massimo finally asked?
“She’s okay” Ridge said knowing Massimo cared.
“Is she…really” He asked concern in his eyes?
“As best as she can be. You know she decided not to…” Ridge started to say but Massimo stopped him already knowing what his son was going to say.
“It’s what she wants” Ridge finished, placing a hand on his father shoulder in support.
“I can’t believe that this is what she truly wants” Massimo said sadly.

An hour later…

“Mass, how are you” Stephanie greeted him as they hugged?
“I’m good. How are you” He asked concerned?
“I’m good” She smiled at him genuinely.
They walked into her office arm in arm. Ridge watching, a sadness going over him as he watched his mother, always strong, walking slowly. She was tired a lot now. His eyes teared, his emotions sneaking up on him.
“Are you really” Massimo asked once they were inside her office?
“Yes, I am” She reassured him.
“But…how...I mean…” He sighed not having the words to express himself.
“I’ve had a wonderful life; my children and grandchildren are my legacy and Forrester, is back in the family. I couldn’t be prouder, more satisfied then I am now” She tried to reassure him.
His eyes teared.
“Oh Mass…really I’ve made my peace. Please don’t cry for me” She whispered lovingly.
“But I love you Stephanie…please don’t do this. Do not leave us. You have to fight” He whispered as a tear fell down his cheek.
Stephanie hugged him tight wanting to support and reassure her friend, the man she shares not only history but a son, grandchildren.
Eric watched from the doorway. His heart shattering at the sight.
“Dad” Ridge called out when he saw his father walking towards the elevator.
“I have to go” Eric replied without stopping.
Ridge watched as his father left without turning around to face him.
Ridge walked to his mother office and saw what Eric had seen moments before. His mother in the arms of Massimo. She was consoling him.
“I’m sorry” Massimo apologized as he wiped at his eyes.
“You have nothing to be sorry about” She reassured him.
“I should be consoling you” He chastised himself.
“We can console each other” She smiled as she touched his cheek softly with her hand.
He caressed her hand, looking deeply into her eyes.
“It’s alright Mass” She whispered.
He shook his head no, unable to speak.
“Promise me you will let Jackie take care of you” She added lovingly.
“Don’t start” He groaned with a roll of his eyes making her chuckle.
“She still loves you” Stephanie whispered as if it were their secret.
“I know…but…” He poured his feelings into their eye contact.
She smiled at him softly knowing what he wanted to say.
“Let me be there for you” He managed to say before he could not speak anymore before they were interrupted.
“Mass…you are…you’re my best friend” She said not wanting to hurt him.
“Stephanie…” He begged her wanting to explain that he wanted to be more. He wanted to be the man she relied on. He wanted to help her fight. She needed someone strong and he could be that person for her if only she let him.
“You don’t have to worry, Eric….” She began wanting to explain since she knew what he wanted to say but she stopped speaking when he moved away from her touch.
“Eric…” He spat as he shook his head clearly unhappy.
“Please…I want you both to stop this. For me.” She said as she stood beside him, glancing at his face.
“Stephanie…he took her hand; I have connections in Switzerland. There are experimental treatments. I will go with you; I promise you I will not leave you to fight this alone. I can make all the arrangements for us…” Massimo began to explain but she stopped him by shaking her head no.
“But Stephanie…” He said upset that she was giving up.
“No Mass. I’m sorry” She said firmly.

Evening…………….

Stephanie walked in, the house was dark, he was not home. She sighed knowing he was not happy that she went to meet with Massimo. She really wished they would both stop the nonsense.
She was surprised when she saw him sitting in the dark.
“Eric…” She called out.
He did not reply. He sat there quietly.
She walked over to him. Noticed the untouched glass of Brandy. She looked at him with concern.
“Did he offer you another sail on his yacht” He asked with a teasing smile?
Her defenses came down when she realized he was just teasing her. “No, I think he learned from the last time” She smiled.
“What was the offer” He asked as he looked at her? She could see he was serious now.
“There was no offer” She lied.
“Why are you lying to me? Jackie called. She told me he went to see you because he has connections that can get you into experimental trials….” He began, sounding…yes, hopeful.
“Eric…” She sighed as she sat beside him.
“I would be okay with you going with him if there was something that could help….” He continued before he lost his nerve, but she stopped him. Touching his thigh.
“No Eric. That is not what I want. We’ve talked about this.” She said as gently as she could.
He looked down at his hands.
“All I want is for the both of you to stop being at each other throats. I want him to let Jackie help him and that is what I told him.” She admitted.
“Playing match maker” He smiled amused.
She flashed him a smile.
All the times she did this before flashed across his mind in an instant.
A tenderness crossed his features as he looked at her.
“And I want for you to….” She began wanting to talk but it did not happen. As usual he put an end to it.
“Don’t….” He stood up upset.
“Alright…” She let it go.
He looked down at his feet, his back to her.
She stood up and embraced him from behind, wanting to support him.
“You still don’t understand what you’re asking from me. I cannot let you go. Please do not ask me to” He explained as he held onto her hands, squeezing them tightly. He knew he made a lot of mistakes, hurt her a lot over the years with other women, so much wasted time. If only she knew how much he truly, loved her, she would never ask him to let go while she was still alive and with him.
“You will….in time…And I want that for you” She reassured him.
He pulled away from her. She tried desperately to hold onto him, but he would not let her. “What about what I want” He yelled angrily?
“Eric…please…” She reached out to him. Wanting him back in her arms. She did not want to fight, not about this.
“NO….NO, THIS isn’t your decision to make” He stated firmly, still angry and hurt. Angry at the cancer. Hurt by her wanting to talk to him about moving on when she was still alive, when all he wanted was a life with her. She was taking away everything by choosing to not get the treatments and he was resentful.
“I know that. I do. I just…I need to know you’re taken care of” She admitted, her eyes tearing.
The truth of her words. The love that he felt radiating from her. It was too much. He looked down, his face crumbling as the tears came.
She went to him quickly wrapping her arms around him.
He held onto her desperately.

Chapter Text

Late evening….

Stephanie watched Eric with his eyes closed, in her arms, in their bed. He was finally calm.
“Remember when the kids were little and we would take them to Big Bear” She whispered, a smile on her face.
He nodded his head yes, but he still could not speak. Not yet.
“Felicia hated it” She chuckled.
A smile crossed his face.
“But you taught her how to make a fire outside and she loved every second of it. After that she wanted to go to the cabin every time you did. She begged you to teach her other things” She remembered fondly.
He looked at her and whispered, “What I remember most is laying down beside you after a long, cold night out with the boys. You would have the fireplace on in our bedroom, you were so warm and beautiful…” He ran his hand down her pajama covered arm. His eyes gleaming in the night as he remembered those nights. The fire burning along with their passion for one another. She had wanted his touch then, wanted to make love and be in his arms. In fact, she often initiated intimacy.
“I remember” She whispered, a blush covering her cheeks. She remembered all the times they made passionate love. She hoped that he knew that she would never forget.
Caught up on the memories he turned her face with his hand softly and kissed her tenderly. She closed her eyes allowing herself a moment to enjoy his lips on hers. After all this time. It still felt like heaven. And he still made her feel safe, even now…
She felt his hand travel across her chest and to the buttons on the front of his shirt that she wore.
She felt a warmness go over her body in anticipation of what was to come. This is what she had been waiting for. What she had tried to explain to him. The moment had to be right if it was going to happen. She thought finally it was the right moment but the more buttons he unbuttoned she felt herself start to become anxious, her chest tightening. What if it got worse while they are making love? The thought of not being able to catch her breath making her start to panic.
Before he could unbutton the final buttons, she pulled away.
“Honey” He asked concerned?
She could see the worry on his handsome face.
How could she tell him what she was feeling? Would he understand?
“Steph” He asked again as he touched her hand softly?
She grabbed his hand tightly wanting him to feel her touch, the warmth.
He looked at her confused and clearly worried.
“I love you…” She began but he pulled his hand away and stood up putting distance between them.
“I see” He said the disappointment evident on his voice as he put his robe on.
“Eric….” She begged him not to walk out. Not now when they were so close.
“You don’t…want to” He finished his thought even though it was breaking his heart. He needed to express his love, to show her how much he loved her before… Why did she keep pushing him away?
“I can’t…” She forced herself to say, closing her eyes after the words were out. She began to button the shirt up quickly. Missing the sadness that took over his features.
He nodded his head in defeat as he sat down. She was breaking his heart, again. He forced himself to look into her eyes once she opened them again. He could see the sadness, deep sadness.
She sat beside him and took his hand holding it tightly.
He remained silent.
She pulled his hand up and kissed it lovingly as she held it against her cheek. She had so many things she wanted to say to him, but she could not. Not when they were at odds about this. She knew how he could be. She did not want to expose her heart to him when he was clearly upset with her. The past showed her that during times like this she would share too much and later- on he would use it against her. It was too painful to endure so she learned to remain silent when it came to intimacy.
“I love you too” He said as he squeezed her hand tight.
She pulled at his hand wanting him to come back to bed with her.
He took off his robe and joined her in the bed as they faced one another holding hands in silence.

The next day….

Stephanie spent the morning sitting in her kitchen staring at her cup of tea, her thoughts far away.
Eric left first thing in the morning. No mention of last night or what had transpired between them. Or she should say, what had not transpired.
She sighed as her head bent forward onto her hand. Her eyes closed. Her mind troubled. She knew she hurt him. He wanted to express his love in a physical way. He had been asking her to for some time. She struggled with talking to him about it. She knew he felt rejected, he had voiced it several times, but she was lost on how to convince him that it was not rejection.
“Mom…are you okay” Thorne asked worried as he went to her?
She smiled at him and nodded her head yes.
“Oh good” He smiled relieved.
“Sit with me” She encouraged so he did.
They talked and caught up on everything. She enjoyed his visit immensely.
Once he left to go to the office, she sat by herself in the living room, looking at pictures. Her door- bell rang distracting her. She walked over and opened it.
“Mass, hi” She smiled as she welcomed him in.
“Is Eric home” He asked before going inside?
“No” She chuckled as she walked ahead of him.
Massimo shut the door and followed her into the living room.
Stephanie sat and patted the cushion beside her, a smile on her face.
He sighed and then sat beside her.
“Don’t scowl” She teased as she took his hand in her hand.
“You would if you were me. If your…” He paused.
What was I to him, exactly, she thought curiously?
“Let me help you” He begged her.
“You are” She said seriously not wanting to tease him at this moment.
“You are so stubborn” He spat upset as he stood, shoving his hands in his pockets and walking toward the fireplace.
“That is what you love most about me” She said honestly as she watched him fondly.
“I love your strength” He admitted as he turned and looked her in the eyes.
She could see he was being honest.
“Why are you giving up? What has Eric done to make you give up” He asked angrily, hurt?
“Eric has been fighting me on this every step of the way. He even told me to go with you so I can get the treatment.” She shared wanting him to know that Eric was not the selfish man he thought he was.
Massimo seemed genuinely surprised.
“Eric loves me” She stated matter of fact, but he could see how her eyes brightened.
“Then fight. You have been fighting all these years to get the man to love you and be with you and now that he does, now that he is with you, you are giving up. I don’t understand you” He said in utter confusion.
“Eric doesn’t understand me either” She reassured him with a teasing smile this time. She needed to lighten the conversation. Her heart was being squeezed tight by his relentless words.
“I’m being serious. What is going on? Talk to me” He pushed.
“I don’t want to spend the last bit of time I have getting treatments, being sick, too sick to love and enjoy my family. It is not what I want. I have asked Eric and the family to respect my decision and now I am asking you. Please Mass, I do not want to talk about this every time I see you. Don’t rob me of time with my best friend” She whispered, her eyes tearing although she tried hard to not let him see her like this, she could not control it.
Massimo looked away.
She stood up and walked over to him.
“You’re asking too much of me” He said in a low voice. He was heart- broken.
“I know I am” She admitted as she took his hand in her hand, holding it tightly.
That was how Eric saw them when he walked into the house. Only this time, he was not angry or jealous. He found himself hopeful, maybe he got through to her, he thought as he walked over towards them.
“Eric...” Stephanie said surprised to see him. She hoped he would not make a scene. His words about Massimo not being welcomed replayed in her mind.
By the look on Massimo face, Eric realized his hopes were not going to be, a sadness crossed his features.
“I was just leaving” Massimo lied. He needed to leave. He needed time to think.
Stephanie looked at him since she knew he was lying she could see that he was hurting.
“I’ll be in touch” Massimo said as he walked past her and looked Eric in the eyes.
Both men somehow communicating, sharing in their grief without uttering a word.
The door closing made Eric react. He walked over to her and asked, “did Thorne come by? He called me this morning asking about you.”
“Yes, he did. We had a nice talk” She smiled.
“That’s good” He said as he walked over to the side bar and poured himself some water.
“Kristen called she’s coming home” He shared as he looked at her.
“That’s wonderful news. I miss her” She admitted.
“She misses you too” He said honestly.
“We should have a family dinner” She suggested.
“That would be great” He smiled.
“You’re home early” She said hoping he would open- up.
“I couldn’t concentrate so I decided to come home” He admitted.
“I’m glad you’re here. I was looking at something, come see” she pulled him by the hand and lead him over to the sofa.
They sat together and she handed him some family pictures.
A genuine smile crossed his face as he looked at the pictures ranging from when the children were little to recent.
“Remember this one” She pointed out as she laughed.
He could not help it, he laughed, when he realized the family photo was taken by Felicia when she was young. They were missing various body parts and it was blurry.
“She wanted to be a photographer” He said as he put the photo back down.
“You bought her the camera” She remembered fondly.
“I was happy when she came to me and told me she wanted to be a designer, like me” He said as he looked into her eyes, they shone with happiness.
“I remember” She smiled as she leaned into him and rested her head against his shoulder.
He lowered his head, his chin resting on her head.
They sat like that for a while.

Chapter Text

Late evening……….

Eric had spent the day looking through the family albums with Stephanie. He lit the fireplace and they sat there laughing and reminiscing about all their adventures as a family. For once in a long time they were happy, no worries and not at odds. They were embracing the moment as they talked about their children and grandchildren. Stephanie was happy as she watched him telling stories every so often as they looked at the photos. She felt content, thankful that she took Taylor advice all those months ago when she went to her professionally and asked her, how she should tell Eric about the cancer and her decision to not get treatment. Taylor had been in shock by the news, but eventually she told her, be honest with him and when you feel him pulling away, remind him of your life together. So that was what she was doing. Reminding him of their life together and how much she will always love him, love them all.

The next day……

Kristen arrived early in the morning with Antonio and Zende. Ridge had picked them up from the airport so that they could surprise their parents.
“I can’t wait to see them. How is she, really” Kristen asked when she was alone with Ridge? Antonio and Zende were getting their luggage.
“She is tough, you know but, she is tired a lot and she is walking slower” He said wanting to prepare her.
Kristen felt a knot in her throat, her eyes tearing instantly.
“Hey, it’s okay. We have each other and we will be there for them” Ridge reassured her as he hugged her.
“What are we going to do? What are we going to do without her” Kristen sobbed?

Forrester Mansion…

Eric and Stephanie sat out on the deck having breakfast as they enjoyed the sunny day.
Eric noticed that Stephanie seemed to be having a hard day. She was tired. And it showed.
“Do you want some more tea” Eric asked as he looked over at her past his newspaper?
“No, thank you” She smiled as she closed her eyes for a few moments.
Eric observed her. He could see how fragile she was becoming. Before he could say anything, their cook came to the sliding doors and waved him over. Eric got up quietly and walked over to her.
“You have visitors Mr. Forrester” She said in a whisper as not to disturb Stephanie who seemed to have dozed off.
“Thank you” He whispered as he went inside and walked to the living room. To his surprise and displeasure Brooke was there with Donna.
“Brooke, what is going on” He asked confused and upset?
“Don’t blame her Eric. I told her I was coming over and she wanted to come to make sure that I didn’t upset Stephanie” Donna admitted.
Eric looked at Brooke.
Brooke looked at him apologetically.
Eric realized Donna was telling the truth.
“Donna, look, this is not the place for us to talk” He explained trying to keep calm. He did not want Stephanie to walk in on this. Not today when she was not feeling well. She did not need this.
“Then where and when Eric? We need to talk” Donna pushed.
“Alright. Tomorrow at Forrester” Eric gave in.
“Okay. Eric…” Donna took a step closer.
Eric took a step back.
“Let’s go” Brooke said as she grabbed Donna arm and they walked out of the house.
Eric sighed as he ran his hand across his face in frustration. Of course, he knew he had to resolve things with Donna. They were still legally married. She had refused to sign the divorce papers. And he tried to make his intentions clear by moving back to the mansion with Stephanie. He had hoped it would be enough for her to sign the papers but clearly, it was not.
“Eric…” Stephanie called out.
Eric rushed back outside. Her pale look worried him. He went to her quickly.
“Help me inside. I need to lay down” She said fatigued. She hated asking for help, but she knew she could not do it alone.
Eric helped her up and walked with her inside. Slowly, they went upstairs and into the bedroom. He helped her change clothes and get into bed, tucked her in. He sat beside her worried.
“I just need to rest” She tried to reassure him as she patted his hand.
Eric nodded his head but could not speak.
Stephanie knew he was afraid. She wanted to reassure him, but she was so tired. Her eyes drifted closed.
Eric stayed with her until he was informed that Ridge arrived. He went downstairs and saw his family.
“Kristen…” He said happily as they hugged.
“Hi dad” She held him tight.
“Where is mother” She asked as she looked around?
“Upstairs. She’s tired today” He tried to explain.
Kristen looked at Antonio with worry.
“Hello, how are you both” Eric asked Antonio and Zende?
“Good” Antonio replied.
“Is grandma okay” Zende asked?
“She needs some rest” Eric explained but he felt himself on the verge of tears. How could he explain to this young man that his grandma was…he could not say it?

Evening….

Stephanie awoke feeling somewhat rested. She looked at the time and noticed it was past dinner time. She slept the whole day. She sighed and then smiled when she noticed a note from Eric on the night- stand. She opened it and read it.
“When you are ready for dinner ring the bell” She smiled looked over and saw the bell lying on his pillow.
She decided to wait a bit but when her stomach growled, she rang the bell.
Moments later, Kristen walked in with a tray.
“Kristen…” Stephanie smiled happily as she extended her arms.
They had never been close; their relationship had been filled with conflict and misunderstandings but in this moment none of that mattered. The only memory that came to mind was when Kristen was nine years old and had gone in to check on her mother who was sick in bed. She was greeted with that same smile and open arms. Filled with emotion, Kristen put the tray down and went straight into her mother arms. Also filled with similar emotions, Stephanie comforted her daughter. They hugged tightly.
Kristen began to cry. She did not want to lose her mother.
“Shhh…it’s alright…it’s alright” Stephanie soothed as she held her tightly.
“Mom…” Kristen cried. She could not even speak but she had so much to say.
Stephanie held her tighter, her heart aching. She did not want to hurt her family like this. She truly did not. She hoped someday they would understand why she chose not to have treatment. She would rather have these moments with them then be in such pain that she cannot even speak to them. She knew at some point she would need to tell them the whole truth as well as make some difficult decisions.
After a few minutes, Kristen laid beside Stephanie while she ate a light supper.
“Are Antonio and Zende here” She asked?
“Yes, they are with dad” Kristen admitted.
“I’m glad. He needs the company” She said as she sipped her iced tea.
“So…are you and daddy…okay” Kristen asked?
Stephanie looked at Kristen curiously.
“Donna…” Kristen asked?
“Oh…well, he says it is over” She said deciding honesty was the best route.
“Do you believe him” Kristen asked surprising her?
Stephanie sipped her iced tea.
“You can tell me mom” Kristen reassured her.
“I do believe him” Stephanie admitted.
“Then why mom” She asked as she sat up and faced her?
“Why what” Stephanie asked confused?
“Why haven’t you discussed getting remarried” Kristen asked?
“Remarried? Oh…oh no…we are not doing that again” Stephanie said adamant.
“Mother” Kristen said pretending to be shocked.
“What” Stephanie asked?
“Living in sin” Kristen teased.
“Oh please…” Stephanie scoffed.
Kristen giggled.
“We are hardly young. At our age, what does it matter” Stephanie replied seriously?
“I am so surprised by that. I never thought you would be okay with that” Kristen admitted.
“Okay with what” Stephanie asked.
“Shacking up” Kristen laughed.
“Oh brother…” Stephanie replied as she rolled her eyes.
Kristen continued to laugh making Stephanie smile.
“So…are you and dad…sharing this room” Kristen asked?
“Why are you so interested in what your father and I are or aren’t doing? I thought you kids did not want to know about any of that” Stephanie said genuinely surprised.
“That is Felicia but even she wants to know, she just pretends that it grosses her out” Kristen said with a giggle.
“Yes, we share this room” Stephanie admitted.
“Do you” Kristen teased?
“Oh stop…no more…” Stephanie said pretending to be upset but her cheeks blushed in embarrassment.
“I think it’s great mom. I know dad is a romantic so he must be on cloud nine” Kristen smiled but the look on her mother face made her realize she said something wrong.
Stephanie knew Kristen meant no harm but with their problems in the romance department it was just one more reminder that she was hurting Eric.
“I’m sorry mom. I did not mean to…” Kristen tried to apologize.
“You did nothing wrong, really, it is fine” Stephanie reassured her.
“Do you want to talk about it” Kristen asked wanting to be supportive?
“No…thank you but, this is something that I need to work through” Stephanie said knowing that it was true. She needed to talk to Taylor or her sister. Someone who was not one of her children.
“Okay but I am here if you ever want to talk about anything” Kristen reassured her.
“Thank you, sweetheart” Stephanie smiled as she took her hand.
They stayed looking at one another for a few minutes.
“So, I hear Massimo has been hanging around. Is dad jealous” Kristen asked mischievously?
“Is nothing private” Stephanie said pretending it was a secret?
Kristen laughed.
Stephanie watched her fondly.

Living room…

Eric, Ridge, Antonio and Zende were sitting and talking about how things have been when Felicia walked in with Dino.
“Hello family” Felicia called out with a smile.
“Hello” They called out.
Dino ran up to Zende who hugged him tightly.
“Where is my sister” Felicia asked after she hugged Antonio and Zende?
“Upstairs with mother” Ridge shared.
“That is my queue then” Felicia replied as she went upstairs leaving Dino with the guys.
Moments later, Thorne showed up and joined them.
Eric knew that if Stephanie knew the boys were here too, she would be happy. The whole family together under one roof. Deciding he wanted to tell her, he excused himself and went upstairs.

Bedroom…

Eric was almost at the door when he heard laughing. He stopped. Then he realized they were talking about him.
“Daddy is jealous! Mom don’t lie” Felicia laughed. Kristen laughed.
“He is not. You two are just being trouble- makers” Stephanie replied making Eric smile.
Deciding to make his presence known he knocked and then walked in. His smile widened when he saw Stephanie and their two girls in the bed.
“Is this a girl party only” Eric teased?
“You want them” Stephanie teased back.
“Hey” Kristen and Felicia laughed.
“The boys are here” Eric informed Stephanie.
Her smile warmed his heart.
“I’ll be down soon” Stephanie informed him. She wanted to be with all her family.
“Only if you feel up to it” Eric replied. He did not want her to overdo it.
“I do” Stephanie reassured him.
“Okay” Eric smiled then looked at his two girls who were snuggled up to their mother. He left the room closing the door behind him. He waited a moment. His tears slid down his cheeks. He covered his face, wiped his eyes and then went downstairs.

Pool…

Stephanie sat in the shade as she watched her family in the pool, laughing and splashing at one another. Taylor, Steffy, Thomas, and Alexandria had arrived making the family complete. Of-course, it was times like this when she thought of Phoebe. She blamed Rick for a long- time and it had strained their family but eventually, she let the anger go.
“For the lady” Eric said as he handed her a virgin pina colada.
“I love these” Stephanie smiled.
“I know” He smiled back.
“I’m so happy they are all here” She said as she watched them fondly.
“Me too” He smiled.
“Are Rick and Bridget coming” She asked as she sipped her drink?
“No, I don’t think so” He replied simply.
“Is everything alright with them” She asked concerned by his demeanor?
“Well…Rick is at odds with Ridge and Thorne. Bridget is with Logan visiting Owen” He admitted.
“Rick should have still come. It isn’t like this is the first family squabble” She said making him smile.
“They are still brothers and that should come first” She continued. It truly did concern her that this was happening. Eric needed his son’s especially now.
“Maybe we should tell them to follow your steps. You have a truce with Brooke” He reminded her.
“Yes…well…” She smiled.
“You truly are wonderful” He whispered as he took her hand in his.
“You are biased” She teased him.
“I am” He teased back.

Across the pool….

“They look like two love- sick teenagers” Kristen said to Taylor and Felicia.
“They have been through a lot” Taylor replied.
“We just need to make sure to keep Donna away” Felicia said as she watched her parents.
“Donna? I thought that was over” Kristen said surprised.
“The divorce is not finalized yet. She will not sign the papers” Felicia admitted.
“How do you know that” Taylor asked curiously?
“I have my sources” Felicia said piquing their interest.

Evening……

Stephanie was sitting in the living room watching everyone having a night cap after dinner. She was feeling tired again but did not want to leave her family. She loved watching them, taking in every moment and storing it in her mind. She would need these memories when it was time…she knew.
“You alright” Eric asked concerned as he sat beside her, his hand rubbing her arm?
“A little tired” She admitted.
“We can call it a night if you need to lay down” He offered.
“No…I…a little longer” She said as she watched Ridge, Thorne, Kristen and Felicia laughing.
“It is nice, isn’t it” He asked?
“Yes…it really is” She smiled.
Almost an hour later, Eric did announce that they had a wonderful day, but that it was time for Stephanie to get some rest. They all agreed without a fuss since they knew her energy level was not the same anymore.
Taylor, Steffy, Thomas, and Alexandria said their goodbye and walked out together.
Ridge, Thorne, Kristen and Felicia said good night but stayed downstairs to chat a bit.
Eric went upstairs with Stephanie helping her up while carrying Dino. He was staying over.
Stephanie prepared for bed while Eric changed Dino into his pajamas.
Once Stephanie came out of the bathroom, Eric asked, “should I go with him into the guest bedroom across the hall? He is a bad sleeper and might not let you rest.”
“No…leave him here. He will be upset if he wakes up and I’m not there” She said as she got into bed.
“Alright” He gave in as he tucked Dino in beside Stephanie.
Eric went into the bathroom while Stephanie looked at Dino. She touched his hair and thought, he is so much like Felicia. Her mind wandered to when Felicia was this small. As she basked in memories Eric stood in the shower finally letting go all the emotion, he had been holding in. His shoulders shook as the sobs wracked his chest, but he would not cry out loud. He did not want to upset Stephanie. She had enough to deal with.

Chapter Text

The next day…….

Eric woke up and noticed Dino was awake but laying quietly snuggled up to his grandma. He smiled as he watched them together. His little hand was holding onto her hand and he seemed to stare at it strangely.
“What is it buddy” Eric asked quietly?
“Grandpa, grandma sleeping” Dino whispered.
“I know” He smiled.
“Grandpa, where is grandma ring” Dino asked innocently?
Eric felt his heart ache. Of- course Dino was looking for her wedding ring. The last time Dino saw them was when they were still married before Donna. Felicia had been so upset she did not go or bring Dino to the wedding. She never brought him to visit the mansion when Stephanie moved to the beach house either. Suddenly, he became aware that a lot had happened that he had been oblivious to.
“It’s getting fixed” Eric lied.
“Oh…did it break” Dino asked curiously?
“Yeah, a little but it will be fixed soon enough” Eric reassured him.
Everything will be soon, I promise you, he vowed as he looked at Stephanie who was sound asleep.

Later in the day….

“I have to go to Forrester, but I will be back later” Eric informed Stephanie as they sat outside watching Dino play with Zende.
“Is everything alright with the business” She asked concerned?
“Yes, everything is fine” He promised.
“Alright” She said clearly unconvinced.
“Trust me” He said, and she looked into his eyes, more suspicious now.
He leaned in and kissed her softly.
As he walked back into the house, Kristen sat beside her.
“I saw that smooch” Kristen teased her.
“Oh brother…” Stephanie replied as she shook her head at her daughter teasing.

Forrester…

Eric and Donna faced one another in his office. He had hoped no one saw her but he knew that someone probably did and by the end of the day the family would now. He hoped they would not tell Stephanie. He did not want her to stress over something that only he could resolve.
“Thank you for meeting with me. I just…we need to talk Eric” Donna explained.
“You’re right, we do” He agreed.
“I know you are upset with me over everything that happened, but I still love you” She said wanting him to believe her.
“I know that you do” He said, and he did. He did not doubt that she was being sincere at this moment.
“Can’t you find a way for us to work this out? Is this about Owen” She asked hoping it was that simple?
“This isn’t about that” He said honestly.
“Then what is it” She asked confused? Why now was he giving up on them?
“You teamed up with Bill Spencer and took Forrester from me” He reminded her.
“I was upset and felt betrayed” She tried to explain.
“You wanted revenge against Stephanie” He challenged her.
“Yes, I did. Can you blame me? She came between us. She killed my mother” She yelled angrily.
“Stephanie did not kill Beth. She would never do that. I know that you’re hurting but it was an accident” He said keeping his temper calm. He knew how hard this was for her.
“She’s a liar and a manipulator. You believe all her lies” She hissed at him.
“I do believe her” He stated firmly.
“Eric…she’s lying” She insisted.
“No, she isn’t. You just need to blame her. I understand. I do but, I cannot go along with it. I will not go along with it. And honestly…this is not what ended our marriage either. What ended our marriage is, I still love Stephanie” He said honestly. He knew he was not innocent. He was just as guilty as she was. She had feelings for Owen at one time and he never stopped loving Stephanie.
“You love me” She said as her eyes teared.
“I do” He admitted.
“Then why won’t you try” She asked upset?
“I did try but I cannot keep pretending that I don’t still love Stephanie. I do and I want to be with her” He said honestly.
“No Eric, no, you just feel bad for her. You feel guilty because your family blames you for leaving her. You left her for a reason Eric. You left because she treated you badly. I am sure she still does. You do not want to be with her. You want to be with someone who wants you, like I do. We belong together” She insisted.
“No, we don’t. Our marriage is over Donna. I am not changing my mind. You can fight the divorce but eventually it will happen. I love Stephanie and I am staying with her. Please, let go and move on” He said upsetting her more.
“I won’t let you go” She cried.
“I’m sorry for you then because I’m not leaving Stephanie. Goodbye Donna” He said walking past her.
“Eric” She cried, “Please don’t leave. I love you.”
“Go home Donna” He said not wanting to argue or upset her anymore but, his mind was made up.
“When she turns you away and she will, just remember that I warned you” She said making him stop at the door.
His mind flashed to the several times Stephanie withdrew from him but, it also flashed all the love he felt for her and all the love he knew she felt for him. At one time, sex was an important factor for him but now, it did not seem so important. He was losing the love of his life to cancer and he was not going to miss a moment. In fact, he was already missing time he would not get back.
“I’m going home to Stephanie. Sign the papers Donna” He said as he opened the door and walked out.
Eric came face to face with Ridge.
Ridge saw Donna standing in the office, crying.
“I’m going home to your mother” Eric explained as he walked past his son.
Ridge sighed, he decided not to go inside instead he walked to the secretary and asked her to call Brooke.

Mansion….

Stephanie was in the kitchen pouring some juice into the glass when the phone rang.
“Hello” She said as she put the pitcher down and took a sip of her juice.
“Hello sister” Pam said making her smile.
“Pammy, hi. How is Paris” She asked knowing her sister was still on her trip with her boyfriend?
“Wonderful sadly, it ends tomorrow” Pam shared.
“Oh…that is too bad. So, will you be coming home tomorrow” She asked wondering if maybe she could talk to her sister about her intimacy problems with Eric?
“Yes, we are. No more traveling for a while” Pam admitted.
“And what will you be doing” She asked curiously?
“Visiting you silly” Pam said laughing.
Stephanie smiled and replied, “I would like that very much.”
After some small talk Stephanie hung up because Pam had to get ready as they were going out into the city. Hanging up, she smiled. She was happy for Pam. Her little sister deserved some happiness.
“Hello, you” Eric said as he saw her lost in thought.
“Hi, you’re back early” She replied as she looked at him intently.
“What” He asked knowing that look?
“Will you tell me know what required your attention at Forrester” She asked?
Eric sighed, shaking his head no, as he poured himself some juice.
“I still care about the business you now” She added.
“I know that you do, and I told you the business is fine” He replied.
“So, it wasn’t business” She said as she looked at him.
“It’s not important. Let it go Stephanie” He said making her more curious.
He began to walk away when she spoke.
“It was Donna, wasn’t it? You went to see her” She said making him stop. He turned and looked at her.
“Yes” He admitted.
“You don’t have to keep that from me. I know you are still married” She replied.
“On paper only” He reminded her.
“She wants to change that, right” She asked?
“Stephanie please, it doesn’t matter” He said bothered.
“If it doesn’t matter why are you getting upset” She asked?
“Because you clearly don’t trust me” He blurted out unintentionally.
“So, this is my fault” She asked shaking her head?
“It’s no one fault. I just don’t want to talk about it” He said as he walked back to her.
She looked at him suspiciously.
“I just want it to be over” He admitted.
Stephanie face softened.
“I’m tired Stephanie” He shared as he rubbed his hand over his face.
She walked around and stood beside him. “I know” She said in a caring voice.
He took her hand in his, turned to face her and said, “I want to spend all my time with you. Not trying to get this divorce finalized. Every time we talk about it, I feel like it is time away from us” He said honestly. He wanted her to know how he felt.
“Oh Eric…there are going to be times when our attention needs to be elsewhere. It is okay. Besides, if we spend all our time together, that would be boring, and we are never boring” She teased making him laugh.
She smiled at his laughter.
“You always know how to make me feel better” He said as he leaned in and kissed her lightly.
“Do you two ever stop” Felicia teased them as she walked in?
Eric laughed. Stephanie rolled her eyes.
“There they are” Kristen chimed in.
“They were smooching” Felicia announced.
“Oh my god” Stephanie groaned when the rest of the family walked in.
Eric could not help but smile.

Evening……

“It’s quiet” Eric said as he looked at Stephanie who sat across from him in a chair.
“Yes, it is” She admitted with a smile.
Dino was asleep on the sofa next to Eric.
Ridge, Thorne, Felicia, Kristen, Antonio and Zende had gone into the city with their encouragement.
“I miss them all” He admitted.
She smiled and said, “me too but it’s good for them to spend time with each other alone.”
“I agree” He said as he glanced down at Dino.
“He is just like Felicia” She said nostalgic.
“Yeah, he is. He asked me where was your ring” He shared know that no one was around?
“He what” She asked amused?
“He is very observant. He knew something was missing from that lovely hand” He smiled.
“Just like his mother” She smiled.
“Yup, I told him it was being fixed” He admitted.
“I would have said the same thing” She said reassuring him.
He got up slowly as not to wake Dino and then went over to where she sat. He sat in front of her and said, “I’ve given this a lot of thought and once my divorce is finalized, I want us to get married.”
“What? Oh Eric…” She replied as she nodded her head in disbelief.
“I can propose properly. In front of the family if that is what you want” He teased her wanting to lighten the conversation.
“It is not that. I mean, we, marriage again, why Eric…” She asked, curious?
“Because I love you and I want you to be my wife” He said honestly.
“I love you too but, I…we… don’t need a party and a piece of paper that says married. I mean, anybody who knows us, knows how we feel so…” She questioned?
“Are you saying no” He asked surprised?
“I thought we had already agreed on this when you moved back in” She answered honestly.
“We’re back” Kristen announced when she realized they walked in on something.
Eric stood up clearly upset.
All the kids looked at one another.
Felicia got Dino as she looked at her mother curiously.
Stephanie nodded her head no to tell them not to ask.
“Let me help you” Ridge offered as he took Dino in his arms and they went upstairs.
Thorne followed Eric who had walked out of the living room.
Stephanie did not try to stop him.
Antonio distracted Zende by asking him to do something, so they left the room as well.
“Mom…what is wrong with dad” Kristen asked as she sat beside her?
“We had a disagreement” Stephanie said not wanting to get into it.
“He seemed really upset” Kristen pushed.
“I seem to bring that out in him these days” Stephanie replied but, Kristen could see it was not good whatever it was.

Chapter Text

Outside….

“Dad” Thorne called out when he approached him by the pool.
“I’m fine” Eric lied.
“You are” He asked concerned?
“I don’t know why I’m surprised” Eric said out loud.
Thorne remained silent hoping his father would continue. He knew his father was holding in a lot. He never seemed to talk anymore.
“I asked your mother if once the divorce was finalized if she would marry me and she said no” Eric blurted out although he knew it was not exact it was what she meant.
“I’m sorry dad” Thorne said feeling badly for him.
“I did not think she would say no. I really did not…but I see now that she doesn’t trust me anymore” He continued.
“Because of Donna” Thorne asked?
“I thought that was what it was but, I think it’s more than just about Donna. I don’t think she feels she can rely on me” He continued.
“No, dad, come on. You have been here with her this whole time. I’m sure she sees that” Thorne said not believing what his father said was true.
“Yes, but I think she doesn’t think it will last, that I will stay” He said as he looked at his son.
Thorne heart broke. His father eyes were filled with unshed tears.
“Mother loves you dad” Thorne said hoping it would help.
“Does she” He asked? The tears fell down his cheeks.

Late evening…

Stephanie laid in bed awake. She was waiting for Eric so they could talk. She told Felicia to have Dino with her tonight. Felicia for once did not have a cheeky response. And, by the look on Thorne face, Stephanie knew Eric was not in a good place. As time passed, she realized Eric was not going to join her. She got up, put on her robe and went to find him. She found him in his home office on the couch. A blanket over him as he lay uncomfortably.
“Eric…” She called out as she closed the door and approached him.
“Stephanie…go back to bed” He said not turning around.
She stopped for a moment but then continued towards him. She sat beside him and touched his arm. He pulled away.
“Talk to me Eric” She begged him.
Angrily he sat up making her stand as he threw the blanket off and stood up.
“What is there to talk about? I asked you to marry me and you said no. I reach out to you and you pull away. I am here Stephanie! What else can I do to show that?! To show you that you can trust me” He blurted out, his tears springing out of his eyes and down his cheeks. He could no longer control them. He found that he could not stop crying which was why he hid in this room. He did not want this to happen and now it was.
“I do trust you” She said hoping he believed her.
“No, you don’t” He said breaking her heart.
“Getting married and being intimate…it’s not about, not trusting you” She admitted as she sat. She knew she had been hurting him, but she did not realize how badly until this moment.
He sat after a few moments waiting for her to continue.
“Marriage doesn’t work for us Eric and divorce, is painful. I do not want to go through that again. And I am not blaming you. I think it’s both of us, too much has happened which is why I don’t want to do it again” She explained.
“You don’t want to do it again meaning, you want to just shack up together so that when things get hard, I can walk out and spare you from a divorce. That is what you mean right” He challenged her?
“Eric…why are you picking a fight” She asked confused?
“Why are you willing to settle for this? You do not think we deserve to celebrate our love, our lives” He asked?
“I don’t need a celebration to know what we have” She said getting upset.
“What do you need? Because I don’t feel that you need me” He said honestly.
“How can you say that” She asked confused?
“You don’t want me, not as a husband, not as a lover…” He said his voice cracking with emotion.
“I do want you Eric…I…I’m not rejecting you” She tried to explain.
“It feels like you are” He admitted. The hurt reflected in his eyes preventing her from getting upset by his position on this.
She looked at him lost for words.
“I touch you and I can see how you don’t want me to” He said as he looked at her with hurt eyes.
“It’s not you” She tried to reassure him.
“Isn’t it” He pushed?
“What are you saying” She asked confused?
“I see you with Massimo and you have no problem with him hugging you, touching your hand or your arm, in fact you return his affections. Why not me” He asked shocking her?
“Massimo? Eric…I really do not know what you are suggesting but, we have a friendship there is nothing romantic about it. That is the difference” She said upset as she stood up now wanting distance from him.
“You say you aren’t rejecting me but, I want our relationship to be romantic and you do not want that. How is that not rejection” He asked?
“The problem is that I…she looked around lost for words and feeling as if no matter what she replied it would hurt him.
“Say it Stephanie” Eric pushed wanting her to admit that he was right. She was rejecting him.
“I can’t anymore Eric. I’ve told you that” She snapped upset since she felt cornered. She hated that feeling.
“You can’t? You will not even try” He said upset himself. He was tired of holding back his feelings.
“How do you know I’m not trying” She asked angrily?
“You said you needed it to be the right moment. Yet, every time I think it might be the right moment, like the night we were talking about the cabin, you still pulled away” He said, and she could see that he was genuinely confused and hurt. Her anger subsided. She sat back down and sighed.
“I thought it was the right moment too” She admitted.
He sat down wanting to understand.
“It felt nice. You and I…alone and all those old feelings” She continued.
He felt his heart- beat faster wanting and hoping she would continue.
“But then I…I felt my chest tightening and I got scared” She admitted.
“Why didn’t you say anything” He asked concerned?
“I did not know what to say, how to say it, explain it” She said honestly.
“Sweetheart, you need to tell me so that I know” He said tenderly.
“I know” She whispered.
“You can trust me” He promised as he sat beside her.
“I do” She promised.
“You can trust me with this too. With everything” He reassured her.
She looked at him with tearful eyes. She wished that were true. More than anything she wanted it to be true.
“You said your chest tightened and you got scared. What are you afraid will happen Stephanie” He asked needing to know?
“That I won’t be able to catch my breath. I am so tired all the time. And sometimes…I feel like I cannot breathe. It is as if the air is being taken from me” She finally admitted, her tears falling.
He pulled her close and held her wanting desperately to give her love and support.
“Eric…I don’t think I can…I don’t think it will ever be the right moment…not when I’m like this” She admitted.
He could not speak, his heart broken as he just held her.

The next day…

Stephanie left early without telling anyone where she was going. She had to do this. Even if it hurt.
“What are you doing here” Donna asked when she opened Brooke front door?
“I’m here to see you” Stephanie admitted.
Donna let her in.
Both women stood in the living room.
“Are you here to try to threaten me into signing the divorce papers” Donna asked as she stood confrontationally with her arms crossed?
“No. I’m here to tell you that Eric proposed to me” Stephanie admitted.
Donna face shattered in disbelief.
“I’m not here to rub it in. I really am not. I came here to tell you that by not signing the papers you are hurting him” Stephanie explained hoping Donna would listen for once.
“How am I hurting him? I love him Stephanie” Donna defended her actions.
“He feels he is losing time fighting you on the divorce. Time, he wants to spend with me” Stephanie admitted.
“Of-course it is always about you and what you want” Donna hissed.
“No. It’s not. Donna, I am sure Brooke told you about my health. It is true. Look, Eric wants to spend his time with me while we still have time” Stephanie forced herself to admit.
Donna looked at her as if it finally sunk in for the first time.
“Give him the divorce Donna. Let him be at peace. If you really love him…do not make him live with regrets” Stephanie said and then left leaving Donna to her thoughts.

Forrester….

Eric spend the day and evening at the company. After last night, he could not face Stephanie yet. He knew she was not alone, he felt okay about not being there. Although, he knew he would have to face her soon. The door opening surprised him. Donna walked in.
“What are you doing here” Eric asked upset?
“Stephanie came to see me” She admitted.
Eric stared at her in surprise.
“She’s dying” Donna said as she looked at Eric for confirmation? She honestly was not sure she could believe Stephanie.
The look on Eric face told her it was true.
“Why didn’t you tell me” She asked as she got closer to him?
“It’s no one business” He said upset that Stephanie went to Donna behind his back.
“I know you’re hurting right now” She said sadly.
“I don’t want to talk about this with you” He said knowing he could not talk about it with anyone.
“You want to marry her before she dies” She said, and his heart constricted.
“I love her” He forced himself to speak against the knot in his throat.
“I know” She said as she looked down and that was when he realized she had an envelope in her hands.
“You signed them” He asked hopeful?
“Yes” She admitted as she looked at him sadly.
“Thank you, Donna” He said relieved.
“This does not mean that I don’t love you” She explained.
“I know” He admitted.

Chapter Text

Mansion…

Stephanie was in bed when Eric walked in. She could not pretend she was not upset with him for being gone all day and night leaving her to answer the questions of their family.
“Stephanie…” He called out since he was not sure she was awake. He wanted to thank her for talking to Donna.
“Apparently you like the couch. I suggest you go back to it because you are not sleeping here tonight” She said her voice firm. She did not turn to look at him.
Eric sighed knowing she had every right to be upset. He put the envelope down and walked around to her side of the bed.
“I mean it Eric” She said upset as she looked at him with icy blue eyes.
He kneeled- down beside her, took her hand in his and said, “thank you.”
“What” She asked confused?
“Donna signed the papers” He said as he looked at her.
“She did” Stephanie asked surprised?
“She told me you went to see her and told her about your health” He said as he looked at her with love in his eyes.
“I’m glad she listened” She said, and she was. She did not want Eric to have regrets once she was gone.
“And I’m glad that you went to see her. I wasn’t at first but, I know you did it for me and that it was not easy for you” He said swallowing his tears, but she could see them in his eyes.
“You are still not forgiven” She said firmly but inside she felt her heart squeeze tight for him. She knew what he was giving up. A life with Donna was not something she could understand but she knew he did in fact love her. She was not in denial about that. Donna was also young and…she stopped herself from thinking the rest.
“Why Stephanie? Why did you go to her and ask her to sign these if…if you don’t want to get married” He asked needing to know?
“Maybe if you came home earlier, I would answer that” She said remaining firm but, the truth was she did not want to upset him. She did it for him so he could have peace when she died not live with this guilt, he has been consumed with about them not being married. She knew it is not the answer he would want to hear. Eric was always a dreamer and she knew his outlook on their life was one of a life- time of love and overcoming challenges. And it was but it was also a lot of hurt and pain. He seemed to always leave that part out.
He smiled at her involuntarily and quickly got serious stating, “Okay, I deserved that. I will forgo the couch my back is killing me but, I will be in the guest room…if you need me” He replied his eyes shone with love.
“Goodnight” She said pretending to be indifferent.
“Goodnight” He said as he kissed her cheek and got up.
She watched him leave the room and shut the door. Her eyes closed as they watered. She loved him so much. She did not want to keep hurting him. Yet, she knew she was, she knew she would, and her heart broke for him.
Eric got in the shower and then after he pulled the covers back on the guest bed. He sighed as he got in staring up at the ceiling. He began to think of Stephanie going to see Donna. A smile crossed his lips as he realized, she is going to marry me.

The next day…

Stephanie and the girls were in the kitchen making breakfast and talking when Eric walked in whistling happily. They all looked at him wondering what made him so happy when he had clearly slept in the guest bedroom. Everyone knew that.
“Good morning” Eric chirped as he made it a point to walk over to Stephanie and kiss her on the lips.
Kristen and Felicia looked at one another in surprise.
“Eric...” Stephanie huffed with a mix of surprise and embarrassment.
“Lovely morning, isn’t it” He asked her with a big smile?
Stephanie eyed him carefully and after a moment realized why he was so happy. He knew she was going to say yes to his marriage proposal. She could not help but be bothered a bit. How presumptuous after he was out seeing Donna last night leaving her home to deal with the family questions!
Eric realized Stephanie was not happy and began to have doubts about his assumption.
“Coffee…daddy” Felicia asked wanting to break the weird silence?
“Yes, please. Thank you” Eric replied as he walked over and hugged her then Kristen.
Stephanie smiled but managed to look away when Eric looked at her again. She pretended to be stirring her tea.
Once he had his coffee he asked, “where is Dino?”
“He left with Zende and Antonio this morning” Kristen volunteered.
“Oh…” Eric said sounding disappointed.
Stephanie knew Eric enjoyed being with the boys and the men.
“I believe Ridge and Thorne are coming over” Stephanie shared as she sipped her tea.
Eric smiled happily confirming her suspicion.
“I will leave you ladies to it then” Eric said as he waved at the girls and approached Stephanie again.
Her eyebrow lifted making him think twice about kissing her again but deciding to throw caution to the wind, he bent down and kissed her lips sweetly whispering, “don’t over -do it today alright.”
“Alright” Stephanie replied, her cheeks blushing. He had managed to somehow get into her good graces again.
“See you all later” Eric said as he walked out of the kitchen.
“Well…well…did we miss something” Felicia teased.
“Nothing that concerns any of you” Stephanie replied embarrassed.
“Those kisses were very confident” Kristen teased.
“Yes, they were maybe someone…she looked at her mother…had a midnight visitor” Felicia teased.
“Oh brother…” Stephanie replied rolling her eyes making both girls laugh.

Afternoon……

Eric got home and found Stephanie in the living room with Dino.
“Grandpa” Dino yelled excited as he ran into his arms.
“Hey buddy” Eric said fondly as he hugged him smiling at Stephanie from across the room.
“Grandma and I are going to watch a movie. You want to watch it” Dino asked as he led him to where Stephanie sat?
“Sure, sounds great” Eric replied as he winked at Stephanie.
She smiled as she watched Dino as he sat down beside her and then patted the seat next to him for his grandpa.
Eric sat beside him and then smiled at Stephanie.
“Ready” Stephanie asked amused?
“Ready” Dino mimicked her.
“Ready” Eric chimed in.
Stephanie pushed play on the movie as Dino snuggled up to her.
Eric watched them fondly. His heart squeezed at the sight. He reached over placing his arm across the back of the sofa touching Stephanie shoulder.
Stephanie looked at him.
He smiled lovingly.
Her eyes softened.
That is how they were when Antonio, Zende, Thorne, Ridge, Kristen and Felicia walked in with dinner and dessert.
They all ate while they watched the movie. All the chairs were taken and some of them sat on the floor surrounding the television.
Eric looked at Stephanie again. He saw the happiness on her face as she watched their family. Unable to help himself he caressed her shoulder softly.
She looked at him suddenly very aware that this touch was different then the last one.
“I love you” He mouthed as he winked at her.

Late evening…

Everyone went to bed shortly after Stephanie did. They did not want to keep their father away from their mother and they knew their mother would insist he spend time with them. After Thorne filled them in on the failed marriage proposal, they all agreed to push them together every chance they got.
“You left them” Stephanie asked surprised when Eric walked into the bedroom?
“They were all calling it an early night” He admitted.
“Really” She asked suspiciously?
He chuckled as he sat on the bed and took off his shoes.
“Am I allowed back” He asked as he looked at her?
“I suppose so” She said pretending to still be upset.
He smiled at her then proceeded to undress and make his way into the bathroom.
Once he was done showering, he joined her in bed wearing only pajama pants.
Stephanie was reading when he got into bed.
“What are you reading” He asked curious?
“Some information from the charity” She replied honestly as she put the papers down, took her glasses off and pulled the covers up under her chin.
Eric settled in and shut the light off.
After a few moments he faced her.
She wanted to question him about the kisses in the kitchen, his flirting in the living room earlier but decided against it.
“I had Jonathan file the divorce papers this morning” He admitted.
“Oh…” She said surprised he did it so quick.
“And I told him we were back together” He admitted.
“Did you” She asked a bit embarrassed?
“He thinks we are crazy by the way” He smiled.
“Because we are” She smiled back.
He laughed.
She laughed.
“I gave her a generous amount” He confessed not wanting to have secrets.
“I am sure you did” She said knowing he would want to take care of Donna.
“I did not give her part of Forrester” He said wanting her to know.
“Good thing because if you did you would be permanently banned from this room” She said seriously.
“Don’t I know it” He smiled.
She shook her head.
“She did make one request” He said deciding to be completely honest.
“Do I want to know” She asked as she placed her arms over the blanket and placed them on her stomach?
He could see she was deep in thought.
“She wants to keep her job at Forrester” He admitted bracing himself to be thrown out of the bedroom, again.
“Yes…I’m sure she does” She replied. Stephanie knew this was Donna way of staying close to Eric since she now knows about her health. She would wait and then…she stopped her train of thought.
Eric waited for more, but none came.
Eric reached over and touched her hand with his.
Stephanie looked at him.
“If having her there is a problem, I will tell her no” He said seriously.
“Well, she’s a Logan…” She replied trying to lighten the conversation.
He laughed.
She smiled feeling better about how she reacted but inside, she felt it, and she knew what Donna had planned but, she was determined to not dwell on it. Once she was gone…Eric would have to make those decisions. He had adamantly refused to talk to her about this no matter how many times she tried to.
“I love you, you know” He whispered as he touched her hand again, caressing it.
“I know” She replied, and she became very aware of his touch again. It was warm and nice. It felt good but, she did not want to lead him on. She found that she often struggled with, whether a touch would lead to him wanting more.
Eric noticed her reaction.
“Does it bother you when I touch you” He asked concerned?
Stephanie looked at him, her eyes softened.
“Does it” He asked again?
“No…I am curious though” She admitted.
“About what” He asked?
“What is with all the flirting today? Did you do something else I should know about” She asked seriously?
Eric laughed loudly making her smile.
“Stop. You’ll wake Dino” She chastised him.
“We can’t do that. He will want to join us” He teased.

Chapter Text

The next day….

Stephanie came downstairs for breakfast and was happily surprised to see Pam.
“Pammy” Stephanie said as she went to her.
“Steph, you look great. How are you” Pam asked as they hugged?
“Thank you. You look great too” Stephanie replied.
“How are you? Really” Pam asked concerned that she avoided the question?
“I am fine. I have my children. Kristen is home and…honestly, I am very, happy” Stephanie admitted.
Pam smiled at her as they sat down together.
“And Eric” Pam asked?
“He has been wonderful” Stephanie admitted.
Pam smiled happily.
Stephanie smile began to waver although she tried hard to keep up a brave face.
“Tell me. What is it” Pam asked?
“It is silly. Nothing you need or want to know about” Stephanie said suddenly feeling embarrassed and not wanting to discuss things after all.
“If it is something that is weighing on you then I want to help if I can” Pam replied supportive.
Stephanie looked around, realizing they were alone, she replied, “we have been arguing recently.”
“About” Pam asked?
“About…well…that” Stephanie replied forcing herself to admit it out loud.
“I…oh…” Pam said when she figured it out by Stephanie face.
“Are you…” Stephanie asked?
“Yes…we are….” Pam admitted.
“Good. I am happy for you, Pammy” Stephanie replied honestly.
“You and Eric…” Pam asked?
“No…” Stephanie admitted.
“Since….” Pam pushed?
“The diagnosis. I just…I do not feel…I have no interest in it” Stephanie admitted.
“I am sure Eric understands” Pam replied.
“He feels rejected” Stephanie shared honestly.
“Oh…Steph….” Pam hugged her.
“How do I explain it to him so he can understand” Stephanie asked since she was truly at a loss?
“Tell him the truth. Whatever it is” Pam encouraged her.
“Eric does not handle the truth well” Stephanie reminded her.
Pam smiled and said, “Eric wants his wife…still…after all these years. I can only wish that we will be that way. You have 50 years. That says a lot about how Eric feels. I think if you explain he will understand.”
“We were not together the whole time and I am not his wife anymore. Donna is” Stephanie reminded her.
“In his eyes, you are, and you always will be” Pam said certain.
“Yes…well…” Stephanie sighed. She knew her sister was right, but it made her feel even worse. She knew Eric loved her but…she also knew that their future would not be what they had always dreamed. To retire and travel the world just the two of them. He had been asking her to do that for a long time and she never agreed because of the family and the business, then Donna…and now this…again.
“Have you tried to get help for it” Pam asked?
“I have only spoken to Taylor…” Stephanie admitted.
“Maybe you should talk to someone else or there are all kinds of products and lingerie that can help” Pam suggested when she noticed Stephanie reaction. She knew her sister was private and would not talk to anyone else.
“I do not think that is something I want to try” Stephanie replied feeling more embarrassed.
“Steph…Eric is a designer for women. Maybe, he has something that you can wear that will…” Pam tried to suggest but Stephanie stopped her.
“No…I…” Stephanie stood up and began to pace.
“Steph…” Pam replied concerned by her sister reaction.
She sighed then admitted, “He gave me a gift before, a nightgown…I told him I did not want to wear it. We argued and he forced the truth from me. I told him he was right that I was avoiding him, avoiding being intimate and that he needed to accept that part of our lives was over. We almost parted ways.”
“What” Pam asked shocked by all that has happened? She had no idea they were not doing well.
“I told him if there was someplace else, he would rather be…but he told me he wanted to be with me and that he loved me and our family. Ever since, he has been bringing up the issue and I told him that maybe if the moment is right it could happen, but I do not think that is going to ever happen. And now, Donna…I know she wants him back, but he is determined to divorce her and wants to marry me. But what kind of marriage will that be for him. I…I don’t know what to do” Stephanie admitted as she placed her hand against her head.
Pam walked over to her and hugged her tight. She could see how much her sister was struggling with this.
That was what Eric saw when he walked in. He knew he walked in on something important. Not wanting to interrupt he walked toward his study quietly but hearing them made him stop.
“Oh Steph…have you considered that maybe you do not feel that way about him anymore” Pam asked concerned?
“I love him” Stephanie replied confused by what her sister meant.
“I know that but do you…want him…romantically” Pam asked?
Eric waited and listened, his heart pounding in anticipation of the answer. He knew it was wrong to listen in on their private conversation, but he needed to know.
Stephanie remained silent.
“Or has too much happened? I noticed a certain someone is back. Could this be about Massimo” Pam asked carefully?
Stephanie opened but then closed her mouth. She was truly speechless in the moment.
Eric felt his heart sink by her silence.
“Steph, do you want to be with Massimo” Pam asked deciding to take the risk by asking? It was not a secret that he had deep feelings for her.
Eric felt his fists tighten as he continued to listen, his heart racing. Did Stephanie want Massimo?
“Pam…Mass and I…we…are just friends” Stephanie said surprisingly not upset. The truth was if anyone knew how much she cared for Massimo it was Pam. They had all grown up together.
“Are you sure” Pam asked gently? She suspected there was more to it, but she would take her sister at her word.
“Yes, I’m sure” Stephanie replied.
Eric let go of the breath he was holding in.
“Then what is keeping you from wanting to be with Eric” Pam asked?
“I…I just…can’t” Stephanie replied vaguely.
“Do you feel it physically when you are close” Pam continued to ask?
“Sometimes” Stephanie admitted.
“And other times” Pam asked?
“I…I have no interest in it” Stephanie admitted.
“Well…when you do have interest…what stops you” Pam asked?
“My health” Stephanie admitted honestly.
Realizing it was not rejection, although Stephanie had been telling him that all along, he always felt she was not being completely honest. But know he knew she was being honest. And it made him feel worse somehow. He had let her down and caused her more pain than necessary. He vowed to make it up to her. Determined he left them to talk and went into his study.
“I want you to consider wearing something when you are in the mood” Pam suggested.
Stephanie sighed.
“Try it. What can it hurt” Pam asked?
“I just…I think we are past that” Stephanie replied as she waved her hand at her sister.
“There is no such thing as being past romance” Pam teased her with a smile and a slight shove.
Stephanie smiled at her sister.
“Eric loves you and he wants to show you that in a physical way. You are the love of his life, you know. I hope you see that he wants to prove that to you. You’ve always told me Eric is an artist maybe this is the only way he knows how to show you” Pam said as she hugged her sister.
Stephanie closed her eyes thinking, that is what I do not want, not now, not anymore.

Late evening….

“Did you enjoy your visit with Pam” Eric asked as he joined her in bed?
“How did you know” Stephanie asked her heart beating fast? Did Eric overhear them, she wondered?
“I saw her” Eric admitted.
“You were home. Why did you not say something” Stephanie asked nervously?
“I did not want to interrupt” Eric said honestly.
They looked into each other eyes for a long moment and she knew that he knew, he overheard them.
“I am very happy that you have Pam to talk to and I hope that you enjoyed your visit” Eric replied deciding tonight was not the night to discuss anything.
“Thank you and yes…I did” Stephanie replied.
“Goodnight” Eric said with a kiss to her cheek and then he shut off his light and snuggled under the covers.
“Goodnight” Stephanie replied surprised that he did not want to talk about it. She shut her light off and snuggled under the covers as well.

The next day…

Eric thought about how he was going to prove to Stephanie that she could let her guard down with him. He wanted to show her how much he loved her without scaring her. He spent the day making plans for their evening and enlisted the help of the children as well. They all were happy about his idea. The only one that expressed concern was Thorne.
“Dad, are you sure this is a good idea” Thorne asked concerned?
“I want her to see how much I love her” Eric replied.
“Mother knows how much you love her” Thorne replied as he sat across from his father.
“Yes but, I want her to see it. I want to wine and dine her, dance with her, watch the stars together…” Eric explained.
“You want to romance her I know but, what if she takes it the wrong way” Thorne asked concerned?
“Then I will reassure her” Eric said wanting to ease his son worries.
“If you are sure” Thorne sighed.
“I am” Eric nodded his head.

Chapter Text

Evening…

Stephanie got home after a long day of meetings for the charity. She was surprised to see candles lit and the lights dim. Her heart instantly began to beat fast as she walked into the dining room. The room was beautiful with flowers, candles and champagne on ice.
“Eric…” Stephanie called out.
“In here” Eric called out from the kitchen.
Stephanie walked in and saw him cutting up a salad.
“What is all of this” She asked taken aback?
“Dinner, just us” He smiled as he cut the vegetables.
“And you cooked” She asked surprised?
“Don’t worry our main course is from Café Russe” He reassured her.
She found herself smiling. It truly was sweet of him.
“Go take a bath and freshen up. I know you had a long day” He encouraged her.
“I think I will. Thank you” She said thanking him for all of it.
“You welcome. Go on now. Dinner should be ready in an hour” He smiled.
“Alright. See you in an hour” She agreed as she walked back out.
Eric sighed relieved. She seemed calm. That was a good sign.
Stephanie went upstairs and ran her bath. She poured some oil and lavender into the bath water. She began to undress as her mind went to all the trouble Eric was going through downstairs. Once undressed she climbed into the tub and sunk down slowly enjoying the hot water as it soothed her aching muscles. She leaned back resting her head against the head rest Eric had installed for her. She closed her eyes and allowed all the tension from the day to disappear.
An hour later, Stephanie came downstairs dressed in a comfortable top and slacks. She found Eric setting the table.
“Need any help” She asked as she walked over to him?
“No. I have it. You can have a seat Milady” He teased as he pulled out her chair.
“Why thank you kind sir” She played along as she sat.
Eric smiled at her playfulness. He felt more relaxed.
Once the table was set. He opened the champagne and poured her a bit and himself a full glass.
“To our beautiful family” He toasted.
She smiled loving his toast.
They clinked glasses and sipped.
Eric began dinner by serving them both, salad.
An hour later, they sat out in the balcony looking out at the stars. Eric had a glass of wine and Stephanie had iced tea.
“Beautiful night” She sighed content.
“Yes, it is” He admitted as he looked over at her.
Eric got up and went inside making Stephanie wonder where he was off to.
Moments later, she heard music.
Eric walked back out and approached her with his hand out.
A memory of Eric giving her a present, a nightgown after dinner, wanting to dance with her…she willed that memory away. She had hurt him deeply that night. She did not want to do that again.
“May I have this dance milady” He teased with a twinkle in his eyes?
“Yes, you may, kind sir” She played along as she stood up and took his hand.
They began to sway to the soft music.
“Thank you for this evening Eric. It is very lovely” She complimented.
“I am glad you are enjoying it” He whispered.
She felt his hand grab her hand as their fingers interlocked.
She suddenly felt shy, being like this with him as if they were a young couple in love. She normally would have pulled away. The intimacy of it being too much for her to handle when she felt…like this. It was what happened that night he gave her the night- gown but she forced herself to stay in the moment. She did not want to hurt him again.

Late evening….

After helping Eric clean up much to his displeasure they were finally done in the kitchen and the dining room. It got cool out, so they closed the balcony doors and then went into the living room. They were sitting across from one another now.
“The dessert, you made it, didn’t you” Stephanie asked?
“Yes, I did. How did you know” He asked?
“You made it for me once. When I was pregnant with Felicia” She surprised him.
He smiled, “you remembered.”
“I did” She smiled back.
Eric eyes looking into her eyes deeply made her remember the rest of that night. She had been 8 months pregnant. After a romantic night he had brought up some dessert to bed. That was the beginning of their tradition.
“Was it still good” He asked?
“Delicious” She reassured him.
“One more dance” He asked? He did not want to tire her out.
“Alright” She smiled.
Eric put the music on, and they began to sway. He leaned in closer taking in her scent of lavender. His arms wrapped around her waist as they moved.
Stephanie found herself enjoying it.
Once the song was over, they blew out the remaining candles. Eric locked up. Stephanie went upstairs first. Eric stayed downstairs for a few moments. They had a wonderful night, but he had to remind himself that it did not mean anything else would happen. He needed to be okay with that. Feeling ready he made his way upstairs. Stephanie was in the bathroom preparing for bed. Eric began to undress and then it happened, his thoughts went to Stephanie in the shower.
Stephanie came out of the bathroom in her robe.
Eric went into the bathroom and put the shower on quickly wanting to avoid Stephanie.
Stephanie paced around the bedroom wondering what if anything Eric expected to happen now. He had not given her any indication that he expected more but, she found that it worried her a bit.
Her thoughts went to Pammy words.
She could not deny that she felt happy and content, the dancing was wonderful and the way he held her hand and waist, yes, she had felt something. She closed her eyes nervously.
Eric took his shower and then waited a few moments as he stared at himself in the mirror. The shower did not help to quench what he was feeling. He wanted the real Stephanie not just the Stephanie in his memories. He sighed knowing that kind of thinking was what got him into trouble before. Giving up, he opened the door and shut off the light. He walked over the bed, the only light on was on Stephanie side. He climbed into bed and turned to look over at her to say good night. His pupils dilated when she leaned in and kissed him on the lips, deepening the kiss after a few moments.
“Steph…” He began to question but she placed her finger on his lips.
“I remember all of that night” She whispered.
He nodded his head. He did not want to play dumb. Yes, he had planned tonight and centered the dessert to remind her of that night. She had been 8 months pregnant, was tired running after three other kids and taking care of a house. She had felt unattractive, compared herself to the models and other women he worked with at Forrester. The company she helped him build. And she was sick a lot with this pregnancy and he knew it reminded her of the past. She was still mourning Angela the memories of their baby girl and the difficult pregnancy was on both of their minds. He had wanted to reassure her, so he surprised her with a dinner, leaving the kids with his parents so they could be alone, they danced and watched the stars before they went up to bed and he brought up dessert. He had laid out a nightgown for her that he made, and she wore it proudly. And, he had been proud and felt like the luckiest man in the world having her with him, he had fallen in love all over again that night.
“It was suggested that I should wear something when I feel in…she blushed…the mood” She whispered as she looked into his eyes.
Eric swallowed nervously but looked at her in a confused manner. She was not wearing anything other than his shirt. That of course had always been one of his favorites but…did this mean she was not in the mood. At least not with him. Thoughts of her conversation about Massimo creeped into his mind making him feel insecure.
“I want you to know that I love you and I want to be close to you” She forced herself to say even as she saw the sadness creep into his facial expression. “I am not rejecting you. I’m just not sure if I can…” She tried to explain.
Remembering what she told Pammy about her health made him stop worrying. “You can…you guide me” He suggested.
“Like that night” She smiled.
“Yes…” He smiled.
She reached out and touched his face lovingly.
“I love you Stephanie” He whispered as he kissed her hand that touched his face.
“I love you” She whispered.
Eric reached out and cupped her face lovingly as he leaned in for a kiss.
She responded to the kiss which made his heart- beat faster.
“You are beautiful” He whispered.
She blushed at the compliment.
He pulled her in close embracing her as they kissed softly once again. She did not pull away which made his heart soar.

 

The next day…

Eric woke up and was disappointed to find Stephanie was not there. His heart sank as he thought she regrets last night. They had not made love, but she had shared that she had been in the mood and wanted to be close to him. He hoped she did not regret sharing that with him, cuddling with him in bed, the kissing. He had felt closer to her in that moment then he had in a long time.
“Good morning, I thought you would never wake up” Stephanie teased him as she walked in with a tray of breakfast and coffee.
“Good morning” He replied surprised. A smile crossed his face.
“Here you go, my Prince” She teased as she placed the tray over his lap.
“Join me” He stated with hopeful eyes.
“Alright” She gave in as she got in beside him.
“Did you eat” He asked?
“Yes, I did. The tea is mine. The rest is yours” She smiled.
“Thank you” He whispered as he leaned in and kissed her lips.
She smiled shyly at him.
He found it endearing.
He began to eat while she sipped her tea.
“It’s delicious” He complimented.
“A thank you for last night” She replied.
“No, thank you. I…I am so happy Steph that you wanted to try and be close” He stated wanting her to know how he felt. He reached out and took her hand in his, holding it.
“I want to keep trying if that is…what you still want” She whispered unsure.
“It is” He reassured her.
She smiled softly at him.
Before he could say anything, she said, “eat up before it gets cold.”
“Whatever you want” He smiled teasingly.
Stephanie shook her head with a smile as she watched him finish eating.

An hour later…

“That was the best breakfast” He stated as he looked at her content.
She giggled.
“What” He asked amused?
“You’re easy” She smiled.
“Am I” He flirted?
“Mhmm. I see the way to your heart is your stomach” She teased.
“Sure is” He teased back.
She giggled.
“You have my heart. You know that don’t you” He asked seriously?
She smiled at him lovingly.
“Tell me you know that” He reiterated with hopeful eyes.
“I now” She teased as she gave him a flirtatious look.
He laughed making her laugh.
Stephanie removed the tray.
“Don’t go just put it anywhere” He suggested.
She placed it down and then joined him as he wanted.
“Last night…I…I wasn’t sure if…” He said hoping she understood what he was asking?
She blushed feeling embarrassed.
“If you ever do…I want you to tell me” He forced himself to continue. He did not want to upset her, but he needed her to know that she had to guide him. He did not want to do something she did not want or was ready for.
A knock on the door prevented them from speaking further.
Stephanie answered.
“Good morning love birds, any chance you are coming down for breakfast” Felicia teased?
“Your father and I already ate but yes, we will be down soon” Stephanie reassured her.
“Oh really, maybe a breakfast in bed after a romantic night scenario took place” Felicia continued to tease?
“Go” Stephanie said seriously but her smile betrayed her.
Felicia winked at her and left.
Stephanie closed the door shaking her head.
“Our rebel” He teased.
“Yes…” She smiled.
“We should go down before Dino comes” He laughed as he got up.
Stephanie laughed as she watched him go into the bathroom. His previous words in her mind. A slight blush crept up. She shook her head. Prior to talking to Pammy, she had felt that maybe the time for romance with Eric had passed and that it was time for them to put that part of their lives behind them. She knew of course that Eric did not agree. Now, she felt differently thanks to Eric, Taylor and her sister. She now realized she needed to talk to Taylor about other things.

Downstairs…

Stephanie went down first and sat with Felicia and Dino as they ate breakfast.
“Grandma, you are not hungry” Dino asked as he ate cereal?
“I already ate with grandpa” She reassured him with a smile.
“Where is grandpa” He asked curiously as he looked around?
“On cloud nine” Felicia teased mischievously.
“Where is that” He asked confused?
Stephanie laughed making Felicia smile.
Eric walked in before Dino could ask anything else.
“Grandpa” He yelled happily.
“Hello” Eric replied as he kissed the top of his grandson head and then his daughter cheek.
Stephanie watched them with a smile.
“Hello, you” Eric teased Stephanie as he stood beside her leaning in and kissing her on the lips.
“Ewww” Dino yelled out making them all laugh.
“Oh brother…” Stephanie laughed.
“That’s my boy” Felicia laughed.
Eric smiled widely at his grandson.