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Long, Long Journey

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Felicia sighed as she sat down beside her mother.  “I have something to tell you, Mom.”

“The reason why you came home?”  Stephanie asked as she smiled at her daughter.

“Yeah.”

Stephanie studied the younger woman.  “What is it, Baby?”

Felicia smiled at her mother.  “Are you ever going to stop calling me that?”

“Well, probably not.”  Stephanie chuckled.  “Now, tell me what’s bothering you.”

“It’s about Dino.”

Grasping her daughter’s hand, Stephanie studied her.  “He isn’t sick, is he?”

“No, Mom.  He’s okay.  It’s just that…well…”

“Spit it out, Felicia.” 

“He’s not Dante’s.”

“What do you mean, he’s not Dante’s?  The DNA test proved that he was.”

“But it was wrong.”

“I think you’d better start at the beginning because I’m confused.”

Felicia shrugged.  “I’ve always been so sure that Nick was the father, even after the test said he wasn’t.  I pushed the feeling to the back of my mind and ignored it, but deep down, Dante being Dino’s father didn’t feel right.  While I was in Europe and visiting Dante so Dino could have time with his father, I kept noticing little things.  The biggest one being, Dino doesn’t look anything like Dante.”  She looked up at her mother.  “He has blond hair, Mom.  Blond hair like Nick.”

“Baby, he could get his blond hair from me.”

“He has Nick’s nose and hands.  The DNA test I had done in Europe proved he isn’t Dante’s.  He’s Nick’s, Mom.”

“You haven’t told this to Nick, have you?”

Felicia shook her head.  “No.  I want to do a DNA test first just to have absolute proof.”

“Oh, Felicia.  You can’t put Nick through this again.  He’s going through so much right now with Bridget and her baby not being his.  He’s been hurt badly, Baby.”

Felicia looked down at her hands.  “I know.  I won’t hurt him again.  I promise.”

“Just be careful and don’t have the test run here.”

She laughed and hugged her mother.  “I’ll be careful, and I’ll have the test run in Florida when I go pick up Dino.”

“Why did you leave Dino in Florida?”

“Because I knew that I would be meeting with Nick to get what I needed and I didn’t want Dino in the way.  I,” she paused and fidgeted.

Stephanie squeezed her daughter’s hands.  “You didn’t want Nick to see Dino because you’re afraid he’d see what you see.”

Felicia nodded.  “Yeah.”

“Baby?”  Stephanie asked.

“Yeah, Mom?”

“Are you still in love with Nick?”

Felicia’s eyes widened.  “You’re not supposed to do that,” she whispered as she hugged her mother.

“What?  Read you like a book?”

“Yes.”

“Baby, I’ll always be able to read you like a book.  There’s too much of me in you.”

Felicia pulled back and smiled as she reached up to caress a line by her mother’s eyes.  “In your magic blue eyes.”

Stephanie shook her head.  “Thorne said that same thing.  Where did you get that from?”

“Daddy.”  Felicia smiled as she leaned her head on Stephanie’s shoulder.  “We were all supposed to be in bed, but we knew something was going on with you and Daddy, so we waited until the two of you were in here then snuck down and sat on the steps.  We listened quietly, me all snuggled up on Thorne’s lap.”

Stephanie laughed.  “You were always snuggling up on Thorne’s lap when you were all sneaking around.”

“Probably because when we were that young, he was carrying me most of the time.”

“Probably.  Finish your story.”

“Anyway, the two of you had been fighting and had tried hiding it from us, but we knew.  I think we were all afraid you were going to split up.”

“I’m sorry for that, Baby.”

“Don’t apologize.  It wasn’t your fault.  We all knew about Dad’s wandering eye.  Even as little as I was, I had seen it enough to know he was doing something he shouldn’t be…not that I understood exactly what that something was.  You had been so sad, and when Daddy came home early that night, you were a bit shocked.  We had dinner and enjoyed Daddy playing the piano for us then you sent us to bed.  The older kids weren’t too happy with that, but did it anyway.  We could hear Daddy telling you that he was sorry, that he knew he was wrong.  He said the model had tried to get him to sleep with her, but the picture he kept of you on his desk fell over when he leaned back and when he looked down, there were those magic blue eyes staring up at him, and he couldn’t do it.  So he’d pushed her away and told her to forget it, that nothing was going to happen.  Then he came home to spend time with us and apologize to you.”

Stephanie sighed.  “I remember that night, but not the magic blue eyes comment.  And I don’t remember you kids sneaking down to eavesdrop, something I usually knew without looking.”

“You were a bit upset that night, Mom.  What Dad told you hurt you.  I didn’t really understand what he’d said, but I could tell by Thorne’s reaction, that it wasn’t good.  The boys sent Kristen upstairs with me and stayed behind to see what happened.”

“What happened was that your brothers saw your father getting down on his knees in front of me to beg me to forgive him for nearly messing up again.  I never considered it then, but I think he always felt like losing Angela was his punishment for having a one night stand with a model just six months before Angela was conceived.”

“That’s exactly how I’ve always felt about Angela.”  Eric chimed in as he came into the room.  “And I remember that night, too.  Those magic blue eyes nearly killed me when they filled with tears as I told you what almost happened with the model.”

“They’re not magic.”  Stephanie whispered as she looked up at Eric.

“Yes, Sweetheart, they are.  At least to me, they are.”

“They are to us kids, too, Mom.”  Felicia smiled and kissed her mother’s cheek.  “I’m gonna go.  Nick and I are having lunch.”

Stephanie patted her daughter’s cheek.  “Have a good lunch, Baby.”

“Always do when there’s a handsome man involved.”

“Felicia!”  Stephanie laughed and swatted at her daughter who narrowly escaped.

“Hey!  No hitting the offspring!”

“Go!”  Eric laughed and kissed Felicia on the cheek as she walked by him.  Shaking his head when the front door banged shut, he turned back to Stephanie.

“Hello, Honey.”  Stephanie smiled.

“Hi, Sweetheart.”  Eric returned the greeting as he sat down beside Stephanie and kissed her.  “Mmm, sweet as candy.”

“Oh good grief.”  Stephanie huffed then laughed.  “You’re so cheesy.”

“I thought you liked it when I’m cheesy.”

“Mmm hmm,” she hummed and nodded.  “I do.”

“Guess what I realized shortly after I left?”

“What?”

“I didn’t make love to you last night, or this morning.”

“Ooh, you’re right.”  She pouted.  “What are you going to do about it?”

Eric looked at his watch.  “It’s well past time for a nap,” he breathed with a soft smile as he tucked her hair behind her ear.

Stephanie faked a yawn.  “And I’m getting rather tired,” she suggested quietly.

Standing, Eric held out his hand.  “Join me upstairs in our big bed for a, uh…nap?”

Laughing softly, Stephanie stood up and took his hand.  “That sounds…” she paused, her voice lowering as she pressed her body close to his.  “like an invitation I can’t pass up.”

 

E**S

 

Stephanie sighed as she snuggled closer to Eric’s warm body.  The breeze coming in through the open balcony doors had cooled off and from the look of the sky, a storm was moving in.  She didn’t want to move, but the doors really needed to be closed.

“I’ll close the doors, Sweetheart.”  Eric kissed her head as he carefully slid out of bed.

Stephanie rested on her pillows and watched Eric walk across the room.  She smiled at the sight of him.  Completely nude, and not even caring.  “You’re still as handsome as you always were,” she whispered.

Eric shook his head.  “Now who’s blind?” he asked.

She chuckled and rolled her eyes.  “Come back to bed, I’m cold,” she whispered while shivering to make her point.

Eric hurried with the doors then quickly made his way back to bed, sliding in next to Stephanie and pulling her close.  “Is this better?” he asked as he rubbed her back.

“Mmm, much better,” she hummed and pressed a kiss to his chest.  “How many years has it been since we’ve spent an afternoon in bed?”

“The last time was after our trip to see your mother.”

“Oh yes, I remember now.”  She smiled sadly at the thought.  “We hadn’t slept much on the plane and then had talked to the kids after we got back home.”

“And you were emotionally exhausted from the exchange with Ann.”

“You were exhausted from your part of the confrontation, too.”

“So I told the kids we needed to rest and they all went home, but you couldn’t sleep,” he whispered as he kissed her head.

“I suppose I was too tired.”

Eric shook his head.  “No, it wasn’t that.  You had too many emotions swirling around inside you and you needed an outlet.”

“Sweet girl, what is it?”  Eric asked as he pulled her close, wrapping his arm tightly around her to keep her from tossing.

“I’m so tired, Eric.  I just want to sleep, but I can’t.  Why can’t I?” she asked as she looked up at him.

“Because you haven’t let it all out, Sweetheart.  You’ve had a very emotional day and you’ve bottled all those emotions up.”  He caressed her cheek.  “It’s okay to cry or yell, I’ll be here to hold you.”

Tears filled her eyes.  “I don’t want to yell.  I don’t want to cry.  I just want,” she stopped and closed her eyes.

“What, Sweet girl?  What do you want?”

“I want you to hold me.  I,”

Eric pressed a finger to her lips.  “Shh, it’s alright.”  Scooting down so that they were face to face, he wiped the tears from her cheeks.  “I’ll gladly take it all away, if only for a few moments.”

Running her hand up his bare chest, over his shoulder, Stephanie tangled her fingers in his hair.  “Yes, please, take it all away.  Make me feel something more than this anger and pain.”

Staring into her pleading eyes, Eric unbuttoned her nightshirt, gently rolling her onto her back before pushing the material away.  “It’s been so long,” he whispered as he brushed his thumb over her nipple causing her breath to catch.  Watching the tears roll down her cheeks, he stopped and wrapped his arms around her.

“Shh, Sweetheart.  It’s okay.  Let it all out.  Just let it all out.  I’ve got you.”

Stephanie, her emotional control gone, sobbed.  The pain and hurt she’d been holding in since she was a little girl came flooding out as she let the warmth and weight of Eric’s body surround her.  He knew the truth, yet he was here, he’d defended her.  She was safe.  Safe.  Safe.  Only love.  Eric’s love.

Eric felt her shudder beneath him and felt his heart breaking with the thought of what she’d suffered as a young girl.  “I love you.  No one will hurt you anymore.  You’re safe.  You’re safe.  I’m here,” he whispered.

“Show me,” she whispered through her tears.  “Show me.”

“And show me you did,” she whispered.  “even as I continued to cry.”

He smiled at her.  “You weren’t the only one crying.  I think we both needed to let go.  I’d been holding in the way I felt about your abuse since I learned of it.  All I’d really wanted to do after Taylor told me was hold you then go outside and scream at the cruelty of it all.  Then I wanted to hold you again and cry with you for the pain you’d suffered and the innocence you’d lost.”

“I saw it all in your eyes, and when you wrapped your arms around me, all I wanted to do was curl up next to you and forget everything.”  Sighing, she watched her fingers drawing aimless patterns on his torso.

Eric kissed her head and rubbed his hand softly up and down her arm.  “What did Felicia want?  There was more going on than just her coming by to say hello.”

Stephanie nodded.  “Yes, there was more.  She was telling me about something she learned in Europe.”

“Oh?  What would that be?”

Her hand pausing its movements, Stephanie bit her bottom lip in debate before deciding that she wasn’t going to keep anything from Eric.  “She told me that deep down she’s never really believed that Dino is Dante’s.”

“Really?”  Eric asked with a raised eyebrow.

“Yes.  She said that she had just ignored it, even though it didn’t feel right.  She went along with Dante being Dino’s father…until she took Dino to see Dante just before she came back home.  She said that she started noticing little things.  Like he doesn’t look like Dante.  He has blond hair.”

“He could have gotten that from his grandma.”

“That’s what I said.  Then she pointed out that Dino has Nick’s nose and hands.”

“So that’s what she’s going on?”

“Well, no.”

“Steph?”

“She had a DNA test done while in Europe.  Dante isn’t Dino’s father.”

“Oh my god.  Then that means,”

Stephanie nodded against his shoulder.  “Yes.  That means Nick really is Dino’s father.”

“Has she told,” Eric started to ask, but stopped when he heard the doorbell.  “Who in the world?”

Stephanie sighed as she sat up.  “I have no idea, but I’ll go get it.”

“No, Sweetheart.  You stay here and rest.  I’ll get it and send whoever it is away.”

Stephanie nodded and laid back against her pillows.  “Just hurry.  I’ll miss you.”

Eric smiled and leaned over to press a kiss to her bare shoulder.  “I’ll be back as fast as I can.”

 

E**S

 

“She’s resting, Massimo.  Can’t you come back tomorrow?”

Massimo glared at Eric.  “No.  I have to see her today.  It’s important.”

Eric sighed, knowing that he would be acting the same way if he’d just learned that the woman he loved and shared a child with was sick.  “Alright.  Go on in to the living room and fix yourself a drink.  I’ll go tell her you’re here.”

Frowning at the how easily Eric gave in, Massimo knew that things were as bad as Jackie had said they were.  “Thank you.”

Eric nodded before turning and heading upstairs, only to stop and shake his head with a smile at the woman standing on the landing smiling down at him.  “I thought you were going to wait for me?”

Stephanie shrugged and walked down to meet him.  “I was lonely and a bit hungry so I decided to come find you.”

“Well, you have a visitor that’s very anxious to see you.”

Stephanie nodded.  “I heard.”

“Go on and talk to him.  I’ll go fix us something to eat.”

“Not very much,” she whispered as she kissed his cheek.

“Maybe some tuna salad on toast?”

“That sounds good.  I like your tuna salad.”

Shaking his head and laughing, Eric kissed her.  “I wonder why?  It couldn’t possibly have something to do with you being the one that showed me how to make it.”

“Couldn’t possibly be that,” she laughed.

Eric patted her cheek with a smile before heading off in the direction of the kitchen, hoping that Massimo didn’t upset her.

Stephanie took a breath then made her way into the living room, thankful that she’d put on a pair of warm pajamas before coming down.  “To think, I nearly came down in nothing but my robe.”  She grimaced at the thought of Massimo’s reaction.

Massimo looked up when he heard Stephanie enter.  “Cara,” he whispered as he walked to where she stood.  “Tell me it isn’t true,” he pleaded.

“Oh Mass,” she sighed.  “I can’t do that.”  Walking to the sofa, she sat down and patted the spot beside her.  “Sit down.”

Massimo did as she told him to, taking her left hand and staring at the ring on her finger.  “You’re going to marry him again?”

“Oh, Mass, please,” she sighed.  “I love him.  I’m in love with him.  And now,” she paused and looked up at her friend.  “I need him, Mass.”

Massimo, for the first time, saw in her eyes what he’d refused to see for so many years.  Love, like none he’d ever known, all for the man that had taken her away from him.  “Forgive me, Cara.”

“There’s nothing to forgive, Mass.  Just be happy for me.”

Looking away from her, he swallowed to gather the courage for what he was about to do.  “Cara, there is something.”

“What is it, Mass?  You’re as white as a sheet.”

“I’ve done something.  Or rather, I did something.”

“What is it?”

“It’s about…I,” he pulled away and walked over to the open french doors.  “I changed the DNA tests, Stephanie.”

Stephanie frowned.  “You did,” she started then stopped, finally realizing what he was talking about.  “Why?  How could you do that to me?  Do you know what that cost me?  Do you know the hell I went through?” she asked, her voice trembling as she thought of the pain she’d felt when she’d learned that Eric wasn’t Ridge’s father.

Moving to her, Massimo knelt down and grasped her hands in his.  “Please, Cara.  You have to understand.  I couldn’t stand seeing you with Eric.  I knew that we had been together that one night just before you broke up with me.  I hated that you were with Eric and that he’d gotten you and the child.  I was jealous because he took you.  He took your love.”

“Oh Mass, do you realize the damage you’ve done?  Do you know how much I’ve hated myself all these years for what I’d done?  I became what I’ve always hated in Brooke.  I trapped a man with a child.  A child that hates me for what you made us believe I’d done.  I’ve lost my son, Mass.  He doesn’t even believe that I’m sick.  He doesn’t care.  All because,” she pulled her hands away and covered her face.

Eric stood staring at Ridge, both of whom had walked in just as Massimo was confessing what he’d done.  Neither had moved out of sheer shock, until Stephanie began to cry.

“Marone, I believe you should leave now.  And don’t come back.”  Eric commanded, his voice brooking no arguments as he moved to Stephanie’s side, pulling her into his arms.

Massimo stood and nodded, turning to leave and catching sight of Ridge.  “I’m sorry.”

“Just leave.”  Ridge ground out, still too stunned to really have any words to express what he felt for the man.

Eric held Stephanie, pressing kisses to her head as he rocked her.  “It’s alright, Sweet girl.  It’s alright.”

“No.  Oh god!  No it’s not!”  Stephanie cried as she clung to Eric, the pain almost too much.  Ridge was lost to her because of a lie.

“Yes, Stephanie, it is.  Shh.”  Eric soothed as he watched Ridge leave.  He could see on his son’s face that he wasn’t leaving out of anger, but because he knew that Stephanie needed time with just her and himself to deal with what had happened.

“My god, Eric.  Ridge is yours.  He’s yours,” she whispered through her tears as she looked up at him.  “All these years everyone has thought I was no better than,” she started but Eric’s finger stopped her.

“I don’t care what everyone thought.  I only care what you thought.”  He caressed her face.  “Have you really hated yourself all these years?”

Laying her head back against his chest, she nodded.  “How could I not hate myself?  I did to you what I’ve always hated.  I thought I had used another man’s baby to trap you into a marriage you always seemed to be trying to get out of.”

“My god, Stephanie.  No.  I thought we worked this all out?  I never once thought you intentionally set out to use another man’s baby to get me to marry you.  I know that you thought he was mine.”  He took a deep breath.  “My god, he is mine.”

“Yes,” she nodded as she leaned back to look up at him once more.  “He’s yours.”

Holding her a bit tighter, Eric pressed kisses to her forehead and face.  “He knows, Sweetheart.”

Stephanie frowned.  “Who knows?”

“Ridge,” he told her.  “He came in about the same time I came from the kitchen.  We were both just in time to hear Massimo’s confession.

“But yet, he didn’t stay,” she whispered.

“No, he didn’t, but he’ll be back.  He knew that you needed time with me.”

“Are you sure?  What if he hates me even more now?”

“Why would he hate you more?  He knows the truth, Sweetheart.  He’s going to be apologizing a lot for the way he’s been treating you.”

“I wonder why he was here to begin with?”

“I don’t know.  Maybe he’d decided to believe us.”

Stephanie sighed and settled back against Eric’s chest.  “Who knows.”

Kissing the top of her head, Eric gave her a slight squeeze.  “Are you still hungry?”

“I don’t think I could eat after what just happened.”

“You need to eat something, Stephanie.”

She sighed and nodded.  “I know.  Okay.  But only half a sandwich, and only if you promise to sing to me after we finish eating.”

“I’ll do whatever you want, Sweet girl.  Whatever you want.”

 

E**S

 

Ridge stared at the man he’d thought was his brother.  A man he couldn’t stand.  “Nick.”

Nick frowned.  “What are you doing here?  Come to spy on the competition?”

Ridge rolled his eyes.  “To be truthful, I have no idea why I came here.”

“You aren’t making any sense.”

“Right now, my life makes no sense.”

Nick shook his head.  “Would you stop talking in riddles?”

“Massimo’s in town.”

Nick nodded.  “I knew he was flying in to see Stephanie.  Oh, that’s right,” he started as he glared at his brother.  “You don’t believe she’s sick.  What the hell’s the matter with you?”

“Do you know how strange it is to hear you talking like that?  To hear you on Mother’s side?”

“I consider her a second mother in a way, Ridge.  She’s been very kind to me even after all of this mess with Bridget.  We’re friends.  You, brother, are an idiot.”

Ridge made a snorting nose.  “That’s just it, I’m not your brother.”

Shaking his head to clear it of the merry-go-round Ridge had him on, Nick gave him a exasperated look.  “Would you stop this nonsense?”

“It isn’t nonsense.  Massimo just confessed to Mother that he changed the DNA test.  I’m not his.  Not a Marone.”

Nick’s eyes widened.  “You mean you’ve been Eric’s all along?  All the hurt Stephanie and Eric went through was because Father,” he didn’t finish just shook his head.  “Damned fool.  When is he going to learn she doesn’t love him?  That she never has?”

“Well, he knows now.”

“So, what are you doing here?”

“I suppose I thought I’d come by to tell you about this mess.”

“Is that all?”

Ridge shook his head.  “No.  I wanted to say thank you.”

“Thank me?  For what?”

“For being what I should have been to Mother.”

“Like I said, Ridge.  I consider her to be a second mother.”  He laughed, “Or at the very least, an excellent drinking buddy.”

Ridge frowned.  “What?”

Nick smiled and shrugged.  “You’ll have to ask her about it.”  He studied Ridge.  “You do believe her, don’t you?”

“I don’t know what to believe anymore.”  Ridge whispered as he turned and walked out of Nick’s office.

Nick sighed and shook his head.  “Damned fool.”

“Who’s a damned fool, Darling?”  Jackie asked as she came into the room.

“Ridge.”

She mumbled something under her breath then nodded.  “Yes, he is.”

“He just left.”

“What was he doing here?”

“He said that he came to inform me that we aren’t brothers.”

Jackie sat down in one of the chairs across from Nick’s desk as she frowned.  “What?  I know he doesn’t like you, but I thought he’d gotten past that.”

“Apparently Father confessed to changing the DNA tests to make Ridge his instead of Eric’s.”

“Oh my god.  Does the fool know what he’s done to the woman he claims to love?” she groaned.

Nick shrugged and shook his head.  “Love can make us do stupid things.”

Smiling sadly at her son, Jackie nodded.  “Yes, it can.”

 

E**S

 

Wondering why they were all gathered in Ridge’s office, Steffy rolled her eyes.  “I’m not coming back, if that is what this is about.”

Thorne shook his head.  “Neither am I.”

Thomas shrugged his shoulders.  “I don’t know.  I haven’t talked to Dad since,” he shook his head, unwilling to go on.

“It’s alright to talk about it, Thomas.”  Thorne told his nephew gently.

“I was awful to her.  I hurt her and all the while she,” his voice faltered.  “I finally see how right she’s always been, though.”

Steffy frowned.  “What do you mean?”

“Grandma’s always said that the Logans do nothing but turn us against each other.  Maybe not in those words, but it’s what she meant.  And she’s right.”  He rolled his eyes.  “They’re nothing but shit stirrers.”

Thorne couldn’t help but laugh.  “That’s true, but I wouldn’t let your dad hear you say that about the Logans.”  He laughed again.  “And I wouldn’t let your grandma hear you say that word.  She never has been very fond of it.”

“What word would that be?”  Ridge asked as he came into the room, followed by Felicia.

“Shit.”  Thorne informed his brother.

“No, she doesn’t like that word.”  Ridge agreed as he grimaced in remembrance of the first time his mother had caught him saying it.

“What’s this about?”  Felicia asked.  “I have a flight to catch.”

“Where are you going?”  Thorne asked.

“To Florida.”

“But they’ll be here in a couple days.”

“It doesn’t matter.  I have something I have to do while I’m there.  I’ll just fly back with them.”  She shook her head.  “I can’t believe they couldn’t come back because they’re all sick.  My poor baby.”

Thorne nodded.  “Yeah, Kristen was pretty upset, but I told her that everyone would understand.  She,” he sighed.  “She isn’t taking it well, Fifi.”

Felicia hugged her brother.  “I’ll bring her home, Thorne, and we’ll be there for her, just like we’re always there for each other.”  She narrowed her eyes as she looked at Ridge.  “Well, some of us anyway.”

Ridge held up his hands.  “Stop and let me tell you why I brought you all here.”

“We’re waiting.”  Felicia said impatiently.

Thorne squeezed his sister’s hand.  “Well, why are we here?”

“I found out today that I’m not Massimo Marone’s son.  All the years I’ve hated Mother for what she did to Dad,” he shook his head.  “She didn’t do anything to him.”

“Wait a minute.”  Thorne held up his hand.  “Back up.  You mean Mom was right?  You’ve hated her all these years?  You’re her favorite, always have been.  Who the hell do you think you are hating her for a mistake that she didn’t even realize she’d made?”

“I thought she’d trapped Dad using another man’s child.  She was no better than she’s always accusing Logan of being.”

Felicia rolled her eyes.  “You damned idiot.  Our mother is nothing like your Logan.  Mom didn’t intentionally get pregnant so that she could make Dad marry her.  How could you think that she would knowingly pass off one man’s child as another’s?  Do you even know our mother?”

“So, you’re not Massimo’s?”  Steffy asked with a puzzled look on her face.  “But I thought there was a DNA test.”

“There was.  Massimo had it changed.”

“How do you know this?”

“I overheard Massimo telling Mother.”

“What were you doing at the house?  I thought you didn’t believe Mom.”

“I’m not sure what I believe anymore.”

Felicia rolled her eyes.  “Well, when you figure it out, call me.”  She kissed Thorne’s cheek.  “I’ve gotta go.  Pick me up at my place in half an hour?”

“I’m leaving too.”  Thorne told her then looked at Ridge.  “I’m still not really sure why you called us here, because at this point I don’t care who your father is, but I hope that you think long and hard about the way you’ve been treating Mom.  She’s not going to be around forever, Ridge.  She is sick.  Stop listening to Brooke and really look at Mom.  You can tell that she isn’t feeling well.”  He took one last look at his brother and followed his sister out of the room.

Steffy shook her head.  “You’re different, Dad.  And it’s not a good different.”

“She’s right, Dad.”  Thomas looked at his father.  “You’re different and it’s because of Brooke.  If you weren’t, you never would have been okay with what happened with Oliver or with her pushing Grandma.”

Ridge frowned.  “I thought you were on Brooke’s side.”

“I was, until the day Grandma and Grandpa told us about Grandma’s cancer.  I saw how hurt she was by your reaction.  Grandma doesn’t cry easily, and things aren’t hard for her to say, but yet Grandpa is the one that had to tell us she has cancer.  If Grandma was faking, she wouldn’t have had any trouble telling us.”

“But you left her party early.  She was crying that night too.”  Steffy reminded.

“I left because I was starting to feel guilty for the way I’d acted.  We hurt her, Dad more than me because he’s always been her favorite.  I acted the way I did, not because I care about Brooke, but because I was angry that Mom gave you her shares of the company.”  Thomas sighed and returned his attention to Ridge.  “I hope you’re happy with just Brooke and RJ, Dad, because that’s all you have left.”

Steffy watched her brother leave then looked back at her father.  “How does it feel, Dad?”

“How does what feel?”

“Having all that you ever wanted.”  Steffy whispered then turned and walked out of his office.

Ridge shook his head and mumbled, “I suppose this is the perfect end to this bizarre day.”

 

E**S

 

Stephanie sighed as she rested her head on Eric’s shoulder.  “You know, maybe you can take up singing and piano playing as a career.”

Eric shook his head and laughed as he finished the song he’d been playing.  “No.  I’m too old to start a new career.  Besides, I have a beautiful woman to spend all my time with, I don’t need anything more than that.”

Sitting up, she gave him a sad smile.  “I’m sorry we won’t have more time to enjoy together.”

Feeling his eyes water, Eric caressed her face.  “So am I, Sweetheart,” he whispered.  “But I’m going to give you all of my attention and love in the time we do have.”

Kissing his hand, Stephanie sighed and nodded.  “Where did you go today?”

“I had to make plans for our wedding.”

“Oh?” she asked and studied him.  “What are you up to?”

Eric laughed at the suspicious look she was giving him.  “Why do you think I’m up to something?”

“Honey,” she cooed.  “the tips of your ears are red.”

Eric shook his head.  “Caught again.  Alright,” he gave in.  “I wanted to do something special for this wedding.”

“Isn’t the fact that we’re getting married again, special?”

“Oh, yes, very special.  I just thought it would be nice to have our wedding somewhere different this time.”

“And where would that be?”

Tracing her lips with his finger, he stared into her eyes.  “On a yacht at sunset out in the harbor.”

“Oh, Eric,” she breathed.

“Just the two of us and the crew.  The captain will perform the ceremony and then we’ll sail to Catalina.”

“Catalina?” she whispered in surprise.  “We haven’t been there in years.”

“I know.  I’ve rented a nice little beach side bungalow for us.”

“To spend all day and night making love in?” she asked with a sultry look in her eyes.

“Well,” he breathed as he kissed her neck.  “I don’t want to spend all day and night in the bungalow.  I intend to make love to you on the beach, too.”

“Mmm,” she hummed as she let her head fall back to give him better access.  “I love the sound of that.”

Cupping her face in his hands, Eric kissed her softly.  “A moonlight stroll on the beach then making love under the stars.  That’s how we’ll spend our wedding night.”

“Romantic,” she whispered as she combed her fingers through his hair.

“That’s what I want the whole week to be.”

“A whole week?”

“Yes.”  He nodded.  “You’ve had your follow up doctor’s visit.  We made all the arrangements then, and he said that you didn’t need to come back to him before surgery which you’ll be going in for soon.  I wanted to spend time with just the two of us beforehand.  Besides, I know how much you love the beach.  I thought you would enjoy it.”

“Oh, I’m sure I’m going to enjoy every second of it.”  She smiled at him.  “Although I’m not sure how much of the beach I’ll enjoy.”

Eric threw his head back and laughed.  “God, I love you,” he breathed as he pulled her against him, holding her tightly.  “Come to bed with me, Stephanie,” he whispered as he kissed the spot just behind her ear that he knew had always excited her.

Stephanie shivered in his arms.  “Bed sounds wonderful,” she told him a bit breathlessly.

Standing up, Eric took her hands and helped her stand.  “We’ll worry about everything else tomorrow.”

“Tomorrow,” she agreed.  “Tonight is just us celebrating.”

“Celebrating?”

“Yes.  You have your son back and we’re going to be getting married in a few days.  Those are two very good reasons to celebrate.”

“Very excellent reasons,” he agreed.  “But the best reason to celebrate is because you love me.”