Chapter 7

Ellen blew softly on the steaming mug of tea she held in the palm of her hands. Resting her back against the sofa cushions, she took Kevin's advice and curled her legs up underneath her. She smiled back at him as he sat across from her in the matching easy chair.

"Comfortable?" Kevin asked, offering his dear friend a bright smile.

"Yes," Ellen said, nodding. She sipped from the mug, as her gaze wandered around Kevin and Dara's home. The two-story frame house was much different from the lighthouse that she remembered. On the walls, shelves and the mantle were dozens of picture frames, showcasing a pictorial of Kevin and Dara's life together. A black and white framed photo of the newborn twins brought a smile to Ellen's face. She nodded toward the photograph as she settled her gaze on Kevin. "That's quite a family you have."

"I think so," he agreed with an even larger smile. He pointed towards the baby monitor that was placed upright on the wooden end table beside his chair. "They're asleep now, but when they wake up, I'll be sure to introduce you. Dara sends her regards."

"Thanks, I'd love to meet them," she replied softly. "When Matt told me about you and Dara... I wasn't expecting that one. Congratulations."

"You're in good company," Kevin said, chuckling. "Most of the town seemed to have been thrown for a loop."

"I imagine that Lucy was surprised." Ellen placed her mug on the coffee table and leaned back against the cushions, watching Kevin as he slowly answered her question.

"I think she assumed that we would get back together one day," he admitted slowly. "She wasn't exactly the nicest person in the world when Dara and I made our relationship public. She became worse when we married. I'm not ashamed to say that I was happy when she moved away with her Aunt Charlene. I often wondered if maybe your no nonsense outlook would have had any kind of influence over her. Your friendship surprised the hell out of me. You two are like night and day."

Shrugging, Ellen murmured, "It takes all kinds, I guess." A brief silence interrupted their conversation as the two friends stared at each other, remembering the old times. Finally, Ellen broke the silence. "So, Dr. Collins..."

"So, Dr. Burgess..." he responded. He laced his fingers together as he moved to the edge of the chair. Maintaining eye contact, he said, "Matt's version of what happened to you stunned me. Your version has enraged me. I can't imagine anyone going through that. Having your identity stripped from you...waking up strapped down... Do you have any idea who would do something like this to you or why?"

"None," she said hoarsely. "Not a clue."

Kevin frowned. He scratched his chin thoughtfully. "I may be fishing here, but what about Greg Cooper? Did you have any kind of contact with him? Any reason for him to want revenge against you...or Matt?"

"Cooper?" Ellen repeated. "I never had much contact with him. He wasn't even one of my interns. He would have been, but... I never thought of him... There were the General Homicide murders, but I wasn't a target for him. Was I?"

"No." He shook his head. He rose from his chair and began to pace the floor. "If not Cooper, then who? Maybe someone from Matt's past?"

"I don't think so," she murmured, cautiously. "I don't see why they would at least not without contacting Matt in some way. It wouldn't make any sense for them to come after me."

"Yeah," Kevin said. "I suppose it wouldn't." He stopped pacing and turned to face Ellen again. "If the culprit wasn't Cooper or someone from Matt's past, then I'd have to guess that this is solely related to you."

"It would seem that way," she said, frowning. "Although I can't imagine anything that I've done or anyone that I know who would do something like that to me."

"Maybe it's something that you know or saw," he suggested.

"But I don't know anything!" Ellen cried in frustration. "Don't you think I've searched my brain for the answers! I can't think of anyone. Not one person!"

"But there has to be someone," Kevin responded, moving across the room to sit beside Ellen on the sofa. Gently, he patted her hand. "I know that this is hard for you, but somehow, we've got to find the answers. What happened was too well planned for it be random."

"I agree, but..." She released a ragged breath. "You're right, but where do we start? How do we find the answers?"

"Let's talk about the time right before you were taken away," he suggested. "What was going on in your life?"

Ellen shrugged. "I don't know. Sebastian had just passed away. Matt and I were in limbo. I can't think of anything else."

"What about GH? What was going on there?" Kevin persisted.

"I don't know! I was working, the same as always."

"Ellen..."

"Kevin, I can't remember! I've tried, but nothing happens. I can't remember anything specific!" She hopped up from the sofa and began to pace.

Kevin rose from the sofa and followed her. He grasped her by her shoulders and turned her so that she faced him. "There's a way that you can," he said calmly and gently. "I could hypnotize you."

"Are...are you sure?" she asked. She shook her head. "I'm not sure that it would work on me."

"Maybe not, but we'll never know unless we tried." Kevin released her shoulders and took her hands. "Are you ready to give it a try?"

"Right now?" she asked, a bit uncertain.

He nodded. "Yes. I'll ask our housekeeper to come over and watch the twins so that we won't be interrupted. The choice is yours, Ellen. If you feel uncomfortable-"

"No!" she said, squeezing his hands. "I want to know. I need to know."

"Okay," he said. "We'll find the answers."

~*~

"It was weird, Mama," Dawn said, her back to the window as she stared down at her mother's still form. "The look on Bobbie's face... I could feel her relief and her anguish. And when she slapped him, I couldn't help but feel that he kinda had it coming."

Dawn's hands closed over the straight back of the wooden guest chair. She held on tightly as she continued the conversation. Her eyes stared sightlessly at her mother as she continued speaking. She couldn't help but relive the moments from a few minutes before.

"Lucky became as pale as a ghost. I mean his face went stark white. His eyes became dark blue and filled with guilt." Dawn swallowed hard, remembering. She left the chair to go sit beside her mother. She took Carrie's hand, gently stroking her mother's soft skin.

"I wanted to go to him, Mama. I wanted to wrap my arms around him and make it all go away. You said that one day I'd feel it. You said that I'd understand and I would be overwhelmed by its intensity. And just like always, you were right," she said, her vision suddenly blurred by tears. "I just wish that you'd wake up so that I could really share it with you."

The door opened and closed with a swooshing sound. Dara walked in, talking. "Hi, Cupcake," she said, greeting her sister. "Hi, Mama."

"Hi, Dara," Dawn said softly. She blinked her tears away before she looked at her sister. "Did you talk to Matt? How's Mama doing? Is she getting any better?"

"He said," Dara began to respond as she sat down on the bed on the other side of Carrie, "that he's concerned by her lack of response-"

"Oh, no!"

Dara reached for her younger sister's hand. She held on to Dawn in a painful grip. "No, Dawn! No! Listen, okay? He said that he's done some research and there's a treatment that he wants to try. He just needs our okay."

"Okay," Dawn said agreeing to Dara and whatever treatment Matt intended to use.

Dara understood. "But you haven't heard what the treatment is. Are you sure?"

"I'm positive," Dawn said, sniffling. "I trust Matt. Besides, at this point, I'm ready to try anything that will bring our mother back to us. Aren't you?"

With her eyes bright with unshed tears, Dara nodded. "Of course. I'll go tell him so that he can get started right away."

Dara left the room and Dawn directed her attention to her mother again. "Did you hear that, Mama? Your buddy, Matt, is gonna bring you back to us. I know you hear us, and soon, you'll be able to talk to us, too."

"Excuse me."

Startled, Dawn's eyes flew to the woman who stood in the doorway. She frowned. She recognized that the woman was doctor, but she wasn't familiar with her. Dawn also knew that the woman wasn't assigned to her mother. Frowning, she asked, "May I help you?"

"Yes, I need to be alone with Mrs. Jensen," the woman said, stepping inside the room.

"Why?" Dawn asked.

"For tests," the woman explained with a tight smile. "So, if you would please..."

"No," Dawn said, shaking her head. She rose from her seated position, stepped around the bed, and stood in front of the stranger. "I don't even know who you are. What kind of tests?"

"I apologize. I'm Dr. Locke. I thought you knew me," she explained.

"I'd seen you around, but I wasn't sure about your name," Dawn told her. "And the tests? My mother's doctor is Dr. Harmon. We haven't asked for another physician. My sister and I are quite pleased with his performance."

"I sense tension here," Rachel said. A smile came to her lips that didn't quite reach her eyes. She brushed a stray strand of hair behind her ear. "I'm aware that Dr. Harmon is your mother's doctor. I'm here to run psychological tests. That's all."

"Why?" Dawn asked, unconvinced. "My mother is in a coma. You can't perform a psyche eval. It's impossible."

Rachel's smile grew wider as her eyes became more unreadable. "You're a writer. Isn't that correct, Ms. Jensen? You don't have a degree in psychology or medicine, do you?"

"No, but I-"

"I assure you that I do have a degree in medicine and I have studied the human mind thoroughly. I wouldn't suggest telling you that your work is impossible, and I'd appreciate you offering me the same consideration."

"I apologize," Dawn said quietly. "I'm very protective of my mother. She shouldn't even be in a coma..."

"I understand," Rachel said, nodding her head in agreed. "I've worked rather closely with your mother on a number of projects and I'm very dismayed by this tragic turn of events. I'd like to help her if I may. That's why I'm here now."

"I...know," Dawn murmured. "I'll be outside while you work with her. If you need anything, I'll be right outside."

"I'm sure that you've spent most of your day here. Please, feel free to take a break. I'm not sure how long this will take. With a break, you can come back, energized. Believe me, Carrie will feel that energy coming from you."

"Okay," Dawn said. "I'll take a short break. I'll come back in an hour or so."

Rachel's smile reached her eyes. "Perfect."

~*~

Matt couldn't get home fast enough. After he had administered his prescribed treatment to Carrie, he received a page over the PA system. He went to the nearest nurse's station and answered the call. Kevin was on the other end and had announced a breakthrough in Ellen's situation. Matt had pressed his friend for details, but Kevin told him that it wasn't safe to discuss over the telephone. He'd rather talk to Matt in person. From Kevin's excitement, Matt knew that the answers to Ellen's abduction were close at hand.

Unfortunately, Matt had to wait a little longer to get those answers than he had anticipated. A drunk driver had decided to crash into a 7-11. Most of the doctors on call were needed to assist with the injuries. Matt and his colleagues had worked diligently to save a young pregnant woman and her 24-week-old fetus. Their efforts had been rewarded when several hours later, the woman and her unborn child were listed as being in stable, but critical condition.

As Matt left the hospital, one of the nurses stopped him to tell him that there had been a change in plans and for him to go home instead. He had given her a quizzical frown, but he had followed her suggestion. And now he was home and anticipating what lay in store for him as soon as he crossed the threshold.

He wheeled himself inside the dimly lit apartment. He made certain to close and lock the door before he moved further inside. After his eyes adjusted to the dim lighting, a smile spread across his face as he noticed Ellen's curled up form on the sofa. She was fast asleep and he had never seen a more beautiful sight.

Unable to resist, he directed his wheelchair towards the sofa. Despite being bone tired, Matt pulled himself onto the sofa beside Ellen's sleeping body. Once he was settled, his hands decided to move on their own free will.

Gently and without any hesitation, he brushed curly locks of hair off her forehead. His fingertips skimmed down to stroke her cheeks and then linger at her full mouth. Her lips parted as she took a deep breath and Matt's breath lodged in his throat.

He wanted her so much. To touch her...to hold her...to make love with her again... The feelings and the longings he had fought to ignore demanded to be heard. Being so close to her again, Matt found that he couldn't fight them anymore. Tenderly stroking her face, he watched her sleep. Silently, he begged for her to wake up so that he could look into her large brown eyes and know that she wanted him just as much as he still wanted her.

In slow motion, as it appeared to Matt, Ellen's eyes fluttered open. She smiled a smile that melted the last chunk of ice that protected his heart. "Matt," she whispered, in a voice that was husky and needy.

"Ellen," he murmured. His head lowered and he claimed her lips in a passionate kiss.

Without having to exert any effort on his part, Ellen's lips parted beneath the ardent demands of Matt's attention. His tongue slipped inside her hot, sweet mouth. His tongue moved sensuously and seductively against Ellen's. He tasted her thoroughly with each stroke, enjoying the moment and the heat of her response.

Her fingers threaded his silky, thick hair. She pulled him closer to her as her mouth opened wider. Their breathing was loud and labored, as their kiss ignited a flame within both of them. Time kept on moving as the couple's passions soared. Nothing else mattered to either of them until their need for air overpowered their ability to continue the kiss. Panting, they pulled away from each other.

"Oh, Ellen," he murmured, his eyes lit up with passion. "I should probably apologize, but I don't want to."

"I don't want you to," she said, lowering her back against the sofa cushions as she stared back at him. Their fingers laced together as their eyes remained locked. "Don't ever apologize for waking me up like that. It was a dream come true."

"Was it really?" he asked softly. The fingers of his other hand lightly stroked her face.

"Yes," she replied. "The dream of coming back to you is what kept me determined to escape. Honest. I wouldn't lie to you about this."

"Ssh..." he whispered, pressing his fingers against her kiss-swollen mouth. "You don't have to convince me. I believe you."

She smiled. "I tried to stay up for you, but after the wringer Kevin put me through, I couldn't make it. We found the answer, Matt."

"The answer?" he asked. The passion in his eyes faded as anger replaced it. "What's the answer? Who's responsible for trying to take your life away?"

Ellen chewed on her bottom lip. "Maybe not the answer," she said a bit sheepishly. "But it was a very important clue, I think. Kevin agreed with me."

"Well?" Matt asked. "What's the clue?"

"He hypnotized me today. He took me back to the week before I was abducted. I remembered that there was someone at the hospital who left me uneasy. Someone that I knew, but couldn't place."

"Who?" he questioned, impatiently. "Ellen, just tell me!"

"Rachel Locke," Ellen answered. "She reminded me of someone and I was sure that I knew her from somewhere. I questioned her about it, and then, all of a sudden, I'm locked away in a mental institution. The coincidence is impossible to ignore. Kevin's planning to go upstate to visit the hospital tomorrow. He'll find out if she's connected to that place in some way."

"Rachel? I always thought she was weird, but I would never think she'd be capable of... What could you possibly know that would threaten her so?"

"I'm not sure," she replied, "but by the time Kevin comes back, I plan to have an answer to that question."

"Determination," he said, smiling at her. "One of the many things that I love about you."

"Love? Present tense?" she asked, her expression hopeful.

"Ellen, I'm surprised that you haven't figured it out by now," he teasingly scolded her. "I never stopped."

"I love you, too."

He smiled at her and then claimed her lips in a kiss that marked the beginning of their reunion.

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