The End -- a month or two later…
"Hi, Luis," Hank greeted his best friend with a smile. "Excuse me." He marched into Pilar's studio apartment and grabbed another box.
Luis closed his hand around his shoulder. "What the hell is going on here?"
"I thought Pilar told you." Hank set the box on the bed of the rental truck. "She's moving out."
"She told me, but what are you doing here?"
"What does it look like, bro?" Hank returned to the apartment and looked for something else to move. "I'm helping her."
"No!" Luis grabbed his arm and forced Hank to face him. "I'm helping her. Miguel, too, as soon as he makes it in from Salem."
Hank pulled his arm free. Man. His best friend had a serious grip. It didn't help that fire burned in his eyes. As long as they'd known each other, Hank had seen that fire before. Luis Lopez-Fitzgerald was about to explode in anger. Well, that was too bad. Hank squared his shoulders and prepared himself for battle.
"You've been spending a lot of time with my mother and it's time for that to stop. She doesn't need you--"
"With all due respect, Luis, you have no idea what Pilar needs."
"Why you sonuvabitch!"
Luis' fist aimed for Hank's face. He sidestepped the blow and raised his arms to deflect any other. "I don't want to fight you. We're friends, man!"
"We were friends. A true friend wouldn't try to take advantage of your mother."
"I'm not!" Hank ducked from another potentially lethal hit. "I love her, Luis. Just like you love Sheridan."
"Never!" Luis bent forward and rammed into Hank. Both men went sprawling across the floor.
"ENOUGH!" Pilar screamed. "Miguel, make them stop!"
Miguel grabbed his brother around the waist and pulled. Once free, Hank stood and went to Pilar's side. Anguish darkened her beautiful brown eyes. She gently caressed his face. "I knew this would happen," she whispered.
"It's okay," he said. "In time, everything will work out fine. You'll see."
"Get your damn hands off my mother!" Luis scrambled to be free of Miguel.
"Stop it, Luis!" Miguel refused to release him. "You're upsetting her."
"You don't know what's going on," Luis said.
"I can see it," Miguel stated in a quiet voice. "It looks like they love each other."
"What?" Luis whipped around to face his younger brother. "You knew about this?"
"Not until now. I've been so wrapped up in the wedding and moving Kay and Maria to Salem. Wow, this is great, Mom…Hank."
"What? Great?" Luis' hands balled into fists. "This isn't great."
"Love is wonderful no matter where you find it, mi hijo," Pilar said. She moved to her older son and took his hand. "What's happened between Hank and me wasn't planned. Some things are meant to be. When your father left, I sacrificed so much of my life waiting for his return. I stopped waiting the moment I realized how important Hank has been and is to me. I would like your blessing, Luis, but I don't need it."
The color drained from Luis' face. He looked down at their joined hands. "You're moving in with him, aren't you?"
"Into his spare bedroom. Once Martin is declared legally dead, Hank and I will marry."
Hank stepped forward. "I want you to be my best man, Luis. You've been my best friend all my life. That doesn't have to change because I'm love with your mother."
Luis gave them both a stricken look. "I'll need some time with this."
Pilar slipped her arm around Hank's waist. "We'll give you the time you need."
"If you need anything, I'm just a few doors down. The other tenants are fairly friendly, too."
Miguel nodded. "Thanks, Lucas. I pretty much know my way around Salem, but Kay doesn't. I'm glad she can call you if she needs anything."
Lucas shrugged. "It's not a problem. Young families can use all the help they can get. I didn't always know that. Now, I do. I'll talk to you later."
Miguel closed the door and locked it. Maria giggled from her playpen and he picked her up. "You like knowing there are friendly people around, don't you, baby? We have to be extra quiet, though. Your Mama is sleeping."
"Not anymore." Kay shuffled into the room. She stifled a yawn and lowered herself onto the love seat. "Was someone at the door?"
"Lucas Roberts. Remember? He lives down the hall." He joined her on the sofa. Stretching his arm along the back of the seat, he shifted their bodies closer. Their baby lay content on his lap. "Since I may be away on jobs, Lucas agreed to help out."
"You told him about the surgery."
"Um, guilty as charged." He kissed her brow. "Making friends with the locals is a good thing, Kay. There are a lot of good people here. We'll just have to get to know them. Lucas knows the physician Dr. Russell referred you to. He says Dr. Carver is a nice woman."
She playfully socked his stomach. "What didn't you tell our neighbor?"
"I didn't have to tell him how much I love you. He could see that."
Maria drifted into slumber. He carried the baby to the crib set up in their bedroom. When he returned, he made himself and Kay fit comfortably together on the confining cushions. Feeling her warm beside him, he found it hard to face how dumb he'd been about Charity. How could he possibly love her more than this precious woman within his arms? His best friend? The mother of his beautiful baby girl? He was eternally grateful that his eyes were opened before he made any other serious mistakes.
"A penny for your thoughts." Her breath vibrated against his chest.
"I'll give them to you for free," he said. He enjoyed the feel of her silken strands through his fingers. "I'm lucky you never lost faith in me, Kay. I can't wait to spend the rest of my life with you."
She squeezed her arms around him. "Me, too, Miguel. My dreams are finally coming true and I can't wait."
Simone smiled to herself as she removed her latest acquisitions from Victoria's Secret. The silky fabric felt sinfully soft and the lacy undergarments promised untold delights. She wondered if Sam would like the ensemble. They hadn't made love, yet, but big plans were set for the weekend. In fact, as soon as she finished packing…
She chose casual outfits and dressy gowns. Finding shoes to match proved easy. Finally, make up. Jessica's job with Mark™ was a godsend. Cosmetics and sexy fragrances were right at Simone's fingertips. She opened a bottle of perfume and sniffed. Just the right scent would create the perfect mood for her and her man.
Her bedroom door suddenly opened. Whitney stood in the doorway, eyes blazing. "Just what are you doing?"
Simone rolled her eyes. "I'm packing. What does it look like?"
"Where are you going?"
Simone chortled. "None of your business."
Her sister slammed the door and strode toward her. "Who are you going with?"
She closed the bottle of perfume and slipped it inside her make up bag. "That's none of your business, too."
"You've been sneaking around with someone for weeks. It's time for it stop."
"Oh, really? I suppose you would know all the rules about sneaking around." Simone zipped the small bag and carefully placed it inside her overnight case. Mentally, she double-checked her bags. Did she have everything? Condoms! She bought a box in just case Sam forgot. Now, where did she put them?
"You're still throwing that stuff with Chad up in my face? Get over it."
"I am over it. For a long time now." She planted her hands on her hips and gave her older sister a long, accessing look. "What's this really about, Whitney? Are you so used to being the star in everyone's life that you can't handle it when I get a life of my own? Maybe you should follow your own advice and get over it."
Hours later, Simone replayed the conversation in her mind. Telling Whitney off felt so good. Yet, a few things nagged at her. How much longer would she and Sam keep their relationship a secret?
"You're very quiet tonight." He added another log to the fire.
Rooms at the Seacliff Inn offered the perfect romantic setting. Candles flickered. Soft music played over the speakers and a gorgeous fire roared. Simone marveled at the lengths that Sam Bennett went to please her, so why did she want more?
He knelt at her chair and tugged until she joined him on the floor. "What's wrong?"
"Whitney wants to know whom I'm sneaking around with," she said quietly.
"Oh, sweetheart." He closed his arms around her. Her head rested on his chest. He gently stroked her hair. "I wanted us to keep our relationship quiet to protect you. I should have realized… What do you want?"
"I want to tell her and everyone, but I'm afraid."
"Of what they'll say?"
She shook her head. "I've grown a thick skin. I'm used to people saying whatever they want to me. I'm more afraid of what they'll think and if it will affect your job. You're a good man. People always assume the worst."
He cupped her cheek and tilted her face toward his. "I don't care what anyone says or thinks about me. You don't have to protect me."
"But I want to."
His expression softened. The light in his blue eyes glowed with countless emotions. He brushed her mouth with the back of his forehand. "I can't promise you that our relationship will be easy, but I can promise that I'll never do anything to hurt you. I only want what's best for you. Sometimes, I wonder if I'm it, but then I'll imagine you with someone else. Whenever that happens, I go a little crazy. But if you want to end this now--"
"No, Sam. I love you. We can make it work."
"Dear love, that's what I hoped you'd say." He crushed her to him. Soon after, they made love for the first of many times.
Tabitha threw Harmony's newspaper away from her. Wedding news filled the circular. Unlikely couples were tying the knot. Opposition turned Harmony upside down, but that didn't deter the lovers. She ran a hand through her unruly mass of blonde curls. What a mess she created! And all for trying to save a friend's life. That should teach her to stay out of other people's lives.
A loud knock sounded at her door. She opened it without moving from the sofa. What's the point of having powers if she didn't use them?
Alistair Crane stepped into her living room. The filthy rich masochist filled the room. She settled against her sofa cushions and waited. If this mad man darkened her door, this must be good.
"Put an end to this nonsense right now!" He stabbed a finger at the paper's wedding announcements. "I know you're behind it."
Her eyes widened. She pressed a hand to her chest, feigning innocence. "Me? You must have me mistaken for Cupid."
"I have you mistaken for a witch!" he bellowed. "Whatever spell you cast, reverse it right now…or else!"
She flew into a standing position. Her feet didn't touch the ground as she hovered above him. "Or else what?" she asked in a scary sweet voice.
His face turned bright red. Huffing and puffing, he pointed at her with his cigar. "You don't scare me!"
Tabitha resisted the urge to turn him into a toad. The Crane patriarch served a purpose in Harmony although many would disagree. He kept things in check, and she in turn, kept him in check. The set up had been established years ago, back when he sold his soul. They knew the drill.
She lowered herself to the floor. "The truth is, I can't do anything. The spell can't be reversed. It will stand. What can I say? Love rules."