The Middle -- a few weeks later

They kept running into each other. Awareness sizzled between them, refusing to be ignored. After his rebuff at the hospital, Simone's pride prevented her from making the first move. She'd always had a tiny crush on her best friend's dad. But now, her infatuation transformed itself into the real thing. Pretending otherwise burned her far worse than Chad Harris' duplicity ever did. Her heart ached every time she saw Sam. Finally, she couldn't take a minute more of the wretched torture. She told Kay that she was thinking about transferring to Port Charles University in New York.

A few days later, Sam was waiting beside her car at the Harmony University admissions office. He wore civilian clothing and personified sexy. A dark blue button down shirt intensified the blue in his eyes. Worn black jeans molded to his massive thighs and firm backside like a second skin. Simone feared she'd pass out on the spot.

"Chief Bennett," she said, clutching her books to her chest, "excuse me. I need to get in my car."

"Not, yet. I'd like to talk. Would you come with me to the Sculpture Garden?"

She only considered denying his request for half a second. Then, she nodded and followed him down the path that led to the north part of campus and the garden of sculptures.

He found a secluded bench. The two sat. She continued to use her books as a shield. He gave them a pointed look and smiled.

"You don't need those. Unless you're afraid of me. I won't hurt you, Simone." He carefully removed the books from her and set them on the empty space on the other him.

"What do you want to talk about?"

"Kay tells me that you're moving to Port Charles. I wish you wouldn't do that."

"I don't see how it matters to you," she said. "You've been ignoring me for weeks. You feel it as much as I do, but you're in denial. I can't stay here and watch you with Ivy."

"Ivy's gone," he blurted out. "She moved out this morning. I asked her to."

"Why?" Simone feared the answer, but she had to ask. His response mattered.

"Because it's wrong to be with one woman while I'm thinking about another one." Lightly, he brushed his knuckles along her cheek. "I can't get you out of my head, Simone. I don't want you to leave Harmony."

"Chief Bennett, I--"

"Please, before you say anything else, call me Sam."

She offered him a small, shy smile. "Okay. Sam. What will it mean for…us…if I stay? Kay and my dad won't be happy about this."

"Sweetheart, no one will be happy about this." His burning gaze held her still. "Being together will be a huge risk."

"But definitely a risk worth taking," she finished for him.

His large hand took her face and held it gently. As if in slow motion, he lowered his head to hers. The first brush of his lips was slow and thoughtful. Then, hunger seemed to take over. His kiss devoured her and sent shock waves throughout her entire body. When it was over, she leaned against him, confidant that nothing would draw them apart.

^^^

"When did you have time to do this?" Pilar followed Hank into the newly converted storeroom of Grace's bookstore. Her gaze traveled around the room. Boxes and shelves of merchandise had been replaced by a daybed, an oak wardrobe and a kitchenette complete with a small round table and two chairs. The walls were adorned with framed photos of her children. Tears filled her eyes. "This is amazing. I can't believe you did all this for me."

He took her hand and placed a key inside. "You have a separate entrance through that door over there."

"I don't have the money to repay you."

He placed his hand at the curve of her neck and shoulder. His thumb brushed her rapidly beating pulse. "I don't want your money, Pilar. I did this for you. You don't owe me anything."

She stepped away and headed to the kitchenette. The cabinets and fridge were well stocked. She began pulling out food. "Can I at least make dinner for you?"

Tenderness came from him warm and true. He gave her a gentle smile. "I'd like that. Very much."

She prepared his favorite dishes, cheese enchiladas with rice and refried beans. He devoured the meal like a starved man. His passion awakened hers. She hadn't felt such intense emotions since her husband, Martin, disappeared. Was it wrong to acknowledge this growing attraction to Hank? He and Luis were the same age, for goodness sakes. She watched him grow into the fine man he was today. Was it fair of her to surrender to the draw that was pulling them together?

"This was great," he said. "I could get used to this." He reached across the table for her hand. Their fingers moved to entwine.

"Hank…" She tried to pull free.

"No, Pilar. We can't run away from this. Don't be afraid. Everything will be fine. Trust me." His voice was soft and hypnotic. "You'll see."

He rose and came around the table. After pulling her to her feet, he slipped his arms around her waist. His hands settled at the small of her back. "Let me take care of you. Let me make you happy."

Before she could think of a response, he captured her mouth in an intoxicating kiss filled with promises.

^^^

Kay couldn't tear her gaze away from Miguel. He'd moved into her room and doted on her like there was no tomorrow. All her dreams realized by his attention and affection. But was it real? How could this be real? She'd done everything under the sun to make him love her. If she had known that being impaled would open his eyes and his heart… Wow.

"I turned in your notice to the fish market," he said as he cleared her tray. "I got a job on a construction site in Salem. It's a long drive, but the pay is good. Maybe we're you're feeling better we can move down there."

"You want to move away? With me?"

He sat beside her on the bed. "Of course with you. When will you understand that I love you? I want you, Maria and me to be a real family. Alistair Crane refuses to let my family work in Harmony, but Harmony isn't the end of the world. The people in Salem have been nice. There's been a little bit of crime, but that's everywhere, right? As long as we're together, I'm sure we can face anything."

A warm glow flowed through her. Euphoria wrapped around her like a silken cocoon. Then, the doubts set in. This was entirely too perfect to be true. There had to be a catch. Her life couldn't be this wonderful. So, she asked, "What about Charity?"

He looked at her as if she'd lost her mind. "What about Charity? Charity doesn't have anything to do with us."

"But…" Tears lodged in her throat as she forced the words out. "But you love her."

"I thought I did. I was confused. When I saw you on the ground, impaled by that pipe and knowing that I did that to you…everything became clear. Kay, you have been a part of my life as long as I can remember. You knew me before I knew myself. I was stupid to be blind to what we could have. Even after Maria was born… " He took her hands. "Please, forgive me. I know I don't have the right to ask you this, but I love you so much. I can't imagine living my life without you or our daughter. Will you promise me to think about moving to Salem with me? Really think about it, okay?"

He pressed a sweet, lingering kiss to her mouth. He then glanced at his watch. "It's getting late. I'd better get on the road. I may miss dinner, but if you can, stay up for me."

Kay rested against the pillows in the daze. If this was a dream, she never, ever wanted to wake up.

^^^

Tabitha didn't mean to eavesdrop. It just happened. What in the world was going on?

Miguel wanting a family with Kay? Hank and Pilar? And Chief Bennett romancing his best friend's daughter?

The old witch's mind rattled. How? And why? None of it made sense. She needed answers.

She pulled the red velvet cover from around her crystal ball. After performing the particular rituals, she consulted the ball for guidance.

An image of her and Endora and the Book of Spells appeared in the hazy glow of the ball. It was she, Tabitha, who created this love crazy twist for which there was no cure.

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