Candy Candy Manga is written by Kyoko Mizuki, Yumiko Igarashi.

Wild Rose Cottage

Please read here https://www.fanfiction.net/~kellyelin. It's more updated. Thank you.


Chapter 1: Past Secrets

Avatar is drawn by ELSA. Drawn with water color. Thank you Elsa. Check the bigger image with a higher resolution from my facebook. It's much better�

oOo

Sabrina Weasley Cornwell: if you read this� The Stear-Patty part is for you� Hope it's decent enough ;)

oOo

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Candy Candy Manga is written by Kyoko Mizuki, Yumiko Igarashi.

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Chapter 1: Past Secrets

In France�

A ten year old girl was looking in the mirror wearing a table cloth as her make belief princess gown. She used leaves as her crown and wild flowers as her pretend necklace. She laughed, then sighing� wishing they were real.

"Ella," called Mr. Boyt, his father, cut her muse.

"Daddy, you're home!" Ella rushed to his father's arms.

Mr. Boyt hugged her girl tenderly and Ella noticed there's a boy standing behind him. His hair was blonde. She released her father right away to look at the boy with a great interest.

"This is your� brother," said Mr. Boyt mysteriously.

"Brother?" Ella's eyes widened.

Her father left home for weeks then suddenly he came back with a boy who's her� brother? He or mother never said anything about she's having a brother.

"Well, not really� My brother's son," corrected her father.

"You have a brother?" asked Ella. That! She didn't know either.

"Yes, and this is his son," said his father firmly in a tone of someone who didn't want to be inquired anymore. "Their village was obliterated by some accident, my brother and his wife both died. This is their son. He got amnesia from the trauma."

Mr. Boyt turned to the boy.

"Ian. This is Ella."

The pale boy stayed nailed in his position. He only gave Ella a little nod.

"But I don't remember that you had�," protested Ella.

Mr. Boyt looked back at Ella. His lips pressed together forming into a hard thin line. He barked agitatedly, "Don't ask too many questions. Just make him feel welcome. You understand?"

Ella was stunt at that sudden warning. His father was always gentle to her. She bit her lips and stayed quiet refraining herself from asking for more questions.

"Ian has amnesia, don't make him feel worse. Don't ask too many questions... It doesn't matter who he is, but remember, you have to tell everyone that he's your brother," Mr. Boyt said gentler. But Ella could sense that his voice wasn't himself.

Ella simply nodded.

"You have to tell everyone that he's your brother. Got that?" Mr. Boyt reiterated one more time.

He crossed his little finger to his daughter's to make a pinky promise. Ella obeyed, gave her little finger to his.

"Good girl," Mr. Boyt said.

"One more thing, we need to leave. We will move out and never come back here," his father said urgently.

Leaving? The sharp intelligent girl was stunt again for the third time. But seeing her father's stern look she shut her mouth.

Mr. Boyt turned around to face the boy.

"Come here boy," Mr. Boyt said gently. "Would you help Ella carry things?"

Ian nodded.

"What about mom?" said Ella.

"I've told her." Mr. Boyt talked and walked at the same time. "Ella, empty the storage�. I get the horses ready."

Ella nodded. Her father, almost like running, left to do whatever he had to do. Ella turned her attention to the boy.

"Hello," said Ella, carefully approaching the boy who seemed to be a few years older than her.

She examined the thin boy who stood in front of him. He had wavy blonde hair and a beautiful pair of blue eyes. He looked scared but� how comely he was!

"Don't be scared." Ella took his hand. "Come, we pack� This way."

She pulled his hand kindly and took him to the storage room. Then, all things happened quickly. Ella could sense the nervousness in her parents. Ella, the boy and her sister quickly helped their parents to pack, loaded things in the horse cart and more.

Soon, they took off. Mr. Boyt abandoned many things to ensure they could leave quickly. Ella was afraid. The boy probably sensed it. He never left her and sat quietly next to her. She never had a brother, her sister was much older than her. Not a bad deal to suddenly get a new brother!

"I love our home. Too bad we're leaving. I wish I could show you more," Ella said while sitting on the horse cart.

"Yes," he said.

His voice sounded sweet, she liked him right away.

"What do you like to do?" Ella asked sweetly.

The boy seemed to struggled to bring his memory back to answer that question.

"Fishing? Play princes- princesses? Climb a hill? Or do you like to pick flowers?" helped Ella.

"Pick flowers, I guess... Roses?" he answered. For a brief moment his eyes glimmered, some color appeared in his pale cheek...

oOo

Mr. Boyt moved his family to a much smaller town and started to farm to earn a living.

Ella liked her new step-brother a lot. Soon, she and Ian became fast friends especially after Ella's sister left home to get married and Ella's mother passed away. As she promised to her father, she told everyone that Ian was her brother and she never dag about his past.

Four years later�

Ian was on the way to pick up Ella for the summer vacation. Mr. Boyt lived in a very small village, so small that they didn't have a middle school nearby. During school session, Ella left home and stayed with her sister who lived in a bigger town. She came home only during a long school vacation.

Ella saw Ian coming in his horse cart.

"Ian!" called Ella and ran to the arms of the blonde.

"Number one again in school?" asked Ian.

Ella nodded.

"Smart sister. Congratulations!"

Ella laughed proudly. They hugged.

"We pick up your stuffs and we go home," said Ian.

"Today? You won't stay for a night?"

"Father wasn't feeling well. I'd rather we go home quickly."

Mr. Boyt wouldn't trust anyone else to pick up his most precious daughter. He only trusted Ian and insisted on having him to pick up Ella regardless of his illness.

"How are your roses?" asked Ella, starting the conversation as they traveled home.

"Ohh�," Ian glowed.

Excitedly Ian told her the many breeds or roses he's experimenting. Throughout the trip, they continuously laughed, chatted happily catching up with what's new in their life.

Ian stopped the cart right in front of their house.

Ella jumped right away to see the blooming roses in the yard.

"Oh lovely!" Ella non stopped screaming praising the roses. She excitedly ran from one to the other examined them and admired them at the same time.

Ian laughed, blooming at the compliment.

The sound of their laughter echoed inside the little house. It energized and brought life to Mr. Boyt who's coughing heavily inside. He's been waiting. He knew his time was near�

Ian entered the house first, Ella followed him. They were stunt to see how grave their father's condition was. He was coughing really hard, gasping for air, his face was as pale as a sheet of paper.

"Get water," instructed Ian to Ella. Ian hurriedly helped Mr. Boyt to sit up, gently patted his back.

Mr. Boyt had been sick. His condition deteriorated rapidly since Ian left this morning.

"Ella, don't go. Come here." Mr. Boyt weakly calling his daughter back. He coughed. "I'm afraid when you came back, I'd be dead already."

"Dad!" Ella felt her knee weakened, she dropped kneeling down next to her father's one knee. Ian on the other knee.

"Dad, I'm number one again in class," said Ella. She patted his chest.

"My smart girl," said the old man proudly. He added weakly, "Promise me to finish school."

"Yes, I promise daddy," sobbed Ella. Her heart torn to see the condition of the father who always loved her so much. "I promise to be a successfully business woman. I'll buy you horses and trucks. I promise."

Mr. Boyt nodded. "I know you can do it," he said proudly. Mr. Boyt then turned to look at Ian.

"Son," said Mr. Boyt, "I don't have much time left." He coughed again. "Before I die, I want to tell you one secret which I have kept from you."

"Father, you'll be fine," said Ian. "Just rest, we talk later� "

The old man shook his head weakly, looked at Ian with a faint smile.

"If only I were really your proud father�"

"Father?" asked the blonde confused.

"Ian, you are not my brother's son." Mr. Boyt coughed. "Your real name is not Ian."

The blonde was stunt, his nerve system almost snapped to collapse, he sank to the floor. The girl gasped. The old man took a choppy breath then continued.

"Long long time ago, I was not a good man. We were not poor but I wanted more money. Against my wife's choice, I chose the worst possible path. Someone asked me if I wanted to be an assassin in exchange of a bag of money and gold. I accepted."

Mr. Boyt coughed.

"I planted a horse trap in the direction you rode." Mr. Boyt recollected. "I saw you come riding a horse. You looked very happy� You were laughing, chatting, together with a blonde girl who rode next to you." Mr. Boyt cried at the memory. "I could never forget that innocent happy smile of yours."

"Seeing your happy face," continued Mr. Boyt, "made me realize how I evil I was. I regretted I planted that trap. But, it was too late. Your horse had fallen on the trap, and� you fell, lie on the ground unconsciously. So did that blond girl. I couldn't believe the merry happy scene I saw a few seconds ago was obliterated in a flash, through my action�"

Mr. Boyt paused.

"Disguised as a medic, I was one of the few kidnappers who took you to the hospital�"

Mr. Boyt stopped talking as another coughing fit consumed him. It was a long cough that he had to gasp for air to breathe.

"Dad, let's continue later," said the Ella patted his chest worriedly.

Mr. Boyt shook his head, his eyes closed. "I want to die in peace. I don't want to carry this secret to my grave." He turned back to the blond.

"I took you to a doctor in the hospital which was also one of the accomplices hired to kill you. To our surprise, you didn't die. You woke up with an amnesia. Our boss was furious and asked me to kill you. But I simply couldn't."

Mr. Boyt reached out his trembling pale hand to the blonde's cheek.

"That night I kidnapped you from the hospital. Using the partial amount of money they had paid me, I brought you home. I took you, my wife, and daughters to run away to start our life all over again. Here. Remotely in the middle of nowhere," Mr. Boyt said.

Ella suddenly saw the connection. The day that boy suddenly appeared� His father's unusual agitation and why they had to move suddenly from their previous house to live in this remote village.

"Would you forgive me?" Mr. Boyt asked tearfully.

The man coughed. Ian was too stunt to answer.

Ella nudged Ian. "Brother, forgive father," she said tearfully.

"Ella, don't force him. I am not his father. But I love him so much. He's the son who I never have." Mr. Boyt turned to the girl. "I love you dear daughter. I don't deserve an angel like you. I'm, looking forward to joining my beloved wife... I should have listened to her. "

The man cried and coughed at the same time.

The room fell silence only the sound of sobs from Mr. Boyt and Ella was audible.

"No one knew that I was alive?" murmured Ian in disbelief breaking the silence. "Did I have a family? Parents? Relatives?"

"I was a make up expert. We used another dead body to disguise it as you. Very easy. Color the hair, fake the scars� told them that your face was ruined after the horse fall," the man coughed.

Ian buried his face in his hands.

"I'm someone else with different parents and family?" Ian thought in horror.

Blonde girl� could it be that girl with green eyes who kept coming in my dreams?, thought Ian.

Slowly Ian got calmed down.

"Father, thanks for saving me," said Ian amidst Mr. Boyt's cough.

"Would you forgive me? "asked the old man again

"Yes," said Ian firmly. "I should be the one who thank you. Had it not because of you, I'd have been dead by now. I should thank you for saving me, for raising me like your own son, for teaching me so many beautiful things in life..."

The old man smiled peacefully.

"Kind boy, kind kind boy� Thank you �," said Mr. Boyt, half crying half smiling. "I was right. You're a very kind man. It's all fathers' dream to have a son like you. You don't deserve my evil act."

Mr. Boyt cried tearfully. Then, using all energy he had left in him, he took the young couple's hands and brought them together. His skin wasn't very warm. His breathing was noticeably becoming more difficult.

"You both are lovely together. If only you two never left one another�"

Among the sob and sadness, Ella couldn't help to blush. Mr. Boyt could only put their hands together in less than a second before another wave of cough took over him again.

"Your real name is� Your name is�," Mr. Boyt trailed off.

He struggled to finish his last word. But a fatal train of cough shook him mercilessly. He coughed heavily and died...

"Father! Daddy daddy�!" Ian and Ella cried at the same time.

But the man didn't make a response. He died, peacefully, grateful that he's forgiven - relieved that he had let out the secret that's been weighing in his heart. They buried the man next to his wife.

Ian walked slowly back into the house reflecting what had just happened.

Who am I?, thought Ian.

He tried to remember but he just couldn't remember past waking up in the hospital. His head almost exploded with frustration, he blew his fist angrily to the table.

Ella saw it. She never saw Ian angry before. He always be gentle, patient and kind. She came to approach him and touched his hand to comfort him. But then suddenly she remembered that they were not having blood relation, at all. She pulled her hand right away. Ian sensed it� It made him even madder.

"You didn't know that I am not your step-brother?" asked Ian irritatedly.

"I remember that you suddenly appeared. But mom and dad didn't allow me to ask questions. So, I didn't."

"Forget it." Ian bursted out.

He then took a deep breath and looked at Ella gentler. He realized how foolish it was to vent it off to her. She, of course, was innocent.

"Sorry," said Ian. "You go back to your sister after your break, Ella. You have to finish school. That's father's� Your dad's last wish."

Ian went to the field to plow the ground. Planting had been his escape to everything unpleasant. He just loved it so much. In exasperation he's thinking, who was that blonde girl?

-To Be Continued �

Thanks for reading!


Chapter 2: Against All Odds

Chapter 2: Against All Odds

A few years later... In France.

After Ella's father passed away, Ian sold the livestock and concentrated on what he loved the most, gardening and farming. He transformed the little farm to a famous local farm. His fresh produce was well known to as far as Paris. Many visitors came to tour his farm. His roses were exceptionally famous much desired for wedding occasions.

Always be business oriented, Ella suggested to commercialize their strengths. They opened part of their farm for tourist. Visitors could come to pick their own fruit and vegetable or cut their own roses. The farm was doing better and better. Ella couldn't wait to graduate to start working in the farm to help Ian's blooming business.

oOooo

A blonde man was whistling, riding his horse cart. He stopped the cart at a school's gate and looking for Ella. Today was Ella's graduation day! Her last day of school.

"Ella, your handsome brother is here," cried Ella's friends.

"Introduce me to him, Ella," said one.

"Me, first� I had asked yesterday," begged another.

"I asked her last week," added yet another one.

Ian's blonde hair and blue eyes were just breathtaking. He's a hot stock among Ella's friends. They all fainted at his sight and Ella found that she's not an exception either.

Ella turned to see Ian. She mooned. What a mature young man he became!

"He's not my brother� it's a long story," stammered Ella. "But heck, he's not my brother!"

She usually didn't care in the past, but now it annoyed her to hear someone call Ian her brother.

"Well, then, you'll take him for yourself?" they teased her.

Ella mumbled some good bye to her friends and turned around to hide her red hot face. She then ran to hug Ian. For the first time she blushed at his hug.

"Number one again?" asked Ian.

Ella simply nodded.

Ian used his usual voice and tone, but it sounded especially manly this time. She felt shy but couldn't help to still steal a look at him. Ian had grown to be an irresistible young man. His blonde hair and blue eyes were simply infatuating.

Ian picked up something from the cart.

"Congratulations, Ella! These roses are my gift to you."

"Beautiful," praised Ella, her heart beat everywhere. "Purple!"

She examined the purplish shade of the roses.

"New breed! Their first bloom of the season," said Ian proudly. "They are called Swee�"

He stopped short from saying Sweet Ella*. Suddenly, it didn't feel right. A flash of blond girl images coming to him but they disappeared before he could make any of it. When he's back to himself, he saw thrilled dark eyes before him, staring at him sparklingly with a dash of hope anticipating to hear what he's going to say.

Ian cleared his throat, quickly corrected himself, "I mean� Smart Ella."

Ella smiled shyly, looking to the ground she said with a low voice, "Thanks." Blushing.

Sheesh!, Ian thought to himself, feeling a very strong sense of déj� vu. It couldn't be just an imagination. It was so strong. He shivered thinking about the connection of the word "Sweet", roses, and a blonde girl�

Hurriedly, Ian put a strong control to himself and smiled to Ella. He helped her to ride the horse cart to carry her home�

ooOO/\OOooo

High in the sky� in a real combat�, Stear was busy doing some dangerous maneuver and tricks in the air. Flew to the left, flew to the right, up� Stear was trying to catch the enemy plane in front of him when he heard a loud boom and felt a strong jerk. A disturbing roaring sound of failing engine soon followed. A familiar sound� but this was the first time it happened to his own airplane.

"I'm hit!" screamed Stear panicked.

He pulled and pulled the driving stick to regain control of the airplane declining altitude, hopelessly trying to fly the plane backed up� No use, the plane kept falling down, fast! He pushed the red button to open the canopy and got ejaculated outside with a parachute, but nothing moved. He then slammed the canopy with his fist, banged it, pierced it with his knife, still it didn't open� And the plane just continued to nosedive, fell faster and faster�

"Oh no," groaned Stear desperately. "All machines are the same. They get malfunction at the most crucial time."

Stear scrambled to look for the instruction manual, but from the window he saw the greenish color of the grass approaching fast� He then surrendered to his faith�

Good bye, Patty, thought hapless Stear. Archie, mom, dad, Albert, Annie, Candy� He felt lucky that he already gave Candy the music box. He thought of a string of people from the closest one to the not-so-closed ones.

Elisa, Neal� love you too. He smiled to himself. Since he's going to die, he decided to make peace with everyone.

Then Stear sat on his seat bravely waiting for the final impact. He felt a few minor bumps and waited for the final huge one.

One second... two seconds� three seconds�

Hurry hurry, thought Stear, tortured.

But nothing happened� Suddenly the plane seemed to stop moving.

One second.. two seconds� three seconds� Still nothing moved. No explosion, no nothing� Finally Stear slowly opened his eyes.

WOW!, thought Stear.

The plane got entangled in trees branches. The position was nose down, just a few centimeters above the ground, he estimated. Rejoiced, Stear tried to unbuckle his seat belt, but it got stuck... He then cut his seat belt with his pocket knife.

The bumpy impacts somehow fixed the canopy. Now, it opened easily. With his backpack, excitedly Stear jumped to the ground. He screamed happily, did some random short dancing and kissed the ground joyfully. He then went back to the plane to make a radio contact to let his military base know about his position and get rescued.

But� he smelt something... Gas! The gas tank apparently leaked, leaving gasoline trickling to the ground.

Ddddddddrrrrr.

Almost at the same time, Stear heard the sound of weapon being fired.

The Germans, Stear thought recognizing the distinct sound of the machine gun. He saw a few soldiers marching to his direction.

The German soldiers shouted something in German that he didn't quite catch. Stear lifted up his hands to show them that he surrendered. Then at one's command, he heard that familiar subtle sound of gun click and everyone had guns pointed at him, ready to fire.

Now, I'm really toast, thought Stear. Good bye world. Bye again Patty�

Drrr

Stear heard the sound of the machine gun being fired. At the same time, he heard BOOmmmmm!

Miraculously, his plane fell from the tree, right in between the Germans and himself. The plane shielded Stear from being hit by the Germans' bullets. In a flash, Stear ran away, as fast as he could. In terror he felt as if a bullet was going to hit him at anytime. Then, he heard a very loud boom followed by a very bright light. He felt he's flying, blown away a few meters to the front.

The plane exploded, thought Stear without turning around to confirm his idea. He picked up his falling glasses and continued to run without looking back� Just ran as fast as he could�. Entering a forest�

oooOooo

Ella and Ian were doing accounting and bookkeeping of their farm business in their house.

Bunk!

They heard an unusual noise coming from the front door.

"What's that?" asked Ella.

She shivered. It sounded like something fell and hit the front door. Ian heard it too. They straightened up, looking at one another. At the time of war, anything could happen. Ella was so scared.

Ian cautiously moved to the door and carefully peeked through the keyhole. A body?

Ian opened the door slowly and a solider body fell on his feet. He was unconscious, full of blood. A pair of glasses lay not far from his face.

"An American soldier," said Ian in fear. He recognized the flag sewn on the soldier's uniform. He read the name, Cornwell. Ian cried to Ella, "Ella come. We put him in bed."

Ian lifted the solider up and put him in bed.

"Get father's clothes and disguise equipment� Some Germans might chase him," instructed Ian to Ella. Ian busily tried to take off the soldier's battle uniform.

"Here, hide his glasses," Ian told Ella.

Ian changed the soldier's clothes and put on a white wig hair on his head. Trembling, Ella wiped blood from the soldier's face and hands. With Mr. Boyt's make up equipment, Ian disguised the solider as a sick old man. They were just finished when they heard a loud bang at the door.

Ian and Ella looked at one another. With his head, Ian made a sign for Ella to go back to her seat.

Ella hurriedly went back to her seat pretending to do accounting. Putting a scared innocent look in his face, Ian opened the front door. The Germans were here. They entered to do some brief investigation. Not finding what they were looking for, soon they left�

In the USA

Three days after Stear's burial ceremony� Candy and Annie took Patty, who had been staying with Annie, to her own home.

"Oh Patty, I actually need your help for my class. Could you stay with me today?" asked Candy.

Patty knew Candy lied. They had been making some excuse not to leave her alone after she tried to commit a suicide a few days ago.

"Candy, Annie, I'll be okay," said Patty, plastered a fake smile on her face. "Stear is buried, time to move on." She lied, blatantly.

Candy and Annie looked at one another, in doubt. But Patty insisted on. They followed her wish and took her back to her house.

Thus, Patty tried to slip her life to the same regularity as before� Going to school, meeting friends, going picnic�

But she just couldn't. After months later, Patty still woke up with the same nightmare. Stear reached out for her, cried for help,� the same bad dreams again and again. She sensed fear and it didn't get any better with each passing day. One afternoon� it shook her especially strongly. She remembered her promise to Candy, Annie, and to Stear's parents to be good, but now it didn't matter anymore.

"Stear is not dead!" screamed Patty, fighting horrible senses that's raging in her head. "How dare they to claim it that way!"

She's not delusional. Not until she saw the body would she'd be willing to accept it. Until then, he's alive and she knew he's in need of help, somewhere.

Disregarding Candy and Annie who wouldn't listen anyway, resolutely, alone, Patty went to the Lakewood mansion and banged at the door.

"Sir William, may I see you?" cried Patty.

"Sir William, we get to find Stear," repeated Patty continuously.

One servant notified George about the disturbance since aunt Elroy was too bereaved to talk about the topic. George came out to meet Patty.

"May I see Sir William?" asked Patty.

"He's not here, Ms. O'Brien," said George apologetically.

"His nephew is not dead. Ask him to come out! Stear is missing. He gets to be rescued!"

"Ms. O'Brien. I'm sorry for the loss�," said George sympathetically.

"He's not dead, George!" Patty didn't want to hear anymore sweet words. She wanted some action� A real action!

But George kept politely declining. He didn't lie. Sir William wasn't there, he already recovered his memory lost and went on a business trip.

Soon, the request turned to a desperate appeal.

"Please George�," beseeched Patty desperately. "Please� have Sir William organize a rescue team to look for Stear."

Seeing George remained unmoved, Patty slumped to the floor and hugged George's legs. "I'll work as his slave� I give my life to him to pay back for his generosity."

George knelled down on the floor with her.

"Ms. O'Brien, I'll convey your message to Sir William. Promise," George said gently

Patty was so disappointed and totally losing it.

"Convey?" blurted out Patty.

Patty started to laughed hysterically and she just couldn't stop it. She kept laughing until she felt her kegs failed her and she rolled onto the floor. Sir William was the only person she knew and could think of to organize a complex, high-cost search-and-rescue team to help her beloved. No one else could. She was so desperate that her appeal wasn't granted�

Totally losing her self control, soon she lied on the floor, grasping for air, kept giggling with tears streaming down her face.

"Sir William!" screamed Patty while lying on the floor. "I dare you to meet me� "

George nodded to his staff to call Candy and Annie. Patty felt the two girls hugged and comforted her. She was too light headed to struggle, she cried in their hugs and the two girls took her home.

I'm good for nothing, Patty thought bitterly.

They just took an easy path by assuming Stear died! She's angry to herself for not able to rescue Stear� She's angry to Candy and Annie because they believed that Stear was dead. She's angry to the world...

Her faith though was stronger than ever. Patty got drawn closer to church and she found peace only in prayer. She went to church often to sit alone holding her cross tightly and stared at the huge cross in the altar. She prayed earnestly for Stear's safety , wishing for someone to find Stear, to rescue him, and to take care of him.

One nun finally started to notice her and they started to talk...

TO BE CONTINUED �

NOTE:

* Anthony gave his rose name Sweet Candy. Manga, chapter 2, page 1.

Thanks for reading.


Chapter 3: It Began Here

Chapter 3: It Began Here

In France

Stear opened half of his eyes, blinked in the sunlight. He looked around the room. It didn't look at all familiar. The window, the curtain, the bed,� all were unfamiliar. Then he tried to sit, but couldn't. As soon as he moved, everything ached. He released a soft groan and fell back to the bed. His sound alerted Ian who hurriedly came to his side.

"You are up! Finally!" Stear heard a voice, friendly and kindly.

Stear moved his sight to the direction of the voice. It's all blurry. He blinked his eyes several times and rubbed them to get them adjusted to the lighting in that room. Trough the blur, he could make out a kind face, an arm away from him. He blinked again to make sure he saw what he thought he's seeing. Anthony?

"I'm dead aren't I?" murmured Stear. With Anthony here, this can't be hell, Stear thought, trying to rejoice. Not bad, I'm in heaven!

"This is heaven?" Stear asked Ian.

The blonde smiled kindly.

"You're not dead, soldier," said Ian. "Ian. Ian Boyt. Good that you're finally awake."

"Ian?" confirmed Stear. He gaped, stared at the blonde's face fixedly. It can't be� I can't be wrong�

"My glasses�," murmured Stear. "I need my glasses." He had his eyes fix sharply to Ian.

Driven by curiosity, Stear tried to sit up to see Ian's face closer, but again he only could lift him up for a few millimeter and fell back again.

"Your face has many bruises, do it later when you're better," Ian smiled kindly. "You are safe here with me and Ella. It's been a few weeks..."

A woman, dark hair, came to bring a glass of water. From what Stear saw without glasses, she looked nice but not without calculation, intelligent, sharp and quick. She shone resplendently in all the modesty of her dress. Ian lifted Stear carefully, brought the glass gently to his mouth to make him drink.

"Ouch," Stear said.

"Easy soldier. Slowly," said Ian. "This is my sister, Ella."

Stear went back to lay down, tightly closed his eyes from the pain. "Thanks Ella, Ian. I'm Stear. Alistair Cornwell. Help me to contact my military base."

"You are an American soldier, Stear," said Ian. "This is France. This town, especially, is occupied heavily by the Germans. You'll be caught and killed if they found you. We've burned your uniform."

They told Stear how the Germans came and searched for him in the house, many times!, and how they disguised him to elude from the Germans.

"I don't want to be a burden. It's dangerous to keep me here," said Stear.

"You are not a burden, Stear," cut Ella in a sweet patriotic voice. "Our father is an American, mom is an English. It's our duty to help you."

Stear was so sick and injured. He had no option but to accept their help. With all the patience, Ian and Ella kindly took care of him. Stear gradually learned that Ian and Ella were farmers. Stear couldn't wait to get well to return their kindness. But it took draggingly a long time to recuperate.

Stear who always be so active felt tortured to be confined in bed. A few months later, as soon as he could sit, he insisted on helping them in the farm� anything that didn't require him to walk. Stear helped to greet customers at the door, to bag customers' vegetables, dry dishes and many other things�

oOo

In USA�

Patty woke up in one morning with mind still clouded by last night's dream. She went out picnic with Stear where he introduced his new inventions to her. By now, she was conscious enough to know that it was only a dream.

This time, she didn't cry anymore. Finally, the morning where there's something to expect with dashed of hopes, joyful plans, and dreams to reach. She had decided, she would leave the worldly life and join the convent!

It's good to feel peace again. Gone was a broken, angry person inside her. Patty even contacted Annie and Candy again who she had avoided in months to tell them about her plan. She didn't hate them anymore.

A day before she entered the convent, Patty visited Stear grave, alone. She took a basket full of white flowers which she picked up by herself this morning from her yard and wore her green dress, his favorite.

She walked slowly and stood over the grave, reading the engravement "Died 1917" in disgust. She knew he's not laying underground anywhere on this earth. But unlike in the past, it's more controllable. She simply didn't look at it and stared at the grass covering the grave instead. She noticed how tall the tree behind the grave stone was now. It could give visitors cool shade from the late morning summer sun.

It's been more than a year, she sighed. Slowly, she exited the cemetery to prepare for her trip to the convent.

It was Candy and Annie who took Patty to the convent.

"You're sure you want to do this, Patty?" asked Candy one last time. She looked worriedly at her friend.

"This is not an easy life, Patty. Don't force yourself if you decided that this is not for you," said Annie trying to be as supportive as she could.

Patty nodded.

"Girls," said Patty. "I can't wait to do this."

Patty squeezed Candy's and Annie's hands tightly. Her eyes glittered with excitement and anticipation but the overall face looked serene.

"Love you girls, thanks for taking me here," said Patty. She smiled peacefully then embraced Candy and Annie. With a steady face, she walked into the convent.

One nun welcomed Patty and took her to a room to change her clothes to a cassock� Before giving her worldly clothes to the reverend mother, she buried her face in it one more time.

"Stear, I love you," sobbed Patty briefly. "Until we meet again!"

oOooOOOOoooOo

"Candy� ," Neal whispered. His voice husky as he stared at her with all the fire of love.

Candy shuddered. The humiliation he received in the failed engagement party apparently wasn't enough to stop him from pursuing her. Even worse, now he did it so openly�

"Go. Away!" said Candy.

She's just so disgusted by this particular man who stubbornly was glued to her. All these romantic verses he recited... How did he even have the time to prepare all those? She cautiously watched out their distance. She knew he always looked for an opportunity to touch her arm or pull her elbow.

"How can I? You're the most beautiful creature known to me. I'm so in love with you," said Neal in a dreamy voice and look.

"Neal, you have non stopped talking for half an hour. Aren't your mouth tired?"

"Candy, you know that I can never be tired of you. I can talk all day about you� No, non stop, if you allow me too. I can never have enough of staring at you� ," he said gently.

She threw her face. That naggingly persistent gentle voice made her nerve prick. Neal kept following her until they reached a high class apartment complex.

"This is my apartment. Now, please go!" said Candy harshly.

He gripped her elbow and pulled her closer. Fine, if he couldn't get her attention as a gentleman, he would use force instead.

"Candy, I lov�," Neal said softly with eyes glimmered with fire.

Aww no�! Not again!, thought Candy almost puked.

Neal leaned closer to press his lips to hers. But just before their lips touched, she pushed him as hard as she could.

"Did you remember what my father say? Leave. Me. Alone!" barked Candy impatiently.

She ran inside and locked the door, as always.

"Candy, open the door� Let me in!" Like usual, Neal kept banging at the door until the security guard came to take him away.

Nuisance!, thought Candy.

Candy threw her bag to the coffee table preparing herself for a relaxed evening. Her maid came bringing a pot of tea and today's newspaper. Candy picked up the newspaper and sat comfortably in her favorite space.

What?, her eyes caught a photo of a familiar man. She froze. What she read made her almost collapse.

Terry and Susanna are married? It can't be. She read the lines a few more times to make sure she read it right. NO!, Candy cried utterly heartbroken.

Instantly, the past happy memories flashed back. Their romantic time in St. Paul, his warm kiss, his sexy grin, his toughness, his heroic act for protecting her from Neal and other notorious kids, his unforgettable handsome face... She cried. Terry repeatedly said he wanted her to be happy, but how could it be possible to be happy without him?

I won't survive this! Candy cried all night long so did the following day, every day � anytime she's alone, she cried.

The only time she didn't cry was when she's at work in the hospital. That day in the hospital, as usual, Candy tried to make her busy to forget her heartbreak. She had done her monthly chore to clean and organize the medical storage for the third time in two days. She did anything to have her mind occupied to prevent her from crying at work, for privacy sake.

"Nurse White, a note for you from someone," a staff knocked and passed a folded pink sheet of paper to Candy.

She unfolded the paper and read the note.

Gary?, thought Candy. What brought him here?

.

Candy, I'm in Chicago on a business trip. Dinner? Let's meet at the usual gate at the usual time. 6PM? Gary.

.

Gary was Candy's closest male friend. After Albert's real identity as Sir William was revealed, Albert spent less and less time with Candy. Candy and Gary's friendship blossomed. They often had dinner together, went out in the weekend, had fun, talked about almost anything together and more until Gary's job was relocated to New York.

But, with heart still mourning the loss of Terry to Susanna, Candy wasn't in the mood to have fun, even with Gary.

Candy tossed Gary's note to the paper bin regretting it's not Terry who wrote the note instead. She planned to pretend she didn't get the note and went home earlier to avoid Gary. Her plan got busted though. An emergency came up that forced her stay until 6 pm that day in the hospital.

On the way home, Candy saw Gary stand waiting for her on the left gate, she then went to the right gate to avoid him. But she saw Neal in there.

Argh, Candy groaned. She then went back to the left gate. Gary was infinitely more preferable than Neal.

Finally, Gary spotted her. For a second, he fixed his gaze at her then his face turned beaming. He lifted his arm to wave at her.

"Candy!" Gary hurriedly ran forward to meet her.

"Candy," gushed Gary. He looked feasibly happy. "Long time not see!" His whole face was shining. "I'm so glad to see you again."

He bent to kiss her hand. She noticed that he held her hand unusually longer before releasing it.

"Glad to see you too, Gary," said Candy politely returning his greeting. She forced herself to look as excited.

"Dinner?" asked Gary. Candy noticed that he looked unusually nervous.

"Oh� actually I�" said Candy trying to make up some excuse to reject the invitation.

"I- I've made a special reservation in your favorite restaurant," stammered Gary. He looked deeply into her eyes, his eyes were begging for her to grant him the honor.

"Of course, yeah, that'd be awesome," said Candy finally. It's hard to reject such a sincere invitation.

Reluctantly Candy went to have dinner with Gary. He did most of the talking. Feigning interest, Candy put a fake smile on her face while actually she was barely listening. At some point Gary even talked about the Broadway which made her heart sank deeper in agony. She rejoiced only when the dinner was finally over.

"Have a great time in Chicago," said Candy with her first sincere smile of the night.

She took her bag and ready to rush home to continue lamenting her loss of Terry alone in her room in the dark. But, Gary held her hand.

He inhaled sharply and said, "Candy..." His voice soft. "I miss you. Have you thought about me at all?"

"Huh?" asked Candy stunt on how the conversation developed.

"In New York, without you, I live in total darkness... I couldn't eat, couldn't sleep... All I think was you," said Gary tenderly.

Gary knelled down on both of his knees and took a ring out of his pocket telling her the well rehearsed speech which he had worked so hard to prepare. He's pouring his heart out and proposing to her.

Candy wasn't listening. Instantly she thought about Terry, regretting it's not Terry who's kneeling down in front of her offering the ring.

Terry... how could you do this to me? Candy always believed that love would bring Terry back to her. Who would have thought that Terry would choose to marry Susanna? Oh, Terry! She missed Terry� she loved him� Candy was so deep in her misery that she forgot entirely about Gary.

"Candy� what do you say?" asked Gary a few minutes after his speech was over, still kneeling down on both knees... impatiently waiting for her answer.

"Huh?" asked Candy.

"I said, will you marry me?" asked Gary gently with burning heart.

Marry? Why not? She could then throw the wedding invitation to Terry's nose. The best revenge would be to show Terry that she lived better without him!

"Yes, Gary. I will marry you," answered Candy, gritting her teeth, longing for revenge.

-To Be Continued -

Thanks for reading.


Chapter 4: Two Couples

Chapter 4: Two Couples

Albert threw a wedding party for his beloved Candy. The Leagans were among the guests, including Neal. He felt tortured to be there. When Gary kissed Candy, Neal brokenly threw his sight to somewhere else. It's too much for him to bear.

Likewise to Archie. He saw no more use of being nice to Annie and broke up with her...

Elisa, however, was ecstatic.

"Candy is married, bro," said Elisa excitedly. She always hated Candy. "Mum, Neal should get married too," said Elisa with a provocative sinister grin.

Neal stole a glance at his mother, gulped, quivered.

"Mum� I'm not interested in this sort of thing," said Neal meekly.

"It's not about what you want. Heir Neal! I want the heir," cut his mother impatiently.

The biggest mistake of her life was to take Candy from the Pony's home. The best news was she's married now with someone other than her son! This time she'd be tougher. She would make her son listen and marry someone of her choice!

"I don't like any one of them, mum," whined Neal referring to the pool of girls who's been introduced to him.

"Let Neal look for his own girl, mom," said Elisa cunningly.

"True! Go ahead, Neal... Look for one yourself. Anyone you like!" challenged Sarah.

The thought of Candy crossed his mind again. But she had married to someone else. Candy belonged to another man! So unthinkable�

Neal hesitantly looked at his mother.

"I don't know how," whined Neal again.

Sarah raised her eyebrow.

"Then, let me pick!" said Sarah straightforwardly.

"Mum, could we do this later?" begged Neal timidly. "Right now, I..."

"No. Have to be now," said Sarah tersely.

"B-But..," stammered Neal, trembling, trying to protest.

"Christine won't be waiting forever," said Elisa enjoying herself.

"You are to marry Christine Hildreth! I want their noble title," ordered Sarah.

For generations the Hildreth family was a well known wealthy aristocratic of bankers. Unfortunately, after Sir Hildreth's sudden death, their business crumbled suffered by internal friction and frauds by closed associates. They needed financial support, badly.

Neal's father's, Roger Leagan, was interested to inject the money and take over Hildreth's highly reputable banks.

Lady Hildreths was thinking a step further to protect the Hidlreth's family asset. She wanted to marry her daughter, Christine, to Neal and joined the two families with marriage.

"Christine?" asked Neal trying to connect the name with the face. "Which one is Christine?"

"You haven't met her," shrugged Sarah.

"Mum�," whined Neal loudly. "C-Could I see her first?"

"Just marry her. You have a lifetime to get to know her," snapped Sarah.

Running out of excuses to his mother and to himself, Neal sheepishly succumbed to his mother's persistence

oooOooo

"Christine are you ready?" called her mother. "The Leagans are coming soon to propose." Christine's mother knocked at her door and entered.

"You're crying, Dear?" asked Chrisitne's mother.

"Mom, I changed my mind. I was wrong to ditch Darren for Neal," said Christine.

Her mother combed her long golden hair gently.

"But why?" asked her mother. "Neal Leagan is the hottest bachelor in the nation."

"Hottest? Coldest, probably," sneered Christine. "Oh, he's so unlike Darren. Soulless. He... he's not capable to love." She shuddered thinking of Neal's empty and absent eyes. "I want my Darren back."

"Dear, you're just scared�"

"No, I'm not," argued Christine. "Neal is� frigid."

"Love needs time to grow," responded her mother gently wiping her tears.

"Darren is smart and talented. He can save us too in the future!"

"He is a promising young man, dear, no doubt," whispered Christine's mother gently. "But, we need the money now. And lots of it...," persuaded her mother.

"The Leagans can save our family's business. You have three much younger brothers to protect." Her mother started to sob. "Besides it's too late to cancel. They'll be here in half an hour..."

Her mother had talked to her countless times about how much the family was in need of money and security. Christine saw no other option but to obey. She wiped her tears changed her dress and bravely met the Leagans who's coming to propose.

-OooOOo

At the same time, the Leagans were getting ready to go to Christine's house to propose.

Alone in his room, Neal sighed deeply. I can't do this...

He looked at the bow tie in his hand and tossed it to the table. He then sank at the sofa, stared at nothing and thought more about Candy...

He couldn't even begin to accept that he had to marry someone other than Candy. He's not ready to be with Christine or any woman at this moment!

I've got to tell mum.Neal got up determinedly to tell his mother that. He fumbled with his belt, opened the door� only to reluctantly withdraw back to the sofa. His mother certainly wouldn't like to hear any disagreement. The consequence to oppose her was too scary to gauge.

"Master Neal, Mrs. Leagan said she's waiting for you," said Hannah, one of the many servants of the Leagans. She knocked quietly at the door which was not closed.

Oh no... What to do?, thought Neal nervously.

Still debating the correct step to take, Neal didn't answer. Hannah could see that the collar and cuffs of his white shirt were still undone, the bow tie was lying on the table. His face was excruciatingly bleak.

What a gloomy look for an engagement�, thought Hannah pithily. Poor master Neal. Too bad Ms. Candice doesn't want him�

Hannah felt for her young master who from the outside seemed to have everything.

Hannah was more than a servant to the Leagans. She joined the family as Neal's nanny when he was a baby and had been with the Leagans ever since. She wished she could do something for her young master. But if all the money and power failed to get him love what could a simple servant like her do?

Neal got up languidly. He gave Hannah a nod as a sign that he's getting ready.

Hannah nodded and dutifully left to pass the information to Mrs. Leagan, shedding a few drop of sympathy tears along the way.

Slowly Neal picked up the bow tie from the table and wrapped it around his collar, buttoned his cuffs, wore his suit and got ready to propose Christine. The easiest path was to follow what his mother wanted. Besides other than Candy all other women were the same.

ooOoo

"Neal, here's the ring," said Mrs. Leagan firmly.

Absently, Neal took the box and put the huge diamond ring fit for a princess in Christine's finger then went back to his seat.

"Sit next to her," whispered Elisa. Neal obediently followed his sister's request and sat next to Christine.

The atmosphere was arctic, as cold as the heart of the young couple. The wedding party, however, couldn't be grander.

"Remember to smile, Neal! Very important for publication," reminded Elisa before Neal got out from the car. She tapped her brother's face. "Today is your big day! Good luck." Elisa gave her brother a supportive hug.

Neal hugged her back. "Thanks, sis."

He took a deep breath, relaxing the muscles in his face to smile and got out from the car.

Here we go, thought Neal.

Soon the blitz , lighting from the paparazzi and journalists' cameras lit up following his every step from the car door to the place where the wedding ceremony was going to be held.

The party took more than a year to prepare and was covered in tabloids for weeks. The press non stopped comparing it with Sir William's wedding. This wedding, however, was more than uniting two extremely wealthy families.

By now, Roger Leagan's skyrocketing business empire had catapulted the family to unparalleled fame. So famous, in fact, that their name became a household name. The idea was so appealing that the press decided to call it the wedding of the century.

The diamond ring, the dresses, famous designers, illustrious guests, towering cake� The press eagerly took the photos of the bride who changed her dress for every different occasions. The bride was beautiful and the groom was the hottest bachelor in the entire nation - young, handsome, and the heir of a massive business empire. It's a story fit for a fairy tale wedding, seemingly a perfect couple who're envied by many.

"Congratulations, Christine," said Darren at the end of the party. He kissed her hand.

Christine heart broke when Darren turned around and left. She wanted to run and went home with him not with the man who she felt absolutely nothing about.

At the other side of the room, Candy finally got a moment to have some privacy with Neal.

With the most sunshine smile Candy said, "Congratulations, Neal."

"Thank you," answered Neal, overcome.

Time stopped. The few minutes seemed eternal. He didn't know what to say. This was the first time she's being friendly to him.

Now I'm married, she started to smile. Candy, why not earlier?

"This is Cassey, my two year old daughter," said Candy, beaming.

Cassey looked just like her mother. Her big eyes and piggy tails reminded him so much of the little Candy, the first time she came to the Leagan mansion. This woman never stopped making his heart throb. She's still capable to ignite the same electric that made him propose to her and do all those silly things to attract her attention in the past.

Candy stayed for a while offering more friendly wedding greetings. Neal just watched her� There're so many things to tell, so many misunderstandings to explain, so many feelings to express if only he knew how to begin.

But maybe it didn't matter anymore� so he just stared at her in silence absorbing every ounce of her smile until Gary came to pick her up. Neal watched Candy leaving with her man�

"Darling, could you carry Cassey? I go to pick up our coats," Neal heard Candy say to Gary.

"No! Don't want her," Neal heard Gary's terse reply. "I pick up our coats," said Gary grumpily.

Neal's heart lurched agonizingly to his stomach. How could anyone have the heart to say no that harshly to that woman? He would carry not only one Cassey for her but ten� a hundred�, no� as many as she wanted to, if only she asked him to�

"Who's that?" Neal heard his wife's voice, abruptly ended his observation of the couple.

"No one�," Neal answered absently. He sighed in silence. No one.

"Ready, dear?" asked Neal impassively. Without looking at his bride's face, he offered his arm to take her to the honeymoon.

Christine gave her hand. She looked back briefly wishing she could catch one more glimpse of Darren. But Darren had gone, she almost cried feeling so alone and deserted.

Quietly the newlyweds entered into the car and sat in tensed silence.

"Neal�," called Christine. She waited for her husband who sat at the other end of the seat to turn around and to fully look at her. "I have something to tell you..."

"Dear?" responded Neal mechanically.

"Mom doesn't know about this," Christine said softly. "Darling, I'm not a virgin... Would you mind?"

"No�," replied Neal. He paused. "At least one of us will know what to do�"

Taken a back, Christine lifter her face to see if he was joking. But, he's back facing the window, looking outside. She shrugged and silently looked outside the window too, just like him. Both ready to fulfill their marital duties for the sake of their families.

-To Be Continued-

Thanks for reading from the deepest bottom of my heart.

We'll read more about Gary and Candy later� Also Hannah.

Thanks to my two friends Sabrina and ELSA for the immense support! Thanks to sound exited and share the confidence!

ooOooo

Special thanks to RattyScrouge for in depth discussion about the many servants of the Leagans according to the anime.


Chapter 5: Irreconcilable Differences

CHAPTER 5: Irreconcilable Differences

.

In France...

Thanks to Ian and Ella, Stear's condition gradually returned to normal. Always be an inventor at heart, soon Stear started to fix things and build new machines again. Ian and Ella were impressed� Stear had quite a talent in building and fixing things.

Ian and Ella's farm was becoming more popular. It's heavily flooded by visitors, especially during tourist and wedding seasons. They loved Ian's fresh produce and gorgeous roses. Ella and Ian wanted to expand their business and turn their house into a bed and breakfast* to accommodate enthusiastic visitors. Stear begged to help them. He was grateful for their help in nurturing him throughout his injury and couldn't wait to do something for them in return.

Stear was excited when they agreed. He flexed his muscles and remodeled the farm house into a pretty commercial accommodation. They named it Wild Rose Cottage.

Stear soon made a name for himself, too. Many local farms, schools, neighbors, called him to be a repairman to fix things and more.

One day, Stear went to Paris and used almost all of his earning to buy gifts for Ian and Ella. For Ella, Stear bought a nice expensive hat. He knew Ella liked fashion and had been dreaming of owning this fashionable hat. Stear saw her collect fashion magazines left by the guests and read them over and over again. Stear also bought a crate of good beers for himself and Ian.

Ella was ecstatic to see the hat. She screamed happily, hugged Stear tightly and kissed him many times on his cheeks.

"Want to drink beer with us, Ella?" asked Stear politely after the celebration was over.

"No, I'd rather not," Ella smiled nicely to Stear. "I love the hat you bought me. Thanks Stear. I will never take this off."

Ella stylishly posed in front of Stear one more time and gave Stear another kiss on his cheek.

"Don't drink too much Ian. You know you get drunk easily," yelled Ella. "Bye Stear, dear!" She waved her hands to the two.

Stear and Ian then walked outside to find a suitable place to drink. The look of Ella being playful to Stear nauseated Ian.

"Trying to hit on her?" asked Ian sourly as soon as Ella was far enough to hear them.

"Jealous?" Stear laughed. "My friend, if I want a girl, I would have had one already."

Stear's usually happy and laughing eyes suddenly looked melancholic.

"I'm sorry," said Ian. His kind heart truly meant it. "Someone you love? You lost her at war?"

Stear slowly shook his head. He sank to the ground, cracking open a beer and told Ian about Patty. The influence of the alcohol probably helped, the two started to speak openly about things.

"I'm sorry, Stear," said Ian kindly one more time.

"Ella, she isn't your sister?" Stear asked warily.

"Not really," answered Ian, finishing his third bottle of beer. "Five years younger, a charming brilliant girl."

Ian told Stear about his amnesia, Mr. Boyt's story, about he rode a horse with a blonde girl, the horse trap, everything.

"Amnesia?" asked Stear. He stared at the beer in his hand wondering if he heard it right or he started to get drunk too.

Ian nodded.

"I was told that she was my step-sister, and all of a sudden she's available right there. Getting more attractive every day..."

The beer certainly helped, Ian became overly open up that evening.

"Why don't you tell her?" asked Stear.

"Not sure. It's hard� I wonder who that blonde girl is. It's annoying not to remember things, believe me."

Ian hit his head and looked so desperate.

"I can't remember a thing passed being woken up in the hospital. I'm not sure which is real, which is my imagination," continued Ian.

Anthony, thought Stear. He stared at Ian fixedly with a kind smile. Archie, Neal, I'm with our dearest cousin now!

He looked so similar with Albert. But with a special touch of that familiar sweetness and kindness in his character. The roses around the farm, the way he spoke, the natural American English with Chicago accent...

"What?" asked Ian. Suddenly he's aware that Stear was staring at him.

"Nothing," snapped Stear. "It must be annoying not to remember things."

"If you love Patty so much, why don't you go home?" asked Ian.

"It's complicated," answered Stear. "Anyway, forget about girls, let's just drink!" Stear cracked open two more bottles of beers. He gave Ian one and one for himself. "Girls mean headache."

"Agreed," Ian laughed, nodded. "Cheers!"

They cheered and drank like buddies all through the night.

-oOoOooOooOoo-

In Chicago

Neal's secretary knocked at his office door.

"Mr. Leagan, Alen has a doctor appointment today," reminded his secretary.

To Neal, his baby son's routine doctor check-up was more important than any of his business meetings. He loved to hear what the doctor said about Alen's growth and development and wouldn't trust anyone for the job except himself or his wife. But, since his wife never came back home, he had been the one who did the routine.

When they came back from the doctor, Alen was sleeping. Neal handed him to his nanny to be put in his crib. Neal spent some time to sit next to his crib to examine his baby's quiet peaceful face. Before he left, he patted Alen's check lightly with his finger and closed the door quietly.

As far as his memory could remember, he was always with his mother when he was little - hardly ever be with his father� So unlike Alen...

Neal heard footsteps of someone walking in a hurry. Christine entered� the first time he saw her in months, probably since soon after Alen was born.

Her face was pale. Skipping all the greeting, she went straight to the bathroom. Neal heard the sound of some noise, coughing, then a toilet being flushed. Then she reappeared, looking still visibly pale.

"Neal, I'm pregnant," Christine said. She added really softly, "Not yours."

The silence was bursting his eardrums.

Alen is mine, was the only thing that rang in Neal's head.

"Hell it's not," Neal said quietly.

"I met someone�," said Christine. "He loves me dearly... He mentions my name in his sleep and shouts my name when we make love. Unlike you." She gave Neal a sad glance. "He's rich too. Not the hottest bachelor in the nation, but he's somewhere in the list, I'm sure." She laughed cynically. "Mom won't mind."

"Christine, I never be bad to you," defended Neal mildly.

"Yes, you're right," sighed Christine.

"We could try harder," said Neal without much emotion.

She shook her head.

"You never understand this, don't you? Love is not a duty or obligation. It's not only being kind and good to each other." She shook her head hopelessly. "I want passion� fire! It' can't be explained. You need to experience it�"

I experienced that, alright, thought Neal silently. His mind wandered briefly to Candy.

After a long dreadful pause, Christine sighed. Neal always be profoundly quiet, awfully boring� She was done with him and that's all that mattered.

"Good bye Neal," Christine said softly.

"And� Alen?" asked Neal, his heart beat nervously instantly.

She could leave but Alen was his. He wouldn't give up Alen at any reason. He would employ all the best lawyers in the country to win the full custody of Alen if necessary.

"I love him. But, he looks too much like you," answered Christine.

Her heart ached every time she saw Alen remembering her fail marriage. Neal never be bad to her, but he never explained satisfactorily the word "candy" which he often mentioned in his sleep and often blurted out during their most passionate and sweaty sex. He said because she's sweet like a candy? Not sure if she could buy it. He had tried not to blurt out the word, but who could control their brain when they're making love or when sleeping?

"Take care of Alen for me," Christine begged. "I'll be forever grateful. Promise that I can visit him as much as I want."

Neal nodded. That's all he cared about.

"Contact my lawyer if you need anything," Christine said before she left.

Neal sighed. The hardest task was to inform his mother. She had warned him that whatever happened, they must not get divorce. He mused deeply on how to tell her, contemplating countless of possible ways to reduce the impact.

"Mum, Christine and I are divorcing," said Neal quietly, using the most direct approach.

Mrs. Leagan froze, looking at her son in astonishing silence. The next thing he knew his cheek felt hot from the slap of her hand.

"Good for nothing! Have I told you that you shouldn't get divorced at any cost? Our family can't handle the scandal!"

And she hated to lose the noble title too�

"Mum, I didn't want to divorce. She chose to leave me," answered Neal obediently. "We shouldn't get married in the first place."

"You blame me then?" retorted Sarah, fuming. "Just for a simple thing as to retain a wife you can't do!"

Neal was irate - everything turned into white in his vision.

They think they own me?, Neal thought in stony silence, didn't reply to his mother.

She made him marry because of her family background, business connection, and who knew what other reasons. Now, it failed all she cared about was reputation. She never cared about his own feeling.

Neal had been an obedient son. He rarely talked back to his mother and as much as he's being pampered and got all he wanted from his mother, in return, he followed what his mother wanted, too. But not this time. Something snapped, he fed up and decided to rebel. It's his life, why should he listen to anyone at all?

That night, Neal left home without telling his parents about his whereabouts. He took only Alen and the only servant he could trust, Hannah

OoOoo

In one courtroom in New York.

"Ms. Ardlay, congratulations. The divorce appeal is granted. You get back your last name and a full custody of your three year old daughter," said Candy's lawyer.

Candy won the legal case but she felt far from rejoicing from the victory. Instead, she felt numbed.

My mistake oh my mistake�, Candy thought full of regret.

She grew up without parents. She always wanted her children to have a father and a mother. With this divorce, she'd be a single mother and Cassey would not live with her birth father. She trembled at that prospect.

Candy nodded to her lawyer, shook his hand and went outside to chase Gary.

"Gary,� let's not end it this way� Please, give me a second chance," begged Candy.

Gary stopped walking to glare at Candy bitterly.

"Second chance?" he spat at her. "With someone else in your heart, you used my body to get pregnant." Gary laughed acidly. "You think I'm stupid?" he growled. "You just want to use me again for your daughter to have a father!"

"Gary, please� we start over�," begged Candy.

Gary rolled his eyes, gave him a hatred look and left without talking further with her.

-To be continued-

*Bed and breakfast: like a hotel thing�

Thanks for reading, everyone.


Chapter 6: Hannah Intervened

CHAPTER 6: Hannah Intervened

.

Stear, you would have been 22nd this year, sighed Archie.

Today was Archie's birthday. He just broke up with his girlfriend and spent the day alone, quietly. He's staring at his brother's portrait thinking about him.

A servant knocked at the door and handed in a stack of letters. Archie glanced trough the letters. Nothing. All birthday card wishes were only from business associates and lawyers.

A servant knocked again at the door.

"From the Brittons, sire," the servant announced.

Archie opened the envelope and found a smaller pink envelope inside. It's from Annie. He smiled and stared at her handwriting for a moment. Annie still wrote him, the only past friend who still wrote him regularly and sent cards. He's been busy with his girls that he didn't pay attention to it, except today.

Carefully, he slid opened the envelope and read her letter inside. It's warm as always more notably in a cold day like this.

Why not go to see her?, a thought suddenly sprang in his mind.

Archie got up to change his clothes and soon he's in his car, driving to Pony's home.

Archie found Annie sit under a tree reading to the children. She looked honest, modest, not at all like all the girls he had been dating.

He saw the students clap their hands after Annie finished reading. The children got up and said, "Thank you, Ms. Annie."

Teacher Annie! It couldn't sound more graceful. Annie led the children walk back to the house, that's when she finally saw Archie. She looked surprised. She was surprised, but she managed to control herself. She nodded to Archie as a sign she saw him. Not until all the children enter the house did she come to approach him.

"Happy birthday, Archie!" said Annie. Her heart bursted with joy to see the man.

"Are you busy?" asked Archie.

"Not in general� But now I have a class to teach," said Annie. She smiled, the same smile as the one she's been giving but this time it fluttered his heart.

"I'll wait for you outside, then," said Archie.

That's how it began�

Archie then came every weekend, then more frequently. Annie never asked him why. It's more than a blessing to be able to see Archie again. Unlike in the past, his eyes looked kind and gentle. He never avoided her eyes like in the past and his gaze deepened with each visit. What did that mean she was too afraid to guess. Just to see him made her happy and she refused to think more to ruin the moment.

And then that day when they were chatting under a tree in Pony hill� He suddenly took her white little hand in his. Her heart beat widely, it almost cracked open. It's beyond her wildest dream that he held her hand again. Then, he declared his love something that she had been hoping for years. Before long, Archie bent on his knee to propose. Annie who had always loved him and loved him still, of course accepted it.

Annie called Candy right away.

"Candy, guess what! I'm getting married," screamed Annie happily. "With Archie! Archie! Archie! Arghhh!"

"Aaaaaaw!" squealed Candy from the other end. "Annie! OH! Wow!"

Annie laughed, squealed back in absolute happiness. And for the next few minutes they were not capable of talking. They were just exchanging stream of excited shrill and happy laughing shrieks to each other.

From New York, Candy hurriedly came to visit her friend in Chicago. She was so happy for Annie that it helped her go trough of her heartbreaking divorce tremendously.

A week before the wedding, Annie and Candy went to visit Patty in the convent.

"Congratulations!" said Patty. She hugged Annie sisterly.

Patty had always known how much Annie loved Archie. While Annie was busy talking about their wedding plan, Patty was examining her beaming face. Patty was really happy for her friend.

"I am not as lucky," said Candy after Annie finished telling her story. "I am divorced."

"Oh, Candy. I'm sorry!" sympathized Patty.

"My fault. I kept thinking about Terry� for the longest time I took Gary for granted," said Candy, full of regret.

"Oh," said Patty.

"Well, soon he found out� He caught me looking at Terry's photo among other things," said Candy vaguely. She didn't really want to elaborate how her sex life was, especially in a convent.

"Gary was angry," said Candy. "He had all right to be." She paused. "He still loves me but he turns to hate Cassey. I can't take that," sighed Candy.

"Any chance of reconciliation?" asked Patty.

"I'd do anything for us to get back together. He's Cassey's father. No one can replace him," said Candy melancholically.

Candy's usually smiling face looked so bleak. Patty felt sorry for her friend's deep complicated problem. She knew how much Terry meant to Candy.

"Candy, I'm sorry to say this� but� I'm sure you will get someone better," said Patty carefully.

She knew that Candy never had any problems to have men swoon for her.

Candy slowly shook her head.

"Patty� no one can replace Gary," said Candy heartbrokenly. "Not even Terry, for example. Gary is not just a man� He's Cassey's father." Desperate tears pooled in her eyes.

Patty patted Candy's hand to show support. Annie patted her other hand. Annie had been Candy's shoulder to cry on all these times.

"That's ok, Patty� Annie," said Candy. She quickly wiped her eyes and regrouped herself.

"Oh Patty, you know what� I'm not a nurse anymore." Candy smiled.

Candy changed her profession to a professional private nanny. That way she could work and be with her precious daughter, too. With Albert greatly took care of her financial expense, Candy didn't really need to work. But she did it anyway because she didn't like to stay idle� Being busy helped her to forget her complex personal problem too.

"I just got my first job offer from one family in New York to take care of a baby. The parents are rarely at home� Perfect job for me," said Candy excitedly.

"Congratulations! And Cassey?" asked Patty.

"I'll take her. Part of the agreement," explained Candy. "Now, enough about me. Tell us about you Patty� How's your study?"

"Can you believe that I've been here for more than three years? I'm halfway of being a real nun," said Patty beaming.

"Ohhh! Good work, Patty!" said the girls proudly for her.

Patty told them about her convent duties. She also studied theology, seriously. Her aspiration was to become a church doctor.

"I'm glad that I'm done with the worldly affairs. I only love Stear. And now he's missing," said Patty, putting emphasis in the last word, "I don't want to live in this world, either."

The three chatted some more then Annie and Candy went back home.

oOOo

After Annie and Archie's wedding celebration, Candy and Cassey went to New York to see Candy's new job offer. Cassey was born in New York, but having been in Chicago for many months, the little girl already forgot about it. She marveled the train station , the tall buildings and how crowded the place was.

Candy was happy to see how happy and chatty her girl was. Together, they went to see Candy's new workplace. It' s a moderate size mansion in New York suburb. A servant greeted Candy and took her and Cassey to a waiting room to wait for the supervisor.

Candy and Cassey were examining the yard from the window. Not bad, it's a big yard and everything was trimmed neatly and nicely. They loved it.

A door soon opened and they heard, "Surprise!"

Candy turned around and to her real surprise, she recognized who the supervisor was.

"Hannah!" said Candy in awe. "Wow, you're the supervisor here?"

Candy had known Hannah since the first day she came in the Leagan mansion. Hannah was one of the nicest servants in that family. She always treated Candy nicely even when she was made a maid by Neal and Elisa.

Hannah smiled and nodded.

"You work here?" asked Candy stupefied. It's hard to believe that finally the woman chose to leave the Leagans. She always thought that Hannah would never leave that family.

"Right!" Hannah said shortly with a kind smile as usual. Without explaining further she came to hug Candy. "Ms. Candice, how do you do?"

"Oh, call me Candy. You are the supervisor!" Candy hugged the friendly maid back.

Hannah gave Cassey a friendly greeting too and took them around for a little tour around the mansion.

"This mansion belongs to Mm. Lizzy," said Hannah mysteriously.

Hannah explained sketchily that Mm. Lizzy was a rich business woman who owned multiple properties. This mansion was used only to accommodate her lover's son. Mm. Lizzy never came, her lover usually came weekly unless he accompanied her to go somewhere.

Hannah then showed Candy her room. Unbelievable! She'd get a big suite and a separate room for Cassey. What a lucrative offer!

The smaller room for her daughter was also especially decorated with many girlish pinks, eye catching ribbons, princess bedding, colorful little table and matching chairs� Cassey was excited to see the many pretty dolls on her bed! Hannah generously spent time to talk and show all perks to Cassey. The girl got even more excited.

Hannah then took Candy to see the baby. He was not yet one year old. Candy fell in love with him right away. His hair was brown and wavy, the skin had some brownish shade, although it's hard to tell what his true shade would be because he's still too young. His look reminded her of someone who she refused to think much about.

"Well Candy, would you like to accept the offer?" asked Hannah with a kind twinkle in her eyes.

"What do you think, Casse?" asked Candy.

Cassey was all bribed by the pretty dolls and lovely ribbons in her room. She liked it so much. Candy noticed. She also loved the place.

Candy accepted the offer, signed the contract and started to work on that day right away. She couldn't love the job better. Without she realized it two weeks went by almost too peacefully.

ooOooo

Candy was finishing the night. She just put the baby to bed and then her own daughter, Cassey. She went to the living room to re-check if all doors were locked and if any of the children's toys were left in here. She turned on the light, did her routine. Suddenly, she felt her foot stumbled on something. She heard a delicate sound of glass bottles clashed on one another and rolled on the floor. She looked down and saw bottles of beers laid on the floor.

Goodness! Who the h...Candy couldn't finish her thought. She suddenly realized that she smelt beer.

Then she noticed a man was sitting on the couch. He was staring at her with that familiar intensity and look. She was so stunt she almost fainted.

"Oh! A goddess�," the man murmured. "You look just like� one woman I know." He patted the sofa asking her to come and sit next to him. "Come here dear. Let me see your face."

Since Candy didn't come, the man got up with a bottle of beer in his hand looking straight unmoved at her. He moved forward, steps wobbled, moved closer to Candy.

"Come here, dear," he said softly.

Candy moved a few steps backwards.

"Your place is right here with me," he whispered.

He spread out his arms, reached out to catch Candy. Candy punched his face. He crashed on the floor so hard that the whole room was shaking.

He laughed. It started softly and grew louder. It sounded so melancholic and cynical.

Still laying on the floor face down, he lamented, "Why�? Why everyone who looks like Candy always hates me?"

"Neal! Shameful shameful Neal!"

He stopped right away.

"How do you know my name?" he asked, appalled. He tried to get up but he's too drunk that he fell back.

"Drunk man," said Candy. "Look for me when you're sober!"

In one quick movement, Candy ran leaving the room.

"Don't' go," he begged. "Come back."

Candy ignored him. She hastened her steps and dashed to her room. She locked the door and waited.

Blast Hannah! She didn't tell me!, thought Candy fuming.

She walked back and forth thinking. Everything made sense... the preferential treatment she and Cassey had been enjoying... It's just too good to be true.

She cooled down and sighed, Well, my fault, I should have guessed!

Candy carefully peeked through the key hole. No, Neal wasn't around. She quietly sneaked out to meet Hannah.

"Alen's father... He's Neal?" asked Candy.

Hannah nodded. "Yes, dear," answered Hannah quietly.

Candy yanked to a chair in disbelief. No wonder, Alen's familiar look, his signature eyebrows especially!

"Gosh! You didn't tell me!" said Candy.

"I'm sorry Candy," said Hannah kindly. "But if I did, you would not have accepted the job, would you?"

Hannah always knew that her master was crazy for Candy and it's the exact opposite for Candy's case. Hannah was there when Candy and Sir William wrecked havoc her master's engagement party.

"You're the best nurse for Alen," continued Hannah apologetically. "Forgive me. Frankly, I just did what's the best for my boss." She winked.

Candy couldn't help to smile. She had always known how loyal Hannah was to the Leagans.

"Don't leave Alen, Candy. He needs you," implored Hannah, seriously this time.

Candy nodded. She swallowed everything and went back to her room�

-To be continued-

Thanks for reading!


Chapter 7: New Beginning

Chapter 7: New Beginning

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Cassey was awaken by the sound of Alen's laughter. She went to her mother, but Candy was still sleeping. Cassey then slipped outside to check Alen. He was learning to walk happily with a man who she didn't recognize� Quickly Cassey hid behind a pillar but Alen saw her. Alen gibbered and with his two arms held by his father walked to the girl.

"Oh� Who's this?" asked Neal to Alen.

Alen watched Cassey and laughed excitedly. "Your friend, Alen?" asked Neal to his son.

Alen who couldn't talk yet laughed and jumped excitedly.

"Hi! What's your name?" asked Neal to Cassey.

Cassey didn't respond. She just watched shyly. But to stand still was boring, gradually she got bolder and joined the father and the son. She had such a blast with them.

Candy was woken up by Cassey's sound of laughter. She heard Cassey giggle and Alen's shrieks of excitements coming from outside. Candy went to the window and saw Cassey was running around with Alen followed not far behind her. Alen who couldn't walk yet had his two arms supported by his father� Neal!

Sober Neal!, thought Candy. And he's my employer! Oh brother�

Candy got ready and went outside to meet her boss.

"Morning, mommy," said Cassey briefly before turning back to Alen.

Candy smiled lovingly to Cassey then came to approach Neal.

"Good morning, Mr. Leagan," greeted Candy respectfully.

She saw Neal turn around briefly to look at her. He froze before giving a second stare. Slowly he got up, gazed deeply at her.

"It's you," Neal whispered, utterly shocked. He wasn't dreaming last night. "Candy?" The question slipped involuntarily more to convince himself of what his eyes saw.

For a few minutes, he stood still like being entrenched looked intensely at Candy. She ended the lengthy silence.

"Your son has been doing fine, Mr. Leagan," said Candy avoiding his eyes.

In great detail, Candy explained Alen's development in the last two weeks as professionally as possible.

"� so your son has been doing great. He'll have a routine doctor check-up in a week," said Candy finally.

She cleared he throat aware of his eyes which had been staring at hers without blinking.

"Mr. Leagan, is there any question?"

"Yes," said Neal.

Candy stood straight with her most professional look ready to answer questions about the baby.

"Where's your husband?" asked Neal quietly after a minute of silence.

Candy's eyebrows furrowed.

"I believe I don't need to answer that question. I'm here strictly for professional working relation. Talking about private matters is strictly out of the context." Her tone was stern.

"I can find out the answer easily. You might as well save my time and effort...," Neal said calmly.

"We divorced."

"Why?"

Now, that's too much. Candy exhaled sharply in impatience.

"That's a private matter, Mr. Leagan. Even if you're my employer, I won't answer that. And my real employer is Madam Lizzie according to Hannah."

"True. This mansion is not mine. It's hers. She paid for my expenses. Gender equality! Why should man be the one who works?" answered Neal carelessly.

Neal's response annoyed Candy. She knew of course about him running away from his parents. She knew how his mother had been frantically looking for him, his mother's heartbreak over his scandal. All those cries and tears. His mother even begged Candy to contact him to have him come home. She would have helped, but at that time, she didn't know where he was�

"So you can spend the whole day drinking?" said Candy dangerously low. "I am not a fan of your mom, but any mothers including her deserves a better son than this."

"My life, my way. I choose to be a jerk," Neal said matter-of-factly. "On the other hand, you! How come you could get divorced?"

"Let me repeat. As agreed and signed in the employment agreement, private issues are strictly out of discussion."

"But I haven't given you the job interview," returned Neal.

"Sorry you miss it." Candy impatiently rolled her eyes. "The paperwork has been signed."

"Let me guess then�," Neal said calmly. He grinned. "You regret that you didn't take me instead?"

"You wish!" barked Candy, fully provoked.

"But I do."

"This issue is totally private, but to remove any future misunderstanding, I will answer." Her voice deadly angry. "It's not you, obviously. It's Terry. I can't forget him."

Upon hearing that answer, all his playfulness was gone instantly. His jaw clenched and his eyes burned.

"Terry?" said Neal. His voice icy cold. "What is it that that actor has?"

"Everything," replied Candy equally coldly.

Neal laughed out loud. It sounded so bitter that she shivered in spite herself.

"Maybe," he snapped. "Except one thing�"

Candy stared at him, shuddered.

"Love," said Neal.

"You don't know what love is," hissed Candy

"You don't know!" snarled Neal. "Terry!" mocked Neal, "doesn't love you!"

Neal continued.

"His is a mere teenager puppy love which exploded and disappeared as quickly as it came. A man love is clear, won't be confused with obligation or guilt, inseparable by distance and time. Unchanged, unforgettable, and last. It happened before a single kiss has ever been fired and a single touch has ever brushed the skin� It makes the face of the woman he loves stay stuck in his brain in whatever he does� Anytime... anywhere�"

Neal paused, panting. He had been wanting to tell her this as long as he could remember. And this was just a tiny part of it.

"Especially when he makes love�," Neal whispered. His eyes looked gentler, stared at her with that familiar deep intensity. "Candy�," he murmured.

Good speech, but she didn't like to be lectured especially when someone criticizing her Terry. Further, knowing him well, she didn't want to risk being kissed by her employer especially in front of her daughter.

"Back off!" Candy moved a step backward. "Watch out your manners in front of the underage." Anger tinged sternly in her voice. "Go back to your woman, I just have enough money to feed my daughter. I can't feed you."

She then nodded respectfully. "With all do respect, your son has to have his breakfast, Mr. Leagan."

Candy picked up Alen and took him and Cassey with her� Today and tomorrow would be the toughest weekend in her life� To work as Neal's babysitter!

Neal exhaled a long deep breath as he's watching her leave. After trying to run away from his life to forget her, here she was back in his life. Yes, he still loved her and wanted her as before. Candy, no way you can escape me this time�

oOoooooooooooooo

That weekend time seemed like creeping to Candy. Neal was so involved in his son's affair. He spent most of the time together with Alen and since she's the nanny that meant she had to be there too. It was a relief when Sunday night finally came. Hannah said Neal usually left on Monday morning and came back on Friday night.

Overall the whole experience wasn't as dreadful as she had imagined. Neal put full attention to his son and didn't even spend time to bug her. Still, she's happy that Alen would go to bed soon.

From her corner, Candy stood watching the father and son.

Neal was again putting his palms to cover his face and opened them in a sudden quick motion to reveal his face to his baby son.

"Peek-a-boo!" cried Neal.

Alen rewarded his father's effort with a roaring sound of laughter. Neal laughed together with Alen. Candy couldn't help to giggle silently. What happened next was unexpected. She witnessed Neal's lengthy good bye to his son. Neal as a father was quite different...

"Daddy will go tomorrow, Alen � See you next week. Daddy will miss you!" started Neal. His voice was so fatherly.

Candy then saw Neal hug Alen, kiss his chubby cheek, talk softly to him. The father and son scene was so touching. She probably should slip away quietly and let him have a private moment with his son.

But, outspoken as always, Candy couldn't help to make a comment.

"If you loved him that much, you should take him with you," suggested Candy softly. Probably it's none of her business. After all�, he's her boss.

"He's my world," Neal said without taking off his eyes of his son. He nuzzled his nose in Alen's tummy� the baby laughed out loud heartily again. Alen seemed really happy when he's with his father.

If only Gary were like this to Cassey, sighed Candy silently while watching them. Suddenly she felt sad thinking of all the sweet things Neal did to Alen which Gary had never done to Cassey.

Neal hugged Alen tightly one more time then gave him to Candy. Alen complained. He reached out his arms to his father but Neal ignored him. Candy's words stung some kind of inspiration inside him. He was thinking about it and didn't pay more attention to Alen.

Candy then took Alen away and the baby wailed loudly.

"Oh! Oh� Alen is not happy� Alen wants daddy, doesn't he?" Neal heard Candy speak gently to Alen and give him a gentle rock at the same time.

Neal's heart bled. Every weekend was the same. It's such a torture to leave Alen. Alen grew fast. He even learned to walk! Every week he regretted that he's not with Allen more often to see his day by day development.

And Candy... She's beautiful. Her motherly look when she carried Alen was simply breathless. He didn't want to leave them. Seeing them both made him feel like home. Candy was right, he should take Alen with him. And he would fight to win Candy!

Candy saw Neal again the following morning. His eyes glazed like he didn't sleep much. In spite of that he looked determined.

"Candy, I will go back to work and take Alen to live with me," said Neal.

He paused.

"But, someone needs to take care of Alen. Would you come to Chicago with us? You're like a mother to him. He barely knows anyone else." He knew if he said he wanted her, she would more likely say no or even quit the job.

And when Candy nodded, Neal knew even sky was not the limit. At any cost, he determined to realize his plan and keep Candy with him.

That day, Neal ended his relationship with his woman. Then, putting his pride in his pocket, he went back to Chicago to meet his father, the second hardest task. To get his job back was easy. His father definitely would give it back to him. The real challenge was to compromise his pride. But for the sake of Candy and Alen, he would face it.

His heart beat harder as his car moved closer to the majestic high rise Leagan building. With much respect, one of his father's many secretaries greeted him and took him to the familiar office to finally meet face to face with his father, Roger Leagan, for the first time in many turbulent months.

Nervous but with determination and with one hand clenched in his pocket Neal opened the conversation.

"How are you and mum doing?" asked Neal.

"Good," said Roger emphatically. "How're you?" he added cynically.

"Dad�," Neal gulped "Alen has a new nanny�"

"And? You fell in love with her?" Roger asked flatly.

"No� Well... How do you know?" stammered Neal, off-guard. "She's Candy."

"And you are here to ask for your job back so you can impress her," Roger said. He leaned his back against his chair, meeting the tips of his fingers together in front of his chest.

Roger said slowly, "In your own words, you want to live your own life. I and your mother have nothing to do with you."

"Are you angry?" asked Neal.

"No! Never." Roger tried to look indifferent. He even gave a calm smile. "But that's what you asked. You and your illustrious love life. I could have paid for all your expenses other than you have to low yourself to make infamous scandals."

"But you wouldn't help because I didn't follow the kind of life you wanted me to lead." Neal hated critics and clenched his teeth to suppress anger from spilling out.

Roger glared at his son.

"I had been paying for you and you rarely followed the life I wanted you to lead. Why would there be anything different this time?" He glared deeper.

"You don't trust my capability," said Neal, aggravated.

"You don't show that you have one!" Roger said bluntly.

Now Roger expected his son to tremble, give up and leave. But it didn't happen. To Roger's amazement, Neal fought back.

"Dad, this time is different. I do want to go back to work."

"There're many highly qualified young men out there who beg for the position you want. Unlike you with the image that you've been putting�"

"I don't want to talk about that anymore," said Neal sharply. He threw his face and looked sideways to show his disinterestedness in the past topic which he had determined to move from.

"You don't?" Roger tried not to burst out. But deep inside he's impressed that Neal was still here, kept fighting.

Roger played along and responded sharper. "Me neither! But everyone else does! In all press conference that's the one question that never goes un-asked. Next time, you could have warned me first rather than make me learn about any of your scandal during the national television interview!"

"Now I'm a grown up man�," returned Neal.

On instinct, Roger released a hopeless groan. Neal ignored it.

"There'll be no next time, dad. I have a son. I want him to be proud of his father like I'm proud of mine," Neal said firmly.

Neal truly meant what he said, but at the same time he carefully picked the wording to please his father. It worked. Hearing those from his own son worth more than any praises from others. Roger didn't show it though, instead with eyes narrowed he stared coolly at his son.

"Fine. Prove that you worth taking the challenge!" Roger said dryly.

This was the first time he felt like hugging the old man. For the sake of dignity, however, he refrained from doing so. In his heart, he vowed to make his parents, Alen and Candy proud of him. Especially he knew that his work was the only thing that could make him keep Alen and thus, Candy.

"Neal, visit your mum. She's been worried strict about you," said Roger before his son left the door.

Neal nodded. Like he loved Alen so much, he could understand how much his mother must have loved him too. It didn't mean that he would go back being a mommy's boy like in the past, but he would be more considerate to her.

Like father like son, Roger didn't openly show either that he's ecstatic his son came back and chose to work with him. Besides, Neal was not at all bad if he wanted to work hard. Roger gave Neal the position almost directly under him. He also let Neal handle the Leagan's entire new business operation in France�

-To be continued-

Thanks for reading, all. Really appreciate it.


Chapter 8: Fatherly

Chapter 8: Fatherly

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Reminder

Cassey: Candy and Gary's daughter (chapter 3)

Alen: Neal and Christine's son (chapter 4)

Hannah: Neal's past nanny (chapter 4)

�. �. Story starts here �.. �..

.

.

Neal, Alen, Candy, and Cassey were back in Chicago. Life went on peacefully with the Leagans. Neal went to work and took Alen to visit the grandparents every weekend. Candy was happy to be back in Chicago, too. She met Annie, showed Cassey Lakewood and Pony's home when she had her time off in the weekends.

Before long, summer was here. That night, as usual, Candy took Cassey and Alen for after-dinner walk. They stayed outside until it got dark then they walked merrily back to the mansion.

Closed to the mansion, Alen started to chatterer noisily. He saw his father and made loud noises to attract his attention. Candy saw Neal too. It's rare, usually he came home much later, when everyone was already in bed. Neal was talking to a woman.

"You lose weight, Neal," Candy heard the woman said to Neal. "You've been forcing yourself too much, haven't you?"

Hearing Allen's excited cry calling for Neal, the woman turned around allowing Candy to see her full figure... a dazzling young brunette dressed in a curve-hugging red dress, with perfect make up.

Of course! A beauty�, thought Candy.

"Your son with his nurse?" asked the sexy brunette.

"Yes. Alen, nurse White, and Cassey," said Neal. He reached out to carry Alen who's been waiting impatiently to be hugged by his father. Neal introduced the woman briefly to Candy, "Lisa."

To show a nice gesture, Lisa offered to carry Allen but Alen struggled. He wanted his father, not some unknown stranger. Alen made loud noises to protest and reaching out his both arms and then his whole body to his father. Lisa had no other option but to give Alen back to Neal.

"Nurse," Lisa then talked to Candy but her eyes were nailed caringly at Neal's. "Make sure the father is fed too."

"Don't work too hard tonight." Lisa then tapped Neal's cheek gently, almost like a caress. "You make me worried! Get some rest."

What? He just worked like how long? A few months?, thought Candy. Family background! He just has to blink to make women swoon.

Neal ceremoniously exchanged courteous words with Lisa which Candy didn't bother to listen. Before Lisa left, she smiled kindly to Neal. He then cordially opened the car door for her...

Neal spent a moment with Alen before giving him to Candy because it's way passed his bed time. Candy then put Alen to bed. Cassey who understood that her mother had to work went to sleep by herself. Candy was so proud of her independent little girl.

Then Candy remembered that she left Alen's favorite toy in the family room. She quickly went back to the family room to look for it. Neal was still there, leaning his back on the sofa, his eyes shut � resting. Hearing her footsteps, he opened his eyes.

"How's work?" asked Candy formally, just for the sake of talking to her boss.

"Busy."

Now that Lisa mentioned, Candy also noticed that he did look thinner.

He stopped drinking and now he works and exercises regularly. Naturally, he's thinner, thought Candy thoughtlessly.

Candy refused to show kindness like that woman and, more likely, countless of others were doing to this spoiled man.

"Some people have to work since they're very young. Terry for example had worked to earn his living since his teenager years," said Candy mercilessly.

He gazed at her transfixed and his expression darkened.

"I never be good enough to you, isn't it?" said Neal after some dreadful silence. "At least, I tried."

He got up right away. Candy bit her lips. She noticed he got offended but her dignity convinced herself that she didn't do anything wrong. It's a fact! But to reduce the damage, she moved forward to help him to take off his suit. He refused.

"No need, I can work on this by my own," Neal retorted. "Learn to appreciate what I do. I never complain about your� stitches for example."

"My stitches? What does it have to do with�" Now she started to fume too. "Hold your tongue, mister. You're no stitch expert - Stick to your profession as a businessman."

"Same with you, Ms. Manner," uttered Neal.

He walked to the dining room to have his dinner. But his secretary came.

"Mr. Leagan, the staffs from Paris are finally here. Their train was delayed. Should they come back on Monday?"

"No, I'll see them now," said Neal.

Neal changed direction and went to his office instead.

Wait he hasn't had his dinner, thought Candy. Uncomfortably, she again remembered what Lisa had said about him being "thinner". Candy wondered if she should serve his dinner or some snack in his office. But she hardened her heart.

I'm his son's nurse not his, she thought.

Candy ignored Neal and went to her own room. What just happened was nothing compared to countless notorious issues they had in the past. But this time� she started it. That made her feel bad.

Neal had been working hard. What she said just now didn't sound too nice. Candy's naturally kind heart felt guilty and uneasy. Then, she remembered about Alen's toy that she had yet to pick in the family room. She went back there and saw the light in Neal's office was still on and he was still there meeting people.

Candy went back to her room felt even more awful and threw herself to her bed. She planned to wait until the guests left and accompany him to have dinner to make it up but she fell asleep.

She was haunted by bad dreams about her ill-behaviors. She couldn't sleep well and overslept the following day.

oOoo

"Dora. Wake up ," called Hannah to Dora , another servant who worked in Neal's mansion. "You babysit Alen this morning."

"Where's Candy?" asked Dora sleepily.

"She's still sleeping."

"But, she is the nanny!" protested Dora.

"Mr. Leagan said we shouldn't wake her up," said Hannah.

"What! Why? It's her job!" squeaked Dora.

Hannah gave Dora one of her subtle authoritative look and Dora sheepishly got up without further argument. Dora picked up Alen from his crib, cleaned him up, and fed him. She and other maids went to accompany Neal to take his son to today's morning outing. At the door Neal met Cassey who, as always, was with Alen.

Wantingly, she watched them with her big eyes.

"Want to join us, Casse?" asked Neal.

Cassey nodded eagerly.

Neal asked Hannah to get one more servant for Cassey and off they went.

A servant for Candy's daughter! Hell!, Dora gaped in disbelief. Why?

oOOoo

A few hours later... Candy had got up and was waiting for the children to come home. She heard Cassey's laughter from downstairs and hurriedly went downstairs to welcome them. Candy heard Neal talking to Cassey.

"Did you have a good time, Cassey?" asked Neal.

"Yes. Thank you," said Cassey in her soft girlish voice. She smiled shyly, bending her foot, looking really happy. "May I sing to you and Alen?" asked the girl shyly to Neal.

Cassey just had the most beautiful morning and her kind heart wanted to do something in return.

"Well, of course! That'd be lovely. Right, Alen?" asked Neal. Baby Alen who couldn't talk yet just smiled. As long as he's with his father, everything was fun and he's up to do anything.

Candy was stunt to hear their conversation and decided to keep watching secretly from behind the door.

Candy saw Cassey grabbed her favorite stool, brought it in front of Neal who sat with Alen on his lap. She climbed the stool, stood there and sang with her most energetic voice. When she finished singing, Cassey spread her skirt wide and gave her most gracious bow while Neal and Alen were clapping their hands enthusiastically.

Candy felt so proud of her daughter and clapped the loudest. Casey saw her mother and ran as fast as she could to her mother's open arms.

"Mommy, you saw me sing?" asked Cassey excitedly.

"Yes! Beautiful darling," said Candy. She hugged Cassey almost cried with pride.

"Mommy! Look!" Cassey showed Candy a cute little basket full of fresh mushroom in her hand. "I picked them with Alen and daddy..."

Whoa! "Hush!" said Candy in horror. "I told you to call him Mr. Leagan."

"But� You said he's Alen's daddy."

"Alen is different."

Cassey looked confused.

"Mommy knows best. Great mushrooms, dear. Now, wash your hand. Tell me more about it while you're eating your morning fruit," said Candy gently.

"Mom, come with us next time."

"Will do." Candy kissed her hair.

Candy saw Cassey jump up and down happily as she went to wash her hands. Candy felt happy to see her precious daughter all beaming.

Neal is awesome!, Candy thought, overcome.

Except to her mother, Cassey usually refused to sing in front of others. Neal must be exceptionally nice to her to make her voluntarily sing to him! Her heart melted and offered the olive branch first.

"You are the best father!" said Candy generously. "You are so kind to your son."

Neal's eyes widened. She never said nice things to him before.

"Am I?" asked Neal beaming. He looked unmistakably happy.

"Yes. Cassey likes you a lot too."

Candy took one handkerchief to wipe Alen's sweat. Neal caught "Alen" stitched on it.

"Cassey said you stitched that yourself...," said Neal.

Candy nodded.

"It's lovely," praised Neal.

"If you liked it, I could stitch your name on your handkerchief too," said Candy kindly.

She tried to be extra sweet to offset what she did last night and as gratitude for him being so nice to Cassey this morning. Not even her own father, Gary, would do such a sweet thing to Cassey. He, in fact, never did something quite close to what Neal did to Cassey.

"I'd love to," said Neal cordially.

She glanced secretly at the man and suddenly - for the first time - she realized how improved he had become. He seemed to have left behind all his immaturity somewhere. His brown eyes were clear , straightforward, and his face was actually not as ugly as what she had been making herself to believe...

Candy cleared her throat at that thought.

"Alen needs to have his morning fruit," said Candy, keeping her eyes down, embarrassed. She got up and took Alen with her, giving a quick friendly smirk to excuse herself.

During fruit time, Cassey non stopped telling Candy about her morning outing collecting mushrooms with Neal and Alen.

Holding up her little index finger, Cassey said seriously, "Mommy, mushrooms are dangerous!"

"Ohh?" commented Candy.

"Before picking, first ask Mr. Leagan!" Cassey smiled broadly. "He knew!"

Candy's heart melted seeing how happy and excited her daughter was. And this wasn't the first time. She knew Neal had been taking her out in the weekend. But this was the first time she saw the impact with her own eyes. He made Cassey sing�! Oh! The tender mother heart in her surrendered, completely. Candy promised to improve her manner to her boss accordingly in return.

Candy started to stitch Neal's name on his handkerchief. And when she noticed that he used it to work, she started to stitch his name on all of his handkerchiefs�

That Monday, Candy carried Alen to see Neal before he went to work so he could give his beloved son a good bye kiss. Candy could tell that Neal was happy and she started to make it into daily morning routine. Every night, she waited until he came home before she went to bed. She helped take off his suit and accompany him to have dinner. If he had no time to go to the dining room, she'd serve his meal or snack in his home office.

No matter how tired he was, he felt refreshed instantly seeing Candy greet him at the door. How much she meant to him was truly shocking� He loved her more than ever.

Candy never looked for trouble anymore. They never fought and she started to realize that he's not only not-ugly� He's far more decent than that. And� he's so fatherly!

-To be continued �

Thanks so much for reading. Really! Thanks for following this far.

Anthony will be back later�


Chapter 9: Cloudy Impression

CHAPTER 9: Cloudy Impression

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Reminder:

Lisa Lane: Neal's friend (chapter 8)

Dora: one of Neal's maids (chapter 8)

Gary: Candy's ex husband. Father of Candy's daughter, Cassey. First appears in chapter 3.

.

... ... Story starts here... ... ... ...

.

"Mr. Leagan, about your dinner engagement�," reminded Neal's secretary. "Have you decided if I should call Ms. Lisa or someone else?"

Neal made a sign to the secretary to not call anyone. I want Candy!, thought Neal.

oOoo

Candy was reading a letter from Gary when the thought of Neal flashed again in her head. She stopped reading to sink her thought in that man instead, smiling to herself. She put down the letter and noticed there he was standing at the doorway.

Candy turned on guard right away, wondering if he saw her smile to herself. But he seemed to be buried in his own thought. With a blank expression, he stood unmoved at the door staring deeply at her.

"Mr. Leagan, what are you staring at?" said Candy, a bit overacting. "I can't read when someone is staring at me."

Neal seemed to hesitate a bit and said, "Could we go out, Candy? Just the two of us?"

She wanted to. She opened her mouth to say yes�

But� wait a minute� she's supposed to hate him! What happened? Divorce meltdown? So hopeless that even Neal became desirable? He's not Gary, Cassey's father. Let's get the priority straight. Especially Gary had started being friendly again, let's not ruin her chance.

"You are my employer and I'm your nanny," said Candy professionally. "It's written clearly in the employment agreement that we shouldn't go to any date or to have anything other than work related activity together."

"It's not a date, just take a walk� outside. It's�."

"No, Mr. Leagan. The division between job and personal is clear," answered Candy. "It's outlined clearly in our working terms agreement. Let's not mix the two or� I have to resign."

He opened his mouth like he wanted to say something but her threat shut it back. He just nodded instead and retreated.

Neal went back to his office and slumped in his chair. He stared at the phone for a long time wondering if he should persuade Candy one more time tomorrow. But he didn't want to risk losing her. Reluctantly he picked up the phone to call Lisa...

oOoooo

On one evening�

Candy was babysitting Alen and Cassey when she heard familiar footsteps of someone entering the room but with unfamiliar scent of exquisite cologne. She lifted her head to see who's coming and gaped.

Neal stood at the doorway with a black bow tie instead of a regular long tie, his plated white shirt was done complete with the matching cufflinks and studs. His slender figure never looked more accentuated. Clearly he's not going to his office.

"Are you going somewhere?" asked Candy, dazzled.

"Business engagement," Neal answered lightly.

"Mr. Leagan, Ms. Lane is here," announced one servant.

Neal nodded as a sign to let her in.

Candy pricked. Ms. Lane? That woman! The hair on the back of her neck stood up right away. He's going on a date! It's so unthinkable. A powerful shock ripped through her, she doesn't know why but she had to refrain herself from chewing her nails in panicked.

"With who?" Candy croaked.

"Lisa. You've met her." He seemed to hesitate before added, "You are not interested to go out with me, you said?"

He hinted the question one more time hoping to fish a different answer from her.

"No, I'm your nanny, I don't suppose to�" Candy gave the same exact answer. She forced herself to be indifferent but it failed miserably. "Who is Lisa?" barked Candy before she could do anything to let the question escape her throat.

"A model... Know her from a friend. She... Well, you wouldn't care about the details, would you?"

A m-model!, her brain shrieked. She cared more than anything! Why would he take a model if he just went to a dry business thingy! She surmounted all her effort to respond, but all was in vain, like there's a lump in her throat, nothing came out.

"But I do," finally she succeeded to say it. But her voice was too soft, it was unheard of, buried by the sound of a servant knocking again at the door.

"Mr. Leagan, Ms. Lane is in the living room."

"Get to go." Neal excused himself from Candy.

Everything looked blank. Her mind went blank overcome by an unpleasant unknown feeling. It didn't feel good at all.

He's going for a date, she thought, flabbergasted.

She was beyond relieved when the door swung back open and he came back. Her heart beat so fast, hoping he would ask her to go out one more time. She'd say yes this time.

"Forgot to take my coat," said Neal. He grinned � his usual grin but it looked exceedingly charming this time.

Candy jumped to grab his coat which laid not far from her and handed it to him. He made a move to take his coat from her hand but she didn't release it. Instead she maintained a strong grip of the coat.

"Neal...," Candy whispered. Her eyes looked up at his brown eyes. They were familiar, captivating, and beautiful. Why didn't she these before?

Neal looked down at hers, surprised. She called him by the first name!

"Yes?" replied Neal.

Ask me again, pleaded Candy in silence. Yes. YES�! I want to go with you, she screamed inside her heart as hard as she could.

Candy?, Neal wondered. He noticed her green eyes stared unusually deeply into his. Do you want to go? Tell me so. Candy, say it!, thought Neal.

Still didn't release the coat, she even moved a step closer.

Neal, promise me to come home tonight! Don't make out with her, thought Candy, worriedly.

She was less than an arm away. Her green eyes never looked tamer. He brought his thumb to touch her cheek softly and she didn't even pull away. His touch of that little area was enough to paralyze her whole body. She never saw such a mature look of him before. No, she's not having a meltdown, it's a fact. She must be crazy to let this handsome man go out with Lisa, or any women! Simple!

Candy, tell me that you want me, he begged silently. Say yes, come with me.

The sentence sat at the tip of his tongue ready to be spelled out. But he froze remembering her threat to leave if he asked her to go out. And, he remembered the past when he was being explicit with his feeling to her, it didn't end up too well.

She saw his tender brown eyes gazed deeper by a second. She felt torn and guilty.

What about Gary? Cassey's father! I failed him once. And he has just started to write me regularly..., thought Candy.

She decisively pushed his coat to his hand and moved abruptly a step backward leaving his fingers still left hung awkwardly in her chin.

I should be with Gary, she thought resolutely.

"Here's your coat�," said Candy, back to be herself.

To remove awkwardness, he pretended to wipe something dirty from her face.

"Some clay there," said Neal lying, rubbed her chin gently with his thumb.

Well, then perhaps it's just my imagination?, thought Neal disappointedly. Oh Candy�

"Thanks�" Neal grabbed his coat and slowly took a step away from her. He then left to kiss Allen good bye, patted Cassey's head and left the room. The moment he disappeared, Candy never felt more alone in her life. Worse, this time he didn't come back.

She ran through the window to take a peek of what he's doing with his date. In distressed, she saw Neal put his lips on Lisa's cheek. The curvy brunette smiled kindly, rubbing her fine marble shoulder against his suite in response. Neal then held Lisa's hand to walk her to the car together.

Candy found herself in total state of collapse. She wished she could fly through the window to push Lisa off of him. Slumped to the wall, she tried to decide what she should do next.

Screw Gary. We will just go to a public occasion Whatever, I can't let him make out to her!, Candy determined.

Decisively Candy ran outside to call Neal back.

"Neal!"

But the car had moved. She screamed at the top of her lung but Neal didn't hear her.

"Neal...!"

She waived but he didn't see. And the car was already too far to chase. She could only cling hopelessly on the stairs handle watching the car disappear into the road.

Without Candy knew it, Dora saw all.

Candy? She called Mr. Leagan Neal?, Dora thought.

Dora hid behind the bush to examine some more.

"Neal, I want to go with you," screamed Candy in tears.

She likes Mr. LeaganDora thought surprised.

Why not! Perhaps he does too ! No wonder she's treated much better than other servants. Dora who always be jealous of Candy's special treatment was happy to see her upset. Dora happily saw Candy get up slowly and go back into the mansion.

Feeling worse than death, Candy put the children to bed and spent the rest of the night walking in a circle waiting for Neal to come home. Her head was intense almost exploded thinking what Neal was doing together with Lisa. She almost shouted in surprise when the phone rang.

With heart beating so hard that it almost burst out of her chest, she ran to pick up the phone.

Oh please, let it be Neal. He calls to tell me that he's coming home and we'll eat dinner like usual.

Candy closed her eyes with tons of hopes and answered the phone.

"Hello," Candy whispered, trembling.

"Candy? It's me, Gary." Candy heard her ex-husband's voice on the phone.

Not Neal. Disappointed, she slumped to the chair. She almost cried in desperation.

"Candy are you there?" asked Gary.

"Yeah," Candy said. She forced herself to sound normal.

"Are you alright? Your voice sounds like you just saw a ghost."

"Fine. I'm fine. How're you?" greeted Candy back.

"Candy, I-I'm in Chicago. I miss you. Could you come?" asked Gary romantically. "How to start this�" He laughed awkwardly. He paused briefly and said, "I want you back. I will try to love Cassey."

-To Be Continued-

Thanks for reading� Really appreciate your time, effort, and patience.


Chapter 10: Some Decision

CHAPTER 10: Some Decision

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For the next forty two minutes, out of the blue Gary sang outpouring loving words to Candy.

Gary, thought Candy, crying silently. There's someone who still wanted her. And he said he'd love Cassey?

What a happy news!, she thought.

But as the clock kept ticking and Neal hadn't come home, Candy felt anger growing. Her face felt hot. She thought her face was red but it was worse. Accidentally she passed through a mirror and saw her face was purple. She was stunt to see how angry she looked…The next second� she cried� Hard.

What happens to me? Candy thought, trying to make sense of her emotional havoc. Why should I care whether Neal is dating or not? I have Gary!

Candy spent the next hour crying feeling so alone, unwanted, and outcast. Those stitches and dinner together apparently meant nothing at all. She wept herself to sleep. She was awakened by a bad dream around three. The first thing she did was to check Neal's room. The light blue sheet, deep blue pillows, and the gray comforters were still untouched. He hadn't come back.

Candy went back to her room to cry some more and didn't sleep until the sun broke. It's been something to anticipate to take Alen to meet Neal in the morning. But clearly he wasn't at home this morning.

The happy chirps of the birds and glorious sun shine finally sobered her.

I have Gary, Candy wiped her tears with her hand. Cassey's father... I should rejoice.

Optimistic as always, she didn't think it's smart to spend the whole night shedding tears for a man who's having a blast with another woman! Candy got up from the bed with resolution.

She dried her tears, washed her face, applied some powder, eye shadows and matching lipstick so no one could tell that she's been crying. When Neal came back home, she coolly came to talk to him.

"I ask your permission to visit my ex tonight," said Candy, feeling triumphant, spelled out the word ex clearly. She too could have a date! Her tone was calm, her look was casual - deliberately staged to provoke. It hit the bulls eye.

"You want to punish me because I went out with Lisa," said Neal, fully provoked.

"Punish? Punish what?" asked Candy pretending clueless.

"You could have gone with me if you wanted to," said Neal

'Could have'? Shit! thought Candy, fuming. He too 'could have' come back home last night!

Candy was burning to be reminded again of her heartache. All angered contained since last night exploded, right there. She couldn't pretend anymore that she's mad.

"You didn't ask!" growled Candy, snapped her elbow off his hand.

"You didn't let me!" blasted Neal back. "But, I can ask you now! Would you be my only date, be my life companion, be with me all my life?"

"Denied," hissed Candy coldly. Surprisingly, she felt good that she could retaliate and reject him.

Her voice turned softer briefly. "Between friends, do me a favor.., allow Cassey to stay here tonight. Just tonight. I'll come back tomorrow morning," begged Candy sincerely.

"Tomorrow?" Neal asked burned by anger. His usually kind brown eyes never looked as stern and burning. "You'll sleep with him?"

"What if I do?" Candy responded bitterly. "What time did you come back last night? Oops wrong!" Candy added cynically. "You didn't come back last night!"

"You don't have the permission to leave," barked Neal. "It's a weekday!"

"Fine, I resign," responded Candy boldly.

"You can't without submitting the resignation letter and singing the non-disclosure agreement." Neal deepened his voice. "That's stated clearly in the working term policy."

"Then, sue me!" challenged Candy. She shot him a furious glare then without looking back she left the room, slammed the door hard.

That night, Neal sat outside Candy's door waiting for her all night long. He sat straight, unmoved, frozen - his hand squeezed hard the chair arm. He was about to explode with impatience imagining what she's doing when finally Candy came back. As soon as he saw her, he jumped up.

Candy was stunt to find Neal sit in front of her door. His face looked tired, desperate, and in turmoil.

He's waiting for me?, thought Candy.

Her heart was moved briefly, before she toughened it back. He slept with another woman! Phew! And� Gary is Cassey's father. The choice is clear.

"Mr. Leagan, this is my resignation letter. I will..."

"Candy...," cut Neal. The words bursted out as if they had been waiting to be said all night long. "Whatever happens, just don't leave."

"I will go back to my husband," finished Candy with determination.

Without looking at the letter, Neal snapped it from her hand and tossed it to the floor. Madly, he gripped her elbow.

"Don't lie to yourself. You don't love him," he said, fully ignited.

"He loves me. He's my daughter's father, and you are not my moral guardian," Candy replied.

Candy bent to pick the letter. But he on purposely stepped on it.

"He loves me. Loves me! Loves me!" screamed Candy violently trying to pull the paper unsuccessfully. "Unlike someone who abandoned me. Now I am not sure anymore why you always come home late everyday!" Candy hissed chillily. She madly pulled the letter as hard as she could that it got torn into pieces.

"I work! I work! You know that I work," Neal responded agitatedly.

He ran his fingers hopelessly trough his hair.

"That night ... I had to expose our new line of business to the press�," said Neal, frantically trying to explain the situation.

"Expose?" Candy sneered. "Go on� What's next?"

"Candy� please," said Neal, brokenly.

"You exposed yourself to her too, didn't you!" screamed Candy.

She glared at him in contempt.

"But I don't care. Why? Because you are nothing to me! You hear me? NOTHING!" Candy screamed madly at the top of her lung and her fists were hitting him in the chest like mad.

Hearing her hatred words, Neal looked like he's going to expire. Frustratingly, he clamped her wrists and pushed her against the wall. He blew his fist as hard as he could to the wall next to her ear to vent of all his frustrations.

"But you're everything to me!" he cried back even louder than her, panting.

Didn't even flinch, she glared daringly at him. He stared at the pair of her daring green eyes. Last night, he barely could survive thinking she was with someone. His heart bled painfully at the prospect of losing her. Looking deeply at her face, his anger dissipated fast as pain took over.

"You're everything to me, Candy," Neal whispered hopelessly. "I tried to take you but you didn't let me� And I'm�" He stopped and sighed desperately. "I'm just a man..."

"I'm going!" said Candy coldly.

She pushed him easily and walked steadily to the door.

"Candy, don't do this to me," said Neal in despair.

"Gary is Cassey's biological father" said Candy drily. "Naturally, he's more qualified than you. He's everything that you can never be to her!"

His heart was shaken powerfully by her last words. She, too, realized the deep philosophical implication of the sentence she just said, but she refused to think more of it. Satisfied to have her revenge mission accomplished, she left.

Candy found Cassey was holding Allen's hands trying to support him walking.

"Mommy Mommy! Look, Alen is walking!" said Cassey excitedly. "Mom, last night I went out with daddy and Alen�"

"Cassey, I told you to call him Mr. Leagan."

The girl stared at her mother with a guilty look.

"Cassey, we go home to meet dad. Your dad, dear!" said Candy excitedly.

"Dad? Daddy who doesn't want us?"

"He wants us, honey. He always loves us. Come let's go," said Candy.

Candy carried Cassey outside. Finally Cassey noticed that Neal and Alen wouldn't go with her.

"Daddy Leagan and Allen don't come with us?" asked Cassey started to feel something wasn't right.

"Mr. Leagan is not your daddy, honey," repeated Candy, annoyed. "No, Mr. Leagan and Alen won't come with us."

Cassey instantly screaming, wailing, stretching her arms. "Mr. Leagan! Mr. Leagan!"

Candy ignored her.

"I want Mr. leagan, I want Mr. leagan," Cassey cried piercingly as Candy took her away.

"Cassey, shut up!" scolded Candy. She was furious hearing her daughter choose to side with the man who she's mad against.

Neal's heart melted hearing the little girl's piercing scream. He went outside to meet them.

"Candy, wait," called Neal.

Neal came to take Cassey from Candy's arms. Candy threw her face, looking at another direction refusing to see a glimpse of that man. From the corner of her eye, Candy saw Neal hug Cassey.

"Be a good girl," Candy heard Neal say gently to the girl. "Listen to your mom. You can always visit us and we go to have fun again together."

Cassey nodded sobbing.

"I love you, Mr. Leagan," sobbed Cassey.

Casey hugged Neal.

"Love you too, Cassey. Big girl doesn't cry." Neal wiped tears from her face.

Cassey nodded. "I will miss you. I will miss Alen," said Cassey, trying to stop sobbing, hugging Neal tighter.

"Good girl... We will miss you too," Neal said gently, hugging the little girl back. "Take care of your mom."

-TO Be Continued-

Thanks for reading�

Hopefully it's not too boring and predictable. See you in the next chapter, please!

Anthony and Stear will be back in a few chapters later, strong! Please be patient.


Chapter 11: Progression

CHAPTER 11: Progression

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In New York, a few weeks later�

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"Come with us, mommy. I don't want to go alone," said Cassey.

"You're not alone, dear! You' ll go out with daddy!" answered Candy as she combed Cassey's hair forming two short piggy tails.

"Where?"

"Daddy hadn't said," said Candy gently.

She hugged her beloved daughter tenderly with all the sincerity a mother could offer. She wished Cassey's first trip together with Gary would be the beginning of a blooming relationship between the father and daughter. And for three of them to finally live as one happy family.

Holding Casey's hand, Candy took her to Gary.

"Cassey is ready, Gary," chirped Candy all smiling and happy, squeezing her daughter's hand with full of hope.

Gary coldly looked at the girl briefly. Cassey ran to hide behind Candy's back.

"Can't go, sorry," snorted Gary tersely. "I changed my mind." He picked up his coat, keys, and headed toward the door.

Candy felt something whipped her chest. Again? For the countless time, she thought. Unlike before, she couldn't check herself anymore.

"Stay�" Candy called the man back, containing her temper. She used the gentlest tone she could muster and said patiently, "Explain it to Cassey, please."

"Too bad for her," shrugged Gary tersely, seemingly undisturbed. "To be blunt, Candy, I don't want her." His face went rigid and cold.

Sensing how the situation developed, Cassey pulled her hand to release it from Candy's and ran outside the room. Cassey was scared that her father would shout at her again.

"You said you forgave me," said Candy through her numb lips.

"I do but I can't forget. I've tried but I just can't." Gary narrowed his eyes gazed emotionlessly at Candy. "She was made when you're thinking of another man. She's not my daughter!" added Gary in a bitter low voice and eyes glimmered with hatred.

"What do you want then, Gary?"

"Dump her in Pony's home perhaps? Whatever. Just kick her out of my sight." Gary shrugged indifferently. "Then, we start over."

Gary, why can't you be like Neal to Cassey?, thought Candy disappointedly.

She remembered the happy times she was having with Cassey when they were in Chicago. Every day was filled with laughter. Her heart was free there unlike the suspenseful life she's having here where each step had to be thoughtfully crafted to not displease her daughter's father.

Neal, what are you and Alen doing now?, thought Candy wishing they're there with them in Chicago.

Gary fixed his eyes icily at Candy, observing her silence.

"What are you thinking? Another man?" Gary bent and whispered wickedly cold in her ear. "You always think of someone other than me, don't you?"

"Not true. Otherwise I won't be here," defended Candy.

Gary grinned cynically. "Really?"

His hand made a sudden move to grip the back of her neck and pulled her closer. She pushed him away but he pressed her harder against himself and leaned closer to her face.

"Let go of me." Candy struggled.

He ignored her request. Holding her face to still her, he brought his mouth into hers, forcing it open and invaded it with his tongue, kissing and licking her coldly.

"To be fair, I should use you too. Shouldn't I?" Gary said in a low voice, dead of emotion. "I have a few minutes to do one quick one."

"Gary, no!"

"You're mine!" hissed Gary.

His arm held her firmly in place and his free hand pushed her skirt up her legs quickly reaching the top junction of her thigh. She twisted wildly to free herself from his locking grip only to be held even tighter.

Rringg� the phone rang.

Gary slowly loosened his grip and released her.

"Gotta go. We do it later," snarled Gary in a low voice "Don't even think to run away�" Still in her neck, his fingers tightened as he said it.

Candy's body tensed, unable to breathe. This Cassey argument again... While in the past they both screamed and shouted at the top of their lungs, this time he didn't even increase his voice.

Still holding her breath, Candy cautiously watched his every movement as he walked pass Cassey who's hiding behind a curtain and stared at her father curiously. Candy's fist clutched ready to jump to protect Cassey from the man in case he harmed her or shouted at her again like in the past. Candy was relieved to see him leave Cassey undisturbed.

Without looking at Cassey, Gary opened the door. The sound of the door banged closed was the best thing that had ever happened that day. In disgust, Candy rushed to the sink to spit and wash her mouth which he had touched. She wiped her lips hard that it bled. Then, she slumped her back on the wall.

Cassey ran to her mother.

"Daddy made you unhappy again, mommy?" she examined her mother's glistened eyes.

Seeing the little girl whose father didn't want her ripped Candy's heart. Her knees weakened and she slowly slid to the floor, bursting into a series of violent sobs. Cassey gently wiped the tears from her mother's cheek.

"Mommy, we go back to Mr. Leagan? He never makes you cry," said Cassey gently.

In a few seconds the memory of the past flashed� yes, she wronged Gary in the past� He innocently showered her with love and she unappreciatively mooned over Terry instead. She regretted it, had openly apologized and given it all to amend her mistake. But, Cassey was right. Time to move on�

Candy hugged Cassey and clenched her teeth as tears non stopped falling on her face. She fed up with tears caused by Gary and her weakness to leave him.

"Yes, honey. We go home," answered Candy resolutely.

Candy wiped her tears with confident. Yes, time to move on from the psychopath. She looked at her daughter and plastered on a determined smile.

Candy got up to pack their stuffs as quickly as possible and to run away before Gary came back home. The same old song. It was with great difficulty for her to run away from him in the past. What a fool to fall to the same trap again!

Candy pulled Cassey's hand and pushed the door handle to open the door� It couldn't� Gary locked it from outside. Of course! Why not? It happened before, repeatedly.

Candy trembled, psychologically shaken remembering his threat and past fights. She checked the steep emergency stairs outside the window� It's so narrow� But Candy didn't care. She could climb trees, this was nothing!

Candy carried Cassey to climb through the window to run through the emergency stairs outside but she saw Gary stand at the bottom of the stair.* Oh Gosh! She pulled herself from the window to wait until he disappeared. Seconds passed by�

The phone rang, again.

Candy jumped in terror at the sound.

"Don't answer! Don't answer." Candy was trembling, afraid it was Gary who saw her planning an escape and called to give more of his menacing threat.

But, it's too late Cassey had already answered.

"Mom, Terry is on the phone�"

"Terry!" whispered Candy in a great relieved. She dashed to pick up the phone.

"Terry�!" Candy screamed on the phone, fully relieved.

"Hello Freckles! You really are in New York! Can I come... ?" a cheerful handsome voice responded which Candy quickly cut.

"Terry�! Help me�!" Candy panted. "Rescue us. Come, hurry." Her voice trembled heavily.

Terry knew something went wrong.

"Candy, where are you?"

Then, without wasting more of the precious time Terry was ready for action. He gave Candy some words of comfort then hung up. Swiftly with the maximum efficiency, he called his driver and bodyguards to go with him to rescue Candy.

Frightened, while waiting for Terry, Candy put a chair in front of the door to block it from being opened from outside. She jumped when she heard someone knock at the door. She quickly turned off all the lights. She would carry Cassey to run using the emergency stairs outside if it were Gary.

"Freckless!" Candy heard Terry's voice banging at the door.

"Terry!" screamed Candy. "The door is locked. Can't open it," Candy cried, panicky shaking the handle.

"I'm here, Candy. Don't worry," said Terry in a calm gentle voice. "Listen, I want you to stay clear from the door. We'll open it by force. You understand?"

"Yes," answered Candy. Carrying Cassey, Candy moved away from the door. "Ready Terry!" shouted Candy.

Terry nodded to his bodyguards. Together, the big men broke the door.

Trembling and shaking, Candy jumped to hug Terry. Cassey who knew something bothered her mom clung tightly to her mother's skirt. Terry's heart broke seeing the mother and daughter who were in great fear.

"Candy what happens?" Terry asked gently as he hugged her.

"Take us away from here� Hurry! Before he comes back," said Candy. Her voice was shaky, her whole body was trembling. Without asking further question Terry called his bodyguards to carry all her belongings. Carrying Cassey in one arm and holding Candy's hand with the hand, Terry led the way.

-To be continued-

Note:

*In the past, buildings have emergency stairs outside the windows.

oOo

Sorry to take much longer time to update... Technical difficulties.

Thanks for reading as always. Really appreciate your presence.

Stear and Anthony will come in a few chapters, seriously!


Chapter 12: Went Back

Reminder:

Hannah: Neal's past nanny (chapter 3)

Dora: one of Neal's maids (chapter 8)

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CHAPTER 12: Went Back

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Terry took Candy and Cassey to a top hotel and had dinner together. After dinner, Candy put Cassey to bed then she went to the living room to meet Terry.

Candy thanked Terry, briefly explained her problem with Gary. Then, she cried, sobbing tearfully venting all the pressure which had consumed her these past few weeks. It broke Terry's heart tremendously.

Rats, thought Terry�

He always wished nothing but her happiness. His heart torn into pieces seeing her brutal condition. Terry took her pale hands in his and gently rubbing it with his fingers.

"Fuck Susanna. There are many men out there who're after her anyway. She wouldn't even blink that I'm gone," he murmured.

Susanna loved him passionately. But to see Candy trembling like this with her toddler girl, he just couldn't bear it. Susanna was an adult, she's used with her legs conditions. Unlike years ago, she could take care of herself better now. Terry pulled Candy to his shoulder and hugged her.

"Things are different now. Freckles, I always love you. Let's get married. I'll take care of you."

"Oh�!" sobbed Candy tearfully, upon hearing his gentle words. She withdrew her body and hand from his to cover her mouth with it. Tears started to flow down heavier than before.

"Terry�!" Candy sobbed, her hand was wet of tears. If he knew how long she had been waiting to hear this statement from him.

"I'm so happy to finally hear this from you." Candy cried.

"That means yes?" Terry asked gently.

Candy buried her face in her hand, sobbing. Terry gently pulled her hand and looked into her face.

"Things are different with me too," added Candy, drying her eyes. "You're very generous Terry, a true friend. Thank you." She truly meant that! She then exhaled and said quietly. "But I can't. I just can't�"

"You can't?" asked Terry, dumbfounded. "Because of Susanna or because you don't care about me anymore?"

"I love you� I always do..."

"Then stay with me in New York. I hire bodyguards to protect you."

But Candy kept insisting that she wanted to go back to Chicago.

"It's not about Susanna, is it?" asked Terry suspiciously. "What's in Chicago?"

Terry noticed her cheeks were rosy and her eyes shone mysteriously. "Is there someone else?" He always seemed to know how to read her mind.

"Terry, I can never care about someone the way I care about you." Candy blushed crimson red.

"Huh?" he snorted, examining her face. "Someone who you care deeper than me then. Who is that Candy?"

Again, she could never win with an old friend like Terry. After some lengthy effort, she surrendered.

"My client, Alen�" she said finally in a small voice.

Terry stared at her, eyes wide.

"Alen Leagan!" he whistled in disbelief, barely could digest what he just heard. "It's not that baby who you miss obviously."

"But I do. You have not had a son, how do you know? Alen is�"

"You say it all..," cut Terry. He laughed coldly. "You'll be his mother! You plan to marry that obnoxious Leagan! You fell in love with him?!" He gaped.

"Hey, what's wrong with Neal!" responded Candy indignantly. "Do you know that he's a very important business man now?" She smiled looking smitten. "He's a very good father too!" She giggled. "Kind, handsome� knows how to collect mushrooms..."

And so for the next few minutes, Candy went on singing all good praises about Neal. Terry smiled, patiently listened. He's jealous alright, but it's good to see this sweet girl happy again. It scared him just now to see her tremble like that.

He always loved her. But perhaps it's better this way� because he also cared about Susanna in her own way. Granted, it wasn't the fiery romantic like he experienced with Candy. With Susanna, things grew slowly from care and friendship.

Candy ended it all with a chuckle. Blushing at Terry who had been patiently listening to her.

"Freckles, if that Leagan didn't treat you well, let me know. I could punch him again like what I did in St. Paul." Terry threw his fist on the air. "I miss that."

"Thanks Terry," hugged Candy.

The following day, Terry took Candy and Cassey to the train station. He had two bodyguards accompany them back to Chicago.

ooOOoo

In Chicago

Almost like running, with joy Candy dragged Cassey's hands to look for Neal and Alen.

"Hurry dear, hurry... run...!" Candy said excitedly.

Equally impatient, the girl ran as quickly as her short legs could carry. They went to the usual spot where Neal usually went with Alen in the weekend. They saw Alen.

"Alen!" screamed Cassey.

Cassey released her hand from her mother's grip and ran to the boy. Hearing Cassey's high pitch voice, Alen turned around excitedly until his little body fell from the swing. He quickly sat up to face Cassey, stamping his little hands to the ground. He tried to get up but couldn't so instead he clapped his hands happily, laughed with a loud sound.

Cassey ran to hug him. Candy came to hug Alen too.

"Alen…my dear Alen," whispered Candy. She carried and hugged the baby tightly. "I'm so sorry� I'm so sorry� shouldn't leave you abruptly like that." Candy patted his chubby cheek dearly. "I miss you, dear. Where's your daddy?"

Alen clapped his hands again, cooing happily. Since Alen couldn't talk yet, Candy turned around to Dora.

"Hi Dora," greeted Candy. "I'm back. Where's Mr. Leagan?"

"You are back, Candy?" asked Dora coldly. Her boss' favorite servant was back. Too bad.

"In his room with Ms. Lane~," said Dora.

Candy felt like being hit by lighting. Her heart froze right away.

"What?" she whispered.

Dora examined Candy's face. She did like Mr. Leagan. Some women could be so lucky to attract their boss' attention. Big boops, big buts, if only she could have some too.

"Mr. Leagan is in his room with Ms. Lane," repeated Dora.

"It can't be," whispered Candy.

"Why not? She lives here too now," added Dora, mercilessly.

Candy turned around to hide her face from Dora.

He has forgotten me? thought Candy. Impossible!, she thought optimistically. Clutching her fist she thought determinedly, Besides I saw him first.

Unexpected to Dora instead of leaving, Candy marched into the mansion.

"Candy! Listen!" Dora called her back, but Candy ignored her.

He waited for me in front of my door! I can do the same!, thought Candy, decisively.*

Thus, Candy grabbed a chair and sat in the hallway waiting for Neal to come out from his room. She was too immersed in her deep thought that she didn't hear Hannah coming pushing a tray of food.

Candy? thought Hannah when she saw her. "Candy!"

Candy lifted her head and saw the old woman run pushing a tray of food towards her. Candy hurriedly got up to greet the kind maid.

"Good heavens! Candy, it's really you! Oh, thanks you're back!" Hannah ran to hug her leaving the food tray altogether. "How long have you been here?"

Even though her heart was in chaotic mud, Candy couldn't help to smile and feel happy to meet her old friend again.

"Awhile," answered Candy.

"Lucky you are here!" Hannah gasped excitedly. Folding her hands together in front of her chest she implored, "Candy, could you help me, please? Only you can do this..."

"Sure! What?"

"Master Neal... he hasn't been eating. Make him eat, Candy... Make him eat!" begged Hannah.

"Eat?" Candy raised her eyebrow. "Now?"

"Well� yes! This food has been sitting in the kitchen for hours. Now is 4 PM. He already skipped the breakfast and yesterday he didn't eat much either�," explained Hannah worriedly. "Please make him eat. No one could enter his room."

"But, what about Ms. Lane?"

"Where?" asked Hannah. She looked around trying to spot the woman. "What are you talking about?"

"He's with Lisa, isn't he?"

"Master Neal? Ms. Lane? Inside?" asked Hannah, scratching her head. Her tone escalated for each word she spoke. "How do you get that idea? He's alone in his room." Hannah sighed shaking her head worriedly. "He has been these days."

"But Dora said...," said Candy confused.

As an experienced supervisor who's been dealing with housekeepers for dozens of years, Hannah knew instantly what happened. Gently but impatiently, Hannah pushed the tray of food to Candy. She put Candy's hand on the handle.

"Go feed him. I watch the children," urged Hannah.

Hannah hurriedly left Candy. She dismissed Dora, called an extra bodyguard and another servant to watch for the children. She stayed there too to supervise.

ooOoo

Meanwhile, Candy was staring at the tray of food Hannah pushed to her hand. Collecting all her self confidence, she pushed it to Neal's bedroom door. Gulped, she knocked at the door.

"Mr. Leagan... Mr. Leagan... ! Time to eat," said Candy using her most cheerful voice.

No answer. She swallowed.

"Mr. Leagan, answer me or I'd enter without your permission�"

Candy knocked again and again. Still no response. She then carefully pushed the door open. Hannah was right, he was alone. No Lisa inside. Dora was lying! Candy saw Neal sit on his bed, partially covered by the bed sheet. Leaning on a stack of high pillows, he was looking outside the window.

"Mr. Leagan� lunch� Your very late lunch rather," said Candy, laughing to herself.

Neal ignored her and maintained his position, unmoved, looking outside the window.

"Neal..," called Candy softly. "Lunch�"

At that call, he finally turned around. He held her gaze steadily albeit impassively.

She almost cried to finally see the man again in one of his familiar blue stripes pijama. Everything felt so light, she felt at home.

"Hi!" greeted Candy. She lifted her hand with the warmest smile, but he didn't return her greeting.

"They told me that you haven't behaved well, have you? Now, listen to nurse Candy�," said Candy bubbling. "Time to eat!"

She pushed the food tray next to his bed and prepared his lunch.

-To Be Continued-

NOTE:

*chapter 11: Neal waited for Candy in front of her door.

~Lisa Lane: Neal's friend, chapter 8.

oOo

Terry and Dora's story could be expanded longer but I think I am happy to keep them short and simple as it is.

Thanks for reading! Your tremendous support is highly appreciated. Hugs!


Chapter 13: Deeper Than Anything

Chapter 13: Deeper Than Anything

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Candy pulled a chair and sat next to Neal's bed.

"Be good now� Open your mouth�," said Candy in her most friendly voice. She scooped a spoonful of mashed potato and brought it to his mouth.

Neal followed. He swallowed the food she shoveled into his mouth.

"Good boy," Candy said gently with a caring nurse-type of smile.

"You need to eat well and be healthy so you can play with Alen," said Candy cheerfully as she cut another piece of roast beef for the man.

Candy continued feeding him, talking sweetly and encouragingly throughout until he finished all the food.

"Nice. All finished. The food, drink, dessert! Wonderful!" Candy turned the plate upside down to show there's nothing left in it. She gave him a thumb up. "Good job!"

She handed him a napkin to wipe food that went astray around his face. But Neal didn't take it. Patiently, Candy gently wiped it all for him.

Candy then got up to gather the empty plates, bowls, cups, napkins... arranged them back neatly in the tray.

"Nurse Candy will be back soon to clean you up. Wait for me!" said Candy cheerfully.

She pushed the tray outside and left. She returned with a basin of water, sponge, and other bathing equipment.

"Sponge bath time, Mr. Leagan," announced Candy. "Ready?"

Candy bent over and reached out her little skillful fingers to the first blue button of his pajama. She unbuttoned that button. Her fingers then slowly moved downward to unbutton the second blue button�

But, he didn't let her. He grabbed her wrists in a strong grip to stop them from unbuttoning more buttons.

"Stop calling me that way," he snapped without looking at her. His face continued facing downward, his eyes avoided hers.

Candy slowly lowered herself, kneeling down at his bedside so she could peek at his face better. It looked dark and stiff with his eyebrows crunched together.

"Neal," said Candy softly. "You are mad at me, aren't you?"

"You look fine and happy. Life must've been treating you well. I'm happy for you," Neal said dryly.

"I just met Alen, that's why I'm happy. I missed him."

"Thank you. Very thoughtful of you to come to visit us," Neal said coldly. "Would you care to stay for the night?" He sneered.

"Only one night? Could I stay longer?" asked Candy.

He ignored her.

"Neal� What I said about you was wrong. He's Cassey's father only by nature, but not by heart. You're infinitely better than him. I miss you."

For the first time, he lifted his eyes and their eyes locked.

"I didn't mean to say all the things I said. I admit, I was� jealous," she breathed. "I was jealous that you were with her� Very jealous... And I'm here because�"

She lifted her hand to rub his cheek gently, gazed intensely kind at him.

"Because� I love you, Neal," Candy said softly.

Neal froze. Without blinking he stared at her, mumbled something � like surprise words.

"You love me?" he murmured. His eyes opened wide.

"Yes, Neal," she whispered. "I love you."

He closed his eyes and let out a deep sigh. He pressed her tightly to his chest and sank into the high stack of pillows behind him. For a moment he stayed still, absorbing the meaning of the three words she just muttered.

"I love you too," he said softly after lengthy silence. He buried his hand in her long thick hair, lacing his fingers gently in it. "And you want to give me a sponge bath as my nurse or as my love?"

Candy laughed and cried at the same time.

"I want to give you a sponge bath too," Neal said ever softly. He opened his eyes, gazed kindly at her allowing her to fully see his face. It looked alarmingly different.

Candy slowly stood up examining his face closer.

"What happens to you?" she whispered. She ran her fingers on his face, noticing some unusual hollows in his cheeks. His eyes looked alarmingly larger. "You should eat, Neal! You can't give me a sponge bath if you're sick."

"I'm not sick... I was missing you...so much." He caught her hands and kissed them. His voice was hopeless. "I was so miserable after you left. I had to burry myself at my work every second I was awake � I didn't go to bed until I dropped asleep in my desk to keep me from thinking about you."

"Don't do that anymore!" said Candy, horrified. "Oh Neal, you must be really mad at me."

"Mad?" Neal sighed. "Yes, I was� to myself� for making you hate me." He hugged her tightly. "How I wish I could turn back time to the first time we met� I would have done everything differently." He hugged her even tighter.

Then suddenly he released her and leaped out of his bed to the floor.

"Now that you're here. I' d better clean up!"

Candy gasped, worriedly. She held his arm to support him and take him to the bathroom.

Oh right� his clothes!, remembered Candy. She had told his personal servant that she'd be fully responsible for his bathing this evening and she forgot to prepare his clothes. Candy went back to pick up his clothes then knocked at the bath room door to deliver them to him.

"Neal, your clothes�," said Candy loudly, banging at the bathroom door.

Neal opened the door, caught her arm and pulled her inside. He pressed her hard to his chest and kissed her... their first kiss.

She had told him the truth. There's no more misunderstanding and they were so close now, the closest they had ever been. She felt light and happy � likewise with him. Drop of water dripped from the tip of his curly lock down to his face. His tan skin glistened soaked and wet. He looked uncompromisingly handsome. The most handsome man of all. She felt wonderful unlike she had ever experienced.

"You said I was being ambiguous. You're right, I was. My fault to not get my message to you explicitly. Now, I will say it loud and clear. Be with me, Candy. All my life," said Neal.

His voice sounded helpless, his hands pressed desperately on her face, his thumbs gently wiping drops of water that fell on her face.

"Never leave me again, Candy. You saw it. I can't make it without you�"

"Okay," she said softly.

"You'll stay?"

"Yes, Neal. I will stay with you� Always! Now, smile," she whispered encouragingly.

But he still didn't look happy. With water kept dripping from the tip of his straight beautiful nose, he took her hands, held them still for the longest time, seemingly forgetting that they were still in the shower.

"But, I don't want you to stay as a nanny or my nurse. I want you to stay as my wife. I love you, Candy. You know that," he said earnestly. "Will you marry me?"

She gaped. As always, he acted fast�

"Y-You don't want to get to know me first?" stammered Candy after a while.

She didn't think much when Gary proposed and it was a disaster. And now she's going to repeat it again? Oh brother! She's happy to hear his proposal though, Neal didn't disappoint her.

"I've known you enough, the rest I learn as we grow old together," he replied.

She was speechless, stood silently looking at him, trying to decide. So he stood in silent with her, gently stroking her head in the way she had longed for someone to do. She loved the feeling, enjoyed the moment tremendously.

But yet she couldn't help to stare at his eyes suspiciously.

And Cassey?,thought Candy wondering where he'd put Cassey in the picture.

She liked to be loved, longed to have a gentle loving relationship but if she could pick, perhaps she'd rather Cassey to have a loving father instead...

"I will adopt Cassey," continued Neal gently. His brown eyes looked into hers, soft as smoke "I will always love her like my own daughter. Four of us - one happy family! You always say you like children. Then, we make more. As many as you want."

He squeezed her hands harder. "Marry me, Candy. Say yes."

Tears flew on her face, wiped readily by the water from the shower. He included Cassey in his beautiful promises!

"Yes, Neal. I will marry you." Her lips quivered with emotion. "Now, smile." Her voice broke.

His face lit up.

She jumped to hug him, he hugged her tightly. His brown eyes were glowing now with bright intensity of joy. He grinned and kissed her, drenching days of anguish and worries. The sun finally rose and lifted the dark veil which had clouded his heart since not only days ago or weeks ago but years ago� since their teenager years.

"Let's get married soon! Say, in a few days?" asked Neal.

"Oh Neal!" said Candy stupefied. He is quick!

She took his hand and pressed his palm to her face. Floating in happiness, she nodded. Everything was just fantastic.

"Our wedding� Oh, our special day together! We should make it unforgettable. Could we�," babbled Candy, overwhelmed.

"Say it," said Neal gently.

"Would you mind�"

"Yes?" he said softly.

"Could we save our first night to the wedding day? It'd be so touchingly special�" Her heart beat so hard when she said it.

"If you like it, we'll do it," said Neal readily.

She felt relieved that he didn't laugh at the idea. Her throat tightened, overcome by emotion, she's not able to speak. Everything was blurry and beautiful. She wiped her tears with her hand and buried her mouth in his�

"I shouldn't cry," said Candy. "This is such a happy thing. I'll call Cassey to meet her daddy."

Candy changed her wet clothes and left to look for Cassey who's playing with Alen. First, Candy hugged Hannah emotionally. Hannah's contribution was immense in making her re-discover the man.

"Thanks, Hannah!" hugged Candy.

"You're welcome, Ms. Candice," Hannah said with twinkle in her eyes. She sensed something more than good happened between her master and Candy. Her kind heart sincerely hoped that they'd never fight anymore and Candy would stay permanently this time.

Enough is enough, Hannah thought wishfully. They've been fighting half of their life!

"I look after the children," said Candy.

Hannah stood straight and nodded politely. Candy nodded back and smiled back at her, watching her back as she walked away.

Hannah� dear Hannah� thank you!, thought Candy.

Candy then turned around to hug both children happily, one in each arm.

"Alen, my dear boy," hugged Candy. Alen was cooing excitedly, smiling brightly seeing Candy. "I love you."

Then Candy said to her daughter, "Cassey, you love Mr. Leagan, don't you?"

Cassey nodded.

"And Alen too?" asked Candy.

"Yes, mommy. I want to live here with them."

"Good girl. Come let's meet your daddy."

Candy held Cassey's hand to meet Neal and carried Alen in her other arm.

"Hug your daddy, dear," said Candy to Cassey.

"Mr. Leagan?" confirmed Cassey. She looked at Candy as if she heard it right.

"You can call him daddy from now on."

Cassey ran to Neal. He bent to welcome the girl in his arms.

"My big girl... You are much taller already!" said Neal.

He carried her, spinning her in a circle. Cassey shrieked excitedly in high-pitched giggles which Candy hadn't heard since they left Chicago.

"Daddy, I miss you!" cried Cassey.

Candy's face was full of tears, happy tears. She was happy, couldn't be happier. He's the best daddy for her Cassey. Today was indeed the happiest day of her life, to date.

That day, Neal had Hannah fire Dora. He had his lawyer start the legal process of adopting Cassey and have her name changed to Cassey Leagan. He also made sure bodyguards were ready around the clock to protect Candy and Cassey, effective immediately.

-To be continued-

Thanks for reading, folks. Really appreciate it to have your company.

NOTE:

FYI: The year is around 1920's � just the continuation of the manga.


Chapter 14: Making Plans

CHAPTER 14: Making Plans

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Candy was watching her daughter play with Alen. Cassey looked so happy it almost brought her to tears.

"They're lovely, aren't they?" a soft voice spoke behind her and she felt a strong arm wrapped around her shoulder.

"Yes," replied Candy, squeezing Neal's hand.

They left the children with their nannies and hand in hand walked into the mansion to discuss their wedding and honeymoon plan.

"Where would you like to go, Candy?" asked Neal. His voice was hoarse as he pressed her to sit closer to him.

Candy slowly turned to stare at him, allowing him to see her mesmerizing green eyes closely. He shivered, looking into them was just like looking into love itself.

"Quiet place, far away from everyone we know." Her voice was as soft as a sigh. "Just you and me."

"A great plan," said Neal stroking her cheek gently.

Sluggishly she got up to straddle his lap, her dress pulled high exposing her thighs. He sat frozen watching her. Candy is on my lap!

"Backpack camping?" whispered Candy playfully as she leaned her head on his shoulder.

"I love you Candy� But, could we do something else?"

Candy giggled naughtily, adding more heat to his already burning heart.

"When I was little, I read a cool book about France. Could we go to France?" she murmured, pecking his nose gently.

"France? Sure," replied Neal, gulped at her open display of affection.

She lifted her body up. Supporting herself on her knees, she leaned forward to bury her face in his wavy hair, putting his mouth right at the valley between her breasts. His breath stalled, fully aware that the only thing that kept them apart was not her thin summer dress but his promise to save their first time until the wedding day.

"Fantastic," she sighed. "France, then." She bent down provocatively, brushing her lips playfully across his.

It's so unsettling.

She said no sex until the wedding, didn't she?, Neal wondered, not sure how to properly react.

He kissed her lightly at the corner of her mouth to gauge her reaction. Unexpectedly, she responded - feverishly. She pushed her mouth deep into his mouth, clashing their teeth together. With a deep sigh, she sucked his bottom lip hard with her mouth as she's pulling away, slowly.

A tidal male hormone surged inside him.

"Neal," Candy whispered. "You don't need to get nervous with me."

He couldn't believe what he heard� and what happened next.

She gently tugged his hand and placed it on a patch of uncovered bare skin on her shoulder. She moaned at his touch.

Fine, if that's what you want, thought Neal fully spurred.

He wanted more than that small patch of her shoulder skin. He grabbed the strap of her dress, knotted his finger in the bra strap underneath, and pushed them down to devour her whole shoulder� And every one of her freckles, every inch of her skin...

"We� have� the wedding� in Pony's home?" sighed Candy between her heavy breath.

He groaned as the answer, invaded her mouth vigorously with his tongue.

"I'll wear� the� sexiest... bridal lingerie� for� our� first night," moaned Candy.

First night?, thought Neal sobered up. She did plan to have their first time until after the wedding!

After their tumultuous past, that would be the most precious gift he could offer to his bride, as a token of his love and commitment. He had waited for years, he could wait for four more days.

He sucked her lip harder than how she'd done earlier, then without taking his eyes off her, he drew away.

Mirroring himself, her breathing was fast. Her eyes luminous. Seeing how she looked made his heart pound like crazy.

"Candy� I love you," he growled roughly.

He came back to posses her mouth savagely. His hand slipped under her dress rubbing high on her thigh briefly. Then, gently he released her, pulled her to get up to do the wedding planning outside�

-==oOo==-

They decided to have the honeymoon in France and celebrate the wedding in Pony's home. Candy would leave with Cassey first, today.

"Can't wait to marry you," said Neal rapturously. He squeezed his fianc� hard into his chest and lifted her many inches off the ground. "I love you!" Neal yelled at the top of his lung, kissed her passionately.

This time, she didn't return the kiss. She pushed him away and heaved a heavy sigh. Her eyes dimmed looking doubtful.

What now?, he thought nervously.

She gave him a long nerve-wrecking pause which almost made him explode with impatience.

"But... uhm�," she said finally after lengthy silence, dubiously.

Neal almost got chocked to hear her response.

"'But'?" squeaked Neal frustratedly. "You're back to 'but'? Fine, I help you decide. I count to three� Say yes or I drag you to the city square, make love with you in front of everybody there so you'll be forced to marry me in order to save your face." *

Candy pushed him, laughing - playfully running away from him. Then, she turned quiet�

"Neal� what about you parents?" she asked carefully. "Your mom?"

oOo... ... .O.. ... ... oOOOo

Sarah Leagan was telling her husband, Roger, about the reunion party she just attended with their old friends. Roger who's busy with his work didn't go.

"Remember our friend, Phil?" said Sarah to her husband. "He is marrying someone half his age! So do many others�"

"That's the trend, Sarah," answered Roger, eyes still nailed at his book. "Nothing new. Anything else?"

"Hannah said Neal hasn't been eating."

"Perhaps he's on diet?" quipped Roger. "I saw him yesterday at work, he looked just fine."

"It started after Candy left," sighed Sarah. "I thought Candy would be swooned and married him by now. Oh Roge, if Candy agreed to marry Neal, I promise to love her and treat her the same way as Elisa. And I will love Cassey like I love Alen."

"Good," said Roger shortly still looking at his book.

"Oh Roger� say something�," begged Sarah in the verge of tears.

Finally her husband understood that she's seriously upset. Instantly, he took his eyes off his book.

"Come here, my darling," Roger began.

Sarah approached him and readily buried herself in his hug, the only place that made her feel safe and secure at any conditions. Sarah always looked strict in public, but when she was with her husband in private, she was one affectionate wife.

"Don't worry," soothed Roger. "Can't be harder than how I won you back then, can it?"

Less than thirty years ago, Sarah went to accompany her father to a business meeting. That's how she met Roger. Roger fell in love at the first sight, totally mooned by her beauty, elegance, and arrogance. Roger's family was not poor, but nothing compared to the Ardlays. Arrogant Sarah didn't bother to look at the desperate young man. Undeterred, Roger tried to allure her with various ways. All failed.

Running out of ideas, in one last act of desperation, Roger dropped on his knees to directly propose to Sarah. In his flawless wedding proposal speech, he promised her the world. She was in awe by his intelligent speech and fell in love right away. Overlooking how tiny his diamond ring was, compared to the Ardlays jewelry collection at least, Sarah said yes.

Roger did as he promised. He credited his wife, for the drive to bring massive success to the Leagan enterprise. Now, the Leagans were not behind the Ardlays. If ten years ago their estate ** looked noticeably smaller than the Ardlays', now, it's not anymore.

"At the bright side, it's good that he doesn't win Candy too easily," continued Roger persuasively. "He will forever treasure her and won't dumb her to someone a third of his age in the future."

"You think so?" asked Sarah

"Yes. Like us�," he said softly. "Still as hot as the first day we kissed." He kissed his wife of 26 years.

"Oh Roge�," Sarah touched her husband's face and hugged him affectionately�

.

.

"Mum, dad, ...!" They heard Neal's cry, knocked hard at the door. "Mum! Dad!"

"Roge! Neal is here."

Sarah got up right away, put her dress in order, and called his son to enter. Her husband used the opportunity to sink back to the business report.

"Mum, dad," greeted Neal with a big happy grin on his face.

"Humph," greeted Roger.

"Neal dear, did you eat?" asked Sarah worriedly. She's been worried sick by Hannah's disheartening report about her beloved son.

"Yes, mum!" answered Neal loudly, beaming. "Lots of it!"

"Mum, dad...," continued Neal barely could contain his excitement. "There's this girl who I want to marry." His face was beaming.

"Who?" asked Sarah.

"The only one I want to be with." Neal's grin turned cautious. "Mum�," said Neal, quickly turned serious. "She means everything to me. It'd break my heart if we broke her heart."

"Why you think I won't be nice to her?" cut Sarah impatiently. "Who is she?"

"Before I tell you, promise me�"

"I won't!" snapped Sarah. "Answer me. First! Who is she?"

"Mum, I will say. I will say," said Neal patiently. "But first could you promise..."

"Tell me first who she is," said Sarah.

"Mum! I beg�"

"Roge, Neal doesn't say who his girl is," whined Sarah spoiledly.

"Neal, be nice to your mum," said Roger flatly, eyes still in his book.

"Well?" demanded Sarah.

"Mum�! Could we first�" Neal groaned frustratingly. He knew his mother. From how she looked whatever he said other than the answer would be of no use. Besides, he was already too impatient to share the news of his life.

"Fine� Candy!" muttered Neal, looking disgruntled.

The sour mood didn't last long though. His heart was simply too happy. He'd marry Candy! Soon his face was grinning again.

Sarah felt a pang of relief, the first time in years. All those vows and promises she made to herself if her son could find love bursted in her brain. She couldn't wait to execute them all. What a beautiful life!

"Well, then, call her in."

"Mum, first promise�"

"Just call her in!" commanded Sarah getting very impatient.

Geezz! "Dad?" asked Neal.

"Whoever she is, I agree with your mom," Roger said flatly, staying focused to his book.

Neal went outside briefly and reentered, gripping Candy's hand hard. His parents noticed.

"Mum, dad," said Neal, blushing. He looked at Candy with all the power of love then gave a hopeful look to his parents. His heart was bursting.

"This is�," said Neal almost choked with pride, "Candy!" He grinned boyishly. "I want to marry her." His hand squeezed Candy's harder. They noticed.

Tension oozed trough the room. Candy's heart was hammering in anticipation to Sarah's reaction which seemed like forever. In fact, all eyes were at Sarah's including Roger's.

Finally, Sarah exhaled with the most affectionate smile.

"Candy dear," said Sarah, broke the silence. She came forward to hug Candy warmly.

Neal felt the room spinning; he almost fainted seeing his mother's unexpectedly kind reaction. He was so relieved and happy all mixed together.

"Congratulations!" Neal heard his mother's voice which made his heart beat everywhere joyfully. "We love you, Candy. Right, Roge?"

"Yes, darling," said Roger. He got up to offer his congratulations.

"Come dear, we do some girls talk privately, shall we?" said Sarah.

Sarah took Candy's arm and warmly whisked her out of the room.

Beaming, Neal followed Candy with his eyes. Roger noticed how his son looked at Candy as if his whole world was her. He patted Neal's back then held out his arms to give his son a warm hug�

-To be continued -

Thank you for reading! Next chapter: Anthony and Stear� :P

~ Candy said it in chapter 13.

**Manga chapter 1, pg 17: the driver who took Candy to the Leagan mansion told her, "All these lands belong to Mr. Ardlay. Leagans are only a family branch."


Chapter 15: Honeymoon Reservation

Chapter 15: Honeymoon Reservation

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In America

Neal and Candy didn't stay for too long in Neal's parents' home so that Candy and Cassey could prepare the trip and arrive in Pony's home before dark.

Fifteen years ago it took almost a day to travel the distance. Now, with the advancement of road and car technology, it improved to only merely few hours. They could still go that day in the late afternoon.

As they passed through the Ardlays estate on the way back to Neal's mansion, Candy saw Sweet Candy roses from the far. Her mind wandered instantly to the two men she always held dear in her memory, Anthony and Stear. She told her fiance that.

"Want to stop by?" Neal offered. He fought a lot with them, but he also had a good time with them.

She nodded.

Neal parked the car and they walked to the graves. Candy picked Sweet Candy roses along the way.

"Do you know that Anthony wanted to marry me when we grew up?" asked Candy gravely.

Neal slowly shook his head, only mildly shocked though. The two were obviously inseparable in the past. He noticed how careful she was when arranging the Sweet Cady roses for Anthony in the grave. She bent to meticulously pick dry leaves and branches that fell around it, seemingly whispering silent words to the boy.

They stood in silence for a moment paying their respect. Before leaving, he saw her go back briefly to pat the gravestone gently saying private good bye to her dear boy.

They then walked to Stear's.

"Stear would be very happy to see how happy I am now," said Candy somberly.

"I could imagine he laughed seeing who your husband would be," added Neal. "Who knows what kind of invention he would prepare for us. Popping paper flowers? Automatic champagne opener?"

Candy laughed mixed with tears before back to her solemn mood... Neal squeezed her hand as a sign of support. After spending some time in there, they went back to Neal's mansion�

oooOooo

Back in the mansion, the first thing Candy did was to call her good friend, Annie. Instantly, Annie screamed excitedly begging to come with her to Pony's home. Annie couldn't help to make some complain too, though.

"You've been hiding this all from me?!" scolded Annie, hurt. "Not even once you mentioned Neal! What kind of friend are you!"

"I didn't realize it either, Annie," explained Candy, apologetically. "Long story..." She promised to make it up by telling everything about it in the car. "Uncensored," giggled Candy.

"You better!" demanded Annie.

...oOo..

Neal hated to see them leaving especially Cassey was crying didn't want to leave. They made a great effort to persuade Cassey that she would not go more than a few days.

Alen looked at his sister worriedly, got equally distressed and cried out loud together with her.

"You promised me that I can stay here with Alen and daddy," objected Cassey.

Cassey cried loudly clinging to Neal's neck refusing to be taken by Candy. Candy tried to pull Cassey but she kept clinging stubbornly to Neal's neck. Her little brain was subconsciously worried that she would be taken back to New York.

"Let her stay," said Neal meekly. He didn't have the heart to pull those little hands away from him. But Candy refused.

"I won't let her be too spoiled by her daddy!" said Candy adamantly.

She pulled Cassey by force and had Annie carry and hold wailing Cassey inside the car. Candy then banged the car door to seal the sound of Cassey's cry and said good bye to her fianc�.

"Promise me to eat and sleep well, baby," whispered Candy worriedly. A few drops of tears escaped from her eyes. She had missed him already.

Neal was deeply moved.

"I will eat and sleep well, Candy," Neal said in a low voice, laced with anguish. "Promise�" He bent his head to rest his forehead against her. He almost couldn't bear to see her leave again.

"Take care," he whispered, squeezing her shoulder very much reluctant to let her go.

"In four days, I'll go wherever you go, baby," said Candy convincingly.

"Oh Candy! I'll miss you." He gave her a long hard kiss before finally he let her go.

Holy cow!, thought Annie, overcome. She couldn't help to steal one or two looks from the lovebirds' private moments. It's real...!

oOoo

Ms. Pony and Sr. Lane of course received the girls with open arms. Enthusiastically, they promised to give their utmost contribution for the party.

For the sake of her son's happiness, Sarah determined to make it right this time. She came to Pony's home the following day taking chefs, servants, and her personal party and trip planners to help Candy arrange the wedding and the honeymoon.

Sarah humbly met privately with Ms. Pony and Sr. Lane to offer a grant for Pony's home. Seeing how sincere she was, Ms. Pony and Sr. Lane didn't have the heart to refuse and accepted�

oOoo

Meanwhile, Candy sat down with Sarah's trip planner to discuss the list of honeymoon sites around Paris. She browsed through the list and one name caught her attention Wild Rose Cottage.

"This cottage� ," pointed Candy, "the name is in English! What an adorable name."

"It's a new popular destination, Ms. Candice. Especially for the honeymooners. They're famous for their delicious food, fresh produce and breathtaking roses," explained the staff politely.

"Roses!" exclaimed Candy.

Her interest in roses never died, she even bred her own roses continuing Anthony's work with Sweet Candy. She read the cottage description. It seemed good! Even better, the place was not too far from Paris, just the way she wanted it.

"Oh, I love this place," said Candy.

"I heard it's a pretty place, Ms. Candice. However, Mr. Leagan usually uses a five-star hotel or resort," responded the staff. "I'm afraid this place is not."

Candy read the brief description again and the more she wanted to go to Wild Rose Cottage. She told that to the staff. The staff then obediently worked to gather more information about the cottage.

In France

Ella and Ian were counting the money they earned from the holiday summer season.

"Money, money, money!" shouted Ella excitedly. "This should be more than enough for us until the spring comes!"

Ian laughed seeing Ella's glowing face.

"Oh Ian... someone called today," said Ella. "They inquired the price to reserve the whole cottage for Mr. and Mrs. Leagan's honeymoon."

Ella laughed. "Right at our lowest, emptiest, quietest season of the year!" Ella laughed again. "Can you believe it?"

"Who is it again?" asked Stear who happened to be nearby, making some kind of automation object.

Ella repeated the information. "Mr. and Mrs. Leagan... Neal Leagan."

Neal Leagan?,thought Stear. No way, can't be that Neal! He wouldn't go to a shabby place like this.

"They're from America like you, Stear. Chicago to be exact," continued Ella.

Stear's face turned white suddenly.

"You talked to them?" asked Stear.

"No. Just the staff," corrected Ella."What's wrong Stear?"

It can't be! Must be a coincidence, thought Stear.

"No nothing�" Stear took off his glasses - pretending wiping them to hide his face from Ella and Ian. "Only two of them will come here?" tested Stear.

"Actually, no," said Ella. "The staff said they will be accompanied by dozens personals."

Neal!, thought Stear. Impossible! But, who knows!

"Sounds rich� Charge them tenfold," said Stear. He laughed quietly inside his heart.

"Oh, good idea! Why not? I'll charge them twenty-fold," laughed Ella. She always liked profit. "They'll call back soon." She grinned cunningly.

"We won't have any helper at that time of the year, Ella," said Ian reluctantly.

"You have me," said Stear. "Besides, I can guarantee you the dozens personals must be their personal servants."

"You know them?" asked Ian.

"Come on! The Leagans are famous billionaires in America," said Stear trying to elude the question. "How else would they travel?"

"We can't just overcharge them without delivering a promised service. That's cheating. We'll get a bad reputation�," disagreed Ian.

"There's no such thing as bad publicity," insisted Ella. "We'll be famous, well known! It's a golden opportunity. Soon many more rich and famous will come to us."

Ian stayed silence.

"Just cook extra good food and buy better wine. They won't know," persuaded Ella.

"If they were that clueless," responded Ian.

Uncomfortable silence fell. Ian knew Ella would not be happy if he's not cooperating but his conscience told him he shouldn't.

"And where will we put the dozens personals? We have no room for them," argued Ian.

"Don't tell them," said Ella coldly. "When they're here, we direct them to nearby guestrooms in the next village." Ella added quietly. "Only less than half an hour by car." She shrugged. "I am sure the billionaire will come with cars."

"You agree, Stear?" asked Ella throwing the ball to Stear.

"I wouldn't mind to have fun with these rich newlyweds," said Stear. He silently laughed again gleefully. "Come on, Ian. Let's have fun with them. I want to see who the lucky couple are. Don't you?"

Ian raised his eyebrows but didn't reply.

"Ian... Bil-lio-naire! Don't you want to study them? It's a good business experience too for you," persuaded Stear.

It's wrong to cheat, but the experience to serve the rich and famous was too inviting not to mention how excited Ella and Stear looked like. Ian finally surrendered. Ella was ecstatic.

"This year is fantastic. If things kept being like this, we might be able to buy more horses, hire permanent servants, " said Ella, overjoyed, "buy dresses like those Parisians. And who knows, we can even buy a car!"

"We'll try our best, Ella. We will," sighed Ian still in doubt if he did the right thing to agree.

.

In America

When Sarah Leagan staff called again, Ella quoted the overprice rate and gave the best marketing speech of her life.

"Our rooms are in high demand," lied Ella at the end trying to allure them to pay quickly and seal the deal. "There's another couple who's thinking to pay too today."

When the staff told Candy about the cottage, Candy who had long decided that she wanted to go there couldn't be more decisive. She right away called Neal to ask his opinion. But, too bad, he's in a meeting.

He must be busy to finish up his work before this sudden honeymoon trip, thought Candy.

She didn't want to disturb her fianc� more on such a trivial thing and made the decision herself. She ordered the staff to seal the deal and pay.

It costs the same as the five star hotel in Paris. It can't be that bad, Candy thought, innocently.

The staff obeyed and hurriedly went back to Chicago to prepare for the trip.

-To be continued-

-Thanks for reading.


Chapter 16: From this moment

Chapter 16: From this moment

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For the next few days, the usual quietness of the hill was broken by the humming sound of car engines. Sarah Leagan staffs impressively worked around the clock to make sure the express wedding and honeymoon trip were done to minute perfection.

Candy was happy when the big day finally arrived. She barely could sleep from the excitement and woke up extra early. Unexpectedly, Ms. Pony, Sr. Lane and Annie were already up too - they're almost as excited as the bride herself.

Just like when she was little, Ms. Pony combed Candy's hair. Sr. Lane tied a white ribbon in the hair. Annie picked some flowers and arranged them nicely in the hair.

"Mommy, you're beautiful," admired Cassey.

Little girls didn't lie. That was the highest praise she got that morning.

The ceremony itself was simple, attended only by the groom's parents, Annie, Archie, Ms. Pony and Sr. Lanne, Hannah, Cassey, and Alen. Patty didn't come due to her solitary obligation in the convent. Elisa didn't come either since she was out of the country with her boyfriend.

Love clearly emanated from the couple. It brought Hannah to emotional meltdown throughout the ceremony. The slender 6-feet-one tall master Neal looked so handsome and happy standing with the love of his life in the altar. She's been caring for him since he was born. This was the correct look her boy should be having not the vacant absent look which he had in the past few years.

The kind woman was so busy crying until Neal's father took Alen from her arms and carried Alen by himself.

"Sorry, sire. I�," Hannah mumbled. "Master Neal� He looks so happy, doesn't he?"

Hannah back to tears.

Roger nodded and smiled to Hannah. He's deeply touched too to see his son's glowing face, wedded the woman he truly loved.

Candy's voice rang when she said "I do." She couldn't wait to tell the world that she belonged to this one man. She was jubilant when they arrived at the most anticipated part, where the reverend asked the groom to kiss the bride�

Candy turned around to face Neal for the first time as a husband and wife. Neal was grinning.

"Mrs. Candice Leagan," Neal murmured and drew her into his arms to kiss her.

When he withdrew, his face was sparkling.

"You are beautiful, Candy," Neal whispered. "Can't wait to have you all to myself�."

She blushed. He kissed her again, longer than the first one.

This time, his grin turned wicked with something hot blazing from his eyes. The naughty looked which reminded her of his nuisance youth shone for a moment. She felt heat rush everywhere. Whereas in the past it was because of anger, now because he looked devastatingly sexy.

A round of applause followed. Candy saw Ms. Pony and Sr. Lane with their brightest face. Cassey didn't look alone anymore surrounded by Alen and her grandparents. Everyone was smiling, even Hannah although hers was still mixed with sobs and tears.

Archie was happy for Candy, too. Strangely he didn't feel jealous at all. He stood beaming, holding his wife's hand tightly. Annie looked into his eyes and he kissed her briefly. It's Annie who he loved, no one else.

Before leaving, Candy emotionally hugged her children. Alen was cooing, looked so cute in his mini tux. Suddenly her heart felt heavy to leave them. Four weeks� such a long time!

"Mommy, you cried," said Cassey.

Cassey wiped a few drops of tears which escaped from her mother's glistened eyes. Making noises, Alen tried to reach Candy's face with his short arm, copying what his sister did.

"Yes, dear," said Candy. "But these are happy tears. Mommy is very� very� very happy."

Candy's voice cracked. She hugged Cassey and Alen tighter.

"Be good, you two," said Candy, motherly. "Aunt Annie will come to see you often. Be nice!"

Sarah kept her vow. She was respectful to Ms. Pony and Sr. Lane throughout the time. Candy never saw her wear a more humble dress without any jewelry other than simple earrings and a necklace. But, she still looked splendid as always�

With Sarah carrying Cassey and Roger carrying Alen, they waved good bye to the newlyweds. The children would live with the grandparents until their parents came back from the honeymoon. Loyal Hannah would help supervise them...

ooOooo

Candy and Neal went to the train station with a big "Just Married" sticker sticked by Archie behind the car. From the car, Candy kept waving to everyone with her husband watching her. She didn't stop waving until everyone had disappeared from her sight.

Then, her husband who almost exploded with uncontained passion readily pulled her onto his lap. His eyes were a scorching brown, dark and intense.

"My wife�," Neal whispered.

She could feel his erection pushed hard against her hip.

Finally, nothing could stop him to love her. Impatiently, he pressed his mouth to hers showing her what it meant to be kissed by the man who truly loved the woman.

It was already dark when they arrived at the train station. Her husband who usually cared so much about appearance seemed to forget everything about it. His shirt was unusually disheveled with part of it spilled outside his pants. His top buttons shirt were unbuttoned and his bow hung loosely around his neck. He made some brief attempt to smoothen his mussed hair with his fingers but that's about it.

He was in a total mute, put a total attention to his bride. His eyes never shifted from hers even for one second.

She wore a long coat to hide her dress underneath which was badly crumpled and had no button left un-opened. Her bra and panties were in her coat pocket, already taken off by him.

Leaning on her husband's shoulder, they walked straight to their VIP cart. The door wasn't completely shut yet when he had started to make his move.

Watching her face, he slid off his bow with one hand, removed his suit with the other, and went to her at the same time.

"Eight years�," Neal whispered.

He buried his face in her neck. His breath fast, she could feel the heat as his hand slid aggressively up her spine, making her tremble by a weird feeling.

Neal� His wicked-boyhood face passed through her mind for a second as her thought wandered to their difficult past. She shivered. Now this? Is it too much in a rush?

"Candy, I love you," Neal murmured.

He hugged her gentler to calm her tremor. Slowly, his large hands moved trailing across her shoulder, very gently caressing her back.

She took a peek at his face. Nothing wicked there. Instead, she saw the face of a passionate man who's in love. Passion gradually took over. Putting her arms around his neck, she thrust her body into his.

Yes... Neal�! And above all she wanted to surrender in his arms and be there forever and ever.

He gently swept her hair off her back. Leaning on his chest, she closed her eyes enjoying all the movement his soft hands were making. She heard the sound of something being ripped off and soon her wedding dress withered, slid down her body to the floor.

He took a step back - without blinking, gazed achingly at her naked body.

"Eight damned and long years of dreaming and thinking of this moment," he murmured. His voice was hot.

He pulled her with one hand, unbuckling his belt with the other. "How I can manage to stay sane, I don't want to even think about it."

He unzipped his pants. She unbuttoned his shirt. Their breadth ragged.

"Candy, you're everything I have ever wanted."

In one shift move, he yanked his shirt off him.

He groaned into her mouth, picking up what they had left from the car. Giving up on words, she whimpered something incoherent into his mouth as a response.

He didn't wait to take off his trousers before pushing her a bit too roughly against the bed. Swiftly, he brought his body on top of her and every part in contact with her was electric.

"You're mine�," whispered Neal aggressively.

His mouth glided down to her breast. A low groan came from his throat as he nipped the tip of her beast with his teeth and kneaded the other with his hand. She moaned at the sensation�

He bit her left nipple then made a quick movement to take off his trousers. But, she knelt up and stopped him.

"I'll do it," she demanded. "Lay down�," she ordered, her expression was smug.

He obeyed. He watched her face as she slipped his trouser down his legs, done deliberately slowly that he thought he might go mad of waiting. Stroking his thighs she continued the torture as she came back to take off the undergarment.

Her jaw dropped. He's long and hard, so powerful and male. She crawled up on him sucking his mouthwatering physique.

"My husband�" She flattened herself against his rapidly rising and falling broad hard chest. "Beautiful husband�"

Desire exploded explosively trough every nerve of his being. He wanted nothing less but to fill her with pleasure and make her come* harder and longer than she ever had.

From behind, he ran his hand down to her womanhood, easing his fingers into her. She moaned. Her limbs weakened instantly by hot ripple of sensation as he pleasured her with her fingers. Before she could breathe again, she was back under him, while he did unimaginable wonder she had never thought possible while making love.

Then she felt him settled between her legs, stopped moving entirely.

"Neal�?" sighed Candy between her teeth.

"You'll be mine soon, Candy," Neal whispered. "Completely�"

"Neal� I have been�," she panted.

He pecked the bottom of her neck "Stop me if I hurt you."

"I will," she breathed. "Now� Stop talking. Let's just�"

Candy looked at him shyly, urged him to continue.

He grinned. "As you wish!"

He pushed her legs wider apart, giving himself more room, and with one hard thrust he penetrated deep into her. She moaned loudly, wrapped her legs around him. For a moment, he held still capturing the feeling of being inside her. His heart pounded. Finally, he's inside the only woman he had ever loved. To be inside her was beyond ecstasy, it's a necessary.

"You're mine� Candy�," he groaned, coming with another hot and hard thrust.

She was quivering under him, eyes hazy with pleasure. He fastened his pace, punishingly hard, expertly positioned the thrush in especially sensitive areas. He was good!

She closed her eyes, moaning, panting heavily as her whole body flooded with pleasure until it's becoming impossible to breathe. She clutched him tighter, all muscles tensed up as her body was preparing for a ripping climax. Then, crying his name out loud, she rode the biggest orgasm of her life. He gripped her tighter, continued rocking into her, and groaned, climaxed together with her.

She gave him the most fantastic sound of orgasm, far exceeded all the wildest dreams and fantasies he had about her. Still inside her, he pulled her closer to hug her and give her a soft kiss.

"Love you, Neal," she murmured, eyes still shut vibrating from the explosive orgasm.

Once their grips loosened, they looked into each other's eyes and smiled. Wrapped up in each other's arms they slowly drifted to sleep �

The following day the train arrived in New York. Candy and Neal then boarded a ship to Paris...

-To be continued-

Note:

*"come" here means orgasm

Thanks for reading, everyone� Not much story in this chapter� Thanks for staying with us this far.


Chapter 17: The Destination

CHAPTER 17: The Destination

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Candy woke up feeling wonderful, fully satiated from their passionate lovemaking.

She looked at her husband who's sleeping next to her who had been the source of all her joy� his kind face, his arm which had been holding her throughout the night�

She smiled.

Quietly, she freed herself from his arm and tiptoed to her desk in the other room to find her diary. Except for some entries she wrote about Cassey, that diary had been her place for outpouring sadness and desperation until only just recently. And now, she'd add yet another joyful entry.

"

In Paris. Finally!

Will be in Wild Rose Cottage in two days.

Very much in love with my husband, Neal.

Sept' 5th, 1922

"

She closed the diary with a smile and ran hurriedly back to the bed, impatient to be back in the warm arms of her dearest husband�

oOo

In Paris, Candy took a day off from the honeymoon to go shopping. She did not want to have Neal come with her.

"Let's see if you like my taste, darlin'," she said sweetly.

"I'm sure I will," her husband answered softly with a kiss.

On the day Candy went shopping, Neal would visit the Leagan Paris office which he had been working so hard to set up. At their solo day, Neal woke up early like regular working hour and went to work.

Candy woke up much later. She took one staff from the Leagan office as her translator and one accountant to take care of her cash flow. Wearing comfortable flat shoes and relaxed clothes, Candy went shopping in Paris. She bought things for their new home like dining ware, curtain, linens,� souvenirs for family and friends as well as toys for her children.

The glowing husband and wife met again later that evening, eagerly shared what they're doing that day.

"Finally they saw me." Neal grinned satisfyingly.

He told her about his meetings and their significance.

"Uh-huh," nodded Candy. "What language did you use?"

"French," answered Neal matter-of-factly.

Candy gasped, her eyes flashed with genuine admiration.

"Why not? We took it in St. Paul, remember?" Neal kissed his wife. "I also took some college courses in Paris�"

At this time, a young blonde came to their direction and stopped to ask for time. Completely ignoring Candy, without blinking the blonde stared deeply at Neal even after he had finished giving his answer. Not until Candy cleared her throat extra loudly that the blonde finally blinked. She smiled shyly , blushed heavily, before mumbling some thank you words and left.

"Tsk! tsk�! Did you see her!" muttered Candy. She frowned. "Someone just fell under your charm, dear�."

"Who?" asked her husband cluelessly. He really didn't pay much attention to anyone else other than to his dear wife.

"Can't blame her�." Candy sighed. "Come here handsome!" Candy grabbed Neal closer. "You're mine�!"

Standing on her toes, Candy pulled his perfectly knotted tie and stretched out to reach his lips to kiss him.

He grinned. Putting his arm around her waist, they walked together to the dining room.

"I called dad from the office," said Neal. "He was horrified to know that I was in the office and asked me to leave immediately." He smirked. "The first time he asked me not to work!"

Candy chuckled.

"Mum asked if we wanted to stop by in London. William and aunt Elroy are holding a mass for Anthony and Stear."

Candy sighed�

No matter how happy she was, she never failed to feel sad when thinking about them. Neal squeezed her hand tightly. He missed them and regretted their early passing just the same�

"Could we go?" asked Candy.

"Sure. We go," answered Neal. "We call them after dinner to confirm."

� � �

OoOOoo

The following day, Candy, Neal, and the dozen of servants and personnel including those who came with them from America, drove to the Wild Rose Cottage, their real honeymoon destination.

From the car, Candy finally saw a white structure appeared from the middle of nowhere. It's the Wild Rose Cottage. Finally! It looked incredibly attractive with its red roof and plantations surround it - just like in the story book she loved to read when she was little.

Fresh scent of the roses was immediate as soon as they stepped out of the car. Roses were clearly visible� Everywhere. The yard was full of blooming roses, the entrance arch, the cottage wall, the roof�!

Striking. Beautiful. But most of all� ODD!

Candy's trained eyes noticed something striking... the size of the roses, the arrangements, the color shades� They were not just any roses, they particularly reminded her of� Lakewood.

Gosh! It can't be, she thought, paralyzed.

Candy glanced for a second to her beloved, feeling guilty to even think about another man during their honeymoon. But how could she not? These roses unmistakably bore the signatures of� Anthony. His name and face were like printed on each one of them.

A very-young looking woman greeted them at the door cutting her muse. With friendly face and voice, she introduced herself as Ella. Candy liked Ella right away. Ella gave some introduction about the area and showed them around briefly. Then she took Candy and Neal to the second floor to show their room before stepping outside for a moment to give them some privacy.

Candy was ecstatic.

Neal was stunt.

"How much does this place cost again, honey?" asked Neal to Candy.

"The same as our hotel in Paris," replied Candy.

With narrowed eyes, Neal walked around to examine the room closely.

"No way�! Can't be," rejected Neal bluntly. "No doorbell person, no chauffeur, no porter! Look at the furniture, bedding, curtain…They expect us to pay that much for� this?"

Neal pointed at the modest look curtain and the bed linen. They were neatly put but certainly not made of the finest linen.

"I go talk to the manager. They have to reduce the price," he growled.

"Let's not make trouble, darling. I have signed the agreement," coaxed Candy. "I could just ask Ella to change the bedding and curtain with the ones we brought from home."

Ella looked so young and kind, Candy had no heart to cause her trouble.

"That's not the point�," said Neal deadpan. "I talk to her."

"No, darling... Don't!" urged Candy, pulling his arm. "Let me talk to her."

Candy left momentarily to talk to Ella and came back.

"So?" asked Neal.

"We can't get any money back," said Candy contritely. "A-and� Ella said, she's the only one here. The manager is also the chef and he is busy cooking at this moment. They'll have one helper tonight. But currently, they have no other worker to change the bedding and curtain."

Candy knew he wouldn't like to hear the answer.

"They charged us that much money for this kind of service? They can't be serious!" said Neal annoyed.*

Candy stole a look at her husband to access the situation for the next bomb shell.

"And�," Candy gulped, "Ella said there's no space to accommodate our staffs. They have to leave somewhere else. She recommended a nearby village..."

"What?" cut Neal, furious. "Did she tell you that when you made the reservation?"

"No� Not that I know of," said Candy, also confused.

"Any fine print written in the agreement?"

Candy stared at her unrelenting husband worriedly. She never thought things would escalate to be this serious.

"Darling, to be honest... I don't read the fine print... I mean... " Candy fumbled hopelessly. "I thought I was going to a honeymoon not a court."

"Ron!" Neal yelled calling his private secretary.

Candy heard hurried footsteps thumping on the wooden floor running to the second floor. Soon she saw Ron appear at the doorway. Panic sank in...

"Mr. Leagan," said Ron ready to take order.

"Show me the cottage agreement," ordered Neal.

Ron disappeared while Candy and Neal were waiting in silence. His eyebrows shot up, she could tell that he didn't plan to back off.

Ron quickly came back with the contract which Neal grabbed and perused eagerly. Holding her breath, Candy nervously waited, hoping Ella put the troubling issues in the fine print somewhere in there.

"Look Candy, it's not written here," said Neal. "What a scum! They have to reduce the price or cancel the contract. If not, I'll sue them!"

Candy pulled her husband's arm preventing him to talk to Ella.

"Baby... it's not that you can't pay it," Candy said worriedly in a low voice.

Neal made a sign for Ron to retire. Understood the private nature of the conversation, Ron quickly left, closed the door behind him.

"It's not about money! I don't like to be cheated," snapped Neal.

He held up his index finger. "Moreover...," he said emphatically, "their conduct will cause a huge inconvenience on my part." He scowled. "No servants! Who will make our bed? Prepare my suite tomorrow morning?"

"I'll do it," said Candy.

"I don't want you to do it."

"I want to do it," said Candy adamantly. "I'm your wife�"

"That's why I don't want you to do it," returned Neal back equally adamantly.

Candy stared at her husband blankly and soon her lips curled, twitched, and she sobbed uncontrollably.

"I am a bad wife..," Candy cried tearfully. "I am ruining our honeymoon." She howled harder. "I picked a place that my husband doesn't like."

Neal was astounded to see his beloved cry. Abruptly, all anger was gone and his heart melted

"Oh no... no. My love� Please� don't cry." He hugged her, patted her back worriedly. "It's my fault, I made you too much in a rush before going. Don't cry."

"She's so young. If you complained, what if she got fired? Such a small amount of money for you, while this job might mean the whole world to her," sobbed Candy.

Candy cried louder, feeling squeezed in a no win-win situation. She didn't want to aggravate her husband but on the other side, her kind heart was worried about young Ella and her modest cottage. She desperately blamed herself to pick this cottage and started the chain of problem!

Neal got panicked.

"Fine... fine,� I won't sue. Forget about the bed. We don't need to make the bed tonight," comforted Neal.

Candy was still sobbing.

"Don't cry, my love� Anything... just don't cry. I love this cottage. The scenery is fabulous, the roses are pretty. I love it here. Everything is super, I just thought that we're cheated. But � let's not talk about that anymore," comforted Neal.

Candy stopped crying, feeling better hearing his gentle words.

"Are you alright now?" he whispered. He took his fingers and brushed her tears with them. "It's a torture to see you cry, baby."

He hugged her tightly. In the past, he made her cry countless times. But ever since he fell in love with her, he just couldn't bear to see her unhappy.

She nodded. "You get ready for your warm bath, darling," said Cady softly. "I will fix everything."

She understood how important neat bed, well ironed pajama, nicely pressed handkerchiefs and other details were for him.

"B-but�, you're not going to take a warm bath with me?" asked Neal quietly. He looked at her pithily begging for her to change her mind.

"Not this time, darling."

Neal was about to protest but Candy pressed her palm on his lips.

"Do as I said, Neal," Candy said softly. "Your wife will fix everything."

Grouchily Neal left. On the way, he took a peek at the bathroom. To his annoyance, he found that Candy wouldn't be able to join either since the tub was too small�

-TO Be Continued-

Note:

*Ella did try to cheat (chapter 15).

Thanks for reading.


Chapter 18: Most Pleasant

Chapter 18: Most Pleasant

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With determination, Candy organized all their servants to move. Ella soon witnessed a troop of servants carrying Candy's orders. She saw them brushing the bath tub to the shine, preparing bed sheets with the finest linen, assembling the embroidery curtain, iron pajamas, wash exquisite china dinnerware, tea cups, tea pots, and more.

When Neal came back after taking his warm bath, Candy greeted him with the update.

"Our servants are taking care of everything," Candy said beaming.

Holding her husband's hand, she took him for a tour around the living room and the bedrooms to show how nice everything had been done.

"They made our bed with your favorite bedding sheets we took from home�," showed Candy.

"Look at this dining ware�," pointed Candy. "I bought it yesterday in Paris." Candy smiled. "The tea cup� It has a matching little spoon� Like it?"

"Beautiful!" praised Neal.

"Our servants will come before you get up tomorrow to prepare everything they way you like things to be done," said Candy. She put her arms around her husband's neck. "Happy, love?"

"You pamper me too much, darling." Neal kissed his wife appreciatively.

Candy was glowing with that special honeymoon's glow exclusively possessed by happy brides who were in love.

At dinner, everyone got calmed down. The food was surprisingly good. It's a country style home made food but cooked to extraordinary perfection. It's simply unique and delicious...

From the far, Ella was examining the couple. The wife wore elegant soft pink chiffon dress with exquisite embroidery and lace decoration. She never saw a more beautiful diamond as what Candy had in her finger. The husband looked extraordinary. To say that he's well dressed was an understatement. This man simply was a class apart.

But what caught Ella's attention the most was how lovely the husband was to his wife. The way he stared at her, his gentle voice, attention, gestures to his wife� What it felt like to be loved by a man affectionally like that�?

Ella was imagining herself and Ian. Would Ian hold her hand and be affectionate to her too one day�?

For the first time Ella envied the honeymooners not because of their dress, ring or car, but for the love. Their affection was enviable and unlike nothing she had ever seen.

"You speak fluent English, Ella," said Candy sweetly cutting Ella's deep muse.

"Oh�," stammered Ella, quickly regrouping herself. "Mom was from the UK and dad was from the USA. We spoke English at home."

Ella looked at Candy. Unlike the husband, Candy seemed friendly and nice. She spoke as though they've been best friends all their life.

"Very tasty," said Candy pointing to all the empty plates on the table.

"All the vegetables were picked fresh from our own garden, Madam Leagan. Our chef, Ian, grows them by himself."

"Oh! I like gardening too," said Candy.

"Madam is a gardener?" asked Ella.

"Only roses. I'm a nurse," answered Candy, humbly. "Oh, call me Candy."

Candy offered Ella a handshake.

"Could we meet chef Ian, the talented gardener?"

"He's outside now picking vegetations for the next meal," answered Ella. "I'll have him meet madam as soon as he comes back."

After dinner and had everything cleaned up, Candy dismissed the servants so they could look for accommodations in a nearby village. Neal and Candy took a walk together hand in hand just like any other newlyweds would be.

"Beautiful!" said Candy stretching her arms, breathed the precious clean air. "Just you and me. Far from everyone we know�"

Neal grinned, happy to see his wife look content.

"Can't be better," agreed Neal. "Totally among strangers. No one will interrupt us. Excellent choice, darling."

He kissed her. She leaned her head on his shoulder. They exchanged loving words, walked together in the woods until it got dark. They then went back to the cottage to start another honeymoon night.

From the far they saw Ella was busy carrying a crying baby in the yard.

"Taking care of a baby is not as fun as making one, isn't it?" said Neal. He rubbed her wife's belly. "Who knows there's already one growing inside."

He bent down to nuzzle his nose gently on his wife's flat belly. Candy giggled.

"If there isn't one yet then tonight there might be one," said Candy, tenderly pulling her husband's wavy hair.

They went to their room and threw themselves on the bed to continue kissing and enjoying each other under the bed sheet.

They ignored the loud baby's cry that's coming approaching their door. They heard someone knock at their door which they ignored too, initially, until it became too loud too ignore. For Candy, at least�.

"Candy... This is Ella!" said Ella repeatedly knocking at the door. Her voice grew louder each time.

"Neal, Ella is at the door," said Candy.

"Mmm," responded Neal without stopping kissing and squeezing her.

The knock got more and more frantic. "Madam Leagan, this is emergency. Please help us�"

"Coming," replied Candy.

Candy struggled to escape from her husband's tight grip. She hurriedly dressed up, at the same time combing her hair with her fingers and raced towards the door.

"This baby is not feeling well. Madam said you're a nurse?" asked Ella. "Could madam please examine him? I'll call Ian to call the baby's grandfather and� Argh, actually I am in the middle of cooking something in the stove." Ella murmured some more excuses, feeling so uncomfortable. "I am so sorry. This is my sister's baby. She and her husband suddenly had an emergency in town and�"

"No problem, gladly," cut Candy generously to save Ella from the embarrassment to explain the situation.

With the sweetest tone Candy said, "Come here boy. Nurse Candy will check your temperature."

Candy examined the baby briefly.

"He's fine. It's common for a baby to be cranky when he catches a cold," explained Candy. "I'll take care of him, don't worry."

After some more apologies, Ella hurriedly left to look for Ian.

"You must be kidding me, Candy," said Neal, annoyed.

The baby was crying on top of his lung and Candy was busy cradling him in her arms.

"We come here to make babies not to take care of one� Arghh," said Neal. He buried his ears in the pillows.

Tomorrow the servants sleep here. They camp outside if necessary. I don't care!, thought Neal.

"Neal, shh! Let's see if I could make him sleep quicker," said Candy.

Candy kept gently rocking the baby, singing, talking and doing all kind of efforts to comfort him and make him stop crying. Meanwhile, Neal buried his head in the pillows and fell asleep�

Neal was woken up by Candy's gentle pat.

"Neal, he's sleeping� Call Ella," whispered Candy.

Neal got up to look for Ella. Still half asleep and not too familiar with the cottage, Neal wandered to the wrong side of the house. Innocently, he tapped at the door that looked like the manager's door.

The door opened and Neal saw a man, not Ella, at the door.

"Oh, excuse me� I�," said Neal.

"Hi Neal!" cut the man, smiling with a very familiar voice and look.

"� got a wrong doo...," Neal trailed off, turning pale.

'Neal' he said?

All sleepiness was gone instantly. Stiffened and fully awake, Neal examined the man. Dark hair, dark-frame glasses, friendly smile� Neal froze.

What the hell!, Neal thought, astonished.

Neal rubbed his eyes with his hands thinking he might be dreaming. But, he's sure he's not sleeping.

Finally, Neal managed to move his legs and, in a flash, he ran away. He went back to his room and banged the door open, hard.

"Candy!" yelled Neal.

Candy startled. The noise and her sudden movement woke the baby up again. He started to cry louder than before.

"Neal! You woke him up!" said Candy, exasperated.

"I-I saw� T-there is�," Neal stammered, his face was pale white.

"Don't' tell me that you just saw a mouse or a ghost, honey," said Candy annoyed. The baby wailed mercilessly on top of his lung, kicking Candy wildly.

"I-I� saw� !" Neal trailed of. "S-s-s-s-s� Stear� Stear!"

Candy rolled her eyes, annoyed.

"Go back to sleep, Neal," said Candy, irked. "I shouldn't wake you up."

"Candy, come with me�," said Neal persistently. He pulled her arm to follow him.

So inexcusable! Candy almost exploded. She worked for one hour to calm the baby while all he did was sleeping. Now, he thoughtlessly ruined it and used Stear as an excuse.

"Fine, here take him," said Candy impatiently with finality. She gave the baby to Neal to show that she's not happy with his behavior. "Take me to Stear."

Candy rolled her eyes couldn't' t believe she said what she had just said.

Neal took his wife back to that door.

"Knock it," said Neal.

Candy knocked and at the same time was preparing some apology speech for the interruption.

Finally the door was opened.

"We're sor�" Candy was about to recite the apology speech when, like Neal earlier, she felt shock zinged down her spinal cord.

Candy saw a familiar man wearing the familiar black-frame glasses. The man seemed to examine her and be equally in shock. He opened and closed his mouth trying to say something while Candy couldn't help to move inappropriately closer to examine his face better.

"You?! Candy!" the man in glasses exclaimed after he could find his voice. "Mrs. Neal Leagan is you!?" He gasped.

He knows my name, Candy almost fainted. Before Candy could respond, another door was opened and Ella entered.

"Sorry for the interruption, our manager, Ian, is home finally," said Ella.

At this point the baby kicked hard and screamed extra loudly right in Neal's ear which almost burst his eardrum. His blood boiled instantly which made him forget about the man in glasses momentarily.

"About time, I have something very serious to discuss with mister manager," said Neal, fuming.

With all the interruption and noise, he wanted so much to file a serious complain. Eagerly he moved forward to face the man.

Hearing Ella's voice, Candy turned around too to face her. She saw a blonde man taking a bouquet of roses standing behind Ella. His blue eyes shone brightly even in the dim twilight. Candy almost collapsed. Likewise to Neal. He forgot totally about the complain.

Albert? What is he doing here? No� wait! He's not Albert!, thought Candy. The sweet smile and� Shit! The roses! He's� No! It can't be!

William? He owns this cottage? No� he's not William, thought Neal, stunt. Hell! He's younger.

If Ella hadn't taken the baby, more likely Neal would have dropped him. Ella carried the baby outside the room and closed the door hurriedly behind her.

"Welcome to our cottage," said Ian in the most pleasant and professional tone. "Thanks to choose our place and grant us the opportunity to serve. We promise everything will run smoothly after this. Would madam accept our welcome bouquet of roses?"

The way he speaks. The roses!, thought Candy.

His voice intonation, Neal thought.

Anthony? Stear?, they thought, looking at one another.

-To be continued-

Thanks for reading.


Chapter 19: Never Could Imagine

CHAPTER 19: Never Could Imagine

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"Monsieur, Madam, comprennez-vous Anglais?*" asked Ian.

Candy and Neal remained frozen. The man in glasses smiled.

"I take care of your guests, Ian," said the man with the glasses. He took the roses from Ian's hand. "Sorry I came back late. It took longer to finish the mechanic class in that school."

Ian nodded, bowed politely to the guests, and left.

"Candy� Neal. Newlyweds? Honeymooners? Hard to believe my friends!" said the man in glasses with that familiar broad smile. "I'm� you know� Stear. Alistair Cornwell."

Stear opened his arms wide to give Neal a hug.

"How do you like our cottage, Neal?" teased Stear.

After the funeral ceremony with tears like rain, he's here?, dubious, Neal hesitated if he should return the hug.

Stear sensed it.

"Neal Leagan. Sister: Elisa. Hobby: Collecting cars, unless you've changed. Learned driving for the first time with me and Archie, my brother. The car, we nicknamed Comet�"

Comet? Neal was stunt. That was too personal. It's hardly possible that the press could know it. Only Stear and Archie would have known it...

Neal gave a lengthy stare to the man with glasses.

Hell! They never found his body after all, thought Neal.

Neal opened his arms to hug the man, starting hesitatingly but gradually tightly and warmly, patted his back at the same time.

"Stear! You've been hiding?" cried Neal, disbelief.

Stead laughed out loud then turned to Candy.

"How's the music box I gave you, Candy. Do you keep it?" asked Stear.

"Stear�," Candy managed. "Yes! In Lakewood." She wiped tears from her eyes and following her husband, she decided to hug the man, too.

"Buddy, you have quite a story to tell �" Neal paused thinking of a correct word to use. "Don't tell me that he actually is� Anthony?"

"Let's go outside. Tell me what you two have been up to," said Stear. He winked. "I'll tell you mine."

Stear took them to a porch outside and told them his story. His plane got shot down, he ran from the Germans and mortally wounded. Accidentally, he's saved by Ian and Ella.**

Neal and Candy watched silently with mouths opened wide. It's too awesome, they were unable to comment.

"Too bad Ian has an amnesia," said Stear. "We can't ask him."

Stear smiled broadly and glanced comically at the couple who's staring at him without blinking.

"You two are married, eh?" Stear smiled broadly.

"We are," said Candy, blushing with pride.

Candy gave her husband a loving smooch in his lips. He returned it readily with so much love and pride.

A gush of wind blew making Candy shiver.

"You're cold, Candy?" asked Neal. He draped his arm possessively around her shoulder.

"It is quite chilly, isn't it?" said Candy rubbing her shoulders.

"Surprisingly, it is," answered Stear. "I have a feeling that a big storm is coming. It's rare to come at this month, but� well, we never know."

"Use my suit," said Neal to Candy. He made a move to take off his suit to give it to his wife. His gentleness to Candy surprised Stear.

"Oh no, Neal. I don't want you to be cold either," responded Candy. "I get my own."

"I get yours. You stay. I'm sure you have plenty of things to catch up with Stear," said Neal. He gave his wife an intensively deep kiss and left.

Unconsciously, Candy kept watching Neal until he disappeared behind the trees. When she looked back at Stear, she found he was watching her. Leaning on his elbow, Stear was staring fixedly at her.

"The last time we met, you were going to New York to visit Terry," said Stear. "What happened next?"

"It didn't work out with Terry." Candy told Stear everything about Terry, Gary, Cassey�

"After all wrong steps I made these past few years, Neal is the greatest thing that happens to me. Yup, he is my true love, Stear!" said Candy.

Candy breathed deeply like being overcome by her own feeling.

"Candy�, Ian forgot everything about his past except about a blonde girl. I think she's you," said Stear. "That's why I think he's Anthony..."

Candy froze, flushed by the memory of Anthony - the angel who always brought happiness during her difficult past. She felt honored. She looked at the roses then touched her wedding ring. She was happy that it was dark so Stear couldn't see her face.

"Well for sure his roses improve a lot," murmured Candy vaguely after some stretched silence which she used to gather herself.

"Do you remember Patty, Stear?" Candy swiftly changed the topic of conversation. She's been bursting to talk about this very topic.

Stear sat straight right away.

"How could I not?" replied Stear. He let go a deep sigh. "How's Archie?" asked Stear, avoiding the Patty topic.

Candy told Stear about Archie's wedding with Annie in details. Stear was visibly happy for his brother.

Not willing to be sidetracked, Candy went back to the unfinished topic.

"Are you dating anyone?" asked Candy, this time bluntly.

"It's been� what? Five years? More?" asked Stear.

"Six?" replied Candy.

"A long time, isn't it�.?" Stear let go a deep sigh. "She must have moved on� Candy, I don't want to talk about it."

"That's why you didn't come back home?" asked Candy quietly, ignoring his request.

"Something like that," murmured Stear.

He avoided Candy's eyes and looked somewhere else. Stear always be notoriously private about his private life. Candy held her breath decided to charge forward for the sake of Patty. She knew that her friend was still grieving for this man.

"Stear, Patty has no other man. She's joining the convent," said Candy quietly.

"Convent?" asked Stear loudly, greatly nonplussed.

"When she's notified that you died, she wanted to end her life to follow you. Finally, she found peace in church� She persistently loves you. I believe to this very second."

"Then, I have to go back," Stear said resolutely after a very brief silence.

Candy was stunt at his reaction but she didn't dare to ask. Stear could tell what's in her mind.

"No! I never date anyone else," said Stear firmly. "You must've wondered why I didn't contact her sooner?"

Candy slowly nodded.

Stear heaved a deep sigh. "It's a long story, Candy�"

Stear stared far to the horizon. After some silence, he slowly began�

"During the war, I was part of a high classified team. We broke codes, intercepted codes, gathered classified information,... stuffs like that. No one knew exactly where our military base was. We caused so much damage and disruptions to the enemies. The central powers* would do anything to capture us alive."

"This area was occupied heavily by the Germans and their spies. All phone conversation, radio communication, letters were heavily intercepted. After Anthony and Ella found me, they immediately burned my uniforms, paperwork,� anything to remove my trace."

"No spy in the doctor's office?" Candy wondered.

"I never saw any doctor. Anthony thought it's too risky. He and Ella personally cared for me."

"Wow," uttered Candy.

"Yup, I owe my life entirely to Anthony and Ella. It took me about a year to finally walk again. I was practically hiding in their house until the war was over."

With sympathy, Candy stared at Stear imagining those turmoil time. Things must be much more difficult than what she heard in words. Those adjustments he had to go trough must be immensely demanding� Also Anthony and Ella's effort to save him. She thought so highly of the three of them.

"Then� It's been like what� Two years? Three? I had gotten used to live here." Stear sighed sadly. "And Patty� I thought she must have already moved on. Although understandable, I'd rather not see her with her new man� "

Stear paused briefly before energetically pumped his fist in the air

"But now I know that she's not with any man, I have to go back home!" Stear cried loudly.

Candy was glad to see his reaction. Patty must be very happy to see Stear again!

"Too bad I don't have legal paperwork� Otherwise I'd go right NOW!" Stear frowned, thoughtful.

At this time, Neal came back with Candy's coat.

"We have him work on your paper work," said Candy watching her husband proudly. She told Neal briefly about Stear's paperwork problem.

"That's easy, Stear," said Neal calmly. "All you need to do is to pose and have your picture taken!" Neal grinned. Neal promised to send his secretary to Paris to bring Stear's photo to his lawyer and work quickly on the paperworks.

"We will go home together. How does that sound?" Neal grinned wider.

Neal! A loving husband? Someone to rely on?, thought Stear mystified, feeling creepy. It didn't feel at all right.

"Er... how about Anthony?" asked Candy.

"He thinks he's Ian. He has his business and farm to take care of. We could try, but I doubt he'd want to come with us," said Stear.

Logical answer. Candy could only nod somberly.

They chatted until late and went back to the cottage.

On the way to the bedroom, Candy and Neal met Ian who instantly greeted the guests.

"I hope madam and monsieur like our dinner?" greeted Ian with his most professional smile.

"Outstanding," said Candy truthfully. Pointing to the bouquet of roses in her hand, Candy added, "These are exquisite!"

"Would madam like to have a brief tour in our rose garden tomorrow?" asked Ian.

"We'd appreciate it. Thank you," added Candy.

"Our pleasure, madam Leagan�"

"Please� call me Candy," cut Candy. "Good night, Ian."

"Good night, Candy."

Ian bent to graciously kiss Candy's hand. He smiled - a warm, sincere smile that went straight to her heart.

That's too much for Candy. That's the gesture and tone Anthony used to give when he bent and kissed her hand, night after night when wishing her a good night. The exact same word, the identical tone, and the same bright blue eyes.

Anthony... no doubt! I'm Candy, Anthony� Can't you tell?, thought Candy. Completely entrenched, she stared hopelessly blank at Ian's face. Get your memory back! Please� Come back with us to Lakewood.

Her husband's hand strong grip at hers brought her back to consciousness. She saw him frown, glance sharply at her while Ian flush, stare awkwardly at her and her husband alternatingly... Candy realized that she must have been staring at the poor Ian longer than she should.

"Ehem� See you, An� I mean, Ian," Candy brokenly muttered, stopped looking at him.

Visibly relieved, Ian stepped back and bowed respectfully to Candy.

"Good night monsieur Leagan," Ian added extra respectfully to Neal.

Candy couldn't sit still in their room that night. To divert her swirling brain, she looked for a vase, filled it with water and arranged Anthony's roses in there. She put the vase on the table and stared at them, trying to digest the shocking reality. Stear! Anthony!

If only Anthony could regain his memory back, Candy sighed.

Simultaneously, her husband was sighing too. She must be thinking about Anthony�, Neal thought.

-To be continued-

Thanks for reading. So grateful, everyone. Thanks for the support! Your presence here means more than you could ever think of to me.

NOTE:

* Ian said: do you understand English? (According to Google translate. Ha ha! I know ZERO French.)

** Stear's story is discussed in details in chapter 2.

oOo

ELSA: I'm glad that you are still here reading even though Neal has married! Thank you my friend! Can't appreciate it more!

Sabrina: So ? What do you think?

I wrote: "She must have moved on� Candy, I don't want to talk about it."

... "Although understandable, I'd rather not see her with her new man�"

Sabrina, I got this idea while reading your story with Lady Lyuva "Medianoche, Patricia y Alistair". Donald Buckman wanted to propose to Patty. Patty cried alone in her room thinking about Stear and Stear saw it from the tree� I was deeply affected by those chapters. So, while waiting for your next chapter, I was thinking about other possible ending for this couple. I came up with one, this story.


Chapter 20: Faithful Storm

Chapter 20: Faithful Storm

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Hopefully Anthony regains his memory soon, thought Candy while examining the roses which clearly were grown by the hands of a master.

"Look at these roses, Neal. Anthony improves a lot! The smell is stronger. The freshness lasts longer, the color�," said Candy after she could already speak.

Hearing no response, Candy turned around to look at her husband. He was sitting quietly looking at her with a thoughtful expression. He thought he would be satisfied by having her marry him. He did� But now he wondered if she really loved him or he's just a second best�

"Something in your mind, darling?" Candy asked. She sat on his feet, rested her chin on his lap.

"No."

"No?"

"No."

"Was the wind too chilly just now?" Candy softly rubbed his temple with her hand to check if he had a temperature.

Neal gently removed her hand while maintaining the same thoughtful expression.

"Candy� May I ask something?"

She nodded.

He took a deep breath. "What would happen if tomorrow Anthony regained his memory back and remembered everything?"

"We'd rejoice, wouldn't we?" Candy answered gently. "Why asked me this, darling? You doubt me?"

Neal only exhaled as the answer. She took it as yes.

"Don't�," she said softly.

Candy got up to cup his cheek gently. "Because Neal, I'm yours... every piece of me. My body, my soul, my heart�"

"Candy," he whispered. He lifted her and put her on his lap, gently smoothing a stray lock of hair from her face.

She clasped his hand and tapped it gently against his chest.

"My heart is where yours is. Now, in the next second or in five hundred years� Forever! I assure you, this will never change�"

She couldn't finish her words because his mouth had possessed hers, silencing her. For now, at least, her words removed his doubt. Furthermore, after all these years, what's the odd that Anthony would suddenly regain his memory before they went back home which was just five days later?

"Candy...," Neal sighed. "I love you."

He buried his mouth in hers and carried her to the bed.

The bed squeaked.

"Gentle, Neal. The bed is� noisy. You have two cousins outside," whispered Candy, giggling.

"Stear must have put the squeakiest bed here for us. Anthony must replace this tomorrow," said Neal, moving as quietly as possible. "Give me at least one of your screams, baby, promise me..."

His mouth was back on hers� They made love quietly that night.

... ... ... ... ...

oooOooo

They didn't feel like they had slept much when they heard someone bang at the door.

"Candy! Neal!" They heard Stear's voice. He knocked loudly at the door.

"Candy! Neal! Wake up!"

"Stear?" murmured Candy, sleepily.

"Candy! Neal! We have a big storm coming," said Stear loudly.

"We pay! They take care of it," murmured Neal still half asleep. He pulled Candy's naked body closer preventing her to get up and to continue sleeping with him instead.

"Candy� Neal! Wake up" cried Stear continuously banging at the door.

It was so loud and disturbing.

"Candy... Neal!"

"Argh� Why hasn't Ron* kicked him out yet?" growled Neal, exasperated. He rested his face in his wife's breasts and snuggled under the bed sheet to enjoy his wife's warm body quietly.

"Candy� Neal!" cried Stear again, louder.

"It's only 5:37," replied Candy. "Ron can't be here yet."

"Candy� Neal!" cried Stear. His voice rang straight to Neal's nerve. His ears pricked. That's enough!

"Coming," barked Neal rudely, surrendered.

Exploding, Neal got up and wore his pajama. Sluggishly he walked to open the door. Stear laughed seeing his cousin's annoyed sleepy face.

"We need help," said Stear. "Your servants are not here yet." He giggled.

"How do you run your business here normally, when we're not around?" asked Neal grouchily.

Stear laughed.

"We only have helpers during busy seasons. We never have guests around this time and a big storm is rare," explained Stear.

Stear quickly changed his tone. "A big tree just fell on the roof above my room. The roof is completely obliterated. The floor is flooded by the rain fall. The damage is beyond�"

"So?" cut Neal coldly, thoughtlessly, un-sympathetically.

"I need your help," said Stear.

Why me? Neal raised his eyebrow. "Where's the boss? Anthony?" asked Neal.

"He took care of the frightened horses. Ella is taking care of the kitchen which is heavily flooded, too. Water got in from the broken�"

Blah, blah, blah, Neal didn't bother to listen. He slammed the door in Stear's face.

Tonight the servants must sleep here. I don't care how or where, grumbled Neal to himself.

Neal saw Candy have already dressed up. She heard everything and hurriedly got herself ready.

"I go, too. I see what Ella is up to," said Candy.

"Don't go," Neal said softly. "Go back to sleep... You don't sleep enough." He hugged her gently.

"How could I?" she whispered. "I go."

Candy kissed her husband and hurriedly went outside. She met Stear at the door who told her more about the situation in the kitchen. She then dashed to help Ella leaving Stear waiting for Neal outside the door.

A few long minutes later, Neal still had not come out.

"Neal! Hurry up!" screamed Stear. He impatiently banged at the door louder than ever. "What are you doing in there?"

Neal appeared again at the door, almost instantly.

"Shut! Up!" barked Neal.

To Stear's disbelief, he's still wearing his pajama.

"I thought you were changing your clothes!" squeaked Stear impatiently.

"I'm trying!" said Neal crossly.

"Why it takes you so long?"

"I have no staff here! I don't know where they put my suit! I could ask my wife..."

Stear stared amusedly at his cousin for a moment. Something hasn't changed!, thought Stear. I miss this guy! He tried hard not to laugh and to look stern instead.

"Come with me!" Just like in the good old days, Stear pulled Neal's collar as though the younger man was still shorter than him.

"Use my working clothes! None of your silk suit will have any use right now anyway!" urged Stear with solider-like persistency.

Stear dragged Neal to his room and gave him the shirt.

As soon as Neal saw the damage caused by the falling tree, he forgot about his sleepiness. The roof was so broken, clearly it got to be fixed to prevent a total collapse.

The two of them tried to move the tree, but it's too heavy.

"Actually," said Stear after a while, enlightened by a new idea. "I made an automatic woodcutter machine. Time to test it!"

Stear grinned ear to ear and made a sign for Neal to follow him to the basement. He saw Stear pick something from a pile of various objects.

"This baby cuts wood and automatically crushes it into pieces. Help me to carry this."

They lifted the machine back to Stear's room. Stear pushed a red button. Nothing. He kept pushing �, it didn't work. Annoyed, he kicked it. The machine ran. It admiringly chopped the tree trunk into pieces.

"Fantastic, eh?" shouted Stear proudly.

To Neal's amazement, the machine was working!

Stear improved!, thought Neal admiring the machine.

"Ye�" Neal was about to agree.

� The machine soon roared heavily and after a strong jerk it sent wood chips fly to all directions, dangerously. They hurriedly dodged under a table� Stear scrambled to reach out the red button to turn the machine off at no avail. Luckily, the machine soon broke down and stopped working by itself.

The house was collapsing, the storm was pounding, the rain was pouring, and the machine broke� in addition there's no servant! But for a brief moment, Neal forgot them all. It's good to see his cousin again with his trademark puzzled look wondering why his invention was not working!

Neal laughed out loud.

"You laughed?" asked Stear. "I thought you hated my invention."

Neal grinned.

"When we're little, you took me for a ride in the little wooden car you made for Archie," said Neal loudly so his voice could be heard amid the roaring storm. "At that time, I thought that was the best car I had ever ridden in my life."

"Really?" shouted Stear back, touched.

"Yeah... Until it got turned over and four of us, including Anthony, fell to the lake."

Neal grinned then burst to laughter. Stear laughed even louder.

"I remember! I remember," laughed Stear out loud.

Stear held his stomach and gasped many times for air. He had to take off his glasses to wipe some tears.

They saw another tree ready to fall to hit the house. Stear and Neal decided to get serious and do some real action.

"Do you know how to handle this?" asked Neal.

"Easy� learned it from the army." Stear grinned, held his thumb up. "I'll show you!"

Stear dangerously climbed to the roof with Neal assisted him from the ground. They tied up the trunk, pulled it, supported it and many other difficult routines.

While doing it, they saw Ian was busy calming one horse outside the stable. The horse was neighing, protesting.

A lightning stroke� followed by the loudest thunder. Almost immediately after that, they heard another horse neigh in panic.

"Ian, the horse� the horse!" Stear and Neal heard Ella's panic scream.

From the open roof, they saw one horse galloped from the stable down the hill. Ian jumped to the horse he's trying to calm to chase the escaped horse.

Another bright lightning stroke again followed by thunderous thunder. In horror, they saw the horse Ian rode neighed, stood on its hind legs, and threw Ian to the ground � then ran away. The horse apparently was scared by the lightning.

For the second time in her life, Candy saw Anthony's body thrown in the air and slammed mercilessly to the ground. She gaped, witnessing a similar traumatic scene as the one she never could recover from.

"Anthony!" screamed Candy.

Unlike years ago, this time she refused to faint. Instead she ran hurriedly to attend the man.

"Ian!" screamed Ella.

Neal and Stear gasped. They hurried downstairs to check Anthony.

"Anthony," called Candy. "Wake up!"

"Ian� Ian...," called Ella again and again.

In horror, they saw Ian remain motionless and unresponsive.

Quickly but calmly, as someone worthy carrying the title of world war one veteran, Stear gave Ian first aid treatment. Candy who's a professional nurse herself quickly followed his suit�

-To Be Continued-

Note:

*Ron is Neal's secretary (Chapter 17)

oOo

Thanks for coming to read. Such a pleasure to have you here.


Chapter 21: Awaken

Chapter 21: Awaken

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"He should be fine." Stear and Candy concluded. "We take him inside."

"Stear, what about the horses?" sobbed Ella desperately pulling his shirt. "We just bought them using all our saving. We can't afford to buy more horses. We can't work without horses!"

Ella started to cry. Stear hugged her to calm her down.

"Ella, don't worry. They will come back�," consoled Stear. "If not, I have Neal replace them with ten new horses. How does that sound?"

Lightning and thunder stroke again�

"Dear sister, see that?" asked Stear. "You secure the stable, I fix the roof. Forget about the horses. Trust me, it doesn't matter anymore."

Ella nodded hopelessly. She went back to the stable to secure the door for their last remaining horse. Meanwhile, Stear hurriedly ran back to the roof and Neal carried unconscious Anthony into the house to put him in bed.

Candy expertly displayed her nurse skill as she attended Anthony. Worried, but not sure how to be more helpful, Neal could only openmouthedly watch her.

"Honey, cook some chicken soup," said Candy to Neal. "He'll need that when he gets up."

"I don't know how," said Neal. His throat tightened.

"Cook hot water," said Candy.

"I don't know how either, honey�," Neal said through a very tight and dry throat.

He used to regard these as little tasks for someone else to execute. But now, there's no one else to order but himself.

Neal stared at his cousin's unresponsive body whose face was as white as paper with equally pale lips for the second time in his life. It left him hollow, overwhelmed. Panic! What if Anthony died because of his incompetence?

"Turn on the stove, ask Stear how," ordered Candy.

Neal scrambled to look for Stear. Stear was already back in the roof fixing damages.

"Stear!" called Neal, his voice almost broke into a high-pitched voice.

"Wait� I am busy," ignored Stear.

Neal cleared his throat.

"Stear! Now! Anthony's life depends hugely on this," ordered Neal trying to sound manly and calmly.

As soon as he heard that, Stear didn't merely climb downstairs, he slid downstairs.

"How's Anthony? He's awake?"

"Not yet," Neal swallowed, checking his pride. "Stear� Show me how to turn on the stove."

Stear whistled, in awe.

"Just do it and don't make comments!" Neal snapped. "Remember, your brother is not any better than me!"

Stear took his cousin to the kitchen and gave him a brief introduction on how to operate things there. In the middle of his lecture, lightning stroke followed by a heavy rain and big wind.

"I get to go Neal or our house will collapse. Remember the basic, wash all the meat and vegetable before you cook them."

Stear looked around and grabbed a book.

"Anthony said he learned to cook using this book. Let's see if you can find some use of that, too," said Stear.

He threw the book to Neal. "The rest� just use your own imagination�"

Stear left the kitchen. He ran back briefly to throw a dead chicken to Neal.

"You should be grateful that you don't need to kill and scald it," teased Stear with a wink.

Soon Stear left leaving Neal in charge of the whole kitchen.

Calmly, Neal rolled his sleeves, opened the book, and started to experiment.

oOoo

.

Riding a horse! The blonde girl is laughing and happy. Me too!

A big fox coming Chase it! Faster!

Argh what happened? Aaah!

.

Ian's eyelids fluttered open. "Anthony?" he murmured.

He got up and sat bolt uprights in the bed right away.

"Anthony Brown!" shouted Ian. His heart race fast and his whole body was soaked in sweat. "My name is Anthony brown," he mumbled. Just like had just woken up from a long dream, suddenly everything became clear.

"Easy�," he heard a soft voice said worriedly.

He jerked his head to where the voice came from and saw� a woman. Golden hair, green eyes... Just like the girl who had been appearing in his dreams but she's a woman here.

"Anthony�," the woman said gently.

Ian fixed his gaze at her."You are�," he whispered.

"Candy. Anthony� I'm Candy!"

"Candy?" Anthony breathed her name.

He observed her face intently. He extended her hand to touch her face to convince himself that this wasn't a dream. She welcomed his hand with a strong grip.

"I'm Candy," her lips quivered with emotions. "Anthony, you're riding a horse with me�"

Ella who was also in the room caring for Ian pricked at the sentence.

Riding a horse� with her? Ella remembered her father told them about the blonde girl before he passed away. The blonde girl Ian has been talking about is Candy?

Ella then heard Ian said gently, "Candy, you're all grown up�!"

Ella never heard Ian speak that gently to anyone before. Not only that, she witnessed how gentle his face was when he's looking at Candy's. They hugged each other tightly, tearfully.

Fuck! Ian could be gentle and emotional too after all!, thought Ella, feeling beaten.

"Anthony, wait� I call the others," said Candy, wiping her face that's wet of tears. "Don't move too much�"

Candy dashed outside and screamed, "Neal! Stear! Anthony remembers� Anthony!"

Feeling outcast, Ella stood quietly at the corner of the room witnessing it all.

In seconds the two men appeared, surrounding Anthony.

"Cous, I'm Neal!" Hugged Neal.

"Now you know who Stear is, don't you?" said Stear. Impatient to wait for his turn, he just hugged the two men together.

"Ian�," said Ella timidly. She wanted to show she's happy too but no one heard her.

"Neal� Wow, Stear!" said Anthony loudly leaving Ella's voice unheard of at the background. "Where's Archie?"

"He does remember," said Neal and Stear loudly. Both pumped their fist to the air in excitement, patted Anthony's back.

"Easy� We need to make sure that he has no broken bones!" said Candy, alarmed. "He also has a fever. Could we get a doctor? He has to be examined first before partying!"

Stear wiped some drop of tears from his eyes.

"Yes, from a nearby village," sniffed Stear.

"We can't use my car. The road is flooded," added Neal.

"We still have one horse," said Ella, timidly. She felt so outcast by the strong bonds between the four together.

"Good! Someone can pick up the doctor!" said Neal jubilantly.

"There are so many fixing emergency needs to be done here," murmured Stear, thoughtfully.

"Would you go, Neal?" asked Candy glanced sharply at Neal. "I'm a nurse. I should stay here. Ella is busy too."

All eyes automatically stopped at Neal.

Me?, thought Neal. All of a sudden his stomach flipped. Why? She wants to have a private time with Anthony? His heart trembled realizing the horrid truth. Anthony gets his memory back! He remembers who Candy is!

Seeing her sharp decisive green eyes though, Neal could only nod.

"You still know how to ride a horse, Neal?" asked Stear.

Neal nodded again.

"Take Wind," said Stear confidently. "He's the best of the best. With him, you will make it."

Stear took Neal outside to show him which direction he had to go.

"The lightning and thunder have stopped but not the rain. Are you sure you can go, Neal?" confirmed Stear seeing his moody face.

Stear I don't have a problem with the rain add hail and thunderbolts to it... But, I have a problem to leave Candy alone with Anthony, Neal tsk-ed silently.

"Yeah, I can," Neal replied stiffly.

Stear hugged and patted his cousin's back encouragingly.

Neal went to the stable. He found that the best of the best Stear was referring to didn't look at all like a stallion he's imagining. Wind was just an old horse.

Neal heaved a long sigh and stared at the animal. Wind stared back with his dark large eyes. Neal started to grin. It's impossible not to like Wind's smart look.

"Hi Wind!" Neal talked to the horse, tossed a saddle on its back.

Wind neighed.

"My wife is the air I breathe to stay alive. We gotta come back quickly before she's taken by somebody else. Got that?"

Wind neighed.

Neal patted Wind. Together, they made a journey to look for a doctor for Anthony�

oOoOo

After the two men left, Candy went to the kitchen to pick up the hot water Neal had successfully boiled for Anthony. Finally, Ella had the opportunity to be alone with her Ian. But to her, he seemed so out there, didn't pay much attention to her.

"I have a family!" said Anthony with a big smile to Ella. "I will go back with Candy, Neal, and also Stear to Chicago! We are cousins. There's one more cousin, you heard just now, Archie."

Anthony laughed cheerfully.

Ella started to be nervous. Ian said "I" not "we", he didn't include her at all in the plan.

"You will go to Chicago?" asked Ella carefully, hoping that Anthony got the hint and invited her to come with him.

"I will go to Chicago," repeated Anthony, cluelessly.

Without me?, thought Ella heartbrokenly.

"Remember you father's story about me riding a horse with a girl before I fell? That girl is Candy. Can you believe it?" Anthony kept talking excitedly, obliviously. He looked so happy which cut Ella's heart even more.

"Ian, do you want to have lunch now?" asked Ella trying to be sweet to attract his attention.

"That's okay, Candy is preparing it for me, she�," said Anthony.

It's annoying how much Candy meant to him - how much she could comfort him, calm him, and make him happy. Always be outspoken and to the point, Ella burst out.

"Candy� Candy� I'm glad for you!" interrupted Ella. She couldn't keep it to herself anymore.

"Ella?" asked Anthony, dumbfounded.

"You have Candy and your cousins. You don't need me anymore!" said Ella dryly.

"No way...! Let me explain�," said Anthony.

"Explain to yourself!" rejected Ella bitterly. "I'm leaving! Happy?"

"Don't leave, Ella," said Anthony. He grabbed the tip of her skirt.

"Why not?" challenged Ella.

"Because� er�," Anthony fumbled. "T-the weather is bad outside! And er� your dad said�"

That's done it. So, to him she's just a duty to fulfill for the sake of her father.

"Dad said he wants us to be together?*" cut Ella cynically. "Don't bother!"

"Bye Ia� Anthony!" Ella said acidly fighting back the tears from falling for the sake of dignity.

I love you, Ian. Can't you tell?

She jerked her dress free from his hand and flung herself out of the room.

Oh no... , thought Anthony without making any effort to call her back. Normally he would, but his legs hurt today. In addition, knowing her well, he didn't think she would really go anywhere. She'd come back by herself in no time. I'll talk to her when she's back.

He heard someone knock at the door.

"Lunch time, Anthony." Candy came back with her friendly smile delivering lunch...

-To Be Continued-

NOTE:

*Chapter 1: Mr. Boyt, Ella's father said it before he died, chapter 1.

oOo

Thanks for reading


Chapter 22: Face It All

Chapter 22: Face It All

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Wind galloped much quicker than Neal thought it could. They arrived in the village in no time and without any difficulty Neal found the doctor. The doctor initially refused to go citing bad weather condition but Neal silenced his objection by offering him a one-month-income in addition to today's fee.

Triumphantly, Neal brought the doctor straight to Anthony's room.

"You are a nurse, Candy?" From the door Neal heard Anthony's voice which seemed characteristically sweet when he talked to Candy.

"Yes," answered Candy giving Anthony a smile which Neal felt was a bit too kind. He saw her arrange pillows for Anthony, gently lower him down to make him lean comfortably.

"Honey, the doctor is here," said Neal quietly.

Candy got up to welcome the doctor and had him examine Anthony. Neal went to the kitchen to hang his soaked wet clothes around the stove. There, he saw Ella. Her face was red and her eyes watery. She carried a big bag and went outside.

She's crying?, thought Neal. Something wrong with Anthony?

Worried, Neal rushed to Anthony's room and met Candy who just ushered the doctor out.

Candy jumped and kissed her husband.

"Good job, baby," said Candy. She examined his look in Stear's working clothes. "Love your rugged look!" she commented.

"You are still mine?" Neal asked with the gloomiest face. He made a sign to Anthony's door.

She sighed. "Of course� don't be silly." She kissed him. "Great job to bring the doctor here, Neal." She gently rubbed his lightly stubbled cheek.

Neal grinned. "How's Anthony?" he asked worriedly.

"Anthony is fine. No broken bones, just swollen ankles and muscles form the fall. He needs to rest," said Candy.

"Great! But� Why did Ella cry? I saw her went outside�," said Neal as he opened the door to Anthony's room.

Before he could finish his sentence, they heard a loud thud like something falling on the floor. Stunt, they saw Anthony was lying on the floor trying to crawl.

Anthony heard what Neal said about Ella and consumed instantly by worries. He wanted to look for Ella but his legs failed him. Ella often made scenes but never actually left. He suddenly realized that he must have hurt her feeling really badly today.

"I've got to see Ella," said Anthony, panicked. He raised himself on his arms trying to get up in vain.

"You shouldn't, Anthony. The doctor said you need to rest well tonight. You have a fever� and your ankles are swollen," said Candy, gently. The gentleness in her voice stung that unpleasant feeling again in Neal.

"It's dangerous to be alone outside in this weather," said Anthony.

Neal stared at his hopeless cousin who couldn't even manage to crawl. Hell� It gotta be me!

"Anthony, I look for her," said Neal. He lifted Anthony, put him back on the bed.

"Neal� it's far. You shouldn't do this much for me," said Anthony.

Of course, I shouldn't, thought Neal. Not because of the weather, not because of the distance� but he simply didn't feel like leaving Candy alone with Anthony for one full day. Neal saw Candy gently straightened his legs, covered a blanket over his body,... Such a torture� But was there any other option?

"I'll do it," snapped Neal.

"It takes two hours round trip in good weather. And probably three hours in this weather," said Anthony.

"I will do it," insisted Neal. "Do you have an idea where she's going? Quick, before she's far!" His voice was commanding and strong, Anthony just couldn't reject it.

Anthony described where he thought Ella was going and some detailed about how to get there in addition to warnings about the road condition, the bridge, river and so on. Neal then got ready to leave.

"Neal," called Candy. "I go. You've been outside today."

"You stay," said Neal. "Take good care of Anthony." He felt his breath stalled. "You're the only nurse here." He forced himself to grin.

"Be careful, Neal," said Candy.

Quickly, he grabbed her waist and pressed his lips on her mouth. He began to kiss her as if this was their last kiss. Like when they met again, they'd go on separate ways and she would belong to someone else.

When they parted, his brown eyes gazed subtly at her.

"Honey... ?" muttered Candy, confused.

He pressed his fingers to her lips and without uttering another word, he turned around to execute his mission.

Neal went back to the kitchen to wear back his wet clothes and checked the horse stable. He was relieved to find that Ella didn't take Wind. In spite being angry and jealous, Ella knew Ian was sick and that one horse could be vital for her dear man. She blindly chose to go to her sister's house on foot.

Wind recognized Neal and greeted him with an enthusiastic neigh. Wind liked this man. He never beat. He spurred by words and soft talking.

Neal patted the awesome old horse then mounted it to chase Ella. He spotted Ella easily and chased her in no time.

Ella felt happy when she heard the horse coming.

Ian!, she thought happily.

She knew Ian wouldn't disappoint her. She smiled and turned her head expecting to see Ian. Too bad, it wasn't.

"Huh, it's you," said Ella disappointedly. Ignoring Neal, Ella kept on walking. "I don't want you."

Shit! Her temper ignited Neal but he tried to hold it.

"Ian's legs hurt. He can't walk. Please� get on the horse, Ella," said Neal.

"I'm not going back," she retorted.

"You don't need to. I take you wherever you want. Get on the horse."

Neal kept persuading her but she kept walking away. Things dragged on longer than Neal intended.

"Ella� Get on the fucking horse!" Neal said, losing patience.

"Shut the fuck up," cursed Ella back.

Neal mounted off from the horse and grabbed her arms. He balled his fist, pressed it tightly to prevent it flying to her face.

"I'm not as gentleman as Anthony. Don't push me to do something that both of us might regret."

For once Ella was looking at his face. Seeing his fiery eyes, she remembered her Ian right away. Ian always be gentle to her no matter how much she pushed him, sometimes deliberately to attract his attention. She missed Ian so much and felt so all alone. It's her fault to accept the Leagans as guests.

"Look at that bridge�!" Neal added. "I heard that you're a smart woman. You know that I have to be back tonight to cook for my wife and cousins."

Time was clearly running out. The roaring water suddenly looked scary. It's only a few centimeter away under the bridge and with the rate of the rain fall, it could be immersed underwater at anytime.

She returned back to her senses.

"Take me to my sister," said Ella quietly.

"Finally, we're getting somewhere. Now, get on the horse!"

Without making any more scene, Ella mounted the horse. Neal took her safely to her sister's house.

There, Neal didn't go home right away. He lingered for a while to give Wind time to rest. Wind had been working very hard since the morning.

When Neal arrived at the river bank, the bridge was already immersed under water.

-To be continued-

Note:

Wind: Ian and Ella's horse (chapter 21)

oOo

Thanks for reading and your support in the story. Glad to have you all here


Chapter 23: After Storm

Chapter 23: After Storm

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Candy had been waiting for Neal to come back. When Anthony dozed off overcome by his illness, she took an umbrella and went outside. She climbed the hill to enable her see the whole surrounding plain in all direction and stood there trying to spot her husband.

Her attention drifted to a moving dot far in the horizon, slowly forming an image of someone riding a horse.

Neal is coming!, she felt relieved instantly.

She saw him come to the river bank. She tried to call him but her voice disappeared among the raucous sound of the river, wind, and rain.

oOo

At the river bank, Neal found the bridge was already immersed under the water. He dismounted from the horse to access the situation, checking another way to go back home. There wasn't any.

He didn't want to delay another minute to go home. Everyone knew that Candy never really recovered from losing Anthony. How she behaved in the grave, her troubling story about Anthony's promise to marry her� The thought that he's only a consolation price crossed his mind again stirring some chill in the stomach�

He decided to cross!

He lifted his head determinedly and saw someone stand on the hill.

Candy?, Neal focused his eyes better. She' s waiting for me?

Their eyes met. Neal waved to Candy. Candy waved back all smiling excited to see her husband. She jumped up and down excitedly.

"Wait for me at home! It's raining!" shouted Neal.

The raging sound of mother nature was too deafening though, it's like he's not talking at all.

"Be careful," she shouted back although she knew he couldn't hear either.

Neal waved one more time to her and started to cross the bridge. Candy waited on the hill watching him crossing the bridge with heart beat so hard it almost fell.

Be careful Neal..!

She saw him put his foot inside the water testing the bridge. He then pulled Wind to come with him but Wind seemed to refuse to walk in the water.

Candy saw her husband patted the animal, persuaded it to walk with him while tons of water slammed trough the bridge� To her, he simply wasted too much of the precious time! It got into her nerve.

She screamed impatiently, "Leave the horse! Cross NOW!"

Yes, he could have left Wind behind. But, Wind was an awesome horse and had been thoroughly loyal. After all that they went through together, Neal didn't have the heart to leave Wind alone. Instead he's slowly encouraging and persuading Wind to walk.

Finally, to her relived, Candy saw the horse moving. She saw Neal and the horse walk across the bridge with him testing the bridge condition for each new step he made.

Holding her breath, Candy watched them crossing the bridge. She's celebrating every time they safely moved a step forward. She kept watching until her view was blocked by a protruding rock.

Candy then turned around to walk and meet them somewhere in the slope of the hill. She felt so happy, couldn't wait to hug her husband.

Suddenly, she heard the sound of something. That couldn't be the sound of the wind� Her legs slowed down while she's trying to make out of the sound. She froze when she thought she vaguely heard a desperate neigh of a horse.

Quickly she ran back to the edge of the cliff. She didn't dare to look but, she forced herself to look to the river direction.

The bridge was gone!

All that remained was the floating bridge debris swept away by the raging water.

She stopped breathing. For a second, she felt her life had ended.

"Neal?" she whispered. "Neal!"

In a flash, she turned around and ran downhill straight to the river. Panic stricken, she barely could coordinate her limbs. She fell - just to jump back to run even faster. Her umbrella fell and broke but she didn't even notice it. She stumbled at a little rock and fell again.

When she lifted her head� her eyes caught the most relieving sight in her entire life. A horse was galloping and her husband was riding on it.

"Neal," cried Candy. Not sure if she should cry or laugh in relieve. She ran as fast as she could to the horse and the master.

Neal jumped from the horse to run to hug her. She slammed herself to her husband's chest, shaken.

"My love..." Candy panted. "You're safe!"

Candy gripped his wet shirt emotionally. "I thought you were� Oh…I thought�"

She then buried herself in his arms, hugged him tightly, shivering, murmuring relieved words.

"It was close... But I'm still here," said Neal moved by her reaction. He saw how she was when she's running down the hill.

"Never�! Never do something as brave as that ever again!" said Candy.

"My girl� my dear girl. You do care about me," whispered Neal, touched. He sighed heavily. "I thought�" He paused. "You and Anthony..." he choked, tightened his arms around her.

His words stabbed her. Again!, she thought.

"Silly man! How many times should I tell you this?" cried Candy between her tears. "How to make you convince? Should I jump to that river? I would have!" She cried. "I love you!" screamed Candy between her sobs. "Stop doubting me!"

She hugged him tighter and cried her heart out. The sound pierced deeply into his soul.

"My love Candy� Don't cry�," said Neal, overcome. "I won't! I won't think about it anymore. Don't cry�."

He clutched her tighter overwhelmed by her reaction. He thought he loved her. But it was nothing compared to how much love he felt for her at this moment.

They hugged tightly until both of them calmed down.

"Let's go home," said Neal softly.

Neal pressed a soft kiss on her temple and carried her to the horse. They went back home with her clinging tightly to his arms, leaning her head against his chest. She couldn't feel safer. The world might crumble, the end of the world might be here but as long she's with her darling husband, she couldn't care less nor it mattered...

oOo

Stear, Neal and Candy barely slept that night. Candy worked around the clock to put cold towel on Anthony whose fever, as expected, worsened. When Neal finished cooking and cleaning up the kitchen, he found Candy fell asleep on a chair, too exhausted to wake up. He brought her to her bed. She only murmured "towel Anthony" and continued sleeping.

Stear fell asleep on the sofa. He had worked all day long to fix their house as well as neighbors'. His room broke and he was too tired to make a bed in another room. Neal covered him with a blanket and continued the toweling work for Anthony until the fever disappeared. He fell asleep in a chair in Anthony's room.

In the morning, Neal was woken up by noises from outside. He saw a stream of crowd coming to the cottage. Curious, Neal went outside.

"Welcome� welcome! Come in, please�," greeted Stear to each one of them generously.

They were the less fortunate neighbors whose houses were flooded. They came to evacuate and look for shelters in Wild Rose Cottage which was located higher on the hill.

"They'll stay with us until the flood receded," explained Stear to Neal.

"Will Anthony agree?" asked Neal dubiously.

After all that happened, they still wanted to help these many people!

"Of course! He accommodated refugees many times during the war," replied Stear. "And this is nothing compared to what you see at war. Believe me."

"Unlike in Lakewood, we know all our neighbors here personally," said Stear. "Lucky that we just had our harvest and have lots of flour to make bread."

While greeting the guests and inspecting the situations Stear kept talking to Neal.

"You are in charge of the kitchen! Watch how they make bread and learn it!" said Stear energetically.

"Nah�!" said Neal. He waved his hand as though Stear's idea was absurd.

"Why not? Anthony learned it from them! Now, his baguette is the most famous here� better than our chefs in Lakewood!" defended Stear. "Reckon you can show off your skill to Archie when we get back."

They laughed...

� �

"Fever is gone," said Candy cheerfully to Anthony. "How do you feel?"

"Great! Thank you Candy. You're one awesome nurse!"

Candy laughed. "Do you like the chicken soup?" asked Candy with a meaningful smile.

"Simply delicate. You cooked it?"

"No, Neal did."

"Neal can cook?" asked Anthony, stupefied.

Candy nodded, beaming.

"Cooking skill runs in the family, I guess," laughed Candy.

She told Anthony about Albert's mouthwatering dishes. "That prince of the hill can cook!"

Anthony laughed, too. He remembered the last conversation they had before he fell on the horse regarding the prince of the hill.

"Candy�," said Anthony, stopped laughing. She could sense the change in gravity and stopped laughing too. "You're married� to Neal?"

He had prepared himself to bring up the most touching subject. But, that's the only word he could manage to utter. But that's enough. Seeing his look, she fully understood what he's after.

"Yes, Anthony," Candy whispered.

"Does he make you happy, Candy?" asked Anthony really softly.

"Yes, Anthony. Very!" Candy heaved a heavy sigh. "And I've promised Neal that I will never leave him." She smiled. "Now� your turn. Get well soon and go pick her up!"

Anthony got up to hug Candy.

"Candy," he hugged her tight. "Even when I lost my memory, I didn't forget you� The girl who's riding the horse with me..."

"Anthony," she hugged him back tightly. "I never forgot you either. I take care all of your roses in Lakewood. I was hoping that when you see them from above they'd make you smile and happy."

They hugged. No, their love didn't die. It had blossomed to the purest of friendship�

Now that he's fine, Anthony refused to be confined to the bed. He got up and did all he could do too to help the neighbors and manage his house.

-To be continued-

Thanks for reading!


Chapter 24: Joined Effort

Chapter 24: Joined Effort

The rain finally stopped falling but the flood stayed. Many more people came looking for shelter in the cottage. For better space management, Anthony reserved the cottage only for the old, sick , and children in need. The rest camped outside.

Completely running of material, they made tents using all any available cloth, from the new fine linen Candy bought in Paris to a simple old blanket. Everything became equally precious at this emergency time.

Neal shared a tent with Stear and Anthony while Candy with other female neighbors.

oOo

That evening as the trio prepared to sleep, Anthony picked up a stick from the ground and snapped it into three pieces. Two of about equal length and one longer one.

"Let's make a draw who sleeps in the middle," said Anthony to Stear and Neal.

Neal pulled the longer piece. He stared at the tent which was already too small for himself and he had to share with Stear and Anthony. As though it couldn't get any worse, he got the middle space. Anthony knew what's in his mind.

"We shouldn't put him in the middle, Stear. It's his first time," said Anthony kindly. "Neal, let's switch place."

"It won't make much of a difference," said Stear who understood his cousin well, too.

"Stear, should we take him to our hill?" said Anthony. Eagerly, he put his arms on his two cousins' shoulders. "We haven't had a chance to show it to him."

"Great idea!" said Stear. "Don't worry, Neal. There are no wild lions or wolves. There're only snakes and bears," Stear added in a serious tone.

"Stear was kidding, Neal," said Anthony patiently.

Stear laughed. Anthony pulled Neal's hand to force him to get up.

"On your feet! I doubt you can sleep anyway," instructed Anthony.

Stear and Anthony took Neal to climb the hill in the back of the cottage. Following their examples, Neal sat on the grass. The night was quiet. The stars were their only companies.

"Nice," commented Neal.

"When Ella's father just took me here, I felt alone and frustrated. I didn't know my name, my past� When I couldn't sleep, I came here," said Anthony.

"From my merry happy squad, only my life is spared," spat Stear. "My best friends all gone, one by one. Their planes were shot, exploded, or fell in whole or in debris in front of me. The horror haunted me long after the war ended. When I couldn't sleep, Anthony took me here. Quite� peaceful."

"We'll run out of food soon. By then, the night might not be as tranquil as this," said Anthony.

"How many days left?" asked Neal.

"Three days," said Anthony.

"Paris is far when the infrastructure is failing," said Stear "Our area is too remote. Many bridges are broken� I doubt the rescue team could discover us that quickly."

They were silent, sank in their own thoughts overwhelmed by the magnitude of the problem.

"I have an idea," said Neal quietly. "I let my staffs in Paris know about our situation and have them notify the rescue team. While waiting, I have the office send us food and other emergency kits first."

Neal's mind wandered to a little boy who just arrived today. The boy was cold and hungry. When he gave the boy the hot potato he just cooked, the boy ate it as if his life depended on it� He thought about Alen and Cassey right away. As much as he wouldn't want them to be lacked of food, ever, he wouldn't want these children to be hungry either.

"Could you?" asked Anthony and Stear almost at the same time.

"Yes," answered Neal.

"How?"

"If my staff came tomorrow, I'd send Ron to Paris or a nearby village with a working phone connection and work from there. If he didn't show up, I'd do it," said Neal.

They looked at one another at the bright idea which sparked hope. "What about the cost?" asked Stear to Neal.

"We work on the book keeping details later," Neal shrugged.

"What do you think of our powerful businessman, Anthony?" asked Stear

"Cool! Ella always wants to be one." Anthony inhaled longingly.

Stear patted Anthony's back to comfort. "Don't worry. You pick up Ella after the bridge is restored."

They were chatting more about the plans details, exchanging stories and more. They didn't go back to the tent until it was very late.

"We should drag Archie to go camping with us too one day," murmured Neal sleepily. He heard Anthony agree and Stear respond with a laugh. Neal grinned then fell asleep instantly.

oOo

The following day more evacuees came, including Neal's staffs. As planned, Neal sent Ron to the Leagan company in Paris to seek emergency help, send them food, and to start preparing Anthony and Stear's paperwork to go abroad.

In less than two days, the emergency food sent by the Leagan's office came, just in time when they're running out of food. Everyone was very happy.

"We've notified the rescue team, too, Mr. Leagan. They will come tomorrow morning with the medic and more supplies," said Ron.

Neal shared the news to Stear and Anthony who shared to others. Everyone welcomed the good news.

Candy heard the good news from someone else. She then looked for Neal in the kitchen. He was rolling and folding some bread dough.

"Good job, Neal," praised Candy, gave him a surprise hug from the back.

Neal turned around to face her and she wiped some flour from his nose. He wiped his hands and took her outside. They looked for a secluded area to have a brief but precious private moment together.

"You've been working too hard. Who knows you're pregnant," Neal said, worried. "What if your husband doesn't allow you to work anymore and asks you to return to Paris?"

As a nurse, Candy was in a high demand. She's been working to help whoever who were in need. She helped to deliver one baby boy today!

"I'll be fine. The medic will arrive tomorrow then I go. Just one more day to help those who really are pregnant." Candy had her eyes closed and lay her head against her husband's chest enjoying his presence. "I miss you. Do you miss me?"

"Of course." He kissed her softly. "I'd much rather sleep with you than with Anthony and Stear."

Candy laughed.

"The tent must be too uncomfortable for you. You go back to Paris today. I'll meet you tomorrow."

"No, I won't leave you. We're having a honeymoon!" said Neal.

He grinned comically. Candy laughed again.

"And tonight Stear and Anthony will take me to another part of the hill," explained Neal. He told her about those hills and their stories there.

Candy was surprised by his response. He didn't look like suffering at all, in fact, it's quite the opposite...

The following day the rescue team arrived in full scale. The complete medic team, food, first aid, everything. The weather was great with no trace of storm at all. The two horses were back too. Important bridges were soon restored. Wild Rose Cottage became the disaster relief center.

Time for Candy and Neal to return to Paris.

The villagers were grateful to four of them. When they knew that Candy and Neal were just married, they made a bouquet of flowers to express their gratitude and apologized for not being able to give something more decent. Candy was moved to tears. Neal genuinely was touched as well. This was one trip they would never forget.

oOo

In Paris, Stear went shopping. He bought a gift for Patty, wedding gift for his brother and the wife, and other souvenirs for others.

Neal just came back from taking a walk with Candy when Anthony came to meet them.

"I am not leaving France tomorrow," said Anthony. "I'll go to meet Ella. I have a lot of explaining to do."

Anthony tried to look brave, but they could tell that he looked sad when he got up to leave. Candy and Neal looked at one another feeling his pain.

"Wait, Anthony!" called Neal. "How will you go?"

"I have prepared my horse cart this morning," answered Anthony.

"A horse cart? And with that shirt?" mocked Neal. "She's a businesswoman you said?"

Anthony simply nodded. Neal grinned.

"No offense nor trying to negate her genuine love and affection to you. But this might make it easier, use a better vehicle, better suit and a big diamond ring," said Neal.

Anthony astonished.

"I'm sure she doesn't�" Anthony paused, thinking. Not a bad idea. Ella would love it. She liked nice things.

"It'd be nice," said Anthony somberly. "But, no one in our family knows that I'm� alive! It takes a while to contact dad and to get everything set up. I want to go now. No more wait! Bye!"

Anthony continued his pace to the door.

"I'm your family too," quipped Neal. "I can give you a loan first."

Anthony stopped walking, looked at Neal. Neal grinned.

"No, I am not nice," said Neal, casually. "A loan, I said. I expect a full return with fees." He flashed a devious grin. "I also expect some refund for the overprice rate of our honeymoon package for failure to deliver services as promised or I'll sue you."

Candy knew her husband was kidding, but she felt sorry seeing Anthony's face colored, embarrassed. She wished he'd shut up, but he didn't.

"But," Neal continued. "I'd exempt you from the fee and drop the case if you accepted my offer now."

"Darling�," said Candy to Neal sharply. She couldn't stay quite anymore. She raised her eyebrow as a hint for him to shut up. She then turned to face Anthony.

"Anthony, what Neal meant was please kindly accept his offer," said Candy gently.

Anthony smiled to Candy and nodded to Neal. "Thank you. I listen to your wife's advice."

Neal's grin deepened. "Deal," he said.

Neal picked up the phone to give Ron instruction. In seconds, his personal valet and a driver were ready to take Anthony prepare his meeting with Ella.

Neal and Candy personally took him to the car.

"Need more advice, just ask me," Candy heard Neal yell to Anthony from the car open door.

The car zoomed and left.

Neal grinned proudly, minutely adjusted the position of his tie which was already very finely positioned.

"With my advice, he'll be fine!" said Neal with confidence.

"You're just so good in women, are you?" Candy frowned. "Huh!" She pouted.

"For survival, my dear," Neal said calmly.

"What do you mean?" she asked suspiciously.

He turned her around to have her face him.

"To win you over," he pecked her lips. "After countless of failures in trying to attract your attention, I finally realized that you like romantic men. So, I learned to be one," said Neal. "Now that you pick me, I guess I'm the most romantic of all to you?"

"Get out!" said Candy pretending angry. She paused. "Yes, you are." She kissed him. "And the most handsome of all."

"And you are the most beautiful of all," said Neal kissed her back. "We are meant for each other." He whispered and kissed her again.

-To be continued-

NOTE:

Ron: Neal's secretary (Chapter 17)

oOo

Thanks for reading� Ch. 24� thanks for following that far :') We're almost done. Two more�


Chapter 25: London!

Chapter 25: London!

.

.

Ella had been waiting for Ian to come. The blue sky had returned for days, flood had gone too but he had not come yet. She slowly became worried if he was sick much more seriously than she thought. She's crying hard consumed by worries.

"Ella!" Suddenly Ella heard a familiar voice calling her.

Ian!, she knew it. She knew he would come. Immediately her heart was flushed with joy as much as worries. What if he came just to say good bye? He shouldn't see her cry for pride sake!

She threw her wet face pretending to be mad to hide her wet face. But the corner of her eye caught a man wearing suit with a shiny car behind him. She stopped short, dumbfounded. Too stunt, Ella's eyes were drawn to him. Ian looked unusually different in suit. And what a car he had!

"Ian?" Ella whispered.

"Ella�" Anthony smiled kindly. "You're crying?"

Ella cried loudly hearing his gentle kind voice which she had missed greatly.

"Ella, come with me to Chicago. We. You and I."

"We? Chicago?" asked Ella stunt at the invitation.

Anthony nodded. "Yes. My hometown� I introduce you to my large family. You've met Stear, Neal and Candy but you haven't met Archie, my father, my aunts, my uncles, grandma� If you don't like it there, we come back here," said Anthony, strongly emphasized the word we to amend his past mistake.

To her surprise, Anthony dropped on one knee.

"The day I met you was the best thing that had ever happened to me after I woke up in the hospital�," said Anthony. "I love you, Ella. Marry me."

Anthony took a box out from his pocket and put a humongous diamond ring in her finger.

Ella gasped at the size. Stunt and speechless, she could only nod. It felt like fairy tale, when she saw her prince put the huge diamond ring in her finger.

"Are your family that rich?" asked Ella.

"You'll see," said Anthony, smiling. He drew her closer and kissed her. "Are you alright?"

Ella was unusually quiet. No scenes were displayed, no countless persuasions were needed. Things went much smoother than he had expected. Amused, he thought briefly about what Neal had predicted.

"Ella, from now on, I promise to make you happy. You don't need to work anymore. You'll have lots of servants, you can go shopping all day, you don't need to wash dishes, your hands will be smooth�, " continued Anthony.

Then Ella who had been in shock and hardly herself sobered up.

"Wait� Wait�," said Ella. "Wait!"

She tapped her face hard with her hand to wake herself up. At the same time, she pulled Anthony away from the shiny car.

"I wish you're just Ian to prove my words. I love you not because of your car, diamond ring, or servants�," clarified Ella earnestly.

"I don't doubt a bit, dear. Remember, I was your step-brother for a few years," said Anthony.

"I will not stay idle. I want to make dad proud as I had always promised him," said Ella.

"Of course! We could have our luxury hotel and resort business like what you have always wanted. Much sooner than you think," said Anthony with a smile.

Ella hugged her man happily. She felt very excited because he said we, they'd do it all together!

"Oh, just got a bad feedback from one unhappy customer. One thing for sure, not only to overcharge them, we need to provide desirable customer service accordingly." Anthony joked.

Ella laughed. "Candy is nice. It must be Neal who complained."

Anthony nodded. Ella sighed with a guilty look. "Lucky he's your cousin!"*

Anthony smiled.

"What about you and Candy?" asked Ella quietly. "The blonde girl who's riding the horse with you�"

Anthony released a deep sigh, his eyes gazed far to the horizon thinking about Candy. He remembered the roses he planted for her, the promise he made to marry her when he grew up. But things just moved beyond his grasp.

"I don't know what would have happened had I not fallen from that horse and got an amnesia. But the fact is I fell," said Anthony.

Anthony turned his eyes to Ella's and smiled. "But I do know that now I belong to you and she belongs to Neal."

"Not because dad asked us to always be together?" confirmed Ella one more time. That thought bothered her greatly.

"No! Of course not," said Anthony convincingly. "I thought I was your step-brother. Then there was this girl with blonde hair, the only memory left from my past. Then suddenly, I was not related at all to you� It's confusing, believe me. But I love you Ella, not because your dad said I should."

His answer made her happy. "Ia�" said Ella. "Er� how do you want me to call you?" asked Ella.

"Call me dear," answered Anthony. "Shall we get ready? We have a ship to catch!"

Ella smiled and jumped to his hug�

oOo oOo

In England�

Five of them left for the UK to visit Albert and aunt Elroy. Candy and Neal had promised to attend the mass for Anthony and Stear and now they'd come to present a happy surprise instead.

Unfortunately, the storm delayed their schedule greatly. In addition, fully aware that they're back in public eyes, Neal insisted on getting suitable outfits for everyone first - generously covering all the expenses. They arrived a few days later than intended. Their ship arrived in London at the morning for the mass. They called Albert to notify that they're running late.

Aunt Elroy was very mad.

"William, did I tell you to teach your daughter manner? It seems now she exerted her bad influence to Neal, too!" barked aunt Elroy to Albert. "We start the mass without them. You wait for your daughter and Neal here."

Albert patiently nodded. The woman was getting old, he didn't want to fight on trivial things. Silently he squeezed the hand of a drop dead gorgeous woman with aristocratic look who's standing next to him, his wife.

"Would you be so kind to accompany aunt Elroy, dear?" Albert whispered in his wife's ear.

She smiled and nodded.

� � � � ..

Candy and Neal arrived a few minutes after the mass had started.

"Albert!" screamed Candy as usual as soon as she saw Albert.

"Candy!" Albert called her back as usual with his irresistible smile.

And like in the good old days, with a big smile Candy ran to Albert's open arms. She then pulled her husband to present him to Albert.

"Albert... This is Neal, my husband," said Candy beaming.

Yes, his cousin, Sarah, had told him about their wedding but one had to see it with their own eyes to believe it. He thought it was a prank, another dirty awful trick from the Leagans� but seeing how Candy looked into Neal's eyes, the glow in her face and how tight she's holding Neal's hand, now he knew it's for real.

Surprisingly they looked great together. Neal had always been stylish but he never saw Candy dressed as stylishly before. She looked a far cry from the little girl in piggy tails he used to know.

Husband's influence, chuckled Albert silently.

Still, as someone who knew their history, it felt a bit weird to see the two of them together.

"Congratulations," Albert swallowed. He's not sure how to best greet the man whose proposal to marry Candy he denied once.

"How do you want me to call you?" asked Neal to Albert. He grinned.

All awkwardness melted at that subtle question. Albert laughed. Joyfully, he hugged Neal and Candy together.

� � �

"We'd like you to meet two of my cousins and Ms. Boyt, Ella Boyt," said Neal mysteriously. With a wide grin, he pointed to folks standing a few meters behind him.

Albert's eyes wandered to the two men and one woman. He recognized the man with glasses, although it's hard to believe. He stumbled greatly at Anthony�

"I have three cousins. And he's blonde, obviously not Archie. How hard is it?" asked Neal playfully looking at Candy.

Blue eyes, blonde hair�? Precisely that's why it's hard to digest�

"Albert, he's Anthony," said Candy kindly. She looked at Albert and Anthony alternatingly. They looked strikingly similar - just like twins. No wonder she mistook them as the same person in the past.

It worth more than anything to Albert. He had promised his beloved sister, Rosemary, to take care of her son. He thought he disappointed her. But now, it's like a second chance made in heaven. Forgetting about the requiem mass � which really didn't matter anymore, Albert took his guests to chat somewhere else. He repeatedly made vows to himself to bring the responsible person who made her sister's son suffer to justice.

oOo

Everyone agreed that Albert should talk to aunt Elroy first before letting Anthony and Stear come to meet her.

After the mass, Albert only took Neal and Candy to meet aunt Elroy. She was happy to meet happily married Neal and stylish looking Candy, she forgot totally about her anger. She welcomed them, had lunch with them and had a great time that afternoon.

As soon as she was alone and sitting quietly in her room, however, her mind wandered to her other two nephews. She wiped her tears while staring at the photos of Stear and her most favorite of all, Anthony.

"Madam, Sir William is here," announced a servant interrupting her grief.

We just spent the whole morning and half afternoon together, what brought him here again, thought aunt Elroy.

Albert entered with the brightest of smile.

"Hi aunt!" greeted Albert cheerfully.

"William," said aunt Elroy drily, her usual style.

"There are two more souvenirs from France for you, aunt. These are not from Neal and Candy."

"Oh?" asked aunt Elroy. She unwrapped the boxes and found two books inside. "19th Century Greatest Inventions, Roses Encyclopedia?" She raised her eyebrow.

"Do they remind you of Stear and Anthony?" asked Albert.

Tears right away pooled in the old woman's eyes. "If only�," she said quietly.

"Never say never, aunt," said Albert, gently. "Who knows?"

"What do you mean, William?" asked aunt Elroy sternly.

"Our private detectives never found any trace of Stear. At all!" argued Albert with a thoughtful face but sparkling eyes. "And as you said, you never actually checked Anthony's corpse carefully. I don't know, aunt� Maybe somewhere they're laughing at us?"

Aunt Elroy sighed thinking about that horrible time as the head of the Ardlays. She never wanted to be the designated heiress. But at her brother's sudden death, it thrusted her at the very center of it all.

"I was too depressed to inspect Anthony's body carefully," regretted aunt Elroy.

Anthony's father was not around� And of course, William was still too young. At that time, she didn't say it to others since she hated to look weak. Only much later during casual what-if's conversation she mentioned that to Albert. They were discussing a detective story from a newspaper at that time.

"So if one day they came to visit us, we shouldn't be too surprised." Albert smiled kindly to the old woman. "You said that too!"

"Stop playing what ifs with me, William!" growled aunt Elroy. "What are you trying to say?"

"Aunt� they are here," said Albert softly. "Neal and Candy found them�"

Albert presented Stear and Anthony and gave aunt Elroy one of the happiest moments of her life. Despite being stern, her love to her family was unwavered.

-To be continued-

Note:

*chapter 15: Ella on purposely overcharged Neal and Candy's honeymoon package.

Ian = Anthony (chapter 1)

oOoo oOooo

Thanks for reading. Next chapter is the last.


Chapter 26: Epilogue

Chapter 26: Epilogue

.

Aunt Elroy encouraged everyone to stay longer. But, Stear was too impatient to meet Patty. Neal and Candy were impatient to see their children. The three of them went back to Chicago first leaving Anthony and Ella in London. Especially that Anthony's father was stationed closer to London port than to America.

In America�

Archie was happy beyond measure to meet his brother. He proudly showed him his wife, Annie, and their baby. After some celebration, Stear went to visit Patty at that same day - not willing to have any more delay.

A few hours of driving later, Stear arrived at the convent.

"Sir, men are not allowed to meet her," said the abyss. "Sister Patricia is in seclusion before her final vow."

"Reverend mother, to be blunt, she has to see me first before she makes her big decision," said Stear. "My name is Stear. I used to be very important to her but I went to war and was missing."

"Yes, I remember she told me about you," said the abyss. "I'll talk to her. Could you come back tomorrow?"

The following day, Stear came again.

The reverend mother took Stear inside. She pointed to a young apprentice who's sweeping dry leaves in the convent's very large yard. She then bowed and left. Stear bowed back respectfully. After the nun left, he turned to see the woman who was all the reasons for him to be there.

Patty!

Stear stood examining his beloved in black and white outfit. She looked solemn, peaceful. He remembered Candy's stories about the turmoil she's facing before joining the convent and felt sorry to all suffering she had to endure for his sake.

And now I will ruin her peace all over again. He heaved a long deep sigh.

Gripping his cap tightly with both hands, Stear slowly moved forward. He stopped several steps away from her.

"Patty�," called Stear, almost in a whisper but it's enough to startle her. She froze and trembled at his sight.

"Sister Patricia," corrected Stear with much respect. "I'm Stear."

Her whole body shook at that familiar voice. She supported herself with her long broom so she wouldn't fall. She turned her gaze from the ground to his face but couldn't gather enough strength to lift her eyes to meet his.

Stear came forward but stopped as soon as he noticed she backed away.

"How are you?" Stear managed awkwardly. All eloquent words died in his choked throat.

She always thought, she would readily run to his arms when they met again. Whatever she had been expecting, it didn't go really quite like this. She even felt scared. Why hadn't he come back earlier? Is there someone else?

"I heard that you've decided to follow a greater call," Stear began, slowly finding words.

He paused waiting for her response. She didn't give any.

"Patty, could I have you back?"

He held his breath wishing she would agree and run readily to his arms. But she didn't.

"Patty�?" Stear pleaded. "Is there hope?"

He examined her silence hopelessly. If only she said yes with the broad smile she used to give him� But she looked unrecognizably frozen and stony. Say yes Patty� Don't let us end here. His heart sank in fear.

"Patty, I love you. I went to war because I love you. I didn't come back sooner because I love you. And now I'm here hoping to have you back also because I love you."

So many kisses and hugs he wished he could give her, so many regrets for coming home this late. But, maybe he's too late. The woman might not suppose to be his anymore.

"God bless you, Sister Patricia�," said Stear.

He exerted all his strength to distance himself just like how a gentleman should behave to a sister in a convent. He bowed slowly and turned away to leave.

Frozen, Patty watched his back. Almost not breathing, she clutched tightly the cross that's hung around her neck with both hands.

At the gate, Stear stopped to look back. She didn't come. His heart shattered.

Good bye, Patty. I love you, Stear thought, crying.

She was his once. If only he trusted her love and came home as soon as he recovered...

Devastated, Stear wandered to the wood outside the convent. The area was secluded and quiet, just what he needed to be alone� There, he cried and cried until all his tears ran dry.

Broken and devastated, Stear got up and slowly walked back to his car. He sighed and looked up at the sky wondering if it'd have been better if his plane had crashed to the ground. Then, he wouldn't have to live with this burden of regret and heartache. He would have been somewhere up there now together with Harry, Bob, Dick,� all his merry squadron buddies.

Then, his eyes caught someone - standing next to his car...

Patty?

Without the cassock! She wore a dress with a luggage next to her.

Hearing his step walking on the dry leaves, she lifted her head. Silent tears dripping on her face. With that sight, everything had been said before a word was spoken. He knew she's still his.

He ran to her and she ran to him.

"Stear� My Stear," she screamed. Sobbing, she pressed her palms to his cheeks. "I always know that you will come back."

Patty gently rubbed his face absorbing the miracle of holding him again.

"Yes, I go with you!" she cried.

Stear stared examining her look. She's wearing that green dress, his favorite. Even when she went to the convent, she was thinking about him. He shivered imagining what she went through back then. It was almost too much for his heart to handle.

"Patty," cried Stear.

He put his hand on her waist, initially awkwardly � it's been a long time, then firmly he pulled her closer to hug her tightly. The softness of her hair, the way she hugged - all still felt the same. His whole heart trembled feeling his beloved back in his arms.

"I don't want to force you... I don't mean to push you. I�"

"No. Stear� please," cut Patty, sobbing. Her voice was trembling as she continued, "I always tell God that I stay in the convent only until you come to pick me up. Then, I'll leave with you..."

His whole heart melted. It's amazing how much she's willing to devote her love to him. How foolish for him to think that she'd be with someone else. He vowed to make up the years they're missing by loving her every second of his life. Would that be sufficient?, he shuddered. All the time in the world simply wouldn't be enough to return her love to him.

"Patty,"said Stear, his voice breaking.

Their hug tightened. For a moment they stayed like that.

Stear then leaned over her to slowly kiss her. She stiffened remembering their last kiss. If they stopped kissing, would he leave again - like last time? She broke and cried, traumatized.

"Stear�"

She pulled him and held him tightly, pressed her face against his chest. If this were a dream, she wanted to vanish together with him. She didn't care, just never be separated ever again.

He sensed it.

"Until my last breath, nothing can take me away from you," said Stear determinedly.

"Nothing?" she asked in a low voce. The doubt in her voice whipped him.

"Nothing!" said Stear firmly.

"Together, we go to see sun rise, sun set, and a farm� A big farm! Our children will run happily in the farm. We fly kites together, pull a cart with them in it together, plant vegetables, pick up carrots, grow chickens,... Me and you together." He paused, forcing to smile. "How does that sound?"

"Love it Stear," her tears dropped like rain. "We, me and you, and our children." She whispered. "Oh, I'm very happy!"

Both took off their wet glasses and put them on the top of the car. They smiled. Holding each other's hand, they walked to a private place inside the woods, behind the trees, unseen from any part of the convent to kiss and spend some more time together�

oOo

Alen and Cassey were happy to see their parents came back home. They excitedly unwrapped their gifts and played the many new toys their parents brought from Europe... Candy and Neal spent the whole evening with them.

"Well, Candy," said Neal as he climbed the bed to join his wife. "You want to have a super private honeymoon and we ended up sharing it with Stear, Anthony and the whole villagers."

Candy laughed.

"I love it though, don't you?" He pulled her and buried his face in her thick curly hair.

"Super," answered Candy.

They laughed.

"I love your soup, honey. You have quite a hidden talent. Will you cook more?"asked Candy.

Neal grinned.

"You look sexy when you wash dishes," flirted Candy.

"Do I?" Neal whispered.

She gripped her collar.

"Very," Candy murmured. "Now, give me warmth."

She kissed him while her fingers automatically moved to unbutton his pajama...

.

EPILOGUE

A few years later

From the window, Neal saw Candy's car coming. He quickly went to the kitchen to pick up the bread he just baked and took it to the dining room. She just came back from her Saturday shift in the hospital.

"Baguette� baguette�*," said Alen. He ran around excitedly.

"Mom� daddy's baguette is ready," shouted Cassey to her mom who just entered, equally excited.

"Honey, your favorite," greeted Neal to his wife. He busily prepared his bread.

"Say it, truthfully, which's better� Daddy's or uncle Anthony's," said Neal excitedly.

"Daddy's! Daddy's!" exclaimed Alen confidently even before tasting a single bite.

Neal grinned broadly at his son's confidence.

The two children impatiently waited to devour the freshly made bread. A one year old girl sat nearby watching her older siblings intently, she could sense their excitement.

Neal gave a piece to Candy. "I changed the baking humidity, the crust should be�"

"Uhmph," said Candy, suddenly. She hurriedly closed her mouth with her hand. Her face was pale and she ran outside the room.

"I go check mom," said Neal. He followed his wife worriedly.

He found her step outside from the bathroom, leaning at the doorway. She looked better although a bit pale.

"Neal, I'm pregnant." Candy smiled broadly. "The doctor had confirmed just now at work." She added excitedly, "Dear� our fourth~!"

"Darling!" said Neal, full of joy. He hugged her tenderly�

All those sweet promises they made during the honeymoon stayed true and got even stronger with time.

They lived happily ever after.

-THE END -

Note:

*Baguette: A type of French bread.

~Fourth: Cassey, Alen, that 1 year old girl, and this one.

Cassey (first appears in chapter 4) and Alen (chapter 5): After Neal and Candy were married (chapter 16), they became Neal and Candy's children (chapter 13).

oOo

THANK YOU!

For all the readers, I'd like to say loudly THANK YOU for reading! Very happy to have you here. Thanks for the time, support, and effort. Hugs from my little corner here to you.

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