Chapter 51: *
Settling down into the kitchen, Belle had a seat at the table and Alex sat close next to her. Every now and then someone would walk in to get a drink, but the kitchen was relatively quiet. It was better than any other option, and Belle had the sense not to put herself in a situation of being alone with Alex in one of the rooms.
"So what's on your mind Alex? I must say I'm a little surprised you wanted to talk to me so badly. We've never really hung out or anything before."
"I know. But I've got a lot on my mind and I need some advice. Brady always tells me you're good with advice."
"He does?" Belle asked surprised. "That's funny, because he always acts annoyed when I give him my opinion."
"That's just because he's Brady," he joked.
"You're right. Sometimes Shawn can be like that. He has a hard time admitting I'm right at times, especially when he so badly wants to be. I always crack up when it happens."
"You two look very happy together."
"We are. Obviously we're on a real high because of the newness of our engagement, but we're pretty much like this all the time," she smiled. "My friend Mimi calls us ridiculously sweet."
"It's better to be ridiculously sweet with each other than not at all."
"I'll have to tell her that next time. But enough about me and Shawn. What did you want to talk about?"
"When was the last time you talked to Brady?" he asked curiously. The change in his tone of voice did not go unnoticed by Belle.
"Briefly a couple of days ago to tell him my news. Why? What's wrong?"
"Belle, I hate to bring this up when you're so obviously happy."
"Alex, I'm a big girl. I can handle it. Tell me," she insisted.
"Did he tell you about the problems he and Adrienne are having?"
"Well, yeah. Last month when I was home for Dad's wedding he mentioned that they were having problems because Adrienne may not be able to have children. Has something else happened? You know, Brady has this bad habit of hiding things from me because he thinks I can't handle it," she said starting to get worried.
"There is something else," he said and paused briefly, unsure of how to continue. "They've separated Belle and ... they're getting a divorce," he said solemnly. "And I'm the reason why."
"WHAT?" Belle asked loudly, in practically a yell, but the party overpowered her shout. "I don't understand Alex. Are you saying you and Adrienne..." she began to ask, but couldn't find the words or even think about the possibility.
"No we didn't Belle... well ..."
"Well what?! I don't understand. And WHY are you telling me this? Why were you saying you need my advice?"
"Because I do. Let me explain. You know that Adrienne and Brady started dating freshman year right? Well, what you don't know is Adrienne and I had gone out a couple of times. It was before I knew Brady and the two of them had broken up, like they had done so many times before."
"Ok. So what?" she asked with attitude.
"We hooked up at a party and one thing led to another. We went out a couple of times and we just fizzled, then she got back together with Brady. I still didn't know him at the time. Then ... a little over a month later Adrienne told me she was pregnant. Neither one of us wanted or needed that kind of complication in our lives so I got some money together and took her to a clinic for an abortion."
"Alex I can't believe you're telling me all of this. Does Brady know?"
"He does now," he said sadly. "It was just an abortion," he continued as the guilt over what happened six years ago was evident on his face. "We didn't expect complications but there were and now ... now that they wanted to start a family, they can't ... because of me ... and now..."
"So how did Brady find out?"
"When Adrienne realized what was wrong. The doctor talked with her privately and she realized that was the source of her problems to conceive. She felt so guilty she moved back home with her parents about a month ago, then when Brady was trying to work things out she told him. They haven't talked since. "
"They aren't trying to work things out?" she asked unable to hide her disappointment.
"I'm his best friend Belle. Adrienne is his wife and by chance something that happened six years ago has caught up with us. Brady and I had become friends long before I knew he and Adrienne were a couple and when I found that out, the two of us just lived with that secret."
"Alex, this is a lot to swallow. I'm just ... I'm in complete shock that all of this happened. You hurt my brother. You and Adrienne both kept something so serious from him and now you want me to help you?" she asked. Unable to be so close to him she stood up from her seat and started to pace around the kitchen. Thinking about the situation, she just couldn't make sense of it. "Alex, to me my family and Shawn come first. The point is, you've betrayed my family. How can you possibly expect me to help you?"
Alex stood up to face her, trying to make eye contact but she couldn't look at him. "Because you know I never meant for any of this to happen. It was years ago."
"It doesn't matter. You still lied."
"Belle hear me out. When I ran into you the other day I knew I had been given a chance to make this right. There was a reason our paths crossed Belle. You've got to understand that I never intentionally meant to betray Brady. This was never supposed to happen. Please Belle," he pleaded.
Overwhelmed by what she was hearing Belle could no longer stay in there. "Don't do this to me now," she said shaking her head. "Please don't."
"But I ..."
"NO!" Belle interrupted him in a yell that pierced through the walls and Shawn was able to hear her clearly over everything else.
In the midst of a conversation with Luke and someone else, he made a mad dash to the kitchen to see Belle visibly upset and Alex with a guilt ridden look on his face.
"What did you do to her?" Shawn snarled, quickly making his way to Alex. His hand was already balled in a fist ready to attack. Before he could throw a punch or rough Alex up in anyway, he stopped when he heard Belle pleading with him not to. His eyes narrowed in on Alex and he dropped his hand down to his side. Shawn stared him down. His stance was defensive and he was ready to attack at the slightest hint that Alex would cause any trouble. Belle walked behind him and touched his shoulder gently.
"It's ok Shawn," she said in a steady, reassuring voice. "I'm ok."
Hesitantly, Shawn took his eyes off of Alex and turned to look at Belle. His gaze immediately softened as he looked at her despondent state. He quickly wrapped his protective arms around her and brought her close. Kissing her head softly, he comforted her not knowing the source of her sadness.
"What did he say baby?" he asked in a calm, reassuring voice.
"I can't talk about it Shawn. Not now."
"You want to go back to the hotel?"
"Not yet. I just want to try and forget about this conversation," she said, glaring at Alex angrily.
"You sure? You want to get some fresh air or something? We can walk out on the balcony," he suggested in a soothing voice.
"That sounds good," she said looking up at him and smiled faintly. "Thank you."
"You're welcome baby," he said and gave her a warm smile. Stroking her hair lovingly he kissed her forehead softly. "Come on," he whispered. They started to walk out. Shawn kept an arm tightly wrapped around her shoulder.
"Belle," Alex called out in an apologetic tone.
Shawn stopped and suddenly turned his head to look at Alex. He extended his arm with his palm up, facing Alex to stop him from saying anything or coming closer. Seeing the stunned look on Alex's face, Shawn then pointed as his eyes narrowed on him. His jaw was clenched and the look sent chills coursing through Alex's body.
"Stay away from her," Shawn warned in a stern voice. "If you even try to come close you'll be sorry."
"So Shawn finally popped the question," Matt said as he and Mimi drove back to his place from the airport. He recently arrived back in Salem after his summer internship in New York, and Mimi had talked nonstop about all that happened. "He'd only been talking about it for months," he further commented.
"What do you mean? You knew Shawn was thinking about it and you didn't tell me?" she asked, unable to hide her hurt. Staring out onto the road as she drove, she tried her best not to be too sensitive about everything.
"I was sworn to secrecy," Matt explained. "Besides, you know if I told you, you wouldn't have been able to keep it from Belle. I was barely able to keep it from you."
"I guess I can understand that, but you know what makes it worse? Even Abby and Dawn knew before me. They helped Shawn look at rings. Now, I know Shawn didn't want me spilling to Belle, but am I really that bad?"
"Mimi, even if you could have keep it bottled in Belle would have known. You can't hide things very well."
"Thanks for the vote of confidence," she grumbled.
"I didn't mean anything by it. Anyway, can we try not to think about it? This isn't exactly how I planned this day."
"Me neither. Consider it forgotten... for now," Mimi assured with a sly smile as she looked over at Matt.
After a brief moment of silence, Matt sighed as he tried to familiarize himself with Salem again as they drove through the city, back to campus. It was dark outside, but he surprisingly could see some of the changes that always take place after summer construction.
"I'm happy for them," he said sincerely.
"Me, too," Mimi agreed. Despite everything, she couldn't be upset with Shawn or Matt for keeping her in the dark. She knew she would have never been able to hide it from Belle. As they got closer to campus, Mimi's phone rang and Matt, almost by instinct, reached into her purse to get it for her.
"Hello!" she answered brightly.
"Hey Mimi it's Philip. Bad time?"
"Nope. Just driving back to campus from the airport. Matt just got back into town."
"Bet you're happy."
"Thrilled! So it's a good thing you called now, because the phone will be turned off as soon as we get there," she said in a light laugh. "What can I help you with Philly?"
"I was thinking of having a little gathering at my place Sunday, sort of a little send off to you seniors, but mainly for Shawn and Belle."
"Aren't you the sweetest. I think that sounds perfect. Nothing like a good old Philip party. So who's on the guest list?"
"Obviously, Belle and Shawn. You, Matt, Abby, Dawn, some of my frat brothers, and then of course me and Lindsay will be the gracious host."
"You and Lindsay?" Mimi asked skeptically. "So you two really are seeing each other?"
"I admit, it may be a little strange, but we're having fun. Don't hold it against me please. Lindsay made some mistakes and actually this party was her idea. Sort of a way to make amends. She really doesn't want Belle and Shawn to think she's a threat."
"Everyone deserves a second chance right?"
"Yeah, I guess so," Philip replied somewhat distantly, unable to stop thinking about the time Mimi wasn't willing to give him another chance years ago. Normally, thoughts like that would bother him but he was able to move past it. For the first time he didn't find himself pining over Mimi and lamenting over what they once had.
"Anywho," he continued in a more cheery tone. "I just wanted to run the idea by you and get your thoughts. Maybe we can catch up tomorrow at the pub or something for lunch. How's that sound?"
"Sounds good to me. Let's say 12:30. I should be awake by then," she laughed.
"Still sleeping until noon on Saturdays?" he asked jokingly.
"Doubt I'll ever be able to shake that habit," she said as she continued to laugh. "Anyway, I'll see you then, and um ... bring Lindsay, in case you weren't already planning to. I'd like to get to know her a little better."
"Thanks Mimi. I appreciate it."
"Hey no problem Phil. I'll see you tomorrow."
"Alright. Say hey to Matt for me. Bye."
Mimi hung up the phone and put it down haphazardly in the little cubby area between the seats. Glancing over at Matt as they finally approached campus she couldn't stop smiling. "Philip says, 'hey'" she said, imitating a male voice and nodding her head accordingly to complete the imitation.
"What's he up to? I heard you mention Lindsay. Is she still a problem for Shawn and Belle."
"Nope. But get this. Remember when I told you Phil had been spending some time with her? Well in the process he fell for her because now they're dating."
"Seriously? That's a strange turn of events."
"Tell me about it. Anyway, he wants to have a little party at his place Sunday. Mainly for Belle and Shawn, but also for us starting our final year at the U."
"Sounds like fun. And I guess you're helping to coordinate this effort."
"Yep. We're going to the pub at 12:30 tomorrow," she grinned. She parked on the road in front of the college apartment building that would be Matt's residence for the year and turned off the engine. She reached for her phone and made sure it had been turned off. "We won't have any more interruptions. I'm all yours." They leaned in towards each other and their lips met for a soft kiss. "Welcome back."
After getting her thoughts together and trying to push back all the news Alex had shared with her, Belle emerged from the balcony with Shawn. He had only gotten bits and pieces of the story, because Belle wanted to put the news behind her. She tried not to think about it until she had a chance to talk to Brady. They continued to spend time at the party and enjoyed themselves with Luke and the others. Alex had left, much to Shawn's relief. His absence allowed Belle to be her usual friendly and bubbly self, but Shawn could see the sadness in her eyes. They weren't the bright eyes he adored.
Hours later Shawn and Belle made they way back to the hotel room. The two of them got themselves ready for bed in virtual silence. It was obvious to Shawn that Belle was no longer trying to push back the thoughts about what Alex told her earlier. Her expression grew worrisome as she changed, but she didn't talk about it.
"You're thinking about what Alex said aren't you?"
"Yeah," she replied sheepishly. "I just can't help but think about what Brady must be going through. I really wish he had told me. If it wasn't too late I'd give him a call."
"First thing in the morning you should catch up with him."
"I plan on doing that," she said somewhat distantly.
"Why do I have the feeling you're keeping something from me. Belle, tell me what's really on your mind."
"I don't know Shawn. It's just so weird to think about Brady and Adrienne getting a divorce. That is if Alex was telling me the truth about that."
"Do you really think he'd lie?"
"At a time like this, I really wish he did, but I know he's telling the truth."
"Well, it's understandable for you to be upset and to feel for what your brother is going through."
"It's more than that Shawn. It makes me wonder if maybe they got married too soon."
"Belle they dated all through college and got married afterwards. If you think that's rushing then you'd have to think the same about us," he rationalized with a chuckle, laughing at the ridiculousness. Laughing to himself he soon realized Belle didn't see it that way. Noticing that she had no reaction to his rationalization, his laughing began to subside and he looked at her somewhat bewildered. "Wait a second. You don't actually believe that do you?"
"I just can't help but wonder that maybe..."
"Maybe what Belle?!" he asked, growing paranoid at the situation. "Look, I feel bad for Brady. I do. I can't even begin to imagine what he is going through, but their divorce has nothing to do with when they got married."
"I know Shawn. But maybe..."
"Would you stop saying that?" he asked growing frustrated with the situation. "You can't even compare us to them."
"Yes I can. There are a lot of similarities."
"No there aren't. Just think about it. Belle you've told me that Brady and Adrienne broke up a number of times in college. We never did. We broke up once and that was the worst time of my life."
"And it was for me too Shawn but..."
"But nothing," he quickly interrupted. "Brady and Adrienne's marriage failed because of a secret. Belle we've been completely honest with each other. It took us a while to learn that lesson but we did. We survived Jan and Chloe. We've gotten through so much so don't tell me we're too young or not ready to get married."
"Shawn I'm not saying we're not ready, I just think maybe..."
"There you go again," he said, letting out an exasperated sigh.
"Well, if you'd let me finish a sentence," she snapped.
"I'm not letting you finish because I want you to realize how ridiculous you're being!"
"Shawn, but you've got to see where I'm coming from!" she yelled out of frustration.
"No I don't," he said adamantly. "I can understand that you're worried about Brady. I can even understand you being nervous about getting married. But I CAN'T understand you being scared about something that will never happen to us." He paused and ran his fingers through his hair. "Belle." Letting out a frustrated sigh, her name escaped his lips in a whisper.
Shawn calmed himself down and walked closer to Belle, his eyes softening as he looked at her with his gentle brown eyes. His gaze consumed her with their intensity leaving her amazed and comforted by their expressiveness. He took her hand in his so her ring was in clear view to them both. "When I put this ring on your finger I was making a promise to you. A promise that I will always love you and that I want to spend the rest of my life with you. And when you said yes, you were making that same promise to me."
Belle gazed at Shawn adoringly. Mentally kicking herself for even letting herself worry and let insecurities set in. She felt sorry for her brother. Her heart was heavy with grief, but at this moment, the way Shawn comforted her with his warm gaze made her melt.
"You know how I feel about promises," Belle said in a soft voice.
Relieved that he was able to get through to her, he touched her cheek. His fingers gently stroked her soft skin. "I feel the same way," he said quietly with a sexy smirk.
"Shawn how can you be so patient with me?" she asked bashfully. Quickly getting embarrassed by how she was previously acting.
"Do you think I'd just let you think the worst and doubt what we have? We've gotten too far for me to give up on us now." He lifted her chin and leaned in, softly brushing his lips against hers in a sweet kiss. "I love you," he whispered. He continued to kiss her teasingly. His lips nibbled and nipped hers in a slow, sensual kiss that made her sink closer to him. Belle moaned softly as their lips connected, opening and closing in unison, as their kiss grew deeper. "Nothing will ever tear us apart. I promise," he muttered.
"Don't ever break your promise Shawn," she murmured as Shawn's mouth continued to tease her lips.
"Never," he whispered. Their kisses grew more passionate as he held her face gently. His tongue mated with hers in a slow dance. His gentle actions and caresses wiped away any doubt or insecurity she had.
Their lips parted with short, quick pecks and Shawn looked at Belle with a mischievous smirk. He knew their pause was brief, at least he hoped it would be. With his hands now comfortably resting on her waist, she curled her arms around his neck.
"You look awfully sure of yourself Mr. Brady," Belle said, commenting on his smug appearance.
"You know why," he said in a low voice as he bobbed his eyebrows up and down. "But I just need to know if I've convinced you properly that you have nothing to worry about."
"I'd say you still have a little more work to do," she flirted.
"A little?" He asked with his eyebrow arched.
Belle thought for a moment, biting her lip playfully as she looked at him with a gleam in her eyes. "Maybe not a little," she corrected. "I may need a lot of convincing."
"Well, I want you to be sure. We are talking about forever here."
"Then you better get working!" Belle giggled. Shawn quickly captured her lips with his own in a kiss that left her instantly weak in the knees. Keeping a tight hold on her waist he lifted her up in his strong embrace and fell down onto the bed together. Kissing each other passionately, Shawn was determined to convince Belle for as long as he had to not to worry.
Sunday quickly arrived and Philip was getting anxious about the party he was making final plans for. It wasn't his first, but he was unusually nervous about this one, mainly because of the tall brunette who was in the kitchen trying to finish up some final details. Everyone knew Lindsay as the girl who was once obsessed with Shawn. No one knew the side of Lindsay Philip knew and found himself falling hard for, more and more each day.
After getting his regular pile of mixed CDs in just the right order for the evening, Philip walked up to Lindsay from behind. About to sneak his hands around her waist she suddenly turned around, obviously a little jumpy about tonight, too. Stunned to see Philip so close she gasped and then soon calmed down, eventually giggling to calm her nerves.
"Nervous, too?" Philip grinned.
"I guess I am. I really wish I wasn't, but I know how important this is to you... and to me, too."
"Hey, my friends want me to be happy and want the best for me. That's the only reason they're skeptical, but everything went well yesterday with Mimi at the pub."
"It did. I really like her and Matt."
"Yeah, Mimi's great and I think tonight is the first step for them all to realize you're not the person they all assumed you were," he said with a charming grin. His dimples were in clear view as he gazed into her hazel eyes.
Lindsay was still unnerved by the situation. "But Philip they had a reason to hate me. Even you disliked me at one time. And I don't blame you. I was crazed. I don't even know how I allowed myself to get so caught up in Shawn. It's like I convinced myself Belle wasn't right for him."
"Now you know she is," Philip replied. "Look Linds, it's sort of a long story about Shawn's past and if you knew what he'd been through, you would know, just as well as everyone else how good Belle is for him. I've known Shawn my whole life and it wasn't until college did we really know each other on more than a 'how ya doing' basis. And then when he met Belle," he began and couldn't help but chuckle as he thought back to that time. "Let's just say he learned to live again. It was pretty instant between those two."
"I just hope they believe that I don't want to cause any problems."
"They will," he smiled. "But until then try not to worry about it." He cupped her face gently with both hands and guided her to him. Kissing her gently, Philip really hoped that his friends would buy his new relationship with Lindsay. It may have started off based only on the physical but in the last week they decided to try and see where it could go. They were both ready to take that chance.
The day had been quite busy for Shawn and Belle. After driving back to Salem from Chicago, they arrived just in time for the Sunday Horton brunch at Alice's house. Everyone gushed over the two, happy about the pending nuptials and hounding them both with a number of questions. Early that afternoon the two found themselves pretty drained and once they arrived at Belle's they were ready to just take it easy, until Mimi told them about Philip's party. Usually, a Philip party would be well received by both but today it was just a bit much for an already busy day. They both took a nap to recharge and eventually made their way to Philip's. When Shawn drove in front of the house there were already a number of cars gathered in front of the small house on the Kiriakis property which Philip called his own.
Putting the car into park and soon cutting off the engine he looked over at Belle who looked just about as ready as he did. "Guess you never expected being engaged could be so exhausting."
"Wait until we actually get married," Belle said in a soft giggle.
Shawn chuckled as they got out of the car. "Speaking of which, we should probably figure out when we want our big day to be. I figure after you graduate," he said as they walked towards the door.
Belle quickly stopped and looked at him. "Why? That sounds like something my Dad would suggest."
"No, he didn't actually. I just kind of assumed it would be easier to plan. I mean, we're both in school it's not like we can just take time off."
"I know but we do have breaks."
"So you want to get married during Christmas?" Shawn asked skeptically.
"No. Spring Break," she said with a bright smile.
"Are you really serious about this?"
"Don't I look serious?"
"But how come you want to do it then? I mean, don't you want to wait until the summer?"
"I just want you to be happy and whatever you want I want." He took her hand in his and leaned in, kissing her sweetly. "Is this what you really want?"
"Yeah, I do. This may sound kind of silly but when I graduate I want to hear them say Isabella Brady ... not Black. It just seems right."
He smiled warmly. "It does seem right doesn't it?" He said and kissed her again, allowing his lips to linger against hers to capture the love he felt for her at that moment. "I love you so much."
"I love you, too." She gave Shawn a quick kiss and smiled. "Now that I'm in an even better mood I should be able to deal with Lindsay."
"It'll be ok. Let's just try and support Philip and hope he knows what he's getting himself into."
"You're right. I'll try to keep an open mind."
Over an hour later, the party at Philip's was in full swing. People who were away for the summer came back with a number of stories as folks reunited before the first day of classes at Salem U.
Belle sat with Mimi and Abby answering the number of questions they both had about how Shawn proposed and their time in Chicago. The two sat in awe as they listened to the highlights, both thinking Belle was the luckiest girl they both knew.
Lindsay saw the three gathered and thought it was now or never if she wanted to get on Belle's good side. Shawn had pretty much told her that life was too short to hold grudges. She figured he probably had that attitude for two reasons: one, he was deliriously happy about his engagement, and two, he didn't want the next two years to be awkward since they would be running into each other at school. As she walked towards them Belle looked up to see her and eventually let a small smile escape her lips.
"Are you all having a good time?" Lindsay asked in an attempt to break the ice.
"Yeah," Belle answered, noticing Lindsay's hesitation. "Mimi told me this was your idea."
"I thought it would be good to congratulate you and Shawn. Besides, Philip loves throwing parties."
"So true," Mimi agreed in a light laugh. "Now, why don't you join us. No point in you standing there."
Lindsay joined the three and almost immediately after she sat down, Abby gave her a wayward look and stood up.
"I'm going to see what Dawn is up to," Abby said. All three saw through the excuse.
Belle and Mimi both looked back at Lindsay after Abby walked away. "Don't worry about that," Belle quickly explained. "Just in case you don't know Philip and Abby dated for a few months. The break up was mutual but well... you know how it goes sometimes."
"Yeah, so don't take it personally," Mimi continued.
"I'll try not to," Lindsay said with a slight smile. There was a moment of awkward silence among the three and Lindsay decided not to hesitate any further. "Belle, I just want to apologize," she blurted out and then took a deep breath. "I know it's probably hard for you to act nice to me but ..."
"I'm not acting Lindsay," Belle interrupted. "If I didn't want to let bygones be bygones I wouldn't be talking to you. I'm not saying I've forgotten what happened and that I won't think twice about certain things but I'm going to try and move forward. Life is too short."
"That's what Shawn said."
"Yeah, well he helped me sort of realize that. It wasn't easy, trust me."
"Hey no problem. Just do me a favor. I don't really know how serious you and Philip are but be good to him. I think Mimi will agree with me on this one. Phil's a good guy and he's been a little down and out so we all want to see him happy."
"Belle's right. We just don't want to see him hurt."
"I don't know what is in store for the future, but I don't have some hidden agenda or something if that's what you're both thinking."
"We're just making sure. That's all," Mimi assured. "So now let's get back to what we were talking about before. Belle, I believe you were on day two of your Chicago trip."
Belle giggled at Mimi's exuberance. "Ok, Meems," she laughed and then continued on her tale.
Later that night Shawn drove Belle home and walked with her inside up to her room. Closing the door behind him he walked in and dropped down onto the bed. Laying flat on his back, his hands met at the back of his neck.
"Well that was fun."
"Mm-hmm," Belle agreed with a smile. She crawled onto the bed to join Shawn and straddled his body. Her hands slowly ran up his chest and settled on his shoulders. "It was really nice of Philip and Lindsay to throw a party for us. And after telling everyone how you proposed, too many times to count, every girl thinks you are the sweetest man alive."
"Ugh," he groaned in disapproval. "I'm just the luckiest man," he stated as he moved his hands. He reached out to her, touching her cheek gently his fingers soon swept through her hair. "And the most in love."
Belle could feel her eyes quickly fill with fresh tears at his words. "You know," she began in shaky voice as the emotions washed over her, "if you keep this up, I don't know if I'll be able to wait until Spring Break."
Shawn looked at her adoringly, and sat up. His thumb slowly wiped away the single tear that escaped and gently captured one that clung to her eyelash. "I can't very well have you crying every time I want to tell you I love you, now can I?" he asked softly. Tracing his fingers along her jaw to her chin, he guided her closer to him and their lips met sweetly. With slow, nibbling kisses their lips repeatedly locked in a sensual kiss.
Their lips parted and Shawn looked at Belle with a sexy smirk, softly stroking her golden hair. His chocolate gaze swept across her face, memorizing every inch as if for the first time. "How was that for a goodnight kiss?"
"I think I'll have the best dreams tonight," Belle said with a bright smile.
"Let me know if I can help make them come true."
"You already have, sweetie. Every single day."
Four months later..
The first semester of the year had been quite hectic for Belle. She had a full class load, a job as a research assistant for her advisor, she was applying to graduate school, while remaining very active on campus, particularly with the Psychology Honor Society which she was president and all the while she was making wedding plans. She and Shawn had the date and time as well as the place, Belle's hometown.
It was now three days before Christmas and as much as Belle wanted to spend Christmas Day with her family, she was excited to spend her first Christmas with the Hortons and Bradys. Shawn had told about their Christmas traditions so much over years that she couldn't wait to be apart of it. In a way she would be having Christmas twice. She and Shawn were flying out to Alexandria to spend the rest of the holiday season. It was a compromise she worked out with John so he didn't feel he was losing his little girl too soon.
Sitting on the couch in Mrs. Horton's living room along with Carrie and Hope, Belle found herself getting giddy that in only a matter of months she would officially be apart of the Horton and Brady clan, just like Hope and Carrie. She felt so much apart of the families already, but the idea was a bit overwhelming. Sorting through Christmas ornaments had never been so much fun.
"We are so thrilled that you'll be with us for the holidays Belle," Hope beamed as she examined the ornaments in the box sitting on her lap. "We always have so much fun around Christmas. Salem becomes a whole new place in a lot of ways."
"Hope's right," Carrie added. "And the fact that Mrs. Horton bakes up a storm doesn't hurt either," she said and took a deep breath as the wonderful aroma of Christmas cookies filled the air.
"Good point, Carrie," Hope smiled. The three continued their task assigned to them by Alice as she stayed busy in the kitchen. "Now, Belle tell me, how are the wedding plans? You know whatever you need don't hesitate, you've got Horton AND Brady women here to help you out. March is just around the corner. Look how fast Christmas came."
"I know, and it's been sort of hard trying to keep things together with school and all."
"I can only imagine. It was hard enough to do so while working," Carrie said. "But don't try and do all of this alone. I know you've asked us some questions here and there but we really want to help, and we promise we won't get too much in the way," she teased.
"Thanks," Belle replied somewhat distantly and then suddenly blurted out. "Do you two think Shawn and I are rushing this?"
"Well I think ideally the summer may have been easier to plan, but not every bride wants a summer wedding," Hope answered.
"And not every bride wants a long engagement," Carrie added.
"The point is Belle," Hope continued, "that you and Shawn feel its ready. Bo and I could have waited. We were both so young. Younger than you and Shawn. Now why are you questioning this? Is it your father again?"
"He won't come out and say it but I don't think he's too thrilled about us getting married in March, but he's still going along with it."
"Belle, if your dad is anything like mine he just needs to adjust to the idea, and honestly it won't really sink in until he sees you exchange vows with Shawn. That's just how fathers operate," Carrie explained jokingly.
"I really hope you're right Carrie. My dad is just very sensitive about the issue now since Brady and Adrienne's divorce was finalized a couple of weeks ago. He's just being protective of his family."
"And that makes perfect sense," Hope told her and then smiled. "But John doesn't know how Brady men operate."
"Or Horton men," Carrie chimed in.
"Yes, and Shawn is both. A perfect blend to create what I like to call stubborn sensibility. I'm sure you can figure out which one he got from me," Hope mused.
"Need I remind you that I am a Brady," Carrie said.
"Nope," Hope answered with a playful smile and the three started to laugh together. "But I was just talking about Brady men. Women are just sensible, no matter what their last name is!"
"There is a lot of laughter coming from out here," Alice mused as she walked in carrying a plate of cookies.
Hope quickly stood up and took the plate. "Oh Gran! You've been a busy bee today," she laughed.
"Hope darling you know how I love this time of year. And I thought it would be a perfect time for you three to take a break from all your hard work!"
"I don't know if we've done much Mrs. Horton to deserve a break already," Carrie said. "We got a little side tracked with girl talk."
"I see. And does this girl talk have to do with a certain wedding?" she asked curiously. Sitting down in her chair, her eyes began to dance with excitement as she looked at Belle who couldn't hide the smile on her face. "I take it from the blushing expression on dear Isabella's face that I'm right."
"Gran, we were just reassuring Belle that we all support her and Shawn's decision."
"Yes we do. And getting married in March. You know, my Tom and I were married in March."
"Really?" Belle asked growing more intrigued.
"So many years ago but I remember it like it was yesterday. Dear we had such wonderful years together," she sighed happily. "Particularly around the holidays. Tom loved Christmas. And as our family grew we started so many traditions, the most important being the ornaments."
"Why do you consider that a Horton tradition?" Belle asked curiously.
"Not just any ornaments," Hope clarified. "These ornaments," she said and picked up another box. Lifting the lid she showed Belle the number of ornaments with names of each Horton written in glitter. "Every Christmas Eve we all come to Gran's and hang our ornament on the tree."
"That's right," Alice added with a warm smile. "And this Christmas you will get to see how magical that time is. This year you can help Shawn hang his, but next year you will have your own," she explained and then soon heard the front door open. The sound of Angela's voice immediately filled the house.
Angela walked inside with boundless energy. "Hi Gran!" she said excitedly and gave Alice a big hug.
Chuckling in response to Angela's exuberant entrance she returned the hug. "Did you get all your Christmas shopping done?"
"Yep! You are going to be so surprised at what I got you!"
"I'm sure I will love it," Alice assured. "So where are your brothers?"
"Right here Gran," Shawn answered as he and JT walked in. "Angela was in a rush to get in here. I think she knew you had some cookies waiting." He walked to her and gave her a kiss on the cheek to greet her properly and JT followed his lead. He grabbed a cookie and took a bite, instantly raving. "Mmmm Gran," he mumbled as he chewed. "These are awesome."
"Don't talk with your mouth full Shawn," Hope warned. Angela started to giggle at Shawn getting into trouble. Shawn looked at his little sister and just rolled his eyes. "I saw that," Hope muttered.
"No winning," he mumbled and looked for a place to sit. Deciding to settle on the floor in front of Belle he got comfortable and soon felt Belle ruffle up his hair playfully. "So what have you ladies been up to?"
"Girl talk," Belle explained.
"So, you're not going to share?"
"How was shopping sweetie?" Belle asked trying to change topics.
"Does that mean you're not telling?"
"There's the Horton side coming out," Hope joked, referencing the previous conversation. Belle and Carrie both chuckled at the comment.
"What's that supposed to mean?" Shawn asked confused.
"Nothing honey," Belle said, continuing to comb her fingers through his thick hair. "Just talking about March."
He turned his head to look up at her and grinned. "My favorite month." Their eyes locked for a moment and Belle smiled. She continued to run her fingers through his hair.
"You two are definitely ready," Hope declared as she watched the two. It warmed her heart to see the young couple and she for one could not wait until Belle was officially a part of the family.
March 24, 2007
The sound of forks clanking against glasses filled the room at the country club. All eyes were on the young couple as they sat at the head table. The day was a beautiful Virginia spring day adding to the splendor of the afternoon wedding that left three very proud families filled with joy and excitement. Members of the Horton family, mixed with the Brady clan and the smattering of the distinguished Black family filled the room. They looked on to see the happy couple oblige to the incessant request and lean in towards each other for a sweet kiss. The cheers that followed left the two laughing as their lips parted.
"I have a feeling they're just getting started," Belle joked.
"I think you're right," Shawn agreed. "But I don't really mind."
"I didn't think you would," Belle mused.
"You know me too well Mrs. Brady," he grinned. "Have I told you how beautiful you look today?"
"You may have mentioned it a few times."
"Well, I think it deserves repeating," he said with a mischievous grin. "Isabella Brady, you look more beautiful than I could have ever imagined. I love you so much."
"I love you too Shawn. I never thought it was this possible to be this happy."
"I will try my best to keep you happy everyday for the rest of our lives."
"I plan on holding you to that promise."
"I want you to bright eyes. Always and forever," he said softly and gently placed his lips against hers for a tender kiss.
After their first dance, it was now John's turn to twirl Belle across the dance floor. John was visibly in his element, the proud father of his little girl on her big day.
"I'm so happy for you princess. You just look so beautiful," he said unable to hide the emotions. "You remind me so much of your mother. I know she is smiling down on you and Shawn on this day."
"I know she is, too Dad. I feel her presence," Belle smiled.
"So my little girl is married," he said sentimentally and then chuckled to hold back his emotions. "Who gave you permission to grow up so quickly?"
"It just happened," she smiled. After a brief moment she continued. "But honestly Daddy, you support us don't you?"
"Izzy B, I support you two completely. Of course I'm a bit concerned but I'm your father and I'm supposed to be, but Shawn is a good young man. I know he will do everything in his power to be a good husband to you. He has a bright future, just like you," he smiled as he thought about Belle's acceptance into the Ph.D. program in Psychology at Salem University. "I know you will weather whatever storms come your way. I have faith in you two."
Belle hugged John tightly. "Thank you Daddy. I love you."
"I love you, too princess."
Shawn watched on as Belle seemed to just glow more and more with happiness. Looking on at his wife and father-in-law dancing he couldn't help but smile, like everyone else in the room.
"I've never seen her this happy," Brady said as he walked up behind Shawn. Placing a hand on Shawn's shoulder, he stood beside his brother-in-law. Shawn looked over at him and nodded his head in agreement. "You know," Brady continued, "honestly I had some doubts about this whole thing. I think I just became cynical after everything with Adrienne and Alex."
"I'm sorry about that man," Shawn said.
Brady waved a dismissive hand. "Don't you worry about me. I'm not here to bring you down just to congratulate you and to say welcome to the family. It's going to be weird having a brother," he grinned. "Good thing we get along."
"That's half the battle with having a brother," Shawn joked. "But thanks Brady. It means a lot," he added seriously.
"Not a problem, but you know it would be out of character if I didn't go into big brother mode today and tell you that you better take good care of my sister. If you ever hurt her, in any way..."
Shawn quickly interrupted. "You'll never have to worry about that. Brady, you know as well as I do that things won't always be roses. There will be some ups and downs but the important thing is Belle and I love each other, we respect and support each other. My love for Belle is stronger than my own pride, and Brady pride is pretty legendary," he added in a light joke.
"You don't have to say anymore," Brady replied.
"Well I'm glad we understand each other," he grinned. He soon heard another song begin and knew it was his cue. "Now, I'm going to go dance with my wife," he said and walked onto the dance floor.
Moments later, Shawn and Belle were surrounded by a number of their guests dancing along with them. The two were in their world as they moved slowly to the ballad that filled the room.
Always and forever
Each moment with you
Is just like a dream to me
That somehow came true, yeah
Shawn held Belle close to him as she rested her head on his shoulder. Her arms were curled around his neck, like they had been so many times before. He nuzzled his head against hers, with his eyes closed he savored every moment. There was nothing he wanted more than to spend a lifetime of moments like this with Belle. Holding her close to him, feeling how her body molded perfectly against his were accentuated by the powerful lyrics that filled the room.
And I know tomorrow
Will still be the same
Cuz we got a life of love
That won't ever change and
Everyday love me your own special way
Melt all my heart away with a smile
Take time to tell me you really care
And we'll share tomorrow together
Ooh baby, I'll always love you forever
Slowly Belle's fingers started to softly play with the hairs at the nape of Shawn's neck. As they moved together she listened to Shawn's heart beating so strongly. His heart that allowed him to love her so completely and now, they were married. Just thinking about the last few hours made her own heart burst with joy. She would be spending the rest of her life with the man of her dreams. As the lyrics of the song sunk in Belle couldn't help but think about their future together. Loving each other and one day having children created out of that love. There was nothing she wanted more than to share a lifetime of memories with Shawn who loved her with a gentle strength she was always certain only he possessed.
Ever, ever, ever
There'll always be sunshine
When I look at you
It's something I can't explain
Just the things that you do
If you get lonely
Call me and take
A second to give to me
That magic you make and
Everyday love me your own special way
Melt all my heart away with a smile
Take time to tell me you really care
And we'll share tomorrow together
Ooh baby, I'll always love you forever.
As the song began to fade Shawn glided his hand up Belle's body to her shoulder and then softly touched her cheek. Gently he guided her towards and captured her lips with his own. He kissed her so slowly and tenderly Belle lost all feeling and she became putty in his strong hands. He seemed to just drink her with his smooth movements. Locking his lips with hers methodically and sensually, all eyes were on them and yet they felt alone. Shawn kissed her with the sweetest passion. It was perfection. It was love. It was everlasting.