Julius worked his magic on Belle's shoulders as his strong hands massaged them gently. When she moaned softly at the pampering she was receiving, he brushed a kiss against her neck and continued to knead her tense muscles.
"I'm going to take good care of you tonight darling," he murmured against her neck, kissing her once more.
"Hmm," Belle moaned. "Good, I need the pampering."
"How was Paris?"
"The same as always busy, beautiful, boring without you."
He chuckled at her response, remembering when he accompanied her on one of her many treks to Paris last month. She now had her own home there, since it was easily becoming her third home, after New York where she had a Manhattan apartment overlooking Central Park. Belle's life was far different from when she was a small boutique owner in Salem. She was now a famous international designer with celebrities requesting everything from dresses to wear at awards ceremonies to wedding gowns, and at Titan, Belle was a rising executive. Now, VP of Women's Fashion, she had a greater scope of responsibility than the fashion line she created when she came to Titan four years ago. The pace was crazy, but she loved it and she loved the man she was with even more.
"I have some champagne on ice."
"And some fresh strawberries," he continued.
Belle turned and looked at Julius over her shoulder. "Why Mr. Everett, are you trying to seduce me?"
"Is it working?"
"I'd say so," she smiled and her lips met his for a soft kiss. "I love you," she murmured against his lips.
"I love you, too darling. Now, let me go get the goodies, stay right here."
Belle watched him walk to the kitchen. She was able to see the strong definition of his body, in the black silk pajamas he wore. He had proven to be everything she wanted and recently they had been more open in their conversations about getting married. To her, it was refreshing to have that kind of openness in a relationship.
Tonight, had been so magical, she forgot how tired she really was. When she entered her apartment, she was surprised to see a number of white candles lit and Julius waiting for her in those sexy pajamas she loved, with the top unbuttoned, revealing his hard body.
He emerged from the kitchen, and her brow furrowed when she saw him move past her.
"Stay right there," he reminded her, and a minute later he came out of the bedroom. "Let's continue this special treatment in the bedroom," he said. Once she stood up, he scooped her up in his arms and took her to the bedroom. She gasped at the sight of her bed covered in rose petals.
"What's all this for?"
"I missed you," he simply said as he laid her down on the bed. Soon, the bottle was uncorked and he was feeding her strawberries. They continued to talk, catching each other up on what happened over the last week when an ocean separated them. "I got you a little something." He reached into the bedside drawer and revealed a box. "This is for you."
Belle's eyes lit up like a child's on Christmas morning. She realized it was too big to be a ring, but it was definitely jewelry. Soon a diamond and sapphire necklace was revealed, sparkling in the candlelight. "This is beautiful," she gushed. "Thank you, but what's the occasion?"
"No occasion, only that I love you and I wanted to get you something special. Besides, you're going to need something blue."
Belle almost didn't catch what he said immediately. "What are you saying?" she asked then gasped when he revealed the small black velvet box in his hand.
"I'm saying that I want to marry you." He opened the box to show a dazzling princess cut diamond ring with a platinum band. "And I'm hoping you want to marry me."
Shawn arrived at Kyra's townhouse a little nervous for their first official date, but he was glad they were finally getting together. He rang the doorbell and soon an older woman was standing before him. She introduced herself as Kyra's mother, Maria Santiago and that she was there to baby-sit Daniel. It wasn't long after Shawn arrived that he met the energetic brown haired boy who was sizing Shawn up from the moment he arrived.
"My name is Daniel and I'm four years old," he stated and very boldly stuck out his hand to Shawn.
Unable to fight back his grin, Shawn took the little boy's hand and shook it. "It is very good to meet you Daniel. I'm Shawn and I'm a lot older than four. I'm here to take your mom out for dinner. I hope that's ok with you buddy."
Daniel seemed to be a bit surprised that Shawn was asking permission. "It's ok. Come on," he said as he pulled Shawn toward the couch. Shawn looked over at Maria, wondering if Daniel always had this take charge personality he clearly inherited from his mother. The expression on Maria's face indicated this was not unusual behavior.
Shawn sat next to the little boy on the couch and didn't have much time to settle down before he was bombarded with questions.
"Do you like Spiderman?"
"He's pretty cool, but I like Superman more."
"Look at me, I'm Spiderman!" Daniel announced as he jumped up on the couch and started making sounds as he pretended that webs were flying out of his wrists.
"Daniel Luis!" Maria chided and watched as Daniel settled back down.
"Where are you going for dinner?"
"It's a fancy place."
"Do they have French fries?"
"I don't think so."
"Mommy likes French fries."
"And let me guess, with lots of ketchup?"
"Lots and lots!"
"Well, maybe we can all go out one day for some burgers and fries and do you like ice cream?"
"Uh-huh!" he answered excitedly.
That must be good and messy. "We'll do that one day, ok buddy?"
"Ok. Are you going to kiss my mommy?"
Shawn had gone against some of the best attorneys in Chicago, yet this little four year old already had him stumped.
"Isn't it time for someone's bath?" Kyra announced, entering the living room as she caught the tail end of Shawn and Daniel's conversation.
Thankful for the reprieve, Shawn stood up to see Kyra standing before him in a beautiful and striking red dress. "Wow, you look fantastic."
"Thank you," she smiled.
"You look pretty mommy," Daniel told her happily.
"Oh, thank you sweetie. Come here," she requested and he was soon standing before her. She squatted to be eye level with him. "Listen to your grandma and be good, ok? Mama loves you."
"I love you, too mommy."
She kissed his forehead and he wrapped his tiny arms around her for a hug. "Goodnight little man." She stood up and looked at Shawn. "Ready when you are."
He helped her with her coat and held the door as she walked out. He glanced back at Daniel who leaned against his grandmother. "Goodnight. I'll see you later buddy."
Closing the door behind them, they walked out towards his car when Kyra suddenly stopped. "Shawn, I wish you wouldn't get Daniel's hopes up like that."
"What are you talking about?"
"Going out for fries, burgers and ice cream. I heard all of that. He's only a child, he doesn't understand that "
"That relationships sometimes work?" he asked.
"That's not what I meant."
"Look, I know I may be a little too confident here but fact is, I do plan on doing those things with Daniel because I plan on continuing to see you."
"Shawn we haven't even gone out yet."
"So, when I bring you back home after our date can I say it then?"
"Have you always been this sure of yourself?"
"For the most part, yeah," he grinned and opened the car door for her.
"Oh, one more thing. What's your answer to Daniel's final question?"
Shawn thought a moment and his grin turned into a sly smirk.
"Well?" she insisted and was silenced by Shawn capturing her lips with his own for a quick kiss.
"Does that answer your question?"
"As a matter of fact "
"That was just a preview Kyra. Now, let's get going. I don't want us to lose our reservation."
To Shawn there was nothing more enjoyable than moments like now when he was on the floor of Kyra's home side by side with Daniel as he colored with the precocious little boy who in the last month had managed to capture his heart. As he had predicted, Shawn continued to see Kyra, with their relationship progressing very well. He had also kept his promise to Daniel to spend time with him. Ideas of fatherhood had never been one that Shawn had thought much about but with Daniel he saw a side of himself that he liked. Seeing Daniel's wide-eyed wonderment helped keep Shawn grounded in the often jaded world of criminal justice, where making the deal was often more important than going to trial.
"Wow, that is really great buddy," Shawn complimented Daniel's latest artwork consisting of mostly red and blue crayon.
"It's Spiderman!" he said excitedly, still on his superhero kick.
"That's really great," Shawn told him as he ruffled his hair. As they continued to spend time together, Kyra soon joined them and Shawn quickly stood up, unable to keep his eyes off of his gorgeous date.
"I guess you like it," Kyra laughed at Shawn's gawking.
He moved toward her and they greeted one another with a kiss on the cheek. Shawn slipped his arm around her waist and held her close as he whispered. "I won't be able to keep my eyes off of you in this dress. I am going to be the envy of every man."
"Hmm...flattery will get you everywhere," she said seductively in his ear.
"What do you say we blow off this Titan thing and..."
"No can do," Kyra told him as she moved away and got her coat. "The Annual Titan Christmas party is one that you do not turn down when invited," she explained as Shawn slipped her coat over her shoulders. "You'll see what I mean," she said and went to hug her son. "Goodnight my little man." She said gently with a kiss on top of his head. "Be good for grandma." She kissed him again and slowly let him go, then headed out with Shawn for the extravaganza of the year.
"Come on sweetheart," Julius said, holding Belle's hand in his they walked across the grand room. "I see someone you must definitely meet."
"Julius, sweetie slow down," Belle requested. "This thing has just started. You know, mingling doesn't have to be done at a record pace."
"You know how I get at these events. Just one more I promise."
"That's a promise you can't keep, but I'm willing to give this one a try," Belle teased him.
After making small talk with the owner of a small publishing company Titan had recently acquired, a deal in which Julius had been instrumental, Belle separated from him to catch up with some other people she had not seen in quite some time. The room was crowded. It was like this every year, but the overwhelming number of people made it all the more exciting to her and Julius, they both loved things like this. What amazed Belle most was if she had a chance to look at the guest list of all individuals considered close friends and/or business associates of Victor Kiriakis, she would come close to knowing most if not recognizing all the names. In the city of various international businesses, Titan was clearly superior to them all and anyone associated with it had an instant ticket to almost anything. The name said it all, and though Belle wasn't one to get caught up in power and prestige, she had to admit that parties like this were definitely a wonderful perk to her job.
Belle continued to mingle, making small talk with a number of people, when she suddenly caught a glimpse of a familiar image in the distance. Dismissing it as an overactive imagination she continued on until she realized she was not seeing things. Stopping in mid-stride, she stared ahead at Shawn standing in line at one of the mini-bars about twenty feet away.
Completely surprised, she managed to get over her shock and gain her composure. It had been four years since she last saw him and she had to admit that he looked better than ever. Walking casually through the crowd, she eventually approached him, unsure of what to say she laid on the Belle Black charm that she was known for at functions such as this.
"Well, as I live and breathe, I never thought I'd see the day that Shawn Brady would leave Salem."
Shawn could barely believe his ears as he slowly turned his head to see Belle standing next to him in a stunning, shimmering blue dress. He chuckled to himself, more so in disbelief, but also in agreement of her opening statement.
"It's a miracle isn't it?" he said in response. He looked at her a moment, amazed by how more beautiful she looked than he remembered.
They instinctively moved closer for a small hug. There was too much history to not acknowledge one another any other way.
"How've you been?" Shawn asked. Letting her go, he awaited an answer as he moved up closer to the bar.
"Very well. I have no complaints. So what are you doing in Chicago?"
"You were certainly never one to beat around the bush," he muttered. "I'm a lawyer now."
"When did this happen?"
"I graduated just this past May. I work for the Cook County State's Attorney's Office in the Criminal Prosecutions Bureau."
"What happened to being a police officer?"
"I realized that I could be a better lawyer than a cop."
"Wow," Belle said in surprise. "I never expected you to " she paused and finally said. "Congratulations."
"Thanks." He was next in line and moved up. "One apple martini and a scotch on the rocks."
Belle grew curious at his order. "Who are you here with?"
"Once again, no hesitation with the questions," he commented. "I am here with my girlfriend."
"Don't tell me you're dating a model?" she asked, sounding disappointed at the possibility.
"No, though she could very well be. I'm dating Kyra Santiago, she's a photographer who does a lot of work "
"I know Kyra. I thought she was married."
"Obviously you don't know her that well. No, she is not married. Divorced a lifetime ago and happily dating me for about a month now," he added with an arrogant grin.
"Oh so this is new," Belle said somewhat dismissively.
Shawn picked up on the sudden snooty tone she took on and grew more defensive at her insinuation. "You've got to start off somewhere."
"Your drinks, sir," the bartender said to Shawn.
Shawn slipped a sizeable tip in the jar and picked up the two drinks. "Well, I need to get back to Kyra or then again," he added in a mumble when he noticed her approaching him. "I was just coming to find you," he grinned.
"I was starting to think you got lost," Kyra commented with a smile.
"They're you go." Handing Kyra her drink, he then looked at Belle and back at Kyra. "Honey I'd like you to meet an old friend of mine," he said to Kyra.
"Hi Kyra, I think we've met some time ago. I'm Belle Black."
"I know who you are Belle, I think everybody does," Kyra smiled. "But it's great to meet you again. So you know Shawn?"
"It seems like ages ago, but yes. We went to college together," Belle explained with a side-glance to Shawn. At this point she didn't feel like sharing the four years they spent together in a serious relationship, especially since it was obvious that Shawn hadn't had that conversation with Kyra yet.
"Wow, so this is a little reunion then," Kyra commented.
"You could say that," Shawn noted and then suddenly frowned when a tall and rather solid man walked up behind Belle, slipping his arm around her waist to surprise her.
Julius pulled Belle's back flush against his chest before looking down at her. "Darling, I'm glad I caught up to you."
"Hi sweetheart," Belle smiled. "I'd like you to meet some people."
"Of course," Julius said as he moved to her side, finding her right hand and holding it in his left.
"This is Kyra Santiago, she is a photographer who does a lot of great work for us," Belle introduced and watched Julius shake her hand. "And she just happens to be seeing my old college friend, Shawn Brady."
Julius instantly recognized the name but tried not to let on that he knew the history.
"Kyra and Shawn, this is my fiancι Julius Everett."
Shawn nearly choked on the sip of scotch he had just taken. He couldn't find the words and was grateful to Kyra who stepped up to the plate.
"Oh wow, I didn't realize you two were engaged."
"It's been a month and I am still adjusting to the idea," Belle admitted.
"That's great," Shawn finally spoke. "Congratulations to you both," he said with forced sincerity.
Later that night, Shawn held Kyra close to him as they danced on the large dance floor surrounded by an uncountable number of guests, yet he was able to see Belle in the distance in Julius' arms swaying to the music. Shawn already didn't like him, call it a hunch or a gut feeling, but Julius rubbed him the wrong way, problem was he couldn't pinpoint the reason other than possibly jealousy. He pushed those thoughts out of his mind, believing that he was much better off with the wonderful woman in his arms.
Belle felt safe and comfortable with Julius and tonight was no different, yet when she saw Shawn, certain feelings resurfaced and when she met Kyra she felt a little betrayed somehow. It didn't make sense. She looked across the crowd and saw Shawn dancing close to the spirited woman she knew more about than she let on previously. It was her job to know something about everyone, and by asking Shawn if she was married she was administering her test to see if he knew about Kyra's ex-husband and son. Part of her had wished it hadn't been passed with flying colors, yet she pushed those feelings of jealousy aside, feeling comforted by the man who she was with who loved her completely.
"Kyra," Shawn called out softly as they continued to dance.
"There's something you should know about me and Belle."
"You two dated didn't you?" she asked calmly, not moving from her position with her head on his shoulder and her arms curled around his neck.
"We did. We were together for four years, nearly five. I didn't want to wait to tell you in case she got to you. I want you to hear it from me first."
"Thank you. I appreciate your honesty."
"I've learned that lesson one too many times in the past baby to mess up with you. Anyway, we were really serious about each other but she broke up with me and a few months later she moved here to Chicago."
"You didn't move here to try and find her did you?"
"Not at all. In fact, last I heard she was in Paris. I didn't expect to see her here, I swear. You're the one I'm with and that's not going to change."
"Trust me, I wasn't worried."
"Really?" he asked somewhat skeptically.
She raised her head from her comfortable position and looked him in the eyes. "Really," she repeated definitively. "Running into exes is par for the course, but we move on with what we've got. And I believe in what we have."
Shawn's eyes gazed on hers, amazed at her words and the way she had managed to capture his heart so easily. "I believe in it, too," he murmured as his lips brushed against hers, developing into a sweet, lingering kiss.
Belle watched in the distance, wondering what was in store for her now that her past, which she so easily left behind had now reemerged with a host of challenges and feelings she had not expected.
Kyra laughed as she fumbled the keys in her hand and Shawn continued to wreak havoc on her senses.
"Shawn!" she squealed as he began to nibble on her earlobe. "I can't "
"What are you waiting for baby?" he asked teasingly. Smiling against her ear, he was amused by her fumbling and waited patiently to get inside her house.
Finally the door opened and Kyra walked in with Shawn following close behind. He closed the door, locked it and promptly circled his arms around her, ravaging her with hungry kisses.
Nearly three months together, opportunities like this were still a rarity for them, but tonight Daniel was at his grandmother's house. Neither Kyra or Shawn liked the idea of Shawn staying over at night when Daniel was home to them it sent a message they didn't really want to make, but they both had needs and were very much in love. Tonight was about them and expressing that love all night.
Early the next morning, Shawn was not responding to the incessant ringing of his cell phone, which instantly woke up Kyra. Exhausted, she tried to wake him up and eventually heard him start to groan in disapproval. With his eyes still closed, he reached over to the nightstand and searched with his hands for his phone. He soon found it and answered.
"Shawn Brady," he said groggily. He seemed to instantly perk up at the sound of the voice on the other end. Asking a few questions he soon brought the conversation to an end. "Alright, I'll be there. Give me thirty minutes," he said seriously. Hanging up the phone, he fell down onto the bed, his head landing on the fluffy pillow as he sighed loudly.
"What happened?" Kyra asked as she turned to look at him.
"Julius Everett has been arrested for assault," he muttered. "I've got to go."
"He didn't do anything to Belle did he?"
"No," he quickly answered. "Don't know the details but whatever it is, it's pretty damn serious." Shawn pulled himself together and got out of the bed. "I'm going to grab a quick shower."
"I'll make you some coffee," Kyra said, still snuggled under the sheets. "Once I get up."
Shawn went back to the bed and gave her a quick morning kiss. "I'm sorry honey. I'll make this up to you."
"Shawn, I support you and your work. Especially after last night, I could never be upset or feel neglected."
"Good," he said with a growing smirk. "I love you."
"Love you, too. Now get that cute butt in the shower. You've got to get going."
Shawn rushed into the precinct and quickly got the report.
"Julius Everett, businessman for Titan, Inc, age 30," the captain rattled off. "Dale Jackson, 47 years old. He's the owner of Urban Legends, a small bookstore near the Loyola campus. He is accusing Mr. Everett of terror and assault. He claims that he was terrorized as he left his store and threatened by a gun to sell his business."
"And it was Julius?" Shawn asked, a bit surprised.
"Someone he hired."
Shawn sighed. He had a conspiracy case on his hands. Without knowing all the details, Shawn realized that cases such as this were already difficult to prove. "Where's Mr. Jackson?"
"With my detectives," he answered.
"And Mr. Everett?"
"Interrogation room 3. He won't budge. He's waiting for his lawyer."
He turned around to see Belle more than distraught. He was caught off guard when she hugged him, he had no choice but to pull away. "Belle, I'm "
"You have to help him Shawn," she rambled. "I know Julius didn't do this awful thing he is being accused of by this man."
"Belle, it is not my job to help Julius. I am here to prosecute him and protect the victim."
"But he didn't do anything wrong," she naturally defended.
"I don't know that yet. I'm sorry Belle but I cannot discuss this with you. I need to talk to the accuser. My suggestion is that you go be with Julius while he waits for his attorney. The truth will come out eventually."
"It will definitely come out," Belle said confidently. "And you will all see how wrong you are."
"That may be so, but " he suddenly stopped when his phone rang. He quickly answered it, realizing it was Kyra. "Hey Kyra," he answered. "I'm sorry I didn't call earlier. I'm at the station and will be here for a while." He paused as she asked a few questions. "I'm not sure I'll be done by then. Why don't I give you a call when I get home and we'll figure out what to do, but baby I need to go. I love you." He smiled as she told him the same and then hung up the phone.
Belle looked at Shawn in surprise. She seemed to momentarily forget all about her fiancι's troubles and found herself dwelling on Shawn's declaration of love to Kyra without hesitation.
Shawn completely misread her expression. "Belle, I know this is hard for you, but Julius will need your support if this goes to trial. For now, we just need to get to the bottom of things. This is a very serious accusation."
"I realize all that Shawn."
"Good. Now I've got a job to do."
Two days after his arrest, Julius was arraigned. As Shawn had expected, he plead not guilty and his smooth talking defense attorney, Lucas Roberts gave his best long-winded speech to see the charges dropped. Judge Michelle Autry was not moved or convinced by his argument. Bail was set at a substantial amount and Shawn was satisfied with the initial progress of the case.
He gathered his papers into his briefcase and faced his co-counsel, Anita Parker, a prosecutor who had worked in the State Attorney's office for nearly ten years. Her record was stellar and reputation impeccable, Shawn felt privileged to work with her on the case.
"I think that went well," he commented as they began to walk out the courtroom together.
"Very well. Judge Autry is extremely fair and between you and me, I think we have tremendous luck getting her for this case."
"Why is that?"
Anita's brilliant smile complemented her caramel complexion. "I said she was fair didn't I?"
Shawn chuckled. "I see what you're saying." He held the door open for her and walked out behind her. "Heading back to the office?"
"In a bit. I have a few things to take care of first while I'm here. Let's say about an hour."
Anita and Shawn both looked up to see Belle walking towards them.
"I'll see you back at the office," Anita told him and walked away.
"Bye Anita," Shawn said and brought his attention to Belle. "What are you doing?" he asked seriously.
"I need to talk to you."
"Belle, we've been through this. It is not appropriate for us to be talking, especially "
She quickly put up her hand. "Save it. I know what you are going to say, but I do not care. I'm going to say what I feel is necessary at this point."
"Fine," he grumbled. "What is it?"
"I know what you are trying to do Shawn. You were particularly hard on Julius in there when you know he is innocent."
"My job is to prosecute him Belle. I am not going to back down because he's your fiancι."
"That's exactly why you should! You and I share a past Shawn. Isn't this some sort of conflict of interest for you?"
"Because we dated four years ago?" he asked incredulously. "I have no hidden agenda if that's what you're implying."
"Don't you?" Belle asked. Her posture suddenly turned defensive as she folded her arms across her chest. With an arched brow she looked at him inquisitively.
Shawn felt the anger rise in him and he shifted his gaze away from her, unable to look at her demeanor, filled with attitude and smugness.
"Aren't you going to say anything Shawn?" she asked with great attitude. "Or do you realize I'm right, that you've found a way to seek some sort of revenge."
"That is a hell of a thing for you to say to me!" he snapped. His eyes blazed with fury at the insinuation, bringing his attention back to her. "I take my work very seriously and I would never jeopardize my career in such a manner. Trust me, there is absolutely no conflict of interest and in case you try to bring something up, my boss and Anita are very much aware that we know each other."
"We more than know each other Shawn. We shared "
"A past," he interrupted. "What we shared is in the past, dead and buried. You left me and wanted it that way."
"It took me years to get over you Belle," he confessed without hesitation. "I was devastated when you left me. Absolutely wrecked. Ask anybody, they'll tell you I was lost for a long time. But I used all that hurt and anger and fueled it towards something positive. It's what got me through law school. You know the thing is, I had always had visions of me fighting to get you back, but then I realized I was foolish for wanting that so I moved on with my life."
"With Kyra?" she asked with a twinge of bitterness.
"I'm in a great relationship with a wonderful woman who I deeply care for and love not that it's any of your business."
"Can you honestly convince me that you're not still angry at me? That this isn't some sort of vendetta, because it sure as hell sounds like it to me."
"If I'm angry about anything it's this conversation. I find it completely pointless. Face the fact that your fiancι committed a crime. Don't bore me with trivial banter."
"If so, it'll come out in court. My job is to put him behind bars. Now I need to go."
"What Belle?" he barked.
His tone caught her off guard and in that moment she realized he was a different man from who she knew years ago. A lot of the changes were natural, a result of growing up but much of it was shaped by what she had done to him.
"I'm sorry," she said almost inaudibly.
He stared at her for what seemed an eternity, but was only a few short seconds. "Yeah, well I am, too," he muttered and walked away, leaving Belle behind to wonder what his apology truly meant.
Belle anxiously sat next to Julius in the office of Lucas Roberts, a junior partner in the Law Offices of Monaghan & Shay. On retainer for Titan, Lucas was one of the law firm's strongest litigators and as the stepson of Titan CEO, Victor Kiriakis, he had the trust of the company and its employees.
They had been in the office for all of ten minutes, only to watch Lucas talk on the phone while reviewing documents as he insisted he'd be with them in a moment. Belle was already annoyed as Lucas talked about the case without clueing them in as to what he was thinking for the strategy.
"Julius, how can you stay so calm?" Belle whispered to him.
"Who said I'm calm?" Julius responded. He stretched out his hand so it was before her, palm up. "Feel my hand."
Belle put her hand in his and looked at him in surprise. "It's so clammy."
He pulled it away and rubbed his hands slowly together, warming them from the friction. "You know, you don't have to be here," he mumbled.
"What are you talking about?"
"I'm saying that this isn't your fight."
"Of course it is. We're engaged. This affects my future as much as it does yours."
"I really wish I could believe that."
"What? How can you doubt ?"
"Because your ex is trying to send me to prison. He obviously wants you back."
"That's not true, and even if it were, what does that have to do with us? I love you, not Shawn."
"Really?" he questioned dubiously.
"How dare you?" she asked, her voicing raising.
"Is there something wrong?" Lucas asked. Hanging up the phone, he looked up to see Belle and Julius staring each other down.
"My fiancιe is being melodramatic, that's all," Julius said in a warning tone, aimed at Belle. "Nothing one of her usual shopping binges can't cure," he said to Lucas with a suddenly cavalier expression on his face. His green eyes bore an unusual intensity as he stared at Belle once again. "Darling, like I said, there's no need for you to be here. You don't want to hear all this boring talk."
In the years they had been together, Belle had never once heard him talk to her so condescendingly. She tried to push it aside, but it bothered her immensely. "I know you're nervous, but don't become an asshole," she argued. Standing up from her seat she looked at Lucas and forced a smile. "I seriously hope you can help him. He needs all the help he can get."
Later that night Belle found herself at Julius' apartment. She was a lot calmer than before but still upset with him from what happened earlier that day at his attorney's office. Sitting at his dining table, she waited for him. Sipping a glass of chardonnay she didn't flinch when the door unlocked and Julius soon walked inside. He paused when he saw Belle sitting in the dimly lit room before closing the door behind him.
"I wasn't expecting to see you here," he said. "Shouldn't you be home packing?"
"I'm not going to New York this week. Silly me for thinking you'd want me to be here to support you."
"I thought we went through this already," he muttered
In disbelief, Belle watched as he nonchalantly walked through the apartment. Loosening his tie and removing his jacket, he placed them both on the stool next to the breakfast bar. He saw the bottle of wine on the counter and poured himself a glass, he needed something to calm his nerves. Belle was more than confused by his behavior, and didn't understand the source of his sudden jealousy towards Shawn. She continued to watch him as he joined her in the dining room, sitting across from her at the other end of the table.
They stared at each other for a long time, unsure of what to say.
"How did your meeting with Lucas go?"
"You mean after your little outburst?"
"You made me feel unwanted," Belle defended.
"Excuse me, if for once something isn't about you," Julius told her with eerie calm.
Belle felt as though she was on the verge of crying. "I know this is causing you stress, but why are you taking this out on me?"
Julius ran his hand along his short curls and sighed loudly. With a look up at the ceiling he mumbled, "how did it get this far?"
"What Julius? I really wish you would talk to me," she pleaded. "What did Lucas say?"
Julius hesitated to answer. He couldn't face her and he stood up from his seat. Pacing the length of the room he eventually stopped before the window. The view was spectacular, overlooking the night skyline of Chicago with the lake along the horizon.
"Dale Jackson has a pretty strong case," he confessed.
"How? You didn't do anything."
"I know, but circumstantial is pretty strong. Lucas said a jury would eat it up. Struggling businessman forced to sell his business to a tycoon like Titan that's front page fodder for months."
Belle quickly got up from her seat and went to him. "But "
"I'm just telling you what Lucas told me. My reputation will be ruined and so will yours if ."
"I don't care about that." She felt reassured when he finally looked her in the eyes. "Look there maybe circumstantial evidence, but I know you are innocent. It's common knowledge that Titan Publishing has been acquiring a number of bookstores and partnering with other publishers, maybe someone is trying to set you up. One of our competitors perhaps."
"That's a little farfetched."
"Mr. Jackson was clearly attacked. Someone was behind it; it's just a matter of finding out whom. Who would have something to gain by bullying people like him?"
"What?" Belle gasped.
He stared out of the window again and began rambling, it was a sort of stream of consciousness to begin justifying his actions. "It hasn't been easy for me, being with you and everyone knows Belle Black. You've single-handedly put Titan fashion back on the map. I wanted to be able to do the same make a name for myself and get from out of your shadow."
"So you broke the law?" Belle asked incredulously.
Suddenly he seemed to snap back to reality. "No. No, no I didn't," he defended. "I didn't ask anyone to either."
"Then what are you saying? Do you know who assaulted Mr. Jackson?"
Julius looked away. "If I say anything will you guarantee you won't go running to Shawn with the news?"
"This has absolutely nothing to do with Shawn. I want the truth."'
"What do you believe Belle?"
"I don't know what to believe anymore. But I do know that if you can't be honest with me and tell me the truth about everything then maybe we shouldn't be getting married."
"Fine!" he suddenly erupted. "Go on and leave! I'd expect you not to stick with me!" he snapped. "You ran away from him you might as well run away from me," he added in a grumble.
"I've been trying to be supportive, but all you do is push me away. It's like you're a different man from whom I fell in love with I'm glad I've learned the truth now before it was too late."
"You don't even want to believe in the possibility that I'm innocent."
"You give me no choice but to doubt it." Belle turned on her heels, easing her ring off her finger as she walked away from him. She firmly placed the engagement ring on the dining room table. "Goodbye Julius," she stated boldly and stormed out of his penthouse apartment, determined to stick with her decision.
The next morning Belle woke up with the smell of freshly brewed coffee and breakfast filling the air. She got up from bed and slipped on her robe. As she tied the belt around her waist she was surprised to see Julius in her kitchen busily fixing her breakfast. The tray was placed on the counter, with a vase holding a single rose and he began to place the food onto it.
"What are you doing here?" Belle asked in surprise.
"Trying to apologize for being a complete ass last night. I don't want to lose you Belle. You are the best thing to ever happen to me."
"You should have thought about that before you treated me like crap. I will not be taken advantage of Julius. I will not tolerate it. You should know me well enough to know that."
"I'm sorry. I was stressed and ashamed and I took it out on you."
"What were you ashamed about? You claim that you're innocent."
"I am!" he yelled.
"Who are you trying to convince?" she questioned. "I want you gone Julius. I'm changing my locks and will tell the doorman not to let you into the building anymore. I feel like I don't even know you anymore."
Julius grabbed her arms and glared angrily at her. "Don't do this Belle," he warned.
"Let go of me!" she demanded. He only tightened his grip on her arms. She saw his eyes flare with ire and she became terrified of the monster he was becoming before her. "You're hurting me!"
"After all this time you're just going to leave?" he questioned, his voice raising with each word. "You are so ungrateful!" he snapped. "Do you think I waited patiently all that time just for you to leave me?"
"I said let go!" Belle yelled. She managed to hit him while pushing him away.
Eventually, he realized what he was doing and released her arms, disgusted with himself for what he had done. "Belle, I "
"GET OUT!" she yelled, pushing him toward the door.
"Belle, PLEASE " he stumbled backwards and tried to steady himself.
"I never want to see you again Julius! It is over between us FOR GOOD! Don't ever come here again!"
Shawn waited rather impatiently in the small cafι. Finishing his first cup of coffee, he thought back to the call he had received only two hours ago. Belle was frantic, rambling and crying, he had never known her to be in such a state. He tried his best to calm her down and understand the source of her emotions, but she wouldn't tell him over the phone. She had insisted they meet, inviting him over but he chose a more neutral location. The small restaurant was one of his favorite places. It was never crowded and the food was good. It was also only a few blocks away from his office. To most people it would be considered a dive but to him those were always the best places to eat it had character and he liked that.
He was grateful to see Belle finally arrive. She immediately looked out of place. Even when they were in college, she didn't care for places like this. He imagined that now that she had traveled the world, she disliked small neighborhood restaurants even more. The look on her face confirmed his suspicions.
Stylishly dressed, she muttered a hello as she shed her coat then took off her sunglasses, revealing her bloodshot eyes that caught Shawn off guard. She had been crying. To him it seemed like she had been crying for days, but in reality it was only a matter of a few hours or so. His previous irritation from waiting quickly dissipated. He stood up to pull out her chair, only for Belle to suddenly hug him. He froze initially but slowly brought his arms around her and offered her the comfort she was obviously seeking. When he heard her begin to cry softly, he held her tighter and soothingly ran his hand along her back.
"Ok, Belle. Come on," he said softly. "Pull yourself together. Tell me what happened. What's got you so upset?"
She pulled away from him, looking everywhere but at him. "I'm sorry Shawn. I shouldn't have "
"It's ok. But you've got me worried here Belle. Have a seat. Tell me what's going on?" He pulled out her chair and got her settled in her seat before sitting next to her. Moving closer, he handed her a napkin to dry her eyes and looked at her carefully, as if he were examining every detail.
"It's Julius," she eked out.
"He didn't do anything to you did he?" he asked, surprising himself at the sense of protectiveness he felt for her. "Tell me, what did that bastard "
"He didn't do anything," she interrupted. "Well, not what you're thinking anyway."
"I ended our engagement. I left him."
"Why? He sort of needs you now more than ever."
"He wasn't honest with me and I think he may have done what Mr. Jackson is accusing him of doing. He didn't confess or anything," she quickly pointed out. "But I know Julius I thought I knew him. I don't know. I'm just so confused Shawn and you were the only one I could think to call. I know I'm the last person you want to talk to after everything."
"It's ok Belle."
"No, it's not. I know you hate me."
"I don't hate you Belle. I could never hate you."
"Well, I know you're angry at me for what happened."
"I'm not angry Belle," he assured.
"No. I'm not. I've been able to let that go. It took a while, but I eventually realized that we weren't right for each other, or at least not ready to be as intense as we were. Does that make sense?"
"Perfect sense," she smiled sheepishly. "Shawn I don't know what I'm going to do. I still love Julius but I can't marry a man who I can't trust. What if he was never arrested and I never learned the truth? I would have married someone I didn't know. Do you know how foolish that makes me feel?"
"I know. Why don't we get you some coffee, ok? A little lunch? You look like you haven't eaten all day."
"I haven't. Shawn why are you being so nice to me? I honestly didn't expect you to see me and now you're being "
"A friend," he concluded for her. "Belle, I still care about you. Point is, I never want to see you sad."
"You're sweet," she smiled. It grew brighter when he seemed to blush at the compliment, she missed that reaction of his to that word. A flood of memories came back, but she knew he wasn't free to be with her now. "Kyra is a lucky woman to have you."
"I'm a lucky guy," he answered. "Now what do you want to eat? I highly recommend the club sandwich."
"Do they have salad?"
Shawn gave her a dubious expression. "There's lettuce and tomato on the club sandwich," he replied.
"I guess that'll do. You wouldn't steer me in the wrong direction."
"Never. That's what friends are for, right?"
Belle smiled slightly. "Right."
The light soon filled the dark luxury apartment as Belle walked inside after a long day. After lunch with Shawn, she went to the office, burying herself in her work before making her way home. All afternoon, she was unable to stop thinking about Shawn and his kindness. In a way, it was hard to realize that they had known each other nearly ten years, almost five years since their breakup. The time had flown by and at a time when she felt she could never move on, she did but it wasn't until this afternoon did she realize how much she missed having Shawn in her life. She remembered the fun they had, especially when they started dating and the way he seemed to always take care of her, often in the littlest ways that always meant a lot to her.
Ten years ago...
Belle arrived at Kensington Hall after spending hours at the library and was surprised to see Shawn sitting on the steps.
"Hey," Belle greeted him with a smile. "What are you doing here?" she asked.
"Waiting for you," he grinned, standing up from his seat. "I thought maybe we could take a walk or something. I just wanted to see you."
"I'd like that. Can you give me a minute? I want to put my stuff away first. You want to come inside with me?"
"No, I'm going to wait. I'm not quite ready to get the third degree from your roommates again," he chuckled before leaning in to give her a kiss. "I'll wait right here, ok?"
"Ok," she said, kissing him in return. "I'll be right back." She rushed inside, and hurried to her room. "Hey Meems," she said to one of her suitemates, sitting in the common area.
"Who was that blur?" Mimi asked.
"Just me," Belle answered as she dropped off her things.
"Oh, hey me," Mimi said jokingly. "What's your hurry?"
"Shawn is outside. He wants to take a walk," she said looking herself over in the mirror.
"A walk?" Mimi asked. She went to Belle's room and leaned against the doorjamb. "Is that code for make out or something like that?"
"We've only gone out a few times Mimi. I don't know all his codes. But I'm trying to find out."
"You're really serious about him aren't you?"
"Mimi, I really do like him," she confessed.
"He seems like a nice guy."
"He's great," Belle agreed. Applying a fresh layer of lip-gloss she then headed out of her room. "I'll see you later Meems."
"Ok, do everything I would do," Mimi said with a growing laugh.
Belle walked out of her dorm, to see Shawn waiting patiently. "I'm back."
"Great," he said with a growing smirk.
Shawn almost immediately took her hand in his as they began to walk. Belle liked that about him. He loved to hold hands and she already knew he gave the best hugs.
"You up for a walk to the diamond?" he asked.
"Sure. It's a great night for a walk."
"It is beautiful night with a beautiful girl," he said with a look in her direction. He grinned when he noticed her blush slightly. "So, how was your day?"
They talked endlessly about anything and everything. Once they approached the baseball diamond, Shawn stopped along the sloping hillside that overlooked the playing field. He sat on the grass and guided Belle down to sit in between his legs. Wrapping his arms around her they overlooked the darkened stadium.
"What position do you play again?"
"You mean you forgot already?"
"I'm sorry but I'm not a big baseball fan," Belle confessed.
"Well, we'll have to fix that now won't we," he told her. "I'm a shortstop, which means I play right there," he said, taking her hand in his and pointing toward the infield, between second and third base. "When the season starts you can see me in action."
"When does that start?"
"First game is in March."
"That's quite a few months away."
"Yeah, I was just thinking that I like it when you make plans like that. I mean, we've gone out a few times and now you want me to go to your baseball games that are six months away."
"Never thought about it like that. I guess you're right. But what can I say Belle. I really like you and I like spending time with you. Plus, holding you like this feels real good."
"You are such a sweet talker."
"I really need to erase that word out of your vocabulary."
"What? Sweet?" she teased. She laughed when he fell back onto the grass and groaned in disapproval. Turning around she straddled his body and smiled when he gently touched her cheek. His dark eyes stayed on hers, as his fingers brushed a few golden wisps of hair back.
"You have the prettiest smile," he said softly. His hand eventually cupped her face before leading her to him. "Come here," he whispered as she lowered herself down. Soon her lips met his softly for a kiss that gradually deepened. Blanketed by the starry night, they spent countless minutes together excited by their growing relationship and realizing they were easily falling in love.
"Hey kiddo!" Shawn announced happily as he leaned against his car and watched Daniel run down the front steps of the townhouse. He chuckled as the little boy hurried to him and Shawn immediately scooped him up in his arms. "Ready for your first day?"
"Yep!" Daniel said excitedly. "Are you coming with me?"
"I sure am. I want to see your new school," Shawn told him. Putting him down, he opened the car door and ushered him inside. After getting him settled in the backseat, he looked up to see Kyra walking out of the house with her usual bags for work, but also holding a plastic lunchbox.
"Good morning," she said, obviously rushing. After a quick kiss, Shawn took her things and she opened the back door to see Daniel already getting antsy. "You forgot your lunch sweetie." She handed the box to him and closed the car door, then looked over at Shawn who was standing nearby.
Noticing the look of worry Kyra carried, Shawn touched her cheek gently as he gazed into her hazel eyes. "What's wrong?"
"He's starting kindergarten," was all she said.
Shawn smiled warmly before pressing a soft kiss against her forehead. "It's ok Kyra. It's just kindergarten. I can only imagine what you'll be like when he goes off to college."
"I don't even want to think about that. All I know is my baby isn't a baby anymore," she said quietly. "What if something happens?"
"He'll be fine."
"What if ?"
"Shh, Danny is going to be alright. He's going to have even more stories to tell you each night, ok? Now, let's get going." Shawn opened the door for her to let her inside before getting in his car. Soon, they were off to Tucker Elementary School. Once they arrived, Shawn could see the panic setting in Kyra's eyes at the sight of all the children walking inside the building. Mixed with Daniel's growing excitement, Shawn knew he would have to try and calm her nerves somehow.
They went inside the school. Daniel walked between them, holding their hands as he bounced up and down. The idea of being in such a place didn't frighten him in the least. When they arrived in the brightly colored room, his eyes lit up with excitement and they could barely contain him.
"Hello!" the teacher approached the three. "Who do we have here?"
"Daniel," he said a bit timidly, suddenly he was shy much to Shawn and Kyra's surprise. "Santiago," he eventually added.
"Well hi Daniel. I'm your teacher Ms. Wilson. Why don't you go put your bag away over there and join the other boys and girls, while I talk to your parents."
Daniel nodded and did as he was told.
"Mr. and Mrs. Santiago, I "
"Um, actually I'm Shawn Brady. I'm not Daniel's father. I just wanted to be here for him," he interjected.
"Mr. Brady, I apologize," she said as she shook his hand, "I'm Peggy Wilson. And " she hesitated as she looked at Kyra.
"I'm Kyra Santiago."
"Good to meet you both. I take it Daniel is your first child to go to kindergarten."
"That obvious?" Kyra asked.
"You have that look. But don't worry. He will be fine as you can see," she said, pointing to Daniel already playing with the other children.
"He has never . My mother always took care of him during the day, but I guess he'll be fine," she said with a look at Shawn. "It's just a little hard."
"I understand. It's usually harder for the parent, but as you can see Daniel is already adjusting rather well."
"Ok, well let me say good-bye."
"Daniel," Ms. Wilson called to him and he quickly came.
"Bye sweetie," Kyra said as she hugged him.
Shawn ruffled his dark hair. "Have a good day kiddo."
"Bye!" Daniel said excitedly and ran off, leaving them behind without a thought.
"Come on sweetheart," said Shawn. "He'll be just fine."
Later that night, Shawn found himself at Benedict's Bar & Grill with Belle enjoying a drink and some laughs. He chuckled as Belle's laughter grew.
"I'm telling you, she was a mess," Shawn said. "After we dropped him off she thought of a million reasons to go back inside to check on him. Then when I was at work she called me about a million and one times wondering if he was alright."
"You're like the family man now."
"I guess so. I have to admit, it's nice though. Anyway, how are you doing?"
"Well, all the looks and stares have finally started to die down. You'd think this whole mess just started, but it's been seven months since Julius was arrested and I broke off our engagement. A lot of people still think I'm cold-hearted for leaving when I did, but they don't know the whole story."
"And you don't want to go through it."
"Yeah. It's hard though."
"I bet it is, but you've been a real trooper through all of this."
"Of course, there are times I still miss Julius, but trust me I do not regret not marrying him. I'm glad the truth came out when it did."
"And oddly enough it's renewed our friendship."
"Stranger things have happened," Belle commented while raising her glass of wine to her lips for a sip. "How is the case going by the way?"
"As well as can be expected at this stage. Conspiracy cases are not easy. A true link has yet to be established, though we have a lot of circumstantial evidence, it's tough and it doesn't help that Lucas is one of the slickest defense attorney's I have ever come across."
"You think Julius will be acquitted?"
"I hate to say it, but probably. Belle, I know we've been through this but he didn't come close to saying anything that could be seen as a confession, did he?"
"No, Shawn. I would tell you if he did, and although I sensed that he was more involved I don't have any concrete proof. I wish I did."
"I wish you did, too but "
"We may need you to testify. I'm not sure yet, we're still weighing the pros and cons but I wanted to know how you felt about that possibility."
"If you think it will help, but honestly I don't feel all that comfortable with the idea. Julius was once my fiancι, how would it look if I suddenly testified against him."
"And the tabloids would have a field day."
"Probably, but I'd do everything I can to make sure you're kept safe."
"That Brady sense of protectiveness I must say there is nothing like it," she said with a growing smile.
"Are you teasing me Miss Isabella?"
"Not at all Shawn Douglas. All I'm saying is you have this uncanny ability to make me, or anyone for that matter, feel safe and protected."
"Is that why I was such a good cop?" he asked, somewhat jokingly.
"No, that's why you're a good man," she corrected. "Kyra was able to figure that out quicker than I was. Speaking of Kyra, she doesn't mind you being out with me does she? Sometimes girlfriends can get a little jealous of the ex hanging around."
"She's not like that," Shawn assured. "At least she hasn't shown that side yet, and we've been seeing each other for nearly a year. Besides, she knows we're friends," he said. "There's nothing for her to be jealous about."
"Speaking of jealous, do you still have that jealous streak of yours?" Belle asked somewhat teasingly, knowing that Shawn would be aware of what she was hinting towards.
"Fortunately, I've learned to control my emotions a lot better than when we were younger."
"You know what I 'm talking about don't you?"
"Mm-hmm," he replied. With a long sip from his glass of beer, he then placed it down somewhat deliberately and chuckled to himself. "We broke up a couple of times because of that jealous streak of mine."
"More than a couple Shawn. There was a time when we were apart more than together, remember? We made breaking up an art form at one time," Belle commented with a laugh.
"It was always so intense between us. I don't think either one of us knew how to handle it once it did get to that point."
"You're right. We were almost doomed from the start."
"I wouldn't say all that," he said. "The first two years were great. It seemed to change after I graduated and became a cop though."
"I'll never forget when we met. You were so arrogant," Belle said, in almost disbelief that she found herself interested in him at that time.
"I was a bit of a SOB wasn't I?" he laughed. "Obviously, not too much of one. You didn't turn me down when I asked you out."
"Mimi wouldn't let me," she confessed.
"Ah, the truth finally comes out. How is Mimi doing by the way?"
"Great. We talk every now and then. She's a morning news anchor in Cleveland. She loves it and she gets to do what she loves most "
"Talk?" Shawn finished for her.
"Good for her. Well, Ms. Black it is getting late and I've got an early morning ahead of me at the office tomorrow. Thanks for dinner."
"Anytime. I'm glad we can do this Shawn. Having your friendship really does mean a lot to me."
"It does to me, too Belle. It's like we're getting to know each other again. It's good to be able to laugh about our past."
"The good, the bad and the ugly," Belle added.
"You are absolutely right."
Minutes later Shawn walked Belle out to her car. "You'll be alright?" he asked.
"Of course. I'm a big girl now," she teased. "But thank you for always looking out for me."
"I wouldn't have it any other way," he said sincerely. "Alright, give me a hug," he said as he wrapped his arms around her. "It's always good to see you."
"It's good to catch up on old times," she said. They let each other go and Belle found herself getting lost in his dark, yet comforting gaze.
"I'll let you know how the case goes. I know you're still interested."
"Hard not to be," Belle muttered.
"Well, I'll talk to you later."
"Call me when you get home, so I know you got back safely."
"Shawn," she began to protest then sighed when she realized he wasn't going to back down from his request. "Fine."
He flashed his characteristic grin. "That's my girl. Goodnight Belle," he added softly.
"Goodnight Shawn. Thank you for everything."
"No problem. I'll always be there when you need me."
Kyra looked at Shawn nervously as they got out of his car now parked in the driveway of his parents' home. It wasn't her first time meeting them but she was anxious more so for the news she and Shawn would be sharing. It was the Thanksgiving holiday and she was preparing herself for meeting Shawn's entire family this time around, including his younger brother Zack who was home from college. She smiled at Daniel's enthusiasm and loved the sight of Shawn picking up her son in his strong arms. They were already two peas in a pod, and she loved the idea of them becoming a family more and more.
"I'll come back out later to get our things," Shawn said, snapping her out of her daze. "Let's get inside, it's getting cold."
As they approached the front door, it suddenly opened and Hope greeted them with a warm smile. "Oh, you've made it!" she said happily. "Bo, they're here!" she called out inside.
"Hey Mom," Shawn grinned, kissing his mother on the cheek as she hugged both him and Daniel.
"Hi Daniel," she smiled. "You've gotten so big! And I've heard you're doing so good in school," she gushed.
He nodded, seeming a bit embarrassed by the accolades. "Hi," he said in a cute voice, and Hope's heart melted at the sight of his chubby cheeks, which she couldn't wait to pinch.
"Get him inside Shawn, it's cold," Hope urged, and then quickly brought her attention to Kyra.
"It's so good to see you Kyra," she said and gave her a big hug.
"I'm so happy to be here, Hope," Kyra said sincerely.
"Shawn's timing is impeccable as always!" Bo announced, making his way from downstairs. On his heels was his younger son, Zack home on break from college. "Dinner is almost ready!" He laughed heartily at his son's expense and looked at Kyra. "I see you're still with this knucklehead?"
"I am. It's good to see you Bo."
"Good to see you sweetheart," he said sincerely as they hugged. "Kyra, you haven't met my other son Zack, but I'm sure you've heard plenty about the rascal. Son, this is Kyra."
"It's good to meet you Zack. I've heard a lot about you," Kyra said.
"And I've heard nothing but great things about you. I'm glad to finally meet you," he said with a charming grin, practically identical to both Shawn's and Bo's.
"Well, I see charisma runs in the family," Kyra commented, with a glance to Shawn.
"Don't get any wise ideas," Shawn said. "It's good to see you little brother. Let me introduce you to Daniel."
"Good to meet you Daniel," Zack said as he took his smaller hand in his.
Daniel shook his hand and laughed as Zack pretended his grip was too strong.
"He's silly, isn't he?" Shawn asked Daniel, as he put him down.
"Yep!" Daniel laughed and easily drifted toward Zack.
"So you had a good drive down?" Bo asked.
"Yes. Traffic wasn't too bad," Shawn answered. He moved closer to Kyra, as they all stood in the living room.
"Well, have a seat," Hope suggested then paused at seeing the whimsical expressions on Shawn and Kyra's faces. "You two look like you're up to something."
"No, we're not up to something, but we do have an announcement to make," Shawn said. Taking Kyra's hand in his he looked at her and then at his parents and brother. "We're getting married."
Later that night, Shawn was in the garage with his father doing what they hadn't done in quite a while, work on the old motorcycle. Already dirty from oil stains on their white shirts, they took a break with a cold beer.
"So you're getting married," Bo stated. "I didn't realize you were even thinking about it."
"I have been for a while. We had a movie night at her place and I realized I was ready. After tucking Daniel in, I told her I wanted to adopt him make him my own, and at the same time I proposed. I didn't have a ring, I just did it."
"You're very serious then?"
"Yeah. Don't you think I sound serious?" Shawn asked, a little confused by what he sensed as skepticism from his father.
"You do now don't take this the wrong way but you're still close friends with Belle now, right?"
"Our friendship has been renewed. Why?"
"Like I said, don't get me wrong. I think Kyra is a great girl and I know you love her but for a long time, even after your break up, you always said that Belle was your soul mate."
"Dad, that was ages ago. I've moved on and so has Belle. We're friends now. Just be happy for me."
"I am son. I just want you to be sure of what you're doing."
"I am, Dad. Trust me, I know what you're trying to say. Belle and I have quite a past and the fact that we are such good friends now surprises me, but I love Kyra. Part of me wonders at times what could've been if I was still with Belle, but I'm not. We broke up for a reason. We weren't ready for each other."
"Don't you mean you weren't right for each other?"
"Same thing," Shawn dismissed.
"No, it's not. It's one thing to be right and another to be ready. Which one is it?"
"What does it matter Dad?" Shawn questioned, becoming bothered by the conversation.
"It matters because it could affect not only your life but Kyra and that innocent boy who sees you as the only father he's ever had. Be sure of what you're doing son. That's all I am saying."
Belle had a growing headache as she arrived home. She wanted to be happy for her friend and she hated the fact that part of her was jealous, the rest of her was simply numb by the situation. Normally, when she felt this insecure she turned to Shawn, but she couldn't so she went to the other person she could confide in always. Soon she was waiting for an answer on the other end of the phone.
"Hey Meems," Belle replied. "It's me."
"Hey me! What's going on? You sound a little down."
"He did it."
"Who did what?" Mimi asked.
"Shawn," she replied. "It was like why bother get engaged?"
"Two weeks after popping the question, Shawn and Kyra decided to go to city hall to get married. No church, no big to-do, just a judge saying, 'I now pronounce you husband and wife' in a small room with little fanfare."
"You were there?"
"I was a witness."
"Belle, why do you do this to yourself?" Mimi asked. "Your ex, who you are still in love with marries another woman and you agree to be a witness? Are you a glutton for punishment?"
"No. I thought maybe "
"Maybe what? That if you were there, you'd have the guts to object?"
"No, I "
"Thought Shawn would leave Kyra and sweep you off your feet?"
"You don't have to say it that way," Belle grumbled.
"Maybe I do, because my subtle approach has been getting me nowhere."
"Mimi, you don't have a subtle bone in your body."
"True," Mimi agreed without hesitation.
"Two weeks Mimi!" Belle said in astonishment.
"You're really bothered by this aren't you?"
"I shouldn't feel this way, but I can't help it that I still love him. What makes it worse is that I really like Kyra. She is a sweetheart. I can't hate her. I can't even come up with a reason that she shouldn't be with Shawn "
"Other than she's not you."
"I don't even want to say that Mimi. All I know is that I've missed out on my chance forever. I should have never let him go," Belle lamented.
"Belle, don't beat yourself up about this. It's not worth it."
"Easier said than done Meems."
"I know Belle. I really don't know what to tell you other than I'm sorry and that sounds really trivial for me to say at this point. It's not what you want to hear and I realize that but for once I'm at a loss. You know I always have something to say."
"Trust me, I know."
"Well, the thing is, Shawn's a father now, well a step-father "
"Soon to be father. He's adopting Daniel."
"Yes. Strangely enough, doing that makes me love him even more."
"Wow, that makes this more complicated."
"You're not helping Mimi."
"I know. I hate to say it Belle, but maybe it's time to let him go for good. Finally accept that he has moved on with his life."
"I think you're right Meems. If only I realized what I had in Shawn before, but now it's too late. Shawn is a happily married man now. Best thing I can do is move on, too."