The next morning, Andy sat at his desk checking his email when Aaron walked past his office. “Aaron!” he yelled. “Can I see you for a minute?”
“What’s up, Murph?”
“Did old man Faust approach you yesterday about leaving the Sharks?”
“The guy in the white leisure suit with the Panama hat? Yeah. He offered me an insane amount of money.”
“What did you tell him?” Andy asked.
“I told him to go pound sand. He offered me over a million a year, Andy. If I had a family to support, I still wouldn’t even think about it. I make more than enough now, and I can’t spend it all. Besides, you and Danae are my family now. I don’t want to leave here.”
Andy smiled. “Did he approach anyone else? We can’t afford to lose players. I’m worried about Avery and Zach, though they are both contractually bound right now. A million might look good to Dina, and I know Kirby can’t top that.”
“Not that I know of, but I’ll do some damage control during practice today.” Aaron patted Andy on the back. “Don’t worry. No one will leave here for that team if I can help it.”
“Thanks, Aaron. I got a disturbing, dishonest vibe from him, and so did Danae. Something about him isn’t right.”
Aaron nodded in agreement. “By the way, Wyatt wants to meet for lunch again today. Are you in?”
“Yeah, come get me when you leave. We’ll go together.”
Andy walked to Kirby’s office, and much to his surprise, he was actually sitting behind his desk, reading the newspaper. “Hey Kirby, can I talk to you a minute?”
“Sure, Andy. Great job on the game yesterday by the way.”
“Thanks, but I had nothing to do with it.” He pushed some hair behind his ear and ran his fingers through it. “Hey, do you happen to know Alonzo Faust?”
“Hmm,” Kirby thought. “The name sounds familiar. Who is he?”
“He’s the owner of the Dolphins. He tried to headhunt me yesterday, and he cornered Aaron, too. He offered me almost a million a year.”
Kirby sat back in his chair, bracing for bad news. “What did you tell him?”
“I told him I wasn’t for sale.” Andy saw relief wash over Kirby’s face. “He was throwing numbers around like nothing. There is no way my job is worth that much money.”
“It would be to me if you decided to go.” Kirby tapped his fingers on the desk. “I can’t afford to lose you, not now.”
“How am I worth that, Kirby? I don’t even generate income on merch. My name is worth literally nothing to the team.”
“Your work is behind the scenes. You are the unsung hero, if you will. But having you here has made my life so much easier, that I can’t let you go. I won’t let you go, so whatever it would take to keep you, I’d do it.”
“Well, keep that in mind. There are a few vulnerable players who, if they got offered that kind of money, might decide to pack it up and leave. Oh, and Kirby?”
“Is it possible to get Danae her own jersey? She mentioned something about wanting to wear my jersey from last season the next time a game rolls around, but I thought maybe she would love to have her own. Maybe it would say ‘Mrs. Murphy’ on it. Or just ‘Danae’.”
“I love it, Andy. Have Aaron put you in touch with the uniform guy. She needs to have her own shirt. How about ‘Miss Danae’?”
“Hmm, that would work. Almost everyone on the isle calls her Miss Danae, so that would be better.”
“I’ll even spring for it. I’ll get her a home and an away jersey, just in case you bring her along. You do know she is welcome to accompany you at any time, right? If you’re booking a suite for you, you may as well make a date of it.”
“If she comes along, I’ll pay her way. The team shouldn’t have to do that.”
“Nonsense!” Kirby protested. “She’s an important part of you. And anytime you want to bring her, Rae and I will take the kids for you. Corrie would love to babysit them, and Rae adores your little ones. She misses when the twins were that little.”
“Kirby, you really need to stop spoiling us. Seriously. At some point, I won’t be worth your investment.”
Kirby laughed. “Don’t be ridiculous, Andy. That will never happen.”
Andy smiled. “Thanks, Kirby. Really, I appreciate it.”
“Get in touch with the uniform guy, and have him send me the bill.” Kirby waved as Andy left his office.
The next away game was in Twinbrook versus the Tigers. The chances that Danae would want to go there were pretty slim. The sleepy town of Twinbrook wasn’t exactly a desired destination. Andy took a walk to Aaron’s office and sat in front of his desk while he finished up a phone call.
“What can I do for you, Murph?”
“I need the name of the uniform guy. I need two manager jerseys.”
“Uh oh. What happened to yours?”
“Not for me. I thought I’d surprise Danae for our anniversary and get her a couple of jerseys with her name on them. She wanted to wear mine the next time she goes to a game.”
“Oh, cool. What are you going to have printed for her name?”
“I was thinking about ‘Miss Danae’ since everyone here seems to call her that. Unless you have a better one.”
“Actually, that’s good. Everyone does call her Miss Danae. It’s perfect.” Aaron checked his watch. “Wyatt wants to meet us at the sushi place a few doors down for lunch. I don’t know if that’s your thing. It’s not mine.” Aaron gagged, and then chuckled.
“I hope they have other stuff besides sushi, or Wyatt will be eating alone,” Andy laughed. “I’ll see you then.”
Aaron handed the number for Danae’s shirts to Andy and waved as his phone rang.
Three weeks later…
The plane touched down at the airport thirty minutes outside of Starlight Shores. Andy, Danae, Aaron, and the entire Sharks team were aboard. The matchup between the Llamas and the Sharks was scheduled for the following day.
“Nae? Sweetie, we’re on the ground.” He gently touched her shoulder, and she roused from her nap.
“Yes, love. Already.” He smiled at her.
They gathered her carry on bag and waited for the team to deplane before they stood. Aaron, Andy, and Danae were sharing a limo to the resort just on the outskirts of the Shores, someplace new and not in town. When they arrived, Andy helped her from the car, and the three of them walked into the lobby together.
“You up for a nightcap?” Aaron asked him. “We could hit the strip and just have a few.”
As much as Andy wanted to have a few drinks with the guys, he promised Danae he wouldn’t drink anymore. “No, why don’t you and Wyatt go without me tonight. I have other things to do.” He winked at Aaron. “Maybe when we get back?”
“You’re just no fun, Murph,” Aaron teased him.
He and Danae walked hand in hand around the grounds until they found the suite. He opened the door and let her in first. “It is weird being here, Andy.”
“I know. It was weird two years ago, too.”
“Should I try to contact Devin? Let him know I’m in town. Maybe he’s changed.”
“Baby, if I were you, I’d steer clear of him. Remember the pictures? He still has them. Don’t give him an excuse to release them.”
Danae sighed. “Sometimes I forget how wretched he really is.”
“Life is bliss on the island without him. Let’s keep it that way, my sweet. He’s no good, and he will die a bitter, lonely old man.” He wrapped his arms around her. “I have a better idea anyway.”
“You always have better ideas,” she purred at him.
“Well, that too. But I have a gift for you, my love.”
“Oh? When did you have time to do that? I’ve been with you this whole time.”
“I brought it from home. Baby, you’re going to love this.” He brought a wrapped bundle from his overnight bag. “This is for you.”
Her eyes widened. “What is it?”
His smile was pure mischief. “You’re going to have to open it to find out, my sweet.”
She tore into the paper, and immediately happy tears filled her eyes. “Is this what I think it is?”
“That depends. What do you think it is?”
“Is this my own Sharks jersey? What number?” She took the shirt from its packaging and looked at it. “Oh, Andy! It’s mine!” Her heart melted when she saw Miss Danae printed on the back. “This is perfect!” She wrapped her arms around him tightly and kissed him. And that’s when she saw the second shirt in the darker, home game colors.
“Do you like it, baby?”
“Like it? No, I love it!” She covered his face in kisses. “My own jersey, with MY name on it! It’s perfect!”
“When you asked about wearing my old shirt, I thought you should have your own. It was Kirby’s idea to get you the two colors. He really adores you, sweetie.”
“I’ll have to thank him when we get home tomorrow night.”
“Yeah, about that,” he smiled. “We’re not going back tomorrow night.”
“No, baby. We’re staying a few days. Starting tomorrow night, I have us booked at the bed and breakfast in the honeymoon suite.”
“For real, honey.”
“Andy, you’re just something else, you know that?” She wrapped her arms around him and nuzzled her face into his neck.
“I have one more big surprise, but you’re going to have to wait for that one.”
“I can wait one more day. After that, all bets are off.” She kissed him tenderly.
“You’re in luck, then. That’s when it happens.”
“Andy, thank you. I couldn’t love you more if I tried.”
“I have barely gotten started yet, baby.”
Andy got up the next morning and yawned. Danae was still sleeping soundly, but he couldn’t let her stay asleep much longer. The game was at noon, and there wasn’t much time to pack up. He carefully removed his uniform for the meeting and game.
Before he took a shower, he decided to wake her, so he climbed back into bed and wrapped his arms around her.
“Baby,” he purred as he kissed her. “It’s time to get up.” She opened her eyes and smiled.
“Good morning, my handsome prince,” she said. “Happy anniversary.”
“Good morning, my beautiful princess. Happy anniversary to you, too!” He snuggled her to him and kissed her once more. “We don’t have much time this morning, sweetie. You’ll have to come to the team meeting with me.”
“No problem,” she yawned. “Not much got scattered around last night, and I’m going to wear my new jersey today.”
“I can’t wait to see how it looks on you, my sweet.” He took her hand and led her to the bathroom. “Let’s shower together, you know, to save some time.”
“Sure. Save some time,” she snickered.
At eight o’clock, they were both ready for the limo to bring them to the Binder Clips Center for the team meeting. “I catered a breakfast meeting for the guys, so we don’t have to worry about that.”
“How are the bags going to make it to the bed and breakfast?”
“The limo driver will take them and leave them in our room. We’re going there right after the game is over.”
“Okay, but that’s odd.”
“Well, I don’t want you to run into Devin while we’re at the stadium, honey. We’re limiting your potential exposure.”
“Oh yes, wise move,” she agreed. It wasn’t the real reason, but he wasn’t ready to reveal it yet, either.
The limo brought them to the visiting team locker room entrance, and Andy felt weird. For so many years, this was the home field. He fully expected Danae to be emotional, especially when she saw Travis’ retired number hanging in the stadium.
The guys looked at Andy strangely when he walked Danae to the board room that sat off the main locker room. The entrance was in the tunnel, and he guided her inside.
“Baby, just relax here until the guys are ready.” He pulled a chair out for her to sit, and poured her a cup of coffee. “The team meets in the locker room, but breakfast will be delivered at any time. You can help yourself while we do our thing, and I’ll join you afterward.”
“This is exciting!” she said happily. “But it feels weird being the visiting team.”
“It’s going to get weirder, so hang on.” He kissed her and left the room.
Breakfast was delivered and served while the meeting was going on. Though Andy told her to get started without them, it felt funny to her, so she waited, sipping on coffee and smiling at the intermittent cheers from the pep talk.
Aaron was the first one in the board room after the meeting to refill his coffee and he smiled at Danae. “I love the shirt, sis. It looks great on you.”
“Thanks, Aaron. I love it. So, you going to bring us another win today?”
“Hopefully. Devin is counting on the plays we had last year, but I’m not using any of them. Let’s see how he deals with change.” He tried to fake an evil laugh, but he just looked silly.
“You guys got this,” Danae said confidently.
“I’m surprised to see you not rooting for the Llamas, Danae. I know your heart still belongs here.” Aaron took a sip of coffee and a croissant.
“My heart is where Andy is. I can’t wait to see Daddy’s number in the stadium, but I’m a Sharks girl all the way now.”
Little by little, the team poured into the board room for breakfast, but Andy was still nowhere to be found.
Andy had stepped outside the locker room to confirm their dinner reservation when someone shoved him from behind, nearly knocking him off his feet.
“You!” Devin Jones barked at Andy. “What are YOU doing here?”
“You know that I manage the visiting team, do you not?”
“I don’t care what you do in your miserable life. You aren’t welcome in this stadium.”
“That’s not your decision,” Andy growled.
“You want a piece of me, Murphy? You can’t handle me.” Devin spat.
“I will not fight you, Jones.”
“Coward,” Devin taunted Andy, trying to bait him into a fight. As Andy turned to walk away, Devin charged him, hitting him in the back and pushing him forward. He tried to catch himself, but he landed on the pavement. He hit his head on the building and made it bleed profusely, and his work pants were torn, his knee scraped and bloodied.
“You are contemptible,” he said as he got to his feet. “Stay away from me, and stay away from my wife. Do you understand me?” Andy spat a glob of blood from his mouth.
“Gutless punk,” Devin continued to taunt him as he walked back to the locker room.
Wyatt saw Andy with blood dripping down his face and torn pants. “What happened to you?”
“I had a run-in with my brother-in-law outside. He sucker-punched me as I walked away and knocked me down.” Andy shook his head. “Danae cannot see me like this. She will freak out.”
Wyatt checked him out. “What size pants do you wear, Andy? I might have an extra pair of slacks you can wear until we get home. You can’t go to the game like that.”
“No, I’m good. I just don’t want Nae to see the blood.”
Andy had no sooner spoken the words when Danae rounded the corner, searching for him. And when she saw blood on his face and in his hair, she did exactly as he predicted.
“What happened?!” she gasped. “I couldn’t find you anywhere! I was getting worried.” She hugged him to her, but he groaned in pain as she pulled him. “Andy, please!”
He sighed. “Devin cornered me outside while I made a phone call. He waited until I turned my back to him and shoved me down. I think I hit my head on the sidewalk or something. I don’t even know. It happened so quickly.”
He watched her face go through emotions swiftly, from angry to concerned and finally frustrated. And then she noticed his pants. “Oh, babe,” she said. “Is your knee bleeding, too?”
“I don’t even know, but I’d imagine so. I know it hurts.”
“What a despicable pig.”
“What’s done is done, sweetie. I need to clean up before the game.” He kissed her and walked toward the showers.
The lather from the shampoo was bright red when he washed his hair, and blood continued to drip into the drain. This is still bleeding, he thought. His knee was scraped up pretty badly and had bits of gravel inside the wound. But he washed it as best he could, and rinsed his head once more before stepping out of the shower. Luckily, the water ran mostly clear.
When he got out, a medic was waiting with Danae. “Your wife would like me to look at your head, Mr. Murphy,” he said.
“Might as well look at my knee, too. It had some gravel in it, but I think I was able to wash it pretty well.”
It was determined that Andy did not suffer a concussion, but he was developing a pounding headache. Though the bleeding had slowed, it was still oozing a bit, and the medic cleaned it up quickly. His knee was meticulously cleaned, treated and bandaged, and for his troubles, Andy got a tetanus booster.
It was almost game time when they finally left the locker room. He would not allow Devin to ruin his plans, and he limped to midfield with Danae at his side. The stadium was standing room only, and he was thankful they had seats.
About twenty minutes into regulation play, an announcement was made over the PA system.
Ladies and gentlemen, please turn your attention to the screens for a special message.
Andy smiled, watching her face as she read the monitors.
My sweet, darling Danae, thank you for the last eight years together, for our love, our children, our lives together. You will always be more than enough. Happy anniversary, my sweet. All my love and kisses, Andy.
She looked at him, tears in her eyes. “Andy, I love you so much.” She hugged him close and kissed him. He pointed at the monitors, and she looked in time to see them in a sweet, tender kiss. The applause in the stadium was thunderous, and even more tears flowed down her face.
“Happy anniversary, my sweet,” he whispered into her ear. “I crazy love you right now.”
“Was this your big surprise for today?” she asked as she wiped tears from her eyes.
“No, actually this was a bonus. The big surprise comes tonight.”
“I’m intrigued,” she cooed.
“You’re going to love it,” he said. “Oh honey, I can’t wait.”
“This was awesome! Thank you.”
“You’re welcome, my love.” He took her hand and kissed it.
At the half, the Sharks were up 6-0, and Andy was laughing watching Devin and the team scrambling, trying to figure out the next plays. Danae watched his face as he laughed.
“It looks as though you’ll get the last laugh today, babe,” she grinned. “Devin can try to hurt you, but we’re kicking their butts on the field. Aaron is a genius. You were right.”
“I underestimated how awesome it would be to watch them struggle, trying to figure out what to do. This is very entertaining.” He winced in pain. “I wish this headache would go away, though.”
“Well, we’re going back to the room after the game. You can lay down a while then.” She rested her head on his shoulder. “I’m sorry he hurt you.”
“I am sure I’ll survive the day, my sweet.” He leaned to her and kissed her cheek.
Just before the second half began, Andy felt a gentle tap on his shoulder. He looked beside him, and Trey Smith was standing there. “I thought that was you, Murph! How are you?”
Andy stood and embraced his old friend. “Smitty! What a pleasant surprise!” He was shocked to see how much Trey had aged since his retirement. Andy barely recognized him.
“Danae, you look stunning, as usual.” He took her hand and kissed it. “How is my second- favorite Jones?”
“I’m well, Trey, thank you! You look fantastic!” She hugged him tightly.
“I have to tell you, sweetheart, I’m a little surprised to see you in a Sharks jersey. I thought you’d wear your father’s number 10 much longer.”
“All things considered, I’m much happier where we are. My daddy would be sad to see the Llamas now.”
Trey nodded his head in agreement. “Fiona and her ilk are undoing his legacy every day. It’s shameful.”
Feeling emotional, she only nodded.
The teams reentered the field, and the second half was nearly ready to kick off. Trey wished his old friends well and returned to his family. “I almost didn’t recognize him, Nae.”
“Me neither. I’m actually surprised he’s still around. I didn’t think he was that much younger than Daddy.”
“I’m happy we saw him.” Andy figured it would be the last time they would.
The Sharks humiliated the Llamas, shutting them out with an impressive 15-0 win. After the game was over, they walked down through the tunnel and into the locker room. Andy shouted a warning to the guys and escorted her through to meet the limousine.
Considering what had happened to him earlier, Andy was not willing to hang around at the stadium. Just as Danae was inside the car, he spotted Devin again, outside the lockers, screaming at some poor soul. Andy was safely in the car before Devin saw him, but he ran after the limousine anyway, screaming obscenities and throwing rocks as they drove away.
Andy sighed. “Yes, baby, it was.”
“I see neither of us are safe here with him in town. He is a menace.” To see how bad Devin had gotten saddened her greatly, and she was happy Travis and Charlotte could not see him now.
The limo made the short journey to the inn, and Andy got out first to take Danae’s hand. Together, they checked into the honeymoon suite and walked through the old house to the room where their marriage had begun eight years prior. He slid the card into the lock on the door and it swung open. But when he tried to pick her up, she fussed at him.
“You hurt your knee. You’re not going to carry me anywhere.”
“Baby, it’s only a scrape.”
“I’ll be fine on my own two feet,” she smiled at him. “Wow,” she remarked. “This place looks exactly the same as it did eight years ago.”
“It’s beautiful, that’s for sure.” Their luggage had arrived hours ago, and he looked forward to getting out of his torn slacks.
“I bet your knee will put a damper on any plans you had for the evening,” Danae stated, a little melancholy.
“Not at all.” He smiled slyly at her. “In fact, I was just about to reveal part of your big surprise.”
“Mmm, what’s that?” She walked to him and ran her fingers carefully through his hair.
“Take a look in my garment bag, and see if you can guess.”
“You’re a brat,” she pouted, but took the bag and hung it, zipped it open and rifled through it. “I see a tuxedo, a couple of work uniforms…” she smiled brightly when she spotted it. “My favorite evening gown! What did you do?”
“We have reservations at six for dinner at The Tower, baby.”
“Really?” The last time she remembered dining there was the night of the plane crash that should have taken his life.
“Really.” He reached up to his head where it had bled and felt a scab begin to form. “Baby, could you look at this real quick? I don’t want to get it wet if it’s scabbing up.”
The actual cut on his head was less than half an inch long, but it produced a frightening quantity of blood in a short time. She looked at it, and the area was clean with just a tiny wound. “It looks a lot better than it did this morning. How is your knee?”
He removed his slacks and inhaled sharply as the fabric touched the wound. “Oh my,” he gasped, his knee twice its normal size. “That’s going to leave a mark.”
“You should have called the police, babe. You could have charged him with assault.”
“It would have made the game a lot less entertaining without your brother scrambling around on the field. He didn’t know if he was coming or going. It was glorious.” Andy smiled. “That was the best revenge I could have had.”
They rested at the inn, and Danae had an opportunity to tend to Andy’s knee. She asked the host for a bag of ice as she explained what had happened. She walked back to the room and Andy started to shake his head.
“Oh honey, you’re not going to plop that on my knee, are you?”
“It will feel better if I do.” She kissed his forehead. “It will help the swelling. Please let me do this. I won’t hurt you on purpose.”
She laid it gently on his injury, and he inhaled sharply as pain shot through his entire leg. Andy gritted his teeth, and slowly let the air from his lungs. “Damn, that freaking hurts, Danae.”
“It will feel better once it numbs I promise, sweetie. Cry if you need to, I’m right here.” She sat beside him and he rested his head on her shoulder. She stroked his face tenderly.
“How long do I leave this on?”
“Twenty minutes is best.”
“You take such good care of me.” Andy smiled through the pain.
“That’s because I love you, Andy.” She smiled and kissed him. “You’re my world.”
As she had predicted, the ice reduced some of the inflammation in Andy’s knee, and by the time they were ready to leave for The Tower, they were both feeling good. He looked handsome in his tuxedo, and Danae looked like royalty in her evening gown.
The limousine delivered them to The Tower well before their reservation time, and they were seated early. The Maitre D’ led them to a table tucked into a semi-private corner and Andy held the chair for her to sit. He admired her as he sat down. Her beauty astounded him.
“Why are you looking at me like that, Andy?” His gaze made her self-conscious.
“You’re just so stunning, my sweet. Every now and then, I remind myself that you’re all mine, and I get overwhelmed.”
Danae blushed. “You still say the sweetest things.”
“So, after I order dinner, you’ll have the last part of your big surprise. I can’t wait.”
“I can’t believe you still have something up your sleeve, Mr. Murphy. You spoil me too much.”
“I could never spoil you too much, my love. You deserve so much more than I can give you.” Andy took her hand as the waiter arrived.
“What can I get for Monsieur and Madame this evening?” the waiter asked in a thick French accent.
“We will begin with a bottle of your finest champagne, if you please,” Andy requested. “I will have our dinner order when you return.”
“Very well,” the waiter replied and left the table.
“So, I want to give you this now, honey. The big part still comes later.” He reached into his jacket pocket and pulled an envelope from it. He handed it to her and watched her expression as she opened it.
“Tickets to the museum!” she squealed. “How did you pull this off? I’ve been with you since we’ve been here.”
“I’ve been busy planning this mini-vacation, baby. I figured since we were here on our anniversary, we could do it up the right way.”
“I can’t wait to see it. Hopefully, they’ve done some good with the restoration and decor.”
“I understand it looks pretty much the same as it did when we lived there. The wax figures are supposed to be spot on, though. I hear the ones of your dad and mom are lifelike.”
“You’ve outdone yourself, but I’m afraid I haven’t been prepared to reciprocate. I have nothing for you.” She hung her head in shame. “I feel truly awful about it, too.”
“Aww honey, there’s no need to feel awful. All I need is right here with me.” He took her hand and kissed it.
The waiter brought the champagne and popped the bottle open easily. While he poured, he asked Andy if they were ready to order. And as usual, he simply pointed at items on the menu, keeping his selections secret from her. In the eight years they had been together, he never disappointed her. For a man from a small village, his taste was refined and sophisticated.
After the waiter stepped away, Andy’s surprise would wait no longer. He took her hands in his once again and looked into her beautiful, crystal violet eyes.
“Danae, honey, our lives together have been amazing, and I can’t tell you how much I adore you. The words to describe it simply don’t exist. Now, I know I will never deserve your love and affection, and no mere trinket could sufficiently show you how much I appreciate and love you. But I will spend the rest of my life trying to live up to you.” He reached into his jacket pocket and presented a velvet box, wrapped with a single red bow. “I hope you will accept this as a token, a reminder, of how much you mean to me. How very much I love you.”
She beamed at him. “Andy, you’ve already done so much.” She shook her head as she took the box from his hand. He was ready to burst from anticipation. Carefully, she untied the satin bow and removed it. She swallowed hard, and she could wait no longer. Danae opened the box, peered inside and closed it. Tears welled in her eyes as she reopened it.
“Oh Andy,” she exclaimed. “This is exquisite.” Inside the box was a diamond anniversary band. Set in white gold were two larger stones, both diamonds, and eight smaller ones set in a channel, four on each side of the bigger ones.
“The two diamonds are our birthstones, and the smaller ones represent the years we’ve been married. Eight flawless, beautiful diamonds. Flawless and beautiful, just like you.”
Andy took the ring from the box and slipped it onto her finger. “Baby, would you marry me again?”
“In half a heartbeat,” came her quick reply, followed by a kiss that was anything but quick. Gently, he wiped her tears from her eyes.
“I love you,” he whispered into her ear.
“I love you, forever and always.”
Morning found Andy stiff and sore, hardly able to move. The shove had done more than just injure his knee. His back was sore, and muscles he had forgotten existed ached as though he had the flu. He groaned and got out of bed and went into the bathroom.
There was technically nothing to do, nowhere to be for the day so he decided to get back into bed with Danae. She felt him curl back around her and snuggle into his embrace.
“Good morning, my handsome prince,” she purred. “How are you feeling?”
“Oh baby, I’ve been better. Everything hurts.” Oh, how he hated feeling unwell.
“The weather is nasty today. Why don’t we stay in, and let me take care of you?”
“We’re on vacation, honey. You don’t have to spend it caring for me.”
“I know I don’t have to. But you’ll let me anyway, won’t you?” She kissed whatever she could reach.
“Oh, I don’t know, Danae. You’re not being very convincing.” He hugged her closer to him and kissed her neck.
“What do I need to do to persuade you?” She was anticipating some early morning fun.
“Order us some breakfast and coffee. If you do that, I’ll let you take care of me.”
Danae snorted. “That’s what you want?”
“What did you think I wanted?” he teased.
“Not breakfast and coffee!” she laughed. “As soon as you let me go, I’ll call the host.”
“There is always a catch,” he chuckled. “I don’t want to let you go.”
“Well then, let me love you,” she purred.
“How can I say no to that?”
A few hours later, the breakfast hour had gone past, and they were hungry. Andy still felt awful, stiff and sore, so the museum would wait until tomorrow. Without a rental car, Danae was stuck, and lunch was not a provided meal. Nevertheless, she walked to the kitchen area, searching for the host.
“Can I help you?” he asked.
“Yes, I was wondering if it is possible to get something for lunch? My husband was injured yesterday at the game, and he isn’t able to move around very well.”
“Oh? Does he play for the Llamas?”
“Actually, no. He’s the team manager for the visiting team.”
“How was he injured? I thought managers stay out of gameplay.”
“It’s a long, complicated story, but to make it short, someone assaulted him in the parking lot at the stadium.” Danae’s temper began to flare, but she kept it close. It wasn’t the host’s fault.
“Well, that’s too bad. Crime isn’t usually that terrible here in the Shores.” The host walked with Danae back to the kitchen. “Please, have a seat. I’ll make some grilled cheese and soup for you, even though you guys clobbered the Llamas last night.” He smiled. “The team hasn’t been the same since that Murphy guy left.”
Danae smiled. “Thank you. I appreciate that.”
“You’re in the honeymoon suite, correct?”
“Yes, we are,” she confirmed.
“I’ll bring it to you when I’m finished. It would be my pleasure.”
“That would be great, thank you again.” Danae stood and walked back toward their room.
She opened the door, and Andy was sitting on the loveseat, his leg stretched out. “How is it feeling, babe?”
“Stiff. Sore. I know it will heal, but I’m in a bigger hurry than my body is apparently.” He chuckled softly. “I’m sorry we’re stuck here today. We can’t even go to the beach. It’s blustery and snowing.”
“Our host is bringing soup and sandwiches when he is finished cooking. I think he wanted to meet you.”
“Well, he’s in for a surprise.” He sat back on the loveseat and groaned. “I’d love to have some ice for this.”
“That I can do, babe.” She took the bag they had the previous day and walked to the small ice maker that sat in a nook near the room. Danae filled the bag with ice and closed it, and walked back to Andy.
“Here,” she said as she gently placed it on his knee. It was still quite swollen, but the wound had scabbed and looked healthy, not red or infected. He winced when the bag touched the injury, but felt better after a few minutes.
Ten minutes later, the host knocked on the door and Danae answered it. “Come in, please,” she invited him in.
He saw Andy sitting on the loveseat and recognized him immediately. “Andy Murphy,” he remarked. “Welcome back to the Shores.”
Andy nodded. “I’d get up and greet you properly, but I’m a bit under the weather. You look familiar.”
“I should. I used to work at the stadium in concessions. Nate Crist.”
“That’s it. Of course!” Andy exclaimed. “How are you, Nate?”
“Better than you seem to be doing. What happened?”
“I had a run-in with an old rival. He bested me in the parking lot, but I ended up with the last laugh.” Andy chortled, remembering the embarrassment the Sharks delivered to Devin and his merry band of chuckleheads.
“Well, I promised your lovely wife some soup and sandwiches. I hope you two enjoy your day. Good to see you again, Andy.”
“Likewise, Nate. And thank you.”
Danae brought him a cup of soup and a sandwich and plopped herself on the floor near him with her own meal. “You’re a pretty popular guy around here.”
“Only with some people. Apparently I have some enemies, too. One is your brother.” Andy took a bite of his gooey, warm grilled cheese. “Oh, this is so good.” Neither of them had eaten since dinner the evening before.
“Soup and grilled cheese always tastes good on a snowy day.” She leaned up against his good leg and snuggled up to him.
“If I could walk better, I’d say let’s go to the winter festival here. Snowboarding is something we can’t do at home.”
“Well, don’t push it. You aren’t feeling well, babe. Let’s just stay in. Tomorrow is another day.” He caressed her neck and ran his fingers through her hair. “Mmm, you know I love it when you do that, Andy.”
He smiled. “That’s why I do it, my sweet.”
They finished lunch and Danae gathered the dirty dishes, placed them onto the cart and walked it back to the kitchen. Nate was surprised to see her.
“You know you didn’t have to bring the cart back,” Nate remarked. “I could have gotten it.”
“It’s okay, I didn’t mind.” She thanked him again for the meal and walked back to the suite.
They spent the rest of the afternoon laying in bed, watching television, flirting and talking. Dinnertime came and went, but neither of them were hungry, and when it was bedtime, they curled up together and slept.
By morning, Andy’s aches had disappeared, his knee was almost normal size and he felt much better. It would be a perfect day to walk around the museum, he thought to himself. Carefully, he peeled himself away from Danae and walked to the bathroom. He had missed a shower the day before, feeling sore and miserable. But this morning, it would feel good, he figured. So he ran the water and stepped into the tub.
The warmth felt good, so he stood there under the showerhead, his eyes closed, lost in thought when the shower door opened. Danae snuck in behind him, and he smiled. “Are you feeling dirty this morning?” he teased.
“A little,” she said. “How are you feeling today?”
“Much better than yesterday, my sweet. I’m glad we spent the day in. Though we lost a day, it was worth it.”
“I’m glad, babe. I don’t like when you’re not feeling well.”
“It’s because you took such good care of me, you know.” He turned around and kissed her gently.
“I only fed you and got some ice for your knee.”
“But you spent the day with me, just doing nothing. You could have gone and found something fun to do, but you didn’t.”
“It wouldn’t have been fun without you.” She reached for the soap and washed up, and he sprayed her off when she was done. “I almost hate to get out. It’s nice and warm in here.”
“Me too. But, we have tickets to the museum, and I know you want to go today.” He wrapped his towel around his waist and sat on the loveseat. “My knee looks disgusting.”
She walked to him and looked at it. “It’s healing okay. It’s not red or oozing. Just leave the bandage off today and let the air dry it out.”
He nodded. “I might have to rethink wearing jeans, though. They might be a little snug around the scab. I don’t want to open it up.”
“Good thinking. Just wear your slacks, honey. That way if it does ooze, no one will see it.”
“You’re right,” he agreed. “I’m glad I brought a sweater. It’s cold out there.” According to his watch, the temperature was in the single digits.
“I forgot what winter feels like. I don’t miss it.” Danae forgot her sweater, not realizing they would be staying longer than a day. “I’m going to be chilly, I think.”
“No, you won’t. Take my team jacket. I have a sweater.” He pulled it from the garment bag and set it on the chair near the door.
In less than an hour, they were ready to leave. Their first stop was a cute bistro that was new since they had moved. Both of them were famished, and Danae wanted some coffee. The next stop was the house on 200 Foothill Drive, the one they had called home before they picked up their lives and moved to Isla Paradiso.
The limo dropped them at the front door, which looked exactly the same. The paint on the exterior looked fresh, though it was the same color. The security fence had been removed, which looked odd to Danae. She had never seen it that way, and it looked bare. Most of the landscaping was buried under almost a foot of snow, but the sidewalks and driveway were shoveled. During the summer, the driveway was used for special events, and the garage had been gutted, making room for a stage where Destiny’s old instruments were displayed.
The first floor of the house looked empty. The spa room had only a doorway, and the inside was roped off, so the antique treadmill wouldn’t be disturbed. It looked nearly identical to how it did for years. But inside the spa room, on the wall nearest the pool, was a framed jersey, and statues of Travis and Charlotte danced near the shirt. Behind them, some family photos that were left behind hung on the wall. Danae saw them and immediately got emotional.
“My goodness, it really looks like Mama and Daddy standing there,” she cried. “Like if I touched them, they would turn around.”
Andy marveled at the eerie likeness of both statues. “They nailed it, right down to the hairstyles. It’s almost creepy.”
“This just makes me miss them all over again,” she wept. He gently took her arm and led her from the room. Behind them, the kitchen was roped off, and statues of Destiny and Arthur were placed there. From the photographs she had seen of Nana Destiny and Papa Arthur, they were identical, just like the ones of Charlotte and Travis.
“They should have had her making pancakes,” she commented. “That would have been perfect.” She noticed the hand-printed recipe card that hung near the entrance to the kitchen, one she had read and used countless times.
“You resemble your Nana Destiny,” Andy remarked. “Look here,” he said, pointing at her facial structure. “You have the same cute nose. I bet, if you dyed your hair red and permed it, you would look just like her, Nae.”
“You think so?”
“Yeah, I do. Maybe you should do that someday, just for fun.”
They walked to the formal living area, just to the left of the staircase, and found another two statues of Charlotte and Travis, posed in a sweet, loving embrace near the fireplace.
Danae swallowed a growing lump in her throat and sighed deeply. This is more difficult than I imagined, she thought. “This is almost exactly how they were sitting on the night I asked Daddy how he felt about us dating,” she smiled at the memory.
Andy took her hand. “Come, my sweet. There is more stuff upstairs.”
The sitting area at the top of the stairs was identical to how it looked. The loveseats were placed perfectly, the photos were hanging just where she left them. The old nursery where Elyse and Eamon lived was repainted and decorated to look like Devin’s old bedroom, complete with his old bed, dresser, and the soccer ball Travis had given him as a boy.
A plaque sat inside the room, acknowledging his place in the house’s history. Danae thought it odd there was no mention of his twin sisters anywhere or the fact that Danae and Andy had lived there previously. All things considered, Andy was a pretty big deal, both then and now.
They walked down the hall to their old bedroom and passed the three gold albums Destiny had been awarded during her career.
The door to the bedroom was removed, leaving it permanently open, and ropes barricaded the majority of the room. Inside, Destiny and Arthur were posed in a tender embrace.
“It’s funny, Andy. I still don’t feel a connection with her. I mean, I know she’s my great grandmother, but it’s as though I’m looking at a total stranger.” They stood and looked at the bedroom, decorated as it had been when Destiny and Arthur occupied the space.
“It looks weird with antique furniture here instead of ours.” The door to the master bathroom was removed and they guessed the rooms were empty.
Back down the hallway, they walked to the bedroom where Danae and Darcey had spent their childhood. And inside, Charlotte and Travis were posed together in a cute but romantic pose. Again, her eyes welled with tears. “They did a fabulous job of catching their emotions in these statues. They’re both so lifelike.”
Andy shook his head. It was almost as if they could speak to him. “Don’t worry, Travis. I’m taking good care of your baby girl,” he spoke. And when she heard him, Danae lost it, sobbing in his arms.
“I miss them so much,” she cried. “This is killing me inside.”
He took her arm and led her out to the loveseat. “Here, honey. Sit with me for a few minutes and collect yourself. I’m sorry I made you cry.” He held her while she wept.
The museum curator followed the sounds of weeping and found Danae and Andy. “Is everything okay, Miss?” she asked.
“It’s fine, thank you. It’s just that the statues are so detailed, so lifelike, I could swear he was real.”
“Ah yes, we receive many compliments about Mr. Jones’ statues. The historical society spared no expense to get them right the first time. They wanted this to be as accurate as possible.”
“Well, they certainly are. I thought he was going to turn around and call me ‘Punkin’ at any moment.”
The curator thought for a moment. “Are you one of the twin daughters? I see the resemblance between you and Charlotte, now that I look closer.”
She nodded her head. “I’m Danae Jones Murphy.”
“You’re the couple that sold the house to the historical society! How wonderful!”
“I do have a question, while you’re here. Why is the loft blocked off?”
“Ah yes, we haven’t quite finished that exhibit yet. We are still waiting for another statue of Destiny to display the wedding dress. But you’re welcome to see what we have up there if you’d like. We have one of her in the show outfit, and it’s quite lovely.”
“I would love that,” Danae exclaimed. She turned to Andy. “Maybe this is what I need to see, you know, to feel that connection with her.”
“Maybe.” He smiled at her as they climbed the familiar steps to the loft.
“Someday, this will be all Destiny. Her karaoke machine, the makeover station, a small stage set up outside once we enclose the deck. And Arthur, of course,” the curator explained.
Danae walked to the statue of Destiny and looked at her. The red hair, her complexion, even her violet eyes were perfect. It was as though she was brought back to life. “May I?” Danae asked, motioning toward the statue.
“Be my guest.”
Danae approached Destiny and just stared at her. She closed her eyes and tried to imagine seeing her on stage, dressed like a superstar, singing one of the hit songs she knew by heart. Then, Danae began to hum and sing her biggest hit. That was when she heard the similarity in their voices.
Andy watched her, lost in the moment. And he caught himself wondering again how different their lives would be if she hadn’t sacrificed her career to raise their family. When she was finished, he just looked at her, in awe. “You still sound just like her, baby. Your tone, your pitch, it’s flawless. You are her great-granddaughter. You can’t deny it.”
She looked at Andy and smiled. “I’d never want to deny it.” She turned back toward Destiny. “Nana, I wish I could have known you,” Danae talked to the statue, wishing she could hear her. “But, I feel closer to you now.” She reached to touch the statue’s red hair, and it felt silky and soft, like her own. She turned to the curator. “Thank you, for this. For letting me connect with her in a way I haven’t been able to before now. You’ve given me an incredible gift.”
“It was my pleasure, Danae. I’m so happy to have met you. It was an honor, really.” She took Danae’s hand to shake it and led them back down the stairs. “Don’t forget the garage exhibit. You won’t want to miss it.”
“Thank you again,” she said. Andy took her hand, and they walked outside to see the last part of the exhibition.
When they had seen everything, Andy was sore from walking on his knee all day. The limousine picked them up and brought them to the inn, where they joined the host and one other couple for dinner in the elegant dining room. Afterward, they retreated back to the suite to relax and pack to leave in the morning.
“Danae,” he asked as they settled into bed, “Are you sure you were okay with giving up your career? Sometimes, I feel like the world is missing out on your talent because of me. You were meant for greater things than just being a housewife and mama.”
“Why would you ask me that? All my life, being a mother is all I ever wanted. You gave that to me. I don’t feel incomplete because I stay home with our children. Yes, it’s a tough job, but it’s the one I chose. Your hard work is what affords me the privilege of making my dream come true.” She kissed him. “Thank you for that.”
“But, your voice is perfect. Didn’t you want that more than anything at one point?”
“I did. And then I met you. You complete me, not a career. You are all I will ever need to be fulfilled.”
“Now who is good at the mushy stuff?” he teased.
“Still you, my hopeless romantic,” she laughed.
“I am definitely not a romantic, but you are. It’s one of the things I adore most about you.” He hugged her and snuggled close to her. “Did you have a good anniversary trip, my sweet?”
“I had the best time, babe. Thank you, for everything.”
Up Next: Chapter Twenty Four, Generation Five
*****A special thank you to the fabulous Bee for the vast majority of the poses used in this chapter. Any and all custom content featured is not my own, and I do not take credit for any of it.*****