G5 Chapter Twenty Two – Elyse Has Mommy Issues

A month after Danae’s premiere at the art gallery, it was almost Emmitt’s second birthday, and Eamon’s fourth birthday was shortly afterward. Neither of them could believe the baby was two already. It was just yesterday that they found out they were expecting him, or at least it appeared that way. 

Even more unbelievable, the Murphy and Scroggins families had been on the island for almost three years, and Andy, Aaron, Avery, and Wyatt had led the team to their first championship. The second full season under their leadership would be underway shortly, and Andy was ready to announce Zachery Fulton, their new acquisition from Sunlit Tides, Avery’s former teammate on the Starfish team.

The press conference was scheduled for 1:00 pm. Andy’s training in PR kept him in the spotlight in his job, and though he didn’t mind it, he secretly wished Kirby would hire another PR person. Zach’s acquisition was big news in the soccer world, and though it was considered unethical by the owners of the Starfish, no league rules were broken. Andy simply had the instinct, knowing when to swoop in and make moves on valuable players. 

In the media room of Kemp Stadium, reporters and their cameras gathered, waiting for the announcement. In the green room just on the other side of the wall, the four men who would be doing the presser gathered. A makeup artist prepped them, though Andy laughed at the idea that the camera would make him look pale. For Kirby, Aaron and Zach, however, it was necessary.

At 12:45, Andy entered the media room and explained the format for the presser and took preliminary questions off the record regarding the event. With five minutes until airtime, the other three men entered the room, Kirby took his spot at the table with Aaron Hall and Zachery Fulton. Andy made sure everyone had water available and gave Zach some last-minute pointers. It was truly the first time such a fuss had been made over him, and he was nervous.

At 1:00 pm on the nose, the cameras went live and Andy spoke.

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“My name is Andy Murphy, team manager for the Isla Paradiso Sharks. Today, I am proud to announce the acquisition and signing of a talented player, a young man whose name is not well known, at least not yet. He comes to us from Sunlit Tides two years after his rookie season, where he led the Starfish in overall goals since the beginning of his short but very impressive career.”

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“We are excited to announce Zachery Fulton as a starter for the upcoming season. We look forward to many successful years with him. Together with head coach Aaron Hall, team captain Wyatt Searcy, co-captain Avery Tillman, and the many other talented players on this team, we anticipate a championship title this season. Now Kirby, if you’re ready, I’ll hand this to you.” 

At the house, Danae watched with Eamon in her lap, and Emmitt playing at her feet on the floor. 

“Daddy?” Eamon asked, pointing at the television screen. 

“Yes, baby, that’s Daddy.”

“What’s he doing, Mama?” he asked in his almost 4-year-old voice.

“He’s introducing Zach. You remember Zach, right? He gave you the teddy bear.” 

Eamon beamed, clutching the toy to his face. “Bear bear!” 

Danae smiled. “Bear bear.” 

Emmitt looked at Andy’s face on the television and recognized him. “Daddy!” 

Danae looked at her baby son, though he wasn’t much of a baby anymore. “Yes, Emm, that’s Daddy.” She picked him up and held him. He watched the screen, and each time Andy spoke, he laughed. 

“Daddy! Daddy!” he cooed happily. 

“Mama, I’m hungry,” said Eamon. 

“You just had lunch, sweetie. How about some fruit?” 

“No, thank you.” She knew he wanted a cookie, but she had given Elyse the last two in her lunch that morning. 

“You’re not that hungry then, Eamon.” She kissed his head, and he looked at her.

“Eww,” he giggled. “No kisses!”

Danae laughed. “Alright! No kisses for you then. I’ll just give yours to Emmitt instead.” She cuddled the baby a little closer and covered his sweet face in kisses, relishing his baby giggles. Of the three children, Emmitt was the happiest. His smile was infectious, his giggles contagious and he was always cheerful.

“Mama!” Eamon pouted. “No fair.” 

“You didn’t want Mama’s kisses,” she gently reminded him. “Emmitt loves Mama’s kisses, don’t you sweetheart?” 

“Mama mama!” Emmitt laughed. 

“Mama? When’s Lysie comin’ home?” Eamon asked. 

“In about an hour, honey. Why don’t you and Emmitt go play, so Mama can do some cleaning?” 

Eamon stood and took Emmitt’s hand, and walked him to their room to play. Danae laughed. It was the first time she’d seen him do that, and she was amazed.

Elyse’s school bus dropped her outside the gate, and Danae was there to meet her when she got home. Despite them living at the end of a long dead-end road, the Paparazzi still hung out relentlessly by the call box, and she didn’t trust any of them around her beloved children. Elyse ran to her, and Danae held her hand out for her. “Hi sweet pea!” she greeted her. “Your brother is waiting for you.” 

Elyse ran past Danae towards the house, her backpack still on her back, yelling Eamon’s name. She was still chilly toward her mother, even though the boys had gotten back on track with her. Danae had come to accept that her only daughter was a daddy’s girl, and she would likely never have a relationship with her like Andy did. 

“Lysie, do you have homework, sweetie?” Danae asked her.

“Yes, Mama.” Elyse sighed and braced for what would come next.

“Homework first, then play, okay?” She smiled at her daughter. “Maybe Daddy will take you guys swimming tonight when he gets home.” The press conference was long over, and she expected Andy home within the hour. 

“I hope so,” Elyse said. “I want to go swimming with Daddy.” 

With the children occupied, she started dinner. Lobster thermidor for her and Andy, and macaroni and cheese for the kids. With the new football season looming, time together would be at a premium, and she wasn’t looking forward to it. However, she had planned a date night at home with all the romance included. 

A half-hour later, Andy walked through the door and dropped his briefcase in his office, his sport coat hung over his shoulder. Danae was in the kitchen, and even by her own standards, it smelled good in the house. 

“I smell something delicious,” he announced as he turned the corner into the living room. He saw Danae and walked to her. “And there she is,” he stated, wrapping his arms around her. “How’s my favorite girl?” 

“Good. I saw your presser today. I had no idea Zach was so young. He’s only twenty-three? He’s younger than Devin.” 

“He’s much more humble than your brother, too. He was a good hunt. Once he gets his legs this season and learns Aaron’s plays, he’ll be extraordinary.”

“Why does twenty-three sound so young? I’m only thirty, but it sounds… young.” 

“These babies are aging you,” he teased. “They’re keeping me young, though.” He kissed her quickly and ducked away from the inevitable swat that he had earned. 

“That’s it. You’re still older than me, old man,” she teased back and shook her head, a huge smile on her face.

Elyse watched their exchange and rolled her eyes. “No hello from my sweet pea today?” he asked her.

“I’m doing homework first. Mama said I can’t play until it’s done.” 

“That’s a good thing, Elyse. You need to learn priorities. Schoolwork is first, then playtime.” Andy firmly reinforced Danae’s rule. 

“That’s no fun,” she grumped and turned back to her studies. 

He smiled at Danae, walked back to her and hugged her again. “You’re doing a fantastic job with the kids, honey,” he whispered into her ear.

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“She’s testing my patience today,” Danae replied softly. “She still hasn’t forgiven me.” 

“Do you want me to talk to her, Nae? This isn’t right.” 

Danae sighed. “No, babe. She has to come around on her own. But I’ve accepted that she will never love me like she loves you. It smacks of me and Daddy. Now I appreciate how Mama felt, but at least she had Darcey. I have no other little girl.” Her face conveyed sadness. 

“I’ll talk to her anyway. You shouldn’t be deprived of a close relationship with your only daughter because of me.” He kissed her neck, and she nearly melted into the floor. 

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“You can do that all night if you want,” she purred. 

“I’ll remember that, my sweet.” He winked at her. “I need to get out of this monkey suit.” He walked toward the bedroom to change his clothes. She followed him in, hoping for a preview of their evening together.

Danae wasted no time wrapping herself around him as soon as their door was closed. “Well, this is new,” he laughed, as he tried to peel himself away from her. “The kids are still wide awake, and the sun is out.” He wrapped his arms around her and kissed her. “You must have really loved the presser.” 

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“Well, you know,” she said, trying to keep a straight face, “The guy on television is a total hunk. He really got my motor running.” 

“Which guy is that?” he played along.

“The one with the jet black, pin-straight hair. He wears a vest just like this one. A tall, dark, extremely sexy man,” she purred. “You know the one?”

“Mmm, yeah I’m familiar with him. I hear he has a smokin’ hot wife.” 

Danae snorted. “You’re incorrigible.” 

“Yeah well, you’re still smokin’ hot.” He kissed her tenderly. “Is tonight date night or something?” 

“Did you forget?” 

“Of course not.” He snuggled her into his strong embrace. “Oh honey, I’m looking forward to tonight.” 

“Me too, babe. But you should put your trunks on, because that little girl wants you to take her swimming, and I promised her.” 

“When’s dinner?”

“For them, in about an hour. For us, around seven.”

“Alrighty.” He changed into his swim shorts and Danae went to dress Eamon in his swimsuit. 

“Lysie, bathing suit, honey. Daddy’s going to take you swimming.” 

“Yes!” she squealed and ran for her bedroom.

A few hours later…

Danae fed Andy the last bite of dinner, and he sat back. “Baby, I’m stuffed. You make that perfect every time, just like the first time you ever made it for me.” 

“It’s my specialty,” she said. “Now all we need is a karaoke bar, an awkward kiss and a glass of wine, and we have our first date.” 

“I can do the awkward kiss right now,” he purred. He pulled her to him and he kissed her. She tried to resist him, but she either couldn’t or didn’t want to. “That was very nice,” he said when he pulled away. “Now, tell me there is nothing between us, Danae, because I know you felt that.” 

She belly laughed. “Okay, I felt it! I just don’t know what to do with it.” 

“Say you’ll go out with me,” he played. “I’m new here, and I would love a girl who knows her way around.” 

“You would, eh?” she flirted.

“Oh baby, you have no idea.” He picked her up and carried her into their bedroom, and locked the door behind him.


The next morning, the season schedule was released, and Andy hoped there were no ugly surprises in it. He and Kirby met for coffee at the restaurant while Kirby planned the menu for the dinner meal, and discussed the upcoming schedule.

“The first game is in Barnacle Bay versus the Dolphins. Didn’t we play them first last season?” Kirby asked, preoccupied. 

“No, it was the Twinbrook Tigers last season.” Andy poured over the schedule. The game this season against the Llamas was in Starlight Shores, and he sighed. “Are we doing the next day meetings with team managers after games this season?” 

Kirby sipped his coffee as he looked over menus and supply orders. “Nah, that turned out to be a bust. After the fiasco with Fiona and Cael, the league started rethinking that stuff.” The tantrum that Fiona threw became the stuff of legend and the great embarrassment of the Starlight Shores community. Shortly after, the league stopped the meetings.

“Danae will like that. She hates when I’m gone longer than overnight. Which reminds me, Kirby, this last negotiation in Sunlit Tides—”

“Yeah, I know it was a hardship for you and Danae to be apart that long. Elyse is so grown up, sometimes I forget you have two more children younger than five.” 

“When they’re all in school, it won’t be so difficult for her.”

“I would suggest you hire a nanny, but I know that didn’t work out well last time, either. Is Elyse still giving her a rough time?” 

“Yes,” Andy grumbled. “Danae claims she understands, but I know she wants a close relationship with Elyse while she is still little. There’s no guarantee once that child hits her tweens.”

“I would definitely encourage all the bridge-building while they’re little. Elyse has nothing to be cross about. She has a mother who loves her, a father who adores her and provides a very good life for her and her two little brothers.”

“She wants all of Danae’s attention for herself, and she wants all of mine for herself, too. The pediatrician says she’ll outgrow the selfishness. She is much more patient than I am with Elyse. When Danae’s feelings are hurt, I am much less tolerant than I should be.”

“It’s understandable. Danae comes first to you, as well she should, and vice versa. Long after the kids are grown, you’ll still have each other.”

“Thanks, Kirby. With twins, I knew you’d understand.” Andy closed up his laptop. “I need to get back to the office. Aaron and I are going through some staffing issues, and I need to get Zach settled into the team.”

“Are you and Nae busy tonight, Andy? You could come for dinner. I’m cooking.” 

“We just had a date night last night. She made her specialty, and we relived our first date, awkward first kiss and everything. It was magical.” Andy laughed.

“I guess that’s a no, then.” Kirby stood to shake his hand. “I’ll see you tomorrow. Oh, you don’t need to book me for the season opener with you. Rae will need me that night. Something with school for the kids.” 

“Gotcha. See you tomorrow.” Andy slipped his laptop into his briefcase, walked toward the back door and got into his car. 

It was almost lunchtime before he was finished with reservations for travel to Barnacle Bay. Accommodations were spotty at best during some times of the year, and he knew better than to wait until the last minute. He breathed a sigh of relief as he booked the last available block in the hotel for the team and a suite for him. Next were airline reservations, but they, in comparison, were much easier to make. 

Andy was still sitting at his desk when Aaron walked by the office. “Murph!” he called, “You going for lunch today?”

“I haven’t decided, Aaron. I might work through. Where are you going?” 

“Wyatt and I were going to grab a burrito before practice. Can I bring something back for you?” 

Andy signed his computer off. “I’ll go with you guys, since there’s two of you. I just didn’t feel like eating alone.” 

“You’re always welcome to come along.” Andy locked his office door, and they walked to Aaron’s car together. “Wyatt will meet us there. He has a surprise for you.” 

“Uh oh, should I be worried?” Andy laughed. 

“Trust me, you will like this one.” 

The guys met at the little Spanish bistro adjacent to the Grand Tower resort. Immediately, Andy noticed that Wyatt was plus one, a pretty young girl who looked native to the island, and they were quite affectionate with one another. Wyatt stood as Aaron and Andy approached. “Hey brothers,” he greeted them. 

“Who’s your friend, Wy?” Andy asked. 

“You haven’t met her yet. This is Raisa. We’ve been seeing each other for a few weeks now. Raisa, this is my best friend, Andy, and you know Aaron already.” 

The girl stood and shook Andy’s hand gently. “Pleased to meet you.” 

“Raisa, the pleasure is all mine. You have yourself a catch. Wyatt’s a great guy.” He nudged Aaron. “Now we just need to find a Señorita for this guy, and we’ll be all set.”  

Aaron and Wyatt each had a beer, but Andy ordered a sweet tea while they talked about the upcoming season and the first away game. All the guys were excited about Zach coming on board the team, and with Aaron’s creative new plays, they were sure to be off to a good start in two weeks.

At home, Danae received a call from the museum curator to give an update on the exhibit and to advise her of payment, the first of four to compensate for her work. She jotted a note to herself to let Andy know of the deposit and carried at least three loads of laundry to the garage to sort. After the first load was started, she walked back to the house. The boys were both napping, but she didn’t want them to sleep for much longer. 

She entered the boys’ room and woke Eamon first. “Eamon, honey,” she sang to him softly. He opened his eyes and smiled at her. 

“Hi Mama,” he said, sleep heavy in his voice. She set him down on the floor and went to Emmitt’s crib next. 

“Emmitt,” she sang softly, “time to wake up for Mama.” His happy face beamed when he saw her, and she changed him before setting him down to play. “I really have to work on potty training him,” she said out loud. A familiar horn sounded outside, and she glanced at her watch. “Elyse!” she exclaimed and ran for the gate.

“Mama!” she called to Danae from outside. Luckily, the bus driver waited for the gate to open before he pulled away. Danae waved and thanked him, and greeted Elyse with a hug and a kiss.

“How was school today, little sweet pea?” she asked. “Did you learn anything good?” 

“It was okay,” Elyse grumbled her answer. “When is Daddy coming home?” 

“He’ll be home in a little while, Lysie. Do you need help with homework today?” 

Elyse looked at Danae as though something was wrong. “Why?” 

“I remember Naomi used to help you with homework, and I’m pretty smart, you know. I can help you, too.” 

“No,” she said, disinterested. “I’m okay.”

“Lysie, can I ask you something?” 

She rolled her eyes. “What?” 

Danae didn’t appreciate the attitude, but let it slide. “Why are you still angry with me? I pour my love over you every day, and I don’t get nearly any of it back. Why?” 

“I’m not angry,” she protested. 

“You could have fooled me, sweet pea. You know I love you. At least, I hope you know it.” 

Elyse nodded. “I know.” 

“Do you love me, Elyse? You can tell me. I won’t get angry, I promise.” 

She looked straight into Danae’s eyes. “Yeah.” 

“Are you sure?” 

“Yeah,” she repeated. “Can I go play now?” 

“Yes, but stay away from the pool until Daddy comes home.” 

Danae sat in the living room, her head in her hands. 

She didn’t hear the gate open when Andy came home, but Elyse did because she ran to greet him. He walked through the front door with her on his hip, wrapped around him and giggling. Danae wanted to smile at him, but Elyse was making her contempt very obvious. With hurt feelings, she simply got up and went to their bedroom and closed the door behind her. 

“What’s wrong with Mama, Lysie?” he asked her.

She shrugged her shoulders. “I dunno.” He set her down on the floor.

“Do you have homework?” 

“Yes, sir.” 

“Why haven’t you started it yet?” he asked. 

“Because Mama didn’t make me.” 

“Start it now, please. Don’t make me ask you again, Lysie.” 

“Yes sir,” she repeated. 

He walked toward the bedroom door and opened it. “Honey?”

“Come in,” she cried. 

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“Uh oh. What’s wrong, baby?” He knelt down beside her.

“Our daughter. I thought I’d talk to her, but I got nowhere. She used to love me. I’m not sure I’ll get that back again.” 

“Baby, of course, she loves you. She’s just going through a phase.” He hugged his wife and tried to comfort her. “Are you sure you don’t want me to talk to her?” 

“No, I’m not sure about anything anymore. I want her to come around on her own. But I don’t know if she will.” 

“I have an idea, though it won’t help with Elyse. Would you like to come to Barnacle Bay with me for the season opener? I have a suite all to myself. It’s only overnight, but I thought maybe you’d like to get away.”

“When do I have to let you know? Because right now, I don’t know which end is up.”

“The sooner the better, so I can book a seat in first-class for you.” 

“I don’t know, Andy. I mean, I should stay home and be with them. But I’m burning out. I don’t want to feel this way. The boys are great, it’s her. I’ll never forget when we did yoga together. I’d read to her all the time. Now, she only wants you. I just want back what I had…” her voice trailed off as she cried. “I want my daughter back.” 

Andy hated to see her cry, especially when it was so unnecessary. For months, he watched Elyse tear Danae’s heart to shreds. Every little bit of attitude, every cold word spoken shattered her, and it pained him to see her this sad.

“I’m going to talk to her.” Andy stood, troubled. “This needs to end now. I’m done with it. If she doesn’t want you, then I don’t want her.” 

“Andy, you can’t do that! She’s just a little girl. You’ll destroy her,” she pleaded with him.

“Maybe she needs a little tough love, Danae. But I can’t stand to watch you cry over this another minute without trying to fix it.” 

“Please don’t. Save tough love for her teenage years. Don’t make her hate you, too.” They were both in uncharted territory with Elyse, and neither of them knew how to handle it.

“Daddy?” her little voice trembled. “Don’t you love me?” 

“Lysie, how long were you standing there?” Andy asked her. By her reaction, he’d guessed she’d heard almost everything.

“Awhile,” she cried. 

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He opened his arms to her, and she walked to him, sniffling. “Lysie, it doesn’t feel good when you think someone doesn’t love you, does it?” 

She shook her head, tears rolled down her cheeks. “No, sir.” 

“Mama thinks you don’t love her. Do you?” He set her back down on her feet.

She cried harder and tried to hug Andy, but he wasn’t having any of it. “Answer me, Lysie. Do you love your Mama?” 

“Daddy…” she bawled. 

“Elyse Charlotte! Answer me now!” Andy demanded through clenched teeth.

She shook her head. “Daddy…” she cried harder.

“Go to your room, Elyse. NOW!” He’d had enough. Andy heard Danae’s ragged sobs, and he felt terrible for her. “Oh baby, I’m so sorry I asked her. I never expected she would say no.”

“At least I know. She looked me right in the eye and lied to me earlier.” She sniffled and took a deep breath. 

“How do I address this? I’ve never heard of a child who doesn’t love her mother.” He was beside himself. 

“Just leave it be, Andy. You can’t force her.” 

“If I can’t force her, I’ll guilt her.” He wasn’t sure that was the right action, either. 

“No, babe. Just… I’m going to survive this. Like you said, it’s a phase.” She wiped her tears away and sighed. 

“I need to go talk to her now. What do I say?” 

“Ask yourself how your mom would have handled it, Andy, and try that. That’s all I’ve been doing. But Mama was so much better at this than I am.”

“Sweetie, you’re a wonderful mama. Don’t let Elyse make you think otherwise.” He kissed her sweetly. “I need to go talk some sense into that child.” 

“Don’t do anything rash or harsh, Andy. Please, don’t break her heart.” She got up and walked to the bathroom, washed her face and laid down on the bed, broken-hearted.

He got up and walked to Elyse’s bedroom. She was crying on her bed, snuggled up with her blanket. He knocked gently on her door. “May I come in, sweet pea?” 

“Yes Daddy,” she sobbed. She sat up so he could sit down next to her. 

“Elyse, what was that back there?” He stopped himself and collected his thoughts. “Honey, you really hurt your Mama’s feelings today. Why don’t you love her?” 

She shrugged her shoulders. “I dunno.” 

“No, that’s not a good enough answer, young lady. You have to know why.”

“I dunno!” she cried.

“You would feel terrible if you didn’t have a Mama to love you and take care of you. Think about that. I don’t want to see you until dinner. And no more swimming.” 

“But Daddy!” she wailed, but he closed the door as he left the room. 

Danae heard Elyse crying in the other room, and it troubled her. Andy walked back into their bedroom, met by her pained cries, and laid down next to her, trying to comfort her. Somehow, poor Andy had gotten tangled in the middle and didn’t know how to get out.

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“It’s worse than I thought, Kirby,” Andy lamented the next morning over coffee. “Elyse told me last night she doesn’t love her mother. This is new territory for me. I’ve never heard of this.” 

“It’s not usual, but not unheard of, either. Maybe a child psychologist would be helpful in this case. I’m not sure how I’d proceed either.” Kirby patted him on the shoulder. 

“She wouldn’t even give me a reason, just ‘I dunno.’ I had Danae crying in our bedroom, Elyse crying in her bedroom. It drives me crazy that she is hurting Nae like this, and she does it so easily and without remorse.” 

“I’m sorry, Andy. I wish I had some nugget of parental wisdom for you. But Rae handles the emotional meltdowns with the kids. Maybe I’ll have her call Danae?” 

“That would be great. I finally lost my temper with Elyse last night and told her no more swimming with me in the afternoon. It’s her favorite thing, but now I feel like I was too hasty, just what Danae told me not to do.” 

“That might be what wakes her up. If she thinks she will lose your affection, she might come around.” 

Andy shrugged. “I don’t know what to do. I don’t know my own kid anymore.”

They talked for a few more minutes, and Andy went back to his office and booked another round trip first-class seat for Danae. He was taking her to Barnacle Bay, end of story. She needed a break however short, from their ungrateful daughter. 

At home, Danae read stories to the boys like she did every morning after breakfast. They especially loved the books Bella had written, and Danae loved reading them. She nearly knew the stories by heart herself. By eleven, the boys were back in their cribs for naps, and Danae began cleaning the house. Today’s focus was all three bathrooms. The one that Elyse used was filthy, not because it didn’t get cleaned, but simply because Elyse was a slob and didn’t care.

She wanted to call Andy to lift her spirits, but she also hated bothering him at work when nothing was pressing. Instead, she turned music on in the exercise room and went for a run on their treadmill. The exercise felt good, and after a bubble bath, she felt almost good as new. That was until Elyse came home from school. 

Danae waited for the school bus, and when she got home, she walked right past Danae without a word, into the house and flopped on her bed. Danae stuck her head into Elyse’s bedroom on the way to wake the boys. “Elyse, homework please.” 

“I hate you!” she spat at Danae. She walked back to the bedroom door and stopped. 

“I’m sorry to hear that, Lysie. Because I love you.” She continued to the boys’ room and woke them, tears stung her eyes. 

Andy was home at his normal time with a smile on his face. Danae was in the kitchen preparing dinner when he peeked around the corner at her. “How’s my favorite girl?” he greeted her.

“Terrible. Today she hates me.” She sighed deeply. “Things just keep getting better,” she said sarcastically as she wiped her hands on her apron. “Maybe tomorrow, she will try to kill me in my sleep.” 

Andy laughed, mostly because it sounded too silly to be serious. But Danae glared daggers at him. “I’m sorry,” he said, “I know this is no laughing matter.” 

“I’m sorry, too. It’s not your fault.” 

“I’m going to try talking to her again. But I’m sticking with no swimming until she loses the attitude.” Danae nodded as he went to get changed from his work clothes.

Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Elyse sneak into their bedroom. Andy was half-dressed when he spotted her in the mirror, and he jumped a foot. “Lysie, you startled me! What are you doing here?” 

“I missed you today, Daddy,” she said quietly. 

“Elyse, it is not okay to come into my bedroom without knocking.” He walked to the bed and sat down, picked her up and sat her next to him. She cuddled up to him and hugged him. “What’s on your mind?” he asked.

“I hate Mama,” she said, very matter-of-factly. 

“That’s not a nice thing to say. You shouldn’t hate anyone.” 

“But I do.” 

“Why? Why do you hate your mama?” 

She looked at the floor. “Because you love her more than you love me.” 

Her confession rattled him. “What?”

“You told Uncle Aaron you love Mama more than anything or anyone. I heard you say it. Did you mean me, too?” 

“Lysie, of course, I love your mama. I am married to her.”

“If Mama wasn’t here, would you love me more?” 

“Elyse Charlotte, what kind of question is that?” 

“Daddy, I want to marry you.” She was so serious. 

He smiled at her. “You know, I’m already married to Mama. I love her so ver—”

“I know. I hate her. She gets all your love. There’s never enough for me.” 

Andy began to understand. “Sweet pea, it’s okay to wish you could marry Daddy. Lots of little girls your age would like to marry their daddies, too.” He hugged her and kissed her forehead. “But Lysie, only Mama can be married to Daddy.” He watched her face. “You will always be my little sweet pea, and I will always love you, no matter what. I promise.” 

“But, will there be enough love left for me if you love her, Daddy? Don’t you ever run out?” 

“Honey, no, I never run out. I have more than enough love for you and your mama, and your brothers, too.” He looked her in the eyes, her beautiful, violet eyes, and told her, “You’re always and forever going to be my special little girl.” 

She looked at him, trying to figure out if he was telling the truth. “You never run out? Ever?” 

“Never ever, I promise.” He hugged her shoulders and kissed her cheek. “Are you okay, sweet pea? Are you okay with your mama now?”

“Yes, I think so.” 

“I sure hope so, baby girl. She loves you even more than I do, and that’s the truth.” 

Elyse sighed quietly. “She does?” 

“Yes, Lysie, she really does.” Andy gently wiped tears from her face.

“Can I go talk to her and tell her I love her?” 

“I bet you would make her day, Lysie.” 

“I love you, Daddy,” she said.

“I love you more, sweet pea.” 

Elyse walked from the bedroom, sniffling. Danae was sitting at the dining room table, her face in her hands. Elyse sidled up to her, and put her head on her mother’s shoulder. Feeling her little body next to her, Danae cried.

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“Mama?” 

She sniffled. “Yes, little love?” 

“I’m sorry I said I hate you. I love you, Mama.” 

Danae didn’t say a word, but picked her up into her lap, and wrapped her in a tight hug. Gently, she rocked Elyse in her arms. It sure felt good to cuddle her daughter again.

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She released her from the hug and looked into her eyes. “Lysie, I love you so very much. I hope you never doubt that. You are my firstborn. You will have my heart until the end of time.” Danae kissed her cheek. “Do you understand what I’m telling you, sweetie pie?” 

“Yes Mama,” she cried softly. 

Danae put her down from her lap. “Do you have homework tonight, baby girl?” 

“Just a little. Would you help me?” 

“I will after dinner, Lysie. Go play with Eamon and Emm until dinner. Are we good?” 

Elyse nodded and smiled. “Yes, Mama.” She leaned in for a kiss and giggled. “I love you.” 

Danae wiped tears from her eyes. “I love you to the moon and back.” 

Andy walked from the bedroom, smiling ear to ear. Danae noticed him and grinned. He sat at the table with her and rubbed her back. “What was that all about?” she asked.

“She was jealous of you, honey. She thinks I give you all my love, and I have none left for her.” 

The revelation lifted a weight from her. This was familiar. “I remember when I was just about her age, wanting to marry my daddy. Mama told me she was already married to him. I was heartbroken.” 

“Yes! She told me she wants to marry me. I reassured her that I will always love her, but I made it clear you are my only wife. She took it better than I thought she would.”

Danae hugged him, relief on her face. “Oh Andy, thank you. You gave my daughter back to me.” 

“You’re welcome, my sweet.” 

“Maybe it would be a good idea to stop calling me your favorite girl in front of her for a while, until this passes?”

“I never considered that could be a problem. Good idea, baby. You are a phenomenal mother, Danae. Never forget that.”

“I love you, so very much.” She buried her face into his chest as he hugged her.

“I crazy love you, honey.” 


Two weeks later…

Danae took Andy’s hand as they boarded the airplane, destination Barnacle Bay. It was only for an overnight trip, but it was good to get away together. They settled down into their seats, and the concierge offered them complimentary glasses of champagne. She reached for his hand and they intertwined their fingers. 

Barnacle Bay was an hour behind the island, and about two hours west by air. The team was back in coach, except for them and Aaron, who was two rows after them. He paid for the upgrade himself, a luxury he didn’t partake in often. Though he was very well compensated for his work, Aaron lived modestly. 

A few hours later, a limousine brought them to the resort, a four-star hotel on the beach. Though it was smaller than the Grand Tower, it was much more scenic. The beach was littered with palm trees and overlooked the skeleton of a wrecked pirate ship, which was the main attraction in the Bay. The concierge gave Andy their room keys, and together they strolled to the suite. The climate was warm and humid, not unlike the island, but the sounds were much different. Wild boar, exotic birds, and small dingo-like dogs roamed the small island. In the distance, cicadas droned their clatter. 

“Here we are,” Andy said as they approached their room. “Ladies first, my sweet.”

“Oh, Andy, this is beautiful!” she exclaimed as she entered. Inside the room was a king bed with a luxurious spread, a dresser made from dark cherry wood, a table with coordinating chairs, and a small refrigerator. But the amenity that stood out was the hot tub that sat on the private patio. The bathroom was nicely appointed with a toilet, bidet and a shower big enough for a family of four. Luxury linens and towels finished the room. And she was right. The room was beautiful.

He walked up behind her and wrapped his arms around her waist. “This is a four-star hotel. I’d love to see what they consider a five star.” 

“I couldn’t imagine anything better than this.” She walked up to the bed and felt the bedspread. “This is sateen. It’s like touching butter.” 

“I suppose we should try not to dirty it up, then.” He winked at her, hoping to elicit a reaction from her. 

“Speak for yourself, Mr. Murphy. I fully intend on rumpling the sheets with you tonight.” 

“It will be so nice to not worry about little ears and eyes, or when she’s going to ask to sleep in our bed.” Andy sat down and sank into the mattress. “Oh, baby, this is memory foam, and it feels like a cloud.” 

“What are we waiting for?” she purred as she joined him on the bed. 

“Nothing.” He walked to the door, opened it and hung the “Do Not Disturb” sign on the knob.

*****

The next morning, they awakened to the sound of crashing waves and sea birds outside their window. The air was already warm, and the sun was shining brightly. Andy glanced at his watch in disbelief. 

“Oh my word,” he gasped. “I’m late for the morning meeting! My alarm didn’t go off.” 

“When is your meeting?” she asked sleepily.

“In five minutes. I will never make the stadium in time.” 

“Babe, it’s only eight. We gained an hour, remember?” 

Relief washed over him. “I still don’t have much time, but it’s better than five minutes.” He kissed her quickly as he walked toward the bathroom. “I’m sorry I have to leave you to pack up the room and check us out.” 

“You act as though I’ve never done this before,” she chuckled. “I’ll be fine. Just don’t miss your meeting.” 

His usual shower was shortened by half, and he hurried to get ready. Danae watched with great amusement as he scrambled. “You seem to be enjoying this,” he laughed. “Remember, I know where you sleep.” 

“There was little sleeping done here last night,” she teased. “Probably why you slept through your alarm.” 

“Very funny. How do I look?” He struck a pose, displaying his new away game uniform.

“Ooh, I like the colors on this. Very sexy.” 

“I wish you wouldn’t have said that,” he laughed again. He kissed her tenderly. “Unfortunately, that’s all I have time for right now. I’ll see you at the stadium for the game? It’s at 2:30 local time.”

“Of course. Do we have decent seats?” 

“Not terrible. Behind the net, up in the grandstands. If Kirby was with us, we’d have a box. I’m not big enough to get those privileges.”

“Yet,” she added. “You’re not big enough yet.” 

“Unless we become billionaires and buy us a soccer team, I’ll never be big enough for that.” 

“Keep working hard. The sky’s the limit, babe.” 

Andy chuckled. “I will want to retire someday. Just not now.” He kissed her. “I have to run. Let me know when you’re on your way, and I’ll meet you in the lobby area.” 

“Sounds good. Tell the guys I said good luck! They’re going to be fantastic.” 

“Yeah, they are,” Andy agreed. “I love you, honey.” 

“I love you, too. Be safe.” 

*****

Danae arrived at the stadium ninety minutes before the game began, and met Andy just past the entrance. “Wait until you see inside the stadium, Nae. It’s beautiful.” 

“I’m excited, Andy! I’ve never been anywhere but the Shores and home.”

As they were walking to their seats, a man in a white suit and Panama hat approached Andy. “Mr. Murphy?” 

“You found me,” he smiled. 

“Mr. Murphy, my name is Alonzo Faust, and I own the Dolphins. I’ll cut to the chase. What would it take to lure you away from ol’ Kemp in Isla Paradiso?” 

“I’m not for sale. My wife and I are happy on the island.” He took her hand and held it tightly. 

“Everyone has a price, Mr. Murphy. Name yours.” 

“Mr. Faust, I’m flattered, but I’m not interested in leaving the Sharks franchise.”

“Not even three times your current salary?” 

“It’s not about the money. It’s about my family, and we’re settled into our lives there. It’s about our happiness, and we’ve never been more content than where we are right now. I’m simply not interested.” 

“Four times your salary, and a mansion on the hill. The best schools for your kids. The finest life you could provide for them, all for the taking.” 

“I’m sorry, Mr. Faust. I’m very honestly not interested.” He squeezed Danae’s hand. “Let’s go find our seats, my love. Pleasure to meet you.” He offered his hand, but Alonzo Faust walked away, disgusted.

“Babe, four times your annual salary now is almost a million a year. How could you so easily say no to that kind of money?”  

“Danae, we’re building a life in Isla Paradiso with new friends, our family, Darcey and Clint. I couldn’t ask them to move again, and I don’t want to leave them behind. Besides, I’m rather loyal to Kirby, after all he’s done for us. His family is our family, too.” 

“That is true. There is much more to consider. Plus, Mr. Faust rubbed me the wrong way. Almost sleazy.” 

“Yeah, I didn’t get a good vibe from him at all,” Andy concurred. “No matter. Let’s go watch our boys get a season opener victory!”

“Now you’re talking!” she cheered. “Hey, babe?”

“Yeah, hon?” 

“Next time, can I wear your old jersey to a game?” 

“Of course! I’d be honored.” 

*****

The Sharks easily won the first game with a spectacular twelve point victory over the Dolphins. Aaron’s plays had the opposing team scrambling, and Andy couldn’t remember enjoying a game as much as he did that one. It was late when they arrived home that evening, and the kids were already tucked into bed for the night. 

“Thanks for covering us for the night, Trix. Here’s a little something extra, since we won the game.” He gave her a generous tip. “Go do something nice for yourself.” 

“Thanks, Andy,” she said, grateful. “The kids were great, even Elyse watched some of the game when she got home from school. Don’t worry, though. Her homework is done.” 

“I wasn’t worried. Thanks again, Trixie.”

“You’re welcome! Always a pleasure.” 

Danae was in their bedroom getting undressed when Andy walked in, happy. “That game today was insane,” he smiled. “Aaron is a genius.”

“He’s pretty impressive. You don’t think Faust will try to steal him away, do you?” 

“The thought had never crossed my mind, but I’m going to tell Kirby about him in the morning. I doubt Aaron would go. He’s happy here with all of us.” 

“Thank you, Andy.” She kissed him before she slipped into her nightie.

“For what?” 

“For bringing me with you. It was a nice getaway, even if only for a day.” 

“Sometimes, the short ones are the best. But I want to go back and visit someday.”

“Me too, babe. Me too.” 

“You know what we were doing exactly twenty-four hours ago?” 

“I do,” she smiled. 

“Want to pick up where we left off?” 

“I thought you would never ask,” she purred. 

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Up Next: Chapter Twenty Three, Generation Five

Special thanks to Bee for her wonderful poses, and the others who have helped make this chapter come alive for me.

G5 Chapter Twenty One – Danae’s Debut

Danae was putting the finishing touches on her fourth painting in nearly six months and hoped it would be back from the framer before the exhibition in two weeks. In total, she had eleven paintings that would be on display at the art gallery, and she was nervous about having them out for all of Isla Paradiso to see. She would be expected to attend the grand opening, which would be a black-tie event. It was all very overwhelming for her.

In desperation, she called a local artisan to see about a custom frame for her newest completed work. Lena had given her the phone numbers of several craftsmen who did fast, quality work. 

“This is Grant,” the man answered.

“Hello, my name is Danae Murphy, and I’m looking to have a canvas framed. I would need it in about a week. Can you help me?”

“Ms. Murphy was it? I can complete a frame for you. What size do you need?” Danae read off the dimensions of the painting, and the man on the other end of the phone paused. “The rush job would be extra for a painting of that size. I had no idea your painting was so large.” 

“That isn’t a problem,” she replied. “I just finished it about an hour ago, so I can bring it to your studio tomorrow.”

“Oil or acrylic?” 

“It’s oil. This painting will be on display in two weeks at the gallery, and I’ll need it ahead of the opening.”

“Gallery, eh?” Grant was impressed.

“Yes, sir. Is there a problem?” she asked.

“No no,” he replied. “You must be the young woman from Starlight Shores. The community has been atwitter about your upcoming exhibit.”

Danae blushed. “That’s right.” 

“If you drop the painting by tomorrow, I’ll have it done well before the exhibit opens. I won’t be able to work on it directly for a few days, but I can cut the frame while it dries completely.” 

“Thank you, that is fantastic,” Danae replied. “I’m sorry, I forgot your name.” 

“Grant,” he replied. “Grant Green. I look forward to meeting you tomorrow.” 

“Likewise, Mr. Green.” Danae hung up the phone. 

The school bus would be at the front gate in less than twenty minutes, and she wanted, no… she needed to be there to meet Elyse. Since the picnic almost six months ago, when all of this began, she had not spent as much time with her children as she wanted, and she felt like a failure as a mother.

The nanny, Naomi, had done a fantastic job with the children during her six-month painting binge. In fact, she was almost too good. Emmitt had begun to call Naomi “Mama”. Hearing her youngest child call another woman “Mama” tore at her soul, especially since Andy was unmistakably “Dada”. 

Naomi was just getting Emmitt up from his nap when Danae walked downstairs. “I’ll get Lysie, Naomi,” she called. 

“Thank you, Miss Danae,” she replied. “Eamon is waiting for her to come home.” 

Danae smiled. Lysie and Eamon were close in age and relationship, despite their rocky start. “She will be excited. Andy is coming home from Sunlit Tides tonight, and she misses him when he’s gone.” 

“Yes she does,” Naomi answered. 

The bus pulled up outside, and when Elyse saw Danae waiting for her, she squealed loud enough to be heard in the yard. “Mama!” she cried, and immediately Danae felt guilty. Kneeling down, she opened her arms for her daughter. 

“Ooh, Lysie, Mama missed you so much today!” she said as she hugged Elyse. “Guess who is coming home tonight?” 

Elyse’s eyes got wide. “Daddy!” 

Danae kissed her forehead. “That’s right! I know for a fact he misses you so much, and he can’t wait to come home.”

“Yay!” Elyse squealed again. 

“Do you have homework, Lysie?” 

“A little,” she pouted. “But I don’t wanna do it.” 

“Why don’t you work on it until dinner, and then when Daddy gets home, you can spend some time with him?” 

Elyse nodded excitedly. “I can’t wait!” 

Me too, thought Danae. Andy had been gone nearly a week, and she missed him terribly.

When they got inside the front door, Elyse ran to Naomi’s arms, chattering about her day, and asked for help with her homework. And as her daughter covered the nanny in kisses and hugs, nothing was normal in Danae’s world anymore. 

“Naomi, I’m going to be in my room, if you need me. I’m not feeling well,” she half-lied. Physically, she felt great, but emotionally, she was drained. 

“Absolutely, Miss Danae.” 

She curled up on the bed and sobbed, missing Andy, missing her children, and hoped the sacrifice would be worth it. She had essentially lost the last six months of her children’s lives, and she regretted it.

She took her phone from her pocket and read the last text message from Andy.

Baby, I’m so proud of you! I miss you so much, but I’ll see you tomorrow. I love you!

She had sent him a photo of the VIP invitation to her art gallery premiere. At the time, she was happy. But, she reminded herself, after the grand opening, life would return to normal. Hopefully, her children would remember what normal used to look like. 

Danae fell asleep, waiting for Andy’s return. As much as she missed the children, she couldn’t lift herself out of her funk long enough to be with them. It was Andy she truly missed, and she wouldn’t feel like herself until his arms were wrapped around her again. 

Andy’s flight had been delayed by hours. The children were asleep, Naomi had gone upstairs for the evening, and Danae was left alone in the living room watching a romantic comedy. It was late when she heard the gate open. Andy! Her heart leaped at the sound, at the very thought that in mere moments, she would be in his arms. She seriously considered running out the front door, but before she could get up, he was already inside. She heard the quiet thud of his luggage as it fell over, and his whispered curses as he bent over to pick it up. He saw the glow of the television in the living room and tiptoed toward the back of the house. When he peeked around the corner, he saw her waiting for him, and tears filled his eyes.

 

“Oh baby, you are a sight for sore eyes,” he cried as he saw her, and he went to her. Effortlessly, he lifted her out of her chair and into a hug.

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“How I’ve missed you, honey,” he whispered into her ear. Tears rolled down her cheeks. She couldn’t speak, overcome with emotion. She simply covered his face in soft kisses and wrapped her legs around his waist as he held her. “Hi Andy,” she finally squeaked out, raw emotion in her voice. He carried her into their bedroom and laid her down on the bed. 

“Let me look at you, my sweet.” He sat down beside her, and she wrapped herself around him, crying softly. “Aww, honey, don’t cry. I’m here.” He gently wiped tears from her eyes and stroked her hair. 

“I have missed you something awful,” she cried. “Longest week of my life.” 

“Mine, too. It feels so good to be home, to have you wrapped around me like this. The kids are good?” 

She hated to admit it, but she didn’t know for sure. “Yes, I guess so. I’ve been trying to meet the deadline for the framer on that last painting.” She choked up. “I want life to be normal again.” 

“Did you finish it, honey?” 

“Today, yes. We won’t need Naomi much longer. But…” her voice trailed off, pain marked her words.

“But what, baby?”

“Emmitt started calling Naomi ‘Mama’ this week.” Her heart broke into pieces. There was no denying it. She was devastated.

“Oh honey, you’re always going to be mama to those babies. They are your heart and soul.” He kissed her tenderly until her tears were gone. “Sweetie, don’t think anything of it. He knows you’re his mother.” 

“Does he? Even Elyse gave Naomi hugs and kisses today when she came home from school, and I got nothing.” 

“Once life gets back to normal, the kids will be back on track, too. You’ll see.” He caressed her cheek. 

“Andy, I missed you. And I really need you tonight.”

“Baby, I thought you’d never say so.” He wrapped her in a hug and took her to bed, loving her into the early morning hours.


The next morning, Andy had off from work, so they slept in while Naomi took care of the children. But Danae had somewhere she needed to be, so she peeled herself away from Andy and jumped into the shower. When she turned the water off and opened the shower door, he was sitting on the edge of the bed, watching for her.

“Good morning, baby,” he purred at her. “Going somewhere?”

She nodded. “I have to bring my last painting to the framer this morning. Would you care to join me?” 

“I’d love to go with you, honey. Let me get into the shower and clean up a bit.” They traded places. He ran the water and showered while she dried off. Danae was dressed when he stepped out from the shower, her hair almost braided. He walked to where she sat on the bed and wrapped his arms around her and kissed her head. 

As he walked away, she had the edge of his towel in her hand, and it pulled from his body. He laughed, “Are you happier with your scenery now, my sweet?” 

“Much better,” she smiled. He walked back to her and took the towel from her, and dried off. While it was still wet, he combed his jet black hair. “Here,” she beckoned to him, “let me.” He returned to where she sat, and she stood, pushing his hair behind his ear. “That’s better,” she said, biting her bottom lip. 

“You do seem to love it that way,” he smiled. “Just like I love your hair braided like that.” He got dressed quickly, and hand in hand, they left the bedroom. Elyse was almost ready for her school bus to pick her up when she saw Andy.

“Daddy!” she squealed loudly. “I missed you!” she ran to him and wrapped her little body around his leg, her giggles filled the house. 

“I missed you too, sweet pea!” he squatted down to hug her and covered her in kisses. “How would you like to stay home from school today?” 

She stopped to think for a moment, and then nodded her head furiously. “Yes!” she shrieked in a high pitched voice. 

“Mama and I have one errand to run, but when we come home, we’re going to spend all day together. How does that sound?” 

“What about Naomi?” she asked.

“Naomi can have the rest of the day off once we get home. It will be just the five of us.” 

Naomi nodded her head. “It will be good for you to spend the day as a family,” she agreed. “Just let me know and I’ll be out of your hair.” 

“I have to bring that painting to the framer, but when we get back, you’re free to leave,” Danae said as she walked down the steps with the artwork. She turned it around to show it off, but Naomi only shook her head. 

“I’m sorry, Miss Danae. I’m not much for art.” 

Andy took the painting from her and slipped his hand into hers. “Ready, my sweet?” 

“You bet,” she nodded. “We’ll be home soon.” 

The short drive down to the town center was uneventful and quiet. Andy parked his car and walked to the passenger door to open it for Danae, held his hand for her and helped her out. An older lady passerby smiled at Andy. “I’m glad to see that chivalry isn’t completely dead, young man. Good for you!” And to Danae, she whispered, “Hang onto him! He’s a keeper!” and winked at her. Danae smiled and took his hand. 

They walked into the woodshop, and Grant greeted them both. His face brightened as he recognized Andy. “How can I help you folks today?” 

“I’m Danae —”

“Right!” he interrupted her. “I wasn’t expecting you to be with Andy Murphy. Pleased to meet you both, and congratulations on our football cup last season! I understand you’re to thank for that, Mr. Murphy.” 

“Thank you,” Andy nodded. “We’re looking at another championship this coming season, too. I just finished negotiating for another player from the west coast. That announcement will be coming shortly, so no spoilers from me!” 

“I guess I’ll just have to wait then!” Grant smiled. “Now, let me see this painting of yours, Mrs. Murphy.” 

“Please, you can call me Danae.” Andy handed the painting to him, and Grant admired it.

“Wow!” he exclaimed. “I can see why the town is fired up about this exhibition. This is magnificent!” 

Danae blushed. “Thank you.” 

He inspected the canvas carefully and saw where the paint looked a little shiny. “This is where it’s wet, I see?” 

Danae nodded. “Yes, I had some touch-ups to do on it yesterday. But I know you can build the frame while that spot cures.” 

“Yes, I can.” Grant placed the painting behind the counter and wrote a work order up for the frame. “I know I told you this would be extra for the rush on this frame, but seeing as your husband is Andy Murphy, I’ll cut you a deal on it.” 

“Why, thank you,” she said. “I appreciate your generosity.” 

“Thank you!” he countered. “Good luck next season, Mr. Murphy. The town is counting on you and Mr. Hall to bring us another cup.”

“If anyone can do it, it’s Aaron,” Andy remarked. “Thank you again.” They left the shop together, hand in hand. 

When they got home, Andy dismissed Naomi for the day, and he made breakfast for Danae and the kids. Emmitt was crying in the bedroom, so Danae went to get him. But when he saw her, he screamed. “Mama! Mama! Mama!” 

“Baby boy, I’m your Mama,” she said, swallowing her emotions.  But he cried, trying to squirm away from her. Finally, she let him down on the floor, and he ran toward the kitchen, crying. 

“What’s wrong, Emm?” Andy cooed as he picked up their youngest boy. He blew bubbles on his tummy and set him down, and turned to see Danae, with tears in her eyes. 

“Dada! Mama!” he babbled, and ran to the door, looking for Naomi. “Mama! Mama!” he cried.

Andy’s heart broke for his wife. “Oh honey,” he hugged her. “Baby, he doesn’t mean it.” 

“What if I messed up, Andy? What if he never recognizes me as his mother?” Hot tears ran down her face. “I’ll never get the past six months back.” 

“Oh sweetie, of course, he knows you’re Mama. Just like Eamon and Lysie know it, too. Right Lysie?” 

Elyse was watching television, and heard her name. She looked up at Andy. “What, Daddy?” 

“Lysie, you know this is your Mama, right honey?” 

She nodded her head. “When is Naomi coming back, Daddy?” 

Danae blinked back tears. “She’ll be back tomorrow for a couple more weeks. And then, Mama is going to take care of you again, just like she used to. How’s that?” 

Elyse didn’t look up from her show but simply shrugged her shoulders. Danae couldn’t handle it anymore. “I don’t feel well, babe. I’m going to lay down.” 

“Honey, wait,” he called to her, but she closed the door behind her. “Okay, this is going to stop right now,” he said. “Lysie, can I talk to you a minute, sweetie pie?” He walked to the television, took the remote from her hands and turned it off. 

“Daddy!” she whined. “I was watching that!” 

“Yeah, well now you’re going to listen to me. Why are you mad at your mama, Elyse?”

“I’m not!” she said. 

“Then why did you treat her so badly, young lady?” 

“I didn’t!” she insisted. 

“Lysie, what is going on? You’re hurting your mama’s feelings, and I don’t like it. She feels bad.” 

“Why doesn’t she love me anymore, Daddy?” Elyse’s eyes filled with tears. 

“Whoa!” Andy was taken aback. “Your mama loves you very much, honey.”

“I don’t see her anymore. She’s too busy for me.” 

Andy felt terrible. “Lysie, your mama had something she needed to do, and she’s been working very hard at it. And she misses you so much, you and Eamon and Emm. But when you treat her like you don’t love her, it hurts her feelings a lot, because sweet pea, your mama loves you more than anyone else does.” 

“I miss her, Daddy.” 

“Why don’t you tell her that, Lysie? I bet she would love to hear it from you.” Andy took her hand and led her to the bedroom door. Before he opened it, he knelt down to her and wiped tears from her eyes.

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“Lysie, I need you to tell Mama that you’re sorry you hurt her feelings, okay? And then tell her what you told me. That you miss and love her.”

Elyse sniffled. “Okay, Daddy.” Andy opened the bedroom door and walked with her to the bed. “Mama?” Elyse approached Danae and kneeled down on the floor next to her. 

“Hi sweetheart,” Danae cried. 

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Elyse looked at Andy, and he nodded at her. “Mama, I’m sorry I hurted your feelings.” Tears ran down her face as she took Danae’s hand. “I love you Mama, and I miss you.” 

Danae looked at Lysie, tears in her own violet eyes, and she cried harder. “Oh, my sweet little girl.” She sat up and wrapped her daughter in her warm embrace. “I love you more than you know. And I’m sorry I haven’t been here with you, honey. But I don’t have to paint anymore, so all my time and attention is for you and your brothers.” 

“Really?” Elyse sniffled.

“Really really,” Danae said, and kissed her forehead. “Baby girl, I love you.” 

“I love you, Mama,” she replied, and kissed Danae on the cheek. 

“How much?” she asked.

Elyse held her arms open as far as she could get them apart. “This much!”

Danae smiled and picked her up, held her in her arms and tickled her. “Only that much, huh?” Elyse giggled and squealed, and Andy’s heart was overflowing with love for both of them. “Daddy is making breakfast. Why don’t we go get some pancakes!” 

“Pancakes! Yay!” she laughed. Elyse jumped down off the bed, stopped and turned around to look at Danae. “Are you comin’, Mama?”

“Yes, sweet pea, I’m coming.” On her way out of the bedroom, Andy stopped her, wrapped her in a hug and kissed her. “Thank you,” she whispered in his ear. “That meant everything to me.” 

Tenderly, he wiped tears from her eyes, and then his own. “I know, baby. I know.” 


“Danae, the limo will be here in thirty minutes. How are you on time, baby?” Andy called from the living room.

The gown she had intended to wear hung loosely off her body, and it looked awful on her. “I’ll make it,” she said, her voice on the verge of breaking. Everything in her closet felt too big for her, but she pulled out a dusty mauve evening gown she had worn before. She didn’t even have to unzip it before she put it on, but it somehow didn’t look as terrible as the others.

Andy walked into the bedroom, and saw her nearly in tears, the bed covered in dresses she had tried on. “Oh honey,” he said tenderly, “have you lost that much?”

She nodded her head, almost afraid to speak. For the past ten days, Danae had been sick with a stomach virus, and she hadn’t kept much solid food down. She had only been feeling better for a day or two, but in the week she was sick, she had lost twenty pounds, putting her well below her ideal weight. 

“Well, that gown looks beautiful on you, honey. I’d stick with that one.” She smoothed the fabric over her body with her hands and sighed.

“I look hideous,” she cried. 

“No, you don’t baby. You look stunning.” Andy meant it, too. 

She forced a smile. “I don’t, but thank you, love.” 

He hugged her and kissed her forehead. “This is your night to shine, and you’re gorgeous. You’re going to do great, and the public will love it.” 

“I hope you’re right, or all my sacrifice will be for nothing.” 

“Your hair is so pretty all braided up like that, Danae. Honey, you are radiant. Just touch up your lipstick, and we should be good, right?”

She sighed. “Yes, I’m ready. But I’m not really. This is a big deal. What if they hate it?” 

“I guarantee, no one will hate your artwork.” He kissed her forehead. “Baby, relax. It’s going to be fine.” 

This would be Naomi’s last night to be with the Murphy children. She would leave in the morning, once Danae’s commitment to the gallery had been fulfilled. She had Emmitt in her lap when Andy brought Danae from the bedroom on his arm. 

“You look lovely, Miss Danae,” Naomi said softly. “Have fun tonight!” 

“Thank you, Naomi,” she replied. “We shouldn’t be late.” 

Andy led her to the limo and helped her in. He got in behind her, and they rode to the gallery in silence. When they arrived, Danae was truly overwhelmed. The museum was crawling with Paparazzi and press, spotlights shone around the building, and banners bearing her likeness and name were displayed outside. As the limousine door opened, cameras, mics and reporters were stuck in Andy’s face, and he pushed them aside to help her out. Taking his hand, she stood, and he sheltered her from the car to just inside the museum’s front door. 

The curator greeted Danae once they were safe, away from the throng of people outside. Lena Sanchez was also on hand, and walked around the exhibit, smiling.

“Welcome, Mrs. Murphy,” Lena greeted her formally. “And congratulations on this fine exhibit of your work. I see quite a few masterpieces in here. The public is in for a real treat for the next six months.” 

Danae blushed. “I’ve been so nervous about this, since the final piece was framed. That’s when it got very real.” She walked around from canvas to canvas, admiring the presentation. “This is so beautifully displayed.”

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“Are you ready, Danae?” Lena asked her. “Let’s get a publicity shot or two with your paintings in the background before we open the doors, shall we?”

Andy and Danae posed with a few of her paintings, and the museum director opened the doors to the public. Waitstaff served champagne and hors d’oeuvres while a pianist played on a grand piano. Danae was formally introduced as the featured artist, and the Paparazzi and press gathered for photos of her. Afterward, she and Andy mingled among everyone, talking to guests and trying to read the crowd. It truly was a beautiful reception, and she was enjoying herself.

A town socialite, an elderly woman who everyone seemed to know, walked through the door, and the room hushed. All eyes were on her as she surveyed Danae’s work. Andy leaned in and whispered to her.

“Who is that, love?” 

“I have no idea, but I’m suddenly nervous.” Danae walked from where Andy sat to where the woman stood when Danae caught her eye.

“Is this your work?” she asked Danae as she looked down her nose at her. 

Danae nodded, her mouth instantly dry. “Yes,” she finally squeaked out.

“Mediocre at best. You shouldn’t be featured here with this… whatever you call it.” She pointed toward the abstract painting that Lena had been so fond of, and shuddered. “What an embarrassment.” The woman’s tone was condescending and demeaning. If she had intended to inflict pain, she had accomplished her mission. 

Even though Danae had no idea who this person was or what were her qualifications, her words shattered any bit of confidence Danae had in the exhibit. She walked back to Andy as tears stung her eyes.

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“What happened?” he asked, noticing her distraught expression. She sat on the bench next to him.

“She said this exhibit was an embarrassment, Andy. Mediocre. This was a huge mistake.” She buried her face in her hands, and Andy tried to comfort her. 

“She’s only one person, baby. Unless she’s a critic, I wouldn’t take anything she says seriously. Art is subjective, and you know that.” He rubbed her back and kissed her cheek. 

“I don’t know who she is, but she tore into me like Wyatt into a steak. I want to go home.” 

“What is your obligation for tonight?” 

“I think until close of business. We still have a couple of hours to go.” She sighed deeply. “It’s going to be a long six months.” 

 

Together they stood and mingled, but he didn’t leave her side for the rest of the evening.

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And when the museum closed for the evening, the curator found them and thanked them. 

“Mrs. Murphy, the reviews will be in the newspaper in the morning. We anticipate good ratings from the grand opening.” 

Danae wanted to laugh in his face. He hadn’t heard what she had heard, or felt the humiliation she had felt. Instead, she nodded politely. “Thank you. Now, if you please, I am tired. I’ve had a long day.” 

“By all means, Mrs. Murphy,” he said cordially. “You’re welcome back to sign autographs and souvenirs at any time.” She nodded her head and thanked him again. As soon as he was behind them, she rolled her eyes.

They got into the waiting limousine, and Danae burst into tears. “This was a burning hot dumpster fire, Andy,” she sobbed. “I don’t see myself going back there for any more humiliation.” 

He rubbed her back. “I don’t blame you, but at least wait to see what the reviews are in the morning, sweetie.” He hugged her close to him. “I’m still very proud of you.” 

She said nothing more on the way home, Andy just held her in his arms. The limo dropped them off outside the gate, and Andy pushed past more Paparazzi than usual to get her inside. The house was quiet and dark when he turned the key in the front door, and she moped in ahead of him.

Inside, the children were sound asleep, and they heard the sounds of Naomi packing her few suitcases. She would be departing in the late morning. 

“I’m tired, babe. I’m just going to sleep.” 

“Wow, I can’t even interest you in—”

“Nope.” 

“—a glass of wine?” he finished his sentence.

“Babe, I can’t even think about it. I’m so depressed.” 

Danae undressed, leaving her beautiful evening gown draped over a chair, climbed into bed and cried herself to sleep. 


Andy woke up first the next morning and noticed that Danae was facing away from him. It was out of the ordinary, but it was nothing. She had a bad night, he reasoned. The hour was too early to expect the newspaper, but he knew she would want to see it. 

Naomi carried the first of her bags down the steps, trying to be quiet. Andy was making coffee when she greeted him. “Good morning, Mr. Andy,” she said cheerfully.

“Good morning Naomi. Would you wake Lysie for me? She has school this morning.” 

“Actually, it’s a holiday today, Mr. Andy. The schools are closed.” 

He looked at her, puzzled. “What holiday?” 

“It’s Festival Day, the first day of the El Sabor de la Isla. It’s a big deal here.” The festival was an annual celebration, but the first one to occur since Elyse had started school. Unfortunately, he still had to be at the stadium. Football knew no holidays except for Snowflake Day.

“Wow,” he exclaimed. It seemed like we just had that last week.” How the time was flying past. 

“I will be out by eleven this morning, Mr. Andy. I have to report to my next job.”

He nodded. “Thank you for all your help. I wish the exhibition opening had gone better last night.” 

“I meant to ask. How did Miss Danae do?” 

“It was fine until some snooty woman came in and tore her confidence to shreds. She cried herself to sleep last night.” 

“That sounds like Mrs. Manzano. She’s an elderly, second-rate artist who thinks her work is better than anyone else’s. She’s been known to show up at these things and cause a ruckus.” 

“Really?” Andy was dumbfounded. “They just let her walk into grand openings like this and raise hell?” 

“They can’t keep her out, it’s a public exhibit.”

“Well, hopefully, the reviews in the newspaper will be positive. She needs a boost right now. The kids, this exhibit. Something needs to go right for her, and soon.” Andy poured a cup of fresh coffee and prepared it. “I’m going to sit outside while the kids are asleep. If you need help with bags, just holler, Naomi.” 

“Sure, Mr. Andy.”

About a half-hour later, Danae woke up and walked to the kitchen for a cup of coffee. She didn’t see Andy around, and the kids were still asleep, so she sat at the dining room table, feeling alone and dejected. A big part of her didn’t want to see the review of her gallery premiere, but she dragged herself to the mailbox to retrieve the newspaper anyway. 

Halfway through the front section, she changed her mind and tucked the paper into the garbage. That was when Elyse walked from her room, rubbing her eyes. “Good morning, Mama,” she said sleepily.

“Lysie! What are you doing home?” Danae asked. “I thought you were at school.” 

“Today’s a holiday, Mama. Can I have pancakes for breakfast?” 

“Of course, sweet pea,” Danae replied. The back door opened, and Andy spotted her. 

“Good morning, my beautiful princess,” he greeted her. “What’s the good word on your premiere?” 

She shook her head. “I don’t know, and I truly don’t care. I’ve given this too much of my time, and I’m done with it.” She measured the flour and sugar for the pancake batter. 

“Did you get the paper yet? I’ll look.” 

“It’s in the compactor, Andy. I chickened out.” 

He laughed. “Chickened out, huh?” He walked to the compactor and picked it out. “You did a good job burying it in there, love.” He brushed a good amount of coffee grounds off and unfolded it. The Arts section was near the end of the newspaper, but he turned to it first. The headline of the article was in large lettering, right under the section heading:

Transplanted Local Artist Debuts At Gallery; Critics Impressed

He read the headline to her, and she turned her head to look at him. “Andy, stop joking with me. I can’t take any more.” 

“Baby, I’m not joking. It really says this.” He handed the paper to her, and she took it from him. 

She scanned the article, and every emotion she felt in the past twenty-four hours played out on her face. “Masterpiece?” She smiled brightly. “Brilliant?” Her face turned to disbelief, doubt. “Stunning?” She shook her head. “Andy, they’re using those words to describe my paintings.” 

“See? I told you, though I hate to be one of those people who say ‘I told you so’.” He smiled and stuck his tongue out at her.

“B-But, I don’t understand! What about that woman?” 

“Naomi was telling me a bit ago that she’s an artist who likes to attend these things and start problems. Baby, the people who matter loved your work! That has to make you feel good inside, right?” 

“I can’t believe it. I was prepared for a long, tiresome six months.” Finally, he saw a smile creep across her face, and it made him happy.

 “Aww, Danae, I’m so proud of you! All of your hard work paid off!” 

“One problem solved. Now I just have to work on winning the kids’ affection and love back. I think Emmitt will be the hard sell. He’s so little, so impressionable.” 

“Well, you tell me if Elyse is giving you a hard time, because I’d love to tickle her until she submits.” He eyed the little girl and walked towards her, fingers wiggling and laughing. She squealed and ran away, giggling like mad. 

“That little girl loves you, Andy. She reminds me so much of me and my Daddy.” Danae put the first pancakes onto the griddle to cook, and took a sip of coffee. “Lysie, go wake Eamon for me, honey? And would you get Emm, babe? He probably needs to be changed, too.” 

“Of course, my sweet,” he said. 

*****

After breakfast, Danae started on what would be a long road with her children, earning their love and trust again. She sat with Eamon and Emmitt, the baby in her lap, and Eamon curled up next to her on the floor, and read to them, played with them and poured everything she had into her two boys. Eamon was a quick study and was back to normal within the day. Emmitt, however, was proving to be more of a challenge.

Andy played with Elyse and Eamon in the pool after work while Danae spent much-needed bonding time with Emmitt. 

“Emmitt, who am I?” she sang. 

The boy looked at her, then around for Andy. “Dada!” he cried sharply. 

“No, sweetheart, Daddy is outside. Say Mama.” 

He shook his head. “No Mama!” 

She picked him up and cradled him into her arms, and sang to him like she had done with Eamon and Elyse when they were his age:

Baby mine, don’t you cry
Baby mine, dry your eyes
Lay your head close to my heart
Never a tear, Baby of mine.¹

The song soothed the baby, and he began to coo at her. “That’s my boy,” she sang happily. She blew bubbles on his belly, and Emmitt giggled, a really good, strong belly laugh. Danae’s heart sang, in love with the baby boy she held in her arms. It was so good to hear him laugh! But then something changed, and he squirmed from her. Emmitt cried, yelling for Naomi, calling her ‘Mama’. But she was already gone from the house, and Danae felt all of the progress they had made slip through her fingers. 

Andy brought the kids inside after it was determined that Eamon was becoming a human prune, and Emmitt cooed when he saw his father. “Dada! Dada!” he cried, holding his arms up to be lifted.

“How did it go with him, my sweet?” Andy asked her as he picked Emmitt up from the floor.

“It was okay for a little while. But when he’d had enough of me, he cried for Naomi. I think it’s going to take a while for him, babe.” She sat, her shoulders slumped, and breathed deeply. “I just need to undo six months of neglect. It will take longer than one night, I suspect.”

“Honey, you know you didn’t neglect the kids. You’re being too hard on yourself.”

“Maybe so, maybe not. No amount of money or fame is worth losing my children. I’m sorry I did it, babe.”

“Give it time, Danae. Like you said, it took a while to get him to ‘Naomi is mama’. He will remember.”

“I wish I hadn’t weaned him. That would have helped him to remember for certain.” 

“I wish you hadn’t too.” He gave her a sly smile, and she rolled her eyes. “What?” 

“Oh, you,” she laughed. “You’re too much.” 

“So I’ve gone from ‘more than enough’ to ‘too much’, eh?” 

“I guess you have!” she snorted.

“Is that an upgrade?” 

She kissed him and put her arms around his waist. “I’d say so.” He hugged her close and nuzzled her neck. 

“Danae, I crazy love you right now.” 

“I love you, Andy, forever and always.” 

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Up Next: Chapter Twenty Two, Generation Five

 


¹© 1941 Frank Churchill / Ned Washington

G5 Chapter Twenty – Danae’s Big Break

After the football season ended, the team and staff were given a two-week vacation in celebration of a season well played and their first-ever championship title. With three young children, leaving the island wasn’t feasible for the Murphy family, so they stayed in town and decided to take in the local sights and attractions. 

The first morning of Andy’s vacation began with a little girl planted between them, neither of them knowing how she got there, or when she snuck into their bedroom. That something frightened her was obvious, though it was unclear what. Luckily, Elyse was asleep when Andy got up and pulled on enough clothing to ensure he was modest. 

The sun had only begun to rise, and the morning was fresh and cool, so he dressed for a run. In a pair of shorts, a muscle shirt, and his running shoes, Andy left a message on Danae’s nightstand and slipped out the door quietly. Just outside the gate, he stretched his muscles and warmed up before heading down the long dead-end street into the town proper.

The wild jasmine that grew along the village streets scented the air faintly as he ran past Aaron’s home, along the dirt road that led into town. A doe and her fawn looked up from grazing as he jogged past, not fearful of him in the slightest. The streets were littered with streamers and confetti that the sweepers missed, remnants of the ticker-tape parade held the day after the championship game. And nearby, the smell of coffee and greasy breakfast food emanated from a family-owned cafe. Andy surmised the food was good, as the crowd waiting for tables overflowed from inside out onto the sidewalk.

He made his way to the festival grounds, though nothing was happening in the town center this day. He found a park bench and sat and rested his legs before he headed back the almost three miles he had jogged from the house. As he stood and stretched, his peripheral vision caught the art gallery, with banners outside featuring a local artist. He knew Danae loved art and made a mental note to bring her for the special exhibition.

One of the items on their ‘to-do’ list was to host a few of the guys, plus Kirby, Rae and their kids for a pool party. The wavemaker in the pool was very popular with Wyatt and Aaron, and Andy was certain the Kemp and Tillman children would love to play in it as well. The party was planned for the coming weekend, and there was much to do to prepare for it. 

Andy’s footsteps made their way back into the house, which was alive with the laughter of children. He opened the front door to Elyse’s chatter, and when she spotted him, she dropped what she was doing to greet him. 

“Hi, Daddy!” she chirped happily.

“Hi, sweet pea,” he replied, hugging her. “I need to take a shower before we play, okay?” 

“Yep!” came her answer. 

“Andy? Is that you, love?” Danae called from the boys’ room, where she sat feeding their son. Emmitt wouldn’t be nursing for much longer, but since he was the last child, she didn’t mind continuing for another month or two. It was a bonding activity she would miss once he was completely weaned. 

“It is, my sweet. I went for a run. Do you need something, baby?” 

“Not yet. I know you’re going for a shower. It can wait.” 

“I won’t be long.” Andy kicked his shoes off and carried them into the bedroom, where he placed them into the closet. His sweaty clothing went into the hamper, and he got into the shower to clean up. The warm water felt good as he stood under it for a moment. He washed his hair and body, and stood in the warm water jets another second or two before turning the water off and stepping out. Danae was sitting on the bed, folding laundry when he opened the shower door.

“Hey, sexy,” she purred. 

“The kids are awake,” he laughed. 

“I’m aware.” She smiled at him. 

“What did you need, baby?” he asked as he dried off.

“I was going to ask if you would carry some of the dirty laundry to the garage for me. I’m overwhelmed by how many clothes the kids dirty in one day.” 

“Of course I will, honey. I was going to bring ours in anyway. My sweaty running clothes will get funky real quick if I don’t.” He chuckled softly. “Do you need help with the house? We can hire help anytime you need it, sweetie.” 

“No, I’m good. Laundry gets ahead of me sometimes. It’s a bit easier with Elyse in preschool during the day. Eamon has always been a good napper, and Emmitt still goes down easily, too.” She stood and walked to him. “I will love having you home for the next two weeks. You deserve the vacation time.” She wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him.

“Mmm, there’s nothing like your sweet kisses in the morning.” He hugged her close. 

“You smell so good, Andy. Better than you did when you came home this morning,” she snorted. He was about to give her a playful swat when he noticed Elyse standing in the doorway, watching their exchange. 

“Daddy? Can we go swimming today?” 

“Yes, sweet pea, but later on. I have to help your Mama with some stuff.” 

“Can I help?” 

Danae looked at him, shocked. Elyse had never offered to help her before. Andy apparently had the magic touch. “Of course, little love. Why don’t you pick up the toys in the living room for Daddy, please?”

“Yay!” she squealed, excited. 

“I’m impressed,” Danae exclaimed. “Maybe I should go to work, and you can play Mr. Mom.” 

He ignored her comment and kissed her forehead. “Let me get dressed, and I’ll help you get this house in shape. The pool party is only a few days away.” 

“I know. I have a lot of cooking to do, and I need to go to the market to pick up stuff I don’t have in the garden.” 

“If you don’t need help at the market, I’ll stay home and watch the kids while you go,” he suggested.

“Oh my goodness, that would be amazing!” Danae exclaimed. Visiting the grocery store with three small children in tow was no small feat, and she hated it.

“Just let me know when you want to go, and I’m on the job.” He collected towels from the bathroom to put into the hamper. “I’ve got the laundry. You know where I’ll be.” 

“Thank you, babe. You have no idea what a help it is.” 

“It is my pleasure, my sweet.” 

Danae returned home from the market about 90 minutes after she left, her trunk filled with bags that needed to be brought inside. 

“Andy? Honey, can you help with the groceries?” she called into the house. “Andy?” 

Seconds later, the back door opened, and he walked through, a giggling Elyse on his six. “Shh!” he scolded her. “Your brothers are sleeping.” 

“Babe!” Danae looked at him. “Tell me you didn’t leave the boys in here alone while you were swimming!”

“I had a monitor outside with us, my sweet. Don’t worry, they’re fine.” He smiled at her and cocked his head. “Do you need help?” 

“In fact, I do. Lysie, could you play quietly for a few minutes, baby girl?” She nodded her head while they walked to the garage. 

“Are you angry with me, Nae?” Andy asked as he grabbed bags from the trunk of her car.

She smiled. “No, babe. I do the same thing when I need time during the day. Thanks for helping me. I’ll get the rest.” They walked into the house together. “Hey,” she said to him as he set the bags down. “Thank you for a peaceful market trip.” 

“You’re welcome, my sweet. I’ll get the last two bags, baby. You relax.” He stroked her cheek, and she nuzzled into his hand. 

“I love you,” she cooed. 

“I love you more,” he replied, and walked to the garage. 

*****

The pool was freshly cleaned and maintained, the mini-fridge in the outdoor kitchen was stocked, the steaks were marinated and other goodies prepared and ready to go. Danae ran the vacuum one last time before the first guests arrived, and settled Eamon and Emmitt down to nap, closing their bedroom door. Aaron and Wyatt were the first to arrive. 

“How’s it goin’ Murph?” Aaron asked as they walked in, carrying some beer and wine in a large cooler. 

Andy hugged both of them. “It’s going great! Welcome! Make yourselves at home.” 

Elyse ran from her bedroom, excited to see them. “Uncle Aaron! Uncle Wyatt!”

Wyatt knelt down to her and hugged her. “Hey little princess!” he said as he kissed her cheek. 

The call box rang, and Andy answered it. Kirby and Rae were requesting entrance, and he let them in. Danae walked to the front door to greet them.

“Kirby! Rae! What a pleasure to finally have you in our home,” she twittered. “Please make yourselves at home.”

“These are our children, Corrie and Cody. Kids, this is Nae.” 

The young girl’s eyes lit up. “You mean, the Nae, Mom?”

“Yes, honey.” 

Corrie squealed in delight. “I’m such a big fan!” Danae blushed madly. 

Avery, Dina, and their children arrived last, and they were welcomed into the house. Everyone moved to the patio outside, and Andy fired up the wavemaker for the kids. Rae and Dina admired the house, and Danae gave them the tour. 

The women walked up the stairs to the second floor and admired the floor plan. “Putting a catwalk was genius, Danae,” Dina remarked. “I love that you can see the bottom floor from up here.” 

“Thanks,” she replied. “The workout area gets a lot of use, but this doesn’t.” Danae pointed to her art studio. “I mean, my things are set up, but I haven’t painted since college. I just don’t have the time.” 

“I knew your major was fine arts, but I had no idea that you were an artist,” Rae remarked. “Do you have any of your work in the house?” 

“The piece in the dining area is mine. My great grandmother was an artist, and many of the pieces up here were hers, but most of her paintings and sketches were donated to the museum when we left.” 

“I love the guest suite,” Dina quipped. “It looks almost like a master bedroom.” 

“When we designed it, we had actually planned on using it as our bedroom, but the extra space we gained in the master suite downstairs convinced us to stay there. I keep hoping my cousin will come visit from the Shores, but it’s doubtful. Greg has a good job, but doesn’t get much time off.” 

Danae led them downstairs to the kitchen and dining area when Rae spotted Danae’s painting. She walked towards it and admired it. “Danae, you really painted this? It’s a masterpiece!” 

“Thank you. I did. This piece was my senior project. It took me a whole semester to finish it.” 

“You have a real talent, Nae. You should paint more. Make time to do it. The art gallery features local artists regularly, and based upon what I see here, you would have no problem being featured.” Rae continued to inspect the painting. 

Danae blushed. “Maybe I will. I love to paint almost as much as I love to sing.” 

“That reminds me, Corrie would love to hear you sing today. She has been dying to hear you sing.” 

“That I can do!” She laughed. “Let’s go join the guys. They can’t have all the fun without us!”

Andy and the guys cooked up a huge pile of steaks on the grill while Danae, Rae, and Dina got other food ready for the picnic. They all sat outside on the patio and enjoyed each other’s company, laughing and talking about the past season, life and family.

Danae put the children to bed just before dark settled in, and the rest of the group sat around the fire pit, toasting marshmallows and making s’mores. Danae brought her guitar out and played some of Destiny’s hit songs, sounding exactly like her great grandmother. Corrie flipped out when she heard the songs, and Dina was amazed, not knowing her secret. Even Avery and Dina’s daughter, Kira, was impressed. 

When the party was over, and almost everyone had gone home, Wyatt and Aaron were still there, helping them clean up. Andy took Wyatt aside, seeing his drunken state.

“Wy, you’re not going anywhere tonight. Stay in the guest room upstairs. I’d rather have you here than read about you in the newspaper tomorrow morning.” 

“Are you sure,” Wyatt slurred. “I don’t want to impose.” 

“You’re not imposing. Just stay. I’d drive you, but I’m in no shape either.” Andy laughed. The beer had gone down easily, and the three of them were feeling no pain. 

“What about Aaron?” Wyatt asked.

“Well, he’s going to stay, too. I hope you guys are okay with sharing the bed upstairs.” 

“I’m too drunk to care,” Wyatt laughed. “I think Aaron is, too. We’ll be fine. And thanks.” 

Danae was tired, and she went to check on the children before she went to bed. Andy was upstairs getting the two guys settled in and laughing with them. He’d better not wake Emmitt and Eamon, she thought. She dragged herself to the bedroom, undressed and climbed into bed. Andy stumbled in a few minutes later, feeling amorous. 

“Hey, my sweet,” he flirted with her. “You wanna?” 

“No, babe. You’re drunk, and I’m extremely tired. I’m surprised you’re not.” She yawned and pulled the covers over her. 

“You don’t know what you’re missing,” he teased. “Come on, baby.” A sudden wave of nausea swept over him, and he ran for the toilet, making it by a split second. She rolled her eyes and sat on the side of the bed. 

“Babe, are you okay?” She saw him resting on the floor, his head on the toilet seat. 

“No. But I guess I deserve it.” He sighed, his stomach felt queasy. 

“No, you don’t deserve it. But I hope you don’t spend your whole vacation doing this with the guys, either.”

“Oh, I don’t think I will,” he said just before he retched and vomited again. Reluctantly, she got up from bed and went to him.

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“Oh babe,” she said sadly. “Every time you get with Aaron and Wyatt, you do this and then you swear you won’t anymore.” She rubbed his back as he threw up again. “When will you learn?” 

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“I hope someday soon. My memory is short when I’m sipping a few back with the guys. Maybe I need you to remind me.” He heaved a few more times, but nothing came up.

“If that is what you truly want, I will. Did I tell you about when my Daddy nearly drank himself to death? I will never forget that night.”

“You probably did. But damned if I can remember it right now.” He struggled to stand, and she steadied him on his feet. “Help me to the bed?”

“Of course,” she smiled. “Are you feeling better now?” He breathed in her face, and it smelled revolting. She nearly gagged. 

“Yes and no. I don’t feel like barfing anymore, but I’m so drunk. Baby, I just want to sleep this off.”

She sighed sadly. “I’ll tuck you in, love.” He climbed into bed, and she pulled the covers over him. Gently, she kissed his forehead. “I love you, Andy. See you in the morning.” She took her pillow and a blanket from the closet and went to the living room to settle on the floor.


Wyatt came down first the next morning and found Danae sleeping on the floor in the living room. Quietly he sat on the steps and watched her, wishing to himself that things were different. If you were mine, he thought, you’d never have to sleep on the floor. At the same time, they were fourth cousins, and that was more than enough to deter him. 

He tiptoed around her and started the coffee maker. The baby cried in the other room, and it awakened her. Danae groaned and saw Wyatt in the kitchen. 

“I forgot you guys were here. I’m glad you’ve made yourself at home. Hold that thought with the coffee, and I’ll join you for a cup.” She walked to the boys’ bedroom and returned with Emmitt. She sat him in his high chair and prepared some oatmeal with fruit for him, and poured a cup of coffee before she sat to feed him. 

“Thanks for having us all here yesterday. You did the lion’s share of the work, and I forgot to say thank you yesterday.” Wyatt sipped his coffee while Danae fed Emmitt.

“You’re welcome, Wyatt. I’m glad everyone could come. I had a great time.” 

The floor upstairs creaked, and Aaron descended the stairs, one cautious step at a time. “Good morning you two,” he said, his head pounding. “I’m getting too old for this drinking thing.” 

Danae chuckled. “You and Andy both. He was throwing up after you guys went to bed. He will not be feeling good today. Have some coffee. Wyatt just made a fresh pot.” 

“Thanks, sis,” Aaron said. “I wasn’t sure it smelled good, but I’m going to drink it anyway.” 

Andy awakened in the master suite, alone and hungover. He thought nothing of being alone until he noticed Danae’s pillow was gone, and he got up quickly and put pajamas on.

“Nae?” he called to her from the bedroom door.

“Yeah?” she answered. “I’m feeding Emm, do you need me?” 

“No, honey. I’m just checking on where you are.” He shambled out of the suite to see her pillow and blanket on the floor, and his two best friends sitting at the dining table with his wife. “Did you sleep out here?”

“Yes,” she said bluntly. No explanation, just a simple yes.

He walked to the coffee pot and poured a cup, prepared it and sat with the three of them at the table. “Is everything okay, sweetie?” 

“Yes, why wouldn’t it be?” 

“Why did you sleep out here?” 

“Your breath reeked of stale beer. It nauseated me, so I slept out here.” She was very clear and blunt. 

“Baby, I’m sorry,” he apologized. 

“We’ll talk later,” she said.

Wyatt and Aaron looked at each other. “We’ll go outside and let you two talk.” 

“No, you don’t have to,” she protested, but Aaron insisted. She sighed as Andy switched to a closer chair.

“Baby, what’s wrong?” 

“Andy, I’m tired of the drinking. I’m afraid that someday…” tears filled her eyes. “I don’t want to end up like my mother, in a hospital room crying over a husband half-dead from alcohol poisoning, scared that you will leave me with three children to raise alone. I don’t want to explain to Elyse someday why her daddy is gone.” 

“Where is this coming from? I don’t ever get that drunk.” 

“I asked you last night if I told you about the night my daddy almost killed himself.” She wiped a tear away.

“I don’t know, you might have.” He shrugged, knowing a story was coming his way.

“It was almost our 13th birthday, and it was Mama and Daddy’s date night. They went out for dinner, and she came home alone. They’d had a big fight at the restaurant, and he went out and got drunk. That was the night he almost cheated on her.”

“I remember your dad telling me something about this the night he died,” he said quietly. 

“Well, when the taxi driver brought him home, he was nearly dead. Andy, I had nightmares about that night for years. I saw him, my mother holding him upright so that if he threw up, he didn’t choke on it. He looked dead. I’d never been so scared in my life. We almost lost him.” She choked up. “I don’t ever want to explain to Lysie that her daddy died like that.” 

He took her hands in his. “You never told me the whole story before. I’d only heard bits and pieces of it. I won’t do this anymore, baby. You shouldn’t have to live scared like this.” He kissed her hands as he held them. “I’m so sorry, my sweet.” 

“I don’t mind if you have a beer or two. But no more of this, please. I love you too much to lose you.” She sighed deeply, tears ran down her face. 

Elyse walked out of her room and caught them in a tender embrace. “Why are you crying, Mama?”

Danae picked her up into her lap. “Daddy and I were just talking. That’s all, sweetheart. I promise.” 

She snuggled into Danae’s embrace. “I’m sorry you’re sad, Mama.” Elyse’s words cut Andy to the quick, and suddenly he understood completely why it was an emotional topic for Danae. 

“I’m all better now, honey. Are you hungry?” 

“Yes,” she replied, cooing at her baby brother.

“I’ll make banana pancakes. Go tell Uncle Wyatt and Uncle Aaron to come in for breakfast. Andy, could you wake Eamon for me and bring him out?”

“You bet, my sweet.” He disappeared for a few minutes and came back with Eamon in tow. 

Danae made breakfast for everyone, and they all sat around the table and ate. Aaron commented on the painting. 

“I saw Rae admiring this painting yesterday. She seemed interested in it.” 

“She was. I painted it in college. She told me it was a masterpiece.” Danae shrugged her shoulders. “I didn’t think it was that spectacular. I only got a B on it.” 

“A masterpiece?” Andy was stunned. “That’s quite a designation, Nae.” 

“That’s what she said. I don’t think she really meant it. She was being nice.” 

“I don’t think Rae is superficial, sweetie. If she said it, she must have meant it. Maybe you should look into having it appraised?” 

“Andy, even if it is a ‘masterpiece,’ I’m relatively unknown in the art world. It would be worth next to nothing.” 

“Even the great artists were unknown at one point,” Aaron stated. “What do you have to lose?” 

“He has a point, baby.” 

“I’ll think about it,” she replied. 


A few days later, Danae’s phone rang with a number she didn’t recognize. She almost didn’t answer it, but decided to anyway.

“Hello?” 

“Hello. Is this Danae Murphy?” the voice inquired.

“Yes, it is. May I ask who is calling?” 

“Mrs. Murphy, my name is Lena Sanchez, and I’m with the Isla Paradiso Council for Fine Arts. Mrs. Kemp gave me your number. She informed me that you are an artist. I am interested in seeing your work.” 

Danae blushed deeply. “Ms. Sanchez, I am truly flattered, but I only have the work I did in college, and quite frankly, it isn’t that great.”

“With all due respect, why don’t you let me decide that Mrs. Murphy? I hold a master’s degree in Fine Arts, and I am an esteemed expert in the field. I would really like to take a look at what you have.” 

“Well, I guess I can’t say no to that. When is it good for you?” 

“I was thinking about coming this afternoon, if that is okay?” 

“Very well, Ms. Sanchez. You may call me Danae, by the way.”

“And you may call me Lena if you wish. I look forward to seeing you.” 

Danae didn’t get a chance to say anything else before Lena ended the call. 

“Who was that, love?” Andy asked her.

“I think I just got a prank call, babe. Some woman says she’s from the council for fine arts and wants to see my artwork. She said Rae contacted her.” She shook her head. 

“Why assume it’s a prank? Baby, your stuff is good.” 

“Just for fun, where is that box of my old paintings? Is it still above the garage, or in the storage unit?”

“Storage, I am sure of it. We wanted it climate controlled, so they didn’t get damaged. Remember, baby?”

“Yeah, I do now. Do you think I should go get them?” 

“Yes, I think you should. I don’t think that was a fake call. If Rae had anything to do with this, it’s the real deal.”

“Would you watch the kids for me? I shouldn’t be more than an hour.” 

“Of course, my sweet. I’ll take Lysie and Eamon in the pool, and Emmitt in the swing on the patio under the umbrella.” 

“That sounds like a plan,” she replied. Danae took her car keys and drove down the dead-end road toward town.

She arrived at the storage unit and opened the door. The unit smelled of the furniture from the Shores that sat inside, and it all reminded her of the old house. Carefully, she dug through the contents of the shed until she found the box she wanted. Rather than go through the paintings there, she lugged the box from the unit and put it in the back seat of her car. 

Less than an hour later, she walked through the front door of the house. She had a few precious, quiet minutes to herself, so she opened the box gingerly. The paintings had been packed carefully by the movers and not touched since they had arrived on the island. 

Danae removed the first one and unwrapped it, revealing her favorite painting, the one she had done of Darcey. Carefully, she set it aside and pulled the next one out to unwrap. This one was an abstract she had done on canvas in oils, and it was prettier than she remembered it.

The third one was more of a modern piece she had painted in acrylic for a specific project. Each one she unwrapped was nicer than she recalled, and she began to believe Rae might have been right.

When Lena rang the call box outside the gate, Danae had ten paintings set up around the living room, displayed in the frames. She walked outside to greet Lena and welcomed her into the house. 

“What a lovely home you have here, Danae,” Lena complimented her. Her eyes were drawn immediately to the abstract painting, and she fussed over it. “This painting is so unique, Danae. This is one of yours?” 

“It is, but like I said, they were all painted when I was in college. My signature is my maiden name.” 

“Well, that’s not a problem.” Lena jotted a note in her book and stuck a slip of paper into the frame with a number on it. She moved on to Darcey’s portrait. “Is this a self-portrait, Danae?”

“No, it’s of my identical twin sister, Darcey. We were much more identical when we were my daughter’s age than we are in adulthood.” 

Lena passed that one up and moved on to the next painting, a large framed one that was another abstract. “This one is simply astonishing! What vision you have, and your use of color is inspired.” 

Danae was uncomfortable with the compliments and wished Andy was inside with her. “I didn’t do very well in class with that one,” she said. “My art professor was not very impressed with it.” 

“Your professor lacked taste. Miss Danae, this is simply refined.” She jotted another note in her book and put a number on the painting. “Now, where is the one that Mrs. Kemp saw? That was the one I was truly interested in.” 

Danae showed her to the dining room and pointed to it. “This was my senior project. It took me an entire semester to get it done. I only got a B on it, which was 40 percent of my grade.” 

Lena’s eyes lit up. “I see what Rae meant,” she remarked. “This is a true masterpiece, Danae. It is classic, timeless and totally original. I’ve never seen anything quite like it.” 

“Thank you for all your kind compliments. They mean a lot to me as an amateur artist—”

“With all due respect, Mrs. Murphy, you are no amateur. These paintings are remarkable.”

“I-I don’t know what to say.” Danae was gobsmacked. 

“Danae, I’d like to feature your work in the next local artist showcase. The one we have going on now lasts for another six months, but these need to be seen. Of course, you would be handsomely compensated for the exhibition.” 

“Wow. Lena, I am so flattered.” She fumbled with words, trying to sound as gracious and humbled as she felt. 

“Here is my card. I’d like to see some newer stuff, too. Since you have a few months, why don’t you paint a few new ones for the gallery? Anything you need can be written off as a business expense, so paints, canvas, brushes. Danae, we’re going to make you famous in Isla Paradiso, and hopefully around the world.”

Danae took Lena’s card with shaking hands. “I appreciate you stopping by.”

“I will be in touch, Danae. It was a pleasure to meet you.” 

After Lena left the house, Danae flopped into a chair in front of the television. She sat for what seemed an eternity when Andy, two wet, squealing children, and one sleeping baby came inside. She was so lost in her thoughts that she really didn’t recognize they were there. Andy walked back out from the boys’ bedroom, minus the baby, and sat with her. 

“How did the meeting go?” he asked. But she continued her vacant stare. “Danae?” 

Hearing her name brought her back to reality, and she looked at Andy and smiled. “Babe. They want to showcase my work at the gallery.” 

His heart swelled with pride. “This is amazing! See? I knew you were a fantastic artist, Nae.”

“She wants some of the old stuff, but she wants some new paintings, too. Babe, I don’t have time to dedicate to painting like I’d want to. We have three young children. They are always my first priority.” 

“Honey, we can hire some temporary help while you paint. That isn’t a problem. Danae, sweetie, let me do this for you. I’m so very proud of you!”

*****

The next day, Andy began the monumental task of hiring a professional to care for the house and children while Danae focused her attention on painting. Unlike in Starlight Shores, executive butlers and nannies were at a premium and very few in number. But he knew what the opportunity could mean for her, and wanted to give his very deserving wife every chance she needed to succeed. He was still on vacation, so in the meantime, he picked up her workload and became Mr. Mom while she painted. The irony was not lost on him.

Danae spent her first full day driving around the island, looking for inspiration, snapping well-framed photos on her camera to paint. Much of her subject matter was local flora since it interested her, and it was so unique to the island. But rather than focus on the flowers themselves, she found inspiration in the shadows inside the flower bushes and plants.

Her last stop was the art supply store, where she bought oils, acrylics, a whole set of paintbrushes and several stretched canvases. She also had six of the more intriguing photos printed in high definition, so she could see what had inspired her in each shot. 

Her arms were full when she returned home, and she walked right upstairs to set all of her treasures down by her easel. The kids were not allowed upstairs without supervision, and the staircase was blocked off during the night, so she didn’t worry about either of them getting into her supplies.

She was pleasantly surprised to see Andy had fed the children, bathed the younger two and read to all three of them by the time she returned that evening. 

“Did you get everything you needed today, my sweet?” he asked as they sat by the pool, listening to the crickets and frogs outside.

“I think so,” she replied. She handed her camera to Andy. “These are the photos I took today. But if you look beyond what I actually photographed, you can see my inspiration.”

Andy looked at several of the pictures, but he just couldn’t see what she did in them. “I don’t have your eye for art, baby, but you did take some gorgeous photos.”

“When the paintings are done, if I can pull this off, I’ll compare them. Maybe you’ll see it.” She sipped a glass of wine with him. 

“I see beauty in more obvious places,” he flirted. 

“Oh?” 

“Well, I see your beauty.” His caramel brown eyes always sparkled when he saw her, and the way he looked at her always melted her heart. It was something she knew intimately when he wore his adoration and love for her.

“Just when I think you must have run out of sweet things to say, you find another one. Andy, sometimes I can’t fathom why you love me so much.” 

“It’s simple, Danae. You made it easy to love you. You’re sweet, unassuming, humble, charming, incredibly sexy,” he paused to look at her. “Danae, I simply love you. No conditions, no questions, everywhere and all the time.”

He looked away from her suddenly, his expression changed. “Now me, on the other hand, I have caused you more hurt than I want to admit. I screw up constantly, and yet you love me anyway. I should be asking you why you love me so much.” 

“You don’t screw up constantly, and you have never hurt me deliberately. Andy, I still get butterflies in my stomach when you smile at me. You are charismatic, handsome, incredibly ambitious, extremely talented, sexy beyond words. I like who I am when I’m with you so much better than who I was without you, and I will never get tired of telling you how much I love you.”

“Danae, let’s sit in the grass and count the stars tonight. I’ll name every single one of them after you.” 

“I can’t think of anything I’d rather do, as long as we are together.” 

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Up Next: Chapter Twenty One, Generation Five

G5 Chapter Nineteen – Courting The Tillmans

Andy was bursting at the seams to get to work the next morning. He had plenty to do, and not much time to arrange things, but it was exactly this adrenaline rush for which he lived. He kissed Danae goodbye before she was awake and drove to the office, but he had so much energy, he could have flown himself there. 

He turned the key in his office door and powered his computer on. “I don’t even need coffee this morning,” he said aloud to himself. His office door was ajar, and his happy twittering caught Aaron’s attention.

“What are you so happy about, Murph?”

“I had a fabulous evening last night. I’m still flying high from it.” Andy puttered around his office, waiting for the computer to boot. He really needed to discuss an upgrade with Kirby.

“Oh? What happened that was so spectacular?” Aaron really hoped he didn’t have to hear about a night of passion with Danae. It was way too much information for an early morning.

“Well, Danae and I brought Darcey and Clint to Kirby’s restaurant last night for dinner. We did the chef’s table with them, and they loved it. Then Danae gave her sister the half of the inheritance that she deserved and would never take from us. That felt amazing!”

“Wow, I guess you did have a good night.” Aaron quietly breathed a sigh of relief. Some things were better left unsaid.

“But one of the best parts of the evening came before we even walked out our front door.” Andy grinned brightly as the desktop on his computer finally loaded.

“Uh oh,” Aaron said. Maybe I was too hasty…

Andy laughed. “It’s nothing like that at all. Get your mind out of the gutter, Aaron. No, I don’t know if I mentioned to you that we’re trying to get that Tillman guy from Sunlit Tides. We tried to get him for the Llamas two years ago, but Fiona was a cheapskate. Big surprise.” 

Aaron laughed. “I do remember you saying something along those lines, yes.” 

“Well, he and his wife are coming this weekend to negotiate. Aaron, if we can snag him, we’re all but guaranteed the championship next season.” 

Aaron coughed. “But no pressure.” 

“Right. No pressure, my friend.” Andy winked. “You’ve got this in the bag, with Wyatt, Avery, plus the rest of the team and your coaching talent. Kirby is going to love this. He has no idea yet.” 

“What am I going to love?” Kirby was walking by Andy’s office on his way to see Aaron when he heard his name.

“Just the man I wanted to see this morning!” Andy greeted him. “I have some fantastic news, Kirby. The Tillmans will be here this weekend.” 

“I knew I hired you for a good reason, Andy. I’m proud of you! Now, reel him in and catch him, and we’ll talk about a raise.” 

“Are you sure, Kirby? I’m still overpaid for the job I’m doing.” 

“Andy, you’ve proven yourself so valuable to me and this franchise, that I never want to see you walk away from it. Whatever it takes to keep you, I will do.” Kirby patted him on the back. “Now Aaron, if you’re done, I’d like to discuss the roster with you and the upcoming drafts. Is now a good time?” 

Aaron waved to Andy. “I’ll catch you later, bud. Yes, Kirby. Let’s go grab a cup of coffee and chat.” 

With everyone out of his office, Andy sat at his desk to arrange for the Tillman’s arrival. He dialed the number for the airport, and booked the pilot to fly round trip to and from the island, with all of the amenities onboard. Next came the suite at the resort, and lastly, a reservation on Saturday evening for four at Kirby’s beach restaurant. When everything was confirmed, he compiled the itinerary into a file and attached it to an email addressed to Avery:

Avery,

I have attached your travel itinerary for this coming weekend, per our conversation.  Your flight will leave Sunlit Tides at 10am Thursday morning, with an arrival in Isla Paradiso at approximately 6pm local time. 

A limo will meet you at the airport and bring you to the Grand Tower resort, where you will stay in the finest luxury suite. The resort has two 18-hole golf courses, a private beach, a spa, its own five-star restaurant and a shuttle that will take you nearly anywhere on the island you desire, all complimentary. 

On Saturday night, my wife and I will host you at Kirby’s five-star restaurant on the beach for business, dinner, and drinks. Kirby and Rae Kemp will meet with us on Sunday morning at the resort for brunch. The rest of your time in Isla Paradiso is yours to enjoy as you please. 

Danae and I look forward to hosting you this weekend. We wish you a safe flight. I’ll be in touch on Friday morning.

Living the dream,
Andy Murphy

P.S. How many children do you have? We just had our third, a son. 

Andy was busy with prospects that Aaron and Kirby had discussed earlier when Avery’s return email arrived. The sense of excitement built within him as he clicked the header:

Andy,

I received your email, and Dina and I are thrilled to have this opportunity. The Sharks have been an impressive franchise for the past two to three years, so we’re looking forward to negotiations with you. 

To answer your question, we have two children, a son, 10 and a daughter, 12. They are both spitting images of my lovely Dina. Thank you for asking about them.

I will advise you of our arrival on the island on Thursday evening. Thank you again for accommodating us this weekend. We look forward to our time away.

Warm regards,
Avery Tillman

“Fantastic!” Andy exclaimed, again to nobody. Things were shaping up. 

*****

Andy’s afternoon commute phone call came just as Emmitt had finished nursing. “Hey babe,” she greeted him. 

“Hi, my sweet, beautiful princess!” Andy replied. “How’s my favorite girl?” 

“The kids are great, and I’m tired, but happy. How was your day, love?”

“I have the itinerary set for Avery and Dina for the weekend. I hope you have an evening dress to wear. You can wear the one you did last night, because dang, Danae. Wow.”

She blushed. “That good, huh?” 

“Trixie said it herself.  You looked like a celebrity. Drop-dead gorgeous is more like it, truthfully.” 

“Someone is in a good mood,” she flirted. “Does that mean I get lucky tonight?”

“Oh baby, you’re getting so lucky tonight.” Andy stepped up his flirtation game. 

She rolled her eyes and chuckled. “You wouldn’t be my Andy if you weren’t perpetually frisky.” 

He belly laughed. “Takes one to know one, my sweet! We are equally yoked in that department.” He stopped at a traffic light, about three miles from the house. “Is there anything you need while I’m out, honey? I’m almost home.” 

“Not today. Just come home. Your daughter misses you.” 

“I’ll see you in a few minutes then.” Andy blew kisses to her and hung up the phone.

“Lysie, Eamon! Guess who is coming home!” Danae sang to her two oldest. 

“Daddy!” Elyse squealed. She ran down the steps from the playroom and waited by the front door, watching for the gate to open.

Eamon cried at the top of the steps, afraid to navigate them. “Mama!” 

She walked up the stairs and picked him up. “Do you want to see Daddy?” she asked him excitedly. 

“Daddy!” he repeated. “Daddy!” 

“He’s home!” Elyse shrieked, jumping up and down. Danae smiled. 

Andy opened the front door, and Elyse popped out of his office and wrapped herself around him. “Hey sweet pea,” he said as he knelt down to hug her. 

“I missed you!” she chirped, and covered his face in kisses. Andy laughed, his heart full. 

Eamon toddled to him and tapped him on the shoulder. “Daddy!” he exclaimed and plopped a wet baby kiss on his cheek. 

Andy picked Eamon up and blew bubbles on his belly, and then tickled him. Giggles of epic proportions ensued, and Danae smiled as she watched the children love their daddy. But the fracas awakened the baby, and he cried softly. 

“Oh honey, I’m sorry we woke him,” Andy apologized. 

“It’s okay. I will rock him while you play with the kids.” 

“Can we go swimming? Please, Daddy?” Elyse begged.

“Lysie, it’s almost dinnertime, sweetheart. Why don’t we go swimming after dinner?” 

“But…” tears formed in her eyes. “Please?” 

Crocodile tears and puppy dog eyes won his heart every time, and she knew it. He sighed, having lost the battle. “Go get your swimsuit on, Lysie. Give Daddy a few minutes, okay?” 

She squealed loudly and ran for her bedroom, chattering enthusiastically. Andy walked toward the boys’ bedroom and peeked his head inside. “I guess you heard?” 

Danae smiled at him. “Bring Eamon in here for me so I can watch him. The baby was almost asleep until she squealed.”

“I can do that, and I’m sorry.” He leaned down to kiss her. “When is dinner anyway?” 

“I’m just warming leftovers tonight, so whenever. Have fun in the pool with your little sweet pea. She’s been wanting to swim with you all day.” 

“Daddy! Help!” she yelled from her bedroom. 

“I have been summoned,” he snickered. “Coming, sweetie.” 

After dinner, and after the kids were asleep, Andy and Danae sat outside by the pool, a glass of wine in hand, and listened to the sounds of evening. Frogs, crickets, cicadas and even an owl or two serenaded them. 

“In two days, we’ll be sitting in Kirby’s restaurant with Avery and Dina Tillman, baby. This meeting is big, and I’m a little nervous.”

“Andy, you’re going to kill it. You’re an awesome negotiator. You’re a genuinely likable guy. Plus, you are the best at what you do. Honey,” she took his hand and kissed it. “You have this.” 

“Your confidence in me is reassuring, my sweet. Have I told you how much I love you today?” 

“You haven’t, babe. Please, do tell.” Danae flirted with him. 

“I love you more than I love this glass of wine.” He winked at her.

“Hmm. How much do you love that glass of wine?” 

“I don’t know, baby. I love it a lot.” His smile was pure mischief.

She got up off the lounge chair and joined him on his, laying on his belly. “Why don’t you show me?”

“Right here? I mean, this backyard is so wide open.” He kissed her tenderly. 

“It doesn’t have to be right here. I hear there is a bedroom nearby.” She caressed his cheek, and he smiled sweetly at her. 

“Where is your sense of adventure?” 

“Oh, you want adventure?” She got up off the lounge, unzipped her shorts and shimmied out of them. “Let’s go.” 

“Hmm. Where are we going?” 

She stripped her shirt off and threw it at him. “We are going to skinny dip in that big, beautiful pool.” She ran through the grass and dove in.

“Why in the world am I sitting here?” He stripped his shorts off and ran for the pool, diving in. “Woo! This water is chilly!”

“It’s no colder than it was earlier today when you were in with Lysie.” She swam to him and wrapped herself around him. 

“True,” he cooed. “Danae, I crazy love you right now.” He kissed her. 

“Oh babe, I love you forever and always.” 


“When is Trix coming?” Andy asked as he stepped out of the shower. Danae was soaking in the spa tub.

“She should be here by 5:45, babe. The limo is supposed to pick us up at six, right?.” 

“Yes, and we need to be there long before Avery and Dina arrive.” He walked to the mirror and combed his hair while it was still wet. “How are you feeling?” 

“Sore,” she replied. “Remind me to talk to Lysie about leaving her toys on the floor.”

“I already mentioned it to her. She feels bad about it.” 

“I don’t want her to feel bad. I just want her to pick up after herself. At least I didn’t get really hurt.” 

“Let me see your knee,” he asked. Danae held her leg out of the water and showed him. “Wow, that bruise covers your whole knee cap. No wonder it’s sore.” 

“I’ll survive.” She pulled the drain on the tub and stood up. “I feel better already.” 

“That’s good, love. Shower now?” 

“You know it.” She kissed him on the way by. 

About forty-five minutes later, Andy was in the living room when Trixie rang the call box. “Come on in Trix,” he said as he walked to the front door. “Danae, honey, are you almost ready?”

She was finishing up with her breast pump, getting dinner for Emmitt. “Yes, love. Just another minute.” Not wanting to leave the mess for Trixie to clean, she left the pump in the bathroom sink to clean when they got home. 

When she walked from the bedroom, Trixie greeted her. “Wow, Miss Danae, you look lovely this evening!” Danae wore a black strapless gown encrusted with crystals, fitted to her body almost perfectly, her hair braided with flowers taken from the garden. Over her shoulders, she wore an off-white pashmina. Her style was impeccable, and she presented herself elegantly. 

“Thank you, Trixie,” she smiled. “I am leaving a fresh bottle in the refrigerator for Emmitt. He should be hungry in about an hour or so.”

“He’s in good hands, Miss Danae. Have fun tonight, you two.” 

“Thank you, Trixie. You know where to reach us if there is a problem.” Andy took Danae’s arm and together they walked to the limousine that waited for them.

When they arrived at the restaurant, they were seated at the chef’s table, courtesy of Kirby, who happened to be cooking that evening. He greeted Andy heartily.

“There’s my team manager,” he beamed. “And Miss Danae, you look radiant this evening. I thought I would reserve this experience for tonight.” He nodded at Andy and gave him a thumbs up. “Go get ‘em, Andy. I have every confidence that you will.” 

“Thanks, Kirby. I appreciate your faith in me.” He took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. “I wish I had the same.” 

“Andy, my boy, you have given me no reason to doubt you. I don’t see why tonight would be any different.” Kirby patted him on the shoulder and walked back to the kitchen. 

A few minutes later, the hostess arrived with the Tillmans in tow. “Mr. and Mrs. Murphy, the Tillmans.”

Andy stood and shook their hands. “Avery, Miss Dina, it’s good to see you again. This is my lovely wife, Danae.” 

Avery shook Danae’s hand almost a little too vigorously, but Dina’s handshake was delicate but confident. “It’s a pleasure to meet you both,” Danae said softly. All four of them sat. 

Kirby noticed the group was complete, and walked from the kitchen to greet them. “You must be Avery and Dina!” he began. “My name is Kirby Kemp, and I own this restaurant and the Isla Paradiso Sharks. How is everything so far? I trust that Andy is treating you well?”

“Mr. Kemp, the pleasure is all mine,” Avery said. “And yes, Andy is treating us very well. The resort is exquisite. And this place is just spectacular. I couldn’t be more impressed.” 

Kirby took Dina’s hand to shake. “Miss Dina, welcome to Isla Paradiso.” Danae saw her blush. Kirby was extremely charming, and none of it was fake. He and Rae were the real deal.

“I think we’ll begin with a bottle of wine for the table, Kirby. Whatever you recommend is wonderful,” Andy stated. Kirby nodded and disappeared into the kitchen.

“This place is incredible, Andy. Holy cow.” Avery looked around the restaurant, impressed with the atmosphere, the scenery and the ambiance. 

“Kirby likes to pull out the finery when we’re courting a new player. I’m so pleased you two were agreeable to coming here. We have a six-month-old, and leaving Danae with three children would have been a hardship.” 

“Oh wow,” Dina remarked. “You don’t look like you’ve had one baby, never mind three, Danae! You are stunningly beautiful.” 

Danae blushed. “Thank you so much. It’s been hard work, but every mile I run and every pound I lift are well worth the results.” 

The ladies continued to talk while Andy and Avery caught up. Kirby appeared with a bottle of wine and poured a glass for each of them. 

“I forgot to welcome you officially when I introduced myself. This is a special experience, reserved mostly for VIPs and well-to-do tourists who want something a little different. You are my guests, and this is something we call the chef’s table.” 

He bowed politely before them and continued. “I recommend the wagyu rib eye this evening. This particular cut is perfectly marbled and very flavorful, and is one of my favorite special items this evening. I’m also featuring the roast lamb with homemade mint sauce, risotto, and grilled asparagus. It is magnificent! Other local delicacies and specials are on the menu.” 

Kirby winked at Andy, and whispered to him, “Make sure you order the rib eye for your darling. I remember she loved it last time.” Andy nodded and ordered four entrees to be shared, as Kirby had recommended. 

“Meals here are usually done family style, so I’ve taken the liberty to order some of the specialties and local dishes.” Andy took his glass and raised it for a toast. “To new friends!” 

The four of them raised their glasses and toasted with him. “Family style is fantastic with us,” Dina spoke up. “I feel like family already.” She and Danae went back to discussing interests while the men talked business.

“So, Andy, tell me what brings us here. You mentioned an irresistible offer.” 

“I did indeed. I know what we offered you when Fiona and I discussed a contract with the Llamas. However, we can well exceed that figure today.”

“I’m intrigued. Let’s talk numbers.” Avery clasped his hands together in anticipation.

“Well, as a start, we can go 40% over your current salary. Our standard benefits package includes a car or a boat, your choice, 10x your annual salary in term life insurance, and full medical coverage for your whole family.”

“Come on, Andy. You can do better than forty, can’t you?” 

 

“I’ll tell you what. Tell me what you need, Avery.” Andy was just getting started.

“Well, I don’t give a rip about a car. But I can probably secure 40% back home with no problem,” Avery bargained.

Andy knew he was bluffing on what he could comfortably get back in Sunlit Tides. The team was struggling, and he knew Avery was unhappy there. “Well, maybe this will entice you. We have some excellent schools here. Danae and I just enrolled our oldest in preschool at a very prestigious private school. How about this… §10k per child per year in tuition reimbursement for a private school of your choice, for as long as they attend.”

The look on Avery’s face told Andy he wasn’t expecting that as part of a benefit package. “Are you serious about that?”

“I never joke about this sort of thing Avery. Ever. The allowance should cover each child’s tuition fully, and if not, very close.”

“Damn, you were right about making this difficult to resist.” He touched Dina’s arm. “Doll, you might want to hear some of this. Andy is offering some good stuff.” 

“Oh?” Dina was suddenly interested in the business dealings. “Like what?” 

“Well, the offer so far is 40% over current, plus §10k each for the kids in tuition reimbursement at any private school, plus 10x life insurance, and full medical.” 

“Wow,” she remarked. “That is a decent offer.” 

“You don’t look convinced, Dina,” Andy said. “What would you like to see in the deal?” 

“Well, there’s moving expenses, and I know something was mentioned about a car.” 

“Moving and packing is always included, and I can tell you firsthand, they are top-notch. Very professional, and everything is insured.” Andy saw Kirby smiling from the kitchen. 

“What about the car?” Dina inquired.

“That is certainly on the table as well.” Andy was trying to read her. He still had wiggle room on the salary offer, and he would squeeze every nickel out of the negotiations he could.

“What do you think, love?” Avery asked her. “The school tuition is big. We couldn’t get that at home.”

Dina nodded her head. “Can’t you get 40% at home, though? We wouldn’t have to move the kids…” Her thoughts trailed off. She was the reason the last negotiations failed, and suddenly Andy was happy he began the starting offer low.

“We can, but the school thing is big. Dina, no more out of pocket for tuition, and it’s a private school. Exclusive, from what I understand.” 

Andy sensed her trepidation. “Okay, how about this, Dina? What if we go to a 50% increase in the salary? And I’ll throw the car in just for you, because you like it.” 

Avery’s eyes widened at the new offer. “Seriously? Andy, don’t pull my leg.”

Andy smiled. “Like I said, I never joke at the negotiation table. Everything I offer is legitimate.”

Avery looked at his wife. “Doll, I don’t know if we’ll be able to top this back home. The island is gorgeous, I mean, wouldn’t you love to live here?” 

Dina nodded her head. “I have to admit, it’s prettier here than it is at home.” 

“I’m still sensing a but, Dina,” Andy said. He still had one card to play, and he believed it was the winning card.

“A little,” she admitted. 

Danae, who had been watching Andy work his magic, finally decided to speak up. “Dina, when Andy and I moved here, we left my family legacy behind in Starlight Shores. For four generations, my family lived there. The house was like a museum, and for many years, I was content to live there for the rest of my life.

When Andy was offered this job, I knew I had to allow him to shine, to grow, to be the man he was born to be.” She smiled sweetly at Andy. “The decision wasn’t made lightly, but I wanted him to thrive. He is so excited to go to work every morning. The team has made great strides since he became manager, and Avery will be a perfect fit.”

Andy nodded his head. “She’s right, you know. The team needs your kind of talent, Avery. With you added to the roster, along with Wyatt Searcy and Aaron Hall’s coaching talents, the Sharks will be a championship team within a season. Don’t you want to be a champion, Avery? It was all Danae’s father ever wanted.” 

Avery cocked his head. “Who is Danae’s father?” 

“Travis Jones,” Andy announced proudly. 

“Holy cow, I had no idea.” He smiled at Danae. “Your father is a household name everywhere. I am  honored.” 

Danae blushed. “Thank you. I am proud to be his daughter.” 

“Now I understand why you said you left a legacy in Starlight Shores, Danae. The Jones name is esteemed there.” Dina was incredibly impressed. 

Andy was set to play his last two cards to catch Avery Tillman. “Okay, I have one last trick up my sleeve. Avery, I will personally pay for a security system to be installed on any home you choose on the island or in the archipelago. It will include everything you need, fencing, cameras, alarms, a call box, you name it. And, I’m willing to go another 10% on your salary increase, for a total of 60% above current.” 

Avery and Dina looked at one another, and neither of them could believe what they had heard. “Sixty? That’s six-zero. I heard you correctly?” Avery was stunned.

“That’s what I said, plus everything else we’ve already mentioned. The tuition reimbursement, Dina’s car, plus the term life, full medical.” Andy smiled at Danae, and she winked at him. “What do you say?” 

 

Dina whispered into her husband’s ear and smiled. Avery nodded and stood, holding his hand out to shake. “Andy, you have a deal.” 

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“This is outstanding!” Andy stood to shake Avery’s hand and smiled. “Welcome to the Sharks! This will be one of the best decisions you’ve ever made. I haven’t regretted one time moving here, and you won’t either.” Seeing the handshake from the kitchen, Kirby decided to visit.

“Ladies and gentlemen, dinner will be out shortly.” He winked at Andy and nodded. “Can I get a bottle of champagne to celebrate?” 

“That is a wonderful idea!” Andy agreed. “Thank you, Kirby.” 

The mood at the table was merry for the rest of the evening. Both couples found much to discuss, but Danae and Dina found a bond she hadn’t felt since her best friend left Starlight Shores after high school. The two women were fast friends, and looked forward to building a relationship.

*****

After dinner, Andy and Danae were in their limo on the way home. There wasn’t much talking, but there didn’t need to be. She knew Andy was flying on a cloud, and she couldn’t remember seeing him as happy, save for their wedding day. They sat side by side in the limo, their fingers intertwined, and she rested her head on his shoulder. 

“A penny for your thoughts,” she asked. “What’s on your mind, my love?”

“I’m just pleased with how tonight went. Kirby is happy, I’m thrilled. The guys will love having Avery on the team. They’ll sign the new contract in the morning at brunch, and I’ll start making arrangements with movers, the jet and resort as soon as we have a move date for them.”

“There’s more to it than that, isn’t there?” 

“This is a huge victory for me personally, Danae. I couldn’t win them over the last time we negotiated. But I learned much from it. This just feels so amazing, I feel like I could burst.” 

“Your dad would be so proud of you, babe. I am extremely proud of you, and I’m so happy I had a part of this tonight. This is where the tide turns for the Sharks. You’re making them into a championship team, Andy. It’s all you.” 

“Well, not all of it. The players are 75% of everything. Aaron’s plays are insanely creative, and most teams have a hard time beating them. This is a good move. Next season, we will win the cup. I almost guarantee it.” 

“Andy, I love you, and I love seeing you so happy.” She kissed him on the cheek. 

“I crazy love you, Danae. Thank you for allowing me to live my dream like this.” 

“Thank you for letting me be a part of it. There is nowhere else I’d rather be, and nobody else I’d rather live my life with.” 

The limousine driver dropped them off in front of their home, and they walked in together, hand in hand. Trixie was watching a movie on the large screen television, and she waved when they came through the door. 

“Hi!” she greeted them. “How was dinner?” 

Andy smiled. “It went exactly how we anticipated.”

“That’s fantastic!” she chirped. “The kids were great, no problems. Lysie wanted her daddy to wake her when he got home, so that’s my message to you.” She laughed. “That girl is so sweet. I was a daddy’s girl when I was little, too.” 

“Yep, she’s my sweet pea,” Andy smiled proudly. He paid Trixie for the evening and dismissed her. He was standing in the door watching her leave when he felt Danae’s hand on him.

“Andy?” 

“Yes, my sweet?” 

“Do you love me?” 

“Of course! I crazy love you.” He turned around and caught her in his tender embrace, and kissed her with great passion.

“Andy?” 

“Yes, my sweet?”

“Come show me.” 

“Baby, I thought you’d never ask.” 


The next morning found Andy feeling invincible. After a good night at the restaurant with Avery and Dina, he looked forward to the contract signing with Kirby and Rae at the resort in just a few hours. Danae was up nursing the baby when he appeared in the doorway of the boys’ bedroom.

“Good morning beautiful,” he cooed at her. “How’s my favorite girl?” 

“Good morning, my handsome prince,” she flirted back. “I’m fabulous.” 

“Yes, you are.” Andy smiled at her as she fed their infant son. “Are you joining me this morning for brunch?” 

“Of course,” she replied. Danae never missed an opportunity to support him, and she was excited about the meeting as well. “Would you get Eamon up and feed him? I’m only about half done feeding Emm.”

“You know I will, my sweet.” He walked to the other crib and gently woke their son. Eamon smiled when he saw his daddy and reached for him excitedly. Andy kissed the boy’s cheek and carried him to the kitchen.

Danae sat the baby up to burp him, and began to sing to him softly. Emmitt cooed and giggled, and she snuggled him. 

Andy warmed some of Danae’s banana pancakes for Eamon and cut them up for him. “Can you do this yourself, little man?” Andy asked him, not really expecting an answer.

“Yesss!” Eamon giggled as he dug into breakfast. He walked to Elyse’s room to find her playing quietly by herself, and when she saw Andy, her eyes lit up.

“Hi Daddy,” she said happily. 

“Are you ready for breakfast, sweet pea?” 

“Yes,” she answered and yawned. “Did Mama make pancakes?” 

“Not fresh, but they’re good. Come on, honey. I’ll warm them for you.” He held his arms open for her, and she snuggled into his embrace. He prepared breakfast for her and sat her at the dining room table near Eamon. “Call for me when he’s finished, Lysie? I need to take a shower.” 

“Sure, Daddy,” she smiled. “Thank you for breakfast.” 

“You’re welcome, little love.” Andy walked toward the boys’ bedroom again. Danae was almost done nursing Emmitt. “Baby, the kids are fed, and I’m going to take a shower. I feel a bit… dirty.” He winked at her. 

“I’ll be out in a few. He’s almost asleep.” 

About an hour later, Danae and Andy were nearly ready to leave, and Trixie was on her way in the gate. As she stepped through the door, Elyse greeted her.

“Thanks for taking the kids again this morning. We appreciate you,” Andy told her. “We should be home early afternoon. Lysie wants to swim, and I’m not about to disappoint her.” 

“Not a problem, Andy. Enjoy yourselves.” 

Together, they walked to the limousine that would bring them to the Grand Tower resort. They sat side by side, snuggled together, excited for the meeting that would shortly take place.

“How are you today, Nae? How’s your knee?” 

“Stiff, but I’m okay. I was going to ask you how you feel going into this meeting. You seem very confident.” 

“Oh I am, baby. This is my most successful deal yet. The long term implications for the team are astounding.” 

“I’m very proud of you.” She squeezed his hand. “I’m really fond of Dina. She and I have a lot in common.” 

“That’s great, honey!” Andy smiled at her. “I can’t wait for Aaron and Wyatt to meet them, too.” 

The limo arrived at the resort, and they walked toward the door. The concierge greeted them. 

“Hello, Mr. Andy and Miss Danae! Welcome.” 

“Good morning, Marcela!” Andy greeted her. “We’re meeting Kirby and Rae at the restaurant this morning. Have the Tillmans arrived yet?” 

“I haven’t seen them, no. But when they arrive, I will send them in.” She smiled at Andy. 

“Thank you,” he replied. “Come, my sweet.” He held his arm for Danae, and together they walked to the restaurant. “Murphy. We are with the Kemps this morning.” 

“Ah yes, they are expecting you. This way, please.” 

Kirby stood as Danae and Andy approached, and Rae stood to hug Danae. 

“There’s my star manager,” Kirby gushed over Andy. “Son, you have earned yourself a big ol’ raise after this is finalized.” 

“It’s not necessary, Kirby—” Andy tried to protest.

“Nonsense! I have to take care of my manager.” 

“Danae, you look stunning, my dear,” Rae complimented her. “How is the baby?  How are you feeling?”

“I’m good, the baby is adorable. Elyse is getting big, and almost ready to start preschool. I’m working with her so she’s ready.” 

“Wow, it doesn’t seem possible,” Rae remarked. “She seemed so little when you moved here last year.” 

“She’s sprouted up, and her language skills are above her age level. She’s also on the edge of being able to read!”

“It’s probably because you talk and read to her constantly, baby,” Andy interjected. “She’s a smart cookie, and you’re the reason.” 

Danae blushed as they all sat together.

A few minutes later, the host arrived with Dina and Avery Tillman. Kirby stood to greet them, and introduced Rae. 

The server brought mimosas for the table, and Kirby brought out the contract for Avery to sign. 

“We are still on for this, correct?” Kirby asked.

“Naturally! Dina and I talked of nothing else, and we called the kids to tell them. Surprisingly, they are excited, too.” 

Andy felt a wave of relief wash over him. Nothing was concrete until Avery’s signature was on the contract, and it was moments away from being reality. 

“Well, let’s make it all official, shall we?” Kirby slid the contract to Avery to sign. It was straightforward and simple and laid out terms and conditions in layman’s terms. After a quick read, Avery smiled and picked up the pen, signing his name on the document. And in that moment, he became a Shark.

Andy was the first to offer his hand. “Welcome home, Avery. This will be one of the best decisions you’ve ever made.” 

The ladies all chatted together while the men talked about future plans with the team, already planning the upcoming season. Together, the three couples shared dreams, plans, and hopes for the future, and by the end of brunch, everything was looking up.

“Can I tempt you with a game of golf, Andy?” Kirby asked. “Avery and I are going to play the back nine.” 

“Ordinarily, I would love to. But I promised Elyse I would swim with her today. She will be a disappointed little girl if I don’t fulfill that promise.” Danae took his hand and squeezed it.

“I understand. Sometimes, I miss our kids being that little. Enjoy your afternoon with your family, Andy. And Miss Danae, it was a pleasure, as always.” 

“Thank you, Kirby.” Danae walked to Dina. “I’ll call you soon!” she said, and hugged her.

“I look forward to it, Danae.”

***** 

On the way home, Andy was all smiles. “I did it, Nae.”

“Why are you so surprised? I had faith in you.” 

“It was so important. But we played our cards right. I probably could have snagged him without going to 60%, but I wanted to be sure we had him. Kirby still approved anyway.”

“Babe, I’m so proud of you. And I will never regret leaving the Shores, seeing how you’ve grown professionally. All the things you’ve accomplished here, you could have never done them back home.”

“I feel the same way, sweetie. Everything I am, it’s all because of your support. Danae Elizabeth, I love you so very much.” 

“Anduin Rowan,” she said, watching him wince at the use of his middle name, “I love you forever and always.” 

“You know I hate that name, don’t you?” he laughed.

“I do. That’s okay, my middle name comes from my paternal grandmother, who was a horrible, wicked woman. We’re even.” 

“Stories about your grandma Jones are legendary. Mine is just medieval-sounding, so you win,” he belly laughed. 

The limo dropped them at home, and Elyse was waiting for them to walk in the door. 

“Daddy!” she squealed. She ran for him and wrapped her arms around his leg. “You’re home!”

“I am! Mama is, too. We’re all going to go swimming, how’s that?”

“Even Eamon?” 

“Yes. Mama is going to swim with him, baby girl. Let’s have some fun together.” He bent down to kiss her head. “Go get into your suit.” 

“She has been impatiently waiting for you to come home, Andy,” Trixie laughed. 

“Thank you for taking care of our little sweetie pies,” Danae said. “We should be good for a while. Negotiations are over for now.”

Andy paid Trixie and gave her a generous tip. “Do something nice for yourself, Trix,” Andy said, folding her hand around the paper bills. “You deserve it.” 

“Thank you, Andy, Danae. Remember, anytime you need me, I’m here.” She took her bag and left. Andy watched her walk to her car, and safely leave the neighborhood. Though the area was secure, there was always a Paparazzi or two hanging around outside the gate, and he worried about her.

Andy and Danae played with the children outside in the pool until dinnertime, enjoying family time, which was at a premium these days. He prepared dinner at the grill in their outdoor kitchen, and they ate at the table on the patio. Afterward, Andy and Elyse spent a little more time in the pool, while Danae watched Eamon play in the sandbox as Emmitt nursed. 

By bedtime, the kids were tired, and after they were tucked into bed and soundly sleeping, Andy and Danae sat by the pool with a glass of wine. The moon was new, and the night just a bit darker. Their home was not near the lights in town, and stars filled the skies in abundance. In the pampas grass behind their pool, fireflies buzzed around, and Danae was thrilled to see them. The crickets sang, and frogs croaked their evening songs. Their world was peaceful and idyllic.

“What’s on your mind, my love?” Danae asked him.

“I’m just thinking of you, my sweet. Everything good in my life is because of you. This house, our family, our love, my job. Thank you, honey, for all of it.” She was gazing at him. “What about you, my sweet?”

“You have given me more than I could have dreamed, Andy. All I ever wanted was to be a wife and a mother, and you gave that to me. Every good thing I have is all you. You’re so much more than enough.” 

He stood up and took her hand. “Come with me,” he invited her. 

“Where are we going?” 

“Tonight, I’m taking you to heaven with me.” When she stood, he picked her up and carried her from the poolside to the double doors that opened onto the patio from their bedroom. “Danae, I crazy love you.” 

“I love you, Andy, forever and always.” 

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Up Next: Chapter Twenty, Generation Five

G5 Chapter Eighteen – Movin’ On Up!

A new baby is the perfect excuse to redecorate Eamon’s bedroom, Danae thought, so she bought the paint, some wallpaper border, and a new crib while she was in town. 

They had been back in their home, all fixed up and expanded, for close to three months, and the baby was due in two weeks. The football season was going well, and the Sharks were in playoff contention in their first year with Andy, Aaron, and Wyatt on the team.

On the last weekend in the summer, Andy invited Aaron and Wyatt over to help with the baby’s room. 

“Are you certain about this color blue?” Andy asked skeptically. It was a light, almost off-white baby blue. 

“It’s supposed to be that light, babe. It’s pastel.” She unpackaged the new sheets to wash, and the bumper for the new crib as Wyatt tried to put it together. 

“It will look nice,” Aaron interjected on Danae’s behalf. “Eamon and Emmitt have to share a bedroom, and the pastels are easier on the eye than something darker. Trust me on this.” 

“Thank you, Aaron!” Danae exclaimed to Andy’s huff of faux exasperation. 

“Why even paint it then? It’s almost white now.” Danae walked to Andy and put her arms around his neck. She kissed him tenderly and ran her fingers through his hair. He wrapped his arms around her. “I see now,” he laughed. “What she wants, she gets.”

“Wise man,” Wyatt said. “Aaron, when you have a chance, come look at these instructions. They don’t look right.” 

Aaron walked to Wyatt and looked at the booklet. “Looks fine to me,” he snickered and walked back to help Andy with the painting. 

“Not helpful, Aaron,” he grumbled.

“Leave it, Wyatt, and I’ll put it together. Come help Aaron with the painting. Let’s switch.” Andy put the paintbrush down and wiped his hands on the old, holey jeans he wore. 

Danae plopped down in the easy chair by the television. “I’m so achy,” she whined. “I’m done with being pregnant. Any time is good.” Elyse walked to her and climbed into her lap. “Lysie, what a good girl. Are you ready for a new brother?” 

“Brudder,” she repeated. “No brudder.” 

Danae laughed. “You already have one that bites, huh?” 

“Aims bad brudder,” she stated so matter-of-factly, it made Danae laugh. 

“He’s not bad, sweet pea.” She snuggled her daughter closely and covered her face in kisses. The girl’s happy giggles filled the house, and Andy smiled. “I’m going to put you in the playroom, sweetie pie. Play nice with Eamon, okay?” 

“I pay wiff Aim!” she squealed as Danae carried her up the steps. 

She set Elyse down on the floor. “Play nice, Eamon, or you’ll get a time out.” 

“No!” he said emphatically. “Leeeez,” he babbled in an attempt to say her name. “Mama!” He pouted in frustration.

“Eamon, you’re okay, honey.” She patted him on the head. “Behave.” 

As she sat back down in the living room, Andy was working on the crib. “How are you feeling, my sweet?” 

“Like I’m ready to pop,” she lamented. “I don’t remember feeling this fat with the other two.” 

“You’ve never eaten this much cheesecake, either,” he teased. “But even if you never lose another pound, you’ll still be the most beautiful woman on the island.” 

“I have to lose weight after the baby, Andy. I can’t wear Daddy’s jersey.” She was not looking forward to the hours spent on the treadmill and weight machine. It was difficult after Eamon, and she expected it to be harder still. She was pushing thirty after all.

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“First things first,” Andy said. “Give me another son, and I’ll help you train, love.” 

“I can do the son thing.” Danae was really hoping for another daughter, but Elyse was destined to be the only Murphy princess.

“How much longer, Miss Danae?” Wyatt asked politely, taking a sip of iced tea. 

“Another week or two, though Andy thinks I’ll have him any day now.” 

“It’s a good thing our game this week is a home game,” Aaron commented.

“It won’t matter. I’m approved for eight weeks of paternity leave starting Monday.” Andy smiled at Danae and then looked at the crib. It was coming along nicely.

“It will be so nice to have you home for two months,” Danae said happily. In the almost seven months they’d been on the island, Andy hadn’t had more than the weekends off, and sometimes not even then. 

Too bad we won’t be able to mess around for most of it, he thought to himself. “I’m sure you could use the help, baby,” he said. 

“That’s an understatement. By the time I get the kids down for a nap these days, it’s almost time for you to come home. I’ve gotten nothing done. I know this house is smaller but cleaning it is no less a chore.”

“Well, I will help you, love… Ouch!!” Andy yelped in pain, having squeezed his finger in a pinch point on the crib. “Bless it!”

“Are you okay, babe?”

“I will be. That’s going to leave a mark.” A purple blood blister was already beginning to form. 

Aaron walked from the bedroom, pleased with himself. “The painting is done, and Wyatt is cleaning up outside. You might want to open a window to air it a bit before Eamon’s bedtime. It’s really stinky in there.”

“I’ll get it,” Andy said, his injured finger in his mouth.

She stopped him and took his hand. “Here,” she said, taking his finger to kiss it. “I’ll make it better.” 

“Mmm, it’s much better now, love,” he cooed. Aaron rolled his eyes. “Stuff it, Hall,” Andy laughed.

“Get a room, you two,” Aaron joked. “Actually, don’t. You promised us a cookout if we helped, and I’m not ready to leave yet.

“Yes, I’m on it. Make yourself useful, Aaron, and open that window. I’ll go start the grill.” Andy laughed as he walked toward the back door. Danae smiled sweetly at Aaron. 

“I’m sorry Danae,” he blushed. “I don’t mean anything by it.” He was suddenly embarrassed.

“Come on, Aaron. You act as if it’s my first day here.” She snorted, amused at his obvious discomfort. 

“I’ll get the window,” he smiled and went to Eamon’s room.

 

Andy and Aaron cooked a pile of beautiful steaks, while Danae and Wyatt made a salad, and chopped vegetables to steam. After dinner, Danae put the children to bed and brought her guitar from the second floor. Andy lit a fire in the pit, and Danae played and sang songs while they roasted marshmallows and made s’mores.

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“So, Wyatt,” Danae said, as they all sat around the fire, “tell me about your family in Appaloosa Plains. My family on Mama’s side is from there as well.”

“Isn’t much to tell, really,” he drawled. “I’m an only child. Most of my relatives still live there, and I have a big extended family. My pa mentioned we have a famous cousin in the family. Or something.” 

“That’s interesting,” Danae was intrigued. “I have a famous relative, too. I mean, it’s pretty obvious who it is.” 

“There isn’t that many famous people from Appaloosa Plains,” Wyatt laughed. “It’s such a Podunk little town. What’s obvious, by the way?” 

“Destiny Hill. She is my great grandmother,” she said softly. “Some say I inherited her voice, but I honestly don’t hear it.” 

Wyatt’s jaw dropped open. “Tell me you’re not serious.”

“Why?” Danae asked.

“That’s the famous person! Destiny Hill is my first cousin, a few times removed, if my memory serves me.” 

Aaron belly laughed, and he couldn’t stop. “You mean to tell me, you two are related?” 

“Why is that so funny, Hall?” Wyatt glared daggers at his friend. 

“You know why, Searcy. This is freaking hilarious.” 

Andy and Danae looked at Aaron, confused. “I don’t get the joke,” Andy finally spoke up. Danae still sat, shocked and speechless, and it wasn’t often those two things occurred simultaneously.

“It’s an inside joke,” Aaron stated, giving Wyatt the out. “You wouldn’t get it, even if I told you.” 

“Then I won’t ask,” Andy smiled. “Danae, are you okay honey?” 

“Yeah, I’m just blown away by this. We’ll need to sit down and figure out who and how! This is incredible, Wyatt.” 

“I’ll look through some of my papers. My aunt was doing the family tree before she passed away, and I inherited all her stuff.” Wyatt couldn’t wait to get home to check. 

“I know most of my family, and who I don’t remember, Andy seems to recall. He even told me where my freckles came from.” Danae smiled at him. “I have something in the house that is hundreds of years old. I should show you, Wyatt. This is pretty cool!” She was very excited. She took his hand and led him into Elyse’s bedroom to show him the music box, and Aaron shook his head at Wyatt’s infatuated look, his hand in hers.

“That wasn’t an inside joke was it, Aaron?” Andy asked. 

“No, it wasn’t. But it’s not my place to say, either. I feel bad I laughed. If Wyatt wants to tell you, it’s his story to tell.”

Inside, Wyatt marveled at the music box. “So this was your great, great, great grandfather’s?” he whispered.

“Yes! It is very old. Sometimes, I’m amazed it still works.” She wound it and let it play softly. “Lysie loves it.” They both tiptoed from the room. Wyatt looked at her, and his heart fluttered. With the revelation of their common ancestry, he knew for sure his adoration for her was a dead end. Andy was right about one thing, though. Danae was beautiful when she was pregnant. 

“Is something wrong, Wyatt?” she asked him.

“Nah, it’s nothing, Miss Danae. I’m still shocked that we have blood relation somewhere.” 

“Me too! It’s a small world, Wyatt.” 

“That it is,” he agreed.

Andy had tamped the fire out, and Aaron joined him inside. “I hate to call this a night, guys, but I’m tired, and this little princess needs her rest. Sleep will be hard to come by once the baby is here.” He walked Aaron and Wyatt to the front door and thanked them for coming to help with the room. He locked the door behind them and walked to Danae.

She put her arms around him and hugged him as tightly as she could. “Thank you for today, babe. I can’t believe I waited so long to get his room ready.”

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“The guys were happy to help, my love.” He walked in back of her and nuzzled his face into her hair. “You smell so good, honey. Let’s go to bed.” 

“Are you propositioning me?” she laughed. 

“Maybe,” he said, kissing her neck. 

“Just this one last time,” she teased, and took his hands in hers as they wrapped around her belly. “Andy, I love you so very much.” 

“I crazy love you, Danae.” He took her hand and led her to the bedroom.


A few hours later, Danae sat straight up in bed. “Andy! Wake up!”

“What’s wrong, honey?” He asked sleepily. 

“Babe, it’s go time. This baby is coming now.” The contraction that woke her was a memory, but another strong one took its place. 

“Okay, hold on, my sweet,” Andy stumbled to the bathroom. In the meantime, Danae got dressed.

“Babe, I can’t get my shoes on,” she laughed. 

“I’ve got this,” he said, grabbing her tennis shoes and slipping them on her swollen feet. “I called the sitter, and she’ll be here in a few minutes. How are you doing?” 

“I’m okay for now, but the contractions are close together. If she doesn’t hurry, you’ll be delivering the baby in your fancy new sports car.” Danae laughed. The car was like a fourth child to him, his dream car, and he loved it.

“We’ll take yours then,” he chuckled. A few minutes later, the call box out front buzzed, and Andy allowed the sitter entrance to the gate. They met her at the front door. “Hi, Trix! The kids are asleep, so you shouldn’t have much to do. Thanks for coming so late.” 

“My pleasure, Mr. Andy,” she replied. “Good luck!” 

Danae waited out front while he pulled the car from the garage. He got out and helped her into the front seat, and she fastened the seat belt. Andy got in, rubbed her belly gently and kissed her. “I crazy love you, Danae,” he cooed at her. 

“I love you too, Andy, but you need to drive. The hospital is a long way from here.” He put the car in gear and drove away from the house. 

About halfway there, her water broke. “Uh oh,” she cried. “This isn’t good.” 

“I’m going as fast as I can, Nae baby,” he replied. “I’ll get you there.” I can’t deliver a baby! He said to himself.

Fifteen minutes later, he pulled up outside the emergency department, and hopped out of the car. “Hurry, Andy!” she cried, in heavy labor. He walked with her into the hospital, and she was taken in immediately. 

The baby was crowning when she got into a bed, and there was no time to call her doctor. “This baby is coming right now,” the emergency doctor said. Emmitt was born less than ten minutes later, with Andy right there, holding her hand, coaching her. “Congratulations!  You have a healthy baby boy.” 

Danae reached her arms to take him, and they nestled the baby into her embrace. “Hi Emmitt,” she cooed at him. “I’m your mama!” She cried when she looked into his eyes. Their miracle baby.

“He’s perfect, Danae,” Andy wiped happy tears from his eyes. “Just like his mama.” He kissed her forehead and noticed something wasn’t right. “Doctor, why is she so clammy?” 

It was then the doctor noticed the bleeding. “Mr. Murphy, she is bleeding heavier than normal.” The nurses took the baby and tended to Danae quickly. “Did she have any complications during pregnancy?” 

“No, but she had an ectopic last year that almost killed her when we still lived in Starlight Shores.” 

“We need to check her out, ultrasound, blood work. You can see her shortly.” They wheeled Danae away from him before he had a chance to tell her he loved her. 

About thirty minutes passed when Danae’s doctor approached Andy. “Mr. Murphy, Danae’s uterus was damaged during delivery, probably scar tissue from her rupture. That is the source of her bleeding, and without a hysterectomy, she won’t survive.”

“How is she right now?” Andy asked. 

“She is conscious, but barely. Mr. Murphy, we need to do this very soon. Do we have your permission?” 

“Whatever you need to do to save her life, do it. Three children need their mother, and I need her. Please, save her.” 

“We will do everything we can.”

Andy called Darcey. “Darce, it’s Andy. Danae had the baby, but she had complications. She’s bleeding. They’re doing a hysterectomy.”

“Oh no! Oh, Andy, I’m so sorry to hear this.” Darcey choked back tears. “Let me know how she’s doing once she is out of surgery. Andy, she’s going to be okay. The doctors here are top-notch. She’s in good hands.” 

“Thanks, Darcey. I needed to hear that. I’m scared to death.” 

“Who has the kids?” 

“We called a sitter, but if you want to get them I won’t complain. Neither will the sitter, the poor thing.”

“I’ll go get them, honey. Call the sitter and tell her I’m coming.” 

“Thanks, Darcey. We owe you one.” 

“Nonsense. Take care of my sister, and tell her I love her.” 

“I’ll do that.” Andy hung up the phone and called the sitter to let her know Darcey was getting the kids. The next phone call was to Kirby and Rae. Even though it was late, he had to.

“Andy? Is everything okay?” a sleepy Kirby answered his cell phone.

“No, Danae had the baby, but there were complications. She’s in surgery.” 

“What can I do to help?” Kirby sat up in bed.

“I will let you know. Kirby, if I lose her…” Andy’s voice trailed off as he swallowed a sob.

“Don’t think that way. She will be okay, Andy. She has the best doctors on the job. She was in the right place. I will let the guys know, and Rae will come sit with you if you need a friend.”

“Thanks, Kirby. I’ll call when she’s out of surgery.” 

*****

The next few hours passed slowly as Andy watched the clock. But Danae’s doctor came out wearing a smile. “Mr. Murphy, Danae came through the surgery well.  She’s lost some blood, so we did a transfusion, but she should recover fine. We did a total hysterectomy. The bleeding was too much to leave it. She is lucky to have carried the baby to term. Her womb was not in ideal condition for childbearing. The baby is doing well, by the way. As soon as she is awake, we will bring him to her so she can feed him.”

“When can I see her?” Andy breathed a sigh of relief.

“In about half an hour. We’re going to wake her up in about ten minutes and assess her. But she will make a full recovery. The baby is adorable. He’s a keeper.” She smiled at him. “I’ll come get you when she’s ready for you.” 

Andy glanced at his watch, and it was 5:23am. Twelve hours ago, they were having fun with Aaron and Wyatt, and now… now he was in the hospital after another close call. He picked up the phone and dialed Darcey’s number.

“Hello?” her anxious voice answered.

“Darcey, it’s me. She’s out of surgery, and she’s doing okay. I haven’t seen her yet, but the doctor says she should make a full recovery.” 

“Oh thank goodness!” she exclaimed. “Did they have to take her uterus?” 

“Everything is gone. She is going to be shattered. The doctor told me she was lucky to carry him to term. I guess she had some scar tissue from the rupture. Emmitt is truly a miracle baby.” 

“Oh my word, the poor thing.” He heard her sniffle. “Take care of her, Andy, and tell her we love her. Your babies are doing fine.” 

“Thanks, Darcey. I’ll call later.” Andy had one more phone call to make.

“Kirby, it’s Andy. Danae is okay, she’s out of surgery.” 

“Oh Andy, thank goodness. Whatever you need, let me know and I’ll take care of it.” 

“Thanks, Kirby. Please call Aaron and Wyatt. We had them over last night for dinner after they painted the nursery for us. They will be shocked to find out she’s here.” 

“I’ll do that. Take care of your princess, Andy. We’re all pulling for you.” 

“Thanks. I’ll be in touch.” 

Shortly afterward, the doctor came to get him. “Be prepared, she doesn’t look that great. But remember, she will be okay. We didn’t tell her about the hysterectomy. I thought maybe you might want to tell her, since it’s a personal thing.” 

“Thanks, doc. It will be better coming from me.” Andy opened the door to her room, and she was half awake. “Hey, my sweet, beautiful princess,” he greeted her.

“Andy,” she smiled as best she could. “I feel like hell.” 

“You’re going to be okay, sweetie.” He kissed her forehead. 

“I barely remember seeing the baby. Is he okay?” 

“He’s perfect, love, just like you.” Andy took her hand and kissed it. “I have some news, though.” 

“Oh?”

“You were bleeding, honey. They could only stop it one way.”

“Well, I know I’m just out of surgery. What did I lose this time?” 

“Danae, honey, they had to do a total hysterectomy.” He watched her smile fade into tears. 

“No…” 

“Shh, it’s going to be okay, love.” He kissed her softly. “We have three beautiful children. They will always be more than enough.” 

“I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. This pregnancy was always a little dicey. On the bright side, no more periods, and no more birth control.” 

Andy laughed. “I knew you’d find the silver lining in this heavy rain cloud, honey.” 

The nurse walked in with the baby. “Someone is very hungry, Mommy.” She handed the baby to Danae. “You’re not on any medicine that will hurt him. He needs that first milk.” 

“Thank you,” she said and smiled at the baby. “Oh Emmitt, my sweet baby boy.” 

“Thank you for letting me name him after my dad.”

“Andy, there isn’t a more fitting name for him.” She carefully positioned the baby and helped him to latch on. “There you go, my sweet baby.” 

“Danae, I crazy love you. Never forget it.” 

“Andy, I love you forever and always.” Together, they watched the baby as he nursed for the first time.


A few days later, Aaron and Wyatt came to see Danae at the hospital with a big teddy bear for the baby, and some tropical flowers for her. She was feeling better, and about a day away from going home. Kirby and Rae had been to see her a few times, along with some of the team players. Everyone at the Sharks franchise adored Danae and Andy. 

When she was finally released to go home, Kirby sent a limousine for them to bring them from the hospital. Andy carried the baby, while the orderly assisted Danae into the car. “I wish you both the best of luck.”

“Thank you,” Andy replied as he fastened the baby into the car seat. The ride home was uneventful and quiet, and Danae sat with Andy, snuggled up to him. 

He carried the baby inside and placed him into his new crib, which was all ready. Danae sat in one of the media chairs by the television and sighed. “Are you okay for a few minutes, sweetie? I’m going to go get Lysie and Eamon from Darcey’s.” 

“Yes, Andy. It will do me good to see them. I miss my babies.” 

When Andy arrived at Darcey’s house, the kids were both ready to see their mama. He sat down with both of them. “Mama has an ouchie on her tummy, so you need to be very gentle with her.” Elyse nodded her head.

“Ach-ee!” Eamon babbled. “Mama ach-ee!” 

“That’s right, Eamon. Mama’s tummy hurts, so you have to be gentle.” 

“Mama gots owie,” Elyse repeated. “I wuv Mama.” 

“She will love to hear that, Lysie,” Andy praised her. “Tell Mama you love her when you see her.” The child nodded and giggled. “Thanks for watching them for us, Darcey. We’ll have you for dinner in the near future.” 

“Hey, no worries. Take care of our girl. I’ll be over to see her soon.” 

“Will do, Darce. Love you.” 

“Love both of you,” Darcey replied. 

Andy drove the kids home, and both of them babbled happily in the car. He picked up Eamon and Elyse ran ahead of him to the front door, laughing all the way. Danae could hear her from the living room, and she smiled.

“Mama mama!” Elyse chirped as she ran for Danae. “I wuv Mama!” 

“Oh my little sweet pea, Mama loves you so much!” She bent forward as much as she could, and hugged her daughter. 

“Up, Mama!” Eamon toddled to her and giggled when she tickled him. 

“Mama has an ouchie, honey.” And when she said it, he remembered. 

“Mama ach-ee!” he exclaimed. “Mama ach-ee!”

Danae chuckled, and then recoiled in pain. “It hurts to laugh, I guess.” 

In the other room, sharp cries came from a hungry baby. “I’ve got him, Nae. Stay put.” Andy walked to Eamon’s room and retrieved the baby from his crib. He handed Emmitt to his mother, and she prepared to nurse him. Eamon had never seen a baby before, and he was intrigued.

“Wats dat?” he chirped at Danae.

“This is your new brother, Eamon. This is Emmitt.” Eamon stood on his tiptoes to see the baby’s face, and he frowned. 

“No!” he cried. “No buddah.” 

Andy laughed. “You’ll be okay, son.” He picked Eamon up and snuggled him, and played with him for a few minutes. Elyse sat quietly and watched Danae feed the baby.

“What do you think, Lysie?” Danae cooed at her. 

“Brudder?” 

“Yes, honey. This is your new brother. Say, Emmitt.” 

“Ennit!” Elyse said happily. “Ennit is new brudder.”

Danae smiled. “Close enough, sweetheart.” 

“Wats he doon, Mama?” 

“I’m feeding him, honey.” The baby made comforting grunts while he nursed, sounds that had long been forgotten. Sweet little sounds that Danae adored.

Elyse just watched him, fascinated. 

“Did you guys have a nap today?” Andy asked Elyse. 

“No, Daddy.” 

“Are you sleepy?” 

“No Daddy,” she said as she yawned. 

Andy laughed. “Sure you’re not.” He picked her up amid vociferous protests. 

“Wanna watch Ennit!” she cried. 

“He will be here, sweet pea. Time for little girls and boys to nap.” He set Elyse in her crib and kissed her cheek. “Here’s your water, baby girl.” 

Andy repeated the ritual with Eamon, who was a little more receptive to the idea of a nap. By the time he was finished, Emmitt was nearly done nursing. 

“I can’t wait for you to feel better, my sweet,” Andy cooed at her. “You are a fantastic mother, you know that?” 

“I am doing my best,” she answered. “When the baby is asleep, I’m going to take a nap. I need to take care of myself.” 

“I will make sure of it.” He kissed her cheek and took the baby from her when he was done. Emmitt was nearly asleep. He walked from the boys’ bedroom and helped her up. “Here, baby, I’ll walk you into the room.” She stood and he took her by the arm, steadying her as she walked. 

In the bedroom, she sat on the edge of the bed. “It’s so good to be home,” she yawned. Andy joined her on the bed and curled up behind her.

“I’m right here, my sweet,” he purred. “If you need anything at all, let me know, and I’ll get it for you.” 

“You spoil me too much, Andy,” she said, sleep quickly overtaking her. 

“Rest well, my love,” he whispered in her ear. 


Six months later…

Elyse’s fourth birthday was approaching fast, and Danae couldn’t believe her baby girl was ready for preschool. Andy had done research on the best schools on the island, and they decided a private school would be best for all of the children. Considering his social status, and since Paparazzi were always hanging around the family, the Murphys felt good about their decision. 

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Danae was completely healed from her surgery, after the second emergency that nearly stole her from the family. But now, there was zero chance of pregnancy. At almost 28 years old, she was finished having children and concentrated on raising the ones she and Andy made. 

The last bit of party planning was finished, and for her birthday, aside from her party with cousins and family friends, she would be moving from a crib to a ‘big girl bed’, and her room would be decorated however she wanted it. Her language skills had greatly improved, and she was starting to understand and recognize written words. Andy and Danae read to her each night, and she had several of her favorite books already memorized. Though they didn’t have her tested, Danae thought maybe she might be a genius. It was a family trait. Though Danae didn’t possess it, several members of her family did, including her mother Charlotte, uncle Christopher and great grandmother, Destiny.

The two older kids were playing in their playroom and the baby was in his swing, sound asleep, while Danae had just finished a ten-mile run on her treadmill. Tomorrow, she would agonize over a strength and toning workout. She wasn’t sure which she hated more, but she certainly did love the results. Since Emmitt’s birth, she had lost almost 40 pounds, and was on track to meet her goal in a month or two. Her favorite dress was still a bit snug, and she hoped she would fit into it again. As she wrapped up her workout, she declared her cheesecake-eating days a distant but fond memory.

The Sharks had done well in the playoffs, though they had fallen short of the championship game by one. Kirby was pleased with the progress, and off-season negotiations would be starting soon. The two men were chatting over morning coffee, with trades and draft picks the topics of discussion. Kirby stirred some cream into his second cup.

“Now, who was it you were thinking of headhunting?” he asked as he took a sip. 

“A couple of seasons ago, we tried to get Avery Tillman from Sunlit Tides. At the time, he wasn’t interested in moving, but Fiona wasn’t willing to give much, either. Luckily, I have a file on what he makes, and I remember what we offered him last time. We are in a position to make him a fantastic proposal.”

“Let’s do it, Andy. Give me some numbers, and I’ll see what we can do. Do you have his contact information?” 

“Indeed, I do. I have his phone number and email address. I might have to go there to sign him up. He wouldn’t come to the Shores for negotiations. But we could possibly give him and Dina the works. I’ll call him.” 

“I’d hate to see you travel so far away from your family. Maybe we can lure them here with promises of an extended weekend. Do you have the numbers for me?” 

“I will have them within the half-hour. I just need a few minutes to compile the data. Email or phone?” 

“Email, please. That way, I don’t forget it.” Kirby laughed. “Don’t get old, Andy.” 

He smiled. “I’m on it, Kirby.” They finished their meeting and parted ways.

Back at his office, Andy pawed through his briefcase and pulled the file with Tillman’s name on it. He scanned the paperwork into his computer and compiled the information into a file for Kirby. He jotted a quick note to accompany it:

Kirby,

I am attaching the salary information for Avery Tillman, per our conversation. Compared to Wyatt and the other players, we can still make him a generous offer.  He might be less interested in the car/boat and more so in a school for his kids. There is a nice private school, perhaps we could offer a scholarship or tuition reimbursement for them in lieu of the car? Just a thought.

Living the dream,
Andy

Using his own judgment, and what he already knew of Kirby’s generosity when it came to his star players, Andy began an offer for Avery for his review, with and without the school and car incentives. Time was close on his contract renewal, and Andy wanted to be the first to contact him with an offer. 

Not long after he finished the proposal on his worksheet, Kirby’s reply came in:

Andy,

This is why I am paying you the big bucks! You know the prospects well enough to anticipate their desires, their needs, and it puts us in a better position to negotiate with them. Great job on the school suggestion. We can go up to 30k a year in scholarship or tuition reimbursement for the family per year, which should cover up to three children fully. You can also go a full 60% over his current salary, and still offer him a car if it will hook him. You already know we do moving expenses as a standard, plus 10x annual on life insurance and full medical. 

Go get ‘em, Andy. Headhunt Avery Tillman and bring him on board. 

Living the dream with you,
Kirby.

Fantastic! Andy was excited, and now with set boundaries, he was prepared to call Avery with an offer he couldn’t refuse. He dialed the number and waited for the answer.

“Hello?”

“Avery Tillman?” 

“You got me,” he said.

“Avery, this is Andy Murphy, of the Isla Paradiso Sharks. You might recall we negotiated a contract with the Shores Llamas a couple of years ago.” 

“Yes, I remember you. How are you, Andy?” 

“I am super, thank you! Listen, the reason for my call is that I know your contract is up for renegotiation soon, and my boss, the owner of the Isla Sharks, would like to make you an offer you’ll have a hard time refusing. Can we meet?”

“What kind of offer, Andy? It’s going to need to be pretty spectacular to drag my kids away from their friends and schools.” 

“Well, I don’t want to discuss specifics on the phone. Why don’t I fly you and Dina here to the island for an extended weekend? We’ll cover every expense, including a private jet, the finest room in the most exclusive resort, plus a dinner at a five-star restaurant. I’ll make it worth your while, Avery.” 

“May I chat with Dina about this? It all sounds so amazing, but she is my partner in crime. I don’t make decisions like this without her input.” 

“I totally understand. My wife and I did the exact same thing last year, and we left four generations of memories in the Shores to come here.” Andy read off his cell number. “Call me when you’ve talked to her, Avery. Let’s get you out here for talks, some R&R, a little pampering. I’m sure you could use it.” 

“You’re not kidding. I’ll be in touch, Andy. Thanks for the call.” They ended the call, and Andy was optimistic.

*****

Danae was nursing Emmitt when Andy walked through the door. Elyse ran to him and wrapped herself around his waist. “Hi, Daddy!” She said happily. “I missed you.” 

“Hi sweet pea,” he said back, lifting her to eye level to kiss her cheek. “How’s my baby princess today?”

“Good, Daddy! Wanna see what I did today?” 

“Of course I do, honey. Why don’t you go get it for me, so I can say hi to Mama?” 

“Yay!” she squealed as she ran up the steps, chattering all the way. 

Danae snorted. “That little girl misses you when you aren’t here. She is a Daddy’s girl, and I know a Daddy’s girl when I see one!” She stopped the baby from nursing long enough to burp him. 

“I miss all of you when I’m at work. I might be traveling to Sunlit Tides for a few days, maybe longer. We’re trying to get Tillman here. If I can’t convince him and his wife to visit the island, I’ll have to go there. It might mean almost a week from home.”

“You’re going to leave me with three babies for a week?” Andy was not bringing good news on this day. 

“Maybe, honey. It depends on whether I can get them to come here. If I can, then be ready to knock ’em dead with that foxy body of yours. Because holy crap, Danae, you are looking good.” 

“Hodee crap, Day!” Eamon repeated and giggled like mad. Danae shot him a look.

“Little ears, babe. You can’t say stuff like that around Eamon. He’s a memory stick.” She positioned Emmitt to feed on her other side. “And that’s ‘Mama’ to you, little man!” She laughed.

“Mama! Mama!” Eamon chattered, pleased with himself. Andy snickered.

He walked to where Danae sat and caressed the baby’s cheek as he nursed. “Save some for your Daddy,” he said and winked at Danae. She laughed and shook her head.

“I’ll have plenty for you,” she smirked. “Is that your favorite part about me nursing a baby or what?”

His sheepish grin gave him away. “It’s one of my favorite things. I can’t help it. You’re a sexy mama.” 

“Trix is coming early to take the kids tonight. We’re meeting Darcey and Clint for dinner at Kirby’s restaurant. We’re doing the chef’s table with them. Just the four of us.” 

“That will be fun. They haven’t been there yet, have they?” 

“Nope. I can’t wait to spoil them, Andy. They’ve done so much for us. Plus, I’m gifting them part of daddy’s money. I feel funny keeping it for ourselves when we don’t need it.”

“I wholeheartedly agree, my sweet.” Andy kissed her. “How long until we have to be out of here?” 

“Our reservation is for six. You have time for a shower, and you can watch the kids while I’m in.” 

“It’s a plan, then!” Andy walked for the bathroom. 

Danae finished nursing the baby and set him in his crib. “Lysie, would you keep an eye on Eamon for a minute? Daddy will be right out of the shower.” 

“Yes, Mama!” came her enthusiastic reply. 

Danae walked into the master suite to undress, and Andy was just drying off. “You look delish,” she purred at him. 

“You will once you’ve showered,” he teased and laughed at her look of distaste. “You’re not offended, are you?” 

“Who me? No.” She swatted him as she walked to the shower. Andy’s phone rang, and he scrambled for it.

“This is Murphy.” 

“Andy, Avery Tillman. Is the offer to come to the island still standing? Dina and I would love to negotiate a new contract with you.”

“It absolutely is! I will make arrangements tomorrow and send your itinerary. When are you thinking is a good time for you?”

“Maybe this weekend coming? Is that too soon?” 

“I can pull off almost anything, Avery. Just Dina and yourself?” 

“Yes. We could use time away from the kids. It’s been a long time since we’ve had a vacation, even if it is a working vacation.” 

“You’ll have plenty of time to do as you please. How is Thursday through Tuesday? I’d hate to see you come all that way for just two days.” 

“It sounds heavenly. I will look forward to your email. Thank you again, Andy.”

“My pleasure! We’ll talk soon, Avery.” Andy ended the call and shouted with happiness. “Yes!”

“What’s up, babe?” Danae called from the shower.

“Avery and Dina Tillman are interested in negotiating. And, they’re coming here!” Andy was overjoyed. 

“That is awesome, babe! I’m proud of you.” She turned the water off and stepped out from the shower. “Did you take my towel again, you stinker?” 

Around his waist was a pink towel. “Oops.” 

“It’s okay,” she laughed. “It’s a good color on you, though.” 

Trixie arrived at the house to sit with the kids. The two older ones had been fed and were ready for a night of playtime and games. Elyse was already helping her read a storybook to Eamon. 

Danae walked from the bedroom wearing a dusty mauve evening gown and matching pumps. Her hair was braided the way Andy loved it, and she wore the heart necklace he gave her. Andy wore his black tuxedo, a bit of hair tucked neatly behind his ear the way Danae loved it. 

“You two look like celebrities,” Trix commented, fully aware they both held the status. “Have fun tonight, kids.” 

“You have my permission to tickle both of them if they don’t behave,” Danae said, winking at Andy. Elyse giggled madly.

“Look at that! I don’t even have to tickle this one, and she giggles!” Trix laughed. “What time should I expect you?”

“Around ten or eleven, I have to work in the morning,” Andy replied. “You know how to reach us if you need us.” 

Andy escorted Danae to the limo that waited outside for them. The next stop was Darcey and Clint’s home to pick them up, and then to the restaurant. Kirby was cooking that evening and promised the same chef’s table experience he had given to Andy and Danae. 

Clint and Darcey emerged from their house, Noel and Shan waving from the front door as they left. The driver held the door for Darcey, and Clint got in behind her. 

“This is a classy ride you have here, Andy,” Clint remarked. “Must be nice, brother.” 

“It is,” he nodded. “Enjoy the experience tonight. It’s our treat and our pleasure.” 

The limo arrived at Kirby’s restaurant and dropped the two couples off outside. Darcey had been to The Tower back in the Shores once, but it was nothing like this place. She and Clint marveled as they all walked to the door, and Andy held it for them. The host led them back to Kirby’s special room, and he greeted the couples once they were seated. 

Andy ordered a bottle of champagne for the table, and whatever Kirby had recommended for an appetizer while he perused the menu. Danae took the moment to give them a gift.

“Darcey, I know what you’re going to say, so just save it.” Danae handed her an envelope. “This is yours, and I don’t feel right keeping it.” 

Darcey slid her finger under the flap of the envelope and removed the contents. Immediately, tears filled her eyes. “Nae, I can’t… we can’t take this.” 

“It’s not negotiable. When Daddy died, Darce, he never intended for us to keep all of his fortune, just because we were living in the house. So, this your half of the inheritance, plus your half of the proceeds of the house when we sold it.” 

“But Nae, this check is for over a million dollars.” Clint heard it and nearly passed out.

“I know how much it’s for, Darcey. I had the bank cut it.” She smiled.

Andy could see Darcey’s desire to say no, so he spoke. “You and Clint have done so much for us over the years. You’ve been there to watch the kids when we needed you time and time again, and you cared for them, took them in with no complaints. You both gave up careers in the Shores, not to mention all of the family memories, to follow us here. And like Nae said, Travis never meant for us to keep it for ourselves.”

“But Nae—”

“No buts, Darcey. It’s yours. Use it for whatever you want. College for the boys, a new home, a second home, a boat or two. The sky’s the limit.” 

Darcey wiped tears from her eyes. “This is incredible, and so unbelievably generous. I-I don’t know what to say!”

“I do,” Clint said. “Thank you both. I mean it.” 

“Boo Bear! We… we are millionaires!” Darcey was completely dumbfounded. 

“I never could have imagined this when we met, Kitten. Danae, Andy. Thank you again.” 

Andy took Danae’s hand and kissed it. Leaning toward her, he whispered, “You have a kind, generous heart, and I crazy love you.”

And Danae smiled.

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Up Next: Chapter Nineteen, Generation Five

G5 Chapter Seventeen, Part Two – Making Waves

The next morning, Andy dialed Aaron’s cell phone. Please don’t be in a meeting with Fiona, he thought.

“Andy?” 

“Hey, Aaron. Yes, it’s me!” Andy smiled. “Are you alone?” 

“Yeah, I’m in my office. What’s on your mind?” 

“Remember how I’ve been trying to get you down here? This is it. I’m prepared to make you an offer you can’t refuse.” 

“Just tell me when, and I’m on my way. Andy, you wouldn’t believe how insane things have gotten. Get me out of here.” 

“How about this weekend? A private jet will pick you up, and you’ll stay in an exclusive resort. We’ll discuss business over dinner at a five-star restaurant. I’ll make sure the trip is worth your while, Aaron.”

“Dang, man. I’m on board already. You don’t have to go through all this expense. Just send me a contract, and we’re done.” 

“Let me do this, Aaron. Besides, wouldn’t you like to meet Kirby? He knows your work, and he’s mighty impressed.” 

“Kirby. That name sounds familiar, but not entirely from soccer. I know it from somewhere else. The last name is Kemp?” 

“Yeah. How do you know him if not through the team?” Andy was intrigued.

“Kirby Kemp is a billionaire entrepreneur. Andy, he owns half of the island in resorts and restaurants. How could you not know that if you work for him?” 

“It never occurred to me to ask. But it explains how he can afford to keep spoiling the crap out of Danae and me. Our house is under reconstruction to expand for the baby, and he has us in the same resort you’ll be staying in when you come down. He probably owns it.”

“Search him on the internet. I’d be surprised if he didn’t own that resort.”

“I’d feel funny doing that. But, I need you down here for negotiations. Can we cement this for Friday night?”

“Yes, Andy, let’s do this. I have nothing to lose.” The team was a mess, and Aaron was tired of it.

“Fantastic! Please let Wyatt know I will contact him within the week. Kirby is motivated to bring him on board, too.”

“I will let him know. He’ll be ecstatic. Andy, you just made my day. I was dreading practice today, but now I have something to look forward to. I’ll see you on Saturday morning, my friend.” 

“Sounds like a good plan. I can’t wait. Oh, and Aaron?”

“Yeah, Andy?”

“See if you can grab Travis’ jersey when they come in, women’s medium. Danae doesn’t have one, and I know she would love it. I’ll get it during the season opener next week, so I can bring it home with me.”

“Already thinking ahead to score points with your sweetie. Good job, Romeo,” Aaron chuckled. “I’ll grab one. You can reimburse me when I see you.”

“Thanks, Aaron, I owe you one. On Saturday, we’ll have a beer together on the beach.”

“It’s a date,” Aaron chuckled. “See you then.”

Andy hung up the phone. Now to make the arrangements for Aaron’s trip, he thought. He wrote an email to Kirby:

Good morning Kirby,

I am making arrangements to accommodate Aaron Hall this weekend for negotiations. He is very receptive. Please inform me of specifics, ie., salary, benefits, etc, so I can be prepared for the upcoming meeting unless of course, you’d rather join Danae and me for dinner with him. Together, Aaron and I will make the Sharks a championship team. You can count on it.

Living the dream,
Andy

He was gathering information for the weekend when Kirby’s reply came:

Good morning Andy,

I am attaching a file with your access codes for the resort. You can book Aaron’s itinerary straight from your computer using the arrow icon on your desktop. The VIP suites area is only used by me for special guests, so it will be open any time you need to book it. The jet can be reserved via phone, the number is in the Rolodex on your desk. The pilot likes to be back in Isla Paradiso by 9:00 pm at the latest, so try to book with this in mind.

Let’s meet tomorrow morning, say 9am, to discuss what you need to know to start, and we’ll go from there. I have every confidence that you’ll bring Aaron Hall onboard. On Sunday morning, we’ll have brunch so I can meet him. I look forward to seeing you tomorrow.

Living the dream with you,
Kirby

Excellent! He thought. Andy opened the email and retrieved his login and password for the resort. The system was simple to navigate, and within minutes he had the VIP suite reserved for Aaron. Next, he called to reserve the jet for a round trip between Starlight Shores and the island. Lastly, he called Aaron with his itinerary.

“Andy!” he answered happily. 

“Aaron, I have great news. I just finished making arrangements for Friday evening. You have a 4pm flight from Starlight Shores via private jet. Upon your arrival, a limousine will bring you to the resort. On Saturday evening, Danae and I will host you for negotiations and dinner at a five-star restaurant. And on Sunday morning, we’ll meet with Kirby and Rae Kemp for brunch.”

“Holy cow, I couldn’t write all that down,” he laughed. “Repeat everything you said after my name.”

“Don’t worry, slacker, I sent the information to your private email. You’ll be getting that anytime now.” Andy snickered quietly.  

“Hey, so do you mind if I plus one on this?” 

“Well, that depends. If it’s Devin or Fiona, I’d have to say a big fat no.” 

“Yeah, like I’d bring the problems with me. No, wiseguy, Wyatt wants to come along, too. I told him I’d ask.” 

“Absofreakinlutely Aaron! This is wonderful! Tell him to come ready to negotiate, too. The suite is big enough for the two of you to have your own bedrooms and bathrooms, if you don’t mind sharing the space.”

“I don’t have a problem with it if he doesn’t, but I doubt he will. He wants out of the situation as badly as I do. Smitty is ready to retire, but we’re all working on the project you gave me. I’m almost to the point where I can peg him, just a few more days and I’ll have him. I’d record him, but I know it’s not admissible in court. But we’ll all give written statements to that effect.” 

“Aaron, I don’t know what I’d do without the three of you. Please, tell Smitty we miss him, and happy retirement. Let Wyatt know I’ll copy him on that email, and we’ll see you both on Saturday morning.”

“I can’t wait,” Aaron said excitedly. “See you then.” 

Andy had to call Kirby. He was too excited to wait for an email.

“Andy, what can I do for you?”

“Kirby, I have some extraordinary news. It seems we’re getting two for the price of one this weekend. Wyatt Searcy is joining Aaron Hall.” 

“Andy, my boy, I’m so proud of you. I knew you were a go-getter. Since the two of them will be there, Rae and I will join you and make it a six top on the table. I can’t wait to meet them.”

“They are very motivated, so we have much going for us. Everything is already arranged, and their itineraries have been emailed. 

“Well dang, Andy, you don’t need a secretary. You’re handling this like a champ. But, if you find you could use a helping hand, please don’t hesitate to tell me. You know you can have almost anything you want or need.” 

“I don’t want to take advantage, Kirby. You’ve spoiled Danae and me plenty.” 

“Nonsense!” Kirby replied. “I want to make sure you are happy here, so you don’t go wandering somewhere else. So, whatever it takes to make you happy, I’m on it.” 

“Oh, we’re not going anywhere else. We are very blissful here on the island. Danae still gets a little homesick, but when she sees the mess the Llamas are in, maybe it will help.”

“It might make her sad, so be ready with something special for her. Her father has a long history there.” 

“I’m going to buy her one of her dad’s jerseys to wear when I’m there next week. She will love it because she doesn’t have one. They were always sold out.” 

“How are you going to get one, then?” 

“I still have connections. Two of them are coming this weekend.” 

“Right,” Kirby laughed. “Well, I need to get to the restaurant, Andy. Thanks for letting me help you celebrate Danae last night. She is a sweetheart. You guys are adorable, the way you were flirting together last night.” 

Andy blushed, a little embarrassed. “Thanks. I’ll be in touch soon, Kirby.”

“Alright!” And they hung up the phone.


The week went by quickly, and before Andy knew it, Friday afternoon had rolled around. Aaron called him on the way to the airport, Wyatt Searcy with him.

“Hey, Andy! I just wanted to let you know that Wyatt and I are on the way to meet the jet. We’re on time for a 4 o’clock departure, and we’ll be in tonight.” 

“Aaron, you’re just the man I wanted to talk to! Do you have the shirt for me yet?” 

“I do, but I don’t have it with me. You mentioned bringing it back next week after the game.” 

“That’s the plan. I just wanted to make sure you had one for me. Is Wyatt excited about coming down to see us?” 

“We both are, Andy. I think Fiona suspects something is up, but neither of us care. He’s a free agent in less than a month, and I’m hanging by a thread anyway. You could offer me a penny over what I’m making now, and I’d sign just to get out.” Andy heard laughing in the background. “Wyatt just agreed with me.” 

“You guys are making my job way too easy. By the way, Kirby and Rae Kemp will both be joining us tomorrow night for dinner. Wait until you see Danae, guys. She is positively glowing.”

“Neither of us can wait. You promised me a beer on the beach, Murph. I’m holding you to it.” Aaron laughed. 

“I’ll be there. It will be like old times.” They talked for a few more minutes and hung up the phone. 

It was only thirty minutes until the offices were closed for the weekend, but Andy still had arrangements to make for the team’s season opener in five days. The team was arriving the day before and staying in the eastern hills resort for a night, and would depart for Isla Paradiso nearly immediately after the game. Andy would fly in with the team, but stay an extra night for PR and pleasantries with the opposing team management. He was not looking forward to the meeting. Since the Llamas still had no management, Fiona and Cael would be sitting in, and Andy anticipated it would be pretty uncomfortable.

With the rooms booked, the flights arranged and his own accommodation reserved, Andy was ready to clock out for the weekend. Before he left his office, he texted a quick message to Kirby:

I just heard from Aaron and Wyatt. They are en route to the Starlight Shores airport, and I expect them tonight. I also finished arranging travel and accommodation for the game next week. Will forward details when I have them compiled. Danae and I will see you tomorrow evening, 7pm. 

He turned the key in his office door and locked it for the weekend. As he walked to his car, Andy dialed Danae’s cell phone.

“Hey sweetie,” he greeted her. “How’s my girl?” 

“Tired. But I’m happy. Our children are playing together quietly, I know you’re on your way home from work, and I’m looking forward to seeing the guys this weekend.” 

“I crazy love you, Danae. If tomorrow night wasn’t a business thing, I’d invite Darcey and Clint to come along with us. I hear Clint got the job he’s been trying for, and I’m so happy for him.” 

“Yes! I hope that alleviates some of their stress now. She would never ask for help, but I might send her some anonymously. I don’t feel right keeping all Daddy’s money. But she insists he left it to me and you.” Danae shrugged. “She’s entitled to some of it.” 

“So, no comment on how I said I crazy love you, huh? I see how you are.” Andy pretended to be hurt, but inside he was stifling a laugh.

“Nope. No comment.” Danae snorted, trying not to laugh herself. 

“What’s for dinner tonight? Or do I need to stop somewhere and bring something home?”

“I thought we could order in. My feet are swelling up, and I know we have a big day tomorrow.” 

“Sounds good, my sweet. I’ll be home in a few minutes.” They hung up the phone.

“Lysie, guess who is coming home!” she sang. Elyse, who had been playing blocks with Eamon, perked up.

“Daddy!” she squealed. 

“Dada! Dada!” Eamon joined in. 

When Andy walked into the suite, Danae had both of the kids worked up and excited to see him, and they both toddled to him for kisses and hugs. She stood back and watched her children pour their love into their daddy, and vice versa. Andy loved his children almost as much as he loved his wife. But when he finally freed himself from squealing little people, he walked to Danae and pulled her into his arms. 

“Ooh, it’s so good to hold you, my sweet.” He took a deep breath, delighting in her scent. “You smell delicious,” he whispered into her ear. 

“Welcome home, babe,” she greeted him and kissed him tenderly. “So the guys are on their way?” 

“They are indeed! Tomorrow night at this time, we’ll be getting ready for dinner with them and the Kemps.”  

“I hope I have a dress that still fits. My belly has grown a bit in just a week.” Even though she was 17 weeks pregnant, the waddle was already starting. “You know, I might have to sit these meetings out soon if I can’t dress the part. Being pregnant was never part of the plans here.” 

“But I couldn’t be happier, Nae. I mean that.” He touched her belly gently and rubbed it. “I’m so in love with this little person, and we haven’t met him or her yet. Do you want to know, or be surprised?”

“I don’t know. What do you think?” 

“We’ve done one each way. Maybe it would be good to find out, so we can plan a nursery.” Andy kissed her again. 

“Mama, chee!” Elyse said adamantly. “Chee!”

“What does she want, Nae?” Andy asked. 

“Macaroni and cheese. Are you hungry Lysie?” Danae cooed at their daughter.

“Chee!” she replied and then babbled in some unintelligible baby language. Danae smiled. 

“I’m on it. What would you like, Nae?”

“I’m thinking just baked chicken with rice and steamed veggies. Maybe a slice of cheesecake for later.” 

“I started something with the cheesecake, didn’t I?” he laughed. 

“Maybe,” she replied. “Maybe the baby wants it.” 

“Sure, blame the baby.” He ducked and ran from her, watching for projectile couch pillows. 

“Chee!” came Elyse’s increasingly annoyed cry. 

“Okay, Lysie. Daddy’s going to order your macaroni and cheese.” 

“Chee!”

*****

Andy was up a little later than usual, expecting a call from Aaron once they landed on the Isle. Their suite was right next door, and they weren’t in yet. Danae was resting in the bedroom, so he decided to wait on the deck out front in a lounge chair, a beer in hand. 

About forty minutes later, two guys with very familiar voices were walking toward the VIP area, and Andy perked up. As they got closer, it was apparent that Aaron and Wyatt were talking and walking toward the suite. 

“Well, as I live and breathe!” Andy greeted them. “Welcome to Isla Paradiso, gentlemen!” 

Aaron walked to him and gave him a bro hug, and Wyatt did the same. “Nice place you got here, Murph,” Aaron quipped. 

“Well, it’s not home, but it will do while we wait. Can I get you guys a beer?”

“Of course!” Wyatt piped up. Aaron opened the room with his key card and confirmed their luggage had arrived. Andy went into the suite for three beers, one for each of them, and passed them out. 

“Have a seat, guys!” Together, they sat around and talked like they hadn’t seen each other in years instead of just a month or two. 

“You know, a beer tonight doesn’t get you out of the beach tomorrow,” Aaron teased. 

“Yeah, I know. Hey, I hope you don’t mind but I’ll have my family in tow when we do the beach tomorrow. Danae wants to let the kids play in the sand.” 

“Is she going to do any swimming?” Wyatt asked. 

Andy thought the question was odd, but ignored it. “Probably not. But she’ll help the kids with sand stuff. They love to play in it.” 

“Kids are fun at the beach,” he quipped, and the conversation returned to normal. 

“Dinner will be at 7 tomorrow night. A limo will pick the four of us up at 6:30 out front by the lobby. Kirby and Rae will meet us there.” Andy said. The beer was going down too easily, but he didn’t mind. It wasn’t something he did on the regular.

“So, are you ready to hear what’s going on with your brother-in-law, Andy? He is the most petty, vindictive SOB I’ve ever met. But we’re so close to nailing him.” Aaron was ready to bring the details. 

“Yeah. This I’ve gotta hear.”

“He talks about Danae all the time, now that I can’t stop him anymore. Lionel was my backup when I had the ban in the locker room. Fiona doesn’t have my back. Smitty has come very close to pounding him, but he is so close to retirement, he doesn’t want to risk anything.” 

“And he shouldn’t. The guy is no spring chicken anymore, let’s face it,” Andy laughed. “Devin could probably beat him with no hands. Poor Smitty.” 

“Well, anyway, he stops just short of admitting that he knows it’s a sham. But I’ve seen him talking to a reporter and few Paparazzi recently, so something big is getting ready to go down soon.” 

“Oh great,” Andy sighed. “I wish he would just leave her alone. She called him a colossal screw up the day Travis died. I see that has proven true.”

Aaron took the last swig of his beer and clanked the bottle onto the deck. “As much as I’d like to sit and get silly with you, Andy, I’m tired.”

“Yeah, me too. How about you Wyatt? You haven’t said much.”

“I’m beat, Andy.” Wyatt’s country drawl was accentuated when he was tired. “Thanks for bringing us here, though. I can’t wait to get out of the Shores.” 

“It’s our pleasure. Rest well. If you’d like, come here for breakfast in the morning. I’m sure Nae won’t mind.” 

“It’s a plan, then!” Aaron and Wyatt both said goodnight, and they went inside. 

Andy went in and locked the door behind him. He tiptoed lightly into their room after he checked on the kids, and saw Danae sleeping soundly, so he undressed and climbed into bed with her, wrapped himself around her and he fell asleep with her safely in his arms.


Though two beers wasn’t usually enough to knock Andy for a loop, the morning after effect was quite different. He woke to a pounding headache and the sounds of a fussing baby boy in the kitchen area. Danae was already up, and for the first time in a while, her absence in bed did not rouse him.

He dressed in his robe and pajama pants and walked to the main living area, where Danae was trying to feed Eamon some soft fruit. 

“Eat it, don’t eat it, son. Just don’t cry anymore. Please!” she begged him. Andy’s presence in the room was just what she needed, and she ran to him and hugged him.

“Baby, I’m not feeling well, and Eamon is just being a brat. Hold me?” 

“How aren’t you feeling well, honey? Is it the baby?” 

“No, nothing like that. My back just hurts and I am so bloated, I can’t wear my wedding ring.” 

He held her close and just let her sniffle a little. Gently, he kissed the top of her head. “Do you want me to feed him, honey?”

“If you want. I was going to see if we were doing something with the guys before I got breakfast for the kids, so I thought fruit would settle him.” And then she realized he wasn’t fussing. They both looked at him to see him munching on the cut pieces of mango and pineapple she’d given him. “Well, I’ll be…” 

“Shh, let him be a moment, and let me hold you.” He rocked her in his arms gently. “The guys are coming this morning, by the way. Do we have something for Lysie if she wakes up?” 

“Yes, she likes cold cereal, and she’ll eat that. Eamon usually has hot cereal or eggs for breakfast, depends on what I feel like making for him.” 

Andy was making a mental note of the breakfast order. “What would you like, honey?”

“I’d love to have a little bit of you, but there’s no time right now.” 

“I meant for breakfast, silly,” he chuckled.

“So did I,” she replied. “But, instead of you, I’ll have an omelet, I guess. I need more protein. The doctor said so.” 

“Then an omelet it is. I should walk next door and find out what they would like.” He kissed her and closed his robe around his waist. “I’ll be right back.” 

Andy returned five minutes later with Aaron and Wyatt in tow, and Danae had no chance to get changed before they arrived. She had on a tank top and a pair of shorts, but with a 17-week baby bump, a bit of her belly was exposed. Plus, with no bra on, she felt a little underdressed. But the guys were there, and so was she.

“Hey Danae,” Aaron greeted her, and hugged her. “You’re looking great!” he quipped. 

She blushed madly. “It’s good to see you, Aaron!” 

Wyatt approached her timidly. “Good to see you, Miss Danae,” he said, and hugged her.

“Wyatt, always a pleasure,” she nodded. “If you’ll excuse me, I need to change into something more appropriate.”

When Danae had left the room, Aaron piped up. “You weren’t kidding when you said Danae was glowing, Andy. She looks amazing.” 

“It’s the baby hormones,” he smiled. “She looks so sexy when she’s pregnant.” 

“Well, she’s your wife. I’m not allowed to have that opinion, Andy.” Aaron laughed. They both noticed Wyatt blushing. 

“What’s up, bud?” Andy asked him. “You’ve been bashful since you got here last night. This isn’t like you.” 

“It’s just that, Danae is here.”

“And?” 

“I don’t talk real good around the ladies,” he spoke softly, his country drawl making a reappearance. “Kinda shy, if you know what I mean.” 

“She won’t bite ya,” Andy said, and clapped him on the shoulder. “Make yourselves at home guys. This is my son, Eamon. He’s a little cranky this morning. He’s teething.” 

Danae reappeared in something more comfortable, with Elyse on her hip. “Say good morning, Lysie.” 

“Morgin,” Elyse said sleepily. Aaron chuckled. 

“Good morning sweetie pie,” he said, waving at her. 

Andy ordered breakfast for all of them, and they sat outside at the table on the deck with coffee, juice, two high chairs, and four adults. After breakfast, they got dressed for the beach and headed to the private beach owned by the resort. Danae had both kids, Eamon in her arms and Elyse walking by her side, while Andy walked ahead with the guys, laughing and joking like they were never apart.

When they found a spot in the sand, Danae grabbed an umbrella and set it up to shield the kids from the sun, and rubbed some sunblock onto their skin. Andy and the guys went to the tiki bar and grabbed some beers and sat on the beach some fifteen yards away, talking and laughing. I hope this isn’t what having them here will be like, she thought, especially after the baby comes. She would need him. But she was willing to chalk it up to their reunion, and nothing more. 

*****

After about an hour playing in the sand, Danae noticed Wyatt staring at her. When he saw that she noticed him, he quickly looked away. Though she wasn’t wearing a bikini, she still felt underdressed under his constant gaze. He was making her uncomfortable, but she didn’t want to make waves, either. So she tried her best to play with the children and not pay attention to him. But each time she looked his way, his eyes were fixed upon her.

After their third or fourth beer, Danae called Andy, who was feeling no pain. “Andy, can I talk to you a minute?” 

“Sure, my sweet,” he slurred mildly. “What’s on your mind?” 

“Wyatt has been staring at me most of the morning, and I don’t know what to think of it.” Andy’s breath reeked of beer, and she didn’t like it.

“He’s harmless, baby. He’s just a little shy around women. Don’t worry.” 

“Babe, you’ve had enough beer for the morning, too, don’t you think?” 

“Yeah, probably one more and I’m good,” he laughed. 

“How about no more,” she said firmly.

“I’ll have another if I want another,” he said. He walked away from her as Aaron was bringing another round to him. 

Danae picked up the umbrella and placed it where she found it, gathered the children and started back toward the room without Andy even noticing she had gone. He and Aaron were having too much fun on the beach. But Wyatt left the beach shortly afterward, following Danae and the kids at a safe distance. 

About 50 yards from the suite door, she noticed Wyatt behind her, and she panicked. Picking Eamon up and taking Elyse’s hand, she tried to hurry. But she noticed he was gaining on her position. She fumbled at the door with her key card, and he was running to catch her. And she was still standing at the front door, trying to open it when he reached her. 

“Why did you run, Miss Danae?” he asked. 

“If I can be blunt, Wyatt, you’ve been making me uncomfortable all morning.” She lowered her eyes to the door. “I can’t get this open.” 

“Here, let me try,” he said, holding his hand out for the key. He gently took it from her and slid it into the lock, which opened on the first try. 

“Thank you,” she said meekly. Despite every alarm in her head going off, telling her not to invite him in, she said, “Come on in, if you’d like. I just have to change the kids, and I’ll be out. Make yourself comfortable.” 

Danae put both kids into the shower and rinsed the sand off of them, dried and dressed them before she put a cover-up on over her bathing suit. She gave both of the children their sippy cups with water and set them in their room to play while she and Wyatt sat in the living room.

“So, Wyatt, how are you enjoying your time here so far?” she asked him politely.

“It’s beautiful here. Danae, can I ask you a question?” 

Uh oh, she thought. “Sure, Wyatt.” 

“Are you happy with Andy? Because I’ve seen some things back home that suggest you are having problems.” 

“I don’t feel comfortable discussing my marriage with you,” she said plainly. 

“I don’t mean any disrespect. It’s just, Andy is one of my best friends. I don’t want to see him hurt.” Wyatt spoke softly, but firmly.

“You don’t have to worry about me, Wyatt. I love that man with everything I have.” 

“Your brother has… well, he has pictures of you in various states of undress with a man who isn’t Andy.” 

“He,” Danae felt dizzy,” He what now?” 

“Devin has some pictures of you, naked ones. I’ve only seen one of them, but you were with a man who clearly wasn’t Andy. His skin was much lighter.” 

Suddenly, Danae felt sick. “I need Andy…” she said. Where’s my phone? She thought. Her head whirled, and she thought she heard Wyatt speak, but all she heard was garbled noise. She found her phone in the beach bag and dialed Andy’s cell with shaky hands. 

A nearly drunk Andy answered the phone. “Hello?” 

“Andy…” she barely spoke. “I need you.” 

He almost immediately sobered up. “Where are you?” Suddenly, he was panicked. She wasn’t where he had left her.

“At the suite. Hurry…” she said before she passed out.

“Aaron, I gotta go, man. It’s Danae.” The two men almost ran back to the suite, both suddenly feeling sobered. 

Andy burst through the door and found Wyatt sitting on the floor with her, holding her head in his lap and stroking her hair. “What happened?!” Andy screamed.

“We were just talking,” Wyatt said. “She got dizzy and fainted.” 

“Why didn’t you call emergency, Wyatt? She’s pregnant!”

“It didn’t look serious. We were talking before she got dizzy.” 

“What did you say to her?!” Andy was livid.

“I was asking her about some unsavory pictures her brother has of her. I had to know who the man was in the pictures, Andy, because it sure wasn’t you. You’re one of my best friends, and—” 

“Pictures? What pictures?” 

“Devin has a stack of naked photos of Danae, some of them she’s alone, but some she’s with a lighter skinned guy. Andy, it’s definitely not you.” 

“This is preposterous! There is no way there are any naked pictures of Danae. They have to be doctored. Aaron, do you know about this?” 

“No, this is the first I’ve heard of it.” Aaron was just as surprised as Andy.

Andy knelt down beside her and touched her. The skin on her face was clammy, but she was breathing, her color was normal. He picked her up from the floor and put her into his lap, rocking her in his arms. “Danae, honey, wake up love.” 

She finally came to a few minutes later, and when she saw Andy’s face, smelled the beer on his breath, she wanted to be angry, but she had bigger fish to fry than a drunk husband and his best friend. Danae began to cry. “Andy…” 

“What’s wrong, honey? Talk to me.” 

“Devin.”

“What about Devin?” 

“He found my camera, he took the memory card from it. Oh, Andy, I’m in trouble.” 

“What are you talking about?” 

She tried to stop crying long enough to speak, but it was difficult. “That fishing trip Darcey and I took at Sim State. It was warm, and we skinny dipped in the lake. We thought no one was around…” She cried again so hard, she almost couldn’t breathe. “A Paparazzi was taking pictures out of our sight, he took almost 4 dozen naked pictures of me alone, never mind what he had of Darcey, but Clint took the stick from his camera before he could use them.”

Andy was familiar with the story, but it was the first time he’d heard about the Paparazzi. He started to shake his head. “No, No…” 

“Devin must have found that memory stick before he moved out of Mama and Daddy’s house, and took it from my camera. I never thought of it again. I forgot all about it, actually. But I guess he didn’t.” 

“Oh honey, oh Danae… No no no!” Andy held her and rocked her in his arms.

“Andy, this could ruin you.” She sobbed harder.

“Baby, I’m not worried about me.” Andy started to tremble, knowing these pictures, if they were released to the public, could ruin her life. In the wrong context, it would paint her in a terrible light. Andy knew he had to get on top of it, but first, he had to come clean to Kirby.

“Aaron, would you sit with her for a minute? I have a phone call to make.”

“Sure thing, Andy.” He sat on the floor with Danae and held her as she cried.

Andy walked onto the deck and dialed Kirby’s number with shaking hands. “Andy! What can I do for you? Are we still on for tonight?” 

Tonight! Holy crap. “I sure hope so. Kirby, something has come up, and I need to disclose it. We’ve been made aware of some potentially unsavory photos that exist of Danae. We have learned her brother has in his possession a memory stick from a Paparazzi’s camera that had several dozen photos of Danae and her sister, naked. I know this has potential for very bad press with the team, and I don’t want to be a distraction. I am prepared to tender my resignation if that is what I need to do.”

“Well, don’t worry about the team. I can handle negative press. And no, I absolutely don’t want your resignation, Andy. There’s no need for that. But let me see if I understand this. Devin Jones has naked photos of his sisters? He is a truly sick man. What exactly is he planning on doing with these pictures?” 

“Your guess is as good as mine right now. Wyatt has seen one of them. They have been doctored, and apparently, she is with someone who is not me in some of them.”

Kirby sighed. “How is Danae holding up?  How’s the baby? She surely doesn’t need this frustration right now.” 

“So far, she’s okay, just afraid. She is terrified I will lose my job and my reputation. I’m more worried about hers. I fear this will paint a target on her back for every nut job in the country who wants a piece of her.” 

“She doesn’t have to worry about your job, Andy. You’re not going anywhere. I will help you and Danae however I can. 

“Thanks Kirby, I appreciate your support. We’ll see you tonight.” They hung up. “Well, my job is safe,” Andy announced as he walked back into the suite. Danae was still crying, laying on the floor, almost inconsolable. And in the den, going unheard for almost ten minutes, was a very tearful Elyse. Andy walked to the den and picked her up. “Oh Lysie, you’re okay, sweet pea.” He kissed her tear-stained cheek and cuddled her close. He put her down on the floor, and seeing her mother crying, Elyse walked to her.

“Mama, no cwy,” she said softly, kissing Danae on the cheek. “Doan cwy.” 

She looked at her daughter, sitting on the floor looking at her, her brown hair curled around her face. “Lysie…” she wailed and started crying again. 

Elyse walked closer to her and wrapped her little body around her mother, repeating in her ear, “Doan cwy Mama.” 

Andy paced back and forth. “Wyatt, what made you follow her back here?” he asked.

“I wanted to ask her about the pictures before I said anything to you about them, just in case they were real. I know you had a problem with that reporter during your presser.” 

“Well, now I know exactly what the reporter was talking about.” He wrung his hands nervously. “How clear are the pictures, Wyatt? Can you tell it’s Danae?”

“The one I saw, yes. There is no doubt. Her face is clear as a bell. Freckles and everything.”

“Does it look like the ones of her were doctored? Like her head placed on a generic body?” 

“Well, I don’t know what she looks like… naked. So I can’t tell.” Wyatt looked a little embarrassed.

“Who has the one you saw, Wyatt?”

He blushed a deep, dark red. “I have it on my laptop.”

Andy was stunned. Aaron shook his head. “You screwed up big time, Wyatt,” Aaron scolded him.

“Little ears,” Andy reminded both of them. “Do you have your laptop with you, Wyatt?” 

He nodded in shame. “I’ll go get it.” 

Andy choked back bitter betrayal, and he was angry. “I don’t know what to think about this Aaron. Why does Wyatt have a naked photo of my wife on his computer?”

“This is the first I’ve heard of it, buddy.” 

Wyatt knocked gently on the door, and Aaron let him in. “Let’s see it, please,” Andy asked, his voice icy.

“Them.” Wyatt corrected. 

“I thought it was just one,” Andy said, getting angrier.

“No.” Wyatt waited for his laptop to boot, and as soon as it did, he opened the email Devin had sent him. The email header, however, might have been the only thing that could have saved Wyatt’s friendship with Andy, for it read, Fake Danae Pictures. Attachments, 27 photos.

Andy clicked on the attachments and watched in horror the slideshow of pornographic photographs of Danae that Wyatt had on his computer. “I am forwarding this to my email, Wyatt.” He didn’t ask, Andy just did it. The original email was traceable back to Devin Jones’ Llamas email address. “How many of these pictures did you see?” 

“Just one.” He pointed to a photo of Danae by herself. “This one. I couldn’t bring myself to look at any more of them.” Wyatt hung his head in shame.

“So, you got these from Devin for… what exactly?” Aaron asked him.

“It was part of the project you asked me and Smitty about. I knew he had them. I asked him for them, but we had spent a long time going back and forth about whether or not they were real. He couldn’t convince me, I just wasn’t sure. I was concerned about you, Andy. I didn’t want to see Danae hurt you. So, I set Devin up, but seeing how mad you are, I don’t know how good that worked out.” Wyatt shook his head. “I know I screwed up my job prospects with you here, Andy, and I don’t blame you for being angry.” 

“Well, I’ve seen all 27 of them, and they’re all really Danae. There is no doctoring on any of the pictures of her.” He knew her body intimately. Every freckle, every blemish, every dimple, stretch mark, and muscle. And every one of those pictures was her, in all her naked glory. “The one guy looks like Clint, but if so, he was superimposed near her, and I’m not sure where Devin would have gotten nude photos of him, anyway. I know the story of that day. I wasn’t aware the guy that injured Clint was Paparazzi, or that there were pictures taken, but I know Clint never saw either of them naked that day.”

Andy walked back to where Elyse and Danae had curled up and fallen asleep. He picked the baby up and put her into her crib, and Eamon was put into his crib as well. “Dinner will go on tonight fellas, and Wyatt, you’ve helped my slander case more than I could have hoped. That was well played. Thank you for only looking at one of them. The harsh reality is, they exist. But now, we have proof they have been altered, and they are bogus. Thank you.” He sat down by Danae. “I’m sorry our beer on the beach got cut short. We will see you at about 6:15 to walk for the limo together. All of us. Sound good?”

“Yes boss,” Aaron teased. “Hey, this is going to be okay. Wyatt did good.” 

“Yes, he did. I’m proud of you, Wyatt. I wish you hadn’t asked Danae, but I understand why. We’ll see you later. Remember, it’s five stars. Dress up, gentlemen.” 

They both nodded and walked back next door. Andy had a frightened wife to deal with. He knew once he woke her, she would cry again. Hopefully, he would be able to convince her everything would be okay.

He gently picked her up, even with the twenty or so pounds she had gained with baby weight, she was still light for him to lift, and he carried her to their room and laid her on the bed. He curled up with her and kissed her lightly until she roused. But as soon as she saw his face, she cried. “Andy, I’m so sorry…” she started. 

“Shh shh shh,” he spoke softly. “It’s going to be okay, honey. Do you still have the pictures from that card on your computer or a laptop, my sweet?”

She sniffled and sat up. “I think they’re still on the cloud in a secure folder. I saved all my photos from college onto the cloud so I could paint from them someday.” 

“Could you retrieve them using my laptop?” 

“I think so. Why, babe?”

“Sweetie, Wyatt did something amazing. At first, I was ticked off, and I was going to tell him to leave, and I never wanted to see him again. He told me he had the pictures on his laptop that Devin had of you. He was very ashamed to have them. But I wanted to see if they were really you. Of the three of us, I’m the only one who knows what you look like. So I forwarded the email Devin sent him to my email. Baby, look at the header.” 

She rubbed her eyes and looked at the tiny email on his smartphone. “I can’t read it.” 

“It says, ‘Fake Danae Pictures.’ Devin sunk himself with that email header. He knows they are fake, but yet he is intending to spread them as if they are real. That’s our proof of malice for a slander or/and libel case.”

“That’s what we need to prove, isn’t it? Malice?” 

“Yes, honey. Wyatt played him like a Stradivarius. With that email header, it will discredit every photo he leaks. Plus, if you have the originals, we can compare those to the doctored ones.”

“Why did Wyatt follow me back here like a predator, babe? He scared me.” 

“He’s a little awkward around women. He hasn’t been with many, if any at all. But he had both of our best interests in mind. He did good. I owe him a lot right now.” 

“Please, tell me we’re going to be okay, Andy. I’m sick over this, trying to figure out how Devin knew about that memory stick. Darcey, Clint and I were the only ones who knew about it.” 

“Don’t worry, honey. Kirby isn’t going to fire me, and we’re going to fight this in court. We’ll hit Devin where it hurts him, and he’ll stop. I promise we’ll make it better.” 

She put her arms around his neck and sobbed onto his shoulder. “I hate my brother.” 

“Join the club, honey. He is a contemptible pig.” Andy kissed her softly. “Honey, it’s three o’clock. Do you want to take an hour nap, or do you want to get ready to go soon? We have to be in the lobby by 6:30.”

“I can’t face anyone, babe. Not now. I’m so humiliated.” 

“I’m the only one who saw the pictures, my sweet. Wyatt only saw one, and he only looked at your face.” It was one of the tamer ones on his laptop. Some of them had been disgustingly edited.

“Please, don’t make me go.” 

“Danae, I need you, sweetie. You’ll be okay. No one will bring it up, I promise.”

She sighed heavily. “I’m only going because you need me. My heart isn’t in this today.” 

“Rae will be there, love. You ladies can talk together while we’re doing business. How does that sound?” 

“It sounds better. I’ll make sure I have recent pictures of the kids. We haven’t seen Rae since we moved here. It will be good to see her again.” 

“That’s my girl,” Andy smiled as he covered her face in soft, sweet kisses. “I crazy love you, Danae. Always and forever.” 

“I love you, my handsome prince.” She snuggled up close to him and let him love her.

*****

Janelle arrived promptly at six o’clock to care for Eamon and Elyse and sat to play with them. They had already been fed and bathed and were ready for an evening of fun with her. Danae was still primping, fussing with her hair and the last dab of makeup. Andy was mostly finished as he stood in the living area, and regretted his earlier foray into morning drinking. The beer on the beach with Aaron turned quickly into overindulgence, and he wasn’t feeling his best. 

“Come on Nae,” he urged her. “The guys will be here in a minute to walk with us.” 

“I’m almost ready,” she called to him, dabbing some vanilla perfume onto her pulse points. She slipped a little cash into her bag from the wall safe in their bedroom and took her pashmina from the closet. When she emerged from the bedroom, she looked like a glamorous movie star from Bridgeport. Andy was dazzled.

“Holy wow, my sweet. You look incredible.” 

“Was I worth the wait?” she cooed as she walked toward him.

“I’ll let you know later,” he flirted with her. “We’re headed out, Janelle. You have our numbers if there’s a problem. We shouldn’t be later than eleven.” 

“Have fun, Mr. and Mrs. Murphy!” she called to them. 

Andy took her arm and led her outside where Aaron and Wyatt were waiting for them. The guys saw Danae and were both speechless. But Aaron couldn’t resist a dig at Andy.

“Well, you clean up well Andy. You know, you married way out of your league. She outclasses you big time.” 

“You don’t have to tell me twice, Aaron. I’m a lucky man.” Andy smiled at her as they walked. 

The limo was waiting for them at the lobby, and the three gentlemen nearly fell over themselves trying to help Danae into the car. Wyatt, a naturally shy man, was really thrown out of his comfort zone with her. But he couldn’t help but stare at her, either.

The driver took them to the beach restaurant. Confidently, Andy approached the host podium and announced their entrance. “Mr. & Mrs. Murphy, Mr. & Mrs. Kemp await your arrival. Please follow me.” Kirby and Rae stood as Andy and Danae approached, and Andy introduced his two friends to his boss.

“Mr. Searcy, Mr. Hall, welcome to Isla Paradiso,” Kirby welcomed them. “I trust Andy here has accommodated you appropriately?”

“He has, Mr. Kemp,” Aaron stated. “It’s a pleasure to be here.” 

“Please, guys, call me Kirby, and we’ll all be on a first-name basis tonight.” Everyone agreed. “So, Aaron, I know you come to us with an impressive resume. Tell me about yourself.”

“Well, I was born in Sunlit Tides, and I graduated from a private university on the west coast near the Tides with my degree in physical education. My first job was head coach of the lady Starfish in the Tides until Emmitt Murphy headhunted me to lead the Starlight Shores Llamas several years ago. Of the five years I spent there, we were champions three years in a row, though the first championship was truly due to two people. One of them sits here with us tonight,” he pointed toward Wyatt. “I appreciate being considered for this opportunity. I’m ready for a new challenge with a new team.” 

“How about you, Wyatt? Tell me about yourself.” Kirby sat, rabidly interested in the two men who sat before him.

“Well, I was born and raised in Appaloosa Plains and went to Sim State. I played all four years on their Llamas team on a full scholarship and graduated with my degree in communications, which is really odd because I’m not a very outgoing person. Not like Andy.” He blushed and took a sip of water. “I played very briefly for the Plains Mustangs and was traded to the Shores Llamas about six years ago. I was still a rookie when I was put into the championship game by Travis Jones and made a household name. I owe everything to him, actually.” Wyatt looked at Danae and smiled. “To this angel’s father.” She blushed madly.

“Well, Andy has confidence in you both, and I’ve seen both of you in action. I’ll let Andy do the negotiations this evening.” Kirby was prepared to approve just about any offer Andy made them, his trust in the young team manager was complete.

Andy was intimately aware of the salaries each of them made in the Shores, and he knew Kirby was shocked at how little each of them was being compensated. The starting offers were commensurate with their talents and comparable to what other players on the team were making. Andy wrote down a figure for each of them and handed them the slips of paper. Aaron’s offer was a 75% raise, and Wyatt’s was close to twice his Llamas contract. Aaron shook his head in disbelief. 

Screenshot-1432

“Andy, you can’t be serious about this number,” he stuttered. “This is insane.” 

“We can go up, Aaron, if it isn’t enough,” Kirby stated. “Keep in mind, we’re also covering your moving expenses, plus each of you will have a benefits package that includes a car, a boat, health insurance, and life insurance.” 

“Up? I’m not even worth the number Andy gave me, Kirby.”

“This is just a little more than what our current coach is contracted for now,” Andy said. “Your talents far exceed his, Aaron.”

Wyatt stared at his slip of paper, in the same state of unbelief as Aaron. “I think you have one too many numbers on this offer, Andy,” Wyatt said quietly. 

“There was no mistake, Wyatt. That is truly your offer.” Andy said confidently.

Screenshot-1443

“I don’t even have to think about it, Andy. I’m in.” Wyatt smiled. “When do I start?” 

“We can discuss that in detail in the morning,” Kirby said. “I have contracts ready for you both. Do you have families in the Shores? Children?”

“No, I’m a single guy,” Wyatt said. “This is unbelievable,” he stammered, still in shock. “This will change my life.” 

“With Aaron as the head coach, and Wyatt as team captain, I see good things ahead for the Sharks. What do you say, Aaron?” Kirby asked.

“Oh yeah, I’m in. Absolutely. I have nothing to tie me down in Starlight Shores, not anymore.” 

Screenshot-1442

“Andy, congratulations on a job well done.” Kirby praised him. Danae took Andy’s hand and squeezed it. “We will have the contracts ready for both of you in the morning when we meet for brunch at the resort restaurant. Sound good?” 

Aaron and Wyatt both nodded enthusiastically. With the business of the evening done, the six of them sat and enjoyed a good drink, fine food, and exquisite company. The two ladies chatted quietly among themselves while the guys talked sports. Rae was captivated by Danae even more than she had been during their first meeting.

“Congratulations on your new little one, Danae,” Rae began. “When did you find out you were expecting?” 

“Believe it or not, the day after we arrived here. I was feeling sick. My sister is a doctor, and she always has pregnancy tests in her med bag. It was a very long shot, but all my symptoms were there.”

“Interesting. Why was it a long shot, dear?”

“I only have one ovary. We lost a pregnancy last year. It nearly killed me, and when my tube ruptured, it caused some damage. So, as you can imagine, our chances of being pregnant again were pretty low.” 

“Well, Danae, I had no idea. I’m so sorry you had to suffer a miscarriage. That’s one of the hardest things to endure. Kirby and I lost one before our daughter and son. We know that heartbreak well.” 

“My sister and I are rainbow babies ourselves. My parents lost their first pregnancy. In fact, one of the conditions of selling our family home was that the tree in the yard be allowed to remain. It was planted in memory of my older brother or sister.”

“Wow, what a lovely tribute to their lost baby. I wasn’t aware Travis had lost a second child. How is your baby doing?”

“Doing great! I can’t wait for our 20-week ultrasound. We’re going to find out what this one is ahead of time. We didn’t know with Eamon, but we did with Lysie. Sorry, Elyse. We’ve recently started calling her Lysie. My sister started it, and it stuck.”

“Aww, that’s cute! I like it.” Rae gazed at the photos Danae showed her on the phone. “Oh wow, that’s a great picture of you two,” she remarked. “Your expression is pure bliss, Danae.”

Screenshot-1335

“I’m a blessed woman, Rae. That man. He is my rock, my hero. My Andy. He’s my prince.” 

“You remind me of a younger me, Danae. Never lose that magic. Work hard to keep it. Andy is a special guy. Kirby knew it the second he met him.”

Danae smiled. “I did, too.”

After dinner, the four friends rode back to the resort together in the limo. Danae was quiet, still a little embarrassed from earlier, and tired. With her head on Andy’s shoulder, she dozed off while the guys chatted. 

Andy had the limo driver deliver them to the back lot, where Andy had his car parked, so Danae didn’t need to walk very far. He helped her into the suite, got her ready for bed and tucked her in. Though he was tired, he wanted to spend some time with the guys. He walked out onto the front patio with three beers and passed them around. 

“Andy, are you sure that the offer was real? How in the world can you do it? The Sharks are a nothing team right now.” Aaron asked. 

“Kirby knows what he wants, and he’s willing to pay for it. He wants to make this team a championship team, and he knows I can help deliver that. You and Wyatt have the right stuff.” 

“I hope we’re worth the money, Andy,” Aaron said. “I’m putting a lot of eggs into this basket.”

“I’m all in myself, Aaron. I’ve been given the freedom to build my staff, negotiate contracts, make this team great. And you, my friend, are going to help me.”

“Every step of the way, buddy.” Aaron raised his beer bottle and clinked it with Andy’s. 

“Wyatt, you’re quiet tonight. Is everything okay?” Andy asked.

“I am. Still in shock over tonight’s deal. Do soccer players really make this kind of money, ones that don’t have the name recognition like Travis? I know he was valuable. I don’t feel like I am.” 

“Wyatt, you’re worth more than you realize. But Kirby sees it. Hell, I see it. This is why we brought you guys here. So you can see that there is life beyond the Shores, and it is glorious.” Andy took a swig of beer. “I gotta stop drinking this stuff. I feel like I’ve been buzzed all day.” 

Aaron laughed. “You have been. The champagne Kirby served was insane. Just out of this world good. But mixing beer and champagne is a recipe for disaster.”

Wyatt nodded in agreement. “You won’t want to get sick when you have that hot little missy waiting for you inside.” 

Andy noticed a common theme with Wyatt and his mentions of Danae. “Is there something wrong, Wyatt? Did you and Danae have a problem today, other than the obvious? I feel some tension when you speak of her.” 

“No, I’m okay,” Wyatt answered. “I’ve just never seen someone as beautiful as she is.” 

“Thank you,” Andy smiled. “She is my beautiful princess.” 

“She does look good on you, Andy,” Aaron noted. He glanced at his watch. “Again, I hate to be a party pooper, but it’s late. Thank you for everything tonight, Andy.”

“Yes, thank you,” Wyatt agreed. “We will see you for brunch tomorrow morning.”

“I look forward to it,” Andy said as he waved to his friends. 

He went back into the suite and kicked his shoes off. Quietly he tiptoed into the den and checked on his sleeping children, tucked each one in and kissed them goodnight. 

Danae was sleeping when he got to the bedroom, so he got undressed and climbed into bed with her, wrapped himself around her, and fell asleep peacefully. 

*****

“Wyatt, I thought Andy was going to tear your head off when you told him you had those pictures of Danae on your laptop. But I have to admit, you did both of them a favor today.”

“My main concern was for Andy. I wanted to know what Danae knew about them. I had no idea what a can of worms I was opening.”

“I’m surprised you were so concerned about him,” Aaron said. 

“Why would you say that, Aaron?”

“Oh come on, Wyatt. Everyone knows how you feel about her.”

“Everyone but Andy. I’d like to keep it that way.” Wyatt looked down from Aaron’s face. “Besides, it’s not like I’ll ever be with her. Once Andy came into the picture, I knew I had no chance with her anymore.”

“You should have spoken up when you had the opportunity. Maybe it would be you with her instead.” Aaron settled into the sofa. 

“I doubt it. She was always out of my league, Aaron. But I had hoped someday she would notice me.” Wyatt sighed deeply. 

“We need to find you a nice girl, Wyatt. Maybe you’ll meet your soulmate here.” 

“My soulmate is married to one of my best friends. I’ll have to settle for second best.” 

You don’t know that Danae is your soulmate, Wyatt. You’ve never been out with her.”

“It’s the way I feel when she is near. I’m not normally that shy, but she is so beautiful.”

“Well, I understand. She is stunningly beautiful. But she is also deliriously happy and totally in love with him. You have to accept it and move on, Wyatt, before it eats you alive.”

“I know.” He got up from the chair. “I’m going to bed, Aaron. See you in the morning.”

“Goodnight, Wyatt.”


The next morning everyone met with Kirby and Rae for brunch, even the children. Rae fussed over both of them, but remarked how much Elyse resembled Andy.

“Everybody says that,” Danae said. “And she does. He loves his little girl.”

“I can see why,” Rae cooed at the young girl. “She is beautiful, Danae. You two make pretty babies.”

“It is exactly what Emmitt told us when she was born.” Danae was happy the children were behaving. It was their first time at a restaurant.

While Rae and Danae fussed over the children, the men were busy with contracts and business deals. Each of them signed a five-year contract, with all of the promised benefits. 

“I’d love to have you here in two to three weeks, if that’s possible. I know the beginning of the season isn’t feasible with it beginning on Wednesday night, but maybe by the third game?” Kirby was ecstatic to have his team shaping up.

“Actually, I can be here next week,” Wyatt stated. “My contract is almost up and I have very little to move. Bachelor pads are notoriously small and poorly furnished.” 

“How about you, Aaron?”

“I’d have to turn in my resignation, and given the state of the team, I can’t predict how it will be received. She might make me stay or she might fire me on the spot. The assistant coach would be a poor lead coach in my opinion. You know, don’t mind me,” Aaron laughed. “I’m thinking out loud. Two weeks would be doable either way.”

Andy and Kirby both smiled. Things were looking up for the Isla Paradiso Sharks.

After brunch, the guys had to catch their return flight to the Shores, but both of them were hopeful for a bright new future. Andy and Danae both saw them off as they walked from the courtyard back to the lobby.

“Andy, I am so proud of you! You killed it this weekend. If you keep it up, maybe you’ll get a raise and promotion soon yourself!” Danae wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him tenderly.

“I’m at the top of my game right now,” he replied. “But I am already overpaid for the job I’m doing. I need to grow into another raise and step up my game. Speaking of stepping up, I owe you at least one night of my love and affection.” 

“You think I’m going to let you get away with only one?” she purred, kissing him again.

“I did say at least one,” he groaned, her kisses felt so good. “And we can start now.” He took her hand and led her to the bedroom, and closed the door behind him.

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Up next: Chapter Eighteen, Generation Five 

G5 Chapter Seventeen, Part One – Settling In

It was the first morning on the island as residents for Andy, Danae, Clint, and Darcey. The suite had three bedrooms and two bathrooms, a kitchenette, a small dining area, and a living space. Andy and Danae took the largest bedroom, because they would be living there for almost a week while they waited for the closing on their new home. The kids had the smallest bedroom, but even its size was impressive. Two cribs and a twin-sized bed fit easily with room to spare. But Elyse, being the only girl, stayed in the room with her parents. 

Darcey awakened first and started a pot of coffee. In the other room, she could hear a phone ringing, and hoped it wasn’t one of theirs. The closing was scheduled for early afternoon, and she hoped for no delays. But Clint walked from their bedroom, phone in hand, and shook his head. 

“The closing is postponed until tomorrow, kitten. The seller needs another day, something is delayed with their new home.” He shrugged. “At least we don’t have to break our necks getting out of here.” 

Darcey sighed. “I wouldn’t care, but I’m excited to get into our new place.” She poured a cup of coffee and offered one to Clint. 

“Thanks, love.” He stirred a little cream into it and sipped. “So, this is what it feels like to be an islander. I like it.” They walked to the deck to sit. Outside, it was fresh and cool, the scent of honeysuckle filled the air. “Do you notice what is missing? City noise!” Clint smiled and put his feet up on the ottoman.

“I want to landscape our new place to attract birds and butterflies. It would be so peaceful.” They snuggled together on the loveseat, enjoying the morning and each other’s company.

Inside, Elyse woke suddenly from a nightmare and screamed, and startled Danae awake. “Oh Lysie, you’re okay,” she said softly, scooping her up. Wrapped in her mother’s arms, her cries settled to whimpers. 

“I’z fwaid, Mama…” Elyse was on the verge of a sob.

“Shh, it’s okay.” With the young toddler on her hip, Danae walked to the kitchen and smelled the coffee. “I’m going to put you down for a minute, okay honey?” 

Elyse nodded her head and spotted Darcey’s foot on the deck. “Dawcy!” she squealed and ran for her aunt. Danae laughed as she searched the large bag for the sippy cup.

“Hi, little one!” Darcey greeted her young niece. “Was that you I heard crying Lysie?” 

Elyse nodded. “I’z fwaid.” Darcey picked her up and snuggled her. “Bud I’z beddow now.” 

Danae walked to the deck with the sippy cup full of juice. “Here, baby girl,” she cooed, handing her the cup. She smoothed the baby’s hair and kissed her head.

“Tank you!” Elyse said, giggling in Darcey’s arms.

“Darce, do you mind keeping an eye on her for a minute? I’m going to bring Andy a cup of coffee and get Eamon.”

“Not at all,” she replied, blowing bubbles on Elyse’s tummy, making the little girl giggle madly.

Danae poured a cup, stirred a bit of sugar and cream into it, and walked to the bedroom. Andy was just waking up, reaching for her when she entered the room. “Good morning, my handsome prince,” she greeted him. 

“Mmm, good morning baby,” he yawned and stretched. “Thank you for the coffee.”

“You’re welcome. How did Elyse not wake you?” 

“I heard something, but thought I dreamed it.” 

“She screamed. Loudly. I figured there was no way you didn’t hear it.” She joined him on the bed, and he wrapped his arms around her waist, his head on her leg.

“It’s too bad we’re not alone. I could stand some time together this morning.” Andy kissed her thigh.

“It’s only for a few days. Darcey is supposed to close today, but the movers will be a few days if I remember right.” She ran her fingers through his thick, silky hair. “Surely you can wait a few days.” 

“If I must,” he laughed. “Besides, Elyse is in our room. I wouldn’t feel right about it.”

Danae remembered her own experience with Travis and Charlotte. “Yeah, she should be a little older before we scar her for life.” He reached for his pillow and hit her with it playfully. “I need to wake Eamon, and we need to get breakfast. The kids will be hungry.” 

Andy pulled himself out of bed and got dressed. “I’m on it.” 

“Uncle Andy!” Noel greeted him with a hug when he appeared from the bedroom. 

“Hey, kiddo!” Andy reciprocated. “What does everyone want for breakfast this morning?” 

“We don’t have much here,” Darcey yelled. “I’m going shopping later.” 

“I’ll order in this morning,” Andy replied. “Wait, aren’t you closing today?” 

“Not until tomorrow. We got delayed a day,” Clint announced. 

“Well, that stinks for you guys.” And me, he thought.

Breakfast orders were made, and when it arrived, everyone sat together at the dining table to eat. Eamon was less than interested in breakfast, much to Danae’s chagrin.

“Please, baby boy, eat something,” she begged him. “You like cereal.”

“No!” he cried sharply. That was new. Andy started to laugh.

“You think it’s so funny, you feed him,” Danae snapped at Andy, and then instantly regretted it. “Babe, I didn’t mean that—” 

Andy’s shocked expression tore her in two. “Whatever I did wrong, honey, I’m sorry.”

“It isn’t you, babe.” Danae sighed. “I’m just feeling out of sorts. I’m sorry I snipped at you, love. You didn’t deserve it.”

“I just never heard him say no so clearly before. He doesn’t speak much for an 18-month-old,” Andy stated.

“By his age, Elyse was a chatterbox. I couldn’t understand much, but she talked. A lot.” Danae tried, in vain, to get one last mouthful of oatmeal into Eamon’s mouth.

“He’s a normal little boy, Nae.” Darcey opened her arms for him. “Here, I’ll feed him.” 

Danae was suddenly emotional. “Thank you, Darce. I’m a mess,” she cried.

Andy walked to where she sat and wrapped his arms around her neck. “We’re going to be okay, honey. I promise you.” 

“I’m not feeling so good,” she said as nausea overtook her. “Andy, can you watch the kids? I don’t think breakfast agreed with me.” 

“Absolutely, my sweet. Anything for you.” 

Danae walked back to the bedroom and flopped down on the bed, groaning loudly. The last time she felt like this, she had two pink lines on a pregnancy test and surgery the next day. I don’t have time to be sick now, she thought.

“Hey Darce, could you go check on her? She didn’t look good,” Andy asked. 

“Of course.” She handed Eamon to Andy and grabbed her bag. 

Darcey knocked lightly on the bedroom door and pushed it open. “Nae? Are you alright?”

“I’m not sure, Darce. The last time I felt like this, I ended up in surgery.” 

“Are you in pain?”

“No, just nausea. I need to throw up, but I’m fighting it. And my emotions are all over the place.” Darcey nodded. “Do you happen to have a pregnancy test?” 

“I do. When was your last period?” 

“I’m due any day. I was hoping it would wait until we’re done moving, but I know it won’t.” 

“Hmm,” she thought. “I’m not sure I have one that will detect this early. But we’ll give it a go anyway.” Darcey dug around in her bag for the test and handed it to her sister. “I’ll wait here if you want to take it.” 

Danae slipped into the bathroom and unwrapped the test. They hadn’t been careful since her surgery, figuring there was no reason for it. She took the test and snapped the guard onto it, covering the result window. Still feeling queasy, she washed her hands and brought the stick into the bedroom with her. “Here, I can’t look,” she told Darcey as she handed the test to her.

“Now it’s just waiting.” But neither of them said a word. Danae was afraid to hope. Andy had been devastated by the miscarriage. He wanted another child so badly, he could taste it. 

Five excruciatingly long minutes passed. “Do you want me to look, Nae?” 

“I can’t bear to.” 

“Alright then.” Darcey took a deep breath and exhaled, snapped the guard off the result window and saw it. “Here, Nae. Take a look.” She turned the test around and showed her. 

“Oh, my word. Darcey… how?” Two pink lines, though the second one was faint. “This can’t be true.”

“You have a rainbow baby of your own.” Darcey hugged her sister. “Congratulations!” 

“This isn’t supposed to be possible. I don’t understand.” Danae was floored.

“There’s a reason for this baby, Danae. Don’t question it.”

“I can’t believe it. But I want to do this up big. I just don’t want to tell him until I know it’s a viable pregnancy. He was shattered when we lost the baby.”  

“I don’t start at the hospital until Monday. I can’t even suggest an OB here.” 

Andy knocked at the door softly. “Are you okay, my sweet?” 

“Hide this!” Danae handed the test to Darcey. “He can’t see it yet!” She laid back down on the bed while Darcey hid the evidence, and called to him. “Come in, babe.” 

“Honey, I’m worried about you. Are you feeling okay?” He sat down on the bed with her and took her hand. 

“I’m fine, love. I just got a little queasy.”  

“Well, you don’t look good. What, are you pregnant or something?” Andy teased. But he saw her expression change, and he felt as though time had stood still. “Wait. Danae, are you pregnant?” 

“Show him, Darce,” she croaked out, feeling sick.

Darcey dug the test from her bag and held it out for him to take. And when he looked at it, a smile crossed his face. “How?”

“I don’t know.” 

Darcey started to laugh. “If you guys really don’t know how this happened, maybe you should both take a class.” She picked her bag up. “I’ll leave you two alone. We’ll watch the kids. You guys be together.” 

“Baby, we need to get you to a doctor. Remember your OB said your chances of another ectopic are high.”  

“I know. We have no health coverage yet. You haven’t begun your job.” 

“Well, we will take care of it. I’m taking you,” Andy insisted.

“I’m okay,” she protested.

“You were fine the day before your emergency surgery, too.” 

She saw the fear in his eyes. “Okay, you win,” she yielded. 

“Let me make a quick phone call.” Andy walked from the room outside to the deck and closed the door. Quickly, he dialed Kirby’s phone number.

“Hey, Andy! How was your trip yesterday?” Kirby was happy to hear from him.

“It was pleasant, thank you so much for that. But listen, we have a problem. We just found out Danae is pregnant, and she would be considered high risk. She had a tubal pregnancy earlier this year, and it almost killed her. It ruptured her tube…” his voice drifted off. He couldn’t allow himself to be happy when he was this terrified.

“Take her to the hospital. Today will be your official employment date, so you’ll be covered. For goodness sake, take her, Andy. Don’t wait,” Kirby urged him.

“Thanks. I’ll be in touch.” They hung up, and he rushed back to the room to get changed into clothes he could wear to the hospital. “Come on, honey.” 

“Grab a bucket, babe.” 

He decided to call for an ambulance, thinking it would be quicker than calling for the limo or shuttle to take them. They were there in less than five minutes and had her packed up and on their way in less than ten. Andy rode in the ambulance with her, holding her hand on the way.

Andy wasn’t allowed in the room with her while they examined her, but he went back immediately following. They were going to do an ultrasound, and he wanted to be there for her. “How are you feeling, honey?” he asked. 

“I feel fine, just nauseated.” 

Twenty minutes later, the ultrasound arrived. “It’s a good thing you’re slender, Mrs. Murphy,” the sonographer quipped. “The embryo will be easier to spot.” 

“How big of a thing are you looking for?” she asked. 

“I’m not even sure I can see it using this, but we’re going to look.” The tech poked the wand onto her belly, but couldn’t see anything. After a few minutes of looking, there was nothing. “Okay, time to bring out the big guy,” the sonographer said, getting ready to do a more invasive scan. “This won’t hurt, but it might be uncomfortable,” she explained. Another ten minutes and she had some information. “The doctor will be in shortly with results from the exam. Congratulations!” 

“Andy, you look like you’re doing worse than I am, babe.” 

“Danae, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t terrified.”

“I’m exactly where I need to be if it is ectopic. And if it isn’t, we have reason to celebrate.”

Almost an hour of waiting passed when the doctor finally came back into the room. “I have the results of your ultrasound. The embryo is safely implanted in your womb, where it should be. And judging from the ultrasound, you’re just about six weeks along. Congratulations!”

“Doc, what is her risk of miscarriage?” Andy had to know.

“Right now, we see signs of a healthy pregnancy, but it’s early. It could change, so keep an eye on her. I anticipate she will be fine.” He handed Andy a prescription for prenatal vitamins. “Make sure you take those, Danae. And see your doctor as soon as you can.” 

They both breathed a sigh of relief. “Thank you,” said Danae. 

“We’ll get you out of here shortly. There’s no reason to keep you.” 

“This isn’t how I wanted to tell you, Andy. I was going to do a night of romance. I haven’t had a chance to tell you how I’ve wanted to with any of them.” She sighed deeply. “I didn’t think we had to be careful anymore.” 

“Danae, I crazy love you right now.” He planted a tender kiss on her. “You’ve made me a very happy man today.” 

“I didn’t do this alone, babe. You kinda helped.” She grinned. 

“You’re not doing any more work around the house, love. Not until you’re past the danger point. Just take care of those babies.” Andy was going to insist. She was not going to lose this baby, not on his watch.

“We might have suddenly outgrown our little house.” 

“We have room to build on it. We can go up, or out. Or just keep that house as a beach house, and buy a bigger one. The possibilities are endless.” 

“Though I’m happy, I still have the same concerns I did the last time. How am I going to be enough for three kids?” 

“The same way you’re enough for two. You are a phenomenal mother, Danae. It will work.” 

“Your faith in me is comforting. I hope it’s not misplaced.” 

“You worry too much, little mama.” He hugged her close and kissed her.

Kirby made sure there was a limo waiting for them at the hospital to bring them back to the resort when they were ready. In just the short time span of a few hours, their lives had changed again. 


“Baby, I have a contractor coming to see about building that second-floor bedroom. Are you going to be home?” Andy stood in the bedroom, fussing with his hair.

“Of course, Andy. Where am I going to go?” Danae laughed. At eight weeks pregnant, she was still violently ill most mornings. “Don’t you want to be here for it? I don’t know anything about blueprints and plans.”

“He is only coming to survey the house, discuss the plans and create a possible floor plan. You know what we need, darling.” 

She sighed. “Are you sure you trust me?”

“I trust you with my life,” he smiled. “Danae, he’s only going to show you a concept drawing, and he’ll give you the file on a stick so we can go over the specifics.” He stared at the reflection in the mirror. “Something seems off with this suit today. What am I missing?” 

“This,” she flirted as she walked to him. She wrapped her arms around him and kissed him hungrily, stepped back and admired him. “Yep. That’s what it was. You were missing that passionate glow.” 

Andy laughed. I wish you wouldn’t have done that, he thought. “Well, that creates another issue, but I don’t have time for a cold shower.” 

“Just think of Fiona,” she laughed as she observed his reaction. “When do you need to leave?” 

“I need to be out the door in five minutes. But I think your suggestion cured me for a while.” He chuckled and readjusted his tie. “I think that was it. I still feel off, though.” 

“You look gorgeous, Andy, and you’re going to knock ‘em dead today.” 

“Well, I shouldn’t be on television as much here. But today is the presser officially announcing me as the team manager. I need to look perfect.”

“Babe, you don’t even have to try.” She hugged him tightly. “Is there a chance Fiona will see this today?”

“Most of the soccer world will be watching it today. This is big news. I’m a little nervous.” 

“Oh honey, you’ve got this. Tonight we’ll celebrate, island style.” She kissed him again. “And remember, it’s football, love.”

“Right. I’m gonna mess that up.” He took his car keys from where they hung and walked toward the door. “I’ll be home right after work. Wish me luck.” 

“Good luck, Andy, but you don’t need it. You’re going to kill it out there. I love you.” 

“Thank you. I love you too, my sweet.” 

By the time the press conference was ready to start, the contractor still had not shown up. Eamon was wide awake, and she could not get him to settle down. Elyse, on the other hand, was out like a light and napping peacefully. So Danae sat in front of the television, their son on her knee, waiting for the presser to start. 

When everything finally got underway, Andy’s face was front and center on her screen, and Kirby was announcing him as the new team manager. He looked so handsome on the large screen television, and if he was nervous he didn’t show it. Eamon recognized Andy and immediately squealed. “Dada!” he chirped. “Dada! Dada!” 

“That’s right, Eamon. That’s Daddy.” The young boy clapped and pointed at Andy’s likeness. 

*****

After the introduction part was over Andy was scheduled to answer questions for about half an hour. The very first question he took was about Devin. 

“Andy, how do you feel about Devin Jones being signed on the Llamas team after you were the one who terminated his position?” 

He wanted to know how the reporter knew the details, since it was never made public that he had made the decision. He really wanted to go on the record with no comment about this whole topic. Instead, he simply answered the question. 

“Quite frankly, I’m happy for him. Devin Jones is a true talent, possessing his father’s instinct and ability, and I see good things for his career going forward.” Andy shifted uncomfortably in his seat, hoping his words were believable.

“Are you sorry you terminated him?” 

Andy sighed. This was not a good line of questioning. “My decision to terminate him at the time was based upon team policies, which he had repeatedly violated. It was not personal. Look, if you have any questions about me, my qualifications, experience, background, almost anything else, I’d be happy to answer them. However, that was my last question regarding Mr. Jones or the Llamas.” 

The session seemed to be back on track, with mostly decent questions, until he was asked the question that abruptly ended the press conference. “Andy, I understand your wife, Danae Jones, is pregnant again. On the record, is it your child?”

He hoped the camera didn’t detect the instant anger and took a deep breath before answering. “On the record, and for future reference, questions about my wife and children are off-limits. But yes, the child is mine. Thank you all for coming. I look forward to many successful years with the Sharks.” Andy’s temper flared. He walked away as the reporter chased him, a cameraman following. 

“How can you be sure it’s yours? Isn’t it true that your wife has been unfaith—”

“Shut that thing off,” Andy growled. “I don’t speak until that camera is off, understood? And I mean the whole thing. No audio either.” The reporter turned to the cameraman and motioned for him to cut the shot. 

“There, it’s off. Now please, answer my question. How do you know for sure the baby is yours, Mr. Murphy? Her brother claims he has proof and firsthand knowledge about her indiscretions. You might want to get a paternity test—”

“I’m going to tell you this one time. That is the mother of my children you’re talking about, and you should know I am wildly overprotective of her. I already told you questions about her and my children are off-limits, and yet here you are. I know you’re from Starlight Shores, and I know you’ve covered soccer for a long time. So you need to slither back to whatever hole you crawled out of and leave her alone, or I’ll have you in court for slander so fast it will make your head spin. Am I clear on this?”

“She is a public figure and has no chance in a slander suit. Nice try, though.” 

“Danae is a private citizen and is of no concern to anyone outside of our family. We are more than done here,” Andy spat, wanting to beat the snot out of the reporter. Instead, he walked quickly away from the press room. Even thousands of miles away, Devin still controlled the news and public opinion about Danae.

Kirby met with Andy after the presser as he paced back and forth in his office, trying to calm himself. “Andy, I’m sorry about that last question. What was the context of it anyway? I don’t understand why he would have even asked that.”

“It’s Devin Jones, Kirby. He has a history of smearing Danae and Darcey. You’d never know they were blood relatives by how he speaks of them, though lately it’s only been Danae. It’s infuriating, and it’s why he was dismissed from the Llamas in the first place. Lionel had a strict policy against that when he was alive. Fiona is nothing like him.” 

“Well, if I had known that had the potential to happen, I wouldn’t have allowed any questions. Unfortunately, when an event is live, we have little control over that sort of thing.” Kirby patted him on the back. “You have my admiration. I’m not sure I could have restrained myself if someone asked me a question like it about Rae.” 

“I’m used to it from Devin, but hearing it from a reporter was unexpected. Danae has done nothing to deserve the abuse he throws at her. And every time she hears it, a little more of her self-esteem gets ripped from her, and I’m left to pick up the pieces. He must be having a time in the Shores stirring up trouble for her now since she has no one there to defend her.” 

“Well, if you need anything, let me know. This is upsetting.” 

“Thanks. I’ll be right here if you need me.” Andy sat at his desk and picked up his phone to call Danae.

*****

While Danae watched, she shook her head in disbelief as the reporter asked the question. Tears stung her eyes and she began to sniffle. She stood, the baby still in her arms, and walked toward his bedroom. “Here, sweet baby, it’s time for a nap.” She sat their son in his crib and walked back to the kitchen for his sippy cup, already filled with water. She was crying by the time she made it back to his crib.

She slumped in the chair in the living room, her face in her hands, weeping, when her phone rang. 

“Hello?” she sniffled.

“Aww honey, I’m so sorry,” Andy said, hearing the sadness in her voice. “I had no idea that was coming.” 

“I should have known,” she cried. “I’m not stomach sick enough now, I have to hear this in a brand new town. I can’t escape his lies.” 

“Well, I’m sure we have recourse somewhere. We’ll figure it out, love.” 

She shrugged. “I don’t think there’s anything we can do, babe. Being a celebrity really sucks sometimes.” 

“I knew going into this job what I was signing up for, but you shouldn’t have to be subjected to this, regardless of who I am, or who your dad was. You’re a private citizen, a mother of four, and you deserve to be left alone.” He sighed. “I’m so frustrated with this whole thing. Fiona must be laughing her butt off.” 

“Wait, mother of four? How do you figure?” 

“The baby we lost still counts, my sweet. You were pregnant. It was going to be a baby at some point, if it hadn’t… died.” 

“You mean, if it hadn’t almost killed me.” 

“That too.” 

“I wish you could come home. I’m not in the mood to meet with this contractor now.” Danae sighed heavily.

“He hasn’t been there yet?” 

“No, and no one has called, either.” 

“I’ll give him a call, and see what’s up. This isn’t acceptable.”

“Babe, just… hurry home. I miss you.” 

“I miss you too, sweetie. I’ll see you later.”

*****

Andy was about to call the contractor when his phone rang. “This is Murphy.” 

“Andy! Man, it is good to hear your voice,” Aaron exclaimed. “You looked relaxed. The island agrees with you.”

“Hey buddy,” he replied. “Do I ever miss you today. What is that contemptible jerk up to, Aaron? Please tell me someone is on top of the rumor mill up there.”

“I wish I could. The team still has no manager, no PR, and little guidance. Fiona has washed her hands of the team. Tarah passed away last week, so she’s not really interested. The nuts are running the asylum, Andy. The whole team is in chaos.”

Andy sighed. “I never got to talk to Tarah again. She probably thought I was a traitor of the worst kind after everything Lionel did for me. By the way, I’m working on a way to get you and Wyatt down here. The coach we have is okay, but he’s not you.” 

“Gee, thanks. I think.” Aaron laughed. 

“Wow, I needed to hear a friendly voice today,” Andy smiled. “Did you see the circus?”

“Yes, I did. You knew this would happen once he got back on the team. He has an outlet now.”

“The same reporter chased me off stage. He told me that Devin had proof and firsthand knowledge of Danae’s supposed indiscretions, and suggested I get a paternity test. Can you believe it?” 

“He did what?” Aaron nearly dropped his cell phone.

“Could you do me a favor? Please?”

“I’ll try, buddy.” 

“Would you try to get documentation from casual contact with Devin that he knows what he says about Danae isn’t true? Without that, we would have a hard time proving malice.”

“I see what you’re doing. I will do my best, and gather some witnesses. Smitty, Wyatt, you know who your friends are here, and so do I. I’m on it, Andy.” Aaron smiled. This he could do.

“You’re the best, Aaron. I have your back here. I’m working on it.”  

“Sounds good, my friend. I miss having you around. It’s not the same. Oh, and congratulations on the baby! You two deserve happiness.” 

“Thanks. I’m thrilled, and she’s a fantastic mama,” Andy had to brag on Danae. “She is a little conflicted, but once she gets past the puking stage, she’s going to remember how fun little teeny babies are.” 

“You two are just too cute, you know that?” Aaron glanced at his watch. “Ooh, I didn’t notice it’s time for practice. The clown show is starting soon. I think we’ve seen our last winning season for a very long time here.” 

“Don’t worry. You and Wyatt will be with me before long, and then it will be like old times.”

“I am looking forward to it, Murph. We’ll talk soon.” 

“You bet. Get me that information, and I’ll show my gratitude.” 

“What are we talking? New car? Boat? House?” Aaron teased.

“How about I find you a woman?” Andy suggested.

Aaron laughed. “Maybe. We’ll see. Catch ya later.” 

“Ciao,” Andy chuckled and hung up the phone.


“Can we stay in the house while they’ve got it torn apart, Andy? I don’t want to settle these kids into a resort suite if we don’t absolutely have to.” Danae was folding laundry in their bedroom.

“Well, they have to remove the roof, but they’re going to work one section at a time. The babies won’t be able to nap during the day while the guys are working, though. It will be much too loud for them.” Andy looked at the plans for the second floor addition for the tenth time that night. “Kirby is willing to comp us on the room at least partially while we’re inconvenienced. I don’t know how he can do everything he’s done. At some point, I’m not going to be worth his investment.” 

“He obviously doesn’t feel that way, babe. You’re working hard to build your staff, and managing the team like a boss.” She felt a flutter in her tummy for the first time. “The baby just moved, Andy.” Danae smiled.

“Aww, and I missed it.” He put his hand on the small bump she grew in her belly. “I’m so excited about this baby, honey.” 

“Well, this one will likely be the last one. Our chances this time were incredibly small. This baby is a miracle.” She put her hand on his and intertwined their fingers together. 

“I’ll make arrangements tomorrow for the resort. We won’t be staying in the big suite, but we’ll have an efficiency type of thing. The cribs can go in the den area, here. See?” He turned the laptop around to show her the floor plan. Our bedroom is close by. And though it’s not a big kitchen, we can still do simple meals there.”

“How long is the addition going to take, babe?” 

“Shortest estimate is nine weeks. Realistically, we’re probably looking at twelve, though.” 

She started doing math in her head. I’m sixteen weeks now. Plus another twelve. More than halfway through? Twenty-eight weeks?” She grunted in frustration. “I’ll be missing my bed by the time we’re done. Show me what we’re getting again, so I know this is worth it.”

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He pointed at the bottom floor. “They’re extending the existing bedrooms out another three feet to allow for stairs. This is where they will go.” He pointed to the shower area. “The tub stays, and they’re making a room for the toilet like we have now. They’re just moving it behind the stairs.” 

“Okay, I’m trying to picture this. So this wall goes three feet that way. The stairs go where the shower is. And we lose the closet?”

“So far so good, honey.” He pointed at the second floor proposed floor plan. “The stairs lead to this open area. The catwalk goes to the right and runs along the front of the house. The kids’ playroom is there over the existing den.” His finger traced the model. “The exercise room is on the far end of the catwalk, and to the left, a full second master suite upstairs with a spa tub, walk-in shower, the whole works. I’d like to put an art studio for you in this area.” He pointed to the small space at the top of the steps. “It opens to that patio above Eamon’s room, so you can take the easel outside on pretty days and paint.” He pointed out each feature. “The extra room in the bedrooms is worth it already. Depending on what we have, someone will share a room, either Eamon or Elyse.” 

“We’re only gaining one bedroom?” Danae shook her head. “This seems like a lot of investment for a one-bedroom gain.”

“And a bathroom. It could be a butler’s room, or guest suite.” He took her hand. “Besides, we gain a lot of extra space for living. The kids get a playroom, so their toys and mess are contained in one area. We already have a formal living room, and we’re gaining serious square footage in our bedroom alone. It’s truly a master suite now.”

“Yeah, I guess you’re right, love.”

“Of course I’m right, my sweet. We’ll be moved in and settled long before your due date.”

“When do they want to start?” 

“Monday. They know we’re up against time. Plus, it’s dry season coming up, so they say. Minimal risk of exposure to the elements.”

“Let’s do it, then.” She looked at the plans, and had a thought. “Babe, do they need this wall that closes off the exercise room? Is it weight-bearing?”

“I don’t think so, no. What are you thinking?”

“I’m thinking of leaving it open, so I can look out into the living room while I run or work out. Ultimately, I’d have more room. We won’t lose the hallway space. It just gets absorbed into the area.

“I like that! I’ll suggest it, and see what the builder thinks.”

“See? I do have good ideas once in a while.” She kissed his nose.

“You have awesome ideas all the time, my sweet. I’ll make arrangements for the resort. Let’s do this.”

*****

“Well, this is unbelievable,” Andy exclaimed. “Just freaking great.” The Sharks season schedule was in his email on the first day of the remodel in the house. “Danae is going to lose it when she sees this.” The first game was an away game in Starlight Shores versus the Llamas in two weeks’ time.

“Yeah, I didn’t figure you’d be very happy with the season opener.” Kirby had received the same email. The two men sat for a business meeting, as they did every Monday morning. 

“That reminds me. How open are you to another coach? I have a prospect. Aaron Hall. He’s a three-time champion, more if you count his successes in Sunlit Tides.” 

“I’d love it. I have seen what Aaron Hall can do. He’s an impressive young man.” 

“He’s one of my closest friends, and since Lionel and Tarah O’Reilly’s passing, it’s been chaos there. I’m also thinking of negotiating for Wyatt Searcy. He’s a damn good player. We’d be foolish not to make an offer, a really generous offer.” 

Kirby scratched his chin. “Andy, I like your killer instincts. When is Searcy a free agent?” 

“End of next month, just after the season starts.”

“Okay, well, let’s get Aaron here soon for negotiations. We have a little time to consider how to wine and dine Searcy.” 

“I’ll handle that, if you will allow me. Wyatt is a good friend, too. I don’t think it would take much dealing. He’s pretty underpaid, so a decent offer will bring him to the table.” 

“You’re a take-charge kind of guy, Andy. I like that about you.” 

Andy smiled. “Thank you. That’s quite a compliment. I do have to tell you, if Fiona McDonald is still angry with me, she threatened me before I left the Llamas that if I tried to take players from them, she’d file a motion with the league.” 

“Yeah, she can try. Negotiations are all part of sports. She’s in way over her head with her team, I think, and she will regret letting you walk away so easily when we are the new winning team.” Kirby patted Andy on the back. “Her loss is my gain. I will never regret hiring you, Andy. You’re the best business decision I’ve made for this team in a long time. But, I have to cut this short this morning and get back to the restaurant. I’m cooking tonight, apparently, while we look for a new chef, and I need to familiarize myself with the current menu.” 

Andy blushed. He was not used to such kind compliments from his boss, not even Lionel had been as appreciative. “Thanks, Kirby, sounds good. I’ll set up a meeting with Aaron Hall. What’s the budget on his acquisition?” 

“There isn’t one. Do what you have to do, Andy. Headhunt Aaron Hall and bring him on board. I’ll even send my jet after him. Hey, you and Danae should come for dinner tonight. My treat.” 

“We have the kids, or I would. We’ve been imposing on Darcey and Clint way too often. I think the kids are getting confused over who the real Mama and Daddy are.” Andy laughed. 

“You know, the resort has childcare available. You could always use a night away.” 

“Thanks. I’ll ask her. Maybe we’ll see you tonight.”

“Sounds good.”  

****

Andy left the meeting and dialed Danae’s cell. Back at the resort, Elyse was crying and Eamon was cranky, a truly miserable morning for the Murphy children, and Danae was at her wit’s end.

“Hello?” came the exasperated answer.

“Hey honey, is everything okay?” Andy asked gingerly.

“No, it’s not. Eamon is fussy, and Elyse is being something else this morning. Everything is ‘No’ and ‘don’t wanna.’ I’m getting tired of her little attitude today. Eamon is teething, I think. I thought I saw a molar coming in. The poor little guy is hurting. Andy, it’s only the first day of being in the resort. It’s going to be a long twelve weeks.” She felt like crying.

“Oh baby, you’re not having a good day.” Maybe, he thought, she’d be willing to spend a night out with him tonight. “I have a proposition for you.  Kirby invited us for dinner tonight, just the two of us. His treat. I guess he’s cooking tonight, and would like us to be his guests. What do you say?” 

“I can’t ask Darcey to watch them one more night. She’s trying to settle into her job, and Clint is still interviewing for that game company. They’re stressed.” 

“The resort has childcare available. Why don’t you check into it and get back with me? It sounds like you need a night away, honey.” 

“It sounds amazing. But I don’t know about just letting a stranger take care of them.” 

“After one night, they won’t be strangers anymore. Or we could call the agency and have them send someone. But baby, let’s make this happen. You’ll need a peaceful night by the time I get home, won’t you?” 

“Oh my word, yes! I’ll call around, love.” In the background, Elyse screamed at the top of her lungs. “I’m going to kill that child, Andy. I don’t know what’s gotten into her.”

“Hang in there, my sweet. I’ll come get you for dinner right after work. Let me know if you can’t find a sitter, though, okay?” Andy felt bad for her. “Danae, I love you, honey.” 

“I love you too, Andy. I can’t wait for dinner tonight.” She hung up the phone, feeling hopeful. 

“Lysie, what’s wrong, honey?” she picked up her daughter to cuddle her.

“Aim mean.” She pointed angrily at her brother. 

“Show me, Elyse. What did he do?” Elyse took Danae’s hand and bit it, and she bit hard. “Ouch! Did he bite you?”

“Yes!” she said, her bottom lip quivered. “I sowwy, Mama.” 

“You’re okay, honey.” Danae sat her on the floor. “Be good. Mama will be right back.” She walked to Eamon, and as soon as she picked him up, she felt a fever. “Oh baby boy, you’re burning up.” He cried softly when she held him, and she tried to feel around for a tooth. On his bottom right, she felt a big tooth trying to breakthrough. “No wonder you’re not feeling good, sweetheart,” she cooed at Eamon. She gave him a dose of baby fever reducer and filled his sippy cup with cold water. She walked back into the den with him, and Elyse screamed when she saw him. 

“No Mama!” she cried. “No Aim.”

“He doesn’t feel good, honey. He’s going to sleep.”

“Aim seep?” she asked.

“Yes, honey. Eamon is going to go night-night.” She placed him into his crib, and immediately he closed his eyes. “Shh, Lysie. Come with Mama.” Danae held her hand out for her, and Elyse took it. Together they walked into the living area, and she grabbed a book. “Do you want a story?”

“Story!” she chirped. “Yes, peas!”

Danae read from one of Bella’s books until Elyse was sleepy. And when she finally got her down for a nap, Danae collapsed in the chair and sighed relief. Remembering Andy’s proposition, she called the front desk of the resort.

“Concierge, this is Marcela, how can I help you?” 

“Hi Marcela, this is Danae Murphy in the VIP tower, suite two. My husband told me there is childcare available on site. Is this true?” 

“Yes, it is Mrs. Murphy. Do you need me to schedule you?” 

“Oh please, yes.” She took a second to figure when to tell them. “Five o’clock this evening, so my husband can take me for dinner. I need a break,” she laughed. 

Marcela joined her in a chuckle. “I understand completely. I raised three children, twin boys and a little girl. How many children, and what are their ages, if you please?”

“A little girl, who just turned three, and my twenty-month-old son. He is teething and right now is running a slight fever, but he should be okay. And Elyse is a good girl when her brother isn’t biting her.” Danae laughed slightly. “It’s been a heck of a day so far,” she sighed. 

“I will arrange for a very competent young lady to watch them. She is certified in CPR and has been trained in childcare and basic first aid. I think you’ll be pleased.” Marcela finished booking the babysitter. “Is there anything else I can arrange for you? Dinner reservations?”

“No, thank you. Andy has everything else arranged. Thank you, Marcela.”  

Excited, she texted Andy.

Concierge booked a sitter for 5 tonight. What should I wear?

Danae began to make the bed, which she hadn’t had the time to start before all pandemonium broke loose when Andy’s reply chimed in.

Five is perfect. I’ll pick you up at 5:30 in front of the lobby. Wear something amazing. It’s 5 stars.

She glanced at the clock, and it was only 1:30. Plenty of time, she thought. Once the bed was made, she laid down for a nap herself and set the alarm on her phone for 4:00 pm.

The alarm never got a chance to wake her, as Eamon cried just an hour later. Sleepily, she walked to the room to get him and noticed Elyse was awake, playing happily in her crib. “I’ll be right back, sweetie,” she told Elyse, and sat him down in the high chair. “Are you hungry, little boy?” she asked as she reached into the fridge and retrieved a small bowl of soft, cut fruit. She took a few pieces and set them on the tray for him to munch on while she got Elyse from her bed.

“Wadder, peas!” Elyse asked, reaching for her cup. 

“Are you hungry, Lysie?” 

“No, Mama.” She snuggled her blankie and waited patiently for her sippy cup of water.

Luckily, the problems of earlier did not repeat themselves, but she had a dilemma. Both of the kids were awake, and she needed to shower. So she stripped both of them down and plopped them into the tub with her to let them play at her feet while she washed. One by one, she bathed them, and when they were all squeaky clean, she stepped out and dried each of them off. Two naked little babies were running around the suite squealing while Danae dried off. If the sitter came now, she’d have a surprise awaiting her, and the thought of it made her snort. 

She quickly got dressed in yoga pants and a tee-shirt and rounded up her charge. She put Eamon’s diaper on him and dressed him in a warm outfit. He still felt a little feverish, and she didn’t want him to be chilled. She dressed Elyse in a pair of shorts and a frilly tank top, with a pair of socks. With the kids cleaned up and happy, she stepped into the closet and picked a beautiful pink dress, almost floor-length, with a high waistline. She was hoping it would look okay. At four months pregnant, she was filling out. Most of her formal clothing wouldn’t work as maternity outfits. But when she slipped the dress over her head and adjusted it, she found it acceptable. 

Elyse looked up from her doll and blanket and looked at Danae. “Yooz piddy, Mama.” 

“Aww, thank you, baby girl.” She smiled at her daughter. “You look pretty, too.” 

The sitter, named Janelle, arrived shortly before five, and introduced herself. But she found herself starstruck by Danae. 

“I know you,” she blushed. “You’re Travis Jones’ daughter and Andy Murphy’s wife. I’m so humbled.” 

“I’m just a mother of three,” Danae said. “My husband is the star. Anyway, Eamon is teething and has been feverish for most of the day. There’s some cold fruit in the mini-fridge you can give him to chew on if he’s fussy. Elyse shouldn’t be a problem, but watch the baby around her. He’s been using her hand as a teether.” She chuckled. “She doesn’t appreciate it much, and she will tell you. Both our cell numbers are here on this information sheet. If for some reason you need to call for emergency, bring this letter with you, and call us. However, I’m not anticipating that.”

“Will I get to meet Mr. Murphy when you come back?” Janelle asked.

“Yes, he will be with me. Thank you for being early. I need to walk to the front to meet him. Remember, if you need me, call. We’ll see you when we get back.” 

Danae gathered her purse and shawl and walked toward the lobby. When she got there, Andy was waiting for her patiently. He got out and opened the door for her. “Hi, my sweet. You look enchanting tonight.”

“You look gorgeous, as usual.” She sat down and adjusted the seat belt around the baby, and waited for him to get into the car. He set the GPS for the restaurant, and they drove away.

“Did your day settle down at all, honey?” he asked. 

“Yes, and I found out why she was crying, too. Eamon was chewing on her hand! He’s cutting a molar on the right side. The poor little thing was feverish all day.” 

“Chewing on her? No wonder.” 

“Yeah, I know. I’d be pretty angry if you chewed on my hand,” she flirted.

“How about if I nibble on your ear?” Andy suggested, and blew her a kiss.

“That I wouldn’t mind, but later.” She winked at him.

They pulled up in front of the restaurant and the valet greeted them. Andy handed him the key and walked to help Danae from the front. He took her hand and they walked in together.

“Murphy, guests of Mr. Kemp,” he told the host. 

He checked the guest list and spotted the name. “Of course, Mr. Murphy. This way, please.” They walked to the rear of the restaurant to a private room he hadn’t seen before. There were two tables in this particular room, and they had exclusive access to the chef and the kitchen. Kirby seemed busy as he noticed Andy and Danae being seated but took a moment to welcome them.

“Andy, Danae, it’s a pleasure to see you tonight. I hoped you would come. This is a special room, usually reserved for VIPs and tourists who just want the experience. Because I am the chef this evening, I will treat you to this one of a kind experience. Sit back and enjoy yourselves.”

“Thank you, Kirby,” Danae said softly. 

Kirby came back moments later with a menu, which he handed to Andy, a glass of semi-sweet sparkling nectar for Danae, and a glass of dry champagne for Andy. “Tonight my specialty is a wagyu rib eye crusted with pepper served with a red wine reduction, and roasted asparagus wrapped with prosciutto. I highly recommend it.” He winked at Andy. “If beef isn’t your style, then I’d recommend the blackened Mahi, with porcini risotto and steamed vegetables.”

Andy was stunned. He knew wagyu was extremely expensive. “We will let you know in a few minutes, thank you.” He continued to peruse the menu. “No raw oysters for you tonight,” he teased. She shook her head and chuckled at him. “I know you like swordfish. How about that and the wagyu?”

“Babe, don’t you think that is a little much? I mean, there’s no need to choose the priciest thing on the menu.”

“Believe it or not, it isn’t. I mean, it’s up there, but there are more expensive things.” She had not seen a menu in a long time, and had no concept of how things were priced. But Danae was relatively easy to please, and very grounded, a credit to her upbringing.

“Still, babe…” She fidgeted in her seat.

He could tell she wasn’t comfortable with it, so he dropped it. “Okay, how about leg of lamb? I know you like that, too.” 

“Ooh, now that sounds good. But I’ll leave it up to you. You are better at this than I am, Andy. I trust you.”  

Kirby reappeared at the table a few minutes later with a small serving of fried calamari. “Have you decided yet?” 

Andy nodded. “Yes.” Rather than reveal to Danae what he was ordering, he simply pointed at the items on the menu. Kirby nodded his approval to Andy’s choices. “I think you’ll enjoy what Andy has chosen, Miss Danae,” Kirby bowed, and left them to talk.

“What did you order, love?” she asked. 

He looked at her, pure mischief in his eyes. “I bet you would love to know, my sweet.” 

“You are such a brat, Mr. Murphy.” 

“But you know you love me anyway.” Andy flirted with her.

“Forever and always, babe.” 

“Forever and always, my darling Danae.” He took her hand and kissed it. “Oh, I meant to tell you, I have authorization to headhunt Aaron. He’ll be here soon, love.” 

“I’m happy for you, Andy. I know he’s one of your best friends.” 

“He is. Your dad… it’s not the same Llamas team he played for. Aaron says they’re falling apart.”

“I hate to hear that,” she said sadly. “I still feel an attachment to them. His retired jersey hangs in the Clips Center. They still sell his merchandise…” She blinked back tears.

“That’s normal, my sweet. Your whole life, you’ve been a Llama fan. I don’t expect you to be an instant Sharks fan, honey.”

“I know. I mean, I love it here but once in a while, I get homesick.”

“You know, sweetie, I’d ask you to come back with me for the season opener, but I’m not so sure it’s safe for you back there right now, with Devin in rare form.” 

“Maybe you could swing by the house and take a few pictures. I’m curious to see what they’re going to do to it,” she suggested.

“I’d be happy to, baby.” He took her hand and kissed it. 

Kirby witnessed the tender moment and walked out to check on them. “Everything okay here? Miss Danae, are you okay?”

“I’m fine, Kirby. We were just talking about home. And my dad.” 

“Does Travis come up much in general talk? I’d love to get to know him, through you.” 

“I would love to talk about him. He was my hero.” Andy squeezed her hand, knowing if the topic continued, she would get very emotional.

“We will have to do that sometime. Besides, my daughter really wants to meet you.”

Danae blushed. “I’d like that.” 

“Well, your meal will be ready shortly. I hope you’re hungry. Andy did a fine job of selecting tonight.” Kirby patted him on the shoulder and returned to the kitchen.

“Andy, have you heard anything about what Rae was talking about that night when she said I was the one? They seem to know me from my two years in singing. I didn’t think my reach was that big.”

“I haven’t spoken to Rae since we arrived here. I’m curious, too.” The candlelight on the table reflected in his caramel brown eyes. Danae stared at Andy, in awe of him, wondering how she managed to snag such a handsome man. 

Kirby appeared a few seconds later, carrying two dishes. The first was blackened Mahi, and the second was the wagyu rib-eye steak, cooked exactly how Danae liked it. He motioned to Kirby and whispered something, and Kirby shook his head adamantly. Andy shrugged and turned his attention back to dinner. “Thank you, Kirby. This looks delicious.” 

“Enjoy, you two lovebirds,” he winked at Danae and returned to the kitchen.

“What did you get, besides the Mahi?” she asked.

“I got the wagyu rib eye, honey. I wanted us both to try it. It’s not a regular menu item, and it’s certainly not something I’ll order every day.”

She huffed at him softly, not pleased. But when he cut a piece and fed it to her, she was blown away. “Oh, Andy! This is incredible,” she exclaimed. “It’s so flavorful.” 

“See? Now try the Mahi,” he suggested, getting a small bite for her to try. 

“Oh my goodness gracious! So good!” 

Kirby was watching them from the kitchen. They’re so cute together, he thought. I bet they’ve never had a fight. 

Andy split the portions between them, and they shared dinner like they always did, both of them remarking how good everything was. 

“You know, babe,” Danae said, “We should invite Darcey and Clint out with us next time, instead of asking them to watch our kids. We could leave all the kids with Janelle and bring them here. They are having a rough time. Wouldn’t it be nice to give them a night out?”

“I love it, sweetie. Who is Janelle?” 

“I forgot you didn’t meet her. She is our sitter tonight, and she was starstruck to meet me. She knew who I am, and who you are. She can’t wait to meet you, Andy.” 

He smiled. “It’s always neat to meet a fan.” Secretly, Andy loved the recognition for himself. But when it came to Danae, he wished she was a little less recognized. He worried about her safety, especially when she had the children with her. 

“I didn’t think you would be nearly as recognized. I mean, it’s not like you play for them.” 

“Even the manager is a big deal on the island. Football is the official pastime here. Anyone involved with it is important. That means you and me, honey.” 

“Me?” she asked, incredulous.

“You’re a Jones, for better or worse. You’re famous because of your dad, and because of me.” 

“Like I said earlier, being a celebrity sucks sometimes.” 

“It can, yes.” He smiled and took her hand to kiss it. “Did you have enough, my sweet?” 

“Too much, I think. But it was so good.”

“Are you interested in dessert? I think Kirby had something in mind.”

“Ordinarily, I would say no. But, I am eating for two!” she giggled. 

“When he comes back, I’ll let him know.” 

Kirby returned to the table to ask about dessert when Andy whispered to him again. And he nodded, walking back to the kitchen. 

“What did you say? He left in a big hurry.” 

“I just told him to bring his specialty out, just for you my sweet.” Andy smiled at her.

“What’s the specialty?” she inquired.

“That’s a surprise,” he teased. “Don’t worry, you’ll love it.” 

“I’m not worried,” she said confidently. 

A few minutes later, Kirby returned from the kitchen with a chunk of white chocolate and vanilla bean cheesecake, with a drizzle of blueberry compote and a dollop of freshly made whipped cream.

“I hear cheesecake is your favorite, Miss Danae,” Kirby said as he sat the cake between the two of them. “And two spoons, as Andy requested. Enjoy it!” 

“He has outdone himself tonight, babe,” she commented, as Andy loaded a spoonful of cheesecake, blueberries and whipped cream for her to taste.

“This has been the most incredible evening together, my sweet,” he replied, feeding her the bite from his spoon. 

“Oh my goodness, this is delectable!” she mumbled, with just a bit of cake left in her mouth. “Best cheesecake ever!” 

“It is very good,” he agreed, but not quite as strong as she did. 

They finished the cheesecake, though Danae ate the majority of it. Kirby came out to make sure dessert was acceptable. “Thank you, Kirby, for a fantastic meal and the best cheesecake I’ve ever had,” she exclaimed. “We’ve had a great time.” 

“You’re welcome, Miss Danae. I’m delighted you had a pleasant evening.” 

Andy knew the dinner was complimentary, but he left a §100 on the table for Kirby as a tip. “Shall we, baby?” he said as he stood. Kirby noticed them getting ready to leave, and wanted to thank them for coming.

“Andy,” he said, picking up the tip, “You know this was my treat, right?” 

“I do,” he answered. “You also waited on us all night long. That is a show of my appreciation.” 

“You don’t have to—”

“I know, Kirby. Please, let me,” Andy insisted. “I’ll be bringing some business your way soon.” 

“You do that. Andy, Miss Danae, it was a pleasure having you tonight. You both have a wonderful evening.” 

“Thank you, we will, Kirby,” Danae replied. She took Andy’s arm as he led her from the restaurant. 

As he watched them leave, Kirby was pleased. He had one heck of a catch with Andy, and he would do everything in his power to make sure no one ever headhunted him away from the Sharks.

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Up Next: Chapter Seventeen, Part Two, Generation Five

G5 Chapter Sixteen – The Last Month in Starlight Shores

Four Weeks To Move…

The next morning at work, Andy knew he had to give his resignation to Fiona, but he wasn’t sure of the timing. Should he wait until there were two weeks left, or give notice now and deal with the fallout? These were the questions for which he needed answers. His key turned in his office door, and a letter was waiting under it, one that had been delivered by courier. He picked it up and noted the postmark from Isla Paradiso. 

He slipped the envelope into his briefcase to view later, preferably after he had spoken to Fiona. Aaron was the first to see him that morning. 

“You look like you had a good weekend, Andy,” he greeted him. “What did you and the little missus do?” 

Andy was dying to tell him, someone, anyone, about the weekend they had spent together. Instead, he fibbed. “Nothing really special. My son has been sick, so we took turns caring for him.”

“Aww, the poor little fella,” Aaron said. “That doesn’t sound like much fun at all.”

“I’m sure it wasn’t,” Andy replied and grimaced, realizing he’d screwed up. “For the baby, I mean.”

Aaron eyed his friend. “Are you sure that was your whole weekend?”

“Aaron, I have something to tell you, and you cannot say a word until I make my announcement.”

He smiled slyly at Andy. “What’s in this for me?” he joked.

“Nothing, but you’ll keep my secret anyway because I asked you to.” Andy grinned. “I got a phone call on Friday morning from the owner of the Isla Sharks. Aaron, he made me an offer I couldn’t pass up. So in 4 weeks, I’m moving with my family to the isle.”

Aaron’s face went from smiles to a scowl. “Well, that news is unexpected. Congratulations, I think. I’m going to miss you, buddy.” 

“Thanks. If we need a new head coach, I will keep you in mind.”

“I just can’t believe you’re leaving with Danae’s history in the Shores. Almost a whole generation of Llamas loyalty with her dad playing here. What does she think?”

“Well, Darcey and her family are coming with us, so there’s one thing less to keep us. I doubt Devin will go, and in truth, I would never hire him anyway. Too much bad blood there. He doesn’t deserve a break.”

“With you going, it could possibly open Fiona to the option of signing Devin on the team again. I hope not, but I think it could happen. She never wanted to fire him to begin with.” 

“Well, in that case, you actually might be more open to moving again, if I’m given the freedom to build my staff. Would you consider it, Aaron?” 

“I’m a single guy. Probably. I hear there are some hot women on the isle.” Aaron chuckled.

“I never noticed. I always bring my own along.” Andy laughed. “I’d ask Trey to consider breaking his contract, but I know he’s looking at retirement soon. The only other player I’d try to weasel away is Wyatt. Without him, the Llamas are sunk.” 

“Thanks. I see how you are.” Aaron was only half kidding. If Andy took the star players from the Llamas, the team was in trouble, and Aaron knew it. “You’re going to leave Fiona no choice but to rehire your brother-in-law, you know that.” 

“Not my circus, not my clowns,” Andy smiled. “Seriously though. I’m going to miss you guys. Lionel gave me my first chance. That’s something I’ll never forget.”

“Oh yeah, I was supposed to tell you. Lionel’s in the hospital. He wasn’t doing well last I heard. Fiona has been running things from his hospital room, but I gotta tell you, Andy, I think he’s done.” 

Andy sighed. Though he knew it was coming, he dreaded the day that Lionel O’Reilly met the Reaper. “I should take Danae to see him. She will be upset to hear this.” 

“That’s a long trip for a hospital visit, Andy. They’re in Dragon Valley.” 

“Oh. I don’t know why I assumed they were in town. That’s a shame. Poor Tarah.” 

“Fi doesn’t think she’ll last long after Lionel is gone. They’re like two peas in a pod. Just remember them how they were when you last saw them. They’d probably want that anyway.” 

“Good advice.” Now Andy had another problem. How was he going to face Fiona with her father on his deathbed? “This is very bad timing, Aaron.”

“Well, Andy, you have to do what’s good for you and your family. The O’Reillys can take care of themselves.” 

“Thanks. Is the presser today? I don’t remember if it’s today or tomorrow.” 

“You have a day to prep. It’s tomorrow,” Aaron said. “Which reminds me, I’ll catch you later. I have some paperwork to catch up on before then.” 

“See ya, bud.” When Aaron had left his office, Andy opened his briefcase and retrieved the letter. The contract was just a few pages long and looked pretty standard. Nevertheless, he wanted his father’s attorney to glance at it and make sure everything was as they had agreed upon during their meeting. He typed out a quick cover letter and printed it, ready to fax it to the law office. 

At lunch, he dialed Danae’s phone to check on the kids. Eamon still had a bit of a cough, and again she hadn’t slept much the night before. Her sleepy voice answered the phone.

“Hello?” 

“Hey, my sweet!” Andy’s happy voice greeted her. “How’s my favorite girl?” 

“She’s tired, baby. But Eamon is going to take a nap whether he wants to or not. And soon, Mama will be taking a nap, too. Elyse is being a good girl, so I think she’ll be easy to put down. My mama always made this look so easy, but none of us were really ever sick, either. Eamon is a challenge.” 

“Boys usually are love. That’s why there was only one of me. My mom didn’t want to risk having another Andy.” He laughed. “The world can only handle one of me.” 

“Mmm, I know you’re all I can handle, babe. Two of you would have been one too many.” 

“Alright, that’s enough,” he laughed harder. “I shouldn’t be late tonight. But I do have bad news, honey. Lionel is in the hospital, and it doesn’t look good. They’re in Dragon Valley, or I’d take you to see him and Tarah one last time.” 

“Oh Andy, now I’m sad!” she pouted. “I don’t like to hear that. Please tell Fiona they have my condolences…” and then it hit her. “Andy! You can’t tell her you’re leaving, not now.” 

“I will probably wait until after he’s gone, love. I don’t want Lionel to know about it. He would probably see it as a betrayal, and he doesn’t need that, not now.”

“You’re right. That’s a good call, babe. Listen, I need to get this little man to sleep, so I can nap. I will see you when you get home.” 

“I love you, Nae. Get some rest, my sweet.” 

“I love you, Andy.” 

He hung up the phone, happy he’d called her. 

The rest of his day went quickly, as he’d spent most of it arranging the press conference. Since Emmitt’s retirement and Andy’s promotion, he had been doing two jobs: his old one as a PR liaison and the management job. That was something he wouldn’t miss when he left Starlight Shores. But the presser was a go for the following afternoon, and he looked forward to his own when he announced his transfer to the Sharks. 

Danae was awake making dinner when he got home. Elyse was playing with her xylophone in the dining room, and Eamon was playing in his swing when he opened the door. 

“Daddy!” Elyse said very clearly. “Miss Daddy.” She ran to him as he knelt down, and threw her arms around his neck. 

“There’s my little sweet pea,” he cooed at his daughter and hugged her close. “Were you good for Mama today?” 

“Mama seep,” she said very plainly. “Leez seep, too!”

“What a good girl!” Andy praised her and kissed her on the cheek. Her giggles filled the bottom floor of the house, and Danae smiled. 

“Where’s my sugar, Daddy?” she teased. She put the spatula down on the counter and walked to him, her arms open and waiting with a kiss for him. 

“Your sugar is right here,” he cooed back, hugging her close to him and kissing her deeply. He noticed vanilla perfume on her skin, and it smelled intoxicating. “You smell good enough to eat, my darling.” 

“Dessert,” she flirted. He raised his eyebrow at her, and she laughed. “Dinner will be ready soon, babe. You have time to change if you’d like.” 

“Sounds good,” he said, knowing exactly what he would change into. He padded up the steps quietly and heard her singing to the kids. Sometimes, he felt guilty for asking Danae to give up a career she wanted, especially when she was so talented. Once they moved from the Shores, that dream would be just a memory for her, and sometimes he couldn’t help but wonder what she could have been if not for him. 

Andy changed into his favorite flannel pajama pants and a muscle shirt, dabbed a little more of his musk cologne onto his skin and walked back downstairs. Danae was just taking dinner off the stove to serve it when he walked to the kitchen to pick up Elyse. “Are you hungry, honey?” he asked her as he placed her into her high chair. 

“Chee!” she chirped, tugging at the bib Andy fastened around her neck. Danae set a bowl of macaroni and cheese in front of her, and she dug into it as though she hadn’t been fed in days. 

“That girl loves to eat,” Danae laughed. 

“It’s cute,” Andy said, smiling at Elyse. He sat Eamon into his high chair, and Danae sat with him to help him. “I’ll get ours, love,” he offered, serving up two bowls of the evening meal, Andy’s favorite: chili con carne.

“There’s cornbread on the counter if you want some, babe,” she said, playing planes and hangars with Eamon to coax him to eat. 

“That’s even better. Would you like a piece, honey?” 

“Sure.” She filled a fork with a few noodles. “Come on Eamon, open up for the plane!” She made a ‘vroom’ noise and watched his happy face. Andy was amazed watching her. Danae was a phenomenal mother. 

“So, you didn’t say anything about my outfit,” he teased. “I was hoping to get at least a comment from you.”

“Oh, I noticed. But I have a little boy to feed,” she winked at him. “I’ll take care of you later.” 

“So, Aaron is the only one who knows I’m leaving. I can’t bring myself to call Fi, not yet. The timing isn’t very good with this whole thing.” 

“I’m getting antsy already. I can’t believe we have to wait four weeks.” Danae got another successful mouthful of mac and cheese into the boy’s mouth, and he babbled happily.

“I know. Part of me just wants to give notice now, and deal with the fallout. Chances are good that Fiona will not honor my two weeks or however long of a notice I give her and just terminate me on the spot. A big part of me wants to have a month off to be with you and the kids. We have plenty of savings to cover a month without pay.” 

“Then why don’t you just do it, babe?” 

“I’m thinking about it. Oh, and get this. Aaron seems to think with me out of the picture, Fiona would renegotiate a contract for Devin. I suppose it wouldn’t be unrealistic to think so. I get the feeling she isn’t as fond of me as her father was.” Andy stopped and looked at Danae. “Wow, it feels funny to speak of Lionel in past tense, as though he’s already gone.” 

“I’m sorry, babe. I know how much he means to you.” 

After dinner, Andy was giving the kids a bath when his phone rang. He sat back on his heels and answered it. 

“Hello?” 

“Andy, it’s Tarah,” she greeted him, her voice shaky. “Lionel wanted me to call you personally to tell you he is gone…” her voice trailed off, and he heard a sob on the other end of the phone.

“Oh Tarah, I’m so sorry,” he sighed. “This tears me up.” 

“Andy, he wanted me to tell you he always thought of you as a son. He wanted to tell you himself, but he was too weak to talk. He’s been very sick.”

He blinked back hot tears. “Well, I don’t think it’s a secret that I loved him, and you too Tarah. He gave me my first real job, and you have both been wonderful to me.”

“Papa!” Elyse chirped, a name he hadn’t heard her speak in nearly a year. “Papa! Papa!” 

“Is that your little girl, Andy?” Tarah asked.

“It is. I don’t know where she got that from. My dad has been gone a while, long enough for her to forget him.” 

“Little ones have a way of knowing things we can’t possibly understand. It could be, maybe she remembers more than you think.” 

“Nothing would surprise me, Tarah. Not anymore.” 

“Well, love, I wanted to let you know. We have the family here, and I need to get back to them. But he made me promise. It was his dying wish.” 

That didn’t help, Tarah, Andy thought, choking on a sob. “I’m glad you called. I just wish the news had been happier. I love you both.”

“We love you too, Andy. Tell Danae we love her, and hug those sweet babies for me tonight.”

“I’ll tell her, and I will.” They said goodbye and hung up the phone. He hunched over the tub, resting his forearms over the side, and cried. Elyse walked to him and patted his shoulder.

“Doan cwy, Daddy.” She wrapped her wet little body around him and patted his back. “Doan cwy.” 

He looked up at her, astonished that an almost-three-year-old toddler could be so in tune with him. “I won’t cry anymore, sweetheart.” 

She wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed his cheek. And she took his face between her hands, looked him right in the eye, and said, “I wuv Daddy,” pressing her cheek to his. At that moment, he knew Tarah was right. His daughter knew more than he could begin to understand. 


Three And A Half Weeks To Move…

Andy’s phone rang at work a few days later. “This is Murphy.” 

“Andy, Bart McClellan. I received the contract you sent my office, and I’ve had a chance to review it. It’s a good, sound contract and I see no problem in signing it.”

“Hey, thanks, Bart. Just send the bill for your services to my home, and I’ll take care of it.”

“No charge on this one, Andy. Consider it a congratulatory gift. Your father would be so proud of you.” 

“Thanks again. I’ve had mixed feelings about this, but since Lionel’s passing, I’m feeling less guilty and more ready. Fiona has been in rare form since his death. I’d hate to think it’s more than just grief, but I also know she doesn’t like me very much.” 

“Don’t let anything like that stop you. Loyalties only go so far. In the end, you have to take care of the ones you’ve been entrusted to love. They are the ones that matter.” 

“You are so right. Oh, while I have you on the phone, I do need your services for a house closing on the isle. Can you recommend someone who travels down that way? I know Dragon Valley is a long way from there.” 

“I have an associate nearby who would love to take a job for you. You’re a big deal back home, you know.”

“I’ve heard. But since I’m parting ways with the Llamas, I don’t see myself going back there anymore. The town holds no intrigue for me.” 

“Well, you have Travis’ daughter. If I had someone like her, I’d be pretty contented, too,” Bart teased him.

“Danae is the best part of me. I count myself lucky every day I wake up with her at my side.” Andy beamed. 

“Well, I’ll be in touch. When is the closing on the house?”

“In about four weeks. We don’t have to worry about selling this house. The county will probably buy it from us and make it a historical landmark. It was the home of Destiny Hill and Travis Jones, and both were a pretty big deal in the Shores.”

“Oh right! I forgot about that. Well listen, Andy, I need to go. I’ll have my colleague call you.” 

“Sounds good, Bart. See you later.” 

Andy sat down and signed the contract, sealed it into a courier envelope and stuck it back into his briefcase. He grabbed his car keys and passed Aaron on his way out. “I’ll be right back. If Fi asks where I am, I had to run to the post to mail a document.” Aaron gave him a thumbs up and waved.

Now that Lionel had been gone a few days, and since Fiona was in town tying up some of his loose ends, Andy figured it would be a decent time to talk with her. So, he walked over to her office on the top floor of the stadium and knocked on the door. “Come in,” she snapped, sounding annoyed.

Andy peeked his head into the door. “Is this a bad time, Fi?” 

She sighed heavily. “No. What can I do for you, Andy?”

There was no softening the blow, so he just came right out with it. “I have accepted a team manager position in another city, Fi.”

“I see,” she said, her body stiffened, and her voice got suddenly chilly. “Where?”

“Isla Paradiso.” 

“That scumbag Kemp headhunted you, didn’t he?” Her stare penetrated him, as though her eyes were honed daggers.

Andy was taken aback. “Scumbag isn’t the word I would have used, but for your sake, we’ll go with it.” 

Fiona was angry, and his snide comment didn’t help. “Kirby has been trying to take players from this team for years. I see you fell for his con, like an idiot. He doesn’t give a damn about you, and right now, neither do I. You’ve made your bed, Anduin. Now, go lay in it,” she spat. “Clean out your office and be gone in an hour. I don’t want to see your face again.” 

“I’m sorry, Fiona. I didn’t want to leave here with bad blood between us.” 

“It’s a little too late for that, Murphy. Time’s ticking. And if I hear you’re trying to steal our players, I’ll file an injunction with the league against the Sharks so quickly, it will make yours and Kirby’s head spin.”

“Well, you’ve made my guilt over this completely vanish. I wish you well, Fiona. Please give your mother my regards.” 

“I will not, and that’s another thing. Stay away from her. Do not contact her. Do you understand?”

“Wow,” Andy muttered. “Just wow.” He turned to leave her office, and as he did so, she walked to the door and slammed it behind him. 

Andy shook his head all the way back to his office. Aaron caught up with him in the corridor. “What’s troubling you?” 

“Oh, I just talked to Fiona. I guess I caught her at a bad time. I told her I accepted another position, and when I told her where she flipped out. I have to be out of here in an hour. So, this is my last day.” 

“Oh man, I’m sorry Andy.”

“I didn’t figure this would go well, so I’m not surprised, though her accusations were unexpected. If I do get to hire my own staff, you’re on the shortlist, but we’d need to keep it close. She is threatening legal action against the Sharks if I try to pull even one of you. I’m assuming she meant you, too.” 

“She can’t do that. She’s all puff and no stuff. Bargaining and negotiations are a huge part of this sport, and she knows it. Fiona is grieving, and she is hurting, so she’s trying to inflict as much pain on as many people as she can. You’re not the only one she’s fought today. Word has it Wyatt is finished with her, and there isn’t a force in the world that would make him renegotiate his contract here in three months. Keep him in mind. And don’t forget your old buddy Aaron.” He winked at Andy. 

Andy handed him a box. “Here, make yourself useful, old buddy.” Both men laughed as they cleaned out the office. 

They were finishing up when Andy realized he was stranded. “I hate to ask you this, but I am sure I can’t drive the car home. Would you mind taking me back real quick? Or would it be better to just call a cab?” He typed out one last email to Fiona, informing her the car keys were in the office.

“I have nothing to lose, Andy. I’ll drive you.” He grabbed the few personal items he had in the car and stuffed them into the box he carried, and placed it into Aaron’s trunk. 

“Thanks, bud. I owe you one.” Andy thanked him as they pulled up outside the house. Aaron got out of the car and opened the trunk, handing Andy the box. Though he had not counted on it, Aaron got emotional. 

“I’m going to miss you. You’re the best friend I’ve had since I left Sunlit Tides. Thanks for everything.” 

“Hey, this isn’t goodbye. I have your back. And let Wyatt know to watch for an email from me about his contract, very soon. Once he’s a free agent, I’m going to scoop him up and make him a Shark.” Andy gave his friend a hug and picked up the box. “I’ll be in touch, Aaron. Count on it.” 

“You’d better!” He waved as Andy disappeared into his garage, and Aaron wiped a tear from his eyes.

Danae was surprised to see him home so early. “What happened, babe?” 

“I have an extended vacation, my sweet. Get ready for three and a half weeks of me!” 

“You must have talked to Fiona?” 

“Yes, and boy was she angry. She called me an idiot and told me I got played like a fiddle, in not so many words. Did Kirby seem disingenuous to you, honey?” 

“No, quite the opposite, actually. The things they proposed were simply impressive. Why? What did Fiona say about him?”

“Well, she guessed that he headhunted me, and promptly told me I fell for some con, whatever that was supposed to mean. That he’s been trying to steal players from the team for years, but I know that isn’t true, because I’d have known it. Dad would have mentioned it. Your father would have mentioned it. I imagine Travis Jones would have been the biggest score for the Sharks had they tried to pull that off.” 

“Yeah, he never said anything about it, babe. I think he would have jumped at the chance, Emmitt or no Emmitt. Mama wanted to be there so badly, he would have loved to give that to her.”

“Well, right now, I’m more inclined to believe Kirby than Fiona, especially knowing how she feels about me. I’m sure forcing her to rescind that disciplinary action didn’t get Lionel in good with her, and I’m positive it didn’t help me.” Andy shrugged. “But now we have the time to spend together, making one last push to make memories here that we can take with us. The festival, going to the park with the kids, watching shows we won’t be able to see on the island. Plus, all the lovin’ you can handle, as an added bonus, naturally.” His naughty smile was infectious.

“You’re going to wear me out, babe,” she laughed. “I can’t wait.”

*****

The next morning, Andy went to get the morning newspaper, expecting to see news about his departure from the Llamas, even though no news outlet had bothered to interview him or get his point of view. And as anticipated, there was a large article announcing the split. The other tidbit of news, though not unexpected, was still a shock to see, and hit Andy like a punch to the gut:

Llamas Owner Re-Signs Former Star Player Devin Jones To Roster

Well, Danae won’t want to see this, he thought. He was pouring a cup of coffee when she came down the steps with Elyse on her hip. “Good morning, babe,” she cooed at him.

“Hey my sweet,” he replied. “And how’s my little sweet pea this morning?” He walked to them, kissed Danae and tickled their daughter, resulting in scads of giggles resounding on the bottom floor of the house. 

“She’s a little feverish, but she seems like she feels okay.” Danae kissed her forehead. “Yeah, she’s a tad warm.” 

“Well, that’s not good. I thought the kids were over being sick for a while.” 

“I’d hoped.” Danae spotted the newspaper, something she hadn’t seen regularly since Travis had passed away. “What’s in the news this morning? Anything about your sudden departure from the Llamas?”

“In fact, there is. Despite the lack of interviews from me, they got it almost right.” He picked the paper up and stuck it under his arm. 

“Can I read it?” she asked, setting Elyse down in her high chair for breakfast.

“It’s really nothing.” 

“Okay, something is wrong. What is it?” 

“Are you sure you want to know, honey? You’re not going to like it.”

She held her hand out for the paper. “Let me decide what I like and don’t like.” 

“Don’t say I didn’t warn you,” he teased.

He watched her read the headline, her lips moving as she read. In disgust, she threw the paper down on the counter. “Unbelievable.” 

“Well, look at it this way, baby. He won’t follow us to the Isle and want a job.” 

“Poor Aaron. He hates that kid.” Danae spoke of Devin as though he was not her own flesh and blood.

“Well, if Kirby lets me choose my staff, Aaron will be a Shark before long. He isn’t loyal to any one team, and he feels how I did about the Llamas. Fiona is going to run the team into the ground.” 

Danae poured a sippy cup of orange juice for Elyse and set it in front of her. “So, is Devin the best player they have again?” 

“Truth be told, Wyatt was always better, but Devin has the name. And if I have my way about things, Wyatt will join us in Isla Paradiso at the end of his contract in a few months.”

“They can have my brother. We’ll take the good players with us,” she laughed. 

“Damn skippy.” 


Two Weeks To Move… 

Snow began to fall as the last of the leaves in the backyard lay on the ground. Andy had hoped to clean up the yard before the flurries began. They had gotten a generous offer for the house from the Starlight Shores Historical Society and were preparing to move from it. The only condition she had for the sale of the house was the tree in the yard be left to grow. It was the one thing Danae wished she could pack and bring with them to the island, but it gave her comfort to know that it would stand with a commemorative plaque stating its significance to the Jones family. The tree was a living memorial to her older brother or sister, lost in a miscarriage.

Danae was in the loft, pulling things from storage to separate trash from treasure, for not all of it needed to go with them. With four generations of accumulation inside the house, it was a big job, and she was happy to have Andy’s help. She had on an old, holey pair of Charlotte’s jeans and Travis’ ratty old tee-shirt, a pair of worn tennis shoes and a bandana wrapped in her hair. Andy had never seen her dressed down to this extent before. 

“Nae? Are you upstairs?” he called to her from the second floor.

“Yes,” she replied. “I’m going through this pile of junk up here. Would you like to help?” Leslie, the babysitter, was watching the children on the first floor so Andy and Danae could sift through the memories. 

“I’m on my way,” he yelled. Taking the steps two at a time, he ascended the steps easily. “Whoa, where’s my beautiful wife?” he laughed, noticing her dirt-covered clothing and dusty hair. 

“Hello to you too!” she giggled and threw a shoe at him. “I’m looking for certain things in these boxes. Nana’s books, things that could have belonged to Nana Desi, jewelry, clothing. Things with sentimental value. Some of it will be donated to the museum they are opening here.”

Andy sat down with a large box in his lap. “What’s this?” he asked, holding a large bound notebook with a cardboard cover.

“Here, let me look,” she replied. He handed the book to her, and as she looked, her eyes widened. “Andy! This is a manuscript.” Danae flipped the pages and touched the paper. Destiny’s Art was the title. “Nana never published this, babe. I think it’s the biography she wrote.” 

“Oh, that’s cool,” he remarked. “Set it aside and we’ll put it in a safe place to bring with us.” 

“This is incredible,” she beamed, looking at the table of contents. “All about Nana Destiny and Papa Arthur.” 

“I wonder why she didn’t publish it?”

“I’m not sure.” She knew she didn’t have the time to read through the pages, but set it into a box of things to keep. 

They continued to sort through boxes. Holiday decorations. Baby clothes from years past. Toys, old games, keepsakes. Three or four boxes of love letters, cards, and pressed flowers. “I can’t decide what to keep! I want all of it.” 

“Keep the love letters. Those are personal,” Andy suggested. 

“Here’s one with a white lily pressed with it. Aww!” she beamed. “It was my Nana’s 20th-anniversary card from Pop-Pop.” She sighed deeply. “I can’t get rid of this stuff.” She packed the boxes into a larger box and moved on to the next pile. 

At the end of the day, they had the entire loft sorted and packed up. Danae decided to donate Destiny’s wedding dress and some of her old costumes to the museum, plus the original banana pancake recipe card, which would be preserved in a frame just as it was, stains and all. Danae had long since copied it and placed it into her own recipe box. Boxes of shoes and other clothing were also staying behind. 

In a small dresser in the loft, Danae found Travis’ first Llamas jersey, when he was first hired to play soccer for them. It was the ugliest shade of green, but it had his now-retired number on it. Andy watched her cry with it in her arms, trying to detect the slightest scent of him. He walked up behind her and rubbed her back while she gently folded it and placed it into a ‘keep’ box. Maybe someday, she could find the heart to part with it. But his death was still too fresh in her mind, and she still missed her father immensely.

She tried to get up from the floor, but Danae had sat too long and she needed Andy’s help. Reaching for her hands, he easily pulled her to her feet. “Whew, this has been an emotional day,” she finally said, dusting her jeans off and wiping sweat from her forehead. “But, it’s organized and ready to pack. I’d say this has been a good, productive day.” 

“I agree, my sweet. Hey, why don’t we take the kids and go for dinner somewhere?” Andy suggested.

“I don’t know about taking them with us. Babies in a restaurant are not fun for anyone.” She shook her head. “Let’s see if Leslie can stay a little longer, and if not, we just order in.” 

“Either way works, my love,” he said. They walked from the loft together down to the first floor. Leslie was reading to both children and had them totally captivated. 

“Oh, hi guys,” she greeted them. “How did packing go?” 

“Pretty okay. Much more emotional than I anticipated, but we accomplished quite a bit,” Danae replied. “Do you have anywhere to be tonight? Andy and I would love to get a bite to eat if you don’t mind watching them a bit longer.” 

“I don’t mind at all,” Leslie smiled. “They’re such good kids.” 

“We both need to get cleaned up before we go. Your time will be well compensated,” Andy assured her. 

“I appreciate it, but it’s not a problem.” 

They both went upstairs to shower, together of course. Afterward, they got dressed in casual clothing and prepared to visit the off-strip restaurant. Danae kissed Elyse on the cheek and snuggled her while Andy was finishing up in the bedroom. “You be a good girl for Leslie, Elyse,” she said. 

“Leez good!” she chirped. “Aim good, too!” The rest of her babble was mostly unintelligible, but it made Danae smile.

“Yes sweetheart, Eamon is a good boy, too.” Danae kissed her again and set her down on the floor. She didn’t bother Eamon, as he was playing intently with blocks. 

Andy walked down the stairs in a tank with a blazer, khaki pants and boots, his hair tucked behind his ear, and he smelled like musk. Danae nearly melted into the floor when she saw him. “There’s my handsome prince,” she gushed. He took the keys to Danae’s car from the hook and offered his arm for her. “Thank you for staying, Leslie. We shouldn’t be too long.” 

“My pleasure,” she replied and waved as they left the house.

Andy drove them through the snow to the restaurant. Rather than valet, they just parked in the lot across the street and walked over, hand in hand. The host recognized them immediately. “Welcome back!” he greeted them. He took one menu from the host station and led them back to their usual table. “The same wine from the bar tonight, Andy?” he asked.

“That sounds wonderful,” Andy replied. Danae settled next to him and grasped his hand, forcing him to set the menu on the table. “Hmm, a whole new selection,” he mused. “They must have a new chef.” 

“Could be. What looks good, babe?”

“I’m thinking a surf and turf kind of thing, what do you think?” He studied the menu, but nothing was catching his eye. 

“You know, it doesn’t have to be fancy. Fried chicken can be just as tasty as the expensive stuff.” 

Andy made a face. “Fried?” 

“Yes, you health nut. Fried is okay once in a while.” She grinned at him, expecting a raspberry, but the waiter returned with the bottle of wine Andy had ordered. 

“Just a few more minutes, please,” Andy asked, and the waiter nodded. “We get fried stuff once in a while. It’s usually calamari, but it counts.” 

“True.” 

“There is some Italian stuff on the menu now. How is eggplant rollatini and maybe veal marsala?”

“Ooh, I haven’t had eggplant in ages,” Danae said. “I love it.” 

“It’s settled then,” Andy confirmed. He took a sip of the wine and savored it. “This is a nice vintage,” he said. “Fruity but not too sweet.” 

Danae sipped it and agreed. “I would like it just a tad sweeter, but you’re right. It is good.” 

They ordered dinner and talked while they waited. “I’m happy we got the biggest job done today, babe,” she said. “Some of the furniture will stay, and I even thought of donating Destiny’s first SimFest award to the museum.” 

“Are you sure, honey?” 

“Yes, I think so. The new house isn’t that big. Besides, it will make a nice addition to the museum, along with that copy of her first CD I found a couple of days ago. It looks like it was made on her computer.” 

“It probably was. You found stuff I bet your mama never knew was up there.” 

“You’re most likely right. Some of that stuff hasn’t been touched in years. I might even give them more awards. She just seems so far removed from me, like I don’t have a connection with her, babe.” 

“Oh, but you do! Your angelic voice is decidedly hers, honey.” 

“Well, so they say. I don’t see it.” 

“Can I ask you a question, baby?” 

“Sure, Andy.” 

“Do you regret not keeping your career? When I met you, it was all you wanted. And you’re so talented. I mean, sometimes I feel guilty I asked you to raise our family.”

“I don’t regret a minute of being mama to those two babies, Andy. Yes, my life could have been different, but I don’t think it would have been better. You, Elyse, Eamon…  you all make my life whole. I couldn’t ask for more than that.” She reached to caress his cheek. “Besides, it was my idea to stay at home with them. It was what I truly wanted.” 

“I adore you, Danae. You make me whole and complete.” 

After dinner, they left to go home and relieved Leslie. Andy made sure to tip her well. They would continue to need her while they sorted through the house. “Were they good for you?” he asked.

“Of course, Andy. They’re always good. See you tomorrow?” she asked.

“Yes, please. Same time, if you can.”

“You bet. Goodnight. Goodnight Danae!” Leslie yelled to her. 

The house was closed up after Leslie left, and they both went to check on the kids. Elyse was almost asleep, and Eamon was sleeping soundly. Danae tiptoed in to tuck both of them in, and they retreated to their bedroom. 

“How are you feeling, babe?” she asked. 

“I’m feeling a little frisky,” he purred. 

Danae laughed. “Of course you’re frisky! You’re my Andy.” She hugged him close to kiss him, and let him love her until they fell asleep.


One Week To Move…

Andy checked his email like he did every morning, watching for updates on the move. On this particular morning, an email from Kirby was tucked into the usual spam. 

Andy and Danae,

I hope all is going well with your anticipated relocation to the Isle. I have taken the liberty of reserving a private jet, similar to the one you flew last time, to bring your family and your sister’s family to the isle. Any tickets you have already purchased, I will reimburse. I know you are traveling heavy with four children among you, and I know the challenges this will present. Please, allow Rae and me to provide your transportation and accommodation in the same suite, which will sleep four adults and four children with ease until your homes are settled and the movers arrive. 

If you have any other questions or needs, please call. You have my number. We both look forward to seeing you again and meeting Darcey, Clint, and their boys. 

Kindly,
Kirby

“Danae!” Andy exclaimed. “You’re not going to believe this.” 

“What?” 

“Kirby is arranging a private jet for all of us, all eight of us. He knows we will have the kids, and he wants to make our trip as easy as possible.”

“Wow, Andy! I can’t believe it. But I think Darcey and Clint already have their flight booked.” 

“He is going to reimburse any tickets already purchased. I was going to get ours tomorrow.”

“I don’t believe a word of what Fiona told you, babe. She was just being Fi.” 

“I think you’re right. Kirby hasn’t given me any reason at all to mistrust him.”

“Well, this certainly makes our lives easier. Please, when you write him back, tell him thank you from me and Darce, though I have a feeling this is Rae’s doing. It has her fingerprints all over it.” 

“Could be. She rather likes you, Nae.” Andy beamed at his wife. “But then again, what’s not to love about you?” 

“I could think of a few things,” she teased.

“Nonsense!” he laughed. “There is not one single unlovable thing about you.” He wrapped her in a hug. 

Changing the subject, she asked about the house. “When do we close on the house, babe?”

“A few days after we arrive on the island. I couldn’t get it sooner. The seller needed to delay for some reason, though I don’t know why. But now we don’t have to worry about it. Kirby has us covered. When are Darcey and Clint closing on theirs?” 

“I think the day after we arrive. They were looking at a resort, but the in-season rates were astonishing. I can’t wait to tell her.” 

“I forwarded the email to both of them. Sorry, sweetie.” 

“Oh, that’s even better!” She kissed him. “You’re always so on top of everything.” 

He gave her a look and raised his eyebrow at her. “Interesting choice of words,” he teased. 

“Yeah, well not now. I still have to sort through the junk in the garage today. And guess what? You’re nominated to help!” 

“Oh, you think so?” He laughed and chased her around the dining room until he caught her, and covered her in kisses. “What makes you think I’ll help you?” 

“I have my ways,” she flirted. “But we need to wait for Leslie. Once I’m out there, I’m not stopping until dinner.” 

“Your powers of persuasion are strong, little miss. Where shall I take you for dinner tonight?” 

“Doesn’t matter,” she replied. “I’ve chosen every night this week. It’s your turn.” 

“Then why don’t we order in, and invite Leslie to eat with us?”

“That’s a beautiful gesture. I’ll ask her when she gets here.” Danae looked around at the house and sighed. “I’m going to miss this place.” 

“I will, too. But, we have a beautiful home waiting for us with a huge yard. This house is enormous, but the yard is non-existent. Nowhere for the kids to play.” 

“Very true. I’m also going to miss having you home with me. I’ve had so much fun with you over the past three weeks. Reality, even on the island, will still bite.” 

“I shouldn’t have to travel as much there. Kirby lives on the island, so my commute for business meetings will be less than twenty minutes.” 

“True again. When does the soccer season start?” 

“In about two months. I have some time to settle into my new job before the bustle of the season. And it’s football on the island. That’s going to take some getting used to. My whole life, it’s been soccer.”

The call box rang, and Danae answered it. “Come on in Leslie.”  She opened the front door for the babysitter. “The kids are playing in the spa room, so they should be content for a while. I need to finish the garage today. Time is short. If you need us, that’s where we are.”

“Sounds good, Danae. Don’t worry, your angels are in good hands.” 

“Say, Leslie, we’re going to order dinner in tonight. Would you like to join us? We’d love to have you.”

“Sure! That would be fun.”

“Think about what you’d like. We’re ordering from that little restaurant behind the Hoi Polloi. Andy will go pick it up.” She placed a menu on the dining room table. “Anything you’d like. Just let me know!”

“Thanks, Danae. I’ll take a look and let you know.” 

*****

Andy and Danae sat by the fireplace, watching the gas flames in the hearth as they sipped their last bottle of wine. The children were tucked into bed, and snow was falling, though it wasn’t really technically winter yet. Spooky Day was coming, but there would be no trick or treating this year, not in this neighborhood. No, they would be spending their first holidays away from the city in an enormous lot that overlooked the water, and where palm trees grew natively.

Andy sat with Danae’s head in his lap. He stroked her hair and caressed her cheek. “A penny for your thoughts, Nae.” 

“Devin. I’ve been thinking a lot about him since we sold the house. Should I call him? Let him know we’re leaving the county? Tell him to pound sand?”

“I wouldn’t give him the time of day if I were you, honey. Not after all the terrible things he has said about you. He got his job back, he can go back to his philandering ways now that he doesn’t have a cash flow problem anymore.” 

“I feel bad, though. We used to be close, all three of us. What happened?” 

“I wish I had an answer for you, my sweet. I can tell you what I know of him. He relied too much on your dad’s glory. He relied too much on his looks. It’s scary how much he looks like Travis. I think he was counting on riding the wave. Maybe to a point he still is. Other than that, he really has nothing going for him. His ego and over-inflated sense of self-worth will be his downfall, and it will be sad to watch.” 

“I remember Mama saying once, that she wished we would love each other for all our lives. I don’t know why I remember that. I was just a little girl. But I never forgot about it. How we must have disappointed her.” 

“Not you and Darcey. Just him. He’s the one who made himself hated. He’s brought everything he gets upon himself. And you know, honey, he might not get his comeuppance now, or even later in life. But he will die a lonely, bitter old man. He will have no one when he needs compassion.”

Danae sniffled. “I think that’s what breaks my heart about Devin the most. He doesn’t want a relationship, he wants friends with benefits. He doesn’t want kids. What a sad existence for him.” 

“Try not to feel too sorry for him, sweetie. Someday, he will reap what he has sown, and he will be sorry.”  


Four Days To Move…

“Babe, do you need help outside at the grill?” Danae was preparing vegetables inside at the kitchen counter. “Everyone will be here in a few minutes.” 

“No, I’m okay so far.” He walked to her at the counter and wrapped his arms around her. “This was a great idea.” 

“You think so?”

“Absolutely, my sweet. For one, it helps to clean out the fridge. We can’t take all that food with us. And second, we can all have photos done in this house together, one last time. Pictures we can hang in our new homes. Reminders of good times.”

Danae wiped a tear from her eye and turned around in his embrace. “I love your sentimental heart, babe.” He hugged her close and kissed her tenderly.

Darcey opened the front door, and at once two rambunctious boys burst through, squealing and giggling. “We’re here!” Clint announced, as though it wasn’t completely obvious.

Noel ran to his Aunt Danae and wrapped himself around her waist. “Hi love,” she greeted him and tousled his hair.

“Hi, Aunt Danae!” He hugged her tightly and ran to play with Elyse and Shan. 

“That little boy loves you, Nae,” Darcey quipped. 

“Hey Clint, come help with the grill,” Andy beckoned. 

Danae rolled her eyes at him. “I literally asked him not five minutes ago if he needed help,” she laughed. 

Darcey joined the laughter. “Men. Can’t live with them, surely can’t live without them.” 

“Indeed.” 

When dinner was ready, they all sat around the dinner table, sharing a meal together, along with memories, laughter, and some tears. But when the conversation turned to college, Andy felt out of place. He had gone to a different, exclusive, private college, while the others had gone to Sim State. Amid a memory and the laugh producing story that accompanied it, Danae noticed he was quieter than usual. She took his hand and squeezed it, and promptly changed the subject. His sweet, thankful smile was all she needed.

At 7:00 pm, Aaron came with his camera equipment to take photos of both families in the home that all of them had lived in at some point. Family photos came first because Danae knew Eamon’s attention span was growing short. But each family posed with their children, and together as couples. 

“Aaron, you did a fabulous job on these pictures,” Andy complimented him. “I’ll add this to your list of skills when I consider you in Isla.” 

“Gee, thanks, Murph. You’re all heart,” he joked. He checked the photos, then connected his camera to the large screen television, and showed off his handiwork. Everyone was very pleased. When the slideshow came to Danae and Andy’s couple’s photo, she squealed. 

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 “Oh my goodness! That picture is awesome! I have to get that one printed.”  

“For you, Miss Danae, anything,” Aaron quipped. “I’ll print and mail them as soon as I have an address. I’ll do a good job on them, I promise.” 

After everyone had gone home, Danae and Andy cleaned the dishes together. “Did you have a good time, my sweet?”

“I did, babe. I’m glad this won’t be our last time together.”

“Me too. I wanted to thank you, honey. I felt awkward when you guys were reminiscing about school. In that regard, I feel like an outsider.”

“Well, you’re not.” Up to her elbows in soap suds, she turned around and hugged him.

Andy chuckled. “What did you do that for?” 

“Because I felt like it.” Her grin was pure mischief.

Without warning, he kissed her deeply, taking her breath away. “You want to know why I did that, my sweet?” 

“Because you felt like it?” 

“That too.” He picked her up over his shoulder and carried her upstairs to their bedroom, locking the door behind them.


Two Days To Move…

Danae had finished tagging furniture that would go onto the shipping crates two days earlier. A truck from a local charity was scheduled to arrive to retrieve any furniture and items that weren’t being shipped to the isle or donated to the museum. Andy was outside finishing up the sale of Danae’s car to its new owner, and he walked back inside with cash in his hand. 

“Baby, here’s your new car fund for the isle,” he said. She looked at the stack of cash and her jaw dropped open. 

“Wow. You really got that much for my car?” 

“Of course I did. It was your car. Don’t you know how valuable anything having to do with your father is? It’s especially so after his death.” 

“Yes, but I’m not him.” 

“But you’re his daughter. That makes anything you touch valuable.” 

“Well, that’s silly.” 

“Maybe to you. But to a Travis Jones fan, it’s everything. Baby, you’re as big a celebrity as I am, if not bigger. You have to know that.” 

“I guess I know it in my heart. I just don’t feel it.” She folded the cash into an envelope to put it into the safe. “That safe in the bedroom closet is coming with us, yes?” 

“It is, baby. But I would put valuables in your carry on bag for the airplane. Don’t trust the jewelry and cash to a mover.” 

“We’re going to have so much to carry already. Besides, aren’t they insured? We just declare the value of the safe and its contents.”

“You have a point. Two babies, two car seats, luggage, Eamon’s diaper bag. Traveling with kids is a drag,” he joked.

“We’re going to survive. At least we don’t have to fly commercially, thanks to Kirby and Rae.” 

“Very true, love,” Andy agreed. 

The van arrived a short time later and loaded all donated items onto their truck. One of the movers looked around the house in awe. “I’ve always wanted to see the inside of this house. It’s not nearly as grand as I imagined it.” 

“Well, it’s always served as a residence. I’m the fourth generation to own it. It will be restored, redecorated and opened to the public in about a year.” Danae wiped a tear from her eyes. “I will miss it.” She was stuck in her memories as she looked around the house. 

The young man kicked at the floor. “I don’t mean to interrupt your thought, but do you need a receipt for taxes?” 

“No, we don’t. Thanks again!” 

“Thank you, and good luck!”


One Day To Move…

Danae finished throwing clothing they would need immediately into their suitcase and zipped it up. Two larger suitcases held the bulk of their clothing, along with baby supplies they didn’t need until they arrived on the island. Andy was on the first floor waiting for the movers to come, though they still weren’t due for another thirty minutes. Elyse and Eamon were in the spa room where he could keep an eye on them while Danae finished packing their overnight bag for the bed and breakfast, where they would spend their last night in Starlight Shores.

In her mind, she went over the checklist of everything she needed for the kids, and made sure every bit of it was easily accessible. Stopping at the safe, she removed a sizable sum of cash, closed and locked it. The money she stashed partially in Eamon’s diaper bag, partially in her carry on for the airplane, and partially in Andy’s wallet, which she had temporarily in her purse. Leslie was going to meet Danae at the bed and breakfast for her last day of watching the kids, except this day, she would have Shan and Noel as well. Over the past month, Leslie had gotten attached to Elyse and Eamon, and Danae was certain she would miss them.

Darcey and Clint were also staying for the evening at the bed and breakfast in an adjoining room, but they too were busy with movers at their house. The closing on theirs was in the morning, and the Murphy house was right after the Scroggins. Immediately after Danae and Andy’s closing, a limousine would arrive to bring the two families to the airport for a three o’clock flight to the Isle. Everything had to work perfectly, but neither family had reason to believe anything would go wrong. Darcey and Clint were selling their house to the county for fair market value. 

Danae got Eamon from his car seat and brought them into the resort room, where Leslie was waiting for them with Noel and Shan. Elyse was happy to see her cousins, and the three of them entertained each other, leaving Eamon to have Leslie’s undivided attention. “We’ll be back when the movers are finished, Leslie. If you want or need anything, ask the host for it, and we’ll cover it. Anything you’d like.” 

“Thank you Danae,” she said, feeling emotional. “We’ll see you soon.” 

Andy and Danae put in eight long, backbreaking hours of work, helping the movers, directing them on where to put things, what to take, what would be left behind. When the truck was closed and they pulled away, both of them were exhausted. But hand in hand, they walked through the house one last time together. Andy held her as she wept. Never had she seen the house look so empty, but many things remained. Artwork. Sketches. Furniture. Six SimFest trophies, and Destiny’s music club trophy, her handmade holiday wreath, performance props and costumes, and the wedding dress. When they were ready, a limo was waiting to drive them to the resort. 

Darcey and Clint were already at the resort and had cleaned up, helping Leslie watch and play with the kids when Andy and Danae dragged back into their room. Darcey saw her sister’s face, and knew immediately she’d had a rough day. “Oh honey, it’s going to be okay,” she told Danae as she hugged her.

“It was so empty.” Danae cried again, and Darcey comforted her. She sniffled back tears and dried her eyes. “Onward and upward, I guess,” she said somewhat confidently. 

“Well,” Leslie finally said, “I guess this is it.” Andy watched as her eyes welled with tears. “I’m going to miss your children so much.” And he embraced her.

“Thank you for everything you’ve done to help us while we’ve gotten ready. It was a huge job, and we couldn’t have done it without you.” He took his wallet out and peeled off ten large bills, put them in her hands, and hugged her. 

“Oh Andy, I can’t take this—” she tried to protest, but he would hear none of it.

“Please, Leslie. You deserve it.” She handed her camera to Danae and asked that she take a photo of her with each of the kids. 

“I’ll never forget you,” she wept openly. “I wish you all the best in Isla Paradiso.” 

“Thanks again, Leslie,” Danae cried as she hugged her. “Live your best life.” 

“I will, I promise.” She hugged Darcey and Clint, and kissed all four children, and left the suite.


Moving Day…

The suite was chaotic with four people needing bathed, fed and clothed before 9:00am. To save time, Danae got into the shower with Elyse and Eamon, something she had never done before but it worked well, and while Andy was showering she dressed the kids and ordered breakfast. By the time he was dressed, breakfast had arrived, and they all sat at the table in their room. Eamon was a bit small for the table, so Danae held him in her lap, feeding him bits of scrambled egg and bites of toast. Andy helped Elyse with hers for the sake of time, much to her great chagrin. And by some miracle, the family of four was ready for the limousine when it arrived to bring them downtown to the closing.

Darcey and Clint had gotten to the title company mere minutes before Andy and Danae, and the agreement was to watch each others’ children during the closings. Each of them went well with no problems, and as planned, the limousine returned to retrieve them promptly, destination Starlight Shores municipal airport. As they drove through town for their last time, Danae looked toward the western hills and waved at a life that was now their past, taking in the sights of the city one more time, for old times’ sake.

When the limo arrived at the airport and dropped everyone at the terminal, Clint pulled Andy aside. 

“Andy, I never got the chance to thank you for this,” he said gratefully. “I’m looking forward to a new life in a small village.”

“I had little to do with it, my man. This was Danae’s doing. Rae Kemp had a feeling she wouldn’t leave the Shores without Darcey. She was probably right.”

“Yeah, but it’s your new job. Your opportunity. I feel like we’re riding your coattails, but I’m so thankful for the chance.” Clint shook his hand. “I just wanted to say thank you.” 

“We’re so happy to have you along for the ride. So thanks for coming. It probably saved my new job.” 

When they went through security, they met Kirby’s jet in the commuter terminal. It was already there, awaiting their arrival, and they were boarded immediately. A small cart with their luggage arrived five minutes later, and they were ready to depart. The kids were tired, and by the time they were taxiing out onto the runway, three of the four children were sound asleep. The sisters and their husbands cheered as the waiter popped open a bottle of champagne, and they all toasted to their new lives together as the aircraft ascended, and the city of Starlight Shores disappeared beneath the clouds. 

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Up Next: Chapter Seventeen, Part One, Generation Five

G5 Chapter Fifteen – Andy’s Great Opportunity

Andy’s phone rang early on a Friday morning, and he couldn’t imagine who was calling him. It was a number with an out of town exchange.

“Hello?” he asked cautiously.

“Is this Anduin Murphy?” the voice inquired.

“It is,” he replied.

“Mr. Murphy, my name is Kirby Kemp, and I am the owner of the Isla Paradiso Sharks. Our team manager recently retired, and your name comes up frequently when team managers are mentioned. Mr. Murphy, I’d like to make you an offer you won’t be able to refuse.”

Andy shook his head. “I’m sorry, Mr. Kemp, was it?” Andy asked softly. “I’m really not awake yet. Could you give me a moment to just clear my head?” 

“Oh, I’m sorry. Did I wake you?” 

“You did, but it’s fine. I don’t want to wake my wife. Our son has been sick, and she was up all night with him.” Andy tiptoed from the bedroom and closed the door behind him.  How the phone did not wake her baffled him. “Okay, now what was that you were saying?” 

“Mr. Murphy, I’m going to get right to the point. You are one of, if not the best team manager in the league, and I want you on the Sharks team. Name your salary and benefits, and it’s yours.” 

Andy couldn’t believe his ears. “You want me to move my family to Isla Paradiso?” This had better be a good offer, he thought. “What does this entail?” 

“The Sharks will pay your moving expenses, every penny of it. You won’t have to lift a finger. Our movers come in and pack your whole house and ship it to the island. The standard benefits package will include a new sports car, a boat, plus the full health benefits, life insurance, the whole works.” Kirby Kemp knew what he wanted, and he wanted Anduin Murphy to be his new team manager. 

“You’d be asking my wife to move from a house that’s been in her family for four generations. It might be difficult to uproot her,” Andy stated. “What kind of salary are we talking here?” 

“Name it, Mr. Murphy. Anything you require is yours for the asking.” 

Andy had gotten attached to Starlight Shores in his years there, since he and Emmitt moved there from Dragon Valley. And there was also the whole thing about asking Danae to leave her identical twin sister behind. It didn’t seem very likely he would convince her to go. “You have given me much to think about and consider, Mr. Kemp. I’m going to need some time to speak with my wife about this.” 

“I’ll tell you what, Anduin. Why don’t I fly you and your wife to the island tonight, we can sit and discuss the details, you can look at homes on the island, see if you like anything. My wife and I will accommodate you in the finest luxury resort on the island in the best room, and we can discuss specifics over dinner at my five-star restaurant.” 

“Tonight might be a little short notice. We have two children under four years old that we need to arrange care for.” Andy was very intrigued, but less than 12 hours’ notice might be hard to pull off.

“I certainly understand that. We have two ourselves, but they’re nearly grown,” Kirby stated. “I know this is short, but I really want to bring you onboard the team. Your resume is very impressive, and your talents are precisely what I need.” 

Andy was truly flattered. “Where can I reach you? I’d like to speak with my wife, see what she thinks.” 

Kirby rattled off his office and cell numbers as Andy jotted them down. “I hope to hear from you soon. And please, call me Kirby when you call back. Mr. Kemp was my father.” Andy heard a smile in the older man’s voice.

“Thank you, Kirby. I’ll be in touch.” Andy hung up the phone, stunned and not quite sure what to think. When he returned to the bedroom, Danae was awake. “Oh honey, I’m sorry. Did I wake you?” 

“No, I’m just worried about Eamon. He’s been feverish all night long and has a really rough, croupy cough.” She yawned and stretched. “What are you doing up, babe?”

“I just got the most incredible phone call. The owner of the Isla Paradiso Sharks is headhunting me for the manager position on the team.” He smiled, but reservedly so.

“Really?” she asked. “That’s a long way to go for a job.” 

“He wants to fly us out there tonight to talk numbers, look at houses. It would be a nice getaway for us.” 

“I’m not sure Darcey would take Eamon being sick, and I wouldn’t ask her. Her kids don’t need to get sick, either.” 

“What about hiring someone to come sit with them for the weekend? Don’t you still have the number for that agency?” 

“Wait, babe, are you actually considering this?” Danae was shocked. “I thought you loved it here.” 

“It would be more pay, better benefits, plus wouldn’t you love to live on the island? It never snows there.” 

“I don’t know, Andy. This is a lot to think about with just a few hours of sleep.” 

“I get the feeling if I don’t act on this today, it will slip through my fingers. Danae, baby, this is the opportunity of a lifetime!” The more Andy thought of it, the more excited he got.

“Why don’t you go alone, babe? I can’t leave him with a sitter when he’s sick.” 

“This decision affects both of us. Don’t you want to be part of it?”

“I do, but—”

“Let’s make this happen, my sweet. Let’s go to the isle tonight.” Andy felt as though he’d burst.

“I’ll do what I can. Let me catch Darcey before she goes to work.” Danae yawned again and took her cell off its charger. She dialed her sister’s phone number and waited for her to answer.

“Hello?” 

“Darce, it’s Nae. Hey, is there any chance you could watch the kids for the weekend? Andy has a job offer in Isla Paradiso, and the team owner wants to fly us out tonight.” 

“We’re not doing anything special,” Darcey said as she brushed her hair. “We were just going to catch a movie, but we can watch one at home. Is Eamon feeling better?”

“No, not really. The poor thing is coughing and feverish. I hate to impose on you with a sick baby. Darce, this is a big deal, but I’m not sure I want to leave here. Starlight Shores is all I’ve ever known.” 

“Danae, don’t be the reason Andy misses out on this. I’d hate to see him resent you for it. Of course, we’ll take the kids. You go. Negotiate the crap out of it, and come back, tell me all about it.” 

“I’m going to owe you a big one when we get home, Bug. Thank you!”

“Good luck, sissy! Go get ’em,” Darcey said. “Nae? I love you.” 

“I love you too, Bug. Thanks again.” 

Danae shook her head in disbelief. “Darcey is going to take the kids. You’ll need to take a day off, babe. Do you have any more personal time?”

“Oh yeah, I’ve got this no problem, my sweet. Let me call him back.”

Andy made the call and was told to watch his email for details. “Wow, Danae, he is sending a private jet for us.” Andy was overwhelmed. 

“He must really want you if he is sparing no expense to get us there. I am so proud of you.” She walked up to him and hugged him. 

“It will be hard to leave here. Friends. Family. Memories.” Andy seemed lost in thought. 

“My mama and dad wanted this so badly, they could taste it. How ironic that you get the offer to go there.” Danae smiled. “Once we leave, I don’t see us coming back, do you?”

“You’re getting a little ahead of yourself, my sweet.” Andy kissed her. “I have one more call to make, and we need to pack, get ready. I don’t even know what to think about this, honey. I’m so excited!” Danae only smiled at him.

*****

The kids were at Aunt Darcey’s, the weekend bags were packed and ready, the house was secured, and the Murphys were on a limousine to the airport where they would meet Kirby’s private jet. Andy was cautiously optimistic.

Inside the jet, Kirby had spared nothing to spoil his potential manager. Expensive champagne, fine food, and comfortable seats awaited them. A waiter tended to their every need. 

“This is incredible,” Andy exclaimed as he sipped a glass of bubbly. 

“I could almost get used to this,” Danae agreed. “But I know it won’t be an everyday thing.”

“Oh, but the island, my sweet! It will be glorious!”

“Andy, babe, don’t get your hopes up so high that if this falls through, you’ll be devastated.” 

“Why would it fall through? Kirby made it sound like a sure thing. We just need to go over the details.” 

“I don’t know, love. This just seems too good to be true.” Danae fiddled with her glass nervously.

“Like it was when we met? Or when we fell in love? Or when I asked you to be my wife?” Andy took her hand and kissed it. “Don’t worry, my sweet. Everything will work out exactly as it should.” 

“I just love you so much. I don’t want to see you get hurt.” 

“Is there more to it, Nae?”

She sighed. “You can read me like a book.” 

“What’s bothering you, honey?” 

“How can I leave Darcey? My home? Everything I know is there.” Danae sighed deeply. “She told me I shouldn’t be the reason you don’t pursue this, and I want to be here for you, to support you.” 

“I’m sensing a ‘but’ in there, sweetie.” He sat forward and leaned into her. 

“I just want this to work out for you, however you want it to. And I want you to know that I’ll always be here with you, no matter what.” She kissed him tenderly.

“I love you so much, Danae. We’re going to make whatever happens work to our advantage.” 

Because she hadn’t slept well the evening before, Danae napped on the plane, snuggled up to him, for the rest of the flight. Andy was bursting at the seams to tell someone his news, and came to the realization that he really had no close friends outside the family. Hopefully, he thought, that will change in Isla Paradiso.

The plane touched down safely on the island, and a limousine driver met them on the tarmac. When Andy turned his phone on, he had a voice message:

Anduin, this is Kirby. Hopefully, you’ll get this message as you’re arriving on the island. The limo driver will bring you to the resort for the night. Because I want you to enjoy your weekend, please feel free to take time in the morning to do as you please. Look at some homes, visit our beautiful beaches. I will send a limousine for you both at 7pm for dinner at my five-star restaurant. I look forward to hosting you and your lovely wife tomorrow evening. Have a good night.

Danae looked tired, so Andy took her arm and led her to the limo. “We are going right to the resort now, honey,” he told her. “You can sleep soon.” She nodded but didn’t speak.

They had only been there six months before for the playoff game, but it seemed like yesterday. Everything looked exactly the same as it had when they left. The concierge recognized his name and welcomed them to the resort, handed them key cards and sent their bag to the room for them. 

“Sweetie, are you okay to walk to the room?” he asked her. “You look a little wobbly.” 

“Yeah, I’ll make it,” she said, but none too confidently. “Just be ready to catch me if I fall asleep on my feet.” 

Their suite was in a different building way off the beaten path, and when they rounded the corner, Andy stopped in his tracks. Their suite was the entire building, almost the size of a small apartment. The room was well appointed with pricey fixtures, expensive furniture and fine pieces of art. He had no idea such a room existed on the property, but now they were guests there.

Danae didn’t enter the suite under her own power. Andy wasn’t sure if it was the champagne, the exhaustion or a combination of both that made her nearly collapse about fifty paces from the door, but he carried her to their suite and set her down carefully on the bed. Somehow, the bellhop made it to their room before they did, and their overnight bag was waiting for them. 

“Sweetie, can you get undressed, or do you need help?” he asked.

“Help, please. I’m so tired.” 

Carefully, he pulled her clothes from her body and tucked her into bed. Remembering the last time they were here, he put the ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign on the doorknob, not wanting a repeat of the experience. Andy really wanted to curl up with Danae in bed, but he was much too excited to sleep, so he nestled into bed with a book he had brought from home and read until he drifted off.


The next morning, Danae awakened first, and she felt good. The sun was just coming up, birds were chirping and the air was cool and fresh. She loved mornings on the island and figured it wouldn’t be so terrible to wake to this every morning.

Quietly, she picked up the phone and dialed room service, ordering a carafe of coffee, fresh juice and some croissants with preserves. She got dressed and covered Andy with a sheet, just in case, then waited for the knock on the door, cash in hand to pay for breakfast. 

Moments later, Andy awakened, noticing her absence in the bed. “What time is it, sweetie?” he asked sleepily.

“It’s just before 7, babe. I ordered some coffee and croissants if you’re hungry.” 

“I could handle that,” he smiled, and then ducked back under the covers when room service arrived. 

“Chicken!” she teased as she answered the door. “Good morning!”

The concierge wheeled a cart of goodies into the room, but when Danae tried to pay her, she declined. “Your host has this covered!” she smiled. “Enjoy!” 

“Now I feel bad,” she lamented. “If I’d known, I would have waited until we were both up and ready.” 

“It’s okay, love. I’m sure Kirby had all of this in mind when he invited us. What would you like to do this morning?” 

“Well, we should probably take a look at some homes, don’t you think?” 

“The thought crossed my mind.” He poured a cup of coffee for both of them, and handed one to Danae.

“I wonder if there’s a real estate agent we should talk to, or if we just wing it?” 

“Well, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Maybe just looking at open houses would be good enough for now.” Andy took a sip and savored the coffee. “I really need to find out what blend this is. It is so good.” 

“What would you think about building a house, babe? Maybe get a piece of waterfront property, build on it?” She slathered a piece of croissant with blackberry preserves and took a bite.

“That’s a good idea. We could stay in a rental until the house is built.” Andy nodded his head. 

Danae pulled up local real estate on her phone, and together they made a plan to visit some of the open houses in the area. 

On their way back to the resort, they discussed their afternoon’s findings. They found a nice piece of property directly on the beach, and with the right floor plan, a house could extend out over the water. 

“I really liked that property, Nae,” Andy said. “I think we could build a nice beach house there.”

“Only one problem, babe. The property is on an island. How do the kids get to school from an island?” 

“By boat, I’d imagine. Or you could homeschool them. You’re a smart cookie, and you’d be a great teacher.” 

“That’s an idea.” Homeschooling had been prohibited in Starlight Shores, but not on Isla Paradiso. Not many counties had the prohibition, but the Shores did. Having it relaxed opened up new possibilities for Danae.

“Water taxis are as common here as taxi cabs are at home. Even without a boat, we’d do okay.” 

“Didn’t you say a boat is part of your benefits package?” 

“That’s what he said yesterday. I’d forgo the car and ask for a second boat, if it’s all the same. How are you with sailing?” Andy wore a grin.

“Ugh,” she made a face. “I’d just as soon take a water taxi.” Andy laughed.

They walked back to the suite to shower and dress and relax just a bit before their dinner date with Kirby and his wife. 

*****

The limo arrived promptly at 7pm to pick Andy and Danae up from the resort. She wore an elegant off white evening gown encrusted with rhinestones that shimmered even in the dimmest light, with the pearl and white gold pendant he bought her. She had taken the time to braid her hair, and wove some flowers into the braid. She looked stunning. Andy wore his custom-fitted tuxedo with tails and looked polished and professional. 

“You clean up nicely,” she teased, tugging at his hair and pushing a bit of it behind his ear. 

“You look like a movie star, my sweet. Amazing.” He kissed her lightly, not wanting to ruin her makeup. 

They arrived at the restaurant, another place that Andy had no idea was on the island. The building was set off the road a little way, and the path, though it was illuminated, was still hidden from view at street level. When they got to the restaurant itself, they noticed it backed right up to the beach. The sounds of waves crashing on the shore set the mood as they checked in at the host station. 

“Murphy, guests of Kirby Kemp,” Andy informed the hostess. 

She nodded. “Mr. Kemp is expecting you.” 

The interior of the restaurant was unlike anything she had seen before. The decor was decidedly beach themed, but the furniture looked expensive. Fine artwork hung on the walls, and a large fountain sat in the middle of the dining room. Somewhere outside, the sounds of steel drums rang out. They walked to the rear of the restaurant, and the hostess stopped at a table with two people already seated. Andy supposed they were Kirby and his wife. “Mr. and Mrs. Kemp, the Murphys.” 

Kirby and his wife, Rae, stood as they approached. Kirby gave Andy a firm but gentle shake and took Danae’s hand to kiss it. “You must be the lovely Danae,” he smiled. “The pleasure is all mine.” She blushed, suddenly speechless. “Your father is legendary in the sport, Mrs. Murphy. The football world suffered a great loss when he passed. You have my sincerest condolences.”  

She nodded, choking back tears. “Thank you.” 

Kirby ordered champagne for the table, and a local delicacy to share as an appetizer. “So,” Kirby began, “Tell me a little about yourself, Anduin.”

“Please, call me Andy,” he said cordially. “I’m originally from Dragon Valley. I graduated summa cum laude from a private university with a degree in communications and a minor in physical education. My father, Emmitt Murphy, was best friends with Travis Jones when they were kids, which is how I came to meet my darling Danae.” He smiled sweetly at her. “We’ve been happily married for almost five years now.”

“I remember Emmitt Murphy. I had no idea he was your father. If he trained you, I can see why you’re a top-notch manager.” Kirby nodded his head. “I wish I would have known him, though. I’d only ever heard of Emmitt. So, your fathers were best friends! Heh! Well, go figure that.” The older man chuckled. “That’s pretty incredible!” 

Andy laughed. “Yes, they had quite a story. Sometimes, I imagine them looking down at us while they’re drinking a beer, and smiling.” 

Kirby turned his attention to Danae. “Tell me about yourself. I already know your father.”

She got flustered. “Well, I was born and raised in Starlight Shores. My mother was a doctor. I have an identical twin sister, also a doctor, and my brother is Devin Jones, who used to play for the Llamas. I have a degree from Sim State in fine arts with a concentration in vocal performance.” 

“Oh? You’re a singer?” Rae Kemp perked up. “My daughter wants to be a singer. Maybe you could help her some time, give her some pointers.”

“I would be honored,” Danae answered. 

“Have you considered a career in singing, Danae?” Rae was suddenly fascinated with her.

“I actually began a career in singing before Andy and I were married, but I gave it up to raise our family. We have an almost 3-year-old daughter and an 18-month-old son.” Andy saw her face light with happiness talking about their children. 

“Wow, that’s quite a career move!” Rae exclaimed. “I’m not sure I could have walked away from the spotlight for a family. I’ve dreamed of singing myself.” 

“My great grandmother stayed in the spotlight, and my Papa raised their daughters. She never regretted it, from what I remember.”

“Who was your great grandmother?” Rae inquired.

She took a deep breath. “Destiny —”

“Hill?” Rae interrupted her, and she nodded. “That’s incredible. You’re the one!” 

“Pardon me?” Danae was confused.

“About four years ago, I heard about an up and coming singer who sounded like Destiny Hill, and then she disappeared from the radar completely. You’re Nae, right?” Rae was doubly impressed.

“Yes, but I had no idea about any of that.” Danae was speechless.

“I’ll have to get your autograph for my daughter before we part tonight. She will be ecstatic!” 

Danae blushed a deep, dark red. “It would be my honor,” she said quietly, deeply humbled. 

Kirby, though he was fascinated by the spunky brunette, was anxious to talk business with Andy. The waiter came to deliver the appetizer and get dinner orders, and without asking for opinions or requests, Kirby ordered entrees for the table to be shared family-style. “I’m sorry I didn’t even ask you what you would like. I usually just order a selection of local delicacies to share.”  Andy and Danae both nodded their approval. “Please, help yourself to some calamari. It’s our chef’s specialty.” 

“So Andy, we both know you didn’t come all this way to engage in small talk. Let’s get down to business, shall we?” Andy nodded. “So, I’m willing to add 40% to your current salary as a starting point, plus all of the perks we discussed over the phone. A car, a boat, full health coverage for your whole family, a life insurance policy worth fifteen times your annual salary, plus a security upgrade for whichever home you choose. You will want security fences, cameras, alarms, things like that. Someone of your status will draw more than Paparazzi. You’ll have vacationers on tours of the stars’ homes and the like.”

“The security is nothing new. We always have Paparazzi and press sniffing around.” He leaned to Danae and whispered to her. “Does this sound good to you, honey? The salary increase alone is worth the move.” 

She spoke up. “The property we’re looking at, Mr.—”

“Please, doll, call me Kirby,” he stopped Danae as she spoke. 

“Okay, Kirby,” she paused, not sure she appreciated being called ‘doll,’ “the property we are looking at is on an island, so I fail to see how a car would be useful for him, for the family.”

Kirby looked at her, impressed. “I never considered you might purchase a property that wasn’t on the mainland. The archipelago is definitely a good place for you to settle if you have the resources to buy land there. I am assuming, as a Jones, you do.” Danae nodded. 

“How about this,” Andy was thinking, preparing to do some negotiating. “What if we, pending our selection of property or home, replace the car with limousine service to and from the dock?”

“Hmm,” Kirby thought. “I don’t see why we couldn’t do that, not just for you, either, but for your wife, if she needs to come into the main island. That way, she has guaranteed transportation, too.” 

“If we buy or build on the main island, we could possibly keep the first option open,” Andy suggested. 

“I have no issue with that either. How is the salary figure? Is it enough?”

Andy nodded. “That’s a more than generous offer, yes. You were right. You’re making this hard to refuse.” Danae nudged him under the table. “But, I would respectfully like to request some time to discuss everything with Danae. Is it possible to give you my answer in the morning?” 

“Oh, absolutely,” said Kirby. “This is a huge decision. I know your family’s history, Danae, and I know this is going to be a decision that will not be easily made, especially now I know you have a twin sister.” 

“Thank you,” Andy replied. “I will call you in the morning with our determination.”

With the business of the night complete, the two couples relaxed and spent dinner and beyond just talking. By the end of the evening, they felt like old friends. But after the meal, Andy pulled Kirby aside when Rae stepped away for a few minutes. 

“Can I ask you a favor, Kirby, and I ask this respectfully.” 

“Sure thing. Whatever you like, Andy.” 

“Would you kindly refrain from calling Danae ‘doll’? She doesn’t like it. Shoot, she won’t even let me call her ‘doll’.” He looked nervous, thinking maybe he’d overstepped his boundaries.

“You know what, Andy? I never even realized I did that. Would you like me to apologize to her? I don’t want to start off on the wrong foot with her. She is a gem.” Kirby looked grieved.

“No no, that’s not necessary.” 

“What does she prefer? Can I call her by her stage name? Or just Danae?” 

“Nae or Danae is fine. Pet names for her are more of a family thing. She and her sister are like that.” Andy shrugged. 

“I completely understand, Andy. Thanks for telling me, so I don’t offend her. Do you need anything at the resort? Are you comfortable?” 

“Oh my goodness yes. I had no idea that building even existed.”

“That’s a VIP suite. I’m surprised Travis and his wife never stayed there.” Kirby looked somewhat amused. “I hear they rather fancied this island.”

Andy nodded. “Danae and I appreciate the trouble you’ve gone through to accommodate us this weekend. We are having a great time together.” 

“You’re our guests, and we want you to feel welcome.  Rae and I are happy to spoil you this weekend.” He clapped Andy on the shoulder. “I hate to break this up so soon, but I need to be at a business meeting tomorrow morning for the restaurant.” He shook Andy’s hand firmly. “I look forward to your call.” Kirby walked to Danae and shook her hand gently. “Pleasure to meet you, Danae.” 

“The pleasure was mine,” she said politely. 

Rae walked to her and hugged her. “Would you sign this for my daughter?” she asked, handing her a small book. “She will love it.” 

Danae smiled, a little embarrassed. “Of course.” In her fancy, impeccable penmanship, she signed, ‘To Corrie, with love, Nae’.

Kirby and Rae excused themselves and left Danae and Andy in the restaurant while the limo was on the way. “So, what do you think, my sweet?” 

“I don’t know, Andy. It’s so far away from home. Though I will admit this is the perfect time to relocate. Elyse hasn’t started school yet. She has no little friends to miss, except her cousins.”

“I have a feeling Darcey and her family might keep us in the Shores. If you really find the idea of moving here to be intolerable, then I’ll thank him for the weekend, and we can go home tomorrow night happy.” 

“I don’t want to keep you from such a wonderful opportunity. How badly do you want this, babe? Tell me the truth.” 

“Pretty badly, honey. But I won’t make you leave your home if you don’t want to come live here.” He hugged her close and kissed her forehead.

Their limo arrived to bring them to the resort, and Andy helped her in. They were quiet for the ride back and during their walk to the suite. He opened the door to find a floral arrangement crafted with native flowers on the table, and a card addressed to Danae. She picked up the card and read it.

“Wow,” she exclaimed. “They wasted no time upping the ante. Andy, they really want you on this team. Look at the card on these flowers.” 

Andy read the words that were hand-printed on the card:

Danae,

Thank you for spending your evening with us. We know your sister might be a potential deal-breaker for you, so we’d like to make things interesting. Invite your sister and her family to join you here, and we will pay their relocation fees. Let us know in the morning. 

Kindly,
Rae Kemp

He couldn’t believe his eyes. “Do you think they’d come here?”

“I was going to call to check on Eamon anyway. I’ll ask her.” She walked onto the deck with her phone and dialed her sister’s cell.

“Hello?” Darcey answered the phone.

“Hey Bug, it’s me. How’s my baby boy?” 

“He’s been feeling better today, but he had a rough night last night. Poor little guy. Clint and I took turns walking the floor with him. He finally settled down around 3:00 this morning.”

“You have no idea how much I appreciate you taking care of him and Elyse.”

“How are things going there? Any news?”

“Actually, you wouldn’t believe the news, Darcey. Andy was offered a 40% raise, a car, a boat, health insurance, life insurance worth 15 times his annual salary, plus they’re going to pay our moving expenses.” She was saving the best part for last.

“Wow, Danae,” Darcey exclaimed. “He can’t pass that up. What an opportunity! I will miss you like crazy.” 

“Well, I have a proposition for you and Clint. The team owner thought I’d be reluctant to come here and leave you behind. So, he made a written offer to pay your moving expenses if you come with us.” 

Darcey was gobsmacked. “Clint hates it here, Nae. He will eat this up. And if you’re going to be on the island, I have nothing holding me here. But I’ll ask him. Can I call you later tonight?” 

“Yeah, we don’t have to give an answer until morning. Do you really think you’d leave the Shores for here?” 

“If you and Andy will be there, I’d do it for Clint in a heartbeat. He hates the city.”

“That will be something for us to discuss when he and I talk about it. But I think the odds will shift in favor of moving if you come with us.” With Darcey’s admission, Danae had no objections to leaving the Shores.

“I’ll call you after I’ve talked to Clint. Love you, sissy.” They hung up the phone, and Danae was smiling.

*****

Andy wrapped himself around her, still breathing heavily. “You said you wanted to discuss this, my sweet.” 

Taking his hand, she kissed his fingers softly. “I think we should, yes.” She snuggled into his arms, feeling his breath on her hair. “Darcey seemed to think Clint would be on board. He hates the big city, which is why he didn’t want to go back to Bridgeport.”

“Are we basing our decision on them, love?” Andy nuzzled his face into her neck, kissing her.

Part of her wanted to answer ‘yes,’ but she knew how much he wanted this opportunity. “Of course not.” Tears formed in her eyes, and she was thankful he couldn’t see her.

He heard the sorrow in her voice, but decided to leave it alone. “Well, let’s list the pros and cons of relocating. I’ll start. Pro. We can spend our weekends on the beach.”

“Con. You risk alienating your friends on the team.”

Andy made a face. “I really don’t have many friends on the team. Aaron, Wyatt, and Trey. That’s about it, baby.” He ran his fingers through her hair. “I have no friends in town, and no one back home, either.” 

“You really have no friends in Dragon Valley?” He was so charismatic, she had a hard time believing it.

“I had a few. Senior prom changed my whole life, sweetie. That’s the part I don’t miss.” 

“You never really talked about your past. What happened at senior prom?” 

“Well, you know about Kaitlyn. I was going to propose to her at the prom after-party. Liam, my best friend, and I use that term loosely, decided to sleep with her, and I caught them. Most of my friends thought it was hilarious, but I suppose in their defense, they were all drunk. After that night, I never spoke to any of them again.” 

“Baby, I’m sorry.  But it is just as well, because you’re all mine now.” She snuggled even closer to him, and she felt his embrace tighten.

“Everything worked out how it should have that night. I’m thankful for Liam, actually. He opened my eyes to see what she really was and that she had never changed.”

“Okay, pro,” Danae said, changing the subject. “No more snow. Ever.”

Andy chuckled at her. “Con. Leaving your house.”

“Well, it’s our house, babe. But yes, that’s a huge con.” 

“It’s only a house. I know you have great memories there, but we can make memories in a new home, honey.” 

“That is true. And we’ll have pictures to hang. Shelves for the trophies and awards.” 

“Oh, you betcha, my sweet. All that stuff goes into a new house.”  

“Pro,” Danae said. “A whole new adventure, for all of us.” 

“Con,” Andy countered. “Darcey and Clint might not come along.” 

Danae sighed. “Pro. It’s an opportunity of a lifetime, and I’m not letting you give that up for me.” 

“Why did you sigh, honey?”

“I will miss my sister if they don’t move here.” She took his hand and kissed it. “But I meant what I said. If you want this, babe, then we’ll do it.”

“Con. I don’t want you to resent me for taking you away from your home.” He hugged her close and kissed her neck. 

“Never. Andy, as long as we are together, it doesn’t matter. You are my world. Well, you and those munchkins. If I have you, I will be happy for the rest of my life.” 

“Danae, I love you. Thank you.” 

“I love you, Andy. You deserve this, and I’m so proud of you.”

Wrapped around one another, they fell asleep happy.

*****

Danae’s cell rang in the early morning hours, and she fumbled in the dark to find it. “Hello?” she said sleepily.

“Nae, I’m sorry to call so late. Clint and I have been talking all this time.” 

“Give me a sec, Darce,” Danae whispered. “Andy’s asleep.” She wiggled out of his arms, got up and tiptoed to the deck, and closed the door gently behind her. “Okay. How did the discussion go?”

“You would have thought I told him I was pregnant again. Nae, he is so excited about the prospect of leaving the Shores, he can’t stand it. So we did some research on jobs and transferring. I just need to study the laws and pass a standard exam, which my yearly is coming up anyway. And Clint is going to try to get in with that game developer on the island. It’s a huge deal.”

“Wow, you guys are a lot further along in discussions than we are!” Danae beamed. “Oh Bug, this is fantastic!”

“I’m actually excited! I know there is so much history in the Shores, but Mama and Dad wanted this so badly. We can miss them just as much there as we do here. Every time I sit on the beach, I will think of her, Nae. How much she loved it. I still feel guilty sometimes my vote kept us here.”

“This makes my final decision even better. We were up late doing the pros and cons. I finally decided to give this to him, but there was never a doubt I would. Darce, I’ve never seen him this excited about anything, except our wedding and the kids being born. It feels right.” 

“Oh Nae, I’m so happy for you guys. He deserves this opportunity. He’s worked so hard to get where he is.”

“That’s why I won’t deny him. He does everything for me. And I mean everything.” Danae smiled. 

“I’ll call you in the morning, hon. We’re tired, but we’re going to celebrate.” Darcey giggled. “We’ll talk later.” 

“Have fun, Darce. I love you!” 

“Love you too, Nae.” 

When Danae turned around, Andy was standing in the doorway, just about to open it. “They’re coming, Andy!” Danae nearly jumped into his arms and kissed him. He took her hand, smiling brightly, and led her to the bed. 


The next morning, they went to the resort restaurant for brunch, happy and feeling great about the previous evening’s negotiations. “What time is his meeting over this morning, babe?” she asked.

“I think he said 10:00, so I’ll wait until then. I don’t want to disturb his business stuff.” Andy sat back and sipped a mimosa. “These crepes are outstanding,” he quipped. “Try it.” He offered her a bite of his breakfast. 

“Oh, my word,” Danae exclaimed. “You’re not kidding!” She had been nibbling on an omelet, with the best multigrain toast she’d ever had. “Even though I know this isn’t going to be an everyday thing, I’m glad there are good restaurants in town. The one Kirby owns was elegant and beachy at the same time.”

“I was so impressed with it, my sweet. We’ll have to make it a regular hangout when we move here.” 

“I think there is one more property I’d like to look at, love. There is an open house today, maybe we could go before we have to leave tonight.” She showed him the listing on her phone.

“Wow, it’s a large property. The house looks small but expandable. The pool is impressive, and the garden is beautiful.”

“Maybe we could finally get a puppy for the kids. We’ll have plenty of yard for one.” 

“I can’t wait to see it.” 

Andy’s alarm sounded on his phone, and he excused himself to call Kirby.

“Andy, I’ve been anxiously awaiting your call. What have you and Danae decided? And did you get our message last night? That was Rae’s idea. She adores your wife.” 

“We have decided, and yes, we got your message. I agree to the terms you proposed last evening, pending the purchase of our new home in regards to the car. Though I do have to tell you, we’re going to look quickly at a house today that’s on the main island.”

“Glad to hear it, Andy! Welcome aboard. Have you discussed Rae’s proposal with your sister-in-law?” 

“Darcey and Clint are in love with the idea of relocating. He is from Bridgeport, and he’s not happy in the city.” Andy was beaming.

“That is fantastic! I will confirm their information in an email with you early next week. I can recommend a real estate agent who can help you with the house. I’d love to have you in place in a four-week time frame. Is that feasible?” 

“I don’t see why not. I’m sure Danae will want to pack her family heirlooms herself—”

Kirby interrupted him. “Our movers are professionals, and their service is insured. Please, allow them to pack. If there is an issue with something they’ve packed, they’ll take care of it for you.” 

“Good enough,” Andy agreed. 

“I’ll overnight your contract. Feel free to have an attorney look it over if you’d like. Then just get it back to me as soon as you can.” Andy could hear him typing in the background. 

“I’ll do that. Thank you, Kirby, for this opportunity. I am incredibly honored and humbled to have been chosen for this.” 

“You deserve it, Andy. I know you’ll be a great fit on the team, and I look forward to working with you one on one.” They wrapped up the phone call and hung up. Andy rejoined Danae at the table in the restaurant. 

“Well honey,” he said, “It’s a done deal. In four weeks, we’ll be residents of Isla Paradiso.” 

“Congratulations, babe,” she smiled radiantly at him. “I am so very proud of you!”

“I couldn’t have done any of this without you, my sweet. I owe you everything I am.” He sipped the last of his mimosa. “Let’s go look at this house.” 

They called for the limousine to take them to the address Danae had found. The house sat by the water, but was not technically beachfront. The property itself was enormous. The house was a three-bedroom, two-bathroom home with a detached two-car garage. The layout was small but cozy, with more than enough space for a growing family. In the yard was an outdoor kitchen with a mini-fridge, grill and counter space that sat on a large patio. The pool was about the same size as their current pool with a slide for the kids when they got older, and some sort of wavemaker sat in the middle. A substantial garden was situated behind the garage with well-established plants. The house was empty, but Danae could easily see their furniture placed throughout the floorplan. 

“Andy, this is beautiful,” she said. “I love the double French doors in the back. The fountain out front is beautiful. Lots of room to grow.” 

“Oh, I agree my sweet. Of all the homes we’ve seen, this one is the nicest.” They made an offer on it while they were there, and Andy left their number with the real estate agent. 

Back at the resort, they packed up the bag and called for the bellhop to retrieve it. Hand in hand, they walked to the lobby to check out when Andy’s phone rang. “Mr. Murphy?” 

“You found me,” he chirped, happier than he’d been in a while.

“This is Rebecca Clarke, the real estate agent you spoke with a bit ago. The owners accepted your offer on the house, and it is now considered under contract. Do you have a mortgage lender to send paperwork to?” 

“Hi Rebecca, thank you for getting back to me so quickly. I’m sorry I misled you. This will be a cash purchase. We need to close in four weeks’ time, but we can go over the details when we get back to Starlight Shores and I have retained an attorney to handle the transaction.”

“Wow, sounds like you’ve already got everything under control, Mr. Murphy. I’ll be in touch soon.”

“Very well, and please call me Andy.” 

“The real estate agent?” Danae asked as they strolled.

“Yes. The seller accepted our offer. It’s ours, baby.” He squeezed her hand. “How do you really feel about this? I know everything is moving so quickly.” 

“I’m happy, Andy. We found a home I love, my sister and her family are coming with us. And, most importantly, you will have a chance to shine in a new job. Maybe you won’t have to travel so much, just during the season.” 

“See? Everything is working out just how it’s supposed to work. It’s not too good to be true at all. Just like us.” He kissed her hand as they walked, just as they approached the lobby. 

The limo brought them back to the small municipal airport and dropped them at the terminal. Andy wheeled the suitcase behind him as they walked, holding hands with Danae and talking. And once they were on the plane, they were treated to the same luxury they had on their way to the island two nights before. But things were much different than they had been just 40 hours ago. Life was changing for the Murphy and Scroggins families. Danae watched the island disappear beneath the clouds as the aircraft climbed, and she snuggled up to her husband, the new team manager for the Isla Paradiso Sharks.

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Up Next: Chapter Sixteen, Generation Five

G5 Chapter Fourteen – Weekend On The Isle

The heady scent of jasmine woke Danae the next morning. With Andy wrapped around her, she felt secure and loved. A quick glance at her watch revealed the time. 4:46 am. It’s too early, she thought, but her bladder woke up and she needed to pee. With a heavy sigh, she wiggled out of Andy’s grasp and tiptoed to the bathroom.

Even though the sun was an hour from rising, she heard the chirp of very early birds seeking their breakfast. The air that poured through the window was cool and fresh, as it usually was after a rainstorm back home. Knowing that if she was up for very much longer Andy would awaken, she snuggled back into bed with him, and she felt his arms hold her closely. She waited for a kiss and a good morning greeting, but he was still asleep.

Almost an hour and a half later, Andy’s alarm sounded on his phone, and he grumbled and reached for it to turn it off. Danae was soundly sleeping in his arms, and he snuggled her closer. He tried very hard not to wake her, but the sensation of his kisses on her skin made her stir. She stretched gently and wiggled backward against him, and he did not want to get up. But he had a meeting at the stadium with the team at 9:00am, so he pulled himself away from her and walked to the bathroom. The sound of water in the shower roused her fully, and she watched the bathroom door, waiting for her beloved.

“Good morning, my handsome prince,” she greeted him as he walked from the bathroom, a towel wrapped around his waist.

“Good morning, my beautiful princess,” he replied, with a kiss on his lips just for her.

“You’re up early,” she remarked. “I thought you’d be able to sleep in a bit today.”

“Nope,” he said. “I have to be at the stadium for a team meeting today. I have some free time around lunch, and I’ll meet you back here. The game is at five this afternoon, so we won’t want anything terribly heavy for lunch. Lionel makes sure he puts on a huge spread when they come to a game.”

“Sounds good, babe.”

“Do you want breakfast in the room with me, or shall I go with the team to the restaurant?”

“I think I’d like to sleep for another hour or so, if that’s okay with you.” Danae yawned and stretched. Andy tried hard not to watch.

“It’s fine with me, sweetie. I don’t need you to be picked up and brought to the stadium until 3:30 today. There are lots of festivities going on you won’t want to miss.” He took a step towards her and kissed her. As he turned to walk away, she grabbed the end of his towel, and when he took a step, it unwrapped from around him, improving her view. “Okay, little trickster,” he laughed. “I still need that.”

“Come get it,” she teased, holding it behind her back.

“Honey, I don’t have time this morning. I really want to play, but I can’t.”

“Oh pooh,” she pouted and tossed the towel back to him. “I guess I should have woken you up when I got up to pee earlier.”

“Didn’t you say the doctor said light activity?”

“Wow, you don’t miss a trick,” she laughed.

Andy got dressed in his usual uniform and tied his tie. “There, how’s that?” he asked, presenting himself.

“Too many clothes,” she purred. “Other than that, it’s perfection.”

He straightened his vest out and pushed a length of hair behind his ear. Danae loved it when he did that with his hair, and she looked at him longingly. “Alright, I think I’m ready.” He checked the time again, and it was 7:14am. “I’ll be back here around noon, and we can have lunch together or do whatever. Except that.” He winked at her. “We’ll save that for after we clinch the semi-finals tonight.”

“That sounds good enough for me. Back here at noon.” She nodded her head. “Come here and kiss me.”

“I can do that,” he said, and walked to her. He pulled her up to him and kissed her passionately. “I know this doesn’t help the situation, but it does give us something to look forward to for later.”

“Thanks. Thanks a lot,” she teased. “Go meet the guys. I love you, babe.”

“I love you, too. I’ll see you in a few hours.”

After he left, Danae wrapped back up in the bedsheet and dozed off.

*****

An hour into Andy’s meeting and he was bored. At this stage of the season, he was more a figurehead, as the strategizing was left up to the coaches and team captains. He slipped his phone from his pocket and texted Danae. How she answered would let him know what she was doing.

What are you wearing?

Five minutes later, and there was still no answer. She must still be sleeping, he thought. Reluctantly, he turned his attention back to the meeting, when the phone vibrated in his lap.

I’m wearing a sexy black string bikini. Wanna see?

Hell yes, I want to see, he thought. But he knew that if he did, he would be in trouble. Instead, he typed in three words:

Beach or pool?

He waited impatiently for her answer, praying she didn’t send a picture.

Beach, of course. No picture?

Andy had the perfect solution to the picture conundrum.

Show me in person when I get back. I have to work now. I love you. Have fun!

He really needed to turn his attention back to the meeting and turned his phone off.

At the resort, Danae was laying in bed, still naked and covered in the bedsheet, laughing her butt off. She was happy, enjoying her freedom from being a mama for one glorious morning, and she was taking full advantage of sleeping in and doing nothing.

At almost noon on the dot, Andy’s key card slid into the door to their room and he opened it, expecting to find Danae in a bathing suit. What he found, however, was his beautiful wife wearing nothing but a smile. “Hey babe,” she greeted him.

He glanced at his watch and figured they had two hours by his best estimate. “Good enough,” he said out loud, looking at her.

“What’s good enough?” she flirted.

“The two hours I have with you right now.”

*****

Andy dressed in a special playoff manager uniform, which consisted of his usual black work slacks and a royal blue and white Llamas jersey with his name on the back. It was corny and tacky, but he figured it was an honor to have it. The party was business casual, and Danae brought a pretty cocktail dress and pumps.

“I thought you were going to be overdressed in that, my sweet, but I see now it’s perfection on you.”

She admired her reflection in the mirror, putting the finishing touches on her makeup and hair. The dress had been Bella’s, and it fit Danae like a glove. “It is a gorgeous dress. It’s way older than I am, but the style is timeless.” They were both relaxed and peaceful, and she was excited to spend time with Lionel and Tarah again.

“Are you ready, honey?” he asked. “The limo will be here any minute to bring us to the stadium.”

“Yes, I just need to grab my purse.” She took most of the cash she had on hand and placed it into the wall safe. “There. Safe and secure.”

Andy held his arm for her. “I feel like the luckiest man on the island tonight.”

“Why is that?”

“Because I’m the one who has you on his arm.” He held the door for her and led her gently, his hand on the small of her back. “Let’s go win a game for Dad.” Danae choked up, unable to speak, wiping a tear from her eye.

The stadium was huge, indoor, climate-controlled and brightly lit. Andy had given Danae her credentials in the limo, and together they were ushered to the VIP section of the stands. “Mr. and Mrs. O’Reilly, the Murphys,” the security detail announced them.

Tarah went to Danae immediately and gave her a grandmotherly hug. “Oh sweetheart, I’m so sorry about the baby.”

“Thanks, Tarah,” she smiled. “We had a rough time of it for a while, but we’re getting better day by day.”

Lionel stood and shook Andy’s hand. “Can I talk to you for a minute, son?” Andy nodded, and the two gentlemen walked outside the box. “Andy, I’m sorry my daughter has a disciplinary action against you. There was no good reason for it, and I’m going to get her to rescind it. She gets a little drunk on power sometimes.”

“Look, it’s okay Lionel. I deserved it.”

“We waited a long time for Devin to sink himself, so he had it coming. And for what it’s worth, I would have kept you.”

“I appreciate the sentiment, but you don’t have to fix this. I’m okay. I just need to relearn how the ship is run, I guess.”

Lionel nodded, and patted Andy on the shoulder. “Now, what is with that email you sent me? Did Devin send that to you?” he asked, concern on his face.

Andy nodded. “Yes. We have security fencing and cameras in place around the house, plus 24-hour monitoring, so we’re safe.”

“That’s good. That was my next question. Whatever you need, you just call me. Your dad and I went way back. I’ll take care of you as long as I’m alive.” Lionel hugged the young man.

Andy smiled. “Thanks, Lionel. We should get back before Fiona gets suspicious.”

“Bah, she doesn’t scare me,” he joked. Nevertheless, the two men went back to the party.

Aaron, Trey, and Wyatt led the team onto the field for the start of the game, and Tarah popped open a rather expensive bottle of champagne, and they toasted the Llamas, and as a sweet gesture, Travis. Danae got emotional, and Andy hugged her close. The party was getting started as the first play of the game was made, and the crowd in the stadium went wild. Isla Paradiso was famous for its beaches, but their ‘football’ was the island pastime, and the fact that their team was in the playoffs was even better. Most places were closed, and everyone watched the game, either live in the stadium or on their televisions at home.

By the end of the first half, the Llamas were up five points, and the mood in the VIP box was cheerful. Andy and Danae were having a great time with the O’Reilly family, and they were all getting silly drinking champagne. Tarah made sure the party was well supplied with good food and drink. Even Fiona and Cael were having a good time, and Andy found he actually enjoyed their company, despite her tough as nails work persona.

The Llamas ended up winning the game, and clinching their spot in the upcoming semi-final game in Twinbrook the following week. There was great celebration in the VIP box, as Tarah and Lionel popped open another expensive bottle of champagne. Remembering Andy’s statement as they left their suite, Danae got choked up. Looking skyward, she whispered, “We got another win for you, Daddy.” Andy saw her and knew what she was doing, and wiped a tear away.

Two hours after the game was over, and the party was finally wrapping up. The team had already left the stadium and prepared to leave the island that evening. Andy and Danae got into the limousine that would bring them back to the resort. The ride was short, but both of them were relieved they didn’t need to drive.

Both Andy and Danae were silly, feeling a little more than tipsy from an afternoon of sipping champagne and indulgence. Hand in hand, they walked back to their room, giggling like teenagers in love. He opened the door and held it for her as she took his hand and pulled him inside. The door closed and locked behind them, but he turned the deadbolt behind him.

“That was sweet, baby, what you did after we won the game. Your father would be so proud of you.” He hugged her and kissed her tenderly.

“I’ve thought of him a lot lately, especially since the playoffs began. It was all he ever wanted, his whole career, was to be a champion. He never really made it.”

“Sure he did. We won that championship before he retired because of him, whether he played or not. Putting Wyatt in and making him a star? That was all your dad, my sweet.”

“He never considered himself a champion, just a team captain that never got to play during the most important game of his life. It really bothered him.” Danae was beginning to wish he would change the subject. The alcohol was enhancing her sadness, and she only wanted to cry.

“Well, whether or not he felt it, he was still the biggest star this sport has ever seen, and he probably will be for a long time to come. Did you know his jersey still sells out at every game? We can’t keep them in stock.”

She smiled faintly, but tears were quickly winning the battle of emotions within her. She sniffled, holding back the flood she felt welling up inside her. She sat on the bed and sighed deeply. “He would have loved this today.” And with her statement, the sobs shook her, no longer able to contain it.

“Oh my sweet, why the tears? This is a happy day!”

“I just miss him, so much…”

Andy sighed. He missed Emmitt, too. “I know exactly how you feel. My dad would have loved today, too. But I would imagine, wherever they are, they are looking down on us today and smiling, maybe sharing a beer together, and celebrating. I have to believe that, honey. It helps me through my days.” Danae wrapped herself around Andy, needing comfort only he could give her. He stroked her hair and tilted her chin so he could look into her gorgeous violet eyes. He kissed her tenderly. “Don’t cry, my sweet. Tonight belongs to us. Let’s not waste it.”

“You’re right,” she sniffled, wiping tears from her eyes. “I need you to hold me, to tell me you love me. I need you to show me, Andy. Do you love me?”

His sweet smile melted her heart. “Oh sweetie, I will love you until I take my last breath. I will hold you until I can’t anymore. And I will show you how much I love you as long as I am able.” They kissed and held each other, and loved one another until they fell asleep.


The headache that comes with overindulgence woke Andy early the next morning, and he wasn’t happy. I don’t have to be up today, he grumbled to himself as he peeled himself from Danae and walked to the bathroom. As he washed his hands, he glanced at his reflection in the mirror and groaned. Despite the wonderful evening of loving her, he felt horrible and looked worse. He turned the light off in the bathroom and walked back to bed, snuggling up to her again and holding her close, hoping extra sleep would help him shed the pounding headache.

Danae didn’t wake until long after the sun was up, and the air had changed from cooler to warm. Andy was already up, sipping on a cup of coffee he had ordered from the restaurant, along with some muffins, juice and fresh local fruit. The aroma of coffee woke her as Andy poured his second cup from the carafe, and she reached for him.

“Good morning, beautiful,” he greeted her, setting his cup down and walking to the bed.

“Good morning, handsome,” she reciprocated. “That coffee smells like heaven.”

“It tastes pretty good, too. I’ll fix a cup for you.” He walked back to the table and poured her a cup of coffee and prepared it. She admired the view from where she lay as he walked back to her. Even in his pajama pants, he was gorgeous.

“Thank you, babe,” she said, taking the cup from him and sipping it. “Ooh, that is good.”

“See? I told you. By the way, I haven’t had my good morning kiss yet,” he suggested, as he moved closer to her.

“No way, you have coffee breath,” she teased, and then kissed him anyway.

“What would you like to do today?” he asked.

“Is there a festival going on in the town center? That would be fun if there was.”

“I’m not sure, but I can call the front desk to find out. I was hoping maybe we could just spend some time at the beach. I know I don’t need a tan, but you said you wanted to sunbathe awhile.”

“You just want to see my bikini,” she laughed. “I know your game, mister.”

“Hey, you can’t blame a guy for trying.” He blew her a kiss, and she grabbed the pillow from the bed and lightly hit him with it.

Andy got his wish, and they got into their bathing suits, headed for the private beach that belonged to the resort. He grabbed an umbrella to protect himself from the sun while Danae put her towel down to sunbathe. She unwrapped herself and he just stared at her, his mouth hanging agape. The string bikini was a thong, and only covered exactly what it needed to. She looked amazing in it.

“How do I look?” she smiled, modeling her new bikini.

Andy swallowed very hard. “Holy wow, Danae, I hope you didn’t pay much for that thing. There isn’t much fabric on it.”

“So, you like it?”

“Oh honey, it’s breathtaking.” He couldn’t take his eyes from her.

“Minimal tan lines,” she flirted as she settled herself onto the towel. “Aren’t you going to go swimming?”

“And leave you up here unprotected? Looking like that? Are you kidding me right now?”

“Is there something wrong, babe?”

“No, I just don’t want every man on the beach thinking you’re fair game. Because I have to tell you, you look irresistible in that bikini. I just want it all for myself.” Every minute she spent on the treadmill, every pound she lifted on the weight machine was on display, and she looked incredible.

“I’m a big girl, Andy. If you want to go swimming, then go. I’ll be fine here alone.”

“I’ll just go and cool off a bit. But I’m coming right back,” he finally relented. “Stay right there, gorgeous.”

“I’m almost afraid to move!” she joked. “I’ll be right here.”

Andy walked to the shoreline and waded in, enjoying the feel of the cool saltwater on his skin. A few steps in and he was knee-deep, so he dove in and swam around for a little while, keeping a close eye on Danae as she relaxed. When he had enough, he walked back up onto the beach and sat in the chair near her.

“You’re back quickly,” she remarked. “How’s the water?”

“Wet,” he laughed. “It feels wonderful, actually. You should come out with me and swim next time.”

“You think I should in this?”

“No, you’re right. Is that the only bikini you have with you?”

“No, I have a one piece with me for actual swimming. But I knew you’d love this one.” She turned over onto her belly and propped herself on her elbows, watching his face.

“Yeah, I do love that one.” He looked around, checking for other men who could be watching her. “I just hope no one else loves it, too.”

“Relax, babe. No one is looking at me like that but you.”

“You know I worry about you. You’re just too darned beautiful.”

“And you are much too sweet.”

A few hours later, Danae was a golden tan and she was very warm. “Babe, come with me to swim?”

“You know I will, my sweet.” They held hands and walked together to the water. “You look amazing all tanned up, you know that?”

“Do I?” she joked. He only nodded.

They walked out into the surf waist deep, and she wrapped herself around him. “Don’t let me go, babe,” she said to him.

“You can swim, can’t you?”

“Of course. I just don’t want you to let me go.” She kissed him.

“I will never, ever let you go, my sweet. You can count on that.” He hugged her close and held her.

They swam together for close to an hour before she decided she was getting too much sun. “Do you mind if we go back to the suite, babe? I don’t want to burn.”

“I would love nothing more,” he purred, walking toward the beach with her still wrapped around him.


“Murphy, your table is ready,” the host said as he led them to a quiet table. Andy seated Danae and then sat down next to her.

“Thank you,” he replied as the host handed him menus.

“Can I get you anything from the bar?”

Danae whispered to him, and he nodded. “Just a bottle of nectar, if you have this blend,” he asked, showing the variety to the waiter.

“Yes, sir, I shall return shortly with that for you.”

Danae looked around in awe of the surroundings. Though she had been here before, she was a little girl when Travis and Charlotte had the family here. “Again, Andy, you’ve outdone yourself. This place is beautiful.”

“My sweet, you look stunning tonight. Your dress is sexy and stylish. I don’t remember you buying that.”

“I didn’t. It was Mama’s dress. All of her stuff fits me perfectly.” This particular dress had been to Isla Paradiso before. In fact, it was the red dress Travis had purchased for Charlotte on their anniversary. Danae’s hard work allowed her to wear it.

“Well, it is beautiful, just like you.” He took her hand and kissed it. The waiter returned with the chilled bottle of nectar, opened it and poured two glasses before placing it into a chiller.

“Are you ready to order, sir?” he asked. Andy smiled sheepishly. They hadn’t even looked at the menu yet. “Just a few more minutes, and we should be ready.” The waiter nodded and walked away.

“What looks good, babe?” she asked. Danae hadn’t looked at the menu, and she seldom did anymore. Andy had such sophisticated taste when it came to fine dining, and she trusted him to get something she would love.

“There’s a nice local fish that looks delicious, and perhaps a filet? We will share, as usual.” He was still looking for something that would be unique and regional. “Ah, I have it,” Andy finally nodded. “Ahi, seared rare, and lamb medallions.”

“That sounds wonderful,” she replied. “I’ve never had Ahi before. What is it?”

“Tuna. It’s delish, my sweet. You’re going to love it, and it’s caught locally.”

She said nothing more, and when Andy ordered, they toasted to their weekend together. “This nectar is familiar,” Danae commented. “Where have we had it before?”

“The Tower back home. When we had it, I took note of the fruits, because it’s really one of the only sweet nectars I like.”

“Oh yes,” she smiled. “I remember now.” They so seldom went to The Tower, so their last visit was memorable.

“So sweetie, tell me about that dress. It seems all of your pretty things have a story.” Andy loved it on her.

“Mama told me, when I saw it in her closet, that it was a special dress. My daddy bought it for her when they were here for their fifteenth anniversary. It was the only red one in her closet, and I remember it catching my eye, but she asked me not to wear it.”

“So, they bought it here?”

“That’s what I understand, yes. The dress shop isn’t there anymore. The owner passed away a few years ago.” Danae smiled at the memory of meeting Jayna. “She was a sweet lady.”

“Well, you make that dress look phenomenal, honey.” The candlelight on the table made her eyes sparkle.

“You’re too sweet,” she blushed.

“What would you like to do tomorrow? It’s our last full day on the island before we leave on Sunday night.”

“What would you like to do, love?” She knew her heart’s desire was out of the question. There just wasn’t enough time.

“Well, I picked today’s fun. Why don’t we see if there’s that festival going on? You mentioned it this morning.”

“You really want to shop?” she giggled.

“If you want to, then yes, I do, too.” Andy looked at her, in awe of her beauty, and kissed her hands.

“A penny for your thoughts,” she purred.

“Just loving you, honey.”

After dinner, they left the restaurant and Andy spotted the spa. “Is that where you get my musk, my sweet?”

“Actually, yes. I should get some before we leave.”

“That’s a great idea. Too bad they’re closed now. I’d make an appointment for a couple’s massage for tomorrow morning.”

Danae pondered his idea. “Hmm, that sounds relaxing and fun. But maybe next time, babe. We only have one more day.”

“You really need to stop making so much sense, baby,” he laughed. “You’re supposed to be the adventurous one in this relationship.”

“Okay, I’ll be adventurous. Let’s walk around the property barefoot.” She looked at him, deadpan serious, waiting for his reaction and waiting to bust up laughing.

“Is that the best you have?” he asked her. And she started to laugh.

She stopped and slipped out of her shoes, picked them up and took his hand with her free one. “This is all I have, babe.”

They strolled around the property until way after dark, when there was a chill in the air and Danae began to shiver.

“You’re cold,” he noted. “I know how to warm you up.”

“You’re going to think I’m ill, but I don’t think I can do that tonight, babe. I’m sore, and I don’t want to push it.”

“I keep forgetting you’re just a few weeks out from surgery, and that you’re still recovering. You’re right, my sweet.”

“Nothing saying we can’t snuggle,” she cooed. “As long as we are together, it doesn’t matter.”

Andy took his jacket off and put it around her shoulders. “Until we get back, love.” He took her hand, and they walked back to the suite. “I was looking forward to unwrapping you like a candy bar,” he laughed. “I guess I will take a rain check.”

“Tomorrow is another day, babe.” She slipped his jacket off and hung it. They undressed for bed and snuggled together, crazy in love.


“Housekeeping,” a voice from outside the door called with a soft knock, waking Andy up.

“Nae!” He said to her. “Just a moment, please!” Andy called to the voice outside. I forgot to put up the sign last night, he thought. “Danae, honey, wake up!”

She stirred and looked at Andy, throwing clothes on and rummaging to find something for her to wear.  “What is wrong?” She asked, feeling a little panicked.

“Housekeeping is here, and we are not ready.” He tossed her a pair of yoga pants and a shirt.

“Babe, calm down,” she snickered. She pulled her clothes on and opened the door. She walked to the next room, where the housekeeper was making a bed. “We are in the next room. I’ll make the bed today. You can skip us.”

The older lady smiled. “Thank you!”

Satisfied, Danae walked back to the room, where Andy was still a bit out of sorts. “You handled that so well, honey,” he remarked.

“I’m used to being woken up by hungry babies. This is nothing new.” She walked to Andy and kissed him. “What time is it anyway?”

He glanced at his watch. “Wow,” he remarked. It’s after ten.”

“We must have needed the sleep. I know I feel refreshed. But we probably missed the best part of the festival in the square.”

“Oh my sweet, I’m so sorry.”

“Let’s go anyway,” she suggested. “I think it runs until after dark. There’s still plenty of time to have fun.”

They showered and dressed, saving their meal for the walk around the festival grounds. Restaurants and eateries from the whole island had booths set up, selling samples of their signature dishes during an event called “El Sabor de la Isla,” or “The Taste of the Isle.” At the far end of the grounds was a stage with live music and dancing, the music blared through speakers sprinkled throughout. Dotted around the festival were local merchants and craftsmen selling locally sourced or handmade items.

“This is amazing,” Andy exclaimed. “Everything smells so good.”

Danae took his hand, enjoying the atmosphere, so happy they decided to walk around. “Let’s get an empanada, babe,” she suggested, pointing toward a booth.

“Sounds good, sweetie,” he agreed. They sampled two different ones, and a churro to split afterward. A nearby booth had coffee, freshly ground and pressed to order, and they each ordered a cup.

“I know we didn’t eat much,” she said, “but I’m full!”

“I’m not, but there is a lot of ground to cover here,” he replied. “Let’s keep walking.”

Their first stop was a booth that had handmade baby clothes. Danae picked up a cute, frilly dress meant for a newborn, and she cooed at it. “Isn’t this adorable?” she gushed.

Andy smiled at first, and then remembered their lost child. It could have been another girl. “That would have been cute…” his words trailed off.

She took his hand, and he squeezed hers. “I still think of it, too, babe. We’re okay.”

The next booth had fudge, so they bought a small sampling of it to share. And then Andy spotted a jewelry booth. Naturally, he wanted to find something pretty for Danae to wear. He browsed through the displays until he found a necklace with a heart pendant on it. The heart held a pearl, pink in color, and it was delicate and extremely beautiful. He didn’t even ask how much it was, he just bought it for her and slipped it into his pocket. She was at a nearby table looking at more baby clothes, and his heart ached for her.

Walking quickly to catch up with her, he took her hand. “Hey, my sweet,” he said, maybe a little too casually.

“What are you up to?” she asked suspiciously.

Andy smiled sweetly at her. “It’s nothing you need to be concerned with, honey.”

She gave him a wary look, and then smiled. “If you say so, babe.” She had on a pair of cutoff jeans, and he slid his hand into her back pocket, and he surprised her. “What are you doing?” she laughed.

He was terrible at keeping secrets. “Oh, okay,” he said. “You win.” He put his hand into his own pocket and pulled out the small box containing the necklace. “I was going to surprise you later, but I can’t help myself.” He was giddy with excitement.

She opened the box, and her mouth dropped open in shock. “Oh, Andy! This is beautiful!” The pendant was white gold on a chain, with the pink pearl in the middle of a heart. “No wonder you were all happy. This is so pretty.”

Danae with necklace

“Here, let me put it on you,” he offered, taking the necklace from the box. He fastened the chain around her slender neck, and it sat perfectly on her. “You know, Danae, as beautiful as this necklace is, it is nowhere near as breathtaking as you.” He kissed her tenderly. “I love you, honey,” he whispered in her ear.

Her violet eyes filled with tears. He was the sweetest, most romantic man she had ever known. “Babe, I love you, too. You make me so very happy.”

“That’s what I love to hear, my sweet.” He slipped his arm around her waist and they walked together to the stage to watch the bands and dance.

It was well past dark when they finally began to walk back toward the resort. Hand in hand, they strolled together, listening to the crickets and other insects that inhabited the island. “Did you have a good time today, my sweet?” Andy asked her.

“Did I ever!” she exclaimed. “The food was incredible, the music, the dancing… this gorgeous necklace. It was the best day I’ve had in a long time, love. Thank you.”

“You’re welcome, honey. I had a great time, too. I hate to leave tomorrow. This was too short a trip.”

“We have to come back soon, that’s all there is to it.” The closer they got to the resort, the sounds of the evening changed. And in the brush on the side of the road, Danae saw fireflies for the first time. “What is that?” she asked Andy, pointing to them.

“You’ve never seen fireflies before, honey?”

“No. I remember Mama talking about them, but I’d never seen them. They are neat!”

Andy chuckled. “Yes, love, they are.”

They finally got back to the resort, and he opened the door for her, allowing her to enter first. “Oh, it’s going to feel so good to get these shoes off,” she said, slipping them off her feet.

Andy just stared at her. “Honey, you are the love of my life, you know that?”

“Of course I know it. And you are the love of mine.” They embraced and kissed tenderly. He loved how she had styled her hair for the day. He never realized how long it was until she wore it in a braid.

“Sweetie, let’s spend our last night in paradise the right way.” Playfully, he tickled her with the tip of her ponytail, and she laughed.

Danae never said a word, but simply took his hands and led him to the bed, smiling all the way.

*****

The phone rang the next morning at seven-thirty, and Andy answered it. “This is your wake up call, Mr. Murphy!” the cheerful voice on the other end greeted him. “Your shuttle will arrive at noon for your 3:30 flight.”

He shook his head, still sleepy. “Thank you,” he mumbled. The alarm on his phone was set to sound at 9:00am, and he wasn’t ready for the night to end just yet.

“Who was that?” Danae asked.

“Wake up call. I have my alarm set for nine.”

“Good, because I’m not ready to get up yet,” she purred and snuggled closer to him. She felt kisses on her neck and ears, and knew there was going to be no more sleeping. And as usual, she was totally okay with that.

At eight-thirty, they finally pulled themselves away from each other and got up, showered and finished packing their bags to go home. “Remind me, babe, to get some oils and fragrances before we leave here.” She brushed her hair out and dried it to put it up, dabbed some vanilla onto her skin and placed her brush and the perfume into her luggage.

“I wish you would have left your hair braided, love. I like it like that.” Andy used the musk and handed the bottle back to Danae to pack. “You smell delicious,” he purred, kissing her.

“So do you. Are you done with your brush, babe?”

He handed it to her. “I am, sweetie. I’m sorry.”

“I just don’t want to leave it behind.” She did one last check around the room, opened the safe and removed the remainder of the cash they hadn’t used and placed half of it into her bag, and gave the other half to Andy. “I think we’re clear.” She took a few §20 bills and placed them on the table as a tip for housekeeping, and put her carry on over her shoulder. “Are we ready, babe?”

He took one last look around, hoping this wasn’t the last time they would see Isla Paradiso, and nodded. “I think we are.” He took the garment bag and the rolling case, grabbed both key cards and they left the room.

They strolled to the lobby, knowing they could have had a bellhop retrieve the bags, but it never occurred to them to mind carrying them. Danae made a quick stop at the spa and stocked up on the cologne and perfume, and packed them into her luggage. When they stopped at the concierge desk to check out, she asked about Rosa.

“Oh, Miss Rosa has been gone for a year now, I’m sorry to say. Everyone who comes through here asks about her. She is surely missed.” The concierge took their bags and placed them on the cart. “You have about 90 minutes, more than enough time for the brunch buffet, if you would like. I will make sure the shuttle does not leave without you.”

Andy looked at Danae. “Did you want to grab a quick breakfast, honey?”

She thought for a moment, and said, “Sure!” They walked hand in hand for the restaurant.

They were finished with plenty of time to spare, and they sat in the lobby, chatting when the shuttle arrived. Danae sighed. Even though she missed her kids, she was not ready to go home just yet. “Promise me, Andy, that we’ll come back here.”

“I promise, love. I would love to stay longer next time.” He took her hand, and they made their way to the shuttle together.

The ride to the airport was short and uneventful, and they got through security easily after checking in. They made their way through the terminal and found their gate with about 30 minutes to spare. And because they were first class passengers, they were seated first.

“Thank you, Andy, for inviting me to come with you. I had a blast!” Danae said as she snuggled up to him, ready for the flight home.

“Thank you for coming with me, my sweet. It was a great weekend away.” He kissed her tenderly, and he reached for her hand. “I love you, honey.”

“Mmm, I love you too,” she cooed, resting her head on his shoulder. They fell asleep together on the flight, happy and content.

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Up Next: Chapter Fifteen, Generation Five