Hostage of the Heart

By: Ambrosia

Disclaimers: You know the drill. They are in Part 1.

Feedback is oh so very welcome and can be sent to: SumrBrezze@aol.com.  I would like to take this time to once again thank everyone who has sent me feedback. I really appreciate it guys. It helps to keep me going. :-)

By the way, I'm sorry that this part was late. Forgive me? :-)

Part 7- Pain is never permanent. ~~~~ Teresa of Avila.

Sandra Love was waxing the kitchen floor, when she heard a knock on the door. Walking briskly towards the front door, she opened to find that her oldest child was standing there with a rather large lavender duffel bag in hand. Larisa smiled and gave her mother a quick peck on the cheek, and strolled passed her into the apartment. She put the bag down and regarded her mother after Sandra closed the door.

"So how is she?" the younger woman asked, wearing a worried expression.

Sandra let out a loud breath. "Not too good." She paused. "I honestly don't know what's going on with her. She won't eat or do anything else but lay in that bed all the time."

"Her friend just died five days ago mother, and she nearly lost her own life," Larisa replied. "That can take a lot out of a person."

"Her friend? That woman almost got my child killed," Sandra retorted with a tinge of anger in her voice.

Her daughter took a deep calming breath. "Then in that case, your husband almost got your child killed." Larisa was beginning to become angry herself. A lot of the time her mother had the ability to not observe a situation from all sides.

Sandra's blue-green eyes opened wide. "Don't you dare say a thing like that to me," she demanded.

"I'll mind my tongue, if you mind yours," Larisa said in the most pleasant voice she could muster at the moment. It seemed like she and her mother were always fighting over one plight or another. It had always been that way between them. Out of Richard and Sandra's three children, Larisa had been the most rebellious and outspoken, which caused her to get grounded on a regular basis.

"You watch your mouth young lady."

Her daughter sighed. "Mother I am twenty-nine years old. All I'm trying to say is I wish that you wouldn't talk about Piper. The woman is dead, and yes she took Desiree hostage, but if you really think about can you blame her? Maybe it wasn't the smartest decision, and she ended up losing her life, but it's obvious that Desiree cared about her, and she's hurting right now. So I think that we should focus on making her feel better, and stop all the blaming. It's over so let's try to move on. My sister's and your daughter's health is the most important thing now. Don't forget that."

With that said Larisa begin to walk towards Desiree's bedroom, without waiting for a reply from her mother. She knocked on the door softly, but did not receive an invitation to enter, so she opened the door and walked on in, closing the door behind her. What she saw broke her heart. Desiree was lying in her queen-sized bed curled up in a tight ball. She had to sheets and blanket up to her neck, staring at the stark white wall. Her hair was a mess and her eyes were puffy and red from crying and had dark circles around them, as if she had not been sleeping well.

Larisa slowly walked towards the bed and touched her younger sister on the shoulder. Desiree did not respond to the touch so she bent down and gave her a kiss on the nose, like she used to do when Desiree didn't feel well. It used to bring a smile out of the younger woman, but this time not even a ghost of a smile appeared. Larisa straightened up and sat on the edge of the bed. It was then that she saw one tear escape Desiree's eye. Looking on the nightstand she spied a box of tissues. Larisa snatched one from the box and gently wiped her little sister's cheek.

"Desi?" she whispered.

After a moment Desiree moved her eyes to Larisa. She looked at her and tried to smile, but she could not. She sat up in the bed, putting her back against the headboard. Taking one of Larisa's hands in her own she gave it a light squeeze. Desiree then stared at her older sister for a moment.

"I feel so empty inside," Desiree stated hoarsely.

Larisa reached over and gave her a quick hug. She sat back and replied, "I know. But as time goes on you'll start to heal." Larisa paused, trying to find the right words. This was more of Desiree's domain. Helping people in their time of need. "You really liked her, didn't you?"

The strawberry-blonde smiled sadly. "I liked her a lot. It's bizarre because she did kidnap me, but…we could have been…friends."

"It'll be okay little sister. You'll see."

Both women fell silent for a moment. "Is mom still here?" Desiree asked.

"Of course she is. I think I interrupted her waxing the floor."

Desiree let out a short bark of laughter. "I think she must have been a maid in a past life. That's all she's been doing for the past four days. Vacuuming, polishing, mopping, washing…" She paused. "As if that's going to make everything better, but I know she's just trying to help. But between you and me," Desiree leaned towards Larisa conspiratorially, "she's driving me nuts."

As soon as Desiree had got re-settled into her home, Sandra had been there every single moment. For the first few days Richard had been there, but he had to fly back to San Francisco yesterday, because the hospital was releasing Richie Jr. He promised his wife that he would be back tomorrow along with his son.

Larisa laughed heartily. "Well you know how she used to fuss over us when we got sick."

"Oh, I remember all to well."

*****
Sandra was just putting away the mop when she heard the doorbell rang. She walked towards the front door hastily and opened it. Her temper rose when she saw whom it was.

"What are you doing here?" Sandra asked tersely.

Taj took a deep breath, removing his round black-rimmed sunglasses that had a blue tint. "I came to see Desiree."

"Well she has another visitor."

"Can I wait then?" Taj asked patiently. From the first moment he had laid eyes on this woman, he knew they were going to have problems. He half could not blame the woman for acting the way she did towards him. The Jamaican man mused to himself, that if the situation were reversed he would most likely be acting like Sandra was.

"Well I'm very busy, and I don't want anyone in my way," Sandra replied.

"Then I'll wait outside."

"No you won't." Larisa said having come into the room after hearing two different voices. She came towards the door standing next to her mother. "Taj please come in. You are very welcome here." As Larisa said the last sentence she looked at her mother. She grabbed Taj's arm and led him into the apartment, shutting the door behind him.

Sandra took her daughter by the arm and walked a few feet away from where Taj was standing somewhat uncomfortably. "You have no right to invite just anybody into your sister's home," Sandra whispered.

"Taj is just not anybody," Larisa replied with a tinge of anger. "In case it has slipped your mind, he saved Desiree's life. She would have been dead if he hadn't come along when he did."

"If it wasn't for that man and that other woman my daughter's life would not have been put in jeopardy. As far as I'm concerned that man didn't do anything he shouldn't have done."

Larisa sighed, putting a hand to her forehead. She could feel a headache approaching. This happened most of the time when she was around her mother. Instead of replying anything, Larisa left her mother standing there and walked back over to Taj. She smiled up at the tall man. Unlike her mother, from the first moment Larisa had seen Taj she knew that he was someone she could be good friends with.

"Taj, she's in her bedroom." She led him over to Desiree's closed bedroom door. "She's awake."

"How is she doing?" he asked, concern plainly written on his face.

Larisa sighed. "One moment she's melancholy and the next she makes me laugh." She squeezed Taj's arm. "She needs help. Maybe you can give it to her."

Taj smiled warmly. "I'll do my best." He knocked on the door to hear Desiree say come in. Opening the door Taj walked in and smiled back at Larisa who was walking away. He closed the door behind him and turned around to face Desiree, who was sitting up in the bed.

"Hey Desi," he said.

"Taj," she replied in surprise. "What are you doing here?"

He walked to the bed and sat down. "I came to see you."

Desiree's blue-green eyes began to glisten with tears. "I didn't think I would ever see you again."

"Why wouldn't you?" Taj inquired.

"Because you were Piper's friend." She shrugged not knowing what else to say.

"Desi." Taj shook his head. "If you were not already so upset I would put you over my knees and spank you. How could you think that? True I've known Piper for years, but you have become my friend too." He smiled brightly. "Besides she'd come back and haunt me if I didn't come to see you." He wiped away a few tears that were running down her cheeks, with the padding of his thumbs. "I care about you, Desi," he said seriously. "And if you don't mind I'd like it if we could hang out. Go places together. You know, the things that friends do."

"I'd like that very much," Desiree replied, trying not to cry again.

"Good. 'Cause so would I." Taj put a bag on Desiree's lap that she had seen him come in with. It had the name of a toy store on the front.

"What is this?" Desiree inquired in wonder.

"It's for you. Open it."

Desiree shook her head, smiling slightly. She considered that Taj might have been the sweetest man that she had ever met. She opened the bag and what she saw made her eyes tear up again. She wiped them away angrily, tired of crying so much. She took out the stuffed animal that was a cat. It even had a collar that looked like Taj must have bought it separately.

Desiree looked up at Taj and said, "Thank you, Taj."

"You like it?"

She nodded.

"Good, because I didn't know how you would react to it. I intentionally didn't get a stuffed animal that had the colors of Tobias, because I figured that might make you too sad."

"It's perfect." She squeezed the fluffy white-haired stuffed animal to her.

"I'm glad you like it." He paused wondering how to pose what he wanted to ask. "How long have you been in this bed?"

Desiree answered sheepishly, "Pretty much ever since I got home."

Taj shook his head. "That's not good, Desi. How do you expect to heal right if you don't take any action? You can't just stay in this bed all the time. That's not helping you at all."

The young woman looked down at her cat and rubbed its head. "I know," she stated quietly.

"I have to do something today," Taj started.

Desiree looked up at him waiting for the jamaican man to continue.

"I have Piper's remains," he said softly. "I'm going to spread her ashes in the water at Cabrillo Beach."

"And?" Desiree inquired, getting the feeling that the man wanted to say something more.

"And I would really appreciate it if you would go with me."

Desiree shook her head. "I can't Taj. I'm sorry, but that's something that I can't do. Maybe Larisa will go with you."

Taj peered at her and asked quietly, "Please? I want you to go. Maybe this will help you to heal faster."

"Dumping her in the ocean is supposed to help me?"

"Lying here feeling sorry for yourself in bed is helping you?" Taj countered.

Desiree thought about it for a few moments. Finally, she threw back the covers and sat on the edge of the bed next to Taj. She took one of his hands in her own and squeezed it. Peering into his brown eyes she said, "I'll go. Give me half an hour, okay?"

Taj smiled and pecked her on the cheek. "Okay. I'll be in the living room, unless your mother puts me out." He chuckled and left the room.

After he was gone, Desiree reached under the bed and took out the half full bottle of gin she had been nursing. Twisting the cap off she took a few long swigs before the putting the bottle back under the bed. Getting up, Desiree straightened out the sheets and cover on her bed before heading towards the private bathroom she had in her room. She turned on the light and her reflection in the mirror made the young woman grimace.

Desiree took off her pajamas and entered the shower. She turned the water to get as hot as she could take it. Picking up her pink sponge, she generously put the liquid soap on it and squeezed in her small hands until the sponge was soapy. Desiree then continued to scrub her body vigorously and then rinsed off. The water helped to take some of the tenseness away from her body. Next, Desiree picked up a bottle of shampoo and proceeded to wash her hair two times and then rinsed it. She then got out of the shower and dried off with a thick pink towel.

Wiping the condensation off the mirror with the towel, Desiree stared at the image before her. Tears began to form in her eyes as she wondered for the five-hundredth time how life could be so cruel. You found a person that made your heart feel with joy, only to have them snatched away from abruptly. She had found happiness with someone, albeit someone with problems, but Piper had been very special to her. All she had been doing for the past few days was think about Piper and the few precious days that they had shared with one another. Fishing, teasing, playing games, making love. The strawberry-blonde shook her wet head. This was all so unreal. She wished that this was all a nightmare that she would awaken from at any moment.

Desiree took out a blow dryer from underneath the cabinet and plugged it into the socket. She closed her eyes tightly, wondering how people could find the strength to go on after losing someone that they loved. Desiree opened her eyes and looked up at the ceiling.

"Well," she began, "you said you would be my do-whatever after all this was over Piper, so here is your first thing to do. Come back to me."

*****
Taj was reclining on the blue couch in Desiree's living room when the young woman came out of her bedroom. He stood up and smiled at what he saw. Desiree had managed to fix herself up considerably from the way she had looked only about thirty minutes ago. She was wearing a pair of khaki pants and a short-sleeved white blouse under a white cardigan. She was wearing a headband to match her pants and white tennis shoes. Desiree had even put on a little lipstick. Her eyes still looked puffy and red but it was improvement.

"You ready to go?" Taj asked.

Desiree smiled slightly. "Sure." She looked past Taj to see her mother peeking out from the kitchen with a dishcloth in her hands. "I'm gone, mom." She beckoned for Taj to follow her to the door and opened it to go out when she heard Sandra calling her name. Turning around, Desiree regarded her mother to see what she wanted.

"Do you think it's wise for you to go out with someone you hardly know?" Sandra asked, twisting the cloth in her hands.

Desiree sighed. "Mom, I-

"Yes it is," Larisa interjected before her younger sister could say anything more. She was standing behind her mother with a plate in her hand. "Mother we have dishes to finish." She waved the plate at Sandra who was glaring at her for interrupting. Larisa only offered her a too sweet smile before she turned her attention to Taj and Desiree, who were still standing by the opened front door. "Please go you two." Sandra walked past her oldest daughter into the kitchen without another word.

Taj motioned for Desiree to exit the door first before he made to leave the apartment. He heard Larisa call his name softly just as he began to close the door. He looked over at her questioningly.

"Thank you," she mouthed. She was glad that someone had managed to get her little sister out of the house. Larisa had complete faith that Taj would take care of Desiree, and she knew that the depressed young woman was in good hands.

Taj smiled at her. "My pleasure," he mouthed back before closing the door behind him.

As Taj walked out into the sun he put his sunglasses back on. He located Desiree standing on the passenger side of his 1998 black Jaguar XK8 convertible. This car was his most prized possession. There was not a day that went by when he would not polish it with a special rag. He made sure to check it for scratches everyday. When his older brother, Dion and his family had come to visit a couple of months ago, Dion had claimed that he was insane when he saw his little brother fussing over his Jaguar. Taj had only replied that the man was jealous because his wife had forced him to give up his Porsche in order to get a more family oriented vehicle.

"Nice sports car, Taj," Desiree remarked admiring the shiny automobile.

The Jamaican man grinned as he unlocked the doors with the electronic car door opener on his keys. The car beeped, and Desiree opened it to get it. Taj opened the door on the opposite side and got in the driver's seat. The inside of the car was white. White seats, white floor… Desiree shook her head. This was as daring as the white carpet Taj had at his cabin.

Taj put the key in the ignition and they sped off down the street. The top was down and the Jamaican wondered if it was too much for his passenger, although it was a beautiful southern California with not a cloud in the sky and a calm breeze blowing. "Do you want the top of, Desi?" Taj asked, glancing at her.

Desiree turned to him and shook her head. "It's nice. I've never been in a convertible before."

"Really?" he asked.

Desiree shook her head again. "Nope." She looked up to regard the sky before turning her attention back to Taj. "Could we make a stop before heading to the beach?" she asked him.

"Of course. Where do you want to go?"

"A jewelry store."

Taj thought for a moment. "I know where one is on the way. We can stop there."

Fifteen minutes later they were pulling into the parking lot of the jewelry store Taj had been referring to. Desiree jumped out the car, telling Taj that she would not be long. He nodded turning off the ignition. The strawberry-blonde went into the store and exited a few minutes later with a small plastic bag in her hand. She got in the car after Taj took off the alarm. He looked at her wondering what was in the bag.

"You hurried out of there pretty fast, little one. What did you do? Rob the place?" He chuckled. "You're not carrying a purse."

Desiree peered at him and chuckled herself. "My wallet is in my pocket."

"Yeah, right." Taj started the car, put the gear in neutral and backed out. "But that's okay, Desi. I won't tell anyone what you did," he teased.

Desiree laughed softly, thinking that this man reminded her of Piper a lot. They both had pretty much the same sense of humor, and the young woman was glad that Taj had decided to remain in her life, even though Piper was no longer living. He made her laugh and she found that to be very comforting. Impulsively, Desiree reached over and gave Taj a hug. The startled man wound his arms around her and hugged her back tightly. Afterwards, Desiree sat back down in her seat and buckled her seat belt.

A few minutes later the pair was on the freeway headed towards San Pedro, which was where Cabrillo Beach was located. Desiree happened to look in the back seat of the car and spotted a brown supermarket paper bag behind Taj's seat. She held her breath for a moment, knowing what or rather who was in it. She turned her eyes to Taj and swallowed.

"Taj?" she whispered.

He looked over at her noticing her distressed expression. "What is it, Desi?" he asked in concern.

Desiree did not say anything right away. She pointed to behind his seat. "What's in there?"

Taj let out a ragged breath turning his attention back to the freeway. "An urn with Piper's remains," he replied quietly.

The strawberry-blonde nodded mutely turning to stare out to her right. A tear fell cascaded down her cheek, only to be wiped away with the back of her hand. She felt a warm hand squeeze her shoulder before it pulled away. They drove a few more minutes in silence, before Taj could not take it anymore. The radio wasn't playing so he reached behind Desiree's seat and brought out a compact disc case. He handed the leather case to Desiree and asked her to choose a CD from it to play.

The strawberry-blonde rifled through the case looking through the clear plastic at the different titles. She finally chose a CD and extracted it to put it in Taj's CD player. She put the case back behind her seat and sat back to listen, closing her eyes. Taj was interested to know what Desiree had selected, but he did not have to ponder for long.

Sorry I never told you
All I wanted to say
And now it's too late to hold you
'Cause you've flown away

'Not this song,' Taj thought, as he glanced over at his passenger. Desiree still had her eyes closed tightly. He tampered with the idea of stopping the song from playing, but changed his mind. If this was what Desiree needed to hear, then he would let her. People had different ways of dealing with their grief.

Never had I imagined
Living without your smile
Feeling and knowing you hear me
It keeps me alive, alive

After he changed lanes, Taj once again glanced over to Desiree to see a tear roll down her cheek, although her eyes were still closed. She had her hands balled up into fists as if she was trying to hold the pain and agony inside. Taj shook his head. She would never heal correctly if she didn't just let it out. If she were to do that, the young woman would eventually end up like a bomb. One of these days out of the blue she would explode. Taj reached over and encased one of Desiree's fists in his own. He was pleased that she did not pull away from the contact.

Darling I never showed you
Assumed you'd always be there
I, I took you for granted
But I always cared

Hearing a soft gasp come from the young woman, Taj quickly turned his eyes to her. She had her eyes open now looking to her right. He could see the wet tracks on the left side of her face that had been left from the tears. He reached into his black leather jacket and extracted a white handkerchief. Taj held it out to Desiree. She took it and gave him a slight smile before turning her attention back to her right.

Although the sun will never shine the same
I'll always look to a brighter day

Desiree removed her hand from under Taj's and clasped his own tightly. The Jamaican man found that the palm of the young woman's hand was cold and clammy. He found it more difficult to only drive with one hand, but he would manage.

And I know you're shining down on me from heaven
Like so many friends we've lost along the way
And I know eventually we'll be together
One sweet day

Desiree sniffed and dabbed her face with the soft handkerchief Taj had given to her. She wondered not for the first time if Piper knew that she was awfully sorry for what had happened between them on their last meeting. It was killing her that their last time together had been spent yelling and threatening.

Sorry I never told you
All I wanted to say

*****
Arriving at Cabrillo Beach, Taj found a parking space and informed Desiree that he would not be long. She waited in the car as he went off. About ten minutes later Taj returned, and raised the hood on his Jaguar and grabbed the brown bag from the back seat before he led Desiree, who was carrying her own small bag from the jewelry store to the water's edge.  Taj had rented a boat for them to take out into the water.  He asked her if she had ever been on a boat before, and the young woman exclaimed that she had once or twice a few years back on her uncle's forty-five foot Bayliner.

The Jamaican man helped Desiree into the boat and then got in himself, setting the bag down beside him. He then handed the young woman a life jacket and put one on himself, after removing his leather jacket. The boat wasn't motorized so Taj had to paddle. Desiree had tried to help but he was against it, telling her to just sit back and enjoy the ride.

Taj paddled them out until they were about a half-mile from shore. Both of them noticed that the water was calm today. Desiree reached a hand down and ran it through the water finding it to be quite warm. She wished that Piper were here. Desiree would have loved to go swimming with the blue-eyed woman. She bet the woman would have looked great in a swimsuit. Thinking of Piper caused Desiree's eyes to tear up so she tried to turn her attention to the birds soaring up above.

Hearing the crinkle of the bag being opened, Desiree glanced at it with her heart starting to beat. She didn't know how she would react to seeing an urn and knowing that what was left of the woman she had come to love so quickly was inside of it. Instead of taking out the urn, Taj took out two clear plastic cups and something wrapped in a wad of newspaper. He removed the newspaper and held up a bottle of champagne for his companion to see. It was a bottle of 1978 Dom Perignon that Taj explained he had put in the freezer before leaving to come to Desiree's apartment. Touching the bottle the young woman felt that it was still chilled.

Taj opened the champagne and poured some into each plastic cup until they were half-filled. He explained that was all he would be consuming, since he considered himself to be the designated driver. He handed a cup to Desiree and told the young woman that she could make a toast if she wanted to. Desiree started to decline, but changed her mind. If there were anyone in the world that she would feel comfortable talking about Piper in front of, it would be the person sitting in front of her. She started to speak, but then asked Taj if he would not mind going first. He didn't have a problem with it so he went first, but not before warning Desiree that he was never really good with putting into words what he felt.

"Piper," he started gazing down at the cup in his hands, "I've known you ever since we were in high school, and I thank God that you came into my life. I'm proud to say that I knew you, because you were a very special person. You brought joy into my life, and I'm happy that I can call you my best friend. I will love you forever," he paused and Desiree noticed his brown eyes starting to glisten with moisture. She reached over and squeezed his hand for encouragement. "Be obedient up there in heaven and don't be a donkey's rear-end."

Desiree laughed followed by Taj. He wiped his eyes gesturing for Desiree to begin. She took a deep breath and cleared her throat, choosing to look at the water. "I…um I don't know exactly what to say. Piper, I want to apologize for the way I acted. If I'd had more faith in you, maybe you would be alive today." Taj started to say something but Desiree motioned for him to stop. He settled for shaking his head. "I want you to know that I truly did love you, although it didn't seem like I did. I didn't show it and I'll never be able to forgive myself for being so blind and stubborn. When you love someone you are supposed to believe in them," her voice broke and she gulped, "and…and I couldn't do that. I wish that we would have had more time, but like they say life is short. I hope you forgive me. I love you so much, and I will continue to love you until the day that I die. I know that you are not truly gone, because you will always be in my heart."

Desiree bowed her head, crying softly. Taj put his cup down and wrapped his arms around her. She wrapped her own arms around his neck and cried on his shoulder. The Jamaican man began a rocking motion while he rubbed Desiree's back, telling her that everything would be all right. After a few minutes the young woman had her emotions under control once again and sat back, wiping her face with Taj's handkerchief. Taj picked up his cup and waited for Desiree to pick up her own. She did and they touched them together before taking a sip. Well at least for Taj it was a sip. He noticed with a raised eyebrow that the strawberry-blonde drained the whole cup of champagne in one long drink. She asked him if she could have some more and he nodded mutely. Desiree picked up the bottle and poured the liquid into the cup to the brim. She soon drank that cup full, but it drank it slower. She wanted to get another cupful, but did not want to risk being reprimanded or questioned by Taj, so Desiree placed her empty cup on the boat floor.

Taj put his hands once again inside of the bag, and took out the urn. He set the silver urn in front of him and glanced at Desiree. Her eyes had caught a glimpse of the urn, but the young woman quickly turned away. The strawberry-blonde had no desire to see what her lover had been reduced to. Looking at the urn had caused Desiree's eyes to tear up again, and she mentally chastised herself for acting like a big baby.

The Jamaican man cleared his throat to speak. "Desi, do you want…or should I…"

She knew what the man was trying to get. Desiree glanced at Taj replying, "If you don't mind, would you…do the honors."

***
 

He nodded, removing the lid from the urn. The Jamaican man then grasped the urn between his hands and made to toss the contents of it into the water, when he felt a hand on shirt trying to stall him. Taj looked over at Desiree who was taking something out of her bag from the jewelry store. She took out a small black velvet case. She opened the case and inside was a fourteen carat gold-filled heart-shaped locket, embellished with a ten carat pink gold rose with two twelve carat green gold leaves on either side of it. The piece of jewelry was hooked on to a twenty-inch gold-filled rope chain. Desiree held up the delicate jewelry in her hands and opened the heart locket. She then reached over to Taj, who still had the urn in his hands, and she hesitantly put a hand inside of the urn. Taj watched, understanding what she was about to do. Desiree's hand came out with a pinch of ash between her thumb and first finger. She placed the bit of ash in the locket, closed it and put the chain around her neck. Desiree motioned for Taj to continue, afraid to look at his face in case the man was staring at her strangely. Instead, she missed the look of compassion plainly written on the Jamaican man's face. Taj tipped the urn over the side of the boat and the pair watched, as Piper's remains spread into the water. Hearing a gasp from his companion, Taj put a comforting arm around Desiree's shoulders. They stayed there in the water watching for a few more minutes before they headed back to the water's edge.

Ten minutes later the two were back on the freeway heading to Taj's house in Gardena, after he urged Desiree to come over so he could fix her dinner. It didn't take them long to arrive at Taj's house, since he was closer to Cabrillo Beach than Desiree was. When the Jamaican made to turn into his driveway he spied someone sitting at his doorstep. After he got out of the car and helped the young woman out of the car, he walked over to see who it was. On closer inspection he noticed the person was his younger brother.

"Leroy? What are you doing here?" Taj walked over to his young sibling and caught the man in a bear hug. Leroy hugged him back just as voraciously.

Twenty-year-old Leroy Potter had nothing in common with his older brother, except for the fact that they both had the same skin tone. They looked nothing alike, but Leroy was just as handsome, except that he had a baby face that he had yet to outgrow. Leroy was five feet nine, which he hated. He had often exclaimed when he was younger that it was not fair that all the men in his immediate family reached six feet or above, but he didn't. Also, out of everyone in the family, Leroy was the only one not to have a jamaican accent. For some reason he had outgrown the accent after their moving to California when he was seven years old. Taj saw that his little brother had braided his hair. He silently shook his head and planned to speak with Leroy about the braids later.

"Can't a guy just come to see his favorite brother?" retorted Leroy.

Taj narrowed his eyes suspiciously. He had the feeling that something was going on and he intended to find out just what it was. "Not before school is out, he can't. Don't you have classes today?"

Leroy shrugged, taking notice of Desiree standing a couple of feet behind Taj. "Hey, who is this pretty lady?" Leroy put on his most charming smile. The pretty lady in question found herself smiling back.

"Oh, I'm sorry." Taj turned to Desiree and brought her forth. "This is my friend, Desiree Love. Desiree I would like to introduce you to my little brother, Leroy." Leroy stuck out his hand and he and Desiree shook hands. Taj noticed that he held hers a little longer than necessary. He cleared his throat and Leroy let go.

"Are you and Taj dating?" Leroy inquired, sticking his hands in the pockets of his blue jeans.

Before the young woman could answer, Taj said, "No. We're just friends. Now stop stalling. I asked you a question."

Leroy cocked his head to the side. "And what question would that be?" he inquired in an innocent tone of voice.

Taj took in a deep breath. "I asked you weren't you supposed to be in school? Why aren't you there?" He crossed his arms across his chest, waiting for the younger man's explanation.

Leroy seemed to ponder this for a moment. Finally he mumbled, "I got kicked out."

His brother narrowed his eyes. "What?"

A little clearer Leroy repeated, "I got kicked out."

Taj took a deep breath, trying to maintain a hold on his usually non-existent temper. There had to be a reasonable explanation. "Why did you get kicked out?"

"Could we go inside?" Leroy asked wearing a nervous expression. If there were one person in this world that he did not want to ever disappoint, it would be the man standing in front of him now. He had always wanted to be like his older brother, and Leroy felt quite ashamed of himself that this situation had occurred. He mentally castigated himself for what must have been the hundredth time for his stupidity.

Taj nodded as he put an arm around Desiree's shoulder and led her to the front door with Leroy right behind them. Taj opened the door and the trio entered, with Leroy closing the door. They walked into Taj's spacious living room to sit on his black leather couch, which reminded Desiree of the one at his cabin, except for the fact that this one was larger. She admired the room in approval, except for the white carpet, just like at the cabin. She had to hand it to Taj though, because the carpet looked like it was brand new. To the right of the living room were huge glass doors that led out to an extensive backyard. Next to the vast winding couch was an oval glass coffee table, with black legs. Next to the couch also was a black recliner that possessed a massage device. Under the coffee table was a hand-crafted silk and wool area rug, with a convoluted design.

Taj sat on the couch with Desiree choosing to sit next to him. Leroy took space in the recliner, lifting the lever in order to put his feet up. Once again, Taj crossed his arms and waited for Leroy to start explaining. A few minutes ticked by with no one saying anything. Taj stared at his brother, while Desiree fidgeted with a button on her cardigan. Running out of patience Taj said, "Well?"

Leroy figured he had pushed his brother far enough, so he began his story, "I got kicked out because I plagiarized on a couple of essay's for a couple of my classes."

Taj's brown eyes opened wide. "Let me get this straight. You plagiarized not for one class, but for two?"

His brother nodded mutely.

"Why?" Taj asked in quite a calm voice.

"Because I was overwhelmed with everything. I had tests, quizzes, essays, and deadlines…" He trailed off, shrugging. "Plus you know I was involved in sports and a couple of clubs. All the pressure just got to me, and I thought I could get away with it."

"Well evidently you couldn't," Taj exploded. Desiree put a restraining hand on his arm. Not looking at her he nodded, understanding what she was trying to do.

Leroy shrugged again. "I'm sorry."

"No need to apologize to me. You're the one who just messed up your future. What did mom and dad say?"

"That's why I'm here. Dad and I had a fight, so I got on the first bus I could catch out of there going to LA. I then took a taxi over here, and I've been waiting for a few hours."

"Do they know where you are?"

Leroy nodded. "I called them when I got to the bus station here," he paused. "Can I live with you?" he asked quietly. "Just for a while at least? Until I get my own place."

"How are you supposed to get your own place when you don't have employment."

Leroy argued, "I'll get a job."

Taj put his arms on his thighs, sitting forward. "Where?"

Leroy shrugged. "I don't know. I'll buy myself a newspaper and start looking."

"He can work for me," Desiree said abruptly. It just sort of slipped out, before she even fully registered what she was saying, however thinking about it, it might not have been such a bad idea. She could be helping him some, as well as herself.

The younger man smiled at her. "I can?"

Desiree nodded. "What was your major? What do you want to be?"

"Desi, you don't have to do this," Taj said. She ignored him, focusing her attention on Leroy whose face had seemed to brighten after her offer.

Leroy looked sheepish. "I didn't really have one established yet, but most of my classes revolved around english and history." He pulled his ear nervously. Leroy had always done. Whenever he was nervous or really upset he would pull his ear. Taj and Dion had tried to break him of the habit, but they never did. "I would like to write screenplays," Leroy exclaimed.

Desiree's blue-green eyes shined. "Really? Well we have something in common then. I'm working on a book. And that's what I need you for. How good are you with research?" she asked.

"Well…I've done it for my classes, but I don't know if I could call myself a professional."

The young woman smiled. "Honesty. I like that, Leroy."

The young man smiled at her. Either it was his imagination, or Taj saw his little brother blush. He rolled his eyes, thinking that Desiree did not need Leroy falling all over her. He would have to have a talk with the young man about that too.

"There is one catch," Desiree continued. "I can't pay you much, since I don't have a job myself at the moment, so it may behoove you to still look for other employment."

Leroy looked at his brother. "What do you think?" he asked him.

Taj shrugged. "It's your life. Are you not planning on going to any school again?"

"Maybe this has worked out for the best. Maybe it was meant to be this way, for me to come to Los Angeles. This is one of the best places to start with my screenplay writing. I could probably pick up a few pointers working with Desiree."

"So in other words, you're done with school."

"Some people never go to college. At least I had almost two years," he paused, noticing his older brother's disapproving look. "But maybe I could take a couple classes at a local community college this fall."

*****
While chatting about their arrangement, Desiree and Leroy began to smell the delicious aromas coming from the kitchen, where Taj was fixing dinner. Desiree thought to herself that this would be good. Getting into her book again would help Desiree to heal and not think about Piper so much. She needed something to occupy her mind, and with Leroy's help she hopefully could succeed. As for the money, the young woman had a small nest egg saved up in her bank account from getting a few stories printed in magazines over the years and from her last job. It was then that Desiree decided that she needed a job herself. Sure her parents would be more than happy to help, in which they already were but the young woman wanted to be on her own.

"So, Desiree," Leroy started, squinting at her. He was now sitting next to her on the couch. "You know what? You look familiar."

Desiree took a deep breath. So he had figured it out who she was. "Do you watch the news?" she asked.

Leroy's breath came out sharply. "I remember now." He put a hand to his head, thinking to himself that he was the stupidest person on the earth. So involved in his own problems, he had forgotten to mention anything about Piper Redding to his brother. When he found out a few days ago that the woman had been killed, he had immediately called his brother to give his condolences, but the woman had not once entered his mind since he arrived on his older brother's doorstep. "You're the Desiree Love that was kidnapped by my brother's best friend."

The strawberry-blonde nodded. "Yep. That would be me."

Leroy patted her shoulder. "I'm sorry about what happened to you. Also, I'm sorry about what happened to Piper. I knew her since she and Taj were like this." He crossed two of his fingers. "My brother told me that you and she had become friends. I didn't think it was odd, because Piper can be easy to get along with if you're lucky enough to get her to get her guard down. I'll miss her, although I haven't seen her in years. Actually don't think I've seen her since I was fourteen. That was when Taj took me with him to visit her in prison. I remember I had to beg him to take me." He chuckled softly.

Before Desiree could offer any sort of a reply, Taj came out of the kitchen informing the two that dinner was ready to be served, and that they should take their seats at the table in the dining room. Leroy arose first from the couch and escorted Desiree over to the table by placing a hand in the middle of her back. When they reached the glass table, Leroy pulled out a chair for the young woman, and she thanked him as she took her seat. Taj witnessed this whole event and only rolled his eyes. Leroy was becoming as bad as Dion used to be before he settled down and got married.

Leroy took a seat next to Desiree, as Taj came out of the kitchen again with a bowl of salad he made. It consisted of everything from croutons to tomatoes. Taj also placed on the table two different kinds of salad dressing, that he informed his brother and friend were homemade. Leroy called him a showoff, causing Taj to playfully sock him on the arm. Desiree fondly watched them, remembering how she and Piper used to play with one another. She could feel herself becoming emotional again, so she excused herself from the table, asking Taj where his bathroom was. Wearing a concerned expression, he told her and Desiree hurried off.

On entering the bathroom, Desiree closed it silently behind her and sat on the toilet after she lowered the top. She bent over covering her face with her hands and began to weep softly. Shaking from the wracking sobs, Desiree wondered if the pain would ever go away, or if she would forever feel this enormous loss. After crying for a few minutes, the distraught young woman reached over and tore off a few squares of toilet paper. She dabbed at her eyes and cheeks and then threw the now wet paper in the small green trash can. Desiree then stood up long enough to remove a small silver flask from the back of her pants. She opened it and took a few swallows of the gin that she had put in it earlier. After putting the now half-empty flask back in her pants pocket, Desiree headed over to the sink and gargled with Taj's mint flavored mouthwash so that neither he nor his brother would smell the alcohol on her breath. The young woman composed herself in the mirror and then went back out to the dining room.

Both Taj and Leroy asked Desiree if she was all right and nodded while attempting to smile. Neither brother felt it was the truth, but they decided by exchanging a look with each other that they would not pursue it for the moment. They did not want to push the young woman since she seemed so fragile.

Desiree looked at her plate, knowing that if everything was all right that she would attack this food with a vengeance. As it was the young woman found that she was not hungry in the least. Taj had made spaghetti and meatballs with melted cheese on top. In a basket on the table was homemade freshly baked garlic bread. Desiree figured that she should try to eat, so she reached over to take a piece of the bread. She missed the approving smile that Taj gave her. He had reasoned that she may not have an appetite, but the Jamaican man reflected that she was at least making an effort. Desiree twirled a few strands of spaghetti around her fork only to be swatted on the back of her hand. She peered up at Taj who was sitting on her right. He was smiling teasingly, so instead of frowning she smiled too.

"We didn't say grace yet, Desi. We were waiting for you," Taj informed her. "Would you like to do the honors?"

Desiree shook her head. She still did not trust herself with speaking yet. Taj motioned for the two to bow their hands and he said prayer instead. Leroy kicked him under the table, because the young man thought that he was taking too long. Taj ignored him, and when he finished saying grace, scowled at his little brother as he kicked him back. Desiree picked that moment to glance over at Leroy, noticing his pained expression. When she asked him what was wrong he told her she he was fine, but then gave his older brother a dirty look. Taj only smiled sweetly.

*****

Later on it was beginning to become dark, when Taj asked Desiree if she wanted to spend the night or did she want him to take her home. She chose to go home so before they headed out to the car, Desiree hugged Leroy informing him that she would be calling about the research work he would be doing for her. He nodded, exclaiming that he could not wait to get started.

Back on the freeway, Taj turned on the radio and discovered that an upbeat song was playing on the current station. He breathed a small sigh of relief, turning up the volume. Desiree said that she loved that song and he smiled. Maybe the young woman would be okay after all.

Taj pulled up in Desiree's driveway and she thanked him for getting her out of the house. He retorted that he could not have done it without her. Before she got out of the car, the strawberry-blonde reached over and gave Taj a kiss on the cheek. He grinned saying that he would never wash his cheek again, causing Desiree to chuckle as she closed the car door. She had asked him if he wanted to come in, but Taj declined saying that he had to get home to have a chat with Leroy about a couple of things.

On coming into her apartment, the first thing that Desiree noticed was that her mother was sitting on the couch knitting a blanket. Seeing her daughter come in, Sandra arose from the couch, walking towards her to ask if she was all right. The younger woman replied that she was as she started to head for her bedroom. At any other time she would not have a problem with having a conversation with her mother, since they saw each other so infrequently, but tonight Desiree did not want to be bombarded with endless questions most likely concerning Taj and what they did. Desiree hurried into her bedroom, missing the shocked look that Sandra was wearing.

Desiree removed her cardigan and kicked off her shoes. She then kneeled down in front of her bed and took out the bottle of gin that she had drunk from earlier. She opened it and took a long swig from the bottle. It was then she remembered the half-empty flask in her back pocket. Desiree took out the flask and after finishing the contents of it, put the flask in the nightstand next to her bed. Picking up the bottle again, Desiree headed into her bathroom to take a long hot bubble bath. She figured that maybe this would help take away some of the tenseness and help her to think about what she was going to do now. She realized that was going to have to make some decisions, and stop moping around feeling sorry for herself. Yes, it was definitely time to ameliorate the pain.

*****
Walking into the apartment, Larisa noticed that Sandra was pacing back and forth across the carpet. She was wearing a worried expression. Sandra glanced up at her oldest child, but continued to pace.

"What's wrong, mother?" Larisa asked softly. She knew that it might not be that bad. Sandra had the ability to over dramatize a situation.

Sandra stopped pacing to face her daughter. "Something is wrong with your sister."

Larisa had to control herself from rolling her eyes. "Yes, mother there is. I thought that we already had this conversation. Her friend was killed and she nearly lost her own life. If there weren't anything wrong with her, then I would be worried. As it is what she is going through is normal."

Sandra waved her hand impatiently in the air. "I'm not talking about that. She came home about fifteen minutes ago, and she barely said a word to me. She just went into her room and shut the door," she paused dramatically. "Do you think that man did something to her?"

Larisa took a deep breath. "Mother, his name is Taj, and no I don't think that he did anything to her." 'She probably just doesn't want to be bothered with having to listen to your mouth,' the younger woman thought.

"Why don't you try to talk to her?"

Larisa told her mother that she would try as she headed towards Desiree's bedroom. The woman knocked a few times on the door not receiving an answer, so she gave up and just walked in. Scanning the room, Larisa saw that Desiree was not in it. Hearing a sound coming from the bathroom, Larisa headed towards that door. She knocked and heard her sister tell the person to come in. She walked into the bathroom, closing the door behind her. At the moment, Desiree was in the bathtub covered with a thick layer of bubbles. Some were even airborne. Larisa chose to sit on the floor next to the bathtub.

"I'm glad that it was you," Desiree announced, chuckling slightly. "I really don't wanna deal with mom right now."

The older woman smiled, glad to hear a happy sound coming from her younger sister. "Well, I figured that you wouldn't."

Larisa grabbed Desiree's sponge and put it a small amount of liquid soap in it. She told her sister to sit forward. When Desiree did so, Larisa began to wash her back with the sponge, just like she used to do when her sister was younger. Except then Desiree used to get the floor all wet and Larisa as well. The dark-haired woman smiled at the memory. A couple minutes later after washing the soap off her back, Larisa informed Desiree that she was done. The strawberry-blonde thanked her for it.

"So where did you and Taj go?"

Desiree rested the back of her neck against a folded up towel on the rim of the porcelain white tub. She closed her eyes before answering, "We went to go spread Piper's ashes at Cabrillo Beach, and then we went back to Taj's place where I met his delightful little brother and had dinner."

"Who cooked?" Larisa decided not to ask for any details about Cabrillo Beach.

"Taj did. He's an excellent cook too." She opened her eyes to look at her sister. "I've been thinking unless you have a problem with dating outside of your race, I could fix you up with him. He's two years younger than you, but he's awfully handsome and sweet."

The dark-haired woman had to bite her lip to keep from laughing. "I'll have you know blondie that I have dated outside of my race before. I have no problem with that."

Desiree closed her eyes again. "Well how was I supposed to know that. I hardly see you anymore."

"Hey! I don't see you making an effort to come see me. I know it has nothing to do with the distance, because I don't live that far from you."

"Would you be willing to go out with Taj?" Desiree asked, changing the subject to what it was before.

Larisa inhaled deeply. "No. He's a nice guy but I'm not interested."

"Why not?"

The older woman laughed loudly. "Who are you now? Cupid? I rather talk about you."

"What about me?" She would give up for now, but Desiree found that she would not mind having Taj as a brother-in-law. She could work more on her sister later.

Larisa did not know quite how to start what she wanted to ask. "Let's talk about what happened at the cabin," she began.

"What about the cabin?" Desiree still had her eyes closed, enjoying the heat radiating from the water.

Larisa hesitated. "How close did you and Piper Redding become?" she asked gently.

Lifting one eyelid, Desiree glanced at her sister before closing it again. "What do you mean?" she asked procrastinating.

Her sister let out an impatient breath. Little sisters could really get on a sibling's nerves. "I just asked how close you guys got."

"Why?"

"Why what?" Larisa chastised herself for her sharp tone.

"Why are you asking?" Desiree inquired.

Larisa shrugged. "Call it curiosity. Just tell me."

Desiree wondered if she should do just that. How would her sister react if she were to tell her how close she and Piper really did get? It was then that Desiree noticed that she had to tell someone. She wanted someone to know what had happened at the cabin, and she mused maybe her sister was the person. If there was anyone she could confide in, it would be Larisa. Desiree opened her eyes and sat up in the tub. Looking at her sister nervously, she considered how to tell her. Larisa helped by giving her an encouraging smile.

"She was my lover," Desiree spoke clearly. She felt a heavy weight drop from her shoulders at the declaration. She had already decided that her parents did not need to know. What would be the point?

To Desiree's shock, Larisa did no more than raise an eyebrow and glance at her lap. The other woman did not look surprised at the statement. For a moment neither of the women said anything. Finally, Larisa took a deep breath and folded her arms on the rim of the tub, resting her chin on top of them.

"Were you in love with her?" the dark-haired woman asked silently.

Desiree nodded as she swallowed, trying to hold back the tears that were threatening to come. "Yes, I did. Very much."

Larisa nodded. "Did she love you?"

The strawberry-blonde shrugged. "I never knew. She died before I could tell her that I loved her, so she never even knew how I felt."

"I'm sure she did," Larisa nearly whispered.

"How?"

Her sister smiled slightly. "Knowing you Desiree, you probably showed her in your actions. She knew. Believe me she knew."

Desiree shook her head. "One of the last things that I told her was I hated her. How could she know that I loved her? More than I thought I could love anyone."

Larisa thought for a minute. "She probably knew you were only hurt. Don't dwell on the bad. Remember the good times that the two of you shared."

"I just miss her so much."

A tear fell down Desiree's cheek. She tried to stop it, but she started to cry. Larisa moved until she was on her knees and gathered her younger sister in her arms. At first Desiree tried to stop her mumbling that she did not want to get her wet, but Larisa would not let her back away. The younger woman gave up and hugged her sister back, sobbing on her shoulder. Desiree did not see them, but tears were running down Larisa's face too.

*****
The next morning found Desiree and Larisa working the crossword puzzle that had come in the newspaper that morning. They had convinced their mother to go shopping, since she had found a couple of dresses that she liked in a sales paper from the day before. They relished the peace and quiet with their mother gone. Desiree was looking up a word in her dictionary when she and her sister heard a knock on the door. Desiree got up to answer it. Opening the door she saw a blonde woman standing there who must have been somewhere in her early thirties. Desiree offered her a welcoming smile, saying hello. The woman smiled back and extended her hand. The younger woman shook it.

Taking her hand back the woman said, "You don't know who I am, but Victor Redding was my ex-husband. My name is Andrea."

Desiree wore a surprised yet confused expression. She had known that Victor had an ex-wife and children, but she could not figure out why the woman was on her doorstep. She motioned for her to come in and Andrea did. The woman noticed Larisa sitting at the dining room table and offered her a smile as well. Larisa returned it. Desiree asked Andrea to take a seat at the dining room table and offered her something to drink. The woman shook her head, declining the offer. Desiree took a seat in the chair that she had been occupying previously to Andrea coming.

"Um…Mrs. Redding…do you go by that name anymore?" Desiree inquired.

Andrea nodded. "Yes, I do. And please call me Andrea."

Desiree smiled slightly. "Okay. Andrea…is there something I can do for you?"

"Maybe I can do something for you." The woman reached into her large off-white purse and extracted a white business envelope. "I didn't know where else to take this, so I thought I'd start with you." She handed the envelope to Desiree, who took it, seeing that the front had the name Emily Redding printed on it.

"How did you find out where I lived?" Desiree asked the woman.

"I was rifling through Victor's things at his house and I found your address in a little book that he had."

The strawberry-blonde shuttered once again thinking of Victor Redding. She had had nightmares with him in it after the ordeal at the cabin. She would wake up in cold sweat thinking about all the fire, the smoke, Piper.

"Who is Emily Redding?" Larisa asked, getting into the conversation.

Andrea replied, "That's Victor's younger sister. She sent me that envelope in another envelope with a note in it telling me to give one of the letters to Victor and the other to Piper. Well I never got a chance to, since both of them ended up dead. I read the letters after finding out the news and then I knew that I had to give them to someone." She turned her full attention to Desiree. "I thought I'd give them to you. See if you could make sense of what she said. Would you read them please? I thinks it crucial that you read them right away."

Desiree glanced at her sister and then proceeded to take the letters out of the already open envelope. The first one she read was addressed to Piper. She read it out loud so that Larisa could know what it said.

Dear Piper,

We have never met and I feel that this is sad. I want to apologize for all that my brother and I have done to you. I wish that we could have had a relationship with one another, but things don't always turn out the way you want them to. Please, I have no right to ask for your forgiveness but don't hate me. Yes, I have wronged you and I will feel the guilt of that for the rest of my life.

Victor seemed to have this obsession with you, and I didn't make the situation any better because I chose to help him carry out his malicious plan. I don't know why I went along with all that he did. I guess because he tried to tell me that you were responsible for the death of our father. At first I tried to tell him that you did not have a choice because the man had tried to kill your mother, but soon Victor wore me down anyway. So I helped him. I know that it was stupid, but I went along with him anyway. I guess that you could call me one of those people who jump off a cliff just because somebody else is doing it.

Victor was the one to kill the first three jurors, but I have a confession to make. I was the one to murder Michael Lowell. I had reservations about doing it right from the start, but I did it anyway. Before that I had never killed another human being in my life and I have to say that it was horrible. It was not as horrible for me as it was for Michael and his family though. I've come to realize that I took an innocent man away from his family forever. I wish that I could turn back the hands of time, but unfortunately that can't be done. Victor and I had a plan to make it seem like you did. We even went so far as to get a lilac Honda Civic, because we knew that's what Desiree Love drove. Of course, we didn't know for sure if you had taken her hostage but Victor thought it probable that you had. At the time he didn't know for sure but it wasn't long before he did.

As you read this letter, I'm most likely locked up in a jail cell, which is where I belong. I'm not going to try to plead innocent, because I am the farthest thing from it. I hope that you will be able to live your life now without having to run. I am sorry for disrupting your life, and I promise never to bother you again. You take good care of yourself.

Sincerely,

Emily Redding

Desiree put the letter down on the table now having the question answered of whom really murdered Michael Lowell answered. She remembered that Victor had told her that he had killed all of the jurors except for Michael Lowell, but he had never divulged who the person was. She had forgotten all about his sister. Desiree looked up at Andrea who was the looking back at her.

"Where is Emily now?" the strawberry-blonde asked. For some reason she did not feel a lot of anger towards the woman. In fact she felt quite sad for Emily.

Andrea replied, "Just read the next letter."

Desiree gave her a strange look, but did as the one told her to. She unfolded the next letter and began reading.

Dear Victor,

I know you probably hate me right now, but I did what I had to do. There was no reason for our baby sister to go back to prison for our heinous crimes. We did them and we should be persecuted for them. Not Piper. I know I turned on you, but I don't feel sorry for it. Sure we may spend the rest of our lives in prison now or they may seek to give us the death penalty, but it is no less than we deserve. Somebody should beat us with a hammer or chop off our fingers. Victor what we did was wrong. Very wrong, and I am so sorry for it. I have already written Piper to tell her my main part in it, and how sorry I am.

I had been following you and I found out that you knew where the cabin was and that Piper had indeed taken Desiree Love as her hostage. Since you were going there, I knew that you would kill our sister and maybe that innocent young girl, so I thought about it and I came to the decision that I couldn't let you do it. So I devised a plan. I would sneak over to your house and get in the back of your car, hiding so that you wouldn't know that I was there. When you got to the cabin, I would stop you before you could take anymore lives.

As you read this, we're both probably behind bars and now you probably want to kill me. Well Victor we went too far. Let's face it. Alan Redding was a horrible man who beat his wife and tormented his child. Sure he was pretty good to us when he was around, but obviously he was a twisted person. Why should we defend a man who tried to kill his wife? Victor despite all of this you are still my flesh and blood brother and I love you. I hope you remember that when you're cursing my name.

Love,

Emily

Desiree put the letter down and stared off into space for a few moments as she tried to gather her thoughts. One statement kept running through her mind from Emily's letter. 'When you got to the cabin, I would stop you before you could take anymore lives.' So where was this Emily Redding during that time? Desiree peered across at Andrea who had tears in her eyes.

"What do you have to say?" Andrea inquired of Desiree.

The strawberry-blonde shook her head. "I don't know exactly what to say. Where is Emily? You wouldn't answer me before."

"That's the weird thing about it. I don't know where she is," she paused wiping her eyes. Larisa handed her a napkin that she had just went to get from the kitchen. Andrea thanked her as she dabbed her eyes. "Although I have a hunch. What I want to know is if you have the same hunch."

Desiree frowned in thought and then her face brightened considerably. "What if it wasn't her?" she said more to herself than anyone else.

"What if what wasn't her?" Larisa asked, forming her own hunches.

Desiree turned to her sister. "The body," she exclaimed excitedly. "What if the body in the cabin wasn't Piper's?"

TO BE CONTINUED…

Lyrics to the song "One Sweet Day" by: Mariah Carey, Michael McCary, Nathan Morris, Wanya Morris and Shaun Stockman.

Performed by: Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men

Part 8

Taiko's Scrolls Of The Xenaverse