Taylor was thankful things were getting back to normal, mostly. Her dad was doing well and instead of her mother doting on him, he followed her around everywhere, probably bored. She complained he was making her crazy, but she said it with love in her voice. Taylor knew he would go back to work next week. If he didn’t, her mom would make him.
The best part was her mother was almost back to her sunny self too. The better her father felt, the happier mother was, even if she pretended to be annoyed by him, at least until Reagan was mentioned. Then it was like a dark cloud with the threat of severe storms suddenly rolled in.
Reagan moved in with her grandparents and Taylor’s mother declared that was best for everyone, however she could see the sadness in her father’s eyes when Reagan came up. He worried about her – a lot.
Taylor wanted to talk to her father without her mother, so when her mom left to run some errands, she took advantage. She found him in the TV room, playing with Buster.
“Hey. What’s going on? Where’s Elliott?” he asked when he saw her.
“Elliott’s still working, and I wanted to talk to my dad for a minute,” said Taylor and sat down next to him.
“Always second fiddle,” he said grinning then noticed her discomfort. “Oh, is Mom giving you problems about the wedding? It’s okay. We can afford to buy more flowers – or whatever.”
“No Daddy!” she said, “It IS about the wedding though.”
“Then why don’t you look giddy?” asked Cole frowning.
“I want Reagan to help. Mom and I are in over our heads and Reagan did an amazing job with the graduation party. Also … I want to ask her to be my maid of honor. Elliott asked Ryan and Evan.”
Her dad’s smile was radiant but quickly changed when it wasn’t matched by Taylor’s. “So, is there something you’re not telling me? Did she refuse?”
“I haven’t asked her yet.”
“Why? Oh … is it Mom?” he asked. The realization that her mother was still blaming Reagan for Avery’s crazy must’ve hit him.
Taylor nodded her head. “Every time I mention Reagan, she gets upset. We only have about 5 weeks left before the wedding and there’s still so much not decided. I know it’s only going to be family and close friends….”
“But you need it to be perfect,” he finished for her, “I get it.”
“I’m sure Reagan could help bring it together, and I really do want her to be my maid of honor with Connie a junior bridesmaid.”
Taylor could tell her father was struggling to stay calm and upbeat. “Taylor, this is your day, if you want Reagan to be a part of it, then ask her. Stop worrying. Just do it.”
“But Mom …”
“I’ll talk to your mother. I’m sure Reagan will be honored and it’ll give her something to focus on besides her problems.”
“Thank you Daddy. Wish me luck.” Taylor hugged him and ran to call her sister.
After Taylor left, Cole thought about what she said. He was warmed by her desire to reach out to Reagan and figured that would be the best therapy his daughter could possibly have – knowing her family loves her.
As for Dannie, he thought she had reconciled her feelings about Reagan. Evidently not. They’d never really talked about it and his sweet wife was still treating him like an invalid in many ways, shielding him from what was going on. That was going to stop. He was fine.
He’d never expected Dannie to become bitter. It was so unlike her. Hell, she yelled at him about how he handled Reagan and she was right. She should be pissed at him, not his daughter.
He couldn’t just sit here anymore and got up. He took an involuntary breath as a sharp pain reminded him he really wasn’t 100% healed yet. He stopped for a minute while it subsided before making his way to his home office.
He logged onto the clinic to see what was happening and began responding emails, most of them well wishes, while he waited for Dannie to get home.
Dannie walked in and startled him, making him jump like he was caught with his hand in the cookie jar. “Cole!” she barked out, “What are you doing up? You scared me!”
He looked at her and wanted to yell back, but held his tongue. “I was sick of TV so I’m just answering emails. Last time I looked, it wasn’t a life threatening task.”
“You should’ve waited for me. You might have passed out or fallen down.”
“Baby, I’m fine. I should be moving around more anyway. I should start walking the dogs and get some fresh air.”
“Cole. Dammit!” she said getting even more upset, “I almost lost you. And Connie, God, what would she do without her father? You were very lucky you didn’t die in that game room.”
Cole took a deep breath and got up a little slower this time. He walked over to Dannie and put his arms around her. “Dannie, I love you more than anything. I love our children more than life itself. Don’t you know I would have done the same thing if it was Taylor instead of Reagan?”
“But Reagan caused this,” she argued back, “We almost lost you because of her … every time I think of it I get physically sick.”
“Dannie. Look at me. Avery. Not Reagan. Avery. Avery did this. Reagan only went to her mother because of me. I wasn’t honest with the twins. I tried to lessen the blow so they wouldn’t think they weren’t wanted. I was even in denial that she didn’t give a shit about her own children before she went off the deep end. So even if Reagan and Ryan hadn’t sought her out, she may have still tried to extract her revenge on me and might’ve kidnapped you or even Connie.”
“It’s just, every time I look at her, I see you on death’s door.”
Cole pulled her onto the couch next to him. “Dannie … Reagan’s not to blame. You need to accept that. Taylor doesn’t blame her either. Nobody does. Just you sweetheart. In fact, Taylor is calling Reagan now to ask for her help with the wedding …”
“I’m helping!” interrupted Dannie defensively.
“Dannie, according to Taylor, you two are in over your head.”
“I was going to hire a planner.”
“You could” agreed Cole, “but don’t you see, Taylor is reaching out to Reagan to show her she is loved. Why do you think Reagan isn’t here with us, and is at Mom and Dad’s house instead? She feels unwelcome and guilty. She’s hiding from us. I’m just glad she got away from Archer, he’s dangerous. He cracked Ryan’s rib. He may have done worse if Reagan hadn’t hit him over the head.”
Dannie just stared at him. “Archer was just upset that Ryan showed up at his place at 3:00 AM. And Ryan hit him first anyway. Archer’s fine. He usually works the desk and doesn’t go in the field. That’s what Ami said anyway.”
“Dannie – you didn’t see him that day. In that conference room, trying to find where they were holding her. He was cold and calculating, barkong out orders like a king to his subjects. It probably gave him a fucking hard on to be in charge of the whole thing. Maybe me getting shot wasn’t even an accident. Hell, I don’t know. Maybe it was revenge. That type of man can become violent.”
Dannie shivered. “Well, she’s away from him and she’s okay now. As far as the wedding goes, fine. If that’s what Taylor wants, I’ll just step back and let them do it. Whatever.”
“And hurt Taylor in the process? You know damn well it will. She wants you both to be a part of it.”
“I don’t know if I can forgive her yet. I almost lost you.”
Cole thought she sounded like a petulant child and was getting pissed. “Try dammit, for Taylor! Ryan is standing up for Elliott. How cruel would it be to shun Reagan. It would break her. Is that what you really want Dannie? Because if it is …”
“No….” she said quickly, her voice small, looking like she might cry.
He reached for Dannie and groaned as he felt the tug of the healing scar, but pulled her to him anyway. “I love you Dannie. You know Reagan didn’t mean to hurt anyone. Not ever. Let this go. Do it for yourself. “
Dannie sighed in his arms. “I love you too. Taylor gets her heart from you. You’re right. It’s just, I was so angry that I might have lost you because of her….”
“Not because of her. Remind yourself, it was because of Avery. Reagan’s suffering too. Let’s try to put our family back together and what better way than with a wedding. A new beginning, not only for Taylor and Elliott, but for all of us.”
“Our daughter’s getting married!” Dannie said it like she just realized it.
Cole laughed heartily and grabbed his chest. “Damn, don’t make me laugh. Yes she is. No wonder she needs Reagan’s help!”
“That’s not funny, I’ve been trying,” said Dannie pouting.
“Yes, and Taylor knows that, but she wants Reagan to be a part of it. And you too.”
“I won’t ruin it for her Cole. I promise.”
“Pinky promise?” asked Cole grinning and held up his pinky finger.
Dannie laughed. “How old are you? Twelve?” She hooked her pinky with his and said the oath. “I pinky swear I’ll be nice to Reagan and make her feel welcome.”
Cole pulled her to him and kissed her. He would never grow tired of kissing Dannie.
Reagan couldn’t believe she was sitting at a restaurant having lunch with Taylor. They had just ordered and Taylor started fiddling with her glass. “So, Reagan, I’m buying your lunch today as bribery,” she said and finally looked up at her grinning.
Reagan couldn’t help but laugh at her excitement. “For what?”
“Okay, just hear me out. You did such a fabulous job on my reunion party in only a short amount of time, I really want you to help me finish planning my wedding. I-know-it’s-only-5-weeks-away,” she added in a rush, “but Mom and I already started, so we have some things done.”
The smile faded from Reagan’s face. “Is Dannie okay with me helping? You know she doesn’t have much use for me these days.”
“She is!” said Taylor beaming, “I spoke to her first, and she’s actually relieved to have the help.”
“Really? She doesn’t care?” asked Reagan, completely dumbfounded.
“No! So will you? Pleeeeease. I mean if you have time,” begged Taylor.
Reagan’s smile returned. Taylor was being so sweet. “I have nothing but time and it’ll be a good distraction. Of course, I’d love to help.”
“Thank you, thank you, thank you!” squealed Taylor and some of the other patrons looked their way. “Oops,” she said and both girls began to giggle.
“But, that’s not all and I probably should have asked you this first. But, Reagan, will you stand up for me? Be my maid of honor?” Taylor looked at her like she expected her to say no.
Reagan got emotional. She opened her mouth to speak and nothing came out. Taylor’s face started to fall, so Reagan quickly found her voice. “I’d be honored. I’m just shocked. Why me?”
“You’re my sister Reagan,” said Taylor softly, “I was so afraid of losing both you and Daddy.” She began to get emotional so stopped for a minute, taking a drink of her wine before continuing. “Sitting in that safe house was horrible, not knowing what was happening. And then afterwards, you looked so sad there with Archer, probably feeling like an outcast. It wasn’t right. I know we’ve had our differences, but you’re still my sister and I love you very much.”
“I don’t deserve …” started Reagan and was quickly interrupted by Taylor.
“Stop it! Don’t you dare say that,” said Taylor, “You had a tough time growing up. Much worse than me. Yes, I had a father that didn’t care, but he didn’t try to hurt people or go to jail. He just wasn’t there. When we moved in with you and Ryan, it was like a dream come true for me.” She paused and she looked sad, “I had a family, but I guess you felt like I took the only family you had away. I understand, but I hope we can put that in the past.”
“I was selfish. Taylor, you didn’t deserve the way I treated you. I’m very sorry.” Reagan smiled. “Asking me to be a part of such an important day for you and Elliott, it means the world to me. You have no idea. I love you too, sister.”
“Okay then,” said Taylor and forced out a breath, “no more sad. This calls for a celebration.” She held up her glass in a toast. “To sisters and weddings.”
Reagan couldn’t stop smiling as she took a drink of her wine. Today was a really good day.
“So, let me tell you what we’ve done so far,” said Taylor excitedly, “Ryan is standing up for Elliott and he asked Evan to be a groomsman. Connie is going to be a bridesmaid.”
“Evan? He doesn’t have anyone coming over from England? No cousins, friends, siblings?” Reagan was surprised.
“No, no and no. His folks are coming, but Elliott spent all his time studying and working. He didn’t have a bunch of friends and is an only child of only children. And actually, he and Evan have been talking quite a bit lately and they’ve become ‘quite friendly’.” She said the last part with a British accent and giggled. “We want to open a restaurant in Newcrest. He and Evan have been bouncing around plans. That’s okay, isn’t it?”
“Of course it is,” said Reagan. “I bet Grandpa was probably blocking it.” Reagan rolled her eyes dramatically. “Evan and Ami have been talking about retail for awhile. I know Ryan wants to open a gym as well. It’s perfect! I’ll ask Ryan about it.”
“We won’t be ready until we’ll after we are married. Gotta save up first. But yes. I’m super excited. Another thing Evan is working with Elliott find a house for us, he’s looking in Newcrest since that’s where we want the restaurant.”
“Taylor … my house. It’s perfect! You two can buy it! I was going to sink a bunch of money into a major remodel to chase away the ghosts. But you guys can do it how you want. I’ll find another one for myself. Start fresh.”
“You totally could. Talk to Elliott and I’ll talk to Evan. I bet he’ll be all for it. Taylor, nobody died there or anything – it’s just hard for me. All the fun of having my own home was gone when mother moved in and took over. You know, it was Daddy’s first house. That way you can keep it in the family. Now, fill me in on where you are with the wedding plans.”