When Reagan got up the next morning, she finished straightening up and moving the last of the empty boxes to the garage. Everything was almost in order. But Ryan and Evan were wrong. She really didn’t have a lot of shit to unpack. But there was a fair amount of new or gently used furniture to put together and move in. Ryan’s apartment had been furnished and she figured Evan’s probably was too and maaaybe she had a few more clothes. More than Ryan, but she wasn’t so sure about Evan.
She went back into her kitchen. The thought made her smile. She began to wash the few dishes they had missed the night before.She couldn’t stop thinking about Evan and that kiss. As badly as she would have loved to wake up with him in her bed this morning, she was glad she stopped things between them before they got out of control. First, if they got involved, she would eventually have to explain her mother to him and she didn’t think he would understand. Secondly, she knew very little about him and had no idea what sort of baggage he had.
That thought made her think of Archer. He always said people’s baggage made them unique. She realized she hadn’t thought of him for quite a long time, and tried to picture his face. She hoped he had found someone to love and he was happy. Even as she thought it, she felt a small pang of jealousy. Both men could kiss, but Evan’s were amazing. God, she seriously needed a boyfriend. Sadly, it just couldn’t be Evan. Evan was simply too complicated, even without knowing his baggage.
Reagan was finishing up the dishes when the doorbell rang. She hoped it might be Evan and then mentally kicked herself. That was just inviting trouble. She dried her hands and was shocked to find her dad, Dannie, and Connie standing in the doorway with a bag of groceries. “Come in!” she said, surprisingly happy to see them.
When she opened the door, Connie launched herself at Reagan. “Hey, I’ve only been gone one day!” she said and laughed.
“We came to see if you need any more help,” said Connie trying to be all grown up.
“That, and I bought some groceries to help stock your pantry,” said Dannie with a sweet smile. “I sorta took note of what you might need when Connie and I were putting things away yesterday. I hope you don’t mind.”
“Not at all! Thank you soooo much Dannie. I knew I was going to have to shop today because…. no Dannie coffee this morning.” Reagan was truly moved by the gesture and looked around to see what still needed to be done. The boxes were all unpacked but she could use some help hanging pictures.
Dannie grinned. “No worries. Coffee is one of the things I picked up. You should make it the night before, so it’s ready when you wake up. I’ll show you how to set the timer, but I can make a pot now if you like.”
“Okay, that’s be nice,” said Reagan only because she seemed to want to do it. She sat next to her father while they waited for the coffee to brew. “Almost everything is done Dad, but I do need to get the pictures hung.”
He looked so happy to be able to help. “On it,” he said, “So, how was your first night as a homeowner?”
She wondered if he thought Evan stayed? “Great! I’m still pinching myself to be sure it’s not a dream. Evan left right after you guys, then I crashed and didn’t wake up until a couple of hours ago.”
“Which pictures need to be hung?” asked her dad.
Reagan pointed to a few pictures leaning against the wall. “I have them sitting where I want them. I also have some family pictures and I want to put on the wall in my bedroom. Dannie, maybe you can help me decide on an arrangement while Dad hangs the ones laying around…not too high though, Dad. They have to be eye level.”
Cole saluted her with a huge grin and got up to get started.
Dannie and Connie followed Reagan to her bedroom where she had the family pictures stacked up on the wall. There were photos of the wedding. Her siblings. Pictures of her grandparents and even her great grandparents. And she even found one of her mother in her wedding dress. It was the only one of her mother that didn’t include her father.
“Ohhh – there’s me!” exclaimed Connie, “but who’s that? She’s pretty!”
Reagan looked at Dannie before responding. Dannie gave her a sad smile, and she felt a little guilty for having the picture in a collage along with Taylor and Connie.
“It’s my mother,” replied Reagan softly.
“That’s not Mommy,” said Connie.
“No, sweetheart it’s not,” said Reagan, wondering how to explain this. She always assumed Connie knew.
Thankfully, Dannie stepped in. “She is Reagan and Ryan’s mother Connie. You remember when Daddy and I got married a few years ago? We were both married before and she was Daddy’s first wife.”
“Ewwww. I don’t want another mother,” said Connie clearly confused.
“Oh baby, she’s not your mother. I am, and always will be. But, I’m also not Reagan and Ryan’s birth mother, I’m their stepmother. But that’s almost the same as being their mother. You know, some people have children and then get divorced. That’s what happened with Daddy and Reagan’s mother.”
“Is she my stepmother? Where does she live?” asked Connie pointing to the picture of Avery.
“Connie!” called out Cole from the doorway. “Wanna go get ice cream?”
Reagan jumped, he either had impeccable timing, or was listening.
“Ice Cream! Yes Daddy!” squealed Connie, apparently no longer interested in the woman in the picture.
Reagan looked up. Her dad had a pained look on his face that he tried to hide when he caught her eye. He’d heard. Things had been going so well between them. Would all of that change once her mother was released? She’d been thinking about asking her mother to live with her until she found a job and a place of her own. That’ll probably go over like a lead balloon, she thought sadly.
“You guys go on, I got the rest,” said Reagan, when in truth, she would’ve loved to go. But she wasn’t ready to discuss the dark haired other mother. Reagan felt like she had her family back, and now she was going to lose them again. She could see it in their eyes when they saw her mother’s picture.
Willow Creek Gym that same day…….
Ryan was going over the chart for his next client. He found he really enjoyed working in the gym. As far as hooking up went, there were a few regulars that had caught his attention. But he was spending so much time learning the ropes, he hadn’t done anything about it – yet.
He looked up when he heard the soft tone that indicated someone had come through the door. It was Evan. “Hey man, how’s it going?” called out Ryan, “Coming to work out the sore muscles from moving my sister’s shit?”
Evan chuckled. “Yes. I guess. But I wanted to talk to you about said sister. Get some advice from you.”
“Okay, but I want to thank you for helping us move her. I’m sure Reagan appreciated it too,” he said and waggled his eyebrows laughing.
“Yes, well, that’s what I wanted to ask about. You see, I’m sure she’s into me, but she pushes me away every time we get close. She’s not seeing anyone else, is she?”
Ryan was confused. He thought Rea and Evan would have wound up putting her bed to good use after they left. “Reagan’s complicated,” he said with a small sigh, “but actually, I’m shocked she’s doing that. She’s not dating anyone. Hell, I thought the sparks between you two were going to catch the house on fire. That’s why I went with the folks, to give you guys some alone time.”
“Fuck. This is awkward. Forget it,” said Evan, “I’ll figure it out.” He turned to go and a young woman was walking towards them. Evan let out a low whistle only he and Ryan could hear.
Ryan got up to greet her and laughed at Evan. “She’s my client, but if you’re looking to hit on her, forget it man. She’s getting married in a month and wants to have “buff arms” in her pictures,” he said using air quotes.
“Damn, all the hot ones are taken or reject me. Sucks,” groused Evan. “Listen, no need to tell Reagan about our chat. I don’t want to make her uncomfortable. I’m gonna hit the treadmill. Later.”
Ryan guided his client to the weight machine and they began their work out. While she was going through her reps, a very attractive woman he hadn’t seen before walked in. “Excuse me,” he said to his client, “I need to wait on the customer. Continue like you are and I’ll be right back.”
“Can I help you?” said Ryan as he walked up to the woman.
She looked him up and down and smirked. “I bet you could,” she said, obviously flirting with him.
Ryan swallowed hard, ignoring the innuendo. “Are you looking for a gym?” She wasn’t dressed to workout so he wasn’t sure what she wanted.
“Yes, and a trainer. I understand a Ryan Murdock is an excellent trainer. Do you know if he has any openings,” she asked coyly.
“Well, I’m Ryan. And you are?” he asked trying to keep it professional.
“Ohhh,” she cooed, “Hi. I’m Mirabel. So, Ryan, do you have any openings?”
Hell yeah I have openings, he thought. “I can check my calendar. I’m with a client right now. I’ll get you the paperwork and we can go over it when I’m done, if you have time. It’ll be about 30 minutes.”
“Sure,” she said, so Ryan handed her a tablet to fill out the questionnaire and went back to finish up with his client.
A few minutes later, Ryan glanced over where Mirabel was sitting to make sure she was still there. He saw Evan talking to her. He must be a horny bastard, thought Ryan, maybe it’s good thing Rea pushed him away. But then, he supposed if someone pushed him away, he would look elsewhere too.
Barely a minute later, Ryan laughed to himself when Evan stalked off. 0 for 3 good buddy, he thought. Sorry about that. Maybe Evan just came on too strong. Once Ryan got Mirabel to go out with him, he’d have to give Evan some pointers. Unless she’s married, but he didn’t notice a ring, and she was flirting with him.
Meanwhile, in Paris …..
Taylor finished the summer term with top scores. It was a lot of classroom, but with only two classes, it wasn’t so bad. Elliott took her to dinner to celebrate, something they rarely did. “This is lovely Elliott. Thank you,” said Taylor.
“It is nice,” he said as he lifted the wine glass to his lips for a sip, then gently sat it down. “Taylor, I think it’s time we discussed arrangements for the end of the upcoming semester.”
He looked incredibly sad, so Taylor knew exactly what he wanted to happen, but she’d been thinking about it too. “Elliott, it’s okay,” she said warmly, “I will get a job in Paris, and we can stay together until you graduate. Then I can help you in London with your restaurants. We can do it together.”
“No. You have to go home and just let me do this alone. You can’t move to London on a hope and a prayer. Plus, you won’t be able to live with me in Paris, or in London either. I live in a dorm and our flat in London’s too small. I literally have nothing to offer you.”
“Stop. I’ve thought about it Elliott. When you walked out, I was empty inside. I don’t care how small. I’ve lived in that tiny studio for more than three years. I don’t need big. I need you.”
“I’m sorry,” he said, looking miserable, “But I’m trying to be realistic. If the situation were different, I’d be proposing to you right now on bended knee.”
Taylor laughed sarcastically. “That’s supposed to help? Damn Elliott. So, instead of asking me to spend the rest of our lives together, you’re sending me home? To maybe wait for you until you get your shit together enough to have ‘something’ to offer?” Taylor was getting angry. She didn’t understand why he didn’t want her around.
“Taylor, love, you know I have to get my parents sorted. All they have is me and the restaurants. I’m the only one that can help.”
“How long Elliott?” Taylor wanted an answer.
Elliott fiddled with his glass. “I don’t expect you to wait for me Taylor. You’re young, beautiful, smart, sexy as hell and very talented. When you go home, you have to forget about me, because Taylor, I can’t tell you how bloody long.”
Taylor was livid and it was all she could do not to shout at him in the restaurant. Now she knew why he waited until they were in a public place to broach this sensitive topic that they had both so skillfully avoided all summer. “That’s bullshit, Elliott Gray,” she said under her breath. “I can tell how miserable you are, so why Elliott? I love you. You said you love me too. So what you said just now, it makes absolutely zero sense.”
He looked at her hard. “God, I do love you Taylor. I love you so much I have to let you go. I don’t know if I can save the restaurants. And in the process of trying, I would hold you back from being something great. You might grow to despise me, and that would be worse than losing you to another.”
“Stop trying to protect me from you. You’re the kindest man I’ve ever met. You love your parents. Family is important to you. I admire what you’re doing. But we have something special. We can’t just throw that away. I refuse. So buck up buttercup. You’re bloody stuck with me.”
The corners of Elliott’s full lips turned up slightly at her outburst and he shook his head. “You deserve so much better than a poor restauranteur from the bad side of London. I can’t give you the life you’re accustomed to Taylor.”
“Elliott!” she said grinning at him, “Check the year. It’s the 21st Century. I’m not some little woman that needs to be taken care of!” Even as she said it, she knew he would work nonstop to that do just that so she added, her tone lighthearted, “Well, unless I’m getting attacked in a bar because you left me. There is that, but if you don’t leave me, I’m good.” That’s one of the things she loved so much about him. If she stayed, he would try to be there for her. He would already be burning the candle at both ends with the restaurants and it would slowly destroy him
She picked up her glass and took a drink to give her a minute to think. There had to be a middle ground. He was sending her away so he could focus. Tears clouded Taylor’s vision when she finally accepted she was probably going to have to leave, but she’d be damned if she would stay gone.
“Okay Mister,” she said, “there will be a time limit on this – pile of dog crap. I’ll go live with my parents at the end of this term and wait for you to finish the next term. Then you have one year … oh god, that’s almost two years from now … so no, make that six months.” She pointed her finger at Elliott and narrowed her eyes. “Then I’m coming home, to you, to London. While I’m in the states, I’ll get a job and save my money. When I get here, I’ll invest it in the restaurants.”
Elliott smiled warmly, as his adam’s apple bobbed up and down with the effort to stay composed. “It appears I have met my match. But, that’s why I love you Taylor. You’re so selfless and determined – in addition to what I’ve already stated. You’re a dog with a bone, while all this bloody dog has is a pile of dog crap.” He paused and chuckled softly, “Six months huh?”
“Not one week more.” She loved Elliott and his sweet ways. She could see him being a wonderful father to their children. That thought took her by surprise. She hadn’t thought that far into the future before. But sitting here, she just knew, Elliott needed to be a father. He had so much heart to give. He deserved a chance at happiness. She sucked in a breath as a few tears managed to leak out. “Elliott, you are it for me,” she said, “I can’t even imagine a life that doesn’t include you.”
Elliott reached over and took her hand. “Please, don’t cry Love. Let’s enjoy the last few months together before we have to part.”
“I can’t help it.”
“Should we go then? No dessert?”
Taylor just shook her head.
He paid the check and they left for the short walk back to her apartment. He slid his arm around her. Taylor relished the warmth of his body next to hers. In the chilly night air, she came to a realization – she would go home. But she may not wait the full six months, but he didn’t have to know that. With that decided, she felt better the rest of the way to her apartment.
When they arrived at her door, he kissed her cheek and turned to leave. “No, Elliott. Stay. We didn’t have desert …” He cut her off with one of his amazingly gentle, yet passionate kisses.
Then he swooped her off her feet and carried her into the tiny apartment, kicking the door closed with his foot. He stopped at the bed and she slid down his body never stopping the kiss as she reached for the buttons on his shirt. She needed to feel the warmth of his skin. Of him.
He stopped and pulled it off and tossed it on the floor, then helped relieve her of her dress. “You’re so beautiful … how did I ever get so lucky? I love you,” he said, his voice thick with emotion.
She almost giggled through her lust induced haze. He was the beautiful one, both inside and out and he had no idea. No, she was the lucky one. “I love you too, Elliott Gray,” she whispered between kisses, and added in her head, now and forever.
To be continued…
Go back to Chapter 3.27
A/N: Thanks to SimsLegacyStories for submitting Maribel Warner ... This actually wasn’t her first appearance… she may have been lurking in the background in an earlier chapter.