The Calm Before the Storm

    Disclaimer: I don’t own any of the characters in my fan fic!


    Chapter Six

    Chloe woke up the following morning, glad that it was the weekend. She stretched lazily as she got out of bed. She released her hair from the ponytail she had worn to be. Next, she went over to her computer and turned it up.

    As she waited (endlessly) for her e-mail to come up, Chloe eyed the roses on her nightstand. Looking at the roses before had given her pleasure. Now, they frightened her. "Stop it, Lane," she ordered herself. "They are just roses." As Chloe waited impatiently for the screen to finally show itself, she came to a decision about the roses. Chloe stood up from her chair, picked the roses up, and carried them to the trashcan in the kitchen. "Much better," she said as she walked up the stairs back to her room.

    Her e-mail was finally up. "Oh, Brady sent one!" She exclaimed happily and opened it:

    Good morning, Diva! Just wanted to let you know I was thinking of you! I'll meet you at .Dotcom this afternoon. Love, Brady

    Chloe replied to Brady:

    You made my morning, Brady! I can't wait to see you! I love you! Chloe

    Chloe sat back in her chair, with a dreamy smile on her face. She remembered when her and Brady first met on the pier. "I can't believe how we fought! The sparks flew between us right from the start. We weren't ready then to start dating each other. Both of us had some serious issues we needed to resolve. Now is the perfect time for us to be together. He really completes me and makes me a better person."

    Just then, a new message popped up on her screen from an unknown address. Chloe looked at it quizzically and said, "What is this?" She moved her mouse and opened the message from the unknown person.

    It read:

    I hope you like the roses. They reminded me of you, so beautiful and yet so strong. You have made me very proud of you. I am looking forward to seeing you again.

    Chloe shivered as she read the message again. "What the hell?" she said. "I'll reply to this person, find out who the hell is messing with my life."

    Chloe typed in the following message:

    I don't know who the hell you are but get the HELL out of my life!

    Unfortunately, Chloe couldn't e-mail her response to this person. The computer simply refused to send it. Chloe turned off her computer. That feeling had returned again. "I won't be scared," Chloe said as she stood up from her chair and prepared to get ready for day.

    As Chloe changed into a purple sweater and blue jeans, she came to a decision about the e-mail. "I won't tell anyone about this," she said as she gazed evilly at her computer. "Not even Brady. He's worried enough as it is. I heard him talk with Craig last night about the roses. I'll keep this to myself, at least for now." Chloe finished brushing her hair and walked out the door.

    A few hours later, Chloe came out of a shop in Salem Place. She had finally purchased that special Christmas gift for Brady. She looked at her bag with pride. "Brady's going to love this," she said as she walked to the next store.

    A woman was looking at the shop windows. She didn't see Chloe and accidentally bumped into her. The woman's bags scattered on the ground. "Oh my," she said, "I am so sorry."

    Chloe bent down to help the woman retrieve her bags. "That's o.k. I know how engrossed you can get when you shop." Chloe looked up to hand the woman her bags and was surprised to come face to face with a real princess. "Princess Greta!" she said in surprise.

    Greta laughed. "And you are Chloe Lane. It's good to see you again, Chloe. The last time I saw you doesn't hold very good memories for me."

    Chloe said, "The coronation. I know. That was really scary. I'm so happy that everyone survived it."

    "I know. I try not to think about it, though." Greta decided to change the subject. "So, I see you're doing some shopping, too. I love to shop."

    Chloe replied, completely composed in being in contact with a princess, "I like shopping when I have an idea about what I want to buy. My friend, Belle Black, is a shop-a-holic. She loves shopping!"

    Just then, Colin Murphy called out, "Greta! I'm sorry I'm late! I was called in to do an emergency surgery this morning!" He ran as he caught up with Greta and Chloe.

    "Colin!" Greta replied as she held out her hands to him. He took her hands in his.

    He greeted Chloe with a smile. "Hello," he said to her. "Aren't you going to introduce me to this lovely young lady?" He winked at Greta.

    Greta said, "Of course! This is Chloe Lane. She's the daughter of Craig and Nancy Wesley."

    "I thought you looked familiar," Colin said. "I've seen you at the hospital, volunteering. I am Colin Murphy."

    Chloe smiled back at Colin. "Well, it's nice to meet you, Dr. Murphy. I've seen you at the hospital, too."

    Colin replied, "It's not often that a man can talk to two beautiful women at the same time. I feel honored."

    Greta blushed and Chloe just smiled at Colin. Colin looked closely at Chloe. There's something here…, he thought as a wayward idea popped into his mind, but then he dismissed the thought quickly as impossible.

    "I am meeting someone soon," Chloe said. "It was nice seeing you again, Princess Greta, and finally meeting you, Dr. Murphy."

    Colin watched Chloe as she walked away. "She seems very familiar to me," he said to Greta. "I am not quite sure why, though. It seems that we have met before."

    Greta linked her arm through Colin's. "You've probably seen her at the hospital and around Salem. She's a very talented singer, too. She sings opera."

    "A young girl like that?" Colin said in disbelief. "She sings opera?"

    "Quite well, too," Greta said. "Come on. Let's go get some cappuccino to warm us up." Colin allowed Greta to lead him away, but he couldn't shake the image that he had seen Chloe somewhere else before.

    Chloe greeted Brady with a huge smile on her face outside of .Dotcom. Brady held open the door for her as they went in. Neither one of them discussed the roses, hoping to put the uneasiness behind them.

    Nearby, a cell phone rang. The man that had been tailing Chloe (and who put the roses in her room) answered it. "Yes," he said, "the stage is almost set. She opened the e-mail this morning. She tried to reply, but the block I set up refused to let her." He laughed into the phone. "You should be able to make first contact with her soon… The Christmas Ball? …Yes, I'll take care of it." He hung up the phone and resumed his post.

    Chapter Seven

    It was the day before the Christmas Ball. Chloe still had this uneasy feeling that someone was watching her. She kept up a good front for her parents and Brady. Nancy and Craig bought the act, but not Brady. He knew it was still bothering Chloe. However, she refused to talk about it with him. She told him to “just shake it off.” She told Brady that she believed the roses were just a part of a practical joke and that they weren't anything to worry about. She never mentioned the e-mail to him.

    Chloe came into her room. It had been a week since Chloe had received that puzzling e-mail. “I hope I made the right decision,” she murmured as she glanced at her computer. “But I didn’t want to worry Brady more than he already is. He is constantly searching crowds for anyone who may be looking at me.”

    She threw her backpack on her bed and laid down on it. Her eyes found the ceiling as she thought back to this past week. “It’s weird,” she said, “but I always have this feeling that someone is watching me. I don’t know if I’m paranoid or not.” She turned over on the bed and stretched out.

    She then looked at the computer. Chloe hadn’t checked her e-mail since last Saturday. She gathered her courage around her and turned it on. “I hope…well, I’ll see soon.” As her new messages popped up, Chloe saw the one she had been dreading. “Dammit!” she swore. “I won’t let this bastard mess with me!”

    She angrily opened up the message and was completely shocked when she read it. “Oh my God,” Chloe breathed when she finished it. “Could it be true?”

    Just then, her cell phone rang. Chloe ignored it for a minute as she took in the surprising news. She picked it up on fifth ring. “Hello?” she said.

    “Hey, Diva,” a deep voice answered. “It’s Brady.” There wasn’t a response for a second. “Your boyfriend?” he supplied helpfully.

    “I know that,” Chloe said, shaking the fog away from her mind. “I’m sorry, Brady, I was in the middle of a homework assignment.”
    She lied to him, not ready to share the news she had just received with anyone, even Brady.

    Brady felt the distance between him and Chloe, something he hadn’t felt in a long time. “Chloe?” he asked concernedly, “Are you all right?”

    Chloe made an attempt to sound cheerful. She would have succeeded with anyone else but Brady. “Of course I am, Brady. I was just working on that project so I would have tomorrow night to spend with you.”

    Brady gave a small smile. He knew his Diva. She would tell him what was bothering her sooner or later. Hopefully, it would be sooner. “That’s what I was calling about. I want to meet Belle and Shawn at Tuscany, so we can have some time to ourselves.”

    Chloe said, genuinely happy, “That’s a great idea! I’d love to go to the ball alone! I bet Shawn and Belle like that arrangement, too.”

    “Belle squealed with joy when I asked her about it. I took that as a yes,” Brady said as he made a lame attempt at a joke.

    Chloe laughed slightly. “That is how she usually says yes. So, what time will you pick me up tomorrow?”

    Brady responded, “About 8:00. That should give us plenty of time to get to Tuscany before it’s in full swing.”

    Chloe said, “Hmm.” Her thoughts were on the mysterious e-mail, and not this conversation with Brady.

    ”Chloe, are you listening?” Brady asked, beginning to lose some patience with her.

    Chloe shook herself out of her reverie. “Of course, Brady. I’m a little nervous about tomorrow night. I mean, you remember what happened at the last dance I went to,” Chloe improvised quickly.

    “Yeah, but nothing like that will happen when I’m with you,” Brady said reassuringly to Chloe. “You know that, right?’

    She smiled as she responded, “You are my Black night in shining armor, Brady. You’re always there for me when I need you.”

    “Anytime, day or night,” Brady said. “I’ll see you then, Diva.”

    “I can’t wait,” Chloe replied. “ ‘Bye, Brady!” Chloe then hung up the phone, hoping she had convinced Brady that everything was just fine with her.

    Of course, she hadn’t. Brady looked long at the phone in his hand. “What is going on, Chloe?” he asked the phone. “I know you were hiding something, something that was making you nervous. And it has nothing with going to a dance. Why won’t you tell me what’s wrong?” Brady hung the phone up. He knew that he had to let Chloe come to him when she was ready. She would never respond if he pushed her to tell him. But…now he was even more worried than before.

    “Tomorrow night, Black,” he said, “See what you can get out of her tomorrow night.”

    Chapter Eight

    Chloe was anxiously preparing herself for the ball. Brady was going to pick her up in exactly two hours. “Nancy!” she yelled down the stairs. “I need you to do my hair!”

    “Anything you say, sweetheart!” Nancy said as she bounded happily up the stairs. She was ecstatic that Chloe was dating Brady Black now. He was such an improvement over Phillip Kiriakis. Also, he had improved Chloe’s mood dramatically. She was much happier now that Brady was in her life. She entered the bathroom, where Chloe was waiting for her.

    “How should I wear my hair?” Chloe asked Nancy.

    Nancy almost squealed with joy, but caught herself. Brady had helped her see that she needed to calm her emotions down when she was with Chloe. Chloe would respond much better to her, Brady said, and Chloe certainly did. “I love it when you wear your hair up, Chloe.” Nancy said, “And then we could put these cute little rhinestone pins in your hair. You’ll look just like a fairy princess.”

    Chloe looked at Nancy’s reflection in the mirror. “That sounds good,” Chloe said. She noticed how Nancy’s eyes brightened when she agreed with her. “Let’s get started.”

    Nancy worked for nearly an hour on her hair (Chloe has an awful lot of it!). The ending results were perfect. Chloe smiled into the mirror. “Oh, Nancy,” she breathed, “it looks perfect.”

    “Just like my perfect daughter,” Nancy couldn’t resist saying emotionally. She brushed a tear as it trailed down her face. Then, without thinking of the possible rejection, Nancy hugged Chloe quickly from behind. She was surprised when Chloe’s hands came up to grip hers.

    “Thanks, Nancy,” Chloe said.

    Nancy’s eyes widened as she let go of Chloe. She couldn’t wait to go downstairs and tell Craig of this mother-daughter moment. “Anytime, Chloe. Ummm, I’ll let you finish up. Brady will be here in about an hour.”

    “Oh no!” Chloe exclaimed. “I’d better get moving!” Chloe dashed from the bathroom to her room, where she closed the door. Nancy looked at the closed door and smiled. She hurried downstairs. Chloe could hear her calling, “Craig! Craig!” She couldn’t resist smiling as she dressed herself for the ball.

    One hour later, the doorbell rang. Craig answered it. “Brady!” he greeted him, “what a surprise!”

    Brady grinned in response. “Isn’t it? So, is Chloe ready?”

    Craig smiled back at Brady. He really liked this young man and thought that Brady and Chloe made a wonderful couple. “Nancy checked on her a few minutes ago. She’ll be down soon. Come in and have a seat.”

    Brady came in and closed the door behind him. “Brady!” Nancy said as she came down the stairs. “Chloe,” she yelled, “Brady’s here!” Nancy was dressed for the ball in an outlandish fuchsia outfit that, somehow, looked perfect on her. She walked over and gave Brady a hug. “Wait until you see Chloe,” she said. “She looks breathtaking!”

    “I can’t wait,” Brady said, always surprised when Nancy greeted him so enthusiastically. She really opened up to him. He wasn’t certain why.

    At that moment, Chloe was rereading her e-mail from the day before. She was very excited about attending the Christmas Ball. She smiled as she called down to Nancy, “I’ll be down in a few minutes!”

    The words on the computer popped up at her one more time:

    Dear Chloe,
    I cannot wait to see you at the Christmas Ball. You have become such a talented young woman. My heart swells with pride when I think of you. I was not around when you were growing up, and I regret that. I regret a lot of things, Chloe, but I do not regret the lovely woman you became. You are like me. You are very strong, very resourceful.

    If we do not officially meet at the ball, know that I am there, watching over you. Our meeting will come soon. I hope you are as excited about the meeting as I am. Love, Your Father

    Chloe turned the computer off as she said, “I am looking forward to finally meeting you. Will it be tonight?” Chloe slipped into her shoes. Then, she grabbed her purse and a paper bag. She took one last look in the mirror to admire her appearance. Then, she headed down the stairs.

    Brady turned his head when he heard Chloe on the stairs. He nearly stopped breathing as he saw this vision, this goddess, walk towards him. She was breathtaking. Nancy poked Craig in the stomach and pointed at Brady. They both smiled to each other as they noted the awe-struck look on his face. Craig whispered to Nancy, “I have a feeling that someday Brady will be our son-in-law.”

    Nancy whispered back, “I hope so.”

    Brady was unaware of the conversation going on around him. His concentration was on Chloe. She was wearing a deep purple gown with a halter-top that reached the floor. The dress showed off her magnificent figure to perfection. Her hair was up, and nestled in her hair were rhinestones that reflected the lights from the room.

    “Beautiful,” Brady breathed deeply as Chloe neared him. “You look beautiful,” Brady said to her.

    Craig said, “Yes, you do, Chloe. You’re gorgeous.”

    Chloe finally took her eyes off of Brady. She smiled at Craig. “Thank you, Craig,” she said. “Nancy helped put me together.”

    Nancy was flustered as Chloe complimented her. “Oh, it was nothing!” she said emphatically. “Chloe has such natural beauty. She could make a burlap bag look great!”

    Chloe, Brady, and Craig laughed at this. There were times when Nancy tried too hard, just like this one. “I do think you are missing something,” Brady said to Chloe.

    Chloe shook her head in amazement. “What!?”

    “Yeah, right here,” Brady pointed to the necklace Chloe was wearing. “What do you think, Dr. Wesley?”

    Craig had a feeling he knew where this was going. “It’s Craig, Brady. And, yes, I think you’re right. Definitely not a good idea, Chloe.”

    “But…” Nancy sputtered, “I think…”

    Craig elbowed her in the side, “That Chloe could look better.”

    Chloe was starting to get annoyed at this. “All of you just said I looked beautiful. What’s wrong with my necklace?” Chloe asked as she fingered the gold chain.

    “Nothing,” Brady said, “ but this could look better.” He pulled a gorgeous gold necklace out of the pocket of his suit. Dangling from the chain was a heart-shaped locket.

    Nancy oohed and aahed as Craig grinned. Chloe breathed out, “Brady! It’s gorgeous! Here, put it on me!” Chloe took off the other necklace and turned around. Brady fastened the locket around her neck.

    “Now you look perfect,” Brady said. “Let’s go.”

    Chloe smiled happily at Brady, thinking what a promising night this was going to be. She was going to the ball with her soulmate and she may meet her real father. Eat your heart out, Cinderella, Chloe thought as she climbed into the back of the limo Brady had ordered for them. “Thank you so much for my necklace, Brady,” Chloe said as she granted him a kiss.

    Brady kissed her back. “You’re welcome, Chloe. It belonged to my mother.”

    “Oh, Brady,” Chloe stared at him in wonder. “It’s even more special now.”

    “I wanted you to have it, Chloe. You are so special to me. I love you so much.” Brady said as he moved closer to Chloe on the seat.

    Chloe leaned contentedly into Brady as she fingered her lovely necklace. “Brady,” she asked as the limo pulled out of the driveway, “Can we stop somewhere first?”

    Brady said as he moved closer to Chloe, “Definitely.”

    Chapter Nine

    Chloe stepped out of limo after it stopped. Brady followed her
    as she led the way through the brisk winter air. “It’s really cold out here,” Brady said as he followed her through the night.

    “I know,” Chloe said. “We may get some snow soon.” She stopped when they reached their destination. A huge smile crossed her face as she turned to face Brady. “Oh, Brady, do you remember, in the summer, when we came here? This is the loveliest place in Salem.”

    “Let me do the honors,” Brady said as he flicked on the lights to the gazebo. He watched Chloe as her face once again filled up with awe.

    “So wonderful,” Chloe said to Brady. “I began to really understand that my feelings for you weren’t all friendly that
    night when we sang and danced here. I began to realize what a truly special man you are.”

    Brady hugged Chloe to him. “I wanted to tell you how I felt that night, but it was too soon. You weren’t ready to hear it or admit your feelings. I remember thinking that all you needed was time to sort everything out.”

    “You understand me like no one else ever has,” Chloe said as she hugged him back. “If you had told me, I wouldn’t have believed you.”

    “I know,” Brady said as he kissed her cheek. “But we really connected this summer, more than I ever thought possible.”

    Chloe turned around in his embrace to face him. “You’re right, Brady Black, and that is the reason why I wanted to stop here tonight. I wanted to give you something, too.”

    “I love gifts,” Brady said. “What is it? A new car?”

    “No, silly,” Chloe said as she held out the gift bag. “Here. Open it.”

    Brady looked at Chloe as she shyly handed him the bag. Shy is a word I never thought to use with Chloe, he thought, as he took the bag. He started to shake it.

    “Don’t shake it!” Chloe ordered alarm. “It’s fragile!”

    Brady was very intrigued now. “Sorry, Diva.” He untied the ribbon that held the bag together and started to go through the tissue paper. “Do you think you used enough tissue paper?” he asked Chloe. “Oh, here it is!” Brady gently pulled something out of the bag. “What is this?” he murmured as he examined it in the light.

    “My heart,” Chloe replied.

    Brady looked from the glass heart in his hand to Chloe and smiled. Chloe clarified to Brady, in case he didn’t get it, “I am giving you my heart.”

    “Wow,” Brady said as he gingerly looked at the glass heart. Sure enough, Chloe’s name was engraved on it. “Oh Chloe, this is…my god…I am…”

    Chloe laughed nervously as Brady sputtered and stuttered. “I can’t believe the cool, calm, collected Brady Black is stuttering! I didn’t know if you would like it or not. It’s o.k. if you don’t. I’ll just take…”

    Brady’s eyes met Chloe’s. She stopped laughing when she looked back. There was such naked emotion in his eyes. It took her breath away. “Not like it? Take it back? Never. I can’t find the words, Chloe, to tell you how much this means to me. I’ll treasure your heart always.” He gently put the heart back in the bag and turned her face up to meet his lips. The kiss was the gentlest, tenderest kiss the two of them had ever shared. It rocked both of them to their core.

    “You’re right, Chloe,” Brady murmured quietly to her. “This is very fragile. I’ll always treat your heart with care.”

    “Brady,” Chloe said, “I love you.”

    “You just showed me how much.” Brady held on tighter to Chloe. He couldn’t believe how much Chloe loved him. He understood that the glass heart was a symbol for her real heart. Chloe completely, totally, and without reservation loved him!

    Brady started to sway gently with Chloe as he sang a song to her straight from his heart. He gazed intently into her eyes as he sang his heart and soul to her. Chloe had never heard the song before but joined Brady in on the chorus. (She seems to have a strong aversion to country music!)

    Dancing in the dark,
    Middle of the night,
    Taking your heart,
    And holding it tight
    Emotional touch,
    Touching my skin
    And asking you to do
    What you’ve been doing
    All over again

    Oh, It’s a beautiful thing
    Don’t think I can keep it all in
    I’ve just got to let you know
    What it is that won’t let me go

    It’s your love
    It just does something to me
    It sends a shock right through me
    I can’t get enough
    And if you wonder
    About the spell I’m under
    Oh, it’s your love

    Better that I was
    More than I am
    And all of this happened
    By taking your hand
    And who I am now
    Is who I wanted to be
    And now that we’re together
    I’m stronger than ever
    I’m happy and free

    Oh it’s a beautiful thing
    Don’t think I can keep it all in
    And if you ask me why I’ve changed
    All I’ve got to do is say your sweet name

    It’s your love
    It just does something to me
    It sends a shock right through
    I can’t get enough
    And if you wonder
    About the spell I’m under
    Oh it’s your love

    Oh it’s a beautiful thing
    Don’t think I can keep it all in
    I’ve just got to let you know
    What it is that won’t let me go

    It’s your love
    It just does something to me
    It sends a shock right through me
    I can’t get enough
    And if you wonder
    About the spell I’m under
    Oh it’s your love
    It’s your love
    It’s your love

    “Brady,” Chloe said as she kissed him on the lips, “That was amazing.”

    Brady smiled cockily at Chloe. It was so much easier now to open up. “I know. I love you, Lane. And, as much as I would like to stay here for the rest of the night, it’s time we head to the ball.”

    “The ball,” Chloe said in amazement, remembering what was awaiting her there. “Yes, let’s go.”

    Brady took her hand as he led her back to the limo. They entered the limo and headed off into the night. What a perfect night, Brady thought. Now if only Chloe would tell me what was bothering her yesterday on the phone.

    Chapter Ten

    Christmas music echoed through the doors to Tuscany as Brady and Chloe entered the room. The restaurant was decorated with gorgeous decorations to celebrate the holiday.

    “Oh, Brady,” Chloe breathed as she gazed in wonder at the room. “It’s so beautiful!”

    Brady couldn’t help but grin at the awe on Chloe’s face. “You make the room even more beautiful,” he said to her as he handed both of their coats to a waiter.

    “Look! Over there!” Chloe pointed. “It looks like Shawn caught your sister under the mistletoe.” They watched as Shawn and Belle shared a long kiss, unaware of the many faces watching them. Marlena finally broke the kiss up by tapping Belle’s shoulder. Belle proceeded to blush ferociously and hide her face in Shawn’s shoulder. “That’s so sweet,” Chloe said, genuinely happy for her two friends.

    Brady snorted as he led Chloe down the steps. “Right. I just love watching a guy kiss my baby sister.”

    “Like Belle hasn’t witnessed many of our kisses!” Chloe teased back. “Of course, she always teases you about them. And she never lets me talk to her about the romantic aspect of our relationship. She claims it’s icky or something.”

    “Brady! Chloe!” John called out as he cut through the crowd to greet the couple. “I’ve been looking for you everywhere. I thought you were going to come with Belle and Shawn.”

    “We wanted to stop somewhere else, Dad,” Brady said as he smiled at his father, “ so we came separately.”

    “Good evening, Mr. Black,” Chloe said as John gifted her with a grin. “It’s great to see you again.”

    “Chloe, it’s always a pleasure to see you with this ugly son of mine,” John replied as he jokingly put his arms around Brady. “I don’t know how you can stand to be seen with him.” John glanced at Chloe and noticed the necklace around her neck and felt a wealth of pride go through him. He then gave Brady his patented raised eyebrow.

    Chloe grinned as Brady said, “Dad!” “It’s not too hard, Mr. Black. He’s kinda grown on me over the past few months.”

    “Chloe!” Belle squealed as she came up to the small group. “I’ve been, like, waiting forever for you to get here!” She hugged Chloe. She stepped back and said, “Wow, Chloe, you look wonderful!”

    “It’s good to see you, too, Tink,” Brady said. “I always like to be ignored.”

    “Brady! Fine, then, I’ll give you a hug, too.” Belle proceeded to do that as John grinned foolishly at his two children. He clearly enjoyed the good-natured teasing between them.

    After the hug, Belle stepped back. “Oh, Brady, I’m going to borrow Chloe for a moment. I’ll return her soon,” Belle said as she started to drag a bewildered Chloe across the floor.

    “Son,” John said as Brady watched Belle pull Chloe away from him.

    “Yes?” Brady asked.

    “I couldn’t help but notice what Chloe was wearing tonight.” And John couldn’t have been more pleased. He believed that Brady and Chloe were destined to be soulmates for the rest of their lives, just like him and Marlena. “The necklace is very special to you. I gave it to your mother the day you were born. I wanted her to know how much I loved her and appreciated the gift she had given me. Now I know how much you really love Chloe.”

    Brady tried to act like this speech embarrassed him, but deep down he was proud to hear his father’s feelings. John had been the very first and most vocal supporter in his relationship with Chloe. “She’s very special.”

    John nodded his head. “That’s a fact,” he said. (I’m sorry-I couldn’t resist it! Every time John says this line I have to laugh hysterically! I’ve been trying to work the line in and it just seemed to fit in right here!)

    Just then, John noticed Hope enter the room alone. She had been unable to work things out with Bo, who blamed her, John, and Marlena about J.T.’s true paternity. (Remember, now J.T. is the old Isaac. The truth about the baby switch and paternity thing came out. I think I mentioned it in Chapter Two.)

    John sadly shook his head as he watched Greta greet Hope. “I feel so bad for her,” John said to Brady. “Sometimes I think we should have told Bo right away. Then, he could have come to terms with everything, just like Marlena did.”

    “It was quite a surprise,” Brady said, “learning that I had a little brother. I know that Shawn hasn’t been able to forgive his mother for it, either.”

    “Well, we’ll see what happens,” John said morosely. He wished that things could have been different.

    “Belle, you’ve just dragged me through a zillion people! WHAT did you need to tell me?” Chloe asked as Belle finally stopped by the outskirts of the room, away from any crowds. “Brady and I just got here.”

    “Chloe Lane, I was your friend BEFORE you were Brady’s girlfriend!” Belle said in exasperation. Then she smiled at Chloe to take the sting out of her words. “Actually, I just wanted to ask you about those “mysterious” roses. Brady won’t speak about them to me. We know for sure the Phillip didn’t send them. Have you found out who sent them?”

    Chloe found it hard to conceal the hope that was blossoming in her. She didn’t feel the fear that she used to at the mention of the roses, now that she knew her father had sent them. But, that wasn’t something she was ready to share with anyone yet, not even Brady, so Chloe decided to act like it was no big deal. “No, Belle, and nothing else has happened. I want to put the whole incident behind me.”

    “Oh, is that what you told Brady last night on the phone?” Belle asked. She knew that Brady had been preoccupied all night about his phone call with Chloe. Something wasn’t right here, and Belle wanted to get to the bottom of it.

    “Actually, yes. The roses aren’t a big deal anymore. I don’t want anyone to worry about it. I’m going back to Brady,” Chloe said as she turned around.

    Belle stopped her from leaving by taking hold of her arm. “You are still worried about them, aren’t you? And you don’t want us to know about it.”

    Let her believe this, Chloe thought. I’m not ready to share the real reason why I am feeling worried, apprehensive, excited, and nervous. Tonight I may finally find out who my father is! “Belle, Brady has so much on his mind right now. He doesn’t need to worry about this, too.”

    Something still didn’t feel quite right, but Belle decided to let it drop for the moment. “He loves you, Chloe, and he’ll take care of you. He will NEVER let anything bad happen to you.”

    Chloe smiled, clearly relieved that this conversation was nearly finished. “I know, Belle. And if something else happens, he will be the first to know.” Chloe had every intention of sharing the news with Brady about her father as soon as she could. She didn’t feel bad about withholding the e-mails from Brady. Chloe believed that the e-mails and roses were non-threatening.

    Belle was nearly satisfied as she assessed Chloe’s answer. She made a vow to keep a close watch on her friend. Brady was finally happy and Chloe was mainly responsible for that. She didn’t want anything to ruin her brother’s newfound joy with life. “Well, let’s go party!” She led the way back to their boyfriends.

    Chloe followed slowly in her wake, eyeing every man in close contact. One of them could be my father, she thought. I wonder who it could be?

    Chapter Eleven

    Chloe and Brady were dancing under the light of the chandeliers. Brady could tell that Chloe’s mind was not on the dance or on him. She kept looking over his shoulder, glancing through the crowd. When Brady pressed her on it, Chloe just brushed it off, saying she was looking for Nancy and Craig.

    Brady knew that Chloe wasn’t telling him something and that something was pretty BIG! He just couldn’t figure out a way to get Chloe to reveal it to him. He remembered that when Phillip had pressed Chloe for information on anything, Chloe would blow up at him. Brady understood Chloe in a way Phillip never did. He knew that she would open up to him in her own time, but he didn’t know if he could make it that long!

    “Oh, there they are,” Brady said to Chloe, nearly halfway through the dance. He had decided to call her bluff.

    Chloe shook herself out of the search she had undertaken. “Excuse me?” she asked in confusion.

    “Your parents. Well, at least, Dr. Wesley. Weren’t you looking for them a few minutes ago?” Brady asked sweetly.

    Damn, Chloe thought, is Brady toying with me? Left with no other option, she said, “Ummm, yes, I was. Let’s go over and say hi.”

    Brady scowled at Chloe’s head as she led the way to Craig. She isn’t ready to share this yet, he thought. He didn’t know how much longer he could be patient.

    “Craig, when did you get here?” Chloe greeted her stepfather in a forced cheerful voice. “And where’s Nancy?”

    Craig turned from the man he had been talking to. “Chloe and Brady, I’m glad you came over. Nancy’s visiting with some friends right now. But there’s someone I want you both to meet.” With that, Craig gestured to the man standing next to him.

    Chloe and Brady both turned to face the man on Craig’s side. “This is Dr. Bill Horton. He used to work at the hospital. In fact, he knows Nancy’s father really well. He’s finally decided to come back and work again for us.” Craig then turned to Bill and said, “This is Chloe Lane and Brady Black.”

    He shook Brady’s hand and offered Chloe a smile. “I’ve seen you around the hospital, haven’t I, Chloe?” he asked her.

    “Yes, I’ve been doing some volunteering on the pediatric floor.” Chloe responded.

    Brady broke in, “If you’ll excuse us, I know someone who wants to dance.” With that, he guided Chloe away from the doctors.

    “She’s a beautiful girl,” Bill said to Craig.

    “Yes, she is. And she’s very talented. Her ambition is to be an opera singer.

    Bill noted, “You sound very proud of her.”

    Craig smiled at his colleague. “Of course I am. She is my daughter.” He smiled as Bill raised his eyes. “Technically,” Craig said, “she is my step-daughter, but I definitely feel like her real father.” Craig reached for two glasses of champagne for both of them, so he missed the speculative way Bill watched Chloe as Brady led her back to the dance floor.

    Chloe glanced over her shoulder, making eye contact with the new doctor. Could it be him? she wondered as she put the facts together. She knew that her father knew both Nancy and her grandfather very well, and that they had been colleagues. Hmm, Chloe thought as Brady continued to lead her.

    They never made it to the dance floor. Belle interrupted them, with Shawn in tow. “Wow, I am having such a great time,” Belle said forcefully to Chloe and Brady. Actually, she wasn’t having such a hot time. Shawn had been in a pretty good mood until he saw his mother enter the room. He was still very angry with Hope over the whole paternity thing. He wanted to avoid her at all costs. “Aren’t you, Shawn?” Belle asked him, trying to draw him into the conversation.

    Shawn’s lips tilted slightly in what an optimistic person might constitute a smile. “Of course, Belle.”

    Brady eyed Chloe at this exchange between his sister and her boyfriend. Things did not seem to be going well between them at this moment. Both were at a loss of words for the moment.

    Belle, who was almost always perky, decided not to give up. “Who were talking to over there?” She asked Brady and Chloe. “I’ve never seen that man before.”

    “It was Bill Horton,” Brady responded. “He used to be a doctor at the hospital. Now he’s coming back to work there.”

    Belle smiled, hoping that this would get Shawn’s mind off of his mother. “He must be a relative of yours, Shawn!”

    Belle’s attempt completely backfired. “Yes. I’m related to him on my mother’s side.”

    Dammit, Belle thought, that was really stupid.

    “This is very awkward,” Chloe whispered behind her hand to Brady.

    He leaned down and whispered in her ear, “I know.”

    “Look, Belle,” Shawn said as he turned to her. “I’m really not in the mood for this party now. Do you mind if we leave?”

    Brady and Chloe started to inch away from the couple as Belle’s face turned furious. “Shawn Brady,” she said, “I know exactly why you are “not in the mood” for this party right now and it’s a stupid reason! I came here to enjoy myself. If you want to go home, then fine. But I’m staying!” With that, Belle turned around and left Shawn in a huff.

    “Belle,” Shawn said as he headed off after her.

    “Oh, my,” Chloe said.

    Brady agreed with her. Then, he saw his grandfather beckon him over from the corner of his eye. “Chloe, I think my grandfather wants to see me. Do you want to come with me?”

    Chloe and Victor did not have a very stable relationship. He hadn’t forgiven her for breaking Phillip’s heart. Chloe couldn’t understand that, because Victor had wanted them to break up last spring. She tried to avoid Victor whenever possible. “Go, Brady,” she said, “I’ll be just fine here. Maybe Belle will need to talk to me.” Brady nodded in acceptance, kissed her swiftly on the lips, and went to talk to his grandfather.

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