The Calm Before the Storm

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


    Chapter Twelve

    After he left, Chloe noticed a movement out of her eye. She saw Hope Brady, trying valiantly not to cry. Chloe looked around her and noticed that there wasn’t anyone around but her. Should she go talk to her? Chloe thought. She saw the heartbroken expression on Hope’s face and decided that maybe she should.

    “Mrs. Brady?” she asked quietly to Hope.

    Hope turned around, trying to hide her ravaged face. “Oh, Chloe,” she said, “how are you doing?”

    “Fine, I guess,” Chloe replied, “but I wanted to ask that to you.”

    Hope sniffled as she said, “I’m as good as can be expected.” She turned around, opened the door, and walked out on the balcony. (Remember, this is Salem, where the residents thing nothing of walking out on a balcony with only an evening gown on during winter!) She was surprised when Chloe followed her.

    “You look really upset,” Chloe said as she closed the balcony doors. “Is there anything I can do to help?”

    Hope really liked this young girl. After all, she had helped bring J.T., well, not the real J.T., but the baby she had thought was J.T., home when he had been kidnapped in the spring. “Can you get Shawn to talk to me again?” she asked, trying to laugh, and failing miserably.

    Chloe wanted to offer Hope some hope, but she wasn’t certain if she could. “Shawn’s really upset right now,” Chloe said, choosing her words carefully, “but he loves you so much, Mrs. Brady. He just needs to realize that what happened wasn’t your fault. You didn’t have any control of your actions at that time.”

    Hope smiled wryly at Chloe. “I’m glad someone in this town understands that. You’re right, it wasn’t me who kidnapped John. It was Princess Gina. But that’s not the only issue here, Chloe. Shawn hasn’t accepted that yet. He also hasn’t forgiven me for not telling him the truth about J.T.’s father.”

    “I know that Belle and Brady are very excited to have a baby brother,” Chloe pointed out, looking for a positive angle in this mess.

    Hope sighed at that response. “I’m glad that this whole thing didn’t ruin Shawn and Belle’s relationship. It could have, very easily. It must be hard when they both share a brother.” Hope stared off aimlessly into the night, wondering how her life could have become so screwed up.

    Chloe, who was normally very reserved and aloof, couldn’t resist the chance to comfort Mrs. Brady. She knew what it was like to feel alone in this world. It wasn’t a comfortable feeling. Words wouldn’t help her right now, either, so Chloe did the only possible thing she could do. She hugged Mrs. Brady.

    Hope returned Chloe’s hug fiercely. “Oh, god,” Hope said as she held on tightly. “Most of the people in Salem blame me for what has happened. I know who is to blame, and it’s not me or John. I just wished other people would see it that way!” She sighed and then stepped back from the embrace. Hope lightly caressed Chloe’s face. “Thank you so much for listening, Chloe. I really appreciated your warmth and understanding. Not too many people have been willing to offer me comfort.”

    “Then they’re idiots,” Chloe said, siding with this woman who had gone through so much recently. “It may take awhile, Mrs. Brady, but Shawn will come around. He needs to deal with his feelings right now. I’ve found that time is the best healer.”

    Hope looked at the young woman who had suffered so much in her short life. She was aware of the many obstacles Chloe had overcome. “Does it work for you, Chloe?” she asked.

    “It’s starting to,” Chloe smiled at Mrs. Brady. “Shawn is feeling like I first did when I moved to Salem to live with Nancy and Craig. I had to put aside my own feelings and look at their side. It was very hard for me to do that, but Brady helped me. I know that Belle is doing her best to bring Shawn around.”

    Hope granted Chloe a small smile. “Belle is wonderful. I heard the four of you talking. That’s why I got so upset. Shawn is having a miserable time now that I’m here. I think it would be best if I left.”

    Chloe stopped her as she turned to go. “No, you can’t do that, Mrs. Brady. Shawn has to see you in order for him to heal. Even if he doesn’t talk to you, seeing you here will help him deal with everything. Stay, Mrs. Brady, at least for awhile longer.”

    Hope drew herself up and, in a Herculean effort, said, “You may be right, Chloe. It’s going to be tough, but I will stay.”

    “Good. It’s for the best.”

    Hope shivered as she said, “It’s getting cold out here! Let’s go back in.” Chloe opened the door for her. Hope gave Chloe one last grateful smile and walked through the door.

    Chloe glanced back over the balcony, looking at the view of Salem. She wondered what it would be like to be have her world destroyed, like Mrs. Brady’s had been. “Mrs. Brady is strong,” Chloe murmured. “She will survive it and come out even stronger.”

    Chloe walked back through the door and made immediate eye contact with Brady, who was still conversing with his grandfather. I am so grateful I have Brady, she thought. He is my guiding light. (Sorry, I had to borrow the name of another soap!) She threw him a smile that showed off her true feelings.

    Chloe didn’t know that a man hidden in the background watched her every movement like a hawk. He was very pleased with the graceful way Chloe carried herself and impressed with her beauty.

    “Comforting Hope Brady,” he murmured quietly to himself. (Have you ever noticed that all Salemites talk to themselves? It’s a practice I find hilarious, as you can tell. I’ve used it through this whole fan fic!) “My daughter is very compassionate. I wonder if anyone will comfort her when her world has been rocked, like Hope’s was. Hmmm,” he pondered as he rubbed his chin, “we shall see.”

    He sipped a glance of champagne, watching the familiar faces of Salem as he did so. “Soon, Chloe, very soon, we will meet and you will now exactly who I am.” He rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “I wonder how you will react to finally know who your real father is.”

    Chapter Thirteen

    Chloestood posed at the entrance to the balcony as the door slid closed behind. First, she spotted Brady, who was still talking with his grandfather. Then, she searched out Mrs. Brady. She was standing next to Greta. The two of them seemed to be having an intense discussion. Then, Hope and Greta both glanced at Chloe. Chloe gave them a small smile as Greta looked at her with obvious warmth. They waved to Chloe and she responded. Then, the two friends continued their discussion as they walked into the crowd.

    Chloe walked down the two steps and accidentally bumped into someone. “Oh, excuse me,” she said to the back of a girl.

    The girl whirled around and said, “Oh, my, god, Chloe!!”

    The guy with the girl turned around, also (only at a more dignified rate). “Chloe, I haven’t seen you here all night.” He gave Chloe a genuine grin.

    Chloe smiled slightly back. “I was out on the balcony, getting some fresh air, Phillip.” She raised her eyebrow as the girl standing with Phillip not so subtly linked arms with him. “Mimi,” she said, “you look wonderful.” She was completely happy for Phillip, who had started “seeing” Mimi. They weren’t an official couple yet, but, if Mimi had anything to say about it…

    Mimi was always taken aback when Chloe was kind to her. A lot of the old feud between them had dissipated over time. “Thanks, Chloe. You look killer yourself.”

    Phillip held onto Mimi as he said, “If you’re looking for Brady, he’s still with my father. They’re over by the entrance.” It amazed Phillip now that the “great love” he claimed to have for Chloe had disappeared. He realized now that he had loved the Chloe he wanted her to be, not the genuine Chloe she was. It had been a hard realization, the death of dreams is always hard, but he was officially over Chloe and ready to move on with his life.

    “I’ll run into him eventually,” Chloe responded. She was still unsure how to act around Phillip, even though Phillip was completely fine with her relationship with Brady. This was a new Phillip and Chloe wished him all of the best in the world.

    “So,” Mimi said, still with her arm hooked with Phillip’s. She would continue to see Chloe as “competition” until Phillip admitted any feelings he had for her. Mimi knew that it was ludicrous to feel that way, but, then, love sometimes made people think, and do, crazy things. “We just saw Shawn and Belle. Shawn didn’t look too happy to be here.”

    “Yeah,” Phillip agreed. “He’s going through a really tough time right now with his family. It’s a good thing he’s got Belle.”

    “I know,” Chloe said. “Shawn needs time. The person I feel the worst about is his mother. She could use all the support she can get right now.”

    Mimi said, “We saw you two talking out on the balcony. What were you talking about?”

    Chloe gestured with her arms in the air. “Mainly about the party,” she lied. She felt bad about discussing Mrs. Brady’s affairs with anyone. They were private and belonged only to her. “It was cold out there, though, so we came back in.”

    Just then, the music started up again. Phillip turned to Mimi and asked, “Would you care to dance, Meems?”

    She giggled and said, “Of course.” They started to walk to the dance floor and Mimi called over her shoulder, “See ya later, Chloe!” Phillip nodded a good-bye at Chloe, too.

    Chloe measured her feelings as she watched Phillip and Mimi enter the dance floor together. She felt nothing but friendship for Phillip, and, surprisingly, for Mimi, too. Chloe reflected that she didn’t have any romantic feelings left for Phillip at all. She was very happy for the two of them.

    She turned around to survey the party that was going on. Couples danced on the crowded dance floor. She noticed John and Marlena slow dancing together, unaware of any audience around them. They are still so in love, Chloe thought, even after all of the horrible things that have happened to them. They are truly soulmates. Then, her eyes sought Hope Brady, who was talking with Greta and the new doctor, Colin Murphy. She felt a sadness well up in her as she recalled their conversation on the balcony. It’s so sad that Mr. and Mrs. Brady have separated and that their family has been shattered. And all because of the manipulation of one evil man. I hope nothing will ever tear Brady and me apart like it did to Shawn’s parents.

    Chloe saw a livid fury cross Hope Brady’s face as she glanced towards the door. Hope made a move to leave her friends, but Greta stopped her. She tried to calm Hope down. Chloe glanced curiously in the direction that Hope was looking and saw Lexi Carver, Hope’s ex-best friend, enter the room, alone. Lexi had lost a lot in the baby switch thing, too. Although she had been found completely innocent of knowing that the baby’s were switched, she had lost her husband, her son, and her best friend.

    “This could get very interesting,” she heard a voice say behind her.

    “Salem always is,” Chloe responded as Brady came up behind her and put his arms around her. Chloe leaned back into his arms. “Do you think she is really innocent?”

    Brady shook his head. “It’s been my family’s belief that anyone related to Stephano in any way is never “really” innocent. Like father, like daughter, that type of stuff. He corrupts everyone who he supposedly loves. Look at Kristen, Peter, Lexi,… The list could go on and on. He’s evil, Chloe, and it runs in his family. I hope he never shows his face in Salem again.”

    Chloe shivered, so Brady wrapped his arms tighter against her. “I only met him once, in Europe,” she said to Brady. “He was with Dr. Carver and asked me to sing him some opera, so I did. I remember that it made him cry.”

    “Really?” Brady asked. He hadn’t heard this before. “That’s surprising. I didn’t realize that monsters could show real feelings.” Then Brady sighed as he nuzzled Chloe’s neck. “My father has been trying to get Stephano DiMera for years. He has wreaked such havoc in his life. First he brainwashed him into being his soldier, then DiMera made him think he was Roman Brady, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg! The man is a dangerous, cold monster.”

    “I’ve never heard that before, about you’re father, I mean,” Chloe clarified when Brady glanced quizzically at her.

    “Believe me, it really happened. DiMera has nearly ruined my father’s life so many times, but Dad has always been able to piece it back together.” Brady watched his father, who was kissing Marlena under the mistletoe. “He’s messed with Marlena and most of the Brady’s, too. Dimera’s pure evil.”

    Chloe shivered again. The portrait Brady painted of DiMera frightened her. “Do you think he’ll ever come back to Salem and try to disrupt your father’s life again?” she asked in concern for Brady and his family.

    “My father and I make an excellent team, Diva. We could prevent him from doing any damage.” He turned Chloe in his arms. “But enough unpleasant talk. Let’s enjoy this party!”

    Brady led Chloe onto the dance floor. She couldn’t resist one last look at Lexi Carver, who was glaring daggers at Hope Brady. Her heart went out to Hope as she processed what Brady had told her about Lexi and her father. Like father, like daughter, she mused as she stepped into the circle of Brady’s arms.

    Nearby, the man in the shadows watched his daughter dance with the son of his most hated enemy. (Remember, this is Salem, where evil characters can lurk at a party and no one will ever see them, until they want to be seen, of course!) Stephano laughed as he said, “I’m going to claim you soon, Chloe, and your sister, too. I will teach both of you how to become true DiMeras. It’s almost show time!”

    Chapter Fourteen

    It was nearing midnight at the ball. Chloe excused herself from Brady and his family for a moment. She entered the woman’s bathroom, which was blessedly empty. Chloe walked up to the mirror and slammed both of her hands down on the counter. She needed to express her frustration because she couldn’t talk about it with Brady or any of her friends. None of them knew that Chloe could possibly be meeting her father tonight.

    “The possibility is looking grim,” Chloe thought aloud as she glanced at herself in the mirror. “The ball is nearly over and he hasn’t made contact with me yet!” Her optimism about meeting her father had began to dwindle about two hours earlier. She hated to keep up the pretense that everything was “all right” around Brady, but she wasn’t ready to let him in on the news yet. Chloe wanted to deal with this on her own, not with anyone else. She would share the news with Brady when she knew the identity of her father. “Dammit!” Chloe swore. “I wanted to put this big mystery behind me forever!”

    She paced the bathroom for a moment, willing her frustration and angry away. “I have to calm down,” Chloe muttered. “Brady, Belle, Nancy, Craig,-they will all be able to tell if something is wrong with me. And I am NOT ready to share this with them yet.”
    She turned to inspect her reflection in the mirror once, and noted that her face had become more serene.

    The door opened behind Chloe. A lovely brunette walked in, with a huge smile on her face. “I’ll meet you later,” she called to someone near the door as she closed it. Her face was beaming as she took in her surroundings. Then, she spotted Chloe at the mirror.

    Greta leaned dreamily against the door as she smiled invitingly at Chloe. “I was just talking to Colin Murphy. You remember him, right?”

    “The doctor?” Chloe said as she watched Greta’s face light up. So much for my time to vent, Chloe thought as she watched Greta come closer. Somehow, she didn’t mind it, though. She felt very comfortable around Greta, even though this was only the third time they had met.

    “Mmmm, the doctor,” Greta agreed. “And do you know what?” She asked as she came closer to Chloe.

    Chloe couldn’t help but grin at Greta. “No, what?”

    “He told me he loved me tonight.” Greta spun around in a small circle. “I can’t believe it. I’ve always been “the buddy” or “the one you dump in favor of a conniving bitch” or “the one who turns you into a gay man, but you’re not really gay, you’re just pretending to be gay so you won’t hurt my feelings” type of woman. I can’t believe that a wonderful man like Dr. Colin Murphy has fallen in love with me!”

    Chloe smiled tentatively back as she responded to Greta’s outburst, “I don’t believe that, Princess Greta. I mean, you’re so beautiful, smart, and kind.”

    “I’ve been a floor mat,” Greta said flatly to Chloe, who was surprised at the conversation that was occurring in the woman’s bathroom. “But no longer,” she sang out happily. “Finally, I’ve found a man who loves me completely for me! I am so lucky! Maybe that’s why my other relationships floundered,” Greta pondered, half to herself.

    “I can see that you’re very happy about Dr. Murphy,” Chloe ventured after Princess Greta had been quiet for a few moments.

    Greta shook herself out of her reverie. “Chloe, I am ecstatic! How about you?” she asked. “I saw you come in with Brady Black. He’s very easy on the eyes.” Greta leaned against the counter as she fixed her makeup.

    “Brady is very special, too.” Chloe replied to Greta, shocked that the words were coming out so easily to a nearly complete stranger. “It took me a long time to admit my feelings for him, but he has always known exactly what I’ve needed. We have a connection between us that is very strong. Nothing can break it.”

    “Love is the strongest power of them all,” Greta mused philosophically. “I’m very happy for you and Brady, Chloe. Of course, I’m absolutely ecstatic for me and Colin!”

    Chloe smiled in departure to Greta as she started to exit the room.

    “Wait!” Greta called out to Chloe. Chloe stopped by the door and turned around to face her. Greta walked up to Chloe and gave her a huge hug. Chloe, who was aloof by nature, was surprised when she returned the embrace without hesitation. “I wanted to thank you,” Greta began. “I saw you talking to Hope earlier tonight and I wanted to thank you for listening to her. She needs all of the support she can get right now.”

    Chloe met her eyes as she responded, “She seems really sad, Princess.”

    Greta agreed by nodding her head. “You’re right, Chloe. I practically had to sit on her to keep her from going after Lexi.” Greta shivered as she thought of Lexi and her baby-switching scheme. She agreed with Hope that Lexi had been a supporter of the switching and had known about it all along. “That woman is heartless.”

    Chloe opened the door, unsure how to respond to Greta’s statement. “I’ll, ah, see you around,” she said to Greta.

    The two of them exited the bathroom together. When they neared Colin, Chloe started to turn away and find Brady. “Wait!” Greta said again, stopping Chloe before she could disappear into the crowd. “I wanted to ask you to call me Greta. I get kind of tired of the whole “princess” thing, so, please, call me by my first name.” Greta was surprised by her sudden offer to Chloe, as well as the conversation they had shared in the bathroom, but she felt… something when it came to Chloe Lane. What is was, she didn’t know, but she did know that she could trust Chloe and be completely open with her.

    Chloe was flustered by the conversation Greta had shared with her in the bathroom and by the invitation to call her by her first name. She agreed to with a smile, “Of course. Greta.”

    Colin walked up to Greta. “I’ve been waiting forever for you, my dear,” he said as he hugged her.

    Greta laughed as she returned the embrace. Then, she turned out of his arms and said, “This is Chloe Lane. Do you remember meeting her the other day at Salem Place?’’

    “Me? Forget a beautiful face?” Colin said as he looked at Chloe. If he had told the truth, he would have said that Chloe’s face had haunted him. She reminded him of someone, but he could not recall who it was.

    “It’s nice to see you again, Dr. Murphy,” Chloe said.

    “Oh, it’s nearly midnight!” Greta exclaimed as she looked at her dainty watch. “You’d better find Brady for the last dance!”

    Chloe said in agreement, “You already have your partner, Greta. I think I’ll go find mine.” She offered them a smile as she turned to find Brady.

    Stephano grinned eerily as he watched his two daughters interact. “They are so comfortable with each other because they are sisters,” he said. “You can see the ease in which they conversed together. They will both make true DiMeras. I will see to that.”

    Chapter Fifteen

    Marlena turned to John as shewatched Hope glare daggers at Lexi. Hope seemed to be on the outside looking in. She and said, “Oh, John, I feel so bad for Hope right now. It was hard enough for her to deal with the fact that you were J.T.’s father. Then, she learned that J.T. really wasn’t J.T.” Marlena did her famous fluttering-eye trick.

    John nodded grimly as he also looked at Hope, who was standing aloof from the crowd. “I wish Bo had stayed with her and supported her through this horrible time. She doesn’t have that many people to turn to right now.” Many people in Salem blamed Hope for the whole mess, including her husband, his family, and their son.

    Marlena followed John’s gaze to Hope and replied, “I know. She won’t accept anything from us. She resents that we were able to put this whole horrendous experience behind us and she can’t do that yet. She may never be able to.”

    “That’s a fact,” John said. “And it’s not Hope’s fault at all. It’s that damn DiMera. He tries to move us like pawns on a chessboard, sacrificing us and our happiness for whatever scheme he has set into motion.”

    “But he’s gone,” Brady interrupted John as he came closer to his father and stepmother. Brady had decided to join John and Marlena while he was waiting for Chloe to return. He couldn’t help but overhear their conversation.

    Both John and Marlena faced Brady. “That’s the beauty of DiMera’s plans,” John said as Marlena smiled a warm greeting at Brady, which was returned. “He doesn’t try to place a roadblock in our lives that we can overcome in a short while. No, he plans schemes that will have major ramifications for the rest of our lives.”

    “Do you think he’ll come back to Salem soon?” Brady asked, gauging his father’s reaction carefully.

    John sighed as he responded, “Anything’s possible with DiMera. Especially now that he isn’t wanted for questioning in that murder investigation or for the baby-switching.” One of Stephano’s henchmen had been wanted for questioning for Marlo’s murder and for the baby-switching. The henchman had died after he was shot for resisting arrest. Stephano had made certain that there was enough evidence to point all the blame at this man. Stephano’s name was clear once again in Salem.

    Marlena shivered as she listened to John’s response. “Oh, John!” she said dramatically, “Do you really think he would come back?”

    John shook his head. “Not right now. He doesn’t have anything to come back for at the moment. Lexi was completely cleared of all of those charges for baby-switching.”

    Marlena sighed, also dramatically. “Thank God, John. Stephano is such an evil monster. He has toyed with our lives long enough. I hope he never darkens the town of Salem again!”

    “He is an evil bastard,” Brady agreed with Marlena. “I have serious doubts about Dr. Carver’s innocence, though. Have you ever heard of guilty by association?”

    John said in deep thought. “That seems to be the problem with anyone related to Stephano. No matter how nice, kind, caring that person could be, sooner or later the DiMera genes shine through. That person becomes completely ensnared in DiMera’s trap.”

    “Kinda like a black widow,” Brady noted.

    “More like the phoenix rising from the ashes,” Marlena interjected. “John’s right, though,” she continued after a considerable amount of thought. “Look at Kristin and Peter. Both of them went to serious lengths to get what they want, not caring who they injured in the process. It would be very feasible that Lexi knew something about the baby switch, but…”

    “We’ll probably never know,” John finished for her. He hugged Marlena to him as he reflected on all the terrible things Stephano had done in their lives. He was always amazed that Marlena and him had survived individually and as a couple. Stephano had tried hard, but he had never been able to break their bond.

    “He’s like King Midas,” Brady said. When John and Marlena looked at him quizzically, Brady said, “Everything that Midas touched turned to gold. With DiMera, everyone who is related to him eventually turns evil. It’s a proven fact.” Brady then took a sip of his champagne.

    “That’s a good analogy,” Marlena said. “But he doesn’t have any more relatives, so we shouldn’t have to worry about that.” Marlena then noticed a movement out of her eye and said happily, “Chloe! How long have you been standing there?”

    Chloe offered the Black family a bright smile as she stepped into their sphere. “Awhile. You seem to be having a pretty intense conversation. I didn’t want to interrupt.” Chloe had heard nearly the entire conversation. She was again shocked at the cruelty the Blacks and the Bradys had endured at the crafty hands of Stephano DiMera.

    “Good timing,” John said as he winked at Brady. “It’s nearly midnight, time for the last dance of the evening. I’m already spoken for, so I guess you’ll just have to make do with him.” And John playfully punched Brady in the arm. Brady scowled back at his father.

    Chloe said as she took Brady’s offered arm, “I don’t think it will be that much of a hardship, Mr. Black.”

    John laughed as he watched Brady lead Chloe to the dance floor. He turned to Marlena and said, “Those two have something special between them.”

    Marlena agreed. “They complement each other well. Brady has become so much more open since they started dating. And Chloe has gained confidence. They have a special connection between them.”

    John saw the couple in question start to sway in each other’s arms on the dance floor. “I hope they have an easier road to travel then we did.”

    “They will,” Marlena said. “We had so many opposing forces keeping us apart. Chloe and Brady have been able to resolve all opposition to their relationship. They will make it.”

    “Well, Doc, enough analyzing. Let’s go show them how to really move on the dance floor,” John said as he did a stupid jig on the floor.

    Marlena laughed as she joined him on the floor, “I live to dance with you.”

    “I’ll give her one last dance with him,” Stephano smiled evilly to himself. He had planned his return to Salem in minute detail and eagerly awaiting his reception. He loved the fear he inspired in all of the Salemites, and wanted to play a new chess game with them. “One last moment of happiness with Brady Black. After all, I am a kind, considerate father. Then, I will reveal to her exactly who she is.” He rolled the brandy around in his glass and pondered the coming minutes.

    Chapter Sixteen

    Brady wrapped Chloe tightly in his arms as the two of them swayed to the music. He couldn’t understand why he was feeling waves of sadness coursing through Chloe. What could she be sad about? he wondered. Had something else happened that she hadn’t told him? Did this have to do with how remote she had been with him last night during his phone call? Brady decided to broach this subject again, even though he had been met with resistance from Chloe most of the night.

    “Um,” he said as he nuzzled Chloe’s hair. “I’ve really enjoyed myself tonight, Diva.” Chloe sighed in response. “But I can’t help but feel that there is, I don’t know, something going on with you.”

    Chloe drew back in shock and looked back into Brady’s eyes. He knows me so well, she thought. Of course he’d know if something was upsetting me. She gave him falsely bright smile. “I’m fine, Brady Black,” she said in nearly the perfect tone of annoyance. But she didn’t fool Brady.

    Brady gave her an exasperated expression. “Right, Chloe. That’s why you’ve been watching the crowd like a hawk tonight. And why you have turned around and eyed every person who has walked through the door. You’re not telling me something, Lane, and I want to know what it is.”

    Chloe did not want to share her news with ANYONE yet, including Brady, her soulmate, especially now that it looked like she wasn’t going to meet her father tonight. She put a lid on her temper because he was right. She was keeping a secret from him. Chloe ran her finger up the front of his shirt, playing with one stud of the tuxedo. She thought very quickly, trying to think of a reliable excuse to tell him.

    “Everything’s fine with me, Brady,” she repeated to him consolingly. “I’m concerned about a lot of people right now.”

    “Don’t patronize me, Lane,” Brady responded as he placed his fingers under her chin and guided her beautiful sapphire eyes to meet his. “You’ve been a loner for so long. Who are all “these people” that you are concerned with?”

    A few examples stuck out clearly in her mind because she was truly concerned about them. “Well, Shawn and Belle, for one,” Chloe answered swiftly. “Belle has nearly had it with Shawn’s “oh woe is me” attitude about his family. She’s trying extremely hard to bring him around and reunite him with his mother, but she’s not certain if she can.”

    Brady nodded thoughtfully. “I’ll buy that one, but Shawn and Belle aren’t the only reason why you’ve been distant at times tonight.”

    “I’ll admit it,” she said sarcastically as she met Brady’s gaze, “Brady Black is right yet again. I’ve also been concerned about Shawn’s mom. She’s very unhappy right now and isn’t receiving much support from anyone in Salem. I don’t know if you noticed, but I had a long discussion with her out on the balcony. She’s upset about her family and doesn’t know a way to fix it.”

    The corners of Brady’s mouth pulled up in a slight grin. “Not notice, Chloe?” he asked. “You’ve got to be kidding me. I know the exact second you enter or leave a room.” He toyed with the special necklace he had given her earlier in the night. “You’re my heart, Chloe. I don’t think I could function without you.”

    Chloe’s frustration about not meeting her father disappeared completely at his words. A tear slid down Chloe’s face as she reacted to that beautiful speech of Brady’s. Chloe found it hard to believe that this gorgeous, handsome man could admit such deep feelings for her, Chloe Lane. She began to have doubts about keeping her “father” a secret from Brady, but then her insecurity resurfaced. Better wait until I’ve met him first, she thought, and then I’ll tell him. It won’t be tonight, so I’ll put it out of my mind for the moment and concentrate on this amazing man in front of me.

    Brady caught the tear as it reached her cheek. Let it go, Brady thought as he looked deeply into Chloe’s sparkling eyes. He could feel that their connection had been completely restored and nothing was blocking it. Have faith in her. She’ll tell you when she’s ready. “It’s amazing,” Brady murmured quietly to Chloe.

    She leaned her head on his shoulder. “What is?” she asked dreamily.

    “The connection that’s between us. We can communicate through so many avenues: speech, a touch, a look…” Brady said close to Chloe’s ears. “All you have to do is give me a look or touch me, and I know exactly how you are feeling.”

    “I never thought I could have a relationship like this,” Chloe said as she held on tightly to Brady. “We know each other so well.”

    “I’m here for you, Diva. Always.” Brady said as he slowly spun Chloe around in a circle. “You can tell me anything and I’ll understand. You are everything to me.”

    Chloe smiled brightly to Brady, the love of her life. “We are lucky to have each other, Brady.” She pressed a quick kiss to his cheek and whispered in his ear, “Now, enough of this talking! I am in the arms of the man I love and we are dancing! Let’s enjoy the moment, Brady, and dance!”

    “Your wish is my command,” Brady said and he pulled the queen of his heart closer and slowed the pace of their dancing. He enjoyed the feel of Chloe pressed tightly together and felt the connection they had in his heart, mind, body, and soul.

    Chloe also felt it. The love she felt for this man was nearly overwhelming. She gazed over Brady’s shoulder and watched the other couples dancing, thinking how lucky she was. Belle and Shawn were still at the ball, even though Shawn’s expression conveyed extreme displeasure. Belle’s normally perky face was drawn and pinched as she exhibited a forced smile through the dance. I really am worried about them, Chloe thought.

    Her eyes then found John and Marlena, who were dancing so close together you could hardly tell where one began and the other ended. In fact, their eyes never left each other’s as their bodies moved in perfect synchronization. Their love lasted through so many trials and tribulations. They must be true soulmates, Chloe decided.

    Next, she noticed Princess Greta and Dr. Murphy, who had the dopey look of people newly in love. That’s sweet, Chloe thought, and I wish them all the luck in the world! Phillip was smiling as Mimi laughingly recounted an amusing story to him. Chloe couldn’t help but smile at them. Nancy and Craig were next and Chloe smiled fondly as she gazed at them. There had been some tough times between them, but they were over. Chloe had developed a maturity through Brady that had helped her see things through their perspective. I do love them, Chloe acknowledged in wonderment.

    Her eyes eventually left them and discovered Hope Brady, who was leaning against the wall. Alone. Chloe’s heart responded to Mrs. Brady. I know what it’s like to be on the outside. You have the courage, Mrs. Brady. Keep forcing Shawn and his family to see you. They’ll come to grips with everything and then you can rebuild.

    Chloe treasured the feeling of Brady in her arms. What would I do without him? she wondered. He is my strength, my dream. Maybe I should tell him…she thought as she met Brady’s electric blue eyes through the light of the chandeliers.

    “Brady, I want to…” Chloe was interrupted by a collective gasp that ran through the crowd. The music stilled and conversation dropped. Chloe felt an icy feeling race down her spine.

    “What the hell?” Roman Brady exclaimed above the gasps of surprises that coursed through Tuscany.

    (This is Roman’s famous catch-phrase from the show. I find it absolutely hilarious and have been trying valiantly to get it into my fan fic!! This will probably be Roman’s only appearance in my story.)

    Chapter Seventeen

    “What the hell?” Roman Brady exclaimed above the gasps of surprises that coursed through Tuscany. The music had completely stopped as heads turned to the doorway of Tuscany, where the source of all the surprise was standing. The most hated, feared, and infamous man in Salem history stood confidently, surveying the crowd of familiar faces in front of him with a look of pleasure on his face.

    “DiMera!” John announced grimly. He held Marlena tightly to him as they faced the man who had caused so much grief in the town of Salem.

    “What a charming welcome,” Stefano said sarcastically from the doorway. “I would have returned to Salem earlier if I knew all of you would have welcomed me with such warmth.” He started to stroll regally down the steps, entering the crowd at Tuscany.

    “I can’t believe this!” Brady said as he held tightly onto Chloe’s hand. “Come on! Let’s go stand by my dad and Marlena. They may need me.” He didn’t wait for Chloe’s reply but led her towards his family. Chloe couldn’t keep her eyes off of the man who had caused such heartbreak and pain in the town of Salem as she followed Brady towards his father and Marlena.

    “Ah,” Stefano said in greeting as he passed Hope Brady. “Hope Brady. It’s been ages since last we talked.” He attempted to take her hand but Hope pulled it back quickly.

    Hope stepped back from Stefano, the source of all of her problems at the moment. He had been the catalyst for her life as Princess Gina and she completely blamed him for the mess her life had become. “Don’t touch me, you bastard!” she hissed at him. She finally noticed that her son and his girlfriend had come up behind her. Hope was grateful for the support that Shawn was showing her, even if it was just by his presence.

    “Hope, Hope, Hope,” he murmured softly, just enough for the people around him to here. Those people were Shawn and Belle. “I remember a time when you eagerly awaited me; in fact, welcomed me. Is this anyway to greet your ex-lover? After all, I could have been the father of that baby of yours.” Stefano enjoyed the torment that entered Hope’s eyes. He had planned this meeting well, hoping to expose this secret in front of her family.

    Shawn sucked in his breath in outrage as he glared at Stefano and his mother. Hope heard it but ignored it, for the moment. She had not wanted that little disgusting piece of news to EVER surface and had attempted to keep that a secret, too. Her gratefulness at Shawn’s support dissipated as she wished he had stayed far, far away from her and this horrible man. Denials would be useless, she knew. Stephano always knew how to upstage an opponent. “Damn you, Stefano,” she said uselessly as she lifted her glass of champagne and tossed it in his face.

    Stefano laughed as he took out a white handkerchief and wiped his face clean. “Always so feisty, Hope Brady! I wonder if Bo…oh, that’s right. He finally left you. I guess your connection could be broken, after all.”

    Hope resisted the urge to claw his eyes out. Barely. Not in a public place, she thought. “Go to hell where you belong,” she snarled at Stefano. She turned her back on him and glanced quickly at her son.

    “Not any time soon,” Stefano replied good-naturedly, enjoying the scene he had created immensely. “Shawn, Belle. Always a pleasure to see the children of my good friends. I hope you are enjoying the party.” He offered them a nod, which neither returned, and sauntered off into the crowd. The crowd parted to let him pass.

    Shawn walked up to his mother and said lowly, “What the hell!?! You slept with that monster? How could you?”

    Dammit, Hope thought. She would have given anything for Shawn to talk to her again but not like this. Not with that look of disgust on his face. It was nothing compared to the feeling of disgust she felt whenever she thought about that time on the sub. She had a feeling an explanation would be useless, but she had to try. “Shawn, it happened when I wasn’t me. I was Princess Gina.”

    “Right. And you always said that a part of Hope Brady remained in Princess Gina, trying to break out. I’ve been trying to believe that, to come to terms with Belle’s dad being J.T.’s father, but now I don’t anymore. If that was true, you would never have shared a bed with him, of all people! He has caused so much hurt in our family. He’s the Brady’s enemy and you had sex with him!” Shawn said sneeringly to his mother.

    “Shawn, I..” Hope began, again attempting to find a way to explain it so he could understand.

    Shawn cut her off. “And you kept this from us, too. Just like the identity of J.T.’s real father. If Barb and Glen hadn’t moved to Salem and contested the paternity of Isaac, the truth never would have come out. What else have you kept from us? And does Dad know about this?” Shawn watched the shame creep into his mother’s eyes. “No, of course he doesn’t.”

    She tried to touch his shoulder but Shawn brushed her hand off. “Don’t,” he said. “I can’t…” Shawn knew his temper was about to burst and he needed to get control. Badly. He still loved his mother but he was having difficulty reconciling himself to her past. Now he didn’t know if he ever could. He turned to Belle, “I need to leave. Now. Are you coming?”

    Belle looked in sorrow at Shawn’s mother. All of her efforts to reconcile the two of them had just been completely destroyed. Belle didn’t know if she had the optimism to start over again. “Yes.”

    Shawn and Belle walked away from Hope, who watched her son leave with genuine heartbreak in her eyes. “Oh, no,” Hope breathed aloud. “I didn’t think it could get any worse.” She dreaded Bo’s response to this disturbing news.

    She eyed Stefano as he walked through the crowd. He stopped in front of Lexi, who greeted him with a warm hug. Hope heard Lexi exclaim, “Father! I am so glad to see you!” Hope’s eyes narrowed as she saw the two of them exchange pleasantries. How can two horrible people like them be happy when they cause such terrible sorrow in other people’s lives? Don’t they have any sense of right or wrong, or any soul?

    Hope started to walk towards the door but then something made her stop. “I won’t let him push me out of here,” she said as she turned gracefully around. “He returned to Salem for a reason. Now I just need to find out why!” She decided to stay and witness all that would happen at the ball.

| Page Four |

This site is Copyright © 2001. It is in no way whatsoever affiliated with Kyle Lowder, Nadia Bjorlin, Days of Our Lives, or NBC. It is meant for pure entertainment.